Saturday, February 6, 2010

Further Thoughts on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

The first amendment of the Constitution says "Congress shall make no law ... prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press". If this was not meant to at the very least protect political speech, then what is it supposed to protect? The Supreme Court correctly decided in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that the law in question was unconstitutional. Justice Alito publicly rebuked the notion that this will allow foreign corporations to pour money into our elections. In discussion of the appropriateness of what Alito had done, they footnoted that he was actually correct. really shows that this is not Armageddon. The alternative could have been.

This revisit stems from reading a friends post over at

Past related posts:
Berman Post: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
Berman Post: Justice Alito Shakes Head And Mouths "Not True" During Obama's State of The Union Address
Berman Post: on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
Berman Post: Democrats Consider a Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election


  1. haha were already in armageddon!

    look, I really disagree andrew. unless you belive that an organization of individuals (i.e. corporations, the government) should be regarded as and afforded the same rights as a flesh and blood human being (i would argue when society's start this practice it proves historically disasterous), then at its best the first amendment has protected the rights of individuals to express themselves freely. Not for phillip-morris executives to further have their will reflected in the political system. the realilty is that in campaigns today a candidates poll numbers already reflect nearly exactly how much money they have raised relative to their opponent. so when a boob like mike pence comes out to try and reassure everyone that this is no big deal (the running GOP/right-wing line about it), then its probably time to pay attention.

    and because Alito publicly rebukes it means very little if you understand how lobbying/fundraising works in the U.S. (read All This Damn Money). besides by the time any ramifications of this would reach his court or anyother the damage would be done.

    If you want politicians who are at the very least going to try and represent the public's interest, instead of just saying they do, then this makes it very difficult for any kind of activist pressure to be applied to politicians to keep them somewhat accountable unless you already are a person of status.

    in my post i say that the reactionary ruling was correct, but for the wrong reason. and although i am sympthetic to the libertarian defense of the decision, truth is that freedom is not the right of already rich people to do whatever the want with the political apparatus, which is pretty much how are system was desisgned and this ruling exacerabtes the worst elements of.

    thanks for linking to my blog! (p.s. this is fun!, tho i read on some internet interest magazine website that blogging is considered on the nerdiest activiest on the internet haha )

  2. What is the difference between [insert generic 'evil' corporation] and the NY Times/CNN or would you ban all corporations from talking about politics? If you are ok with the Times/CNN, what if [insert generic 'evil' corporation] decided to start their own media company?

    No prob on the link, and until you start looking at pocket protectors I think you will be alright.

  3. I think we have a conceptual difference about what "talking about politics" means.
    if you can consider a monetary donation to a campaign, or any monetary transaction as an expression of political speech protected by the first amendment then i want the "donations" i give to my drug dealer protected as a constitutionaly protected form of protest!

    if you want to regard what monopolistic businesses due to influence public policy as a "freedom" you for some reason feel the need to defend then thats a choice. although i'm having a hard time seeing why you would want that unless you also thought that by virtue of someone's wealth they should have "more speech?" and therefore more say in our "democracy" then you. hell lets just make warren buffet eternal leader for life!

    from an institutional perspective, corporations like halliburton and the nytimes both exsist to deliver a profit to their shareholders, the difference is in how they go about doing that.

    Most media is already controlled by some type of "generic evil corporation"( we have thousands of newspapers, magazines, radio stations and a few news channels here in the U.S.- all of them basically owned by a handful of corporations) and so the function of the media in the U.S. is largely to reflect powerful private interests and concerns. That is, the media in the united states is not a means to inform the public, but largely an instrument in somone's public relations strategy. If you want to argue the NYtimes is "liberal", knock yourself out, but the most compelling research on it iv'e seen pretty much concludes that it has the same function of say FOX.

    I think that the concentration of power that this represents is scary, and has already had terrible implications for politics in the U.S.. Thankfully we have the internet, but with this supreme court ruling and the further concentration of power it rewards to already powerful interests in our society, it will be alot easier now for Comcast (basically a monopoly) and any other coalition of special corporate interest to break down "net neutrality" rules, effectively leaving what we see on the internet regulated. its done pretty efficiently in china! It is in the interest of many business im sure to be able to control the speed and flow of content you want to see on the internet, as a matter for fact they (at&t for instance) have already poured a shit ton of money into getting network neutrality pulled. Google about it and from the usual right-wing interests you can read amuseing libertarian style defenses of the"rights" of telecommunications firms to do this.

    personally no thank you i enjoy the freedom to look at whatever information i want, but instead we have legal geniuses like alito who think they make judicial decisicions in a vacuum

  4. ps. i think its pretty obvious what i thought about the video.

    propagandistic cinema techniques aside-ominus music played over the angry "liberal" commentators and politician, layed back guy dressed casually speaking to us "plain folks" forthrightly into the camera, equating political fundraising with the editorials of the establishment corporate press, telling us that the magical "market forces" will just take care of everything if we just trust the good people in positions of power to think for us, etc.

    his "reasons" however actually made me laugh out loud haha.

    to defend the court's ruling by saying a similiair set of rules exsits in alot of states and so we should just federalize the thing makes a more compelling case against the ruling considering the already endemic relative political corruption in states like louisianna and new jersey(i noticed those states on his map).

    i really bust a gut though when he said "organizations can now express themselves freely... as long as they don't coordinate with campaigns". you have to be pretty ensconced from reality to think lobbyists on k-street don't coordinate with campaigns. I guess we should just take it from this guy though that they got our back...haha no.

  5. @Ian Spencer Dubrowsky - you sort of avoided the question. If you say [insert generic 'evil' corporation] can be prohibited from opining politically, does that mean the Times can be prevented from commenting as well? If not, why the distinction? If you are saying the (once proud) fourth estate should be prohibited from one of its main functions... well, we could have a whole debate on that but I hope you are not going there.

  6. Everyone is free to opine all they want.

    As a matter of practical public policy, this limits the ability of people to opine all they want unless you are the manager of a corporate board in which case you now own the elections wholesale.

    Trying to frame this as an issue of individual, rights or the rights of organizations is obsfucation. Corporations (and not even most corporations but a very narrow range of them) are the most powerful institutions in the society and therefore the de-facto state. This ruling divorces accountabililty of the State to the people- this is dangerous.

    In reality, funding elections is not speech, its funding for elections. If the funding for the political process comes from the state, to fund the people the state wants to run the state, then were basically a corporatist country.

  7. I don't think I avoided the question anyway, I think your conception of free speech is odd


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