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Posts tagged citizens united
1:36 pm - Fri, Mar 7, 2014
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3:51 pm - Wed, Jun 5, 2013
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Citizens United Backlash Threatens Basic Constitutional Rights

First there was Bush Derangement Syndrome — a loathing of George W. Bush and his policies beyond all reason. Then came Obama Derangement Syndrome, which combines the fury of BDS with outlandish conspiracy theories. Now we see a new affliction: Citizens United Derangement Syndrome — CUDS, for short.

CUDS is the most dangerous, for three reasons. First, derangement over a president ends when his administration does. Second, CUDS has gained more steam. Efforts to impeach Bush went nowhere. The same is true so far for Obama. But ostensibly serious people in positions of genuine power truly want to amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United.

And third: Some want to go much further than that.

A quick refresher: Once upon a time a private group, Citizens United, made a political film called “Hillary: The Movie.” The group wanted to run TV ads for the movie and air it during the 2008 election season. But since the film was partly underwritten with corporate money, under the law in effect at the time this was forbidden. So Citizens United sued.

The case worked its way up to the Supreme Court, where Chief Justice John Roberts asked if the law also could prohibit the publication of a political book.

Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart, representing the government, said yes — the government “could prohibit the publication of the book.” Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21 and former head of Common Cause, agreed: A book urging the election or defeat of a candidate “can be banned.” A five-justice majority on the court quite correctly recoiled at this, and concluded that corporations and unions could spend money to speak their minds about candidates.

The 2010 ruling produced a firestorm of outrage that continues to burn. Last week, Illinois became the 14th state to endorse a constitutional amendment aimed at reversing Citizens United. Resolutions in 20 more have been introduced; some are still pending.

Some of the resolutions stipulate simply that money is not speech and that states may regulate campaign financing. This is problematic enough, as the case history shows. Yet other measures — including some that have passed — go much further.

They assert that corporations have no constitutional rights, period (Arizona); that the constitution protects “free speech and other rights of the people, not corporations” (Florida); that the Bill of Rights applies to “individual human beings” only (Illinois); that the First Amendment does not apply to corporations (Iowa); that the U.S. should “abolish corporate personhood” (Kentucky); that constitutional rights are “rights of human beings, not rights of corporations” (Montana); that constitutional rights “are the rights of natural persons only” (Minnesota); and so on.

Just so we’re clear: This would strip newspapers, magazines, television shows and book publishers of First Amendment protection — meaning the government could tell them what to print or say, and what not to. The same would apply to universities. It means the government could order advocacy groups such as NARAL and the Sierra Club to support legislation they oppose, or vice versa. If a legislature wanted to make charitable organizations like the American Cancer Society take dictation, it could. Ditto for unions. And so on.

Of course, some of the resolutions would strip corporations not only of their First Amendment rights but of all rights. As the Cato Institute’s Ilya Shapiro explains, that would include the right against unreasonable search and seizure: The “police could search everyone’s (work) computer for any reason, or for no reason at all.” The corporate right to property would disappear as well: “The mayor of New York could say, ‘I want my office to be in Rockefeller Center, so I’ll just take it without any compensation.’ ” And while critics of Citizens United claim (incorrectly) that it overturns a century of precedent, they are trying to overturn two. The Supreme Court first recognized corporate personhood in 1819.

This is lunacy.

Moreover, the hostility to corporations that drives this derangement is curious. In a broad sense, corporations represent almost a communitarian ideal: They are groups of people who have come together voluntarily to pursue a collective interest. The government can put a gun to your head and command you to serve it. But you go to work for Google only if you choose to.

And in a legal sense, there is a very good reason for corporations to have certain rights. As Shapiro explains, they do so “not because they are corporations, but because they are composed of rights-bearing individuals.” It is strange to think individuals should “lose all their rights” merely because “they come together to work in unison.” Yet that is where some of those suffering from CUDS would have the country go.

The resolutions and petitions to strip corporations of their First Amendment rights, or all rights, allow only two possibilities. One is that their supporters have not given any serious thought to what they are advocating. The other is that they have. Neither is a comfort.

