Supreme Stupidity: Best politicians money can buy

Today our country was officially sold out. In a 5-4 split along ideological lines, the Supreme Court gave corporations carte blanche to buy their politicians.

Overruling two important precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.

The 5-to-4 decision was a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle — that the government has no business regulating political speech. The dissenters said that allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace would corrupt democracy.

via Supreme Court Blocks Ban on Corporate Political Spending – NYTimes.com.