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The W - Current Events & Politics - Supreme Court sticks up for those poor, neglected corporations
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TheBucsFan
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Since: 2.1.02

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#1 Posted on | Instant Rating: 2.20
You know, just a few days ago, I was thinking to myself, "The problem with American politics is clearly that the country's corporations don't have enough influence over leading candidates." And sure enough, the Supreme Court answered. Glad we got that sorted out.

Click here to download a copy of the Court's ruling.


    High Court Rolls Back Campaign Spending Limits

    The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down key provisions of some of the central laws governing how the nation's political campaigns are financed just ahead of the pivotal 2010 midterm congressional primaries and election season.

    By a 5-4 vote, the court ruled that corporations may spend freely to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, overturning a 20-year-old decision that barred such contributions.

    "We find no basis for the proposition that, in the context of political speech, the government may impose restrictions on certain disfavored speakers," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. "The court has recognized that First Amendment protection extends to corporations."

    The new ruling blurs the lines between corporate and individual contributions in political campaigns. It also strikes down part of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that banned unions and corporations from paying for political ads in the waning days of campaigns.

    It could take weeks to sort through the full ramifications of the landmark ruling, but its ripple effects could unleash a whole new flow of new corporate cash into the political realm and transform how political ads are regulated.

    For example, the decision removes limits on independent expenditures that are not coordinated with candidates' campaigns.

    In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens lamented the decision and called the majority "profoundly misguided." He said, "The court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation." Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined Stevens' dissent, parts of which he read aloud in the courtroom.

    At the same time, NPR's Peter Overby points out that one important limit remains intact: Corporations still cannot give money directly to federal candidates or national party committees. That limit dates back to 1907. The justices also upheld some other restrictions, including disclosure requirements for nonprofit groups that advocate for political candidates.


But this is clearly nonsense. How can a corporation - or any non-human entity, for that matter - utilize "First Amendment protection" the way Kennedy implies? A corporation only becomes an extension of the person (or very, very small group of people) with the most control over it - except all the resources of the corporation's employees and consumers go toward enhancing this one person's (or small group of people's) ability to be heard.

If you don't acknowledge corporations as unique entities in interpreting the First Amendment, whose rights are being compromised? Nobody's. It is only giving the leaders of the corporations a second voice, in a concept similar to double taxation.

In practice, this really changes very little, as corporations and Big Money already control pretty much everything anyway... but that it is now being explicitly approved and accepted is depressing.

(edited by TheBucsFan on 21.1.10 1200)
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hansen9j
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Since: 7.11.02
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#2 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.57
I blame Obama. He becomes president, and now we have activist judges re-writing the constitution.



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#3 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.47
    Originally posted by hansen9j
    I blame Obama. He becomes president, and now we have activist judges re-writing the constitution.


I guess I blame us. When will we start thinking and quit reacting in politics?



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Shadowhendrix
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Since: 27.6.08

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#4 Posted on | Instant Rating: 3.84
    Originally posted by hansen9j
    I blame Obama. He becomes president, and now we have activist judges re-writing the constitution.


I pray this is sarcasm, considering the voting bloc is 5-4 in favor of the more conservative justices, and Obama's only appointee is in the Minority.

I do agree on the point of activism, but the court has been one of Conservative Activism for the better part of the last decade (and perhaps longer depending on your view point of O'Connor) It is interesting right now because the conservatives are behaving like judicial activists, and the moderate-liberal justices are operating under judicial restraint. They have got it backwards in terms of what their political ideology would normally dictate.
Guru Zim
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Since: 9.12.01
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#5 Posted on | Instant Rating: 9.32
If the CEO can already, as an individual, make the comments - why shouldn't he be able to use his companies resources to make the same speech?

If I am rich from Oil Money from 200 years ago I don't have that limitation. If my family owned a railroad in the industrial revolution, I don't have that limitation.

I'm not for legislation being written by corporations, but that kind of thing is already happening today. I don't think that political speech is the area we need to look at, and I can see how you could grant corporations first ammendment protection.

This is not the worst decision ever, probably. Feel free to quote me on that at a later date.

