Freedom of Speech 2010

Freedom of Speech 2010

In a landmark decision today, five members of the United States Supreme Court gave new meaning to the phrase “Money Talks”  by adding it to the First Amendment. Read about it here and here. Lawyers and gluttons for punishment may read the majority opinion in Citizens United v. U.S. Federal Election Commission.

Image (“Freedom of Speech, after Norman Rockwell and the U.S. Supreme Court”) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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17 Responses to “Freedom of Speech 2010”

  1. NRB Says:

    Of course, you’re unable to logically explain WHY this is a bad decision. It’s actually not.

  2. Mike Licht Says:

    You’re right, NRB. It’s not entirely bad. The flood of corporate advertising dollars is bound to prolong the life of Old Media.

    But equating money with speech and corporations with flesh-and-blood citizens protected by the Bill of Rights is patently absurd.

    Corporate interests have more cash, so this ill-conceived 5-4 decision allows them more “freedom.” It is the “freedom” to buy and monopolize the public forum, purchasing huge blocks of broadcast time and advertising space. It is the “freedom” to use mountains of corporate cash to intimidate incumbents and influence pending legislation.

    This is hardly beneficial to the health of the Republic.

    Doctrinaire “deregulation” destroyed our economy; it is now positioned to make a flawed electoral system even worse.

  3. Chris Fox Says:

    Freedom of speech is intended to nurture civic debate. The SCOTUS ruling isn’t about speech, it’s about volume, giving all the rights to whoever has the biggest megaphone. As if we didn’t already have enough corporate influence on our political discourse, after 30 years of steady Grover Norquist drumbeating about market forces and global competition, now the corporations with billions to throw at elections will drown out everyone else. Can you imagine ever again having a president who isn’t a reed in their wind?

  4. win Says:

    Ahh, so the court says that government must prove their compelling reason to restrict free speech and that is a problem.

    I see no problem with that [snip] ….

  5. Mike Licht Says:

    Win: Hold it right there. What kind of speech is in your wallet?

  6. Seth Sengel Says:

    Tomorrow’s America brought to you by YOUR AD HERE.

    There was a time in this great nation when corporations had public charters. If the electorate opposed a corporation’s policies or decisions, the electorate could vote to revoke the charter. Now corporations have more freedom and flexibility than individuals. A corporation is treated as a citizen in open court but has far more tax shelter/avoidance options than any American. How do we define the American Corporation? Does more than 50% of its work force have to be American? Can it buy votes for favored candidates while simultaneously sending our manufacturing and tech support jobs to India?

    This is not America. This is The United States of The Almighty Dollar, and money is still the root of all evil. Going forward, anyone not in the upper 5% [of income] has no voice. Everyone is equal… but some are more equal than others. [link added -ml]

  7. Mike Licht Says:

    Update: Best headlines to date.

    “Supreme Court legalizes everything America hates about lobbyists buying Washington,” Brent Budowsky, The Hill

    “Supreme Court Tells Big Business To Spend Itself To Death,” Douglas A. McIntyre, 24/

    “Campaigns up for sale,” the editors, Boston Herald

    “Teddy Roosevelt Was Right: Ban ALL Corporate Contributions,” John Nichols, The Nation

    “Government by the people, RIP,” the editors, Detriot Free Press

    “Money Isn’t Speech and Corporations Aren’t People,” David Kairys, Slate

    “Conservative Supremes: superheroes of hypocrisy,” Eva Rodriguez, Washington Post blog

  8. RoflDopolus Says:

    This is a sad day for democracy. By claiming that money is the same as speech we have effectively created an oligarchy, not a democracy. 2.5% of the people control 80% of the wealth in this country; that means they now control 80% of the speech. Though everyone is allowed (for now) to say what they wish, there is no way for the little guy to be heard. 97.5% of the population is going to be drowned out by the influx of money and advertising.

  9. Laurie Says:

    Here’s an interactive map of the plaintiffs – Citizens United

    [ provides excellent maps of power relationships. – ml]

  10. Howie Says:

    The corporations that publish the nations newspapers have always been able to print editorials stating their favorite candidates for each elective office, and include the reasons why. So now other corporations have been given the same right. Sounds FAIR to me.

  11. Mike Licht Says:

    Howie Says: The corporations that publish the nations newspapers have always been able to print editorials stating their favorite candidates for each elective office, and include the reasons why.

    Wrong. Professional newspapers have Editorial Boards, and candidates for office appear before them and answer questions. Editorial endorsements are made largely on the basis of such meetings.

    Why are these Q&A sessions not reported in the newspapers? Because of the “firewall” between the opinion and reporting divisions of reputable news organizations.

  12. Laurie Says:

    I was a newspaper person for decades, and participated in countless budget meetings. “Budget” in this sense didn’t deal with bottom-line profits; it meant a discussion of top stories of the day and where they would be played.

    Those who haven’t participated in the process will think me naive or defensive, but I have to say that money wasn’t even a consideration at these sessions.

    The culture of the news business – not at the corporate level, but at the newroom level – is very different from that of other companies. To deny that is to further jeopardize quality news coverage, which is already at the precipice.

  13. Lawrence E. Rafferty Says:

    This decision was bought and paid for long ago when these punks were appointed to the Supreme Court after telling Congress that they will respect stare decisis. Of course, to the neocons stare decisis means deference to Wall Street. If anyone thinks that corporations should be considered “persons” under the Constitution, why do corporations pay a lower tax rate than the rest of us citizens?

    [Link added. -ml]

  14. Mike Licht Says:

    Lawrence E. Rafferty writes: If … corporations should be considered “persons” under the Constitution, why do corporations pay a lower tax rate than the rest of us citizens?

    All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

  15. Lawrence E. Rafferty Says:

    I think [flesh-and-blood] citizens should ask for the same “rights” that a corporation gets in order to level the playing field. Shouldn’t a personal bankruptcy be as unrestrictive as a corporate bankruptcy?

  16. Conservatives Vote for Ron Paul « NotionsCapital Says:

    […] Action Conference (CPAC) a “conservative convention.” Perhaps this reflects the recent Supreme Court ruling giving corporations the political rights of flesh-and-blood citizens.  Certainly CPAC’s big […]

  17. Mississippi Votes ‘No’ on Unborn Personhood « NotionsCapital Says:

    […] the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision granting enhanced ‘personhood’ to corporations, allowing them the free speech to purchase all the votes they can […]

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