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United States Politics Your Rights Online

Supreme Court Rolls Back Corporate Campaign Spending Limits 1070

Posted by timothy
from the hearken-to-the-nelson-laugh dept.
lorenlal writes "The Supreme Court of the United States must have figured that restrictions on corporate support of candidates was a violation of free speech, or something like that." From the AP story linked above: "By a 5-4 vote, the court on Thursday overturned a 20-year-old ruling that said corporations can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to pay for campaign ads. The decision, which almost certainly will also allow labor unions to participate more freely in campaigns, threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states."
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Supreme Court Rolls Back Corporate Campaign Spending Limits

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:04PM (#30851276)

    Right of free speech + right of association = right of groups, as corporations, to speak freely.

    I'm not arguing that SCOTUS's logic is unsound. I'm arguing that even if their logic is sound, the conclusions they've reached have badly damaged the U.S., because it essentially lets rich corporations decide our laws.

    And for that reason, the Constitution should perhaps be changed so that corporations cannot do this.

    Replace "corporations" with "unions", "political parties", or "individuals". If your opinion changes, then your logic is faulty. Just because "the corporations are all corporationy" doesn't make opinions of individuals comprising the organization any less valid than your own.

    (Personally, I think that nobody (not individuals nor organizations) should be allowed to contribute money to candidates and political advertising should not be allowed... but I doubt we'll ever see that happen.)

  • by Kerrigann (1401847) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:06PM (#30851324)

    The debate is not so simple. Corporations aren't just groups; their members are shielded from liability for the corporations actions, so they don't make decisions like normal people do.

    I think a lot [wikipedia.org] of people would take issue with such a simple assertion that the constitution automatically grants natural rights to artificial entities.

    The issue has been debated for forever, so I'm not going to replay it here. I just wanted to point out that it's not so simple.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT org> on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:07PM (#30851332)

    Part of the problem is that there doesn't seem to be a good way to distinguish between purely "business" corporations, and expressive-association corporations. The Sierra Club is a corporation, for example, and it seems pretty clear to me that the First Amendment should not permit the government to censor the Sierra Club's communications.

  • by EzInKy (115248) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:14PM (#30851482)


    Too bad they don't fix their country for their people with it.

    They've been saving it to "fix" ours B-)

  • by leoxx (992) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:19PM (#30851582) Homepage Journal

    Non-American here, just wondering if this means foreign corporations can now open shell businesses in the US and spend billions of dollars to influence US elections to favour their own companies or countries? I guess in the past they would have had to convince actual US citizens (or pay lobbyists) to do the influencing for them, they can now do so pretty much directly without the middle man. Interesting.

  • Google (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gd2shoe (747932) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:20PM (#30851602) Journal

    Maybe if we had a major, concerted, write in campaign in a strategic region, we can get Google* elected to Congress. (I'm wondering what it would look like trying to get Google to raise it's right hand to be sworn in!) That would then give others the ability to challenge the election in the courts.

    We do need someway to break this "corporations as people" mentality.

    *(Recognizable, electable, and less likely than others to abuse the power during time in office. Still carries a huge risk, I know.)

  • by EzInKy (115248) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:24PM (#30851690)


    Moreover, what this really does is level the playing field between corporations.

    Yes, it does level the playing field...

    "Under today's decision, multinational corporations controlled by foreign governments would have the same rights as Americans to spend money to tilt U.S. elections."

    -Justice Stevens, dissenting.

  • Re:Constitution? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:25PM (#30851714)

    You're thinking about this the wrong way. The constitution is not defective. Finally, all this anti-corporate ideology is on the wane, and true social equality will soon be reached when we get a corporation as a supreme court justice

    Why own the cow when you get the milk for free?

  • Re:Constitution? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by straponego (521991) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:29PM (#30851790)
    Not just all the rights, but more rights. For example, they aren't subject to the campaign contribution spending limits we are. They have stronger privacy rights than we do (they can refuse to provide information to courts for competitive reasons). When a corporation buys another corporation, that should be considered either slavery or prostitution. Corporations should be subject to prison and the death penalty.