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12:02 pm - Fri, May 3, 2013
Calling all Campaign-Finance Watchdogs!
I’m sure that what Mother Jones is doing here is well within the bounds of campaign-finance regulation as currently constituted. But is coordination like this the sort of thing campaign-finance reformers like to see? 
Not by a long chalk, it isn’t! One watchdog, for instance, deplores "a new reality in our post-Citizens United campaign finance playing field”: “As iWatch News’ Peter Stone reports today, … 

Campaign finance lawyers and watchdog groups say that Federal Election Commission rules define coordination to allow some fundraising overlap between campaigns and independent groups, thereby creating sizable loopholes. “FEC regulations allow an enormous amount of actual coordination that’s not considered under the law to be illegal coordination,” Trevor Potter, a former chairman of the FEC and president of the independent Campaign Legal Center told iWatch News. “The regulations allow a significant amount of overlap in fundraising.”
But Potter added, “These loopholes are clearly not what the Supreme Court had in mind when it spoke about independent spending campaigns” in its Citizens United decision.

Another watchdog notes that in 2011 

We Are Wisconsin, an influential coalition of labor unions backing the six Democratic challengers in Tuesday’s recall elections, says the California-based Tea Party Express (TPE) group and the Republican Party of Wisconsin broke state law by coordinating on a phone banking operation to boost Republican state senators facing recall votes.
In a complaint filed with Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board Tuesday morning, We Are Wisconsin alleges the two groups violated Wisconsin campaign law that prohibits coordination between independent expenditure groups and candidates or groups working on behalf of candidates.

Then there’s this watchdog, who complains that 

As long as the groups don’t actually contribute money to, or coordinate with, a campaign, they’re free to do pretty much whatever else they want, with no restrictions on how much soft money they get. In practice, analysts say, there is a lot of wink-wink coordination that goes on…

And who are those watchdogs? You guessed it — they are all one and the same: Mother Jones.

Calling all Campaign-Finance Watchdogs!

I’m sure that what Mother Jones is doing here is well within the bounds of campaign-finance regulation as currently constituted. But is coordination like this the sort of thing campaign-finance reformers like to see? 

Not by a long chalk, it isn’t! One watchdog, for instance, deplores "a new reality in our post-Citizens United campaign finance playing field”: “As iWatch News’ Peter Stone reports today, …

Campaign finance lawyers and watchdog groups say that Federal Election Commission rules define coordination to allow some fundraising overlap between campaigns and independent groups, thereby creating sizable loopholes. “FEC regulations allow an enormous amount of actual coordination that’s not considered under the law to be illegal coordination,” Trevor Potter, a former chairman of the FEC and president of the independent Campaign Legal Center told iWatch News. “The regulations allow a significant amount of overlap in fundraising.”

But Potter added, “These loopholes are clearly not what the Supreme Court had in mind when it spoke about independent spending campaigns” in its Citizens United decision.

Another watchdog notes that in 2011 

We Are Wisconsin, an influential coalition of labor unions backing the six Democratic challengers in Tuesday’s recall elections, says the California-based Tea Party Express (TPE) group and the Republican Party of Wisconsin broke state law by coordinating on a phone banking operation to boost Republican state senators facing recall votes.

In a complaint filed with Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board Tuesday morning, We Are Wisconsin alleges the two groups violated Wisconsin campaign law that prohibits coordination between independent expenditure groups and candidates or groups working on behalf of candidates.

Then there’s this watchdog, who complains that

As long as the groups don’t actually contribute money to, or coordinate with, a campaign, they’re free to do pretty much whatever else they want, with no restrictions on how much soft money they get. In practice, analysts say, there is a lot of wink-wink coordination that goes on…

And who are those watchdogs? You guessed it — they are all one and the same: Mother Jones.

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1:23 pm - Tue, Jan 8, 2013
183 notes
IRONY ALERT: The artist, Adam Zyglis, is a cartoonist for the Buffalo News, which is … you guessed it … a corporation — whose First Amendment rights are guaranteed by the very decision his cartoon condemns.
If the logic employed by the critics of Citizens United were applied consistently, then the newspaper Zyglis works for would have no right to make editorial endorsements, and any cartoons about political candidates it published during the 60 days prior to a general election could be banned.
Way to stick up for freedom of the press, pal.

IRONY ALERT: The artist, Adam Zyglis, is a cartoonist for the Buffalo News, which is … you guessed it … a corporation — whose First Amendment rights are guaranteed by the very decision his cartoon condemns.

