HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

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HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Ixtellor » Thu Jan 21, 2010 4:56 pm UTC

The Supreme Court would like to cordially invite all corporations to participate in the political process!!!

Cue the: "Money, Money, Money..... Money" Song.

http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-205.pdf

Austin is overruled, so it provides no basis for allowing the Government to limit corporate independent expendi-tures. As the Government appears to concede, overruling Austin “effectively invalidate[s] not only BCRA Section203, but also 2 U. S. C. 441b’s prohibition on the use of corporate treasury funds for express advocacy.” Brief for Appellee 33, n. 12. Section 441b’s restrictions on corporateindependent expenditures are therefore invalid and can-not be applied to Hillary. Given our conclusion we are further required to overrulethe part of McConnell that upheld BCRA §203’s extensionof §441b’s restrictions on corporate independent expendi-tures. See 540 U. S., at 203–209. The McConnell Court relied on the antidistortion interest recognized in Austin to uphold a greater restriction on speech than the restric-tion upheld in Austin, see 540 U. S., at 205, and we have found this interest unconvincing and insufficient. This part of McConnell is now overruled.
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Jessica » Thu Jan 21, 2010 4:59 pm UTC

Ah, I can't wait for the McCandidates to show up.
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Sero » Thu Jan 21, 2010 5:15 pm UTC

Could this be simplified into layman's terms? The section quoted is a bit difficult to parse, and I'm unclear on the ramifications, so i don't feel sufficiently informed to comment. Wikipedia seems to suggest that this frees corporations to 'spend freely from their own treasuries in the final days of a political campaign, rather than having to spend through political action groups', which seems...bad, but I still feel like I'm failing to grasp the full impact of the situation.
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Briareos » Thu Jan 21, 2010 5:25 pm UTC

KENNEDY, J., in the opinion of the court wrote:We . . . hold that stare decisis does not compel the continued acceptance of Austin. The Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether.
Here's hoping that the Congress does move to enforce strong disclaimer and disclosure requirements.
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Dauric » Thu Jan 21, 2010 5:44 pm UTC

Briareos wrote:
KENNEDY, J., in the opinion of the court wrote:We . . . hold that stare decisis does not compel the continued acceptance of Austin. The Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether.
Here's hoping that the Congress does move to enforce strong disclaimer and disclosure requirements.


There's a great bit in "Man of the Year" where Robin Williams' character says that politicians should have their sponsor's logos sewn on their jackets like NASCAR racing teams. I think this would be an awesome form of disclosure.
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Velict » Thu Jan 21, 2010 5:45 pm UTC

We do have this minor Constitution thing that gets in the way sometimes...

Could this be simplified into layman's terms? The section quoted is a bit difficult to parse, and I'm unclear on the ramifications, so i don't feel sufficiently informed to comment. Wikipedia seems to suggest that this frees corporations to 'spend freely from their own treasuries in the final days of a political campaign, rather than having to spend through political action groups', which seems...bad, but I still feel like I'm failing to grasp the full impact of the situation.


Previously, corporate campaign expenditures were restricted by the McCain-Feingold Act. The Supreme Court ruling considers this restriction to be a violation of freedom of speech (hence the "chilling free speech" language) and has ruled portions of McCain-Feingold unconstitutional. In effect, corporations and labor unions are now capable of freely spending money to support political candidates.

Here is a NYT article on the decision.

Edit: For all my snark, this decision is somewhat troubling. I support campaign finance regulation, but it does seem that such regulation may have to be enforced by a Constitutional amendment.
Last edited by Velict on Thu Jan 21, 2010 6:08 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Ixtellor » Thu Jan 21, 2010 5:49 pm UTC

Sero wrote:Could this be simplified into layman's terms?


For several decades it has been illegal for corporations to:
1) Donate to political campaigns
2) Pay for politicial advertisements for or against a candidate.

They had a slight end run around by forming Political Action Committees.
But PAC's had financial caps that people could donate.
For example a large company like GE has thousands of high paid employees (presidents, vice presidents)
Who would all contribute $5k Per year to the PAC ,and then that PAC( GE PAC) could give LIMITED donations to candidates. In addition they could create political ads that neither endorsed nor attacked any candidate. (think of Swiftboat veterans for truth or think about the healthcare ads against reform)

What this ruling means is:

1) Corporations CAN spend as much money as they like on advertisements either against or for candidates, all the way up untill election night.