My opinion: It is harder to suppress the first ammendment protections of individuals (read: consumers) when you are granting first ammendment protections to corporations. This may play out in the file sharing arena - can file sharing be considered protected speech?




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Guru Zim
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Since: 9.12.01
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#6 Posted on | Instant Rating: 9.32
Immediate impact: This might be just the thing that print media needs.




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StaggerLee
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Since: 3.10.02
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#7 Posted on | Instant Rating: 2.91
I just hate that they equate GIVING MONEY to SPEECH.





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Since: 7.2.02

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#8 Posted on | Instant Rating: 6.57
    Originally posted by Guru Zim
    My opinion: It is harder to suppress the first ammendment protections of individuals (read: consumers) when you are granting first amendment protections to corporations. This may play out in the file sharing arena - can file sharing be considered protected speech?


This isn't about free speech supression, though. It's about being shouted down. It's very hard for the individuals to compete - even collectively - with corporate resources.

My fear is that this will influence things like consumer protections, public safety, and other area where corporate influence is detrimental to the public good. Or think about the net neutrality debate and how that legislation might be influenced with additional corporate money.

Consumer advocacy groups barely stand a chance as it is.



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Corajudo
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Since: 7.11.02
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#9 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.73
Now, if I* understand the ruling correctly, the main change is that corporations can make direct political donations rather than having to form a PAC and file the correct paperwork with the IRS to make political contributions. So, I don't see how this would give large corporations or large unions a larger voice in the political process as they already have the resources to form PACS. And, it certainly won't change their lobbying tactics which are probably more effective anyways.

Rather, it seems like this would make it easier for small businesses and other organizations to make political contributions. So, I'm not convinced this really would have any material effect on corporations' and unions' ability to influence on the political process. Besides, if this leads to better disclosure/transparency then I think it could be somewhat positive (emphasis on both if and could). I mean, I'd rather see ads that say 'Paid for by {insert union or corporation name}' than 'Paid for by Citizens Supporting Freedom' or whatever nondescriptive name of the PAC. That, and require candidates to report contributions publicly so that voters can see where their money came from.

* who knows squat about Constitutional law
hansen9j
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Since: 7.11.02
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#10 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.57
    Originally posted by Corajudo
    Now, if I* understand the ruling correctly, the main change is that corporations can make direct political donations rather than having to form a PAC and file the correct paperwork with the IRS to make political contributions. So, I don't see how this would give large corporations or large unions a larger voice in the political process as they already have the resources to form PACS. And, it certainly won't change their lobbying tactics which are probably more effective anyways.

    Rather, it seems like this would make it easier for small businesses and other organizations to make political contributions. So, I'm not convinced this really would have any material effect on corporations' and unions' ability to influence on the political process. Besides, if this leads to better disclosure/transparency then I think it could be somewhat positive (emphasis on both if and could). I mean, I'd rather see ads that say 'Paid for by {insert union or corporation name}' than 'Paid for by Citizens Supporting Freedom' or whatever nondescriptive name of the PAC. That, and require candidates to report contributions publicly so that voters can see where their money came from.

    * who knows squat about Constitutional law
According to Wikipedia, corporations cannot even directly donate to a PAC (although I'm sure that's not the case after today.)

    Originally posted by Wikipedia
    Corporations and unions may not contribute directly to federal PACs, though they may pay for the administrative costs of a PAC affiliated with the specific corporation or union. Corporate-affiliated PACs may only solicit contributions from executives, shareholders, and their families, while union-affiliated PACs may only solicit contributions from members.


And yeah, Shadowhendrix picked up on my sarcasm and my overall point on the irony of constructionists extending the First Amendment to corporations.



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Guru Zim
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Since: 9.12.01
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#11 Posted on | Instant Rating: 9.32
Well, is running an infomercial speech or not? I would say it is.

Should the government abridge the right to political speech of individuals? The first ammendment and I say they should not. I'm against all campaign finance reform laws that do this, by the way. Freedom is freedom, even if it sucks to be poor.

Should collections of people have fewer rights than individuals? I can't see that the constitution says they should.

