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The Citizens United Decision

The left has been wailing and gnashing their teeth over the  Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision which gutted the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.  Apparently, democracy is now doomed, because Wal-Mart and Bank of America can spend money on political campaigns.

The hypocrisy is striking …

  • Every major news organization is a corporation, and there is plenty of electioneering going on at every one of them.  News Corp. and  Tribune Company can publish political opinion and endorse candidates but Citizens United and Wal-mart can’t.
  • It is fine for unions or environmental groups or clubs (AARP, AAA) to be able to petition the government or support a candidate but not for a corporation or private company.
  • Does anyone seriously think that McCain-Feingold reduced the impact of money or special interests on American politics?  No, it was simply another weapon in the arsenal of the left.

This discussion (and the whining from the left) is not about what is right, or about democracy.  It is about their disappointment that a big advantage they held has been removed.  It is illustrative to examine the specific case that was contested.  Citizens United is a non-profit corporation that was planning to purchase cable television air time and show a documentary highly critical of Hillary Clinton.  The FEC didn’t go after Michael Moore and his clearly partisan (and demonstrably untruthful) “Fahrenheit 9/11”, nor did they go after MSNBC and Keith Olbermann, who would spew hate at his Grandmother if she were Republican.

Clearly, money isn’t speech.  But just as clearly, limiting the use of money limits speech.  Given the clarity of the language in the First Amendment, it is obviously unconstitutional.  Just as clearly a corporation is not a person, but is an association of persons, and should be able to represent shareholders just as a union, environmental group, or other organization can represent members.

In my mind, the big surprise is that it took so long for the Supreme Court to toss McCain-Feingold, and that 4 of the justices got it wrong!

Update (h/t Stossel) – Apparently, the ACLU sided with Citizens United.  This is good, although surprising.

Update – Xrlq makes a similar argument, with some great examples.

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