Letters to the Editor

Harmful ruling

October 8, 2010

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To the editor:

The old saying is: “You can’t fight city hall.” What are your odds fighting a multibillion dollar corporation? In their absolutely devastating ruling (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Jan. 21, 2010), the conservative U.S. Supreme Court gave huge international corporations the unlimited ability to financially back any candidate they want, for as much money as they want.

Let’s look at BP (British Petroleum), as just one of hundreds of examples. When the Republicans were in power they were REALLY good to BP and oil companies. Regulations? The Republicans let the oil companies write them. Inspections? The Republicans slashed the number of inspectors, and turned a blind eye toward oil companies throwing parties for the oil regulatory agencies (complete with prostitutes). Hey, what could happen?

Democrats, rightly, have held BP’s financial feet to the fire for the Gulf disaster (over Republican protest). For BP, would it not make financial sense for them to pour millions of dollars into hundreds of individual congressional races, electing Republicans, who would more likely vote that BP has already paid enough? This could save BP billions of dollars. What’s to stop them?

In races all over the country the reports are flooding in. Republican candidates are spending unprecedented amounts of money on advertising. This ruling by the conservative Supreme Court has the potential to absolutely destroy our democracy and make a mockery of what this country says it stands for. Wake up, America!

Daniel Patrick Schamle,

Lawrence

Comments

grammaddy 4 years, 6 months ago

Agreed, SCOTUS really screwed up on that one.

kansastruthteller 4 years, 6 months ago

It seems that you are just using the issue of companies contributing to political campaigns as a smoke screen to cover (albeit poorly) your real agenda which is to bash republicans.

And it is Interesting that you cite BP in your tirade against republicans since Obama in 08 was the biggest recipient of their political dollars.

You could have saved some ink by simply writing. Me like dems, me hate republicans.

Scott Drummond 4 years, 6 months ago

That BP decided to back the clear impending winner is no great surprise and does not diminish the letter writer's point. The Obama administration's minimizing of the oil spill is probably the payoff they purchased.

grammaddy 4 years, 6 months ago

"minimizing the oil spill"...? Really? By demanding they pay whatever it costs for the clean-up??

Scott Drummond 4 years, 6 months ago

Yes, minimizing the oil spill. By grossly under reporting the scope of the spill initially. By the ridiculous statements after the well had been capped that all the oil had magically disappeared. By controlling news media access to the scenes of BP clean up operations.

Scott Drummond 4 years, 6 months ago

The website "Truthout" (always a good site for thoughtful commentary) has an interesting article on this matter:

http://www.truth-out.org/foreign-funded-us-chamber-of-commerce-running-partisan-attack-ads63966

Scott Drummond 4 years, 6 months ago

And all the Chamber of Commerce ads you see on TV are being funded, in part, by foreign multinationals who like the right wingers support for offshoring Amercian jobs. That is another shameful and treasonous consequence of the right wing philosophy of "free" (as opposed to fair) trade policies.

notajayhawk 4 years, 6 months ago

Waaaaaaaaah.

If you want to blame anyone for the offshoring of American jobs, scottie, blame the middle class consumers who talk a good game about 'buying American', but when it comes to squeezing dollars out of them, they'd rather buy on the cheap. It's your 'workers' class that are the 'treasonous' ones, ol' bud.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

What about the large numbers of poor and working poor?

They simply can't afford to buy much at all, and have to find the best deals.

Also, I thought you believed that we would have lost all of those jobs anyway.

madameX 4 years, 6 months ago

IMO, it's a vicious cycle: it people hadn't demanded rock bottom prices (and Washington hadn't made it easy and cheap) jobs wouldn't have been offshored. If jobs hadn't been offshored, there would likely be more and better jobs here. If there were more and better jobs here, there woudn't be as many poor and working poor who have no choice but to buy cheap, made in China stuff. And repeat.

notajayhawk 4 years, 6 months ago

I DO believe those jobs were lost anyway, and nothing I said is inconsistent with that belief. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure that was the exact reason I gave for why those jobs would have been lost anyway, either through offshoring, automation, or closed businesses.

madameX 4 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, you've got a point there. If it hadn't been made so easy and cheap to offshore jobs it most likely wouldn't have happened, but people demanding the cheapest possible prices and hang the consequences played a role for sure. It's like when people complain about how Wal-Mart destroyed the small businesses in their town: of course if Wal-Mart hadn't moved in people wouldn't have shopped there, but if people hadn't chosen to shop there then small businesses wouldn't have been harmed. No one forced them.

Scott Drummond 4 years, 6 months ago

I agree and do so, notajayhawk. You are absolutely 100% correct. But they are aided and abbetted in doing so by a relentless propaganda from the right.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

According to Open Secrets the oil and gas industry are still spending 73% of the special interest money on republicans

Why is our military still in Iraq and Afghanistan? Oil control

Why is our military in Iran,Iraq,Afghanistan,Yemen and Pakistan? Oil control

How do the republicans think? CRIME AGAINST DEMOCRACY : PNAC's policy document, "Rebuilding America's Defences," openly advocates for total global military domination. Many PNAC members held highest-level positions in the George W. Bush administration. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Project_for_the_New_American_Century

Elliott Abrams / Gary Bauer / William J. Bennett / Jeb Bush /

Dick Cheney / Eliot A. Cohen / Midge Decter / Paula Dobriansky / Steve Forbes /

Aaron Friedberg / Francis Fukuyama / Frank Gaffney / Fred C. Ikle /

Donald Kagan / Zalmay Khalilzad / I. Lewis Libby / Norman Podhoretz /

Dan Quayle / Peter W. Rodman / Stephen P. Rosen / Henry S. Rowen /

Donald Rumsfeld / Vin Weber / George Weigel / Paul Wolfowitz /

Behind the scene:

Newt Gingrich / George Herbert Walker Bush / James Baker / Vice Adm John Poindexter

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

According to Open Secrets the oil and gas industry are still spending 73% of the special interest money on republicans

Why is our military still in Iraq and Afghanistan? Oil control

Why is our military in Iran,Iraq,Afghanistan,Yemen and Pakistan? Oil control

How do the republicans think? CRIME AGAINST DEMOCRACY : PNAC's policy document, "Rebuilding America's Defences," openly advocates for total global military domination. Many PNAC members held highest-level positions in the George W. Bush administration. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Project_for_the_New_American_Century

Elliott Abrams / Gary Bauer / William J. Bennett / Jeb Bush /

Dick Cheney / Eliot A. Cohen / Midge Decter / Paula Dobriansky / Steve Forbes /

Aaron Friedberg / Francis Fukuyama / Frank Gaffney / Fred C. Ikle /

Donald Kagan / Zalmay Khalilzad / I. Lewis Libby / Norman Podhoretz /

Dan Quayle / Peter W. Rodman / Stephen P. Rosen / Henry S. Rowen /

Donald Rumsfeld / Vin Weber / George Weigel / Paul Wolfowitz /

Behind the scene:

Newt Gingrich / George Herbert Walker Bush / James Baker / Vice Adm John Poindexter

Gene Wallace 4 years, 6 months ago

""Why is our military in Iran,Iraq,Afghanistan,Yemen and Pakistan? Oil control""

I didn't know that our military is IN Iran and Pakistan. What bases do we now have in IRAN? How much oil does the US get from Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan?

Scott Drummond 4 years, 6 months ago

You have funded irresponsible operations and all of us will pay for the environmental degradation that resulted in ways that will never be compensated.

notajayhawk 4 years, 6 months ago

Selfish? What about you? What about all those people that own the 3 billion shares of BP stock, old people whose retirement depends on those earnings? How could you be so selfish, withholding your nickel? Why do you want old people to lose their homes and starve to death freezing in the street, scottie?

Heck, chances are YOU are a shareholder in BP and don't even know!

Scott Drummond 4 years, 6 months ago

Well, today is just the day I agree with notahjayhawk. Yes, I probably do own BP stock somewhere in a 401k, but it is involuntary. The unjust and ought to be illegal way we are required to place our retirement funds in the hands of a plan of our employer's choosing is the cause of it, however, not my choice.

My withholding of the proverbial nickel? No, it is not selfish of me to choose to do business with a more responsible company. And I don't care about the fortunes of those who either don't care about such things and foolishly invest in a company like BP (whose stock may be up now, but it must be remembered the lawyers haven't had at them yet. There is still a day of reckoning and financial cost that may be imposed by litigation.)

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

And, of course, if companies offered a pension plan, then fewer people would have to leave their retirement to the risky stock market.

