Blaming Citizens United for Everything


Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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29 Responses

  1. Avatar Koz says:

    I for one hope the horror stories are true, but like Mark I suspect they’re an exaggeration.

    There’s one thing the liberal complaints about Citizens United tend to miss: money in politics is a force multiplier for message. If you have no message, the money to propagate it doesn’t help very much.Report

  2. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    It remains true that Citizens United is every bit as inexcusably partisan an example of judicial activism as Bush vs. Gore. Though it’s never called that, of course: the term is reserved for horrors like not criminalizing gay sex.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      @Mike Schilling, liberty is non-partisan.

      For the life of me, I cannot understand why “liberals” aren’t delighted that the government was prevented by the Supreme Court from regulating and suppressing speech.

      Jesus, the case was originally about a movie that was censored from being shown by the government!Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:


        And turned into corporations having First Amendment rights. I’m expecting them to get Second Amendment rights and being able to form private armies any day now.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          @Mike Schilling, a “corporation” is another way to say “a peacefully assembled group of *PEOPLE*”.

          I do not want the government able to censor books written by corporations, movies made by corporations, or speech made by corporations.

          We already have laws for slander, libel, and fraud.

          We should not be itching to find ways for the government to censor speech that it doesn’t approve of.

          I cannot see how that is not a cure far, far, far worse than any disease.Report

        • Avatar 62across says:

          @Mike Schilling and Jaybird, I don’t want government to censor books, movies or speech of peacefully assembled groups of *people* either.

          On the other hand, available advertising time is a finite resource in high demand at election time. It stands to reason that the time will be allocated based on who has the greatest capacity to pay for that time. The voices with the most money behind them crowd out the voices with the least money, effectively silencing them. That’s censorship by other name, is it not? The only difference is the mechanism used to determine which assembled group gets heard and which does not.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          @62across, but a government saying “okay, everybody gets a voice, oh, we don’t have room for everybody, we’ll give voices to people who meet the following criteria (because I’m sure you agree that removing the cranks won’t hurt the process that much)…” and now we’re having the government pick and choose who is and, more importantly, who is *NOT* heard.

          And that will be abused. Hard.Report

        • Avatar 62across says:

          @Jaybird, though I’m not convinced that is the inevitable outcome, I agree there could very likely be abuse were limits applied. Either way, we are left with those who get heard and those who don’t.

          My point is that government isn’t the only force in America that is capable of impinging on my liberty and it is myopic to only see the threat from that direction.

          Take the freedom of speech we’re discussing now. Say there are two assembled groups of people, one being the Board of Directors of MegaCorp and the other being the writers at the LOOG. Each group wants their views on the legalization of pot to be heard and hopefully have some influence. Are both groups equally free to say what they want and say it where they want it said? MegaCorp can air an ad during the World Series, while someone at LOOG can write a strongly worded blog post. What does the government have to do with this dynamic? Nothing that I can see.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          @Mike Schilling, the difference is that if the government gets involved, Megacorp’s lobbyists will help the congresscritters write a fair law to help protect the speech of everybody… and, oddly enough, enforcement will only appear against folks like those at the LOOG who are actively attempting to corrupt the children by pushing for illegal substances to become as ubiquitous in our society as Bud Light.

          I’m all for free speech in theory, but I’m not a supporter of people hurting children.

          Are you a supporter of people hurting children?Report

        • Avatar 62across says:

          @Mike Schilling, in your scenario, the government is merely a middle man.

          You’re right, more direct domination is preferable.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

          If corporations are people, why don’t they pay income tax at the same rate I do? Why do they get to deduct expenses when I don’t? Why can’t I transfer all my debts to my dog and let him go bankrupt?

          Equalize all of that, and we’ll talk about giving the free speech too.Report

      • Avatar Plinko says:

        @Jaybird, I think Mike it correct that the decision is horrible and partisan. I wish they had just struck down the rules allowing certain groups to get into direct political advertising. Associations do not have the rights of citizens, their members do. Strike down the limits on individual campaigning of any kind but require that individuals do it and stand behind it.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          @Plinko, oddly enough, I would be certain that if the government were allowed to say “sorry, you can’t say that”, it’s application of that law would look a lot like drug enforcement… it would hit the proverbial ghettos a hell of a lot harder than the folks breaking the law in the proverbial respectable parts of town.

          And *THAT* would be even more “horrible and partisan”.

          The government should not be censoring speech.Report

        • Avatar Plinko says:

          @Plinko, I don’t think you’re addressing the thrust of my argument which is that associations don’t possess rights to free speech and therefore cannot hold standing to demand a right to broadcast political messages. How is that partisan? It seems to me all political parties have plenty of supporting interests that want to run campagin ads.
          I contend the individual members possess those rights and they cannot be abridged. An association should still be allowed to send any political messages they want, but it should have to come from the group members, not from a front beyond which no one can see. This should be true for corporations or unions.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          @Plinko, so you admit that I have free speech, and Bob has free speech, but when Bob and I get together, we no longer have free speech?