Example:
"I am Ronald McDonald, and I would like to encourage you to vote for Sarah Palin. To do otherwise, would mean the end of democracy and tasty burgers"

worst case scenario:

A month before the election every single commerical you see on television is a corporation encouraging you to vote for or against a specific candidate.

Because candidates are 'public figures' this leaves a LOT of room for distortion and outright lying.

"Barack Obama acts exactly like Hitler" = legal.

While my examples are lame.... Picture Blue Cross Blue shield spending $500 million dollars and highly sophisticated, focus group approved, around the clock commercials explaining why voting for Sarah Palin is the only sane choice.

The only saving grace in this decision, is that full disclosure is still required. So by law, if a corporation spends money on or for a candidate, we get to know exactly who paid for it, and exactly how much.

Clarance Thomas was against disclosure in his concurring opinion. In which case you would have had the complete and utter nightmare of Super savvy thought provoking commericals explaining why a vote for Obama is a vote for Hitler -- brought to you by "The Patriotic California Citizens and Nuns Alliance of America" -- when in reality it was just an add paid in 100% by Exxon.



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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Indon » Thu Jan 21, 2010 5:54 pm UTC

Ixtellor wrote:1) Corporations CAN spend as much money as they like on advertisements either against or for candidates, all the way up untill election night.

This and everything else he said.

If you thought corporations were buying politicians before, then you probably think that today is the day US representative democracy has died.

Ixtellor wrote:Clarance Thomas was against disclosure in his concurring opinion. In which case you would have had the complete and utter nightmare of Super savvy thought provoking commericals explaining why a vote for Obama is a vote for Hitler -- brought to you by "The Patriotic California Citizens and Nuns Alliance of America" -- when in reality it was just an add paid in 100% by Exxon.


As it stands, Exxon has to make a front group with that name before they can do that. Isn't that comforting?
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Velict » Thu Jan 21, 2010 6:16 pm UTC

For anyone else interested: SCOTUSblog has a lot of information compiled on this ruling.

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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Cynical Idealist » Thu Jan 21, 2010 6:46 pm UTC

Sero wrote:Could this be simplified into layman's terms? The section quoted is a bit difficult to parse, and I'm unclear on the ramifications, so i don't feel sufficiently informed to comment. Wikipedia seems to suggest that this frees corporations to 'spend freely from their own treasuries in the final days of a political campaign, rather than having to spend through political action groups', which seems...bad, but I still feel like I'm failing to grasp the full impact of the situation.

CNN's version
The Supreme Court has given big business, unions and nonprofits more power to spend freely in federal elections, a major turnaround that threatens a century of government efforts to regulate the power of corporations to bankroll American politics.
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Vaniver » Thu Jan 21, 2010 6:52 pm UTC

This is a victory for free speech, and free speech is a good thing, even for people (or groups) you don't like.

It's silly to think that corporations will act with a unified voice- different corporations want different things.


Campaign finance isn't about reducing corruption (did corporations become less significant after campaign finance reform?)- it's about protecting incumbents.
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Indon » Thu Jan 21, 2010 7:06 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:This is a victory for free speech, and free speech is a good thing, even for people (or groups) you don't like.

This is a victory for producing an actively detrimental government. Free speech is the excuse to produce that actively detrimental government.

Vaniver wrote:It's silly to think that corporations will act with a unified voice- different corporations want different things.

Yes, each corporation will - and already does - act to maximize their individual profit through the law to the detriment of the rest of us. It renders our government incapable of properly regulating any given market, basically breaking our economy and rendering our government a literally bad thing for those of us who don't own one of those corporations.

I know a literally bad government is a libertarian's wet dream, but I'd prefer a functioning government, one capable of producing functioning markets, myself.

Vaniver wrote:Campaign finance isn't about reducing corruption (did corporations become less significant after campaign finance reform?)- it's about protecting incumbents.


