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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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  • Bad, bad news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:36PM (#30850698) Homepage Journal

    We need to replace the "conservatives" on the supreme court who don't understand that corporations should not have the constitutional rights of citizens.

    • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FooAtWFU (699187) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:42PM (#30850828) Homepage
      When they ratified an amendment protecting the free press, next to Speech, you don't think that any corporation had ever spent any money to publish a newspaper to push a political opinion?
    • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ScentCone (795499) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:43PM (#30850854)
      We need to replace the "conservatives" on the supreme court who don't understand that corporations should not have the constitutional rights of citizens.

      The constitution doesn't give you, or a business formed by you and a friend, any rights. The constitution is there to limit the government's ability to take those rights away. Being able to buy a newspaper advertisement or broadcast an advertisement isn't something that the goverment should be able to prevent you (or the company you've formed) from doing. Likewise for labor unions, advocacy groups, churches, scouting troops, bowling leagues, open source code projects, or anyone else.

      I'm always amazed at how many misguided people think their rights come from the government. That explains a lot about why statists like Pelosi and Reid think they have so much more traction than they really do. Don't give it to them, now matter how much you want the government to be your Nanny.
      • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ArcherB (796902) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:49PM (#30850958) Journal

        The constitution doesn't give you, or a business formed by you and a friend, any rights. The constitution is there to limit the government's ability to take those rights away.

        Thank you for reminding us that many of the first X amendments state "Congress shall pass no law that...", not "Citizens may..."

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Seakip18 (1106315)

        I think the main distinction is that, the individual or group of individuals that put these opinions out there cannot be restricted by the gov't. If a corporation assists in extracting and spreading these opinions, then it's all good, because the opinions are not that of the corporation(at least on the face), just that of the individuals.

        Granted, Fox news isn't going to want publish an editorial applauding Obama, but you get the point.

        A corporation, where there is NO individual in play, should not have any

      • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:23PM (#30851650)

        The constitution doesn't give you, or a business formed by you and a friend, any rights. The constitution is there to limit the government's ability to take those rights away. Being able to buy a newspaper advertisement or broadcast an advertisement isn't something that the goverment should be able to prevent you (or the company you've formed) from doing. Likewise for labor unions, advocacy groups, churches, scouting troops, bowling leagues, open source code projects, or anyone else.

        If money = speech, that means I'm at the back of the hall shouting to be heard while the guy with the bucks is up on stage with the sound system from Disaster Area drowning me out.

        Saying that a mutli-billion dollar corporation should have full access to those resources in shaping public opinion and that I'm perfectly free to shout back and that this is all fair, that's like saying 30-something me has the right to put my fence five feet into my 70-something neighbor's yard and if he has a problem with that he can challenge me to a fight. That's completely inequitable. This is just formalizing the inequality we already have in the legal system where a corporation may be completely in the wrong on a given topic but it will take me five years of lawsuits to prove it out in court and I'll go broke in the process. That may be legal but it's not fucking right!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by iceborer (684929)
        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 Constitu
    • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:44PM (#30850868)

      We need to replace the "conservatives" on the supreme court who don't understand that corporations should not have the constitutional rights of citizens.

      I think we face this issue: What do we do when those who have studied a subject extensively (the USPTO members in this case) come to conclusions that seem absurd (relative to our plain reading of the Constitution, in this case). Because most of us who are supposedly bound the the Constitution don't have the time and means to study it extensively while still meeting our other responsibilities.

      One the one hand, we might conclude that if we too had studied the Constitution extensively, we would reach the same conclusions as the SCOTUS. And then we can choose to either accept their judgment, or try to muster the balls to get the Constitution changed.

      Or on the other hand, we might reason that regardless of the sophistication of their reasoning, it must have some (perhaps hidden) flaw, because of the conclusions they've reached. (I.e., that corporations have free-speech rights that are so sacrosanct that they can legally de facto buy legislation). I'm not exactly sure what options this leaves us, shy of revolution. Which despite the bravado we often exhibit on this site, would have tragic consequences in terms of lost or ruined lives of innocent persons.

