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Citizens United Reargued Next Week

The Constitutional Accountability Center has a post on what's at stake:

The case involves a film, Hillary: The Movie, that was produced by Citizens United, a conservative, non-profit corporation, to coincide with the 2008 presidential primary season. The case began as a fairly sleepy challenge to the Federal Election Commissionís (FECís) decision to treat the filmís production and release as corporate electioneering subject to campaign finance regulations, but was transformed by an order issued by the Supreme Court on June 29th. Here are five reasons why Citizens United is now a truly momentous case:

[More...]

1. President Palin, Courtesy of Chevron: Letís start with the biggest and most obvious reason this is a momentous case. Citizens United is arguing that expenditures by corporations in elections should be treated identically to those of individuals. If the Court accepts this argument, it would do away with a distinction that has been in place in our Constitution since the Founding and our statutory law since the Tillman Act of 1907 (as explained in the brief CAC filed in Citizens United), and allow corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections. [. . .]

I am not that familiar with the issues involved other than the fact that the Tillman Act has been on the books for over 100 years. A 5-4 reversal will demonstrate just how "judicially modest" conservatives like Chief Justice Roberts actually are. Which is to say, not at all.

Speaking for me only

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  • Display: Sort:
    The seminal case (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by Steve M on Wed Sep 02, 2009 at 02:06:09 PM EST
    is Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, 494 U.S. 652, authored by Justice Marshall:

    We therefore have recognized that "the compelling governmental interest in preventing corruption support[s] the restriction of the influence of political war chests funneled through the corporate form."  The Chamber argues that this concern about corporate domination of the political process is insufficient to justify a restriction on independent expenditures. Although this Court has distinguished these expenditures from direct contributions in the context of federal laws regulating individual donors, it has also recognized that a legislature might demonstrate a danger of real or apparent corruption posed by such expenditures when made by corporations to influence candidate elections. Regardless of whether this danger of "financial quid pro quo" corruption may be sufficient to justify a restriction on independent expenditures, Michigan's regulation aims at a different type of corruption in the political arena: the corrosive and distorting effects of immense aggregations of wealth that are accumulated with the help of the corporate form and that have little or no correlation to the public's support for the corporation's political ideas. The Act does not attempt "to equalize the relative influence of speakers on elections," post, at 705 (KENNEDY, J., dissenting); see also post, at 684 (SCALIA, J., dissenting); rather, it ensures that expenditures reflect actual public support for the political ideas espoused by corporations. We emphasize that the mere fact that corporations may accumulate large amounts of wealth is not the justification for Section 54; rather, the unique state-conferred corporate structure that facilitates the amassing of large treasuries warrants the limit on independent expenditures. Corporate wealth can unfairly influence elections when it is deployed in the form of independent expenditures, just as it can when it assumes the guise of political contributions. We therefore hold that the State has articulated a sufficiently compelling rationale to support its restriction on independent expenditures by corporations.

    It strikes me as logical that the state creates the corporate form and the state can put restrictions on it.

    yes, it should. (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by cpinva on Wed Sep 02, 2009 at 11:34:22 PM EST
    Should it matter how individuals decide to organize their operations if they want to exercise their freedom of speech?

    as noted above, the corporate form is a benefit granted by the state, creating a legal fiction of a "person". this form provides several benefits (easier acquisition of capital, the corporate "veil", etc) not available to individuals. as such, the state also has the right to put restrictions on the actions it can legally take; no one is forced to incorporate, it's a privilage. you needn't do so to engage in business.

    in the case of "for profit" corps, investment is made for the purpose of (hopefully) making a profit, not because the investors like the politics of the entity.

    this is far different from saying "i want this person elected":

    "I want to do everything I can to make this thing work, this new presidency work"

    presumably, you knew that. no rights are absolute. when they infringe on other's rights, the state has a responsibility to step in and place reasonable restrictions on them.

    This case is a big deal (none / 0) (#2)
    by andgarden on Wed Sep 02, 2009 at 02:08:17 PM EST
    Note that McConnell v. FEC likely no longer has 5 votes in support.

    Does Justice Sotomayor (none / 0) (#3)
    by Steve M on Wed Sep 02, 2009 at 02:20:53 PM EST
    have any campaign finance decisions on her resume?

    She strikes me as generally "good" on the First Amendment which would arguably make her "bad" in this case.

    Tillman may not be the issue. (none / 0) (#4)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Wed Sep 02, 2009 at 02:23:27 PM EST

    The problem seems to be declaring a movie to be a corporate expenditure.  None of Mike Moore's films seemed to have that problem, even though Mike said that he hoped that one of them helped to defeat Bush.  

    As a side issue, treating the local nonprofit garden club corporation the same as Exxon is just nuts.

    So one corporation can't openly make an (none / 0) (#5)
    by Cards In 4 on Wed Sep 02, 2009 at 02:33:19 PM EST
    explicitly partisan movie, say Chevron presents Sarah Palin, but another corporation that gets government money and whose CEO sits on the president's Economic Recovery Advisory Board can have an on air newsman say "I want to do everything I can to make this thing work, this new presidency work" and that's just okay?

    We would never stand for letting the government censor speech before the fact or the Pentagon Papers would never have seen the light of day.  But we allow restrictions on political speech because it may lead to a corrupt politician?  Does anyone think our politicians are more pure after M/F? Like Rangel?

    Should it matter how individuals decide to organize their operations if they want to exercise their freedom of speech?  Do we want the government telling us certain corporations are okay because they are in the news business but others are not? Can the NRA run a radio show and qualify like GE?

    Tillman may have been around for a long time but so was Plessy.  If the government is going to restrict one's freedom of speech it should have to do better than say Tillman is a long standing precedent.

    Supreme Court (none / 0) (#7)
    by lynndg on Sat Sep 05, 2009 at 03:54:05 PM EST
    I'm a bit confused.  How is the airing of the Hillary movie so close to the election any different from Dan Rather's airing of the very damaging piece regarding G.W.'s military record?  Is there a difference between what is aired on television as a weekly "60 Minutes" type piece and a "supposed" documentary?  I just wonder how one is ok and the other is not.  Anyone have any opinion?