Skip to comments.Free Speech for All
Posted on 01/21/2010 12:38:57 PM PST by rabscuttle385
Will the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision destroy American democracy? You might think so given the responses of its critics. The Citizens United decision, far from signaling the fall of the republic, strengthens the First Amendment and freedom of speech.
Let's start with the facts of the case. Citizens United, a nonprofit political advocacy group, produced a film called "Hillary: The Movie" about the current Secretary of State, who at the time was a presidential candidate. The movie did not reflect well on Ms. Clinton but did not explicitly advocate her defeat in the 2008 presidential contest. Citizens United planned to show the film in theatres, sell it as a DVD, and make it available on-demand on cable TV. The group also planned to run ads marketing the movie.
What could be the problem with Citizens United's plans? Supporters of Hillary Clinton would not like the movie, but the First Amendment protects all speech, especially criticism of powerful political figures.
Citizens United knew, however, that distributing the movieor even running ads for it!was illegal under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform." That is, part of McCain-Feingold prohibited advertising about candidates funded by corporations or labor unions during primaries and general elections.
But Citizens United is a corporationthat it's a nonprofit doesn't matterHillary Clinton was a candidate, and the movie most definitely discussed the merits of her candidacy. Showing the movie and even advertising it would thus be illegal unless the courts invalided the relevant section of McCain-Feingold as a violation of the First Amendment (as the Supreme Court already has with several other parts of the law).
The courts have long upheld campaign finance regulations as a way to prevent corruption (or the appearance of corruption) in elections. Contributors to campaigns might buy favors from candidates once they are in office, for example, so contribution limits are supposed to deter such exchanges.
But Citizens United did not give money to a candidate for office. It spent money to speak out about Hillary Clinton independent of the campaigns of primary opponent Barack Obama, potential general election opponent John McCain, or any other candidates.
Until yesterday, the law banned corporate contributions as a means to prevent a second kind of corruption. Corporate spending, it was said, would "distort" and thereby "corrupt" elections. The idea was that corporations had so much money that their spending would create vast inequalities in speech that would undermine democracy.
But this idea of corruption as inequality contravened earlier Supreme Court decisions stating that equalitya so-called level political playing fieldcould not justify campaign finance restrictions. After all, to make campaign spending equal or nearly so, the government would have to force some people or groups to spend less than they wished.
And equality of speech is inherently contrary to protecting speech from government restraint, which is ultimately the heart of American conceptions of free speech.
Today the Supreme Court reaffirmed its skepticism about using political equality as a justification for banning corporate speech.
Under the new ruling, will businesses (and labor unions) dominate talk about candidates and elections? Well, for two decades before McCain-Feingold, both could spend freely on advertising about candidates for federal office. Such spending made up a relatively small part of election-related speech and no one group dominated said the political arena.
Still, yesterday's ruling might lead to more election spending by both corporations and unions. It is important to remember, however, that none of this money will go directly to candidates for office. It will go instead to broadcasting or otherwise communicating speech about candidates and issues. Such increases in spending should be welcome because studies have shown that more spendingmore political communicationleads to better-informed voters.
Finally, we need to keep the central question in mind here: Who should decide how much Americans can speak during elections? As Justice Kennedy said in announcing the opinion:
"If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits jailing citizens for engaging in political speech." The Supreme Court has decided the First Amendment does have force. Now the American people have the right to decide how much to spend on their own political speech. We all will benefit from this affirmation of our Constitution.
Congress shall make no law...
A great victory but still I find it a bit obscene that it wasn’t a unanimous decision.
Thanks for the link.
Free Republic gives meaning to “freedom of speech” and “free press” and should be afforded 1st A. protection.
Imagine no Free Republic, as do some politicians.
Notice... There is absolutely no mention of the unions... I believe the only reason they are up in arms about this is because the unions will have to be more open with their support, and people may actually SEE the connections.
I guess Obama’s thugs aren’t the only ones who can spend money on politicians now. LMAO!
We have always been under the assumption and belief that politics could never enter into anything we did and that we were required to remain neutral on all things political, although in our world there are lefties everywhere because most non-profits could not exist without government hand outs.
How can our foundation now benefit because of this ruling by the SCOTUS?
ping to #10
I went to the website, and it looks great! The ranch is beautiful, and you have intriguing books and prints in the store.
As to the ruling, I don’t see that it affects your museum unless you want to support (or fight) a local candidate who wants to make the museum an issue (in zoning, or funding, or such). When a mission is artistic rather than political, and since there is no point in offending patrons unnecessarily, most museums shun controversy. Obviously the extreme and overt politicization of art and the echo chamber of the big cities have pushed this principle to the breaking point, but your museum is unaffected by such nonsense.
That being said, the practical effect would be that you could put up issue or candidate posters or even make independent commercials. Whether that would be in the best interest of the museum is your call, constrained by your fiduciary duty to the 501(C)3. I suppose you could rent out the property as a campaign headquarters, or as a fund-raising venue. Have you thought about weddings?
We're making noise on a variety of issues now and we're being heard.
And we've got to keep it up.
Thanks so much!
We have had a few weddings here, however the local mentality and the Orderville mindset speaks volumes about free....
Mr. Jet Blue had his daughters wedding reception here. When it came time to talk money he said “We’ll make a nice donation to the foundation”. They brought in the Relief Society ladies to do the jello and cookies and we had 500 people with kids running and getting into mischief.
He was very generous with his $250 donation.
We will be starting a campaign this year with an aggressive approach to online donations. My daughter is in NYC with Godiva Chocolatier and has a good handle on email marketing. Our goal is to grow our opt-in marketing lists
to a huge number.
Next time you are in the region, do not forget to stop in.
Thank God Hayworth is going to challenge him.