    Actually, if corps were forbidden to buy other corps, it'd do wonders for employment and innovation. Never happen, though.
  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iceborer (684929) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:34PM (#30851880)
    You are correct, but the GP talked about corporations which are creations of law (passed by our government) and not of simple association like the simple business you describe. These laws specifically give advantages to corporations and other legal entities which would not exist outside the law (again, passed by and enforced through our government). The greatest of these is, of course, the limitation on pass-through liability for acts of the corporation to its shareholders/owners. Nowhere in the Constitution is the right to create such entities explicitly given to the government, yet many folks seem to think their existence is just fine with them as is the shield from liability afforded to their owners (which is contrary to our legal notions of personhood and legal responsibility). I'm fine with unlimited corporate contributions to political candidates so long as the government does not provide a protected status to corporations. Feel free to form business associations. but understand that each of the members of these associations will be fully, personally liable for all actions and debts of the association. What's that? Without protection from liability there will be no corporations? Fine by me. Until that point, entities whose existence is solely a matter of law should realize that the law can constrain as well as benefit them.
  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:46PM (#30852126) Homepage Journal
    Hmm...time for a constitutional amendment maybe?

    Let's band together to put a fix in for the money that is taking over (strike that HAS taken over) our federal government.

    1. Lets roll back the one that let senators be elected directly by the people rather than be appointed by the state. This will take the money out of Senate elections.

    2. Let's define who can or cannot give money to a candidate/party. Or, let's just mandate that elected officials campaigns are strictly funded by public funding, and mandate possible that during an election season a minimum of X hours are available on all networks for debates, commercials...by the candidates.

    While it is a bitch to get an amendment through (and rightly so), it appears this is the only way We The People can tame this beast.

  • by krull (48492) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:58PM (#30852352)

    Could this decision by made ineffective by passing a law saying that when political / issue advertising is purchased in media, groups with opposition views must be _freely_ given an equal amount of time / space to rebut the advertisement. Perhaps even stronger, the space / time the rebuttal is given must immediately follow / be next to the original advertisement?

    Can someone explain why this wouldn't be constitutionally legal? I don't see a free speech argument since any group can now advertise / make their views heard...

  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Myrv (305480) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:02PM (#30852440)

    But a corporation is merely a construct of government. Every right that a corporation has should therefore be at the behest of the government. The government grants a corporation certain tax benefits and protections and in return can limit certain activities (such as politicking). If the corporation doesn't like this there is nobody stopping them from running their business as sole proprietorship (or partnership or whatever). Of course doing so opens them up to liability (among other things) but those are the risks you have to take if you want all the privileges of a person. In this case the corporations want all the privileges of a person while sharing none of the responsibilities.

  • by blackraven14250 (902843) * on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:19PM (#30852760)
    For what purposes, really, should a corporation be given the rights of individuals? They aren't an individual. They are a tool created to maximize profits.
  • Re:Constitution? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:20PM (#30852774)

    We've had, or have Senator Dow Chemical and Representative Monstanto. We've also had/have Representative Hollywood, Representative Defense Contractor, Senator "Big 3", and Senator Mormon.

    We, and the media choose to call them by their given names.

  • by jagapen (11417) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:23PM (#30852838)

    The U(F)SA is now a de facto fascist state.

    Because remember, kids, "fascist" means "something I personally don't approve of."

    No, that's what "socialist" means.

  • by SETIGuy (33768) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:45PM (#30853192) Homepage

    A foreign corporation will no longer need to donate to a PAC in order to make political contributions. Following this ruling it can buy advertising directly.

    Therefore the rules applying to contributions to a PAC don't apply to the discussion at hand.

  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @07:23PM (#30853812)

    Allow the power of corporations to grow without any check, and for the first time in human history human affairs will be governed with absolutely no regard to human welfare.

    Well, I would disagree. It has happened before. It's just that there normally was a face to the government that ignored human welfare. Gengis Khan was brutal and certainly ignored human welfare. However - and this is a significant difference - what's new is that with corporatism, there is no face to a corporation that engages in cruelty. And as Penny Arcade demonstrated so succinctly, nothing makes people into bigger assholes than anonymity.

    In other words, corporatism means everyone can be the biggest, cruelest asshole on the block. Lovely.

  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DaHat (247651) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @07:30PM (#30853918) Homepage

    So you are calling NBC/MSNBC a disreputable news organization? I knew it!

