Is The Decision on Citizens United v. FEC The End Of Government As We Know It?

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The supreme court ruled that corporate spending on political ads is a form of freedom of speech and protected under the first amendment.  This over turns a 20 year old decision that prohibited corporations from running political ads. In Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce the Supreme Court declared, “Corporate wealth can unfairly influence elections when it is deployed in the form of independent expenditures.”

This decision on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission found that the declaration of the previous violated the First Amendment rights of a corporation:

Although the First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech,” §441b’s prohibition on corporate independent expenditures is an outright ban on speech, backed by criminal sanctions. It is a ban notwithstanding the fact that a PAC created by a corporation can still speak, for a PAC is aseparate association from the corporation. Because speech is an essential mechanism of democracy—it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people—political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it by design or inadvertence. Laws burdening such speech are subject to strict scrutiny, which requires the Government to prove that the restriction “furthers a compelling interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.” WRTL, 551 U. S., at 464. This language provides a sufficient framework for protecting the interests in this case. Premised on mistrust of governmental power, the First Amendment stands against attempts to disfavor certain subjects or viewpoints or to distinguish among different speakers, which may be a means to control content. The Government may also commit a constitutional wrong when by law it identifies certain preferred speakers. There is no basis for the proposition that, in the political speech context, the Government may impose restrictions on certain disfavored speakers. Both history and logic lead to this conclusion. Pp. 20–25.

The entire 183 page opinion can be found here.

Is this new?  Before now corporations would setup a Political Action Committee (PAC) and receive donations.  The PAC would then do the corporations bidding.  Now the corporations no longer need to form a PAC and can directly campaign for the candidate they want.

Here are my thoughts on the matter and I must warn you that some of them are tongue in cheek.

First off the media, except for Fox, leans to the left. They air stories in favor of liberals and against conservatives heavily during elections.  This last election was a prime example of this.   By the media favoring one candidate over another they have been campaigning for the candidate or party of their choice with no consequence, because of freedom of speech.

Now other corporations that are not running TV channels and reporting “news” can campaign for their political candidate whether it is the same as the media’s  or not.

The other common theme I have been reading about is how now our politicians are going to be elected by corporations and not American citizens.  I don’t see how this can be as long as we still vote as individual people.

Remember Ross Perot?  He was a billionaire and couldn’t buy the election.  Many would argue that he would have one had he not quit and then came back.

I think the American people are smarter than they give themselves credit for.  Sometimes a candidate is elected under false pretenses and the public realizes that after they are in office.  When they are up for reelection they don’t make it.

Another interesting thing I read was about the legal status of a corporation.  Sometimes they are protected under the 14th amendment and sometimes not. Rather than go through every thing I will direct you here to read for yourself.

The 14th Amendment states: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States;”

If a US corporation is a citizen of the United States and protected under the constitution, how long will it be before the other amendments and laws apply to them as well?

Citizens have the right to vote, why not corporations?

Will corporate mergers soon have all the rights and privileges of a married couple?  That would depend on gay marriage.

Would a hostel take over or massive layoffs be considered assault?

I don’t seriously believe any of that will happen or should happen, but those arguments could be used.

After reading articles from both sides of the aisle, I don’t see that this ruling is as drastic as some make it out to be.  I even saw on MSNBC where Keith Olbermann went as far as to say that is is worse than the Dred Scott case where Roger Brooke Taney, referring to slaves, stated:

They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far unfit that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.

Olbermann then says that the statement made “in fact led to the civil war”. Unfortunately the civil war was over a rail road and not slavery, but is saying that corporations can spend money on elections directly rather than giving the money to PACs to do it for them worse than saying slaves are inferior and not fit to associate with whites?

Now Olbermann is saying there is no way to stop large corporations from deciding our elections. None.  It seems he forgot that, like I mentioned earlier, corporations cannot vote. American humans vote and we decide the elections. Some may argue that the electoral college decides, but there is an argument for everything.

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