Or, if Social Security were better designed and implemented, ...

notajayhawk 4 years, 6 months ago

"My withholding of the proverbial nickel? No, it is not selfish of me to choose to do business with a more responsible company."

Pssst: um, scott? That part was a little tongue-in-cheek. Lordie, I HOPE you didn't think that part was serious!

I have said quite frequently that that is the way corporations not only can be, and are, but should be regulated.

Congratulations, scott: You're a free market capitalist!

Scott Drummond 4 years, 6 months ago

Yep. Now if we only lived in a free market capitalistic system, rather than a monopoly predatory capitalistic system.

notajayhawk 4 years, 6 months ago

EPS for BP are expected to be down this quarter, as last quarter, from last year. Still profitable, though, and still an annual growth, which is projected to be even bigger next year.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

Who is involved in oil and weapons?

http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0208-05.htm

http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/4120/we_arm_the_world/

http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/walsh/execsum.htm

http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/03/24/spy.network.probe/index.html

http://rationalrevolution0.tripod.com/war/bush_family_and_the_s.htm

The Carlyle Group: BOD - http://www.angelfire.com/indie/pearly/htmls/bush-carlyle.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2003/mar/23/iraq.theobserver

The Big Guys Work For The Carlyle Group What exactly does it do?

To find out, we peeked down the rabbit hole.

FORTUNE Monday, March 18, 2002

By Melanie Warner

Are you the sort of person who believes in conspiracies--the Trilateral Commission secretly runs the world, that sort of thing? Well, then, here's a company for you. The Carlyle Group, a Washington, D.C., buyout firm, is one of the nation's largest defense contractors. It has billions of dollars at its disposal and employs a few important people. Maybe you've heard of them: former Secretary of State Jim Baker, former Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci, and former White House budget director Dick Darman. Wait, we're just getting warmed up. William Kennard, who recently headed the FCC, and Arthur Levitt, who just left the SEC, also work for Carlyle. As do former British Prime Minister John Major and former Philippines President Fidel Ramos. Let's see, are we forgetting anyone? Oh, right, former President George Herbert Walker Bush is on the payroll too.

The firm also has about a dozen investors from Saudi Arabia, including, until recently, the bin Laden family. Yes, those bin Ladens.

http://www.carlylegroup.net/thebigguys.htm

fancy80 4 years, 6 months ago

Who is involved in oil and weapons?

I want a stab at this one....is it Oil Control. No? Then it must be George Bush.

Scott Drummond 4 years, 6 months ago

"The old saying is: “You can’t fight city hall.” What are your odds fighting a multibillion dollar corporation?"

One of the answers must be voting with your dollars. If the corrupt politicians are going to allow unfettered corporate influence, then we starve them of cash. Find out what you are supporting with your purchasing power and then spend accordingly.

I have not spent a nickel at a BP station since the Gulf Oil spill. They don't have any of my money to purchase right wing politicians. I don't buy crap at Walmart and therefore don't support slave labor and destructive environmental policies by China. Starve the MFers of cash and they no longer have the money to ship your jobs overseas, pave creation with strip mall and destroy our democracy. Cash is their lifeblood, so bleed them dry.

fancy80 4 years, 6 months ago

Scott, don't want to burst your bubble, but BP doesn't just sell their oil to BP Stations, so the gas you're buying at QT, might just possibly be BP Oil, but keep up the good fight. Also, your comment about them not having your money to purchase right wing politicians is funny, because have you seen how much money they contributed to the lefties? the one good thing you can say about BP is they don't discriminate when it comes to politicians....left, right, middle...they buy them all.

Guess you don't own Nike shoes either...

notajayhawk 4 years, 6 months ago

"I have not spent a nickel at a BP station since the Gulf Oil spill."

They seem to be doing fine without your nickel.

BTW, scottie, if money buys elections, then I guess that would explain how Obama got elected? Or I suppose you think the nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars he spent to buy your vote was all from the lunch money of poor school children and the sewing money from poor little old ladies.

notajayhawk 4 years, 6 months ago

Even Hillary outspent McCain - and she didn't even make it to the Final Jeopardy round!

But it's the Republicans and their big-money sponsors that are the problem. [snicker]

Scott Drummond 4 years, 6 months ago

Democrats had more $$ in the last round because it was quite apparent that gwb and his right wing compatriots had made such a mess of things that there would be a new Democratic wave of elected officials to bribe. They covered their bets and bought influence among the Democrats - putting the lie to all the lunacy about extreme socialist Democrats, by the way.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Well, we'll see - if enough people boycott them, it may have an effect - as you've pointed out on another thread.

And, yes, Democrats are not somehow immune from the corrupting influence of money, and the candidate that spends the most money almost always gets elected - a fact which should bother all of us.

notajayhawk 4 years, 6 months ago

If enough people boycott them then it would have an effect.

And if wishes were horses, beggars would ride ...

Scott Drummond 4 years, 6 months ago

They may or may not be doing fine without my nickel, but my point was that starving them of cash will lessen their influence. Reducing the influence of companies that don't act in the best interest of our citizens is a worthy goal and one many more should be working toward.

Also, I have long ocmplained the Obama is not the leftist claimed but just a watered down version of the standard corporate political tool.

notajayhawk 4 years, 6 months ago

I got your point and agree that would be the case IF that happened.

Ain't gonna'.

Flap Doodle 4 years, 6 months ago

Dear Leader's campaign website for the 2008 election was set up to accept untraceable cash. No one will ever know who was greasing the skids for him.

mbulicz 4 years, 6 months ago

Stop pointing fingers about WHO is getting this money and start addressing the REAL problem: amending our Constitution to write out corporate interests and cap their donations and lobbying. Dems and republicans are on the payroll for countless corporations and special interest groups.

Of course, if they did this, every member of Congress would lose all the goodies from their lobbyists / special interest groups. Thus, it will never happen. Our politicians are bought and paid for and now work for the wellbeing of the bottom line, not the wellbeing of the people.

We are in serious trouble if we do not address this ruling.

notajayhawk 4 years, 6 months ago

Luckily the Supreme Court feels otherwise, i.e. that we are all in serious trouble if we start limiting anyone's voice in the political process.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Allowing multi-national corporations (and others) to spend unlimited amounts of money is not a freedom of speech issue, in my opinion.

And, the fact that the Supreme Court, which is a bit more conservative right now, ruled this way (more precisely, the majority vote) doesn't mean they're right about it.

In fact, I'm pretty sure it was a 5-4 vote, meaning that a sizable minority on the Court were opposed to the decision.

Scott Drummond 4 years, 6 months ago

In fact, they are creatures of governments and in this country we supposedly (or used to) decide what the government does. I say we amend the Constitution to allow rights only to natural persons (not the fictituous corporate personhood) and legislate what rights we wish to grant corporations.

mbulicz 4 years, 6 months ago

If corporations were people, the public buy, sell and trade on the stock market would be illegal under the thirteenth amendment.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Yes, and if spending money was equivalent to speech, then prostitution would be talking to someone in exchange for sex.

snoozey 4 years, 6 months ago

Sorry for the lack of traditional and controversial blog (half) wit, but I completely agree with what you write in this post.

Stephen Roberts 4 years, 6 months ago

Also cut out wealtfare for unions and tax exempt corporations. This would include AFL-CIO, churches, Endowments etc.

BigDog 4 years, 6 months ago

For those who support capping the amounts corporations can spend on political campaigns ..... Would you also favor capping the amounts unions can spend on political campaigns?

The AFL-CIO and SEIU are planning to spend a combined $88 million or more on the upcoming elections.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704125604575449913707878130.html

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Yes.

I would support an outright ban on all money, individual, union or corporate.

Provide free and equal airtime for candidates, and prohibit them from spending more than a certain amount of their own money - a low enough ceiling that people who aren't millionaires might have a chance.

mbulicz 4 years, 6 months ago

But providing 'free and equal' airtime for candidates is infeasible, because there ARE more than two candidates running in every race. I support free and equal time for candidates who are able to petition a certain number of signatures, thereby giving the people a voice in who gets that resource.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Well, it depends on how many candidates, and how much airtime.

Last time I looked, the networks are making plenty of money.

I'd have to think about your idea of petitions - it may be ok, or may be unnecessary.

fancy80 4 years, 6 months ago

I would favor capping the unions, but I'm willing to wager that most liberals think that is different and should not be capped.

Scott Drummond 4 years, 6 months ago

Union leaders are more readily accountable to their membership for the choices they make. If the individuals who fund union activities with their dues are unhappy with the political choices, union elections can fairly easily change that leadership very easily.