      • Re:Bad, bad news (Score:5, Informative)

        by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:10PM (#30852588) Journal

        Or on the other hand, we might reason that regardless of the sophistication of their reasoning, it must have some (perhaps hidden) flaw, because of the conclusions they've reached. (I.e., that corporations have free-speech rights that are so sacrosanct that they can legally de facto buy legislation). I'm not exactly sure what options this leaves us, shy of revolution. Which despite the bravado we often exhibit on this site, would have tragic consequences in terms of lost or ruined lives of innocent persons.

        The solution in that case is the same: if the constitution is so unclear on a certain point that through sophisticated reasoning it can come to a point that none of us like, then the solution is to amend the constitution so that the constitution IS clear, and there is no disagreement. My understanding is this exact thing happened with the 14th Amendment. There was a complicated court case that concluded slaves have no protection under the constitution, and then the 14th amendment was enacted to make sure they do.

  • by Delwin (599872) * on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:36PM (#30850700)
    welcome our new Disney overlords.
    • Re:I for one... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by polar red (215081) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:39PM (#30850768)

      Your system already looks like 2 conglomerate's of wealthy men dividing the dough and the sweat of 99% of US' citizens.

  • by wiredog (43288) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:36PM (#30850706) Journal

    Unions too.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by EnderWiggnz (39214)

      Yes, I'm sure that the Union's will be able to match the corporations contributions.

      Actually, what will probably happen is that Unions will be made illegal after all of the government is bought and paid for.

      *This* is what the second amendment is for. We apparently don't have a working democracy anymore.

  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:41PM (#30850810) Journal

    [Chief Justice] Roberts said he was not prepared to "embrace a theory of the 1st Amendment that would allow censorship not only of television and radio broadcasts, but of pamphlets, posters, the Internet and virtually any other medium that corporations and unions might find useful in expressing their views on matters of public concern."

    But [Justice] Stevens and the dissenters said the majority was ignoring the long-understood rule that the government could limit election money from corporations, unions and others, such as foreign governments. "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. "Corporations are not human beings. They can't vote and can't run for office," Stevens said, and should be subject to restrictions under the election laws.

    Maybe China now has something useful to do with the trillion+ dollars they have burning a hole in their pocket.

  • Fair enough... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Seakip18 (1106315) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:42PM (#30850836) Journal

    Since corporations are able to possess the 1st amendment as a whole body, are they not entitled the remaining amendments?

    Ok, that IS crazy. But what isn't is that, come election time, I wouldn't be surprised if pink slips get issued in order to free up some money to run messages for/against our tastycrats and fingerlick'ans.

    "It's going to be the Wild Wild West," said Ben Ginsberg, a Republican attorney who has represented several GOP presidential campaigns. "If corporations and unions can give unlimited amounts ... it means that the public debate is significantly changed with a lot more voices and it means that the loudest voices are going to be corporations and unions."

    I have to agree.

    Corporations and unions have been given the right to buy who ever they want without any back alley deals...as long as the money doesn't go directly to or is coordinated by candidate.

  • Welcome! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Profane MuthaFucka (574406) <busheatskok@gmail.com> on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:44PM (#30850866) Homepage Journal

    I, for one, welcome our new psychopathic, immortal, politically empowered, corporate-person overlords!

  • by whatajoke (1625715) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:45PM (#30850880)

    And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn't be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler. He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.
    - V

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:47PM (#30850904) Journal
    A corp has no real responsibility, no sense of morals, and rarely ever is punished for many of its crimes. ANd yet, we equate it to man. That single warped logic is killing us.
  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:53PM (#30851018) Homepage
    I haven't read the decision and the dissent yet, but I'm fascinated by how immediately negative the comments prior to this one are, especially the comments that try to argue that corporations should have fewer free speech rights than people. Part of the nature of free speech is that there's always some category that one would often not want to apply it to. For the Slashdot crowd that seems to be corporations. But the whole point of robust free speech is that you give it to any who want to use it. Concern over what this will do to elections is understandable as a policy concern but that's a pragmatic consideration that shouldn't impact such basic philosophical decisions. Moreover, what this really does is level the playing field between corporations. As it is now, Fox or MSNBC or any major newspaper can effectively push for a candidate or policy they want simply by the bias in their coverage. But a corporation that isn't involved in "news" or the like has its hands tied. And as for the impact this might have on elections: It should be apparent from the election of Obama that if a lot of people actually care about a candidate they can give in both time and money a lot more than even many large corporations. Of course, that candidate might then turn around and sell people out, but that's a separate problem...
    • by etymxris (121288) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:56PM (#30851092)