Campaign finance reform increased the costs required of corporations to influence the laws. Since influencing laws is such an incredibly good investment, corporations gladly paid. Now that it's even less expensive to do so, they will be writing our laws with even greater impunity.
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby joeframbach » Thu Jan 21, 2010 7:09 pm UTC

Cynical Idealist wrote:
Sero wrote:Could this be simplified into layman's terms? The section quoted is a bit difficult to parse, and I'm unclear on the ramifications, so i don't feel sufficiently informed to comment. Wikipedia seems to suggest that this frees corporations to 'spend freely from their own treasuries in the final days of a political campaign, rather than having to spend through political action groups', which seems...bad, but I still feel like I'm failing to grasp the full impact of the situation.

CNN's version
The Supreme Court has given big business, unions and nonprofits more power to spend freely in federal elections, a major turnaround that threatens a century of government efforts to regulate the power of corporations to bankroll American politics.


Very well said. Thank you for pointing out this quote.

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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Ixtellor » Thu Jan 21, 2010 7:29 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:This is a victory for free speech, and free speech is a good thing, even for people (or groups) you don't like.


Your making the assumption that corporations have the same rights as people. A corporation which is nothing more than a concept, now has the same rights as a human being.

Vaniver wrote:It's silly to think that corporations will act with a unified voice- different corporations want different things.


Please list the corporations that want higher taxes, more regulations, free trade, and a crack down on monopolies.

Assuming you can find any.... compare their net worth with just the net worth of Exxon which wants none of those things.



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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby apeman5291 » Thu Jan 21, 2010 7:38 pm UTC

Ixtellor wrote:
Vaniver wrote:This is a victory for free speech, and free speech is a good thing, even for people (or groups) you don't like.


Your making the assumption that corporations have the same rights as people. A corporation which is nothing more than a concept, now has the same rights as a human being.

Exactly. What is a corporation? A group of people. Each of those people can already donate to the candidates and/or parties of their choice individually, why should they be able to group together and donate again in the name of the group?
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Dauric » Thu Jan 21, 2010 7:55 pm UTC

Yay, no regulations at all for anyone!

We can go back to the glory days when rats in our meat were commonplace, even accepted, and not a fluke incident. I love getting rat-tails in my rib-shaped-pork, it's a surprise toy inside, and everyone loves surprises!

Leaded gasoline is fantastic! I love developmental problems in children and an associated increase in the crime rate. Everything should be coated in a microscopic coating of lead!

Faulty wiring in space heaters makes for a cozy glow. Nothing brings a neighborhood together like making smores over the glowing charcoals of what was once someone's home.

Who needs clean air or water? We've got gas masks and tap filters, problem solved!

Financial Regulation? Bah! Life was never so good as when the U.S. had bread lines, and the farmlands were swept up in gigantic thousand-mile sandstorms that could cover the entire United States! Poverty makes people appreciate what they have! The mortgage meltdown didn't go far enough!
[/sarcasm]

Okay, sure these are extreme examples. One would hope that the circumstances described in "The Jungle" would never happen again if the FDA were to be neutered more than it already is, or disbanded outright. It would be nice to believe that a company that produces a dangerous product would voluntarily recall it in all cases. We would like to think that environmental consciousness is widespread enough that corporations would consider being a heavy polluter as a negative to their public image. We should believe that investment professionals would know enough to not sacrifice an entire nations' economy for short-term....

... uh, huh.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not for draconian regulations or measures that destroy entire industries overnight*, however I know my history, I know why many of the regulations we have are in place, and I'm quite thankful as a consumer and a U.S. citizen that we do have them there. It concerns me that a corporation, which the leadership is contractually obligated to concern themselves with nothing but shareholder dividends in a framework that devalues the continued existence of the company over immediate short-term gains, is able to get more leeway to make a quick buck at the expense of my, and your, health and well being.

*(technological obsolescence is a market force and that should be allowed to erode industries, rather than have money funneled to prop up failing corporations)
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Heisenberg » Thu Jan 21, 2010 8:09 pm UTC

Ixtellor wrote:
Vaniver wrote:This is a victory for free speech, and free speech is a good thing, even for people (or groups) you don't like.