Corporate political spending is much less transparent and the shareholder's ability to respond to the political actions of the corporations much more complicated and difficult to achieve.

SLOPOKE 4 years, 6 months ago

This could be the straw that set's all hell to break out.... People are having to deal with so many , crucial ,Live or Die , so to speak , situations. The Elders are trying to fix new problems with old methods. Keep doing the same thing over an over expecting different results. Our younger generation is totally LOST..... Friends and Brothers....... Our time is almost up !! Something is gonna give, sooner than later.....

George Lippencott 4 years, 6 months ago

Could there actually be a first amendment issue here rather than a partisan debate? The right to vote for and advocate for an elected official of your choice is fundamental to our system. Do corporations have that right? If Mr. Moore can do what he does, why can certain corporations not do the same?

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

I think this is not rightly understood as a 1st amendment issue.

The granting of "personhood" to corporations is a mistake, and certainly not what the founders intended by the 1st amendment.

Individuals have a right to vote - corporations don't.

Even if we extended the right to "advocate" for a politician to corporations, that doesn't mean we should allow unlimited amounts of money to be spent on advertising - they can write letters to the editor, for example, just as ordinary people can.

The ultimate result of this decision will be that large corporations and wealthy folks gain much more influence in politics (when they already have too much) and that ordinary folks are even more left out of the process and irrelevant.

This is hardly what the founders intended when they tried to set up a government "of, by and for the people".

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

The Supreme Court did not grant "personhood" to corporations. The Supreme Court rightly found that the First Amendment prohibits Congress from abridging speech, regardless of whether the "speaker" is an individual, a corporation, or some other group.

Argue about whether contributions to campaigns or the expenditure of money on political ads is speech (I think it should be so considered) or whether the particular provisions of law involved in Citizens United were narrowly tailored to promote a significant governmental interest, but give up on the misguided notion that the Court treated corporations like individuals.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Corporations have already attained the status of "legal person" - this Supreme Court didn't need to grant them that status.

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

But, but, but... You are the one who wrote that "the granting of 'personhood' to corporations is a mistake." In the context, it seemed clear that you were referring to Citizens United.

Trying to debate with you on these boards leaves me scratching my head because you write something, I respond, and then you write something that doesn't acknowledge what you wrote before.

Do you at least get that organizations, including corporations, have First Amendment rights to advocate for their chosen candidates? And that it doesn't have anything to do with corporations being "legal person"s?

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

I think it is a drastic mistake to have granted the status of "legal person" to corporations.

And, as I've already said, I think that individuals are what the founders had in mind when they wrote the Bill of Rights, not companies.

And, again, I think that speech and the spending of money are not equivalent - if they were, then prostitution would be talking to someone in exchange for sex.

Do you really think that having large multi-national corporations spending billions on political advertising and, thus, having a large disproportionate impact on our political decisions is what the founders intended?

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

When you say it is a drastic mistake to have granted the status of "legal person" to corporations, what are you referring to? Because SCOTUS, in Citizens United, didn't do that.

The First Amendment doesn't refer to individuals or groups or anything. Read it, please. It says "Congress shall make no law abridging" these 5 specific rights. There is nothing in that amendment to show that the founders meant that Congress can't abridge the rights of individuals and only individuals. Given the rights enumerated in the First Amendment, it doesn't make sense to think that those are rights only belonging to individuals as opposed to collectives, like corporations. (How exactly would the right of assembly work if it were only an individual right?)

You really like that line about prostitution, but I think it's pretty silly. You clearly recognize that money is power in politics. Limiting how much money any person or group can spend limits the ability of that person or group to make its view heard.

As I've said before, I share your concerns about spending on political advertising. But any limits on that spending have to be crafted carefully so as not to run afoul of the First Amendment. I'm not sure I agree with SCOTUS on that part of the Citizens United holding. But I wholeheartedly agree with them that the First Amendment prohibition against Congress abridging free speech doesn't allow limits on the speech of corporations, groups, labor unions, non-profit organizations, etc., any more than it allows Congress to limit the speech of individuals.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

I'm referring to the decision made some time ago - I'd have to look up the specifics - in which corporations gained the status of "legal person", which is essentially, to my mind, a fictional creation. People are people, corporations are corporations. And, I'm not at all sure that we would have had the same ruling in Citizens if corporations hadn't previously been granted that status.

There is nothing specific in the 1st amendment that specifies individuals, that is true, but if you look at the entire Bill of Rights, it is clear to me that the intention was to lay out the rights of individuals, and limit the power of government to infringe upon them.

Your example about assembly makes my point - it is an individual's right to assemble with others, not the right of a group to do so.

You have the right to your opinion, but that doesn't counter my example - money is simply not equivalent to speech.

"Money is power" - the 1st amendment doesn't grant the right of unlimited power to corporations. That's exactly my point - we can and should be limiting the "power" of corporations to unduly influence our political process.

How does a corporation "speak"? Would any ads be reviewed by all shareholders, employees, etc. to make sure that the ad reflects their opinions? A corporation is, in some ways, a fictional entity, if separated from the individuals who work there, etc.

And, as I understand it, non-profit organizations (that are tax exempt) are not allowed to endorse specific political candidates without losing that status.

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

The Bill of Rights is about limiting the power of the government. Some of those rights are specific to individuals, but many, including those in the First Amendment, are not. The Catholic Church is not an individual, but can't be prohibited from existing, right? As for assembly, that right would be meaningless if it only prohibited Congress from infringing the rights of individuals to assemble. An assembly requires a group, not individuals. it defies all logic to view that right as one that only belongs to individuals, thus implying that Congress can pass laws abridging the rights of a group to meet.

Does everyone in the NRA review every publication before it's released? Of course not, but surely you don't dispute that it would be unconstitutional for Congress to tell the NRA they can't publish magazines or pamphlets, etc. Just like individuals, groups and corporations "speak" by writing, posting on a website, etc. Groups or corporations usually have a spokesperson who is authorized to speak on that corporation's behalf. Often, that speech requires money: money to publish the pamphlets, pay for the website, or pay for the air time for an advertisement. Money is intimately tied to speech. Limit the money people can spend to spread their message, you're limiting their message.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Well, it's a bit semantic in some ways, but...

Individuals have the right to freedom of religion - they exercise that right by meeting with other individuals to practice their religion.

In the same way, individuals meet with other individuals to assemble for a variety of reasons - their right to do so is an individual one.

Applying individual rights to groups is a bit questionable, in my opinion, and generally not necessary.

Does the Catholic Church have the "right to bear arms" or do individuals who happen to be Catholic have that right?

I understand your point, and there is some truth in it, but applying it to the ability of large corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on political advertising is still clearly a very bad idea to me.

The obvious (and harmful) result of all of this is that the wealthy have a disproportionate influence on politics - do you think that was the intention of the founders?

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

I just flat think you're wrong to think of the First Amendment in terms of individual rights. It is simply a prohibition on government, regardless of whether the effect is on individuals or groups, but clearly, I will not get you to see this (fairly obvious, imho) point.

As for the founder's intent, well, I think you think better of them than they probably deserve. I do think the founders would have been ok with the wealthy having a disproportionate influence on politics. In 1787, most voting rights were limited to land-owning white men and nothing in the Constitution required that to change. And don't forget Senators weren't even elected by the public, but selected by the state legislature.

Happily, I don't think the founder's intent is the be all and end all of constitutional interpretation (nor do I think they intended it to be). And again, I agree with you that political spending, especially by corporations, is problematic. I just think responses to it have to be more carefully crafted to pass constitutional muster.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Not if all you want to do is criticize others.

But if you are concerned as well, then it might be a good idea to try to find a solution.

Up to you, of course.

And, I've been thinking further on the question of 1st amendment rights applying to groups.

Let's take religion - the language is equally non-specific regarding individuals there - do you think that corporations have a right to freedom of religion? And, how would that work? All Sony employees must be Catholic??

The groups you mention, by the way, are groups that are designed around specific political ideas and advocacy, and thus the groups' positions are much more likely to reflect their members ideas - anti-gun advocates aren't likely to join the NRA, for example.

With a large corporation, people work there, buy their products, and may be shareholders for a variety of economic reasons - they aren't coming together around a political agenda. So a corporate advocacy of a particular candidate is much less likely (even perhaps impossible) to reflect some sort of "group voice".

Also, while people can easily stop supporting a group like the NRA if they don't like their positions, employees, customers, and shareholders in corporations would find it much more difficult to do so. As has been pointed out on other threads, BP may provide oil for a variety of gas stations, so even if one chooses to boycott BP stations, one may still be supporting them economically.