Does abridging speech of groups, but not of individuals when alone, abridge upon the rights of the individuals that make up that group? Apparently so.

I'd expect we are going to see more "campaign finance reform" laws that have problems, based on this.




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drjayphd
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#12 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.04
    Originally posted by Guru Zim
    If the CEO can already, as an individual, make the comments - why shouldn't he be able to use his companies resources to make the same speech?


Because then he's speaking for the company, which might not be a monolithic source of agreement. Think of the whole health-care fight, where one company (United?) purportedly encouraged employees to speak out against the Democratic reform proposals. It'd be too easy to project a company's viewpoint on the employees. (Well... at least insofar as the quote goes. Not sure the decision allows the same thing.)

The wealthy heirs of industrialists you mentioned earlier aren't using the company's resources, they're using money their family made from the company. That one level of separation matters.

That said, though, if the government's going to treat corporations as individuals, well, they have a case for more equitable campaign finance laws.

EDIT!: What TheBucsFan said. In Guru's example, the CEO's coming up with the statement, but it gets applied to everyone in the company.

(edited by drjayphd on 21.1.10 1528)




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TheBucsFan
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Since: 2.1.02

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#13 Posted on | Instant Rating: 2.20
    Originally posted by Guru Zim
    Well, is running an infomercial speech or not? I would say it is.

    Should the government abridge the right to political speech of individuals? The first ammendment and I say they should not. I'm against all campaign finance reform laws that do this, by the way. Freedom is freedom, even if it sucks to be poor.

    Should collections of people have fewer rights than individuals? I can't see that the constitution says they should.

    Does abridging speech of groups, but not of individuals when alone, abridge upon the rights of the individuals that make up that group? Apparently so.

    I'd expect we are going to see more "campaign finance reform" laws that have problems, based on this.


I think "collection of people" is a very (very, very, very, etc) misleading substitute for "corporation." A town hall meeting is a collection of people. A chess club is a collection of people. These are organizations in which people gather to express and further their own individual interests and concerns, and of course they should be allowed to express those concerns however they see fit (provided they don't infringe on blah blah blah).

I do not think, say, Halliburton, can live up to this definition. Not everyone who works for Halliburton has a say in what political activities Halliburton participates, nor do they necessarily join this particular "collection" with the intention of furthering whatever political goals Halliburton's executives might deem it worthwhile to pursue.

EDIT: And that's not even touching on the concerns of consumers. Are consumers part of that "collection of people"? I don't know how they can't be, considering it is their money that drives it. Who, for instance, is NOT a part of Google's "collection of people" then?

I guess if you are an absolute, to-the-extreme free market capitalist you might believe consumers have the power to shape the political activities of the companies with which they do business. But I don't think you actually believe that.

(edited by TheBucsFan on 21.1.10 1539)
Guru Zim
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Since: 9.12.01
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#14 Posted on | Instant Rating: 9.32
Well, whether it is a good idea for a corporation to speak for it's employees or not - that's up to the corporation and those employees. I know I wouldn't have appreciated my former employer making political statements (overtly).

Corporations have boards of directors, public companies have boards and stockholders - these are the checks for these companies. Customers also get to choose to buy or not to buy from companies.

Is it the government's job to protect us from advertisements? If there are lies or misleading things, let's pass laws to keep people from lying or misleading folks. Let's not make it illegal for them to communicate. If commercials are going to somehow unduly influence our politicians and citizens - let's educate them.

If a CEO has the right to buy an ad on his own, he should probably have the right to buy it for his corporation, or have his proxy (the marketing department) do it. I say this because if the CEO is an extension of the corporation and can go to jail for it when there is lawbreaking by the corporation, then the corporation should be an extension of the CEO when he wants to use his freedom of speech.


    I do not think, say, Halliburton, can live up to this definition. Not everyone who works for Halliburton has a say in what political activities Halliburton participates, nor do they necessarily join this particular "collection" with the intention of furthering whatever political goals Halliburton's executives might deem it worthwhile to pursue.