      Free speech for individuals is great. The problem is that corporations are not people and money is not speech.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Money IS speech, or more accurately, money is used to buy the means of speech. Last election we saw Ron Paul (however you feel about him) have supporters pay for a blimp, newspaper advertisements, and donated a record amount of money to try to promote him. You can no more expect a grassroots politicians to rise up without money than you can expect a business to do well without advertising.

        If you take money out of speech, then it's media interest and bias alone that controls the elections, because they are

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by EzInKy (115248)


      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.

  • Free sppech? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mweather (1089505) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:53PM (#30851020)
    If corporations want to be individuals, it's time we start taxing them like individuals.
  • by rotide (1015173) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:04PM (#30851290)

    [A U.S.] Supreme Court ruling in 1886 ... arguably set the stage for the full-scale development of the culture of capitalism, by handing to corporations the right to use their economic power in a way they never had before. Relying on the Fourteenth Amendment, added to the Constitution in 1868 to protect the rights of freed slaves, the Court ruled that a private corporation is a natural person under the U.S. Constitution, and consequently has the same rights and protection extended to persons by the Bill of Rights, including the right to free speech. Thus corporations were given the same “rights” to influence the government in their own interests as were extended to individual citizens, paving the way for corporations to use their wealth to dominate public thought and discourse. The debates in the United States in the 1990s over campaign finance reform, in which corporate bodies can “donate” millions of dollars to political candidates stem from this ruling although rarely if ever is that mentioned. Thus, corporations, as “persons,” were free to lobby legislatures, use the mass media, establish educational institutions such as many business schools founded by corporate leaders in the early twentieth century, found charitable organizations to convince the public of their lofty intent, and in general construct an image that they believed would be in their best interests. All of this in the interest of “free speech.” — Richard Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, (Allyn and Bacon, 1999), p.100

    Personally, in my opinion, that's where it went downhill. A corporation doesn't need rights as an individual. If a corporation needs to speak it has many members which can be enabled to speak for it.

    The problem is that the voice of a business has no bearing on the amount of individuals it represents but merely by the amount of money it can throw. If a business representing 100,000 employees only has $100,000 to contribute it won't even be registered against a tiny company of 5 people that can contribute $1,000,000,000.

    If there were reasonable caps to contributions, say, $1,000 per person (people) and _no_ corporations were allowed to contribute, then the people get the power back. If a large corporation wants to push an issue, they can lobby their own employees to contribute to their cause, but the choice would again be with the individual people.

    I mean honestly, if I have $300 to contribute to a politician I support, how in the world is that going to compare to a $10,000,000 contribution from Big Media when they are leaning in the opposite direction on an issue?

    I'm not saying "the people" have had any real power for a long time (when compared to big business), but this just skews it even farther away from us.

    Sad day to be an American...

  • Liberty what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by metrometro (1092237) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:06PM (#30851322)

    Just to be clear: we're giving one set of institutions which do not have a mandate to respond to individuals (corporations) control over another set of institutions (government) which, uh, used to. And we're doing this in the name of... more liberty for people? Let me know how that works out for you...

  • 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.

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:20PM (#30851596)
    ...as in "end of the Republic" horrible. We just greased the slide to a complete fall into Fascism.
  • by absurdist (758409) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:09PM (#30852586)
    ...when do we see the death penalty applied to them? The Ford Pinto's exploding gas tank and Union Carbide's Bhopal clusterfuck are merely the first examples that come to mind of corporations exhibiting depraved indifference to human life. Had an individual done these things he/she would be facing the death penalty; why should corporations be exempt?

It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. - W. K. Clifford, British philosopher, circa 1876

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