American Elephants


Why Do The Democrats Hate Free Speech? by The Elephant's Child

The Supreme Court handed down a major decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the “Hillary: The Movie” case that was first argued last March, reargued in September, and finally decided last Thursday, January 21, 2010.

Background: During the 2008 election campaign, the nonprofit group Citizens United wanted to make a film available on cable-on-demand that was critical of then-candidate Hillary Clinton.  Because Citizens United is organized as a corporation, under the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law, its speech was banned.  The movie was not allowed to be shown, and the law was backed by criminal sanctions.  Section 441b makes it a felony for all corporations — including nonprofit advocacy corporations — either to expressly advocate the election or defeat of candidates or to broadcast electioneering communications within 30 days of a primary and 60 days of a general election.

Citizens United challenged this ban, and the Supreme Court struck down this provision of McCain-Feingold , reversing a previous ruling — Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce —that permitted the government to ban corporations and labor unions from promoting or opposing political candidates.

Paul Sherman, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, which litigates free-speech cases nationwide points out:

The ruling in Citizens United is a straightforward application of basic First Amendment principles:  “When Government seeks to use its full power…to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought.  This is unlawful.  The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.”

The Democrats are OUTRAGED:  Corporations are not entitled to free speech, political expenditures are not “speech”, protections of the Free Speech Clause properly apply to individuals not corporations, this will corrupt the democratic process,  will radically increase powerful corporate influence in politics, blah, blah, blah. Democrats are afraid that corporations benefit Republicans, and free speech should not apply to anyone who might be critical of Democrats.

The First Amendment is about political speech, and if free speech only applies to speech that is pleasing to you, then it isn’t free, and it isn’t freedom — but tyranny.  You might find it interesting to keep track of the numerous and constant efforts of the Democrats to stifle speech that they don’t like.  For example, President Obama’s ban on Fox News continues.

Just watch.  There will be a concerted effort on the part of the Democrats to overturn or overrule this decision.  The “Democrats” aren’t much on Democracy, the Constitution (needs updating for modern times), especially the First Amendment — although that religion part is useful for getting rid of religious influences.  They’re fairly fond of the “establishment” bit but always, always, ignore the — making no law that might “prohibit the free exercise thereof” part.

Progressives are passionately fond of larger government, the growth of government, and the exercise of lots of government power.  The Constitution puts some firm limits on what government can and cannot do.  They don’t like that.

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15 Comments so far
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The Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case is a demonstration of the partisanship of the Justices. There is another blog on this topic. See:

http://wendygdphillips.wordpress.com

Comment by Wendy Phillips

I agree that it is a demonstration of partisanship, Wendy, the partisanship of the four activist liberals on the court.

The lone “moderate” on the court, also known as the “swing vote”, Justice Kennedy, joined the majority in opposing the left’s attempt to regulate free speech.

Alas, only liberal Justices, who believe in a “living, breathing” and therefore meaningless Constitution could think that the first amendment which clearly states that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech” could possibly mean that Congress CAN make SOME laws abridging the freedom of political speech of people and groups they dont like.

Comment by American Elephant

I keep hearing, as in the ObamaNation SOTU speech, that this is overturning 100 years of law. Isn’t it just overturning part of McCain Feingold? I’d rather not allow a corp like Ford Motor Co. spend it’s shareholders money on political ads or the United Auto Workers to spend it’s members money, but I don’t have a problem with a group of citizens who organize for that purpose doing so.

Comment by JohnGalt

The framers of the Constitution (specifically the Bill of Rights) clearly wanted to protect political speech, but could they have envisioned a day when mass communication would allow those persons or entities (whether corporations or labor unions) with the most money to speak to the largest audiences? For money to determine, essentially, the loudness of political speech? I’m not sure that is as clear as some are trying to make it.

Personally, when I look at the current state of political discourse in America, I don’t say to myself, “If only corporations and unions were more unfettered in their ability to influence elections!”

Comment by Duane Bender

John Galt, You’re absolutely right. It is simply overturning a bit of McCain-Feingold, and good riddance. Duane, What you’re missing is that you cannot have “selective” free speech. There are many people whose opinions I detest, but if they are not free to speak their mind, neither am I. Who could have envisioned “political correctness” where speech that offends someone is prohibited by law. Inherent in freedom of speech is a right to offend. Political correctness has done great damage in Canada and Britain, and we are under assault here.

When I look at the current state of political discourse in America, I don’t say to myself,”If only crackpot groups like PETA and SEIU were more unfettered in their ability to influence elections.” Since I value my own right to political speech, I’ll grit my teeth and point out the errors in what they say.

Comment by The Elephant's Child

Yes, Duane,

The framers could envision mass communication that allowed some people to reach greater audiences than others. They had newspapers and other publications. The owners of those papers could reach far greater audiences than the average person could. Yet the framers didnt limit their speech, they protected it. The same principle applies here.