          How does that work?Report

        • Avatar Plinko says:

          @Plinko, I submit that you both do, but that Bob&JayCorp does not. You or he may speak, you may put up signs, you may buy ads and claim a politician wishes to enact death panels. You may jointly do so – i.e. you could each pay a portion of the cost, or may put up a sign in each of your yards or speak together.
          But the corporation does not possess the right to do these things (note the corporation is an entity that is able to do certain things like enter into contracts). The government should be able to say ‘corporations cannot buy political ads’ as anything done by a corporation (for-profit or otherwise) is definitionally commercial speech and therefore not the free speech of individuals.

          I don not fool myself into thinking my view would be popular or even possible given settled case law. (and so in line with my position on the ‘Tenther’ issues – I don’t believe it needs to be enacted by some kind of fiat or that people with a different interpratation are destroying America).
          However, I also think PACs and other types of advocacy groups would exist, all that would change is their ability to pool resources to buy political ads without it explicitly coming from members who would have to sign onto the ad as their speech. No hiding behind associations of corporations that need not disclose their members or sources of money.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          @Plinko, So you are cool with the government, say, banning a book if it were a corporation book?

          This strikes me as going against not only the First Amendment but, like, gives an amount of power to the government that I do not want to see *ANYBODY* have.

          You really want Bush/Cheney to have the power to censor the corporations they don’t like?Report

        • Avatar Plinko says:

          Corporations cannot write a book, they can only publish or distribute the writings of an individual. Banning the book would be infringing on the free speech rights of the author(s). I don’t see the conflict.
          I am not worried about any powers Bush or Cheney might have as at the moment they’re private citizens. But what power does it imply?
          Any attempt at regulation could be thwarted simply by disclosing that the communication is the actual speech of particular individuals. Say the FCC wants to ban Jay&BobCorp.’s television ad warning us that Senate Candidate Statist would inevitably lead to the enaction of death panels – as long as the ad claims to be the views of Jay & Bob, the only members of Jay&BobCorp, it would be protected speech.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          @Plinko, I would say that corporations cannot write a commercial, narrate it, edit it, or air it.

          Only people do that.Report

        • Avatar Plinko says:

          @Jaybird, You’re right! And their work should be free from government restrictions on it’s dissemination as their work.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

          But only corporations can use corporate money to pay for it. And if you’re going to say that in doing so it’s representing it’s shareholders, first study up a bit on how corporate governance actually works (or, to be more precise, doesn’t)..Report

    • @Mike Schilling, I’ve got no interest in rearguing the merits of that decision yet again, but seeing as much of the opposition to the decision is rooted in fairly apocalyptic predictions of its effects and seeing as those effects have not actually materialized and seeing as media outlets and Dem politicians everywhere are nonetheless claimsing that those effects have materialized, it strikes me as important to point out that, in fact, those effects have not materialized.

      The merits of Citizens United are thus irrelevant to this post and completely off-topic. What is relevant to this post is:
      1. Whether the Citizens United decision is being used as a convenient scapegoat for any given third party ad campaign that is hostile to a Democrat; and
      2. Whether third party expenditures have any actually noticeable effect on election outcomes.

      Simply put: no matter what one’s opinion of the merits of the Citizens United decision, I would hope everyone would agree that media organizations and politicians should not be running around making completely and demonstrably false claims about what is and is not linked to that decision.Report

      • Avatar 62across says:

        @Mark Thompson, granted organizations and politicians should not be making false claims and you are right in this case that there is nothing to support the claim.

        But, this case and the other contest you cite are an awfully small sample size to support the counter-claim as well. Citizens United was just decided in January and it is still too soon to know the full ramifications of the ruling.Report

        • @62across, Agreed, but the burden is on the side claiming that there is a significant effect to make that point. So far, most of the claims I’ve seen along those lines are little better than the claim I attack here. If a claim that there’s a major effect is going to be based on one anecdote, then all that can be done is to either point out that it’s just an anecdote or disprove the anecdote.Report

  3. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    Jaybird’s right, of course. When you hinder, limit, interrupt, or surpress free political speech you’re no longer an American, or you’re ignorant, or a totalitarian, or just a plain old asshole. And, I don’t care if it’s an individual or a group of whatever name, of individuals who have freely chosen to associate. Who in the hell do these ignorant, stupid, statist Democrats think they are!Report

  4. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    When workers in a McDonald’s restaurant in Canton, Ohio, opened their paychecks this month, they found a pamphlet urging them to vote for the Republican candidates for governor, Senate and Congress, or possibly face financial repercussions.

    This is the owner exercising free political speech, right?Report