If the logic employed by the critics of Citizens United were applied consistently, then the newspaper Zyglis works for would have no right to make editorial endorsements, and any cartoons about political candidates it published during the 60 days prior to a general election could be banned.

Way to stick up for freedom of the press, pal.

(Source: questionall, via truth-has-a-liberal-bias)

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9:59 am

Coincidence? You Be the Judge

The Virginia Democratic Party is unveiling a new website meant to push the line that the Virginia GOP is too extreme: “In 2012, the radical, overreaching Republican agenda took Virginia backwards,” it says.Don’t let 2013 be like 2012.”

At almost the same moment, The Washington Post unloads with an editorial about the “Virginia GOP’s war on moderates”:  “Last year, Republicans in Richmond did their utmost to drive the state’s independent and swing voters into the Democratic column,” the paper says. “Now, as state lawmakers again convene in the capital for a 45-day legislative session, the question is whether Republicans, who control the General Assembly, have learned anything from the election. Early indications are they have not… . If … Republicans continue to dwell on sideshows, they will inflict damage on the state as well as on their party.”

The assessment of the GOP is probably more accurate than not. And I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest this was in any way orchestrated. Great minds think alike, they say, and fools agree, and so on.

Still, The Post is an advocate of campaign-finance reform (so called), which among other things frowns on message coordination between political parties and “outside groups” such as corporations, which The Post most certainly is.  By its own standards, this is the sort of thing that might, as they say, “raise eyebrows” among those who would like to see Citizens United overturned… .

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6:41 pm - Tue, Nov 20, 2012
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A corporate division has once again exercised its First Amendment rights to argue that corporations don’t have First Amendment rights. This time, however, the New York Times Co. claims to have discovered a loophole that protects its First Amendment rights.

In an editorial today, the Times Co.’s eponymous flagship newspaper answers Justice Samuel Alito, who in a terrific speech last week at the Federalist Society in Washington penetratingly (“speciously,” according to the Times) defended the court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That 5-4 ruling struck down portions of two laws that imposed government censorship on political speech by corporations and unions (though they made an exception for “media corporations” such as the New York Times Co. and News Corp… ).

Alito …  noted that many landmark free-speech decisions vindicated the rights of corporations, including two that involved the New York Times Co. Here’s the company’s response:

In New York Times v. Sullivan, in which the First Amendment was used to rein in the law of libel, the Supreme Court focused on the “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.” It made almost no mention of the fact that The Times was a corporation. Nor were the free speech rights of a corporation any part of the ruling in the Pentagon Papers case.

Really? The free speech rights of a corporation weren’t “any part” of a case styled New York Times Co. v. United States?



Alito’s remark, FYI, was: 

The question is whether speech that goes to the very heart of government should be limited to certain preferred corporations; namely, media corporations. Surely the idea that the First Amendment protects only certain privileged voices should be disturbing to anybody who believes in free speech.


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9:15 am - Wed, Nov 14, 2012
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“There is something supremely cynical about the notion among Republican conservatives,” wrote The New York Times on Sunday, “that they could use their ability to make unlimited contributions to ‘super PACs’ and shadowy social-welfare groups to buy an election. It views voters as a flock of sheep, easily hypnotized by misleading ads, willing to believe whatever wealthy industrialists tell them about taxes, jobs and health care.”

Gosh, wherever could conservative Republicans have gotten such an idea?

Maybe from The Times itself.

New York’s paper of record was writing about the colossal failure of deep-pocket donors to swing any weight in last week’s election: “American Crossroads, the super PAC founded by Karl Rove, spent $104 million in the general election, but none of its candidates won. The United States Chamber of Commerce spent $24 million backing Republicans in 15 Senate races; only two of them won. Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul, spent $53 million on nine Republican candidates, eight of whom lost.” It was indeed, as the editorial noted, “A Landslide Loss for Big Money.”

This certainly is not the outcome the newspaper foresaw two years ago, when the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Citizens United.

The case that prompted that ruling was a simple First Amendment matter: Could the government ban the distribution of a movie advocating the defeat of Hillary Clinton in the crucial days leading up to an election, if the movie were paid for by a corporation? Could it, for that matter, ban a similarly funded book that said “Vote for X,” or a sign in Lafayette Park that said the same thing? The government’s lawyer, Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart, said yes: The government “could prohibit” such a book, movie or sign. The Supreme Court said: No, it cannot.