Could the framers imagine a day when the average citizen could start a blog that would become popular, and he could reach tens of thousands if not millions of people? Probably not. Should the government then ban blogging?

I think not. The same principle applies. Its called freedom. If you dont like somone elses message. Go spread your message to more people. Get other like minded people to support you. There is nothing stopping you.

Comment by American Elephant

The decision by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission shreds the fabric of our already weakened democracy by allowing corporations to more completely dominate our corrupted electoral process. It is outrageous that corporations already attempt to influence or bribe our political candidates through their political action committees (PACs), which solicit employees and shareholders for donations. With this decision, corporations can now also draw on their corporate treasuries and pour vast amounts of corporate money, through independent expenditures, into the electoral swamp already flooded with corporate campaign PAC contribution dollars.

Comment by detaylor65

Are you kidding??? The very idea that speech could possibly “shred the fabric of our democracy” is completely antithetical to everything the United States stands for.

What’s going on here is very simple: Democrats are trying to silence those who oppose them. Like the Fascists they increasingly resemble, they want to control corporations and dont want the corporations to be able to say anything about it. They want to tax corporations, raise taxes on corporations, slap “windfall profits” taxes and “value added” taxes on corporations, they want to cripple corporations with Cap and Trade and Fascist health care, they want to control corporate salaries and wages, tell them what products they can and cannot sell, and the Democrat party has a long history of trying to dictate prices…and they dont want the American people to hear the corporations point of view about ANY of it.

Which probably all sounds very good… if you’re a Fascist. To everyone else, it is deeply un-American and blatantly unconstitutional.

Comment by American Elephant

Former Chief Justice Rehnquist held the opinion that Congress can limit corporate campaign spending because corporations have unique advantages that allow them to raise much larger sums of money than individuals can, and therefore they are qualitatively different than the sort of persons the Framers of the Constitution contemplated when drafting the bill of rights. Corporations have, for example, perpetual life and limited liability, neither of which are available to you or me.

Do you think William Rehnquist was a fascist?

By the way, most intelligent people know that it is better to restrain from ad hominem attacks.

Comment by detaylor65

Of course Rehnquist was not a Fascist, but he was, in this case, wrong. Supreme Court justices are simply humans like the rest of us, with all the foibles the human race possesses. There were corporations in Colonial times. The First Amendment doesn’t say that everybody gets free speech but corporations. Our Democracy is hardly “shredded” by the Citizens United decision, but strengthened, by returning to our Constitutionally guaranteed free speech.

Free speech cannot be selective. If it’s only for me and not for thee, no matter how much I may hate what you say, then it is not free. Goes as much for the Democracy Alliance as it does for Tea Party Partisans. I despise what the Communist Party USA has to say, but they have the same right to free speech. I don’t have to agree or even listen, but they have that right.

A corporation is simply a way of organizing a business. There is nothing wrong, evil, or special about being incorporated. That is a fantasy of the left. Some businesses are well managed and do lots of good for society, some are poorly managed and go out of business. If you think corporations have “perpetual life”, you need to check out corporate history. What does limited liability have to do with anything? Are you contemplating suing a corporation for what they might have to say? Corporations are the most heavily regulated entities in society. You need to worry more about what government says and does.

Why are you not more troubled that SEIU gave over $60 million of members’ money to the Obama Campaign, and has received in exchange, over $60 billion of potential benefits in the Senate Health Care Bill? SEIU President Andy Stern is the most frequent visitor to the White House, with weekly visits.

The Constitution says: The government shall make no law abridging freedom of speech. That’s pretty clear and straightforward, and was reaffirmed in Citizens United. You should be grateful.

Comment by The Elephant's Child

I am asserting that money and the manipulation it buys are strongly antithetical to a healthy democratic public life. That does not mean that everyone doing business is evil. I never made any such statement and it’s very silly of you to suggest that I did.

The manipulation that money can buy does mean though that that Citizens United will vastly strengthen the hand of predators to call the tune for politicians across the political spectrum. The majority of the Court clearly believes that private corporate money has an unrestricted First Amendment right not merely to speak but to shout down anyone who dares to challenge its primacy. And as former Representative Romano Mazzoli from Kentucky’s Third Congressional District put it, “People who contribute get the ear of the member and the ear of the staff. They have the access–and access is it.” Like the vast majority of Americans I believe that money buys results in Congress and corrupts the institution. Citizens United will only make that matter worse.

There’s all the difference in the world between a lawyer making an argument to a jury and a lawyer handing out $100 bills to the jurors. But buying congressmen is exactly what I and many others see this decision to be allowing.

On another subject, you obviously haven’t any actual knowledge of the law as it applies to corporations so let me explain to you what “Perpetual Life” and “limited liability” refer to. A corporation is a legal entity separate and distinct from the persons who own it. It has neither a soul to damn nor a body to kick. Nonetheless, it is treated by the courts as an artificial person in the sense that it may own property, incur debts, sue, or be sued. Its three distinguishing features are: a) limited liability – meaning owners can lose only what they have invested. b) Easy transfer of ownership through the sale of shares of stock. And c) Perpetual life – which means continuity of existence.

