Various thoughts on current events with an emphasis on politics, legal issues, books, movies and whatever is on my mind. Emails can be sent to email@example.com; please put "blog comments" in the subject line.
An interview on Colbert with Justice Stevens was more helpful in some ways than many analysts provide, including those who speak of "unlimited" funds that corporations now can provide. Basic point: corporations are persons for certain purposes, but in various contexts, persons of different types can be regulated -- even as to speech -- in different ways than others. Artificial persons don't, e.g., have self-incrimination rights, which allows for more coerced speech. An op-ed on the two year anniversary (tempus fugit):
Citizens United did not hold corporations to be persons, and the court has never said corporations deserve all the constitutional rights of humans.
The ruling ultimately rested its concern on the rights of humans, which it argued was assisted by various means of self-expression, including by corporations (e.g., NAACP). As the op-ed noted:
The question in any given case is whether protecting the association, group or, yes, corporation serves to protect the rights of actual people. Read fairly, Citizens United merely says that banning certain kinds of corporate expenditures infringes the constitutional interests of human beings. The court may have gotten the answer wrong, but it asked the right question.
The ruling also left open various regulations, specifically disclosure and disclaimer rules, while a recent ruling summarily upheld limits on foreign citizens. Again:
There are ways to address inordinate corporate power in politics that avoid razing the house to rid it of termites. Many ramifications of Citizens United can be addressed with more aggressive disclosure rules, limits on political involvement of companies receiving government contracts, or mandates that shareholders approve political expenditures.
The attempt to draw up constitutional amendments that allow Congress broad powers over corporate speech or suggest corporations don't have free speech rights is misguided besides being pipe dreams. They are likely to be woefully overbroad, it will be an uphill battle to even get it through Congress and powerful individuals and companies will retain power. If the Koch Brothers act as individuals, do we suddenly feel okay? The best path includes limiting power of corporations, small entities not as dangerous when they speak and spend:
The cure for this is more democracy within businesses — more participation in corporate governance by workers, communities, shareholders and consumers. If corporations were themselves more democratic, their participation in the nation’s political debate would be of little concern and might even be beneficial.
Silencing "corporations" will not do the trick. Stephen Colbert is doing great showing the silly nature of SuperPacs, but ultimately his point is that he is not really independent of the organization, not that Colbert Inc. is not. Again, powerful individuals and non-corporate entities (putting aside media corporations) are involved here too. It's silly to try to answer every wrong-headed person on the Internet like that famous cartoon notes, but some memes need to be addressed. The problem here is real, but if we don't know the nature of the problem, how will it be addressed? It's quite distressing, but misjudgment didn't start in 2009. No lie.