Your making the assumption that corporations have the same rights as people. A corporation which is nothing more than a concept, now has the same rights as a human being.

Not necessarily. Each of the GE execs has his own individual freedom of speech, right? The court's ruling is that they are all free to speak, and the fact that some people can afford megaphones and some people cannot does not matter when the court is deciding whether or not the government is allowed to restrict one exec's freedom of speech.

Now, I agree that this is bad juju as far as our electoral process is concerned. However, I understand the court's ruling, which is that the government is obliged to not interfere with anyone's speech, and is not obliged in any way to ensure equality or that every voice is heard.

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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Indon » Thu Jan 21, 2010 8:15 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:Not necessarily. Each of the GE execs has his own individual freedom of speech, right? The court's ruling is that they are all free to speak, and the fact that some people can afford megaphones and some people cannot does not matter when the court is deciding whether or not the government is allowed to restrict one exec's freedom of speech.

Not even that.

A companys money is not necessarily its' CEO's to spend. The CEO, at least for public corporations, is authorized by the shareholders, the ones who actually possess that megaphone, to spend money as appropriate.

The court's ruling is that the megaphone has the right to free speech. And whoever happens to be behind it, well, lucky you, you get a megaphone!
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby apeman5291 » Thu Jan 21, 2010 8:16 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:
Ixtellor wrote:
Vaniver wrote:This is a victory for free speech, and free speech is a good thing, even for people (or groups) you don't like.


Your making the assumption that corporations have the same rights as people. A corporation which is nothing more than a concept, now has the same rights as a human being.

Not necessarily. Each of the GE execs has his own individual freedom of speech, right? The court's ruling is that they are all free to speak, and the fact that some people can afford megaphones and some people cannot does not matter when the court is deciding whether or not the government is allowed to restrict one exec's freedom of speech.

A GE exec with a lot of money donating is different from GE itself donating.
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Ixtellor » Thu Jan 21, 2010 8:21 pm UTC

Heisenberg was already answered, but another Horror I thought of as a result of this decision


Based on this reasoning, I don't see how the courts can now justify putting limits on individual donations.

With a current bicentenial limit of $115k(er super close to that) a new case based on this precedent
should render that unconstitional as well.
So I assume that individual will have their spending caps removed and people like Bill Gates will be able to spend whatever they see fit on advertisments AND more horrifying tell us who to vote for.

Only bad news for Republicans is that George Soros can now unleash the hounds of hell, of course he will be totally drowned out by Exxon, GE, and Goldman Sachs.


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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Heisenberg » Thu Jan 21, 2010 8:40 pm UTC

^ That was my next thought. Personal caps are pretty much unconstitutional with this as a precedent.

The optimist in me hopes that a glut of utterly dishonest campaign ads will result in people ignoring campaign ads. Sadly, this likely won't happen, because people are idiots.

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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Dauric » Thu Jan 21, 2010 8:51 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:^ That was my next thought. Personal caps are pretty much unconstitutional with this as a precedent.

The optimist in me hopes that a glut of utterly dishonest campaign ads will result in people ignoring campaign ads. Sadly, this likely won't happen, because people are idiots.


emphasis mine.

It's more than that though. These campaign ads are made with very subtle techniques that affect you in ways that most people aren't aware of. Did you know that the color yellow can increase the anger you feel? That taking an IQ test in a room decorated in blues and greens can increase your score by as much as 10 points, browns and blacks can reduce it by as much. Fast food companies use Red to make you feel hungry.

That's just a small sampling of color stimuli, there's similar applications of audio, visual movement and patterns, word choice and ordering that they use to get in your head. Advertising agencies spend millions every year trying to figure out how to get in to your head and make you buy (or buy into) shit that you wouldn't otherwise. Worse still is that unless you're looking for those cues, even if you know about them, they can catch you off guard and have more influence over you than you realize. They study how to make you react on instinct, how to make your 'gut reaction' override your ability to reason, and how to reinforce rationalization of irrational fears and reactions.