Of course, employees of a company (which are responsible to some degree for the ongoing success of that company) face an even more difficult situation, especially in a bad economy. They may need their jobs, and be unable to quit and work somewhere else to protest the political ads the corporation is televising.

Also, the whole idea of original intent is always funny, and we all seem to pick and choose where we want to follow that, and where we diverge - your own position seems to be that the intent of the 1st amendment was that it applies to groups as well as individuals. I think it's likely they simply didn't think to say "This doesn't mean that we think multi-national corporations should be allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on political advertising", largely because those things didn't exist in that form at that time.

But, even if you're right, they clearly didn't think women and black people were afforded the same rights as white men (as you point out), so on that front, you (and I) would not want to apply the original thinking.

It's a bit like religion - people pick and choose what parts of the Bible they like in order to create their belief system.

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

It's not my job to find a solution. I'm not interested in criticizing; I'm interested in making sure the constitutional issues are properly understood.

If you're still thinking about the First Amendment in terms of applying to groups and/or individuals, then I have failed to explain how I think the amendment works. The amendment applies to government. Congress shall make no laws.

I'm not going to get into my complex view of proper constitutional interpretation, but original intent as Justice Scalia (and you?) want to apply it is not at all what I advocate. I always start with the words and if the drafters intended those words to include unstated limitations, well, they should have stated those limitations.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Whose job is it, in your mind, to solve the problems in our society?

I see no response to the question of applying the principle of religious freedom to groups.

So, any and all situations that the founders were unfamiliar with are simply not included in the Constitution. How exactly do you apply it to them?

I suppose though, that I am to simply bow before your complex view, regardless of your lack of explanation.

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

No, I didn't respond to every part of your previous comment, largely because I simply don't think you're a worthy debate opponent. I think your understanding of how to apply the First Amendment is silly and not really worth discussing any further. That's pretty rude and condescending of me, I know, but sheesh, you think the right to assemble is an individual right.

It's all of our jobs to solve problems, but we aren't all responsible for all of them. This one is not one I've thought much about and frankly am not interested in solving. I think that's ok.

Where on earth did you get from my comment that I think "any and all situations that the founders were unfamiliar with are simply not included in the Constitution?" I wrote nothing remotely like that. An overly-rigid application of original intent would be the method of interpretation that would yield such a nonsensical view and that is why I reject that method of interpretation. (As in Justice Scalia saying the drafters of the 14th Amendment didn't mean to include women in the equal protection clause, so that amendment doesn't bar sex discrimination. I think that view is dead wrong since the plain language refers to all persons.)

I'm sorry that I don't think an ljworld comment section is really a place I feel like launching into an in-depth explanation of my theory of constitutional interpretation. Think less of me for it if you will.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

At least you're honest about your arrogance, for whatever that's worth.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

The case that started most of the trouble is Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad - 1886.

If you look it up, you will find that some comments before the trial were included in the record, even though they weren't part of the trial record, and those comments set the stage for the idea that we cannot limit a corporation's right to free speech.

Many people feel that it was simply a mistake to include those comments in the record, since they weren't part of the trial itself.

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

That case was about the 14th Amendment, an amendment that specifically uses the word "person", as compared to the 1st Amendment, where the word "person" never appears.

George Lippencott 4 years, 6 months ago

See Jafs I do not share you view of what a corporation is or that whatever it is it has no role in our political process.

If the effort is to stifle corporations, the notion is flawed and probably counter- productive. They will find a way. Better it be in their own name than hidden in other mechanisms.

If the effort is to get money out of politics then maybe a different approach is appropriate. How about we limit contributions by anybody or thing to $500 per election cycle - all vehicles. That means Mr. Moore gets to give $500. He cannot give $500 as himself, $500 as a series of corporations he creates (in the public interest of course) $500 to each of a number of not for profits in the public interest and so on. $500 or we put you in prison for 25 years for corrupting a fundamental right we should all have.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

That's fine with me.

I would, in fact, create a zero-tolerance policy for monetary contributions, from whatever source.

So you think that a corporation is entitled to "legal personhood" status, and entitled to all of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights?

I'm sure that's not what the founders intended when they wrote the document.

George Lippencott 4 years, 6 months ago

No JAFS, I think the entire "personhood" issue is a red herring. AS far as I am concerned they have a right, just like unions, PACs, me, my neighbor, you and on and on, to participate in our national discussion. If you think about it, just about every country in the world has a lobbying group through which they influence our elections. Do you really think the Saudis just watch?? Why single out one particularly entity and then a portion of that set. They will just create PACs or some other mechanism to get their money distributed or their point made.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

I have no problem with various groups and individuals participating in discussions.

I have a big problem with the massive influence of money on our political process.

And, as I've said, I would ban money in a much broader sense, not just corporate contributions.

notajayhawk 4 years, 6 months ago

So how exactly does a corporation, or any other group, make its voice heard in the discussion without spending money on political advertising?

gccs14r 4 years, 6 months ago

A corporation should not be considered a voiced entity in an election. Each board member, officer, and employee of a corporation already has a voice in an election as individuals. A corporation as an inanimate object should not be able to influence elections in any way. Yes, that includes unions. It's one person, one vote, not one dollar, one vote. There should be no such thing as a lobbyist, either. A corporate lobbyist should not be able to subvert the will of 300 million people just because a corporation can afford to set him up with an office next door to Congress. Let's try to get back to having a government of, by, and for the people.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

The same way the rest of us do, by calling, writing, or e-mailing our representatives.

See gccs' response below as well.

notajayhawk 4 years, 6 months ago

"or we put you in prison for 25 years for corrupting a fundamental right we should all have"

It appears, George, that the SCOTUS believes that placing limits or otherwise restricting that political spending is a corruption of that fundamental right we all have.

gccs14r 4 years, 6 months ago

Yes, and the SCOTUS once ruled that Dred Scott should remain with his "owner". Eventually we won't have such a corporate-friendly court and the political speech rights recently mistakenly conferred upon corporations by the Supreme Court will be overturned.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

We don't have a right to political spending.

We have a right to freedom of speech.

budwhysir 4 years, 6 months ago

I myself believe that BP will benefit greatly from the free press and publicity that has been generated by this.

fancy80 4 years, 6 months ago

ummm...wake up Daniel Patrick Schlame. Nothing new here, both sides have been doing this for EVER.

Sigmund 4 years, 6 months ago

I have no problem with any candidate receiving cash from any domestic person or corporation as long it is fully disclosed, but putting that aside for now:

Obama biggest recipient of BP cash "During his time in the Senate and while running for president, Obama received a total of $77,051 from the oil giant and is the top recipient of BP PAC and individual money over the past 20 years, according to financial disclosure records." http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0510/36783.html Obama biggest recipient of BP cash, Politico.com, by Erika Lovely

BP was fined under the Bush Administration (2005) , the largest total penalty to that point under any Administration.

"All of that would lead workers to believe BP is a safe employer – not like the BP with a refinery in Texas City, Texas that blew up in 2005 killing 15 workers and injuring 170, the BP that OSHA slapped with its second largest total penalty ever -- $21 million – for safety violations at Texas City that led to the massive explosion, the BP that OSHA hit with its largest ever fine -- $87.4 million – last fall for failure over four years to comply with the terms of its settlement agreement to correct the potential hazards at Texas City."

It was the Obama Administration that gave BP and Transocean a Safety Award for the Deepwater Horizon well and they were about to get another but it was postponed because it blew up killing 47 workers.

"Just last year, the federal Minerals Management Service (MMS) gave BP and Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig, Safety Awards for Excellence –SAFE awards. MMS bestows these on offshore oil and gas corporations for “outstanding safety and pollution prevention performance.” Again this year, BP was a finalist for a SAFE award. After the Deepwater Horizon explosion, MMS postponed announcement of this year’s winners." http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/labor/99487-safety-awards-that-endanger-workers-lives- Safety awards that endanger workers’ lives, TheHill.com, By United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard

Don't let facts get in the way of your ideological rant, but where are you guys when I need to make a bar bet?

Hoots 4 years, 6 months ago

Get over yourselves on the bad Republicans or bad Democrats rants. Both parties do it. They just pick different pets in the political classroom. Maybe someday we will get an honest third party or the American voter will scream loud enough and this game of bribery will be stopped. Greed has no party and you the voter have no sway as long as the big corperate money continues to flow.

George Lippencott 4 years, 6 months ago

JAFS says

We don't have a right to political spending.

