Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Citizens United v. FEC to be argued Wednesday

Politics Magazine | show: "All you Supreme Court junkies buckle in: Wednesday is going to be a wild ride in the high court.

The Court will cut its recess a month short on Wednesday to hear a re-argument of a campaign finance case that could fundamentally reshape how elections are conducted. At the heart of the case is the central issue of campaign finance laws: Do corporations have different rights than individuals?"


Don N said...

This is much broader than a free speech issue.

Corporations, unions, organizations — more broadly non-citizen legal entities — are established by the legislative process. They are creatures of the legislature, not of the Constitution. Their rights and limitations can be included in the laws that charter the non-citizen legal entities. Non-citizen legal entities are not allowed to vote. They don't have a designated Representative, nor two Senators. Any constitutional guarantees are indirect in the sense that laws shall not violate the Constitution. People have constitutional guarantees, not non-citizen legal entities. The Bill of Rights is for people not non-citizen legal entities. An important exception is the press.

Allowing non-citizen legal entities — many of which have large resources and funds that could be allocated to ballot and election issues — decreases the influence of each citizen (who does have constitutional guarantees). Granting non-citizen legal entities unrestricted rights of free speech which includes unlimited spending, waters down the rights of citizens.

Of course, non-citizen legal entities should be able to act for a group of citizens as part of freedom of association. That includes advocacy in ballot and election issues, but only where the funds are voluntarily provided by citizens for the political purposes. PACs are the obvious example which rely solely on voluntary donations from people for the political purposes defined by the PAC.

Nowhere is this erosion of individual rights more obvious than in Washington. The special interests (non-citizen legal entities) have the money for lobbyists, contributions, organizing and conducting conferences, etc. that are out of reach for the individual voter. How many citizens have lobbyists? But draw the line when it comes to ballot and election issues. However, non-citizen legal entities should be able to provide information to the legislation, but without any associated money.

The special interest influence is obvious in the debate over health care reform. The debate and issues in Washington are dominated by the special issues. Individual citizens have very little voice. But citizens have made their voices heard in the town hall meetings, in which the special interests (non-citizen legal entities) have little or no status or standing.

Shouldn't Washington be more like the town hall meetings? Limiting the free speech of the non-citizen legal entities concerning ballot and election issues is a step in that direction.

Don Nordeen said...

My name was cut short in the first comment.