I'm not saying it represents all people - but let's say in the extreme case it only represents the board of directors. Should they have fewer rights to speak as a group than they do as individuals? What constitutional basis is there for that?




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TheBucsFan
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#15 Posted on | Instant Rating: 2.20
    Originally posted by Guru Zim

      I do not think, say, Halliburton, can live up to this definition. Not everyone who works for Halliburton has a say in what political activities Halliburton participates, nor do they necessarily join this particular "collection" with the intention of furthering whatever political goals Halliburton's executives might deem it worthwhile to pursue.


    I'm not saying it represents all people - but let's say in the extreme case it only represents the board of directors. Should they have fewer rights to speak as a group than they do as individuals? What constitutional basis is there for that?


They absolutely have the right to speak as a group - using their own personal resources and not resources earned on the backs of their employees and consumers.

Members of a board of directors receive a salary, or are paid via stocks. They are not working for free. If they want to speak as a group, they can do it on their own capabilities.

"Corporation A" and "executives who work for corporation A" are two different entities. This ruling by the Court essentially merges them into one entity (if not in word then in practice), and I think that is wrong.


    If a CEO has the right to buy an ad on his own, he should probably have the right to buy it for his corporation, or have his proxy (the marketing department) do it. I say this because if the CEO is an extension of the corporation and can go to jail for it when there is lawbreaking by the corporation, then the corporation should be an extension of the CEO when he wants to use his freedom of speech.


No, a corporation does not break the law, just like a corporation cannot have an opinion. An executive might go to jail for some random crime because he was the one who approved it, or it was his negligence that allowed it to happen. He can't hide behind the corporate banner in that case, and he shouldn't be allowed to hide behind the corporate banner in political campaigning either. What you are suggesting is inconsistency. I disagree with your statement that a CEO is an extension of a company, and I don't see any instance in which the law sees it that way.

For what you typed here to make sense, you'd have to provide an example of a "corporation" committing a crime for which no person or people were accountable. It doesn't work that way.

(edited by TheBucsFan on 21.1.10 1821)
Guru Zim
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Since: 9.12.01
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#16 Posted on | Instant Rating: 9.32
Either I'm not saying it right you aren't getting what I'm saying - cause

    For what you typed here to make sense, you'd have to provide an example of a "corporation" committing a crime for which no person or people were accountable. It doesn't work that way.
is the opposite of what I'm saying.

Corporations don't earn on the backs of others - that's a pretty anti-corporate bias right there. Corporations are made up of people. Hell, this board should be incorporated - that way it would limit my personal liability for my own assets if someone sued us. That's not the same thing as no one being accountable for the actions of the board - it would just mean that there is a separation of what is mine and what belongs to the corporations. If I used the board to do illegal things, I'd go to jail - whether or not it was a corporation.

If this board had a bank account with significant assets and I bought an ad from it, instead of paying myself and then personally buying an ad, the only difference would be how often the money was taxed.




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#17 Posted on | Instant Rating: 9.32
PS> The board of directors of a corporation "is" the corporation. That's kind of what the board does.

If an officer of a board speaks for the board, he is speaking for the company and can be held accountable for those statements. That's why No Comment is a pretty smart comment, a lot of the time.

Corporations are not some slave-ship made of evil that we must silence.




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#18 Posted on | Instant Rating: 9.32
And my final point...

People have the right to free speech. Corporations are run by people. Abridging the right to free speech of corporations abridges the right of free speech of people.

People who work for corporations may not like those companies using their resources to speak as they do, and customers may not like it either. I'd recommend to those people that they find companies to work for and do business with that they can support. I know I've left a very good job over, amongst other things, a policy that dictated that I wasn't allowed to speak on the internet. Could I have violated it and stayed? Sure. But it pissed me off, and so did a number of other things they do - so I left. People have options. If you think that there is a market for a company that doesn't speak for it's employees, find an industry that you think has a problem with this and start your own company.