We have a right to freedom of speech.

Then either limit it for all or let it be free. Speech is bought and paid for in our society. This whole thread is a simple political effort to limit those who disagree with certain notions. Lots of rationalization but no real thought. Why can everyone else play except corporations?

George Lippencott 4 years, 6 months ago

Neither are unions, PACs, Lobbys and so on. Not a thoughtful comment.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

I have said numerous times that I would eliminate spending on politics, regardless of the source.

The obvious problem with having speech "bought and paid for", which is a strange notion to start with, is that those with money will have a disproportionate influence and voice in the process.

If the idea is government "of, by and for the people" and "one man (woman), one vote", then it seems to me that we should all be having an equal opportunity to participate in and affect the outcome of elections, regardless of income.

George Lippencott 4 years, 6 months ago

Yes JAFS, I agree with you. Get the obsene amount of money ourt of politics. That said the notion of limiting corporations in the end game does little of that - it does make some people feel good. Corporations will find a way.

I might point out that corportations are not just a bunch of fat cat executives. Those executive work for a board that is in the end elected by share holders (no better electiuon than unions) and that many of thsoe share holders are us - the people. Do not forget that state pension funds are invested in corportions. Maybe I missed something but I have never perceived that government employees are "fat cats"??

Corporation represent their share holders and their employees. Why should they not get to play??

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

The shareholders and employees already have the right to speak freely.

See my exchanges with ebyrdstarr above for more of my reasoning.

Do you really think that some advertising chosen by top executives at a corporation will represent a group voice representing the shareholders and their employees?

That would imply that all of those distinct individuals believe the same thing politically, which I think is extremely unlikely.

George Lippencott 4 years, 6 months ago

And they also have a right to speak in any grouping they chose to ,make.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Perhaps.

But the view espoused by the ads will undoubtedly not reflect the views of the group as a whole. And, since the money is derived from the large groups of customers, etc. it is unfair to use that money for political advocacy if it doesn't do so.

See constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe's criticism of the Citizens United case.

independant1 4 years, 6 months ago

Private Corporations w/stockholders (unlike unions) contribute to both party's coffers. They usually hedge their bets and contribute to both sides of the aisle. for example Microsoft Corp 2008 Total Contribution Dollar Amount to Republicans $1,724,362 (14% of total) Average Contribution Dollar Amount to Republicans $947 Total Contribution Dollar Amount to Democrats $5,128,578 (41% of total) Average Contribution Dollar Amount to Democrats $832

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Having done some research, I have found no support at all for starr's contention that the 1st amendment rights of speech and religion are meant to apply to corporations, or that they have been viewed that way - I have, on the other hand, found support for my view.

From the government publication entitled "Our American Government" printed by the US Government printing office:

pg 3 - The Bill of Rights is a series of constitutionally protected rights of citizens. The first eight amendments set out or enumerate the substantive and procedural individual rights associated with that description (The Bill of Rights).

Thus my understanding that the Bill of Rights refers to individual rights (of citizens) is supported.

The recent SC decision was a 5-4 decision, which means that 4 out of 9 SC Justices agree with my view that this is a bad idea, and not warranted. Justice Stevens is quoted as saying that corporations "are not human beings" and are not in fact "members of 'We the People' by whom and for whom our Constitution was established."

Even the majority opinion is couched in the terms that it is as an "association of citizens" that a corporation is granted rights, as an extension of rights granted to individual citizens.

I would argue that description may fit a group like the NRA, since the group is composed of individuals in order to make their voice heard politically - but that it is a poor fit for a large multi-national corporation, since that group is composed of hundreds of thousands of people at all levels whose "association" exists for many non-political reasons, and that a statement or advertisement by a corporation is not a good reflection of some sort of commonly held views.

Imagine, for example, another association, a health club - members of the club go there for exercise, employees work there to make a living - if the president of the club were to advocate for certain political ends, he/she could certainly do so as an individual but could hardly claim to be representing the political views of the members and/or employees, unless they all had been consulted and agreed that was the case.

One particularly disturbing thing about this decision is that, given the current globalization we have, a multi-national corporation may indeed be composed of many who are not even US citizens at all.

So far, I have found no evidence that the 1st amendment rights to speech and religion were intended to apply to groups, or have been viewed that way. It is, instead, by virtue of the granting of "legal person" status (which is a "legal fiction"), or viewing a corporation as an "association of individuals" that they have been granted rights more properly belonging to individuals.

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

For the 70th gazillion time, what I have consistently argued is that the Amendment should not be thought of in terms of granting group or individual rights. That is simply not the correct framework for viewing the amendment based on the amendment's plain language. It is a prohibition on government action, pure and simple. As I've demonstrated to sensible people about the right to assembly, it simply doesn't make sense to think of it as an individual right. The government can't prohibit me from attending a Communist Party meeting or a shareholder meeting, but could prohibit the Communist Party or the corporation from holding that meeting? That's absurd. But if you want to rely on a government pamphlet written in general terms to say I'm wrong, by all means, do so.

Citizens United was hardly the first case in which the Supreme Court made clear that the First Amendment applies to groups, including corporations, not just individuals. But if you've read CU, of course you know that, as you've seen the big, long string cite noting all those other cases involving the free speech rights of groups and corporations. Since you've read that case, can you please tell me where the majority indicated that a corporation's right to free speech is based on its being an "association of citizens"? Because I've read the entire opinion and I must disagree with that characterization. The majority never used such language.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Your position is not supported by the official publication of our government, which states what I quote in my post, that the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights are individual rights granted to citizens of the US.

If you google "corporate right to speech", you will find an article which states what I quoted. It also points out that this is a shift in conservative thinking, that in the 1970's Rehnquist and White viewed corporations as "creatures of the law" due none of the rights of voters. If that is an incorrect characterization, it is a mistake of the newspaper.

I'm sure you can find Stevens' dissent, which clearly supports my position.

You may disagree, but given that I've found no evidence whatsoever that supports your interpretation of the 1st amendment, and an official government publication which supports mine (as well as Stevens' dissent), I hardly think my view is worthy of such condescending dismissal.

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

I'm sorry, but I think you're granting way too much authority to that "official publication of our government". Frankly, I question whether that phrase "individual rights" in the part you quoted means "rights belonging to individuals" versus "distinct" rights. And since that description necessarily includes Freedom of the Press, which could never be construed as a right belonging only to individuals, I think my interpretation of that "official government publication" as being a very general description is pretty apt.

Did you check out the string cite in Citizens United? With cases dating back to at least the '30s affirming that the First Amendment doesn't just apply to individual citizens? Because I think you're just willfully ignoring the evidence that supports my interpretation.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Also, I've already granted that in some cases a group has the right to "speak", when it is in fact an extension of the members' rights to speech, assembly and petition. The NRA would be a good example of that. It is essentially a "collective voice" of the members.

That is simply not the case with a corporation.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

The granting of the legal status of "legal person" to corporations happened in the 1800's - do you have any evidence that they were considered to have 1st amendment rights preceding that decision?

Or any source that claims, as you do, that the 1st amendment protections of speech and religion properly belong to groups as well as individuals?

Your argument about assembly is flawed - the right of individuals to assemble is guaranteed - prohibiting them from doing so is unconstitutional on that basis. There is no need to consider a separate right of a corporation, in order to guarantee the rights of the individuals. And, the right to assemble is, in fact, preceded by the words "of the people" in the 1st amendment. The word "individual" does not appear in the Bill of Rights at all. Are you claiming that a corporation is in fact one of "the people" or that the language should simply be ignored?

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

"Of the people" does not mean "of individual persons". "Of the people" is an inherently collective expression.

My argument about assembly isn't flawed at all. If Congress can't prohibit individuals from speaking, but can prohibit a corporation (a term that includes lots of groups beyond your feared multi-national wealthy businesses) from speaking, why wouldn't that same logic apply to assembly? Congress can't prohibit me as an individual from assembling, but can prohibit that big scary corporation from holding the assembly I was planning to attend. Assembly just doesn't make sense if you insist on seeing it as a purely individual right. I think at this point you're just arguing with anything I've ever written because I said you're not a worthy debate opponent. Clearly I struck a nerve.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Absolutely.

I take offense when people act in a condescending and rudely dismissive manner.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

If that's your interpretation of the term "of the people", then most all of the protections in the Bill of Rights would be collective ones, since the word "individual" never appears in it at all.

Most people probably wouldn't agree with you on that one.