This is why this open-ended spending for corporations is so troubling. They've got this research at their fingertips, they've got the contracts with the ad agencies that have practical experience executing these techniques.
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Indon » Thu Jan 21, 2010 8:53 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:The optimist in me hopes that a glut of utterly dishonest campaign ads will result in people ignoring campaign ads. Sadly, this likely won't happen, because people are idiots still trusting of advertising.


Eventually, if we're lucky and advertising doesn't keep getting better, the last bit of collective trust in the concept of advertising will dry up in our society, at which point we can start to rebuild the ruins.

Personally, the optimist in me is hoping for a constitutional amendment to explicitly strip corporations of personhood.

Edit: You know, recent discussion seems like it's calling for an SB thread about the ethics of advertising.
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Aetius » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:00 pm UTC

At some point you either have faith in democracy or you don't.

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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Dauric » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:01 pm UTC

Indon wrote:Personally, the optimist in me is hoping for a constitutional amendment to explicitly strip corporations of personhood.


I'd hope for a rigid definition of corporate personhood myself. An incorporated small business is a great thing, it allows a small number of individuals to take risks under the articles of incorporation and not potentially lose their homes and /or other properties if they don't do well, the only things at risk are the "Corporate owned property". Considering, at best, 4 out of every 5 startup companies don't make it these kinds of protections for entrepreneurship make starting a business a reasonable and relatively safe option.

The problem when the Corporation 'entity' gets treated as an individual in terms beyond this business aspect that perverts the entire concept.
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Vaniver » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:04 pm UTC

Indon wrote:This is a victory for producing an actively detrimental government. Free speech is the excuse to produce that actively detrimental government.
I understand why you think corporations influencing the government is a bad thing; I'm wondering why you think making it harder to replace incumbents is a better option. As well, when you start cutting away essential freedoms to produce a 'better' government... do you see where that ends up?

Ixtellor wrote:Your making the assumption that corporations have the same rights as people. A corporation which is nothing more than a concept, now has the same rights as a human being.
Let's read the first Amendment again, shall we?
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Emphasis mine; I make no such assumption.
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Crius » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:10 pm UTC

On a practical level, I don't much of a problem with this.
- Corporations already funnel money through PACs and whatnot - now they can send the message they want themselves. This will have the effect of making it slightly cheaper to send that message, and increase transparency, since we'll know who is sending the message.
- You're not going to see corporate politic advertising "taking over the airwaves". Corporations won't want to spend all their cash reserves on advertising. Also, advertising hits dimishing returns pretty quickly.

On an idealogical level, I also don't really have a problem with it. If we can't trust citizens to listen to different opinions and make an informed decision, then we shouldn't have a democracy (this is a different issue than spreading an intentionally false message, however).

Ixtellor wrote:Please list the corporations that want higher taxes, more regulations, free trade, and a crack down on monopolies.


Off the top of my head:
- Microsoft is calling for regulation on the cloud computing market.
- Companies that use cheap foreign goods/labor suppport free trade.
- AMD would love to see stronger anti-trust action taken against Intel.

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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby scwizard » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:16 pm UTC

The supreme court ruling makes for good reading. You can download it here: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-205.pdf

Reading the ruling is in my opinion the best way to gain an understanding of all sides of the debate.

EDIT: Oh OP, linked to it, cool.
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Heisenberg » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:17 pm UTC

Vaniver: To clarify, your argument is that the freedoms of religion, speech, and press are an ideal which we must uphold, and not limited to individuals? I'm just curious, since that could be read two ways, in my mind. That the inclusion of 'the people' towards the end means that the entire Amendment applies to the rights of 'the people,' or that the previous rights are independent of the citizenry, and only the last two are actually rights held by citizens.

If I'm understanding correctly, you're saying that the 1st Amendment protects 'Freedom of Speech In America', not 'The Freedom of Speech of American Citizens.'

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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby apeman5291 » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:24 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
Ixtellor wrote:Your making the assumption that corporations have the same rights as people. A corporation which is nothing more than a concept, now has the same rights as a human being.
Let's read the first Amendment again, shall we?
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Emphasis mine; I make no such assumption.

I see only one thing in restricting donations by corporations that potentially violates the first amendment.