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#19 Posted on | Instant Rating: 1.46
Corporations are not people, they are entities. Its like saying my car has a right to a vote since I run it. As for Guru's idea of you don't like start your company, that is utter bullshit. Its the same conservative line used to bully their way out of things when they have no real argument. Keep towing the line, pal. The other problem with corporations is that not all employees are going to agree with this, so isn't the corporations violating their freedom of speech?
TheBucsFan
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#20 Posted on | Instant Rating: 2.20
    Originally posted by Guru Zim
    Either I'm not saying it right you aren't getting what I'm saying - cause

      For what you typed here to make sense, you'd have to provide an example of a "corporation" committing a crime for which no person or people were accountable. It doesn't work that way.
    is the opposite of what I'm saying.

    Corporations don't earn on the backs of others - that's a pretty anti-corporate bias right there.


You're right, but it's not what I said. I said individuals using a corporate front for their political campaigning are doing so on the backs of employees and consumers. The corporation and the people profiting from it are different.



    Corporations are made up of people. Hell, this board should be incorporated - that way it would limit my personal liability for my own assets if someone sued us. That's not the same thing as no one being accountable for the actions of the board - it would just mean that there is a separation of what is mine and what belongs to the corporations. If I used the board to do illegal things, I'd go to jail - whether or not it was a corporation.


Right, but you said:

If the CEO is an extension of the corporation and can go to jail for it when there is lawbreaking by the corporation, then the corporation should be an extension of the CEO when he wants to use his freedom of speech.


Your whole analogy was based on this hypothetical, unless I'm misreading it. "If the CEO is legally responsible for a corporation's actions, why shouldn't that CEO be able to use it for political campaigning?" This is what I am reading from what you said above.

A CEO cannot go to jail for a corporation's actions. A CEO can go to jail for his own actions. A corporation cannot take action, because a corporation is not a person. Just like The-W.com cannot a commit a crime - you can only commit a crime in your use and management of it.

There cannot be "lawbreaking by the corporation."


    If this board had a bank account with significant assets and I bought an ad from it, instead of paying myself and then personally buying an ad, the only difference would be how often the money was taxed.


No, there are several differences. For one, the ad might be listed in the name "the-w.com" instead of "Aaron Zimmerman." For another, though this probably isn't true of this Web site, a company typically has more than one or two people behind it, and often has many people associated with the company who have no say whatsoever in the ad being purchased, despite the fact that they played a role in raising the money in question.

Your analogy also assumes that the people making the decision to buy the ad spend no more on it than what amounts to their salary, and that it in fact deducts from their salary. If I'm an executive of some huge media conglomerate, and I donate $10,000 in my company's name to Barrack Obama's re-election campaign, but don't deduct $10,000 from whatever my due compensation is AND I don't have sole, unilateral authority to spend my company's money, I'm not really covered in your analogy, am I?

The independent business owners you are analogizing this to are not the ones who will benefit from this ruling.


    People have the right to free speech. Corporations are run by people. Abridging the right to free speech of corporations abridges the right of free speech of people.


I just don't understand this assumption. I work for some company... do I cease to enjoy freedom of speech because of this? Acknowledging corporations as inanimate, abstract concepts rather than people doesn't take away anything from those who are actually people. The only thing you are defending is giving a small group of really rich people "more" freedom of speech than others in the sense that they can speak either as individuals OR as the faceless corporate names they operate behind.


    People who work for corporations may not like those companies using their resources to speak as they do, and customers may not like it either. I'd recommend to those people that they find companies to work for and do business with that they can support.


This is just an unrealistic and impractical expectation. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 99.9 percent of people working in America's largest corporate empires will have no say in the political activities of their employers - do you think it is practical to expect all these people to quit their jobs?

Also, I don't have time at this precise second to scan past posts from you, but I feel like this is something of an inconsistent view from you. This is a hardline, absolute free market view that I don't think I've seen you express before, though I might be wrong. The argument you are using here can be used to dismiss pretty much every single attempt at government regulation of the private sector.


    I know I've left a very good job over, amongst other things, a policy that dictated that I wasn't allowed to speak on the internet. Could I have violated it and stayed? Sure. But it pissed me off, and so did a number of other things they do - so I left. People have options.


Most people aren't as intelligent and educated as you are. Most people don't have as many options as you do.
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