An assembly is a gathering of individuals - therefore the right to assemble is the right of individuals to gather in a group - prohibiting a corporation from holding an assembly would thus be prohibiting the individuals from gathering, and thus unconstitutional. The same is not true in an analogous way with speech - individuals in a corporation at all levels have the right to speak without granting that right to the corporation as a separate entity.

Apparently you consider Justice Stevens to be lacking in credibility as well, and the constitutional scholar I quote below as well.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

In fact, there was quite a lively debate about whether the 2nd amendment right to bear arms was a collective or individual right, and I believe it was decided it is an individual one.

So much for the phrase "of the people" meaning a collective right.

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

The word "person" appears in the 5th Amendment. The word "accused" appears in the 6th. The word "owner" in the 3rd. Never have I said other protections in the Bill of Rights aren't individual rights. Stop extrapolating nonsense out of my words. For the record, I have also never said the protections of the First Amendment don't apply to individuals. I've said they don't exclusively apply to individuals. Come to think of it, neither is the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches exclusively an individual right. (Police need a warrant to search corporate headquarters.) Or the Fifth Amendment takings clause. (A corporation is entitled to due process before the government takes its land.)

And when I say that "of the people" is a collective expression, I mean it incorporates all of us. I'm done arguing with you on the right to assemble. You just refuse to acknowledge the reality that the right can't be viewed as a purely individual right so it is pointless to discuss it further. As for Justice Stevens, he is one of my favorites, but I don't agree with him here. Doesn't mean I find him lacking in credibility. Do you think Justice Kennedy and all the other justices over the decades who wrote opinions affirming that corporations have First Amendment rights are lacking in credibility?

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

I think that the argument that corporations are entitled to any constitutional protections as separate entities are based on the granting of "legal person" status in the 1800's.

I think that was a mistake, and unnecessary - we would have been better off to simply legislate whatever rights and/or obligations we wished for corporations to have without affording them that status.

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

You do stick to your guns, no matter how nutty they are, I'll give you that. (Do you really, really think corporate headquarters shouldn't be protected by the 4th Amendment? Really?)

I'm just glad you'll never get near the Supreme Court.

(Really?)

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

A corporation is an entity which is, by definition, legally separate and distinct from its' members.

As such, it is neither an individual, nor a collection of individuals (a group).

So individual (or collective) rights enumerated in the Bill or Rights wouldn't apply to them on that basis.

If they hadn't been granted "legal person" status, I think we would (and should) have had an interesting discussion and debate about what sorts of "rights" we wished to grant them, and on what basis.

Do you think that 6th amendment rights, which are couched in the singular, would apply to them without that status? Or 14th amendment rights?

Your general argument that rights are collective may have some validity when applied to a group of individuals possessing the right - a group "of the people", but a corporation is not a group in that way.

Tribe puts it more succinctly and better than I have, but it's the same point. And Stevens makes the same point, that corporations are not rightly members of "we the people" - do you think he's nutty as well? He's already on the court.

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

Once more for the cheap seats in the back: my general argument is not that rights are collective, but that the over-arching purpose of the Bill of Rights is to state limits on government. I have time and time again suggested that it is not necessary to consider whether the First Amendment confers rights on individuals or groups because it is best thought of as an amendment that limits government. Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech, regardless of who (or what) the speaker is.

I really don't want to believe that you think corporate-owned property can be seized by the government without a warrant or can be appropriated by the government without due process. Really, the idea of a corporation just streamlines the process. A warrant is served on corporate headquarters rather than on each of the individual shareholders; the notice of a government attempt to take land is likewise streamlined. I don't think it matters whether you see a corporation as its own entity, completely separate and distinct from its individual shareholders, or see it as its own entity because it is a collective of individual shareholders. Either way, the Bill of Rights has a lot to say about things the government can't do to that entity. I think it is silly to think the only reason corporations have any constitutional protections is that they are recognized as legal entities separate from the individual shareholders for purposes of lawsuits, etc.

And you need to update your Supreme Court roster: Stevens isn't there anymore.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

To be really precise (and somewhat pedantic), some of the rights enumerated in the 1st amendment have neither person nor of the people attached, and some do.

The right to assemble, and petition, are described as rights "of the people".

Religion, speech and the press are not.

I think it makes a huge difference - one way it is a collection of individuals, and thus entitled to the constitutional rights such groups may be entitled to, and the other way it is not.

The argument is the reverse of what you state - it is by virtue of being a separate entity that it loses those protections, if it hadn't gained the status of a "legal person".

And, I'm sure you understood my point - my argument is the same as Justice Stevens. When I make it, you think it's nutty, and have no problem saying so - I imagine you didn't react the same way when he did so.

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

Justice Stevens would never try to claim the 4th Amendment does not protect a corporation's headquarters from indiscriminate searches. That's what I'm suggesting is nutty. And while you are so busily focused on Justice Stevens, you conveniently forget that the majority of the court (and many other permutations of the court over the past decades) agree with me.

Why would anyone ever form a corporation if it meant they were not entitled to constitutional protections? I think your view of the Bill of Rights is so insanely narrow as to be nonsensical.

Every clause in the First Amendment begins with "Congress shall make no law." that is why I say it is cleanest to view the Amendment as a restriction on the government.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Justice Stevens' quote was a very broad one, saying that corporations aren't human beings, and aren't members of "we the people" that the Constitution was written by, for and about.

That's my position as well.

I particularly like the way you continue to insult me, even though I've found quite significant support for my position among Supreme Court Justices and constitutional scholars.

The question of why people form corporations, and what legal protections they should be afforded when they do so, given the definition of a corporation as "invisible, intangible, and artifical" is an interesting one that should have been discussed and vigorously debated.

It should not have simply been slid into the record due to an offhand comment of a judge prior to the trial, such comments not usually being part of a trial record, and not being a result of any actual trial, with arguments on both sides.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

The quote from Stevens is a very broad one, that corporations are not human beings, and not members of "we the people" that the Constitution was written by, for and about.

That's my position as well.

I find it interesting that you continue to insult me, even though I've found significant support (simply by doing a brief amount of research) for my position among Supreme Court justices and constitutional scholars.

A 5-4 majority is a very small majority, and indicates significant disagreement on the Court.

My main goal was to do a bit of research to see if my position was in fact "nutty" and worthy of casual dismissal. From that research, I'd say it certainly is not.

The question of why people form corporations, what their legal status should be, and what rights they should be afforded is a good one, and should have been vigorously debated. They should not have been afforded the status of "legal person" with all of the constitutional protections that allows because of a pre-trial remark by a judge that is not normally in the record of the trial, and is not the result of a trial, with arguments on both sides.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

A quick search provides the following definition of a corporation from a legal dictionary:

"An invisible, intangible, artificial creation of the law".

Is that the sort of entity you think the Bill of Rights should apply to in it's entirety? Or was written in order to protect?

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

My law dictionary has a much longer definition including the phrase "an association of persons created by statute as a legal entity." And, yes, either way, that is the sort of entity I believe should be protected from excessive fines under the 8th Amendment, from a taking of property under the 5th Amendment, from a warrantless search under the 4th Amendment, and from restriction on the freedom of speech under the 1st Amendment. Why is that idea so troubling to you? Do you really think small businesses, like my dad's consulting firm that he incorporated, should not be protected against governmental over-reaching?

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

If it's an "association of persons", then it should be afforded the legal protections that should apply to that sort of group - one previous example you used was the NRA.

However, if it's a separate legal entity which is "invisible, intangible and artificial", then it is not automatically entitled to those protections, in my view, since the Constitution was written by, for and about actual people (citizens) and groups they may form.

Several of the amendments you mention specify "person" or "of the people" - why should those apply to an "invisible, intangible and artifiical creation" which is neither a person nor a group of the people?

Since you have argued for a very literal interpretation of the 1st amendment, it would seem more in line with that argument to apply only the portions of the Bill of Rights which do not specify terms like "person" or "of the people". That wouldn't include the 4th or 5th amendments, or parts of the 1st. It might include the 8th.

I, on the other hand, might argue that an "invisible" and "intangible" entity does not, in fact, possess the power or ability to speak, and so the 1st amendment wouldn't apply at all.

The idea is troubling both theoretically and practically - if the legal status is as a separate invisible, intangible, etc. entity, then it is theoretically simply not entitled to any constitutional protections designed for people.

Practically, the decision means that a large multi-national corporation (which may involve people who are not even US citizens) can garner immense political influence and power. I honestly don't think this was what was intended.

But my main point is that this is the sort of debate that should have happened, in order to decide what rights corporations were entitled to, what sorts of distinctions should be made, etc.