First, let's assume that the spending of money actually is speech (this is even debatable, e.g. to what extent are they equal forms of expression?). Every individual has the right then to speak freely by donating to political candidates and parties. Also, every individual has the right to peaceably assemble with the goal of influencing politics, via organizations registered as having the purpose of promoting candidates and/or policies.

Restricting the rights of corporations donating money to political causes only restricts certain groups of people from making certain types of speech to certain ends. Those same people can always form other groups/organizations to promote those same ends, while not having any one voice be any more powerful than another. That's the goal of a democracy, right? In decision making, each voice should be equal.
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Indon » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:28 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:I understand why you think corporations influencing the government is a bad thing; I'm wondering why you think making it harder to replace incumbents is a better option. As well, when you start cutting away essential freedoms to produce a 'better' government... do you see where that ends up?

Because corporations influencing the government can pretty clearly lead to failure of goverment on any given scale. It already has essentially plummeted us into the Second Great Depression (though it's not done with that just yet).

This isn't a choice between a little political corruption of one kind versus another. This is a choice between a functional, but admittedly flawed democratic system, and the outright and probably catastrophic failure of America as a nation over the long term.

Corporate influence over politics is not a small issue - corporations influence almost every single aspect of our lives in a market economy, each and every one of those aspects is vulnerable to corporate influence of law, and we have no reason to believe that any one of those aspects will come out better for corporate influence (and I'm sure you, just as well as I, can name off a list of such aspects off the top of your head).

Not that this catastrophic problem didn't already exist (if I'm not mistaken, I was talking about it on this forum just earlier today before the SCOTUS decision), but it's about to ramp up to become an even more critical problem.

The ease of replacing incumbents is not an existential problem to our democracy. Corporate involvement in politics is.
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby scwizard » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:42 pm UTC

Indon wrote:Personally, the optimist in me is hoping for a constitutional amendment to explicitly strip corporations of personhood.

The 1st amendment says that congress can't make a law restricting freedom of speech. It doesn't say the speech needs to come from a person.
If we were to change it to something approximately like this:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech of a person or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Then the ruling may have been differnet.

The ruling may of also been different if we had a more liberal bench.
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby G.v.K » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:52 pm UTC

let's assume that there were endless advertisements leading up to an election. i can't really see the problem with that in itself. it might actually stimulate political debate among viewers.

of course, many viewers' opinions might just follow whatever the advertisement says. but that's a problem with the viewer.

unless voters properly inform themselves, they're gonna take it up the ass. i think the bigger issue is - does the average voter have the capacity to properly inform themselves? or will they take the easier option of just letting advertisers and PR people do it for them?

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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Vaniver » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:53 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:Vaniver: To clarify, your argument is that the freedoms of religion, speech, and press are an ideal which we must uphold, and not limited to individuals? I'm just curious, since that could be read two ways, in my mind. That the inclusion of 'the people' towards the end means that the entire Amendment applies to the rights of 'the people,' or that the previous rights are independent of the citizenry, and only the last two are actually rights held by citizens.

If I'm understanding correctly, you're saying that the 1st Amendment protects 'Freedom of Speech In America', not 'The Freedom of Speech of American Citizens.'
That is my reading of the amendment- Congress's jurisdiction does not extend to religion, speech, or the press. Individual people have a right to peaceably assemble and petition the Government.

apeman5291 wrote:First, let's assume that the spending of money actually is speech (this is even debatable, e.g. to what extent are they equal forms of expression?).
That is the default assumption in modern society; were it not, the "press" clause would implicitly include it (as the press is costly, mass-produced speech).

apeman5291 wrote:Restricting the rights of corporations donating money to political causes only restricts certain groups of people from making certain types of speech to certain ends.
I recommend you look up the word "abridge," and come back when you have.

Indon wrote:This isn't a choice between a little political corruption of one kind versus another. This is a choice between a functional, but admittedly flawed democratic system, and the outright and probably catastrophic failure of America as a nation over the long term.