    Apparently you’ve not been paying attention to how NBC Universal (NBC, MSNBC, (now) SyFy) and others have been pushing the 'green' movement more than the others... in large part to benefit it's parent company of General Electric. ... but as a broader point I'm going to quote from a blog post of a friend of mine [tdaxp.com]:

    When FoxNews reported on NewsCorp, the FoxNews anchor always says NewsCorp is the parent company of this network.

    Likewise, when FoxNews reports on Rupert Murdoch, the anchor says, Rupert Murdoch is the CEO of NewsCorp, the parent company of this network.

    So, when MSNB & NBC reporter discusses Barack Obama, when they talk about Tim Geithner, why do they not say Barack Obama is the President of the United States, a major investor in the parent company of this network?

    When MSNBC & NBC report on the Pay Czar restricting the take-home pay of officials at Citi, Bank of America, and GM, why do they not say that officials at GE, which also was saved from bankruptcy by Treasury backstops, was not impacted?

  • by inthealpine (1337881) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @07:44PM (#30854090)

    From wikipedia

    Fascism, pronounced /fæzm/, is a political ideology that seeks to combine radical and authoritarian nationalism with a corporatist economic system, and which is usually considered to be on the far right of the traditional left-right political spectrum.

    To speak: This ruling allows corporations unlimited spending, which tends toward corparatism. The fact that the Executive Branch's power has grown after 9/11, and has not retracted under Obama, along with the "you are with us or against us" patriotic thuggery from the far right, has the US tending toward (though not there yet, thankfully) authoritarian nationalism. Finally, the conservative judges made this possible, along with the far right being the harbinger of the nationalism, and we are well on our way.

    Wikipedia is one of the worse sources for any historical information you can get. There is no left/right argument with fascism (within the contex of US politics). In practice, collectivism has more in common with fascism by design structure. Merriam-Webster definition: fascism 1 often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

  • by Buzz_Litebeer (539463) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @08:39PM (#30854708) Journal

    This is different.

    companies own everything, if you dont get in line your fucked.

    But now those companies only follow the will of their shareholders, that aint the employees.

    I work at a soul crushing place, I dont agree with their corporate or political policies, i work there because they pay me better than the competition and if i wouldnt work there I could go work for someone else with the same ideals as them, or i could simply not work or get into some kind of left wing low paying job.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Thursday January 21, 2010 @11:39PM (#30856022) Homepage Journal

    Considering corporations don't vote and only individuals do, you have a very poor case

    You're right, corporations don't vote, so how can they be considered "persons" when it comes to civil rights if they don't have the right to vote?

    If they can't participate in elections as voters, then they shouldn't participate in elections as buyers.

    you fear corporate influence because you're afraid of voters responding in a way you don't like

    And you fear that without the vast sums of corporate dollars, voters might not decide in the way you like.

  • Re:Free sppech? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by John Newman (444192) on Friday January 22, 2010 @01:38AM (#30856662)

    You cannot tax a corporation. Increased tax burdens just trickle down to reduced wages for low level employees and increased prices. I'm not sure why that is so hard for people to get.

    You cannot tax me. Increased tax burdens just trickle down to less disposable income to spend on cars and cable tv and smaller tips for low level employees like delivery boys and waitstaff. I'm not sure why that is so hard for corporations to get.

  • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jason Levine (196982) on Friday January 22, 2010 @10:45AM (#30859270)

    Actually, I think the comparison is valid. Corporations are people (or at least according to SCOTUS). A corporation's operating costs, the "recurring expenses related to the operation of a business", would be things like electricity, equipment, labor, etc. An individual's operating costs equivalent would be recurring expenses related to the operation of a household. If I don't buy food, pay my mortgage, buy clothing, etc, my "operations" grind to a halt same as if a corporation decided to stop paying their workers, skip out on the electric bill and never order another piece of factory equipment again.

    So if the "people" called Corporations are allowed to deduct their operating costs before paying taxes, why aren't the people called Individuals allowed to do the same? Of course the answer is two-fold. First of all, a middle-class individual's taxable income would likely drop by 90%. This would mean a huge loss in tax revenue. For all their talk of cutting taxes, politicians don't *really* want significant tax cuts because they know this would mean spending cuts (which, in turn, would be protested and possibly mean no re-election). Secondly, individuals might contribute to a politician's campaign fund, but most times corporations are the ones who contribute more. If you were a politician facing re-election, would you listen to the person donating $10 to your campaign or the "person" (read: Corporation) donating $10,000?

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