A small business composed of American citizens which has incorporated is a different sort of entity, in my view, from a large, multi-national corporation - perhaps the two should have a different set of rights.

And, the constitutional scholar I quoted expresses my concerns very well - a group like the NRA may in fact be a sort of "group voice" expressing the concerns of those that support it - a corporation that makes money from millions of customers and then uses that money to advocate for a candidate is not acting as that sort of "group voice" at all.

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

I think you're so stuck on the idea of corporations as "legal persons" that you're not really thinking through what the ramifications of that are and are not. I frankly don't think the legal person artifice has all that much to do with corporations having constitutional protections. You've now said that what rights a corporation has might depend on which part of the Black's Law Dictionary definition we prefer. I don't see how that could possibly be a principled way of determining rights. I don't think it matters whether we use this artifice that a corporation is its own legal entity (which, btw, did not spring from that case heading that you've mentioned) or any other descriptive term. I believe the limits on government enumerated in the Bill of Rights apply any which way you define a corporation. I think the feds can't just search a corporation's headquarters any time they want, etc. I think this kind of discussion did happen in every statehouse in the nation as each state passed its laws on incorporation, but we always miss things or things come up later. I don't think anyone ever thought that by incorporating a business, whether small or large, those shareholders were going to be removing that business entity from protection against taking of property or warrantless searches, etc.

It's not an unappealing argument to separate out smaller corporations from the giants, but if you've read Citizens United, then surely you're familiar with the line of cases expressing concerns about discriminating on the basis of wealth.

As for the group voice angle, I recognize the practical argument Laurence Tribe is making, but I don't think that sort of practical argument is well-suited to a discussion of fundamental principles of constitutional law. I don't think the size of the corporation (or of any other organization) should invalidate that corporation's right to speak. If individual shareholders or customers don't approve of the message of the corporation, they need to take that up with the corporation or sever ties. It shouldn't be up to Congress to say a corporation (or group) this size or smaller can speak as with one voice, but anything bigger can't. That kind of framework might raise some right to assemble issues.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

I think you misunderstand my argument.

It is the definition of a corporation as separate from the individuals involved that removes the protections it might have as simply a group of people.

If it is separate, invisible, etc. then it is not simply a group of people in the eyes of the law.

Once defined as separate, the question then arises as to what sort of entity it is, and what sort of rights it should have - if defined as having "legal person" status, then it is deserving (according to the law) of protections in the Bill of Rights. I think this was a mistake. There are other ways it could have been defined as a separate entity without affording it those protections, which would have made more sense to me.

The problem that there seems to be a conflict between different definitions from different sources is a different problem. Perhaps the lawyers (I assume you're one) should get together and clear that up for us. I just googled the word and found a definition from a legal dictionary.

It's not simply the size, it's the fact that some corporations are collections or associations of American citizens, and some aren't. Do you think that the Bill of Rights should apply to foreign corporations?

I understand your argument, but it seems to be very general, and not at all in line with your very literal and specific interpretation of the 1st amendment. It seems to me that the law is very much about making specific distinctions and fine judgments.

You have the right to disagree with Tribe, as I have the right to agree with him. Your suggestion, though, that customers can simply sever ties with the corporation is not very practical, when the corporations are large and reach into many areas, some of which people may simply be unaware of.

Again, my main goal was to find out if my argument was worth such a rude and casual dismissal - I'd say it's not. And, apparently, since you're still discussing the issue with me, you agree with that.

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

Specifically, I said your argument that assembly is purely an individual right was worthy of dismissal. Your argument that corporations are not entitled to ANY constitutional protections is, I think, worthy of dismissal. And your reliance on that Congressional introductory guidebook as a definitive source of constitutional interpretation is worthy of dismissal. As I have said time and time again, I share your concerns about campaign spending, but I am not willing to say corporations don't have First Amendment rights as a way to address that concern. As for why I'm still discussing with you, well, I just have a hard time not getting the last word. I think you've made some illogical points that I have a hard time letting stand without pointing out the flaw. Plus, you've misread a lot of my comments to suggest I must mean some pretty outrageous things. This is my own personal flaw that I really should start working on right now.

Yes, I think (generally speaking) the Bill of Rights should apply to foreign corporations, foreign citizens, even illegal aliens. This is entirely in line with my consistent view that the BoR is fundamentally a limitation on government. I think the definition of corporation is frankly irrelevant to whether that entity is protected by the constitution, so I don't care which definition corporate lawyers settle on. If the technical, law dictionary definition of a corporation matters that much to you, I think you're missing the forest for the trees.

Yes, my argument is general because we're on a comment thread of a newspaper website and because getting into specifics and nuance is rather pointless in this forum, especially since it seems to be lost on you, who would rather lump all things together (corporations should have no constitutional rights; all the BoR rights are purely individual; all corporations are bad).

Finally, I understand that it may be practically difficult for a customer to cut ties with a corporation, but such practical considerations don't, in my view, rise to the level of compelling state interests justifying infringements on the freedom of speech. That was my point before: that Tribe's is an appealing argument, but not one that should sway a Court in deciding a constitutional issue. There are lots of other circumstances in which I would similarly advocate not allowing practicalities to lead us down a path of shortchanging constitutional principles.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

I figured as much, about your difficulty not getting the last word, or "winning" the argument.

I only did a little bit of research - in that short time, I found a number of sources that seem to agree with my perspective, including a constitutional scholar and a Supreme Court justice.

Enough to assure myself that my ideas aren't as absurd as you seem to think they are.

I disagree with your idea about the Bill of Rights, and think it was written in order to protect American citizens. If I did a little research on that, I imagine I'd find some support for that idea - is your interpretation currently considered to be the correct and complete one?

I've already incorporated your point about possible "group" rights, if those groups are in fact composed of American citizens, and are acting as a "collective voice".

Stevens' comment that corporations are not human beings, and not members of "we the people" suggest he also believes they are not entitled to Constitutional protections.

I have not claimed all corporations are bad, or, after reflection, that all rights are individual ones.

But, if it's that important to you, I'll let you get the last word - after all, you're obviously a lawyer with more on the line here - I'm just an ordinary citizen.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Just for fun, I did a tiny little bit of research on the Bill of Rights as it applies to non-citizens.

I have found a variety of views - some that it doesn't at all, some that it does in it's entirety, and some that it partially applies in a weaker form.

The INS citizenship questionnaire states that it applies to all (citizens and non-citizens) living in the country.

But other sources claim that it applies only in part, and in a weaker form, due to SC decisions on specific issues.

Some have claimed it is a felony for illegal aliens to own a weapon - if true, that would indicate they don't have 2nd amendment rights.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

"Paul Copeland, 56, ... was sentenced to prison time...in federal court...for selling a gun to an undocumented alien".

"Aviles, the undocument immigrant, was charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, served a little over six months in prison".

Sure seems that the current interpretation is that 2nd amendment rights don't apply to illegal aliens.

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

That's why I wrote "generally speaking". There's no legal precedent that anyone relies on for the notion that the criminal rights don't apply to illegal immigrants. I don't think it's something that can be said in an all or nothing way. The BoR never uses the word citizen, though that word does appear in other parts of the Constitution.

As for the BoR being a limit on government, you're right that the idea was that people wouldn't sign onto ratifying the Constitution without those protections. They wanted it in writing that our new government recognized it couldn't do these things, like forcing us to quarter soldiers, searching us without warrants, etc. So I view that as limiting government.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

There's an obvious conflict between the view in the INS questionnaire and the fact that it is illegal for an undocumented alien to own a firearm - if the Bill of Rights does in fact apply to any living here, the undocumented alien would have a 2nd amendment right to own a firearm.

I am concluding, from our discussion, that interpreting the Constitution is a lot like interpreting the Bible (I majored in religious studies, for whatever that's worth).

The text itself is not as clear and definitive as one might like - there are different approaches to interpreting it - the people who wrote it are dead, and lived in a very different world from the one we live in, it has been changed over time, etc.

I appreciate the fact that you have stopped insulting me though.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

And, I disagree with your characterization of the publication as "general" - it is quite specific is describing the individual, citizen nature of the rights, and goes on to enumerate them, starting with the 1st:

"Right to freedom of religion, speech, etc."

So the clear interpretation of those rights is that they are rights which individual citizens of the US are entitled to.

ebyrdstarr 4 years, 6 months ago

The publication describes itself as "an introductory guide". That is what I mean when I describe it as "general". It's a feel-good, "Hey, here's an introduction to American democracy" piece that spends at most 2 pages on the Bill of Rights and most of that is just a listing of the specific (dare I say individual, as in distinct) rights involved. It was never intended to be an authoritative piece on constitutional interpretation. The fact that you are relying on it as such is, I'm sorry to say, laughable.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

The majority opinion is quoted in wikipedia:

Kennedy wrote "If the 1st amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from, ...citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech".

Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe criticizes the decision as follows:

"Talking about a business corporation as merely another way that individuals might choose to organize their association with one another to pursue their common expressive aims is worse than unrealistic; it obscures the very real injustice and distortion entailed in the phenomenon of some people using other people's money to support candidates they have made no decision to support, or to oppose candidates they have made no decision to oppose".

I believe that's what I've been saying.

hail2oldku 4 years, 6 months ago

"scott3460 (anonymous) replies… Union leaders are more readily accountable to their membership for the choices they make. If the individuals who fund union activities with their dues are unhappy with the political choices, union elections can fairly easily change that leadership very easily. "

ROTFLMAO - Stop it, you're killing me.

salad 4 years, 6 months ago

Here's what this ruling does in relative terms to our "voice":

Joe citizen: you get whatever breath you can muster and yell.

Unions: You get a bull horn.

Corporations: You get a stadium sized 1,000,000 watt PA that's loud enough to show up on a seismograph.

Isn't that fair?

hail2oldku 4 years, 6 months ago

You must be scott3460's little sister.

independant1 4 years, 6 months ago

Contributors/Doners to Nancy Pelosi campaign coffer/war fund - E&J Gallo Winery $100,700 $100,700 $0 Akin, Gump et al $91,600 $54,300 $37,300 American Fedn of St/Cnty/Munic Employees $86,000 $3,500 $82,500 United Auto Workers $84,500 $0 $84,500 National Assn of Realtors $79,600 $0 $79,600 Teamsters Union $79,500 $0 $79,500 National Education Assn $73,500 $0 $73,500 Air Line Pilots Assn $71,500 $0 $71,500 Laborers Union $71,250 $0 $71,250 National Assn of Letter Carriers $66,000 $0 $66,000 Plumbers/Pipefitters Union $64,600 $0 $64,600 Machinists/Aerospace Workers Union $64,500 $0 $64,500 Sheet Metal Workers Union $63,500 $0 $63,500 American Medical Assn $63,100 $0 $63,100 AFL-CIO $62,800 $0 $62,800 Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers $62,500 $0 $62,500 United Food & Commercial Workers Union $58,500 $0 $58,500 United Transportation Union $58,200 $0 $58,200 Wells Fargo $57,750 $7,750 $50,000 American Federation of Teachers $54,750 $0 $54,750

independant1 4 years, 6 months ago

the numbers are TOTAL, INDIVIDUAL, PACS

George Lippencott 4 years, 6 months ago

This is the biggest bunch of hogwash I have seen recently - starting with a false premise of first amendment rights and personhood. The only question is the government’s ability to restrict actions by the citizens in whatever grouping we organize ourselves. Just where does the government derive the power to limit corporations buying copy or megabytes?

You government focused people seem to constantly forget that the constitution granted power to government. Power not granted rests with us. Where did we grant them such power??? That is the only question.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Where does the government get the power to limit individual monetary contributions?

It would be the same place, in my view.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Also, when we elect legislators who enact campaign finance regulations, it is in fact "we the people" acting in that fashion who approve those actions.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

There's an article on my home page today about political consulting firms.

From the article "this is creation of narrative. Her life right now has nothing to do with the lives of people working in call centers,...but your goal is to make it appear you can identify with them."

Just one of the consultants involved makes $90,000/mth in addition to various bonuses.

One of the heads of the company has his own "created narrative" on his web site, which neatly fails to mention that he was in charge of Columbia/HCA when it committed Medicare fraud, resulting in a $1.7 billion settlement to avoid criminal charges, and was ousted by the board.

"Consultants will find the one or two little things and magnify them to make it appear the candidate is someone who has overcome difficulties and triumphed in the end."

I find it remarkable that this sort of thing isn't obviously bad and wrong to everyone, regardless of political affiliation.

George Lippencott 4 years, 6 months ago

jafs (anonymous) replies… “Where does the government get the power to limit individual monetary contributions?”

That is the point. Government assumes power and the courts acting in our name limits them. This action worked just as it is supposed to work.

No, the only way new powers can be granted to the government is through constitutional amendment. Courts have stretched this and healthy arguments have ensued. The Commerce clause gets a healthy work out and a lot of stretching. The issue of whether we are simply applying old interpretations to new circumstances is a good one to argue. That is not the case here.

Be careful here. A conservative backlash could use the courts to take away power that your perceive the government has. This kind of issue works both ways.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Individual monetary contributions are still limited. Corporate advertising is now unlimited.

This "conservative" court acted in such a way as to overturn decades of campaign finance regulation, in complete contradiction of the conservative principle of respecting precedent.

George Lippencott 4 years, 6 months ago

Really? The sitting court overturned a power grap by the government to limit my freedoms. It is all in how you look at it. The government has only the powers I give it. When did I give it the power to limit the role of anything in an election. The constitution left most election matters to the states and the people The fact that the federal government seized that power does not make it constitutuional - even if of some standing. I question your assertion that there is precendence for this particular issue in previous supreme court findings. Most of them on this type issue (not this specific issue) have been rather narrow. Remember the Supreme Court had long standing precedence on the legality of slavery - and may have been right as far as the constitution went. That is why we amended it on that subject.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

When we vote for federally elected officials, we are participating in our system - when they enact legislation to limit campaign financing, they are speaking as our representatives.

The precedent I'm speaking about is the fact that we have had numerous campaign finance laws for quite some time now. If those laws don't reflect our beliefs, then we should vote for different representatives.

I would think, however, that a vast majority of Americans support restrictions on money in politics.

Not sure at all why you think that your personal freedoms are limited when we prohibit corporations from spending unlimited amounts of money on political advertising.

George Lippencott 4 years, 6 months ago

JAFS

Whatever our elected officials do they may not exceed the powers granted in the constitution. Electing them does not so empower them. Only an amendment to the constitution can increase government powers. Laws have to be constitutional ie within the powers already granted. The court found that this particuale excussion is not.

Are you seriously mixing constitutional power and legislative action?

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

That is correct.

Do you think, as starr does, that a (possibly foreign) corporation, when spending money on political advertising, is expressing their constitutional right to free speech?

I do not.

Therefore I do not find it unconstitutional for our government to limit, or prohibit, them from doing so.

Starr's very broad interpretation of the bill of rights as simply limiting government power, without regard to whom, strikes me as a mistake - I think it was written to protect American citizens, not other entities.

And, it would be odd to consider it as applied to foreign governments, or foreign citizens living in their own country, etc. We could wind up with some strange situations, like war being considered unconstitutional, as it violates the 14th amendment protection about depriving people of their lives without due process.

Let's say for a moment that we have a wholly foreign owned corporation - under this interpretation and this ruling, that corporation has the right to spend unlimited amounts of money on political advertising. Given that "money is power" (starr is absolutely right about that), this means that we are granting a corporation which is owned by non-citizens quite a large amount of power to influence elections. Do you think that sort of scenario is what the founders had in mind when they wrote the bill of rights?

I'm pretty certain that it's not.

George Lippencott 4 years, 6 months ago

Well, I don' think power to limit even foreign money in our elections is granted to our government. Perhaps it should.

Perhaps all money in elections should be limited. How about a constitutional amendment to provide the power to the government to do that and circumscribing that power to avoid strange excursions.

Limiting corporations does not really eliminate the ability of foreign players to play. They will just do so through other mediums.

You seem fixiated on corporations as if no other mechanism exists to dispense a lot of money for a specific interest.

Even Mr. Obama threw out the notion of the USCOC dispensing foreign money. When his spokesman was queried as to proof the answer was "well yoiu can not prove it isn't" Good loard - guilt by accusation - I thought we were passed that???

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

I have said over and over again that I would eliminate money from the political sphere completely, apart from a modest salary and benefit package for elected (and appointed) officials.

The point about corporations is that they are clearly not individuals, or groups of individuals joining together to express themselves, so the disconnect there should be obvious.

And, the point about foreign ones is particularly obvious, I would think. We don't let foreign citizens vote in our elections - why should we let their corporations influence them?

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Individual monetary contributions are still limited. Corporate advertising is now unlimited.

This "conservative" court acted in such a way as to overturn decades of campaign finance regulation, in complete contradiction of the conservative principle of respecting precedent.

They have in fact taken away power from the government (ie. we the people) with this decision.

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