Corporate influence over politics is not a small issue - corporations influence almost every single aspect of our lives in a market economy, each and every one of those aspects is vulnerable to corporate influence of law, and we have no reason to believe that any one of those aspects will come out better for corporate influence (and I'm sure you, just as well as I, can name off a list of such aspects off the top of your head).
Corporations are not dark cabals; they're public associations of individuals. They have priorities and wants, just like any other association of individuals. You're trying to convince me that individuals participating in government is a bad thing*- and I would argue that if that's the case, it's only because of the powers that government has. When you let people vote themselves entitlements, be they subsidies or monopolies or exemptions, then government will favor the politically strong over the politically weak. The answer is to fix the powers of government, not who is strong and who is weak.

*More specifically, individuals with commercial interests participating in government is a bad thing. But why are commercial interests worse than any other? Economic legislation is the most important legislation (I can't think of a single piece of Obama's domestic agenda that isn't economic in nature, and that seems to take precedence over his foreign policy).
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby mosc » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:59 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:This is a victory for free speech, and free speech is a good thing, even for people (or groups) you don't like.

It's silly to think that corporations will act with a unified voice- different corporations want different things.


Campaign finance isn't about reducing corruption (did corporations become less significant after campaign finance reform?)- it's about protecting incumbents.

I would like to strongly point out that this is only a victory for free speech if you subscribe to the IMHO bullshit interpretation of the constitution that a corporation has the same rights to free speech that an individual does.

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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby BlackSails » Thu Jan 21, 2010 10:01 pm UTC

I really do not see how giving money is a form of speech. Its a stupid ruling

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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Sharlos » Thu Jan 21, 2010 10:08 pm UTC

Sounds like America needs a new constitutional amendment to me. Businesses buying the government is a big enough problem as it is, let alone making it easier.

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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Dauric » Thu Jan 21, 2010 10:09 pm UTC

BlackSails wrote:I really do not see how giving money is a form of speech. Its a stupid ruling


I do. I practice it all the time by buying products I like. If there's a really good movie out there I make a point of buying the DVD and the soundtrack to speak with my money that I want to see more like it. It's a basic tenet of any capitalist system that the purest form of communication in commerce is the exchange of money.

Of course despite their shared elements, Capitalism is not Democracy. In a (ideal) Democracy one person has one vote. Capitalism gives more weight to those with more money.

Now the problem arises when our system of governance replaces Democracy for Capitalism.
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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby Ixtellor » Thu Jan 21, 2010 10:15 pm UTC

Money = speech. That part is not in question by anyone in the fight for reasons I don't feel like explaining.

scwizard wrote:The 1st amendment says that congress can't make a law restricting freedom of speech. It doesn't say the speech needs to come from a person.


What about animals and machines. A GIANT shouting robot that sits on corporate land and screams obsenities at people passing by.

The first amendment also doesn't say what is permissable to restrict, yet we have many restrictions on free speech.
(See shouting fire in a crowded theater)

The list of stuff the first amendment doesn't say... is really long. Only a hard core strict constuctionist would suggest what you suggested. Even Scalia, I assume, a self identified originalist would say the FF were talking about people. The only difference being he recognizes the definition of a corporation as a person with all its rights.

For you people defending this position, Vaniver, do you think the SCOTUS should go further and overturn the ban on direct corporate donations to candidates. I assume there was no person with standing at this trial, and thus it didnt' come up... but it seems like it would be a logical step in that line of... er logic.


I don't want to get all emotional and chicken little, but I think this is going to turn out badly. I hope I am wrong, or that some kind of really strong comsumer groups shine BRIGHT lights on corporations that attempt to propagandize us into voting a certain way. (See voting for Republicans)


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Re: HOLY BAM!!! SCOTUS overturns campaign finance

Postby apeman5291 » Thu Jan 21, 2010 10:36 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
apeman5291 wrote:Restricting the rights of corporations donating money to political causes only restricts certain groups of people from making certain types of speech to certain ends.
I recommend you look up the word "abridge," and come back when you have.
I recommend we try to have a civil discussion without insulting each other's intelligence. If you'll notice, that part of my post was an admission of where I could possibly be wrong. Immediately following that statement, I explained why I think in this case, it might be beneficial to restrict some speech:
apeman5291 wrote:Those same people can always form other groups/organizations to promote those same ends, while not having any one voice be any more powerful than another. That's the goal of a democracy, right? In decision making, each voice should be equal.
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