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January 28, 2010


There is a laundry list of problems associated with loosening up campaign finance restrictions, which arguably is the biggest problem facing America today. What about multinational corps? What may be in the best interest of a multinational may not be in the best interest of the US. They WILL sell us out for a quick profit. Whether immigration policy, regulation, or a litany of other issues, when corps lay down the big bucks in politics, it is ALWAYS about profit. Look at Wall Street. Do you want to give these guys more political power? What about the pharmaceutical lobby? Do you think they need more influence in regulation of their industry?

Scott, there are no controls WITH McCain/Feingold. Why not just demand full disclosure of who is behind a message? A felony conviction to the person who obfuscates? WRT multinationals, Hell, Obama created a whole cottage industry of donations via untraceable small donations, many seemingly emanating from China.

Shutting up multinationals or any other special interest isn't kosher. Just tell us WHO is giving us the message!

My post spoke to campaign finance reform in general, and makes no reference to M/F. I cannot imagine America benefiting from more corporate money coming into the political arena. How do you think we got an unregulated derivatives market? Do you think a three second disclaimer following a ten minute infomercial solves the problem?

The entire case can be summarized in one short, pithy, basic sentence. A film was *banned* based on its political content.
A second sentence follow-up. Its distributors were subject to criminal prosecution if it were shown. 'Nuff said.

Second comment:

Political speech (deservedly) enjoys a massive amount of protection.

Paying money (therefore contributions) is *not* speech and should not be accorded the same protection.

Choke, in terms of letting foreign capital into our political process, you argument that Obama did it, so therefore it is OK, rings hollow to me. If you want to let Obama set your standards that is your business but I encourage free thinking.

These are excellent points, all. Scott, I don't mean to excuse it, because that is pretty hollow. McCain/Feingold fixed absolutely nothing, and ended up in a situation outlined above by DeeJay, which no one intended. Bad law.

What would "good law" look like? How do you keep money out of the system?

Having the gov. pay for elections doesn't solve the "political speech" problem, as outlined above. Media of all sorts controls the message for money or sympathetic philosophy. Media is largely corporate.

Have to say that "The One" has destroyed the limitation on attempts to limit the introduction of money into the system.

He was the first Presidential candidate to ditch the public funding system since it was initiated (and I won't even touch on the fact that this was the first campaign issue to get "thrown under the bus", among several score at present....). He claimed to "popularize" it through small donations, but this was in actuality a big honkin' lie. His campaign relied more on large bundles than the "populist" size he claimed.

Thanks to this, no candidate for the office will *ever* use the limited funds through the public finance. I find it rather.... errrr... ironic (cough, cough) that the killer of the public election system, and the first son of the "to hell with limits" campaign is now such a strident supporter of limitation of funds into the system.

A real honkin' hypocrite in that respect, imho.....

Hopping onto this dialogue…

I think the issue particularly with corporations having campaign funding dollars cannot be that they have lots of dollars to throw around, but rather that they are not a single, voting entity with the rights of a US citizen. As it stands, each shareholder of a corporation does have the right to free speech, to political donations (with a limit), and to waving a banner in front of the news cameraman saying their opinion. Why should they get double the airtime for being a part-owner in a business?

Here are my main thoughts:

-Corporations aren’t people. They may pay taxes, but they don’t get to vote, mainly because the shareholders already can vote personally. I would extend this to campaign financing through the idea that shareholders can (to a limit) make personal contributions to campaigns as it is.

-It’s hard to believe that all the shareholders of a corporation share the same political views and favor the same candidates. Spending capital on such a decision without issuing a proxy vote, and even with one given that politics will largely affect many more issues unrelated to the corporation than those that do, seems like bad corporate governance to me.

"They may pay taxes, but they don't get to vote..."

I think the whole "taxation without representation" scrap has been fought back around 1776.

It's good corporate governance to spend money on issues which will affect the corporation's future well-being.

These are all really excellent comments. Aviad provides a concise and consistent rationale for limiting political speech by corporations. Let's revisit the facts of the case... to wit, the "corporation" was a non-profit association created specifically for political speech. It was funded and comprised of individuals of like mind, who felt that amalgamating their resources would be a more effective way of promulgating their opinion.

Does this change anyone's thinking by removing this association from Corporations That Sell Us Things rather that Corporations That Sell Us Ideas?

Also, what about your opinions on the issue of media corporations? They are "exempt" from this because they "control the marketplace" for the ideas... thus the "everyone has free speech, but we can regulate the dollars".

How do you deal with this?

When you consider the issue of "media corporations", the line becomes even more hypocritical.

A "media organization" is exempted from adherence to the law. So, Michael Moore can show anythig he wants, critical of any politician, w/o any danger of the act being criminalized, nor any act being classified as a "contribution" to a political cause.

The Citizens United is *not* a media corporation. Accordingly, the same equivalent acts would be criminlaized.

The first fact is that the rights of free speech under the First Amendment are (without any doubt) a fundamental right, this is enhanced because of the message (political speech is far more "protected" than commercial speech).

In addition to problems with the banning of speech based on a solely political basis, a second disparity arises through application of the law in a thoroughly unequal manner (i.e. the exemption of a "media" corporation but not others.) This seems to not just be a violation of substantive rights, but a fairly large violation of equal protection as well (one type of corporation gets a get out of jail card, literally, while another does not).

The idea that because corporations are non-corporeal entities somehow strips them of the minimum rights under the the Constitution is stupid. If one wants to take this tack, then corporations should not be able to enjoy the right to petition the Government for redress of grievances under the 1st amendment, count on the rights of privilege when seeking advice from counsel under the 4th amendment, seek protection against unreasonable searches, seek protection against unreasonable siezure under the 4th amendment, have the ability to not to be compelled to testify against itself under the 5th amendment, not be able to redress grievance against the taking of property w/o just compensation under the 5th amendment, would not be afforded protection of property without due process of law under the 5th amendment, have the right to a jury trial under the sixth and seventh amendments.