Cue the hysterics.

The ruling, fumed President Obama, “strikes at democracy itself.” Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine — Virginia’s former governor — termed it “a major victory for oil companies, banks, health insurance companies and other special interests.” Others called the ruling a “constitutional Frankenstein moment,” a “corporate takeover,” “radical,” “absurd” and “terrifying.” On MSNBC, Keith Olbermann declared the ruling worse than the 19th-century Dred Scott decision upholding slavery. It was, he intoned, a “Supreme-Court-sanctioned murder of … democracy.” A writer for The Huffington Post declared, “We are all royally, hopelessly [expletived] for the rest of recorded time.”

And then there was The Times, which insisted the Court had “paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections… . Congress must act immediately to limit the damage of this radical decision, which strikes at the heart of democracy.” Other liberals, from John Kerry and Ralph Nader to Nancy Pelosi and the Occupy movement, agreed the Bill of Rights needed to be rolled back to stem the terrible flood of political speech.

The premise underlying all of that wailing was the very same notion The Times now accuses conservative politicos of harboring: that voters are sheep, easily hypnotized by slick advertising. But as others have pointed out, this line of reasoning is not an indictment of campaign financing alone. It is an indictment of democracy itself. Efforts to keep “outside groups” from speaking during an election are equally efforts to keep the voters from hearing what they have to say, and being persuaded. After all, if voters are smart enough to see through the slick ads, then no harm is done. But if the voters are such gullible morons that they will believe anything Karl Rove tells them, then what does democracy have to recommend it? Precious little.

President Obama’s re-election and the defeat of so many conservative candidates backed by big-money groups seem to have redeemed democracy in the eyes of those who fear free speech — perhaps not “for the rest of recorded time,” but at least for now.…

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9:43 am - Fri, Nov 9, 2012
2 notes

Hey, Remember When Citizens United Was Going to Destroy Democracy as We Know It?

Yeah, that’s pretty much over:

Karl Rove Backed Zero Winners

The Sunlight Foundation finds Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS spent more than $200 million on the elections but backed no winning candidates.

Zero return on investment. The GOP business skills at work.

The usual suspects screamed bloody murder about the power of money in politics — at least on the GOP side; they didn’t seem to mind the more than $1 billion the Obama campaign spent.

The figures above offer a refutation of their thesis. Campaign spending can’t buy an election any more than advertising New Coke and Crystal Pepsi could buy them market share.

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10:31 am - Sun, Oct 21, 2012
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Here Are Two More Corporations That Have Benefitted from Citizens United

And guess who they are:

On the political side, there is the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, a nonprofit “social welfare” group that is permitted by the Internal Revenue Service to participate in politics. And there is Planned Parenthood Votes, a super PAC. Together, they are spending a record amount of money for Planned Parenthood on this year’s election — nearly $12 million, most of it attacking Republicans.

Just sayin’.

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12:02 pm - Wed, Jul 25, 2012
2 notes
Last week, the Concord Monitor reports, a progressive faction within New Hampshire’s Occupy movement moved to expel members of the libertarian Free State Project. The progressives did this — savor the irony here — by attempting to turn the Occupation into a corporation.

Jesse Walker, Reason.

File under: Priceless.

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1:58 pm - Wed, Jul 11, 2012
1 note

Corporations Gone Wild!

I don’t mind even one little bit that unions are spending heavily to influence elections. After all, such spending is a necessary part of political speech.(1)

I am a little surprised that the self-appointed watchdogs of campaign finance don’t seem bothered by it, though — or by the fact that said unions apparently have been under-reporting their campaign-finance activities:

Surely they don’t think corporate campaign spending by one side is wrong but such spending by the other side is okay? Man, whatever happened to speaking truth to power?

P.S. - Unions are corporations, too. Kind of an essential point, but one shouldn’t assume this is widely recognized…

________

(1)

In 2008 a nonprofit, incorporated group called Citizens United wanted to distribute a documentary about Hillary Clinton. But doing so during an election campaign would have violated a 2002 campaign-finance law prohibiting “electioneering communications” within 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election.