Before you try to ridicule other people, it would be a good idea to make certain that you know what you are talking about.

Comment by detaylor65

Goodness, touchy. I don’t believe that I ridiculed you, I simply disagreed. Which is one of the points regarding free speech. You have to tolerate disagreement.

McCain-Feingold was a misguided attempt to remove large financial interest from political campaigns. It has been criticized ever since its passage, as infringing on the right of free speech. The court has long held, and I don’t know the date or case, that money in a political campaign is a form of speech.

You are asserting that some money is fine, from organizations that you approve of, but money from “a corporation” is not. That seems to me to be a silly distinction. The law, as it was under McCain-Finegold, would have prohibited a publisher from putting out a book critical of a candidate, or as in the case of Citizens United, offering a movie critical of a candidate, on a pay-to-view basis. There were other similar issues mentioned in the court’s discussion, which clarified what restrictions the law demanded.

I understand perpetual life and limited liability just fine, but fail to see what it has to do with anything in reference to Constitutionally guaranteed free speech. I was merely pointing out that corporate entities don’t last all that long, which doesn’t have much to do with free speech either. I do not pretend to be a lawyer.

The point is that McCain-Feingold has been a complete failure at eliminating financial interests in campaigns. Examples are numerous. A number of trial lawyer firms have been shown to have the janitor and the receptionist “donating” thousands of dollars, obviously covered by the more highly paid members of the firm.

The solution — recognizing the right of free speech — has been to allow anyone to give whatever they want, but require every donation to be recorded and available to the public, on the internet.

The best-funded candidate does not necessarily win election. People make up their own minds in a free society, and are not nearly as susceptible to influence as you seem to believe. Truth and honesty in exposing who is trying to influence an election or “buy” a congressman results in a lot fewer congressmen being “bought.” Ben Nelson was “bought” and will probably lose his job. His “bribe” would benefit Nebraskans, but the electorate isn’t happy that he could be bought.

Comment by The Elephant's Child

I am asserting that money and the manipulation it buys are strongly antithetical to a healthy democratic public life.

You don’t just hate free speech — you hate freedom! What is “antithetical to a healthy democratic public life” is not money, or speech, it is this idea YOU have that the people themselves are mere rubes, ripe for manipulation, and therefore must not be free to hear and support (or reject) what they will, but must be protected and controlled, by Fascists such as yourself, from hearing speech YOU deem to be “manipulative” or otherwise not in their own best interests.

You don’t believe in free speech at ALL. You apparently naively believe in some sort of Utopian “equal” speech where no one person or group should have a larger microphone than any other.

Sorry, but hat’s not freedom of speech, that’s control of speech — which is one of the fundamental tenants of Fascism and every other dictatorial ideology. (I linked to the dictionary definition for a reason, it bears a srtiking resemblance to today’s “progressive” Democrat party.)

Allow me to educate you.

Free speech not only means I can say whatever I want, it means I can say it to as many people as I can get to listen! And it means they are free to listen to me or ignore me; believe me or disbelieve me; and agree with me or disagree with me as they like.

The reason America is founded on freedom is the same reason that progressives hate this ruling:

Freedom is inherently meritorious.

If everyone is free to say what they want, and believe what they want, and be skeptical of what they want, then the truth will out — as the old adage goes. Good ideas will succeed, bad ideas will fail, and the people will hold those who put forth those bad ideas accountable no matter how much money they have, and how dishonest and manipulative they are.

Exactly what is now happening to Barack Obama and the Democrats, and exactly why those Democrats want to control what information people can hear.

And please dont come onto my blog and try to pretend that I don’t know what I’m talking about when you don’t even understand what freedom is! I assure you, I have a far better grasp of the issues than you.

Comment by American Elephant

Wow! Do you feel better now that you got all that venom out of your system?

I am a fascist now am I?

Since you have now sunk all the way down to the level of name calling, I think it’s time for me to give up hoping that this conversation will get any better. I’m going to excersize my freedom to not read anymore of these comments of yours.

Before I go though I’ll just say that I think that in the next few years we are all going to get the chance to see how big a mistake the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission indeed is.

Comment by detaylor65

Actually, detaylor, You’ve been name-calling all along, claiming that people who disagree with you are unintelligent and uninformed — the default “argument” of “progressives” when they cannot oppress speech outright. Please spare us the typical liberal hypocrisy and feigned outrage.

And if you don’t want to be compared to Fascists, the answer is truly very simple: stop championing their practices, stop justifying the oppression of speech, and start supporting freedom!

Then go read the dictionary definition of fascism I linked to above; it describes today’s Democrat party almost to a tee.

Comment by American Elephant




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