In short, the idea that corporations should not be afforded the protections under the Constitution seems somewhat misguided. especially since the major reason is that this country is strong due to the ideal that this is a nation of laws, and to state that the drivers of economy in our day and age are not afforded the protections of that notion that we are a nation of laws seems fairly backward, and shortsighted.

Good points indeed. I think you are right to bring up all the shortcomings of not affording corporations the full-fledged rights citizens have. But just to take this down the road in the other direction, do we then think corporations should get their own vote during elections? I don't like the double taxation business as much as any other investor, but I don't think corporations should be extended the full rights that citizens have.

As for campaign financing, I think the broad range of issues that politics deal with makes supporting a particular candidate or party in many ways beyond the scope of the corporation’s interests. Let’s think natural gas for a second. A natural gas company would certainly favor the candidate that supports tax incentives for drilling in the United States, less legal barriers to permitting and environmental blockades, and perhaps even a stimulus plan to use more natural gas in utilities or cars. All well and fine, but what business does a gas company have voting on social issues like abortion, gun control, welfare, public housing, etc? None, because aside from the indirect consequences they may have on our nation’s budget, if any, these issues have no affect on the profitability and growth of the corporation for the shareholders.

Is this in and of itself a reason not to let corporations throw money at candidates? Probably not. But I think in many cases, like the natural gas company, it would be more directly effective to spend money on ad campaigns educating the public on the benefits of natural gas, or whatever the relevant corporate issue that politics has say over.

In theory, candidates aim to educate the public on their platform so they can choose the one they best agree with. Perhaps corporations can educate people on the relevant issues within the platform itself, letting the public make the bright decision on which candidate can best tackle the issues at hand.

Actually a distinction can be made against "all the rights" vs. ones that can be implied to be truly for an individual (i.e. those that are truly corporeal in nature)

If you notice, in addition to the "right to vote", I also left out the (made up) "fundamental" privacy rights to marry, procreate, and have an abortion, the fundamental right to travel and move amongst the states unhindered, and the (now) fundamental and (now) individually held right to bear arms.

Sorry, in independent actions and and expenditures, a corporation surely has a right to express itself, much like the actions of Citizes United did on its own behalf and the subsequent case made abundantly clear.

Unfortunately you seemingly equate the right to express ideas on one's own behalf with the right to contribute to a candidate. Buckley v. Valeo clearly (and correctly, imo) drew a distinction that said the right of speaking on one's own behalf is *not* the same as a right to give unlimited amounts of money to candidate of one's choosing.

Being the astonishing Costitutional scholar he is, The One in the State of the Union address clearly and interestingly mashed the two ideas together.

So, given the issues very well presented herein, how did 4 Supreme Court Justices find the way they did? Or, alternatively, why did the 5? Given that Progressives are attacking this decision as 'partisan', and the Right is celebrating it's wisdom (has the Right maintained that the 4 votes against the majority was 'partisan'), what are the fundamental partisan value systems at work that cause such a different take?

In an ad absurdum reducto basis, the fellow making what someone can decide to be political speech on behalf of a particular association of individuals (but not ALL associations of individuals) should be stopped,and the association prosecuted IF he is paid, or IF he paid for the soapbox, or IF he spent any money getting to the forum if that cost was to be reimbursed by the association?

Is this a correct condensation of McCain/Feingold? Is this what we REALLY want?

I don't think the framers of the constitution anticipated this problem. I'm fairly certain that they created a list of individual rights which could be applied to the collective only in that everyone had similar interests. Of course, they didn't imagine women would get to vote for example, so they fell short of the mark.

The dynamic constitution as we know it becomes an anathma for both of our current political parties...the republicans who pretend it's literal meaning as originally written is gospel, the democrats who don't really believe it exists anymore. Ultimately, what no one ever envisioned was the amount of money flowing to political candidates and therein lies the problem. Lobbyists, special interests, PACs throw such a volume of money at the career pols that it is impossible for it NOT to change outcomes. Everyone knows that the rich, white dudes who run corporations (domestic and international) and run politics got a surprise in the last presidential election. A mistake they won't likely make again for many years. Make no mistake, control has shifted back away from the uninformed electorate to where it belongs.

As an aside, when political parties try to amend constitutions to suit their instant needs, they always get hoisted as exemplified in the Mass. democratic scheme to effect the senate race. Teddy outlived Mitt's gubernatorial reign, thus rendering the manipulation of succession not only moot but ill-advised.

HondoLane wrote:
--the republicans who pretend it's literal meaning as originally written is gospel--

Well, it *should* be viewed as "gospel". When you understand that this is the root underpinning of *how* we as a people are governed, you might understand the importance of treating the "root basis" of the definition of sovereign power and embodied rights in such a manner.

To view it in *any* other light is thusly to treat the "root basis" as basically a "law de jure". How much respect does a "legal basis" de jure rate in your book?

Hondo wrote:
--I'm fairly certain that they created a list of individual rights which could be applied to the collective only in that everyone had similar interests.--

I take it you do not believe that the corporate plaintiff, Citizen's United, was *not* composed of people who had similar interests?

(I mean they only invested several million dollars collectively in their movie effort...)

When you realize this, you would realize that your distinction, while possibly germane, would lead to every instance of a corporate "speech" efforts through corporation actions being parsed at the level of minutiae detail as to whether the "speech" action was constitutional or not..... right?


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