A law that forbids American citizens to urge the election or defeat of a political candidate raises some obvious First Amendment concerns. During oral arguments, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that book publishers are corporations. He asked the government’s lawyer if the law could prohibit publishing a book that said, “Vote for X.”

Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart said yes—the government “could prohibit the publication of the book.” Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21 and former head of Common Cause, later agreed that “a campaign document in the form of a book can be banned.”

To its credit, the ACLU did not side with liberal censors. The provision in dispute is “facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment,” the ACLU said, “because it permits the suppression of core political speech.” And that is just how the high court ruled.

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12:32 pm - Sun, Jul 8, 2012
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Obama: “The highest court in the land has now spoken… The country can’t afford to … refight the political battles of two years ago.”

Looks like a lot of people didn’t get that memo!


California votes to overturn Citizens United bribery
July 6, 2012

California became the sixth state to take a stand against Citizens United, which has given corporations and individuals unlimited power to spend on federal and state of elections. The California Senate voted yesterday 24-11 to pass the resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to pass an amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC ruling.

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12:17 pm - Mon, Jul 2, 2012
8 notes

We stand for a free and open Internet.

We support transparent and participatory processes for making Internet policy and the establishment of five basic principles:

Expression: Don’t censor the Internet.

Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.

Openness: Keep the Internet an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create and innovate.

Innovation: Protect the freedom to innovate and create without permission. Don’t block new technologies, and don’t punish innovators for their users’ actions.

Privacy: Protect privacy and defend everyone’s ability to control how their data and devices are used.

Declaration of Internet Freedom (via ryking)

This is interesting — especially the “don’t censor” part. Because — well, let’s suppose a corporation were to set up a website sharply critical of … oh, Hillary Clinton, in the crucial period shortly before an election. Suppose that incorporated body were to call itself, ah, Citizens United.

Me, I would be all in favor of the people who formed the corporation saying anything they wished about a political candidate.

But pretty much everyone who has denounced the SCOTUS ruling in Citizens United would not. In short, their position would be: DO censor the Internet.

That, after all, is what was at stake in the Citizens United case. That case was about a movie, not a website. But the substantive question would be precisely the same…

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10:09 am - Fri, Jun 29, 2012
8 notes
Obama: Don’t refight the battle when I’ve won it. Only when I’ve lost it….

Obama: Don’t refight the battle when I’ve won it. Only when I’ve lost it….

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4:04 pm - Mon, Jun 11, 2012

Stanford Law’s Michael McConnell:

Labor unions poured money into the state to recall Mr. Walker. According to the Center for Public Integrity, the NEA (National Education Association), the nation’s largest teachers union, spent at least $1 million. Its smaller union rival, the AFT (American Federation of Teachers), spent an additional $350,000. Two other unions, the SEIU (Service Employees International Union, which has more than one million government workers) and Afscme (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), spent another $2 million. Little or none of these independent expenditures endorsing a candidate would have been legal under federal law before Citizens United.

By contrast, the large spenders on behalf of Mr. Walker were mostly individuals. According to the Center for Public Integrity, these included Diane Hendricks, Wisconsin’s wealthiest businesswoman, who spent over half a million dollars on his behalf; Bob J. Perry, a Texas home builder, who spent almost half a million; and well-known political contributors such as casino operator Sheldon Adelson and former Amway CEO Dick DeVos, who kicked in a quarter-million dollars each. Businessman David Koch gave $1 million to the Republic Governors Association, which spent $4 million on the Wisconsin race.

These donations have nothing to do with Citizens United. Individuals have been free to make unlimited independent expenditures in support of candidates since the Supreme Court case of Buckley v. Valeo (1976)….

Mr. Walker’s direct, big-ticket support came from sources that have been lawful for decades.

His opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, got his support primarily from labor unions, whose participation was legitimized by Citizens United. Without that decision so demonized by the political left, Mr. Barrett would have been at even more of a financial disadvantage.

Speaking generally, Citizens United is likely to benefit Democrats more than Republicans. Corporations rarely make independent expenditures during candidate elections in their own name, because the ads offend customers, workers and shareholders. And direct corporate contributions to candidates tend to be split more or less evenly between the two parties, largely neutralizing their effect.

But unions have no compunctions against running campaign ads, and almost all of their money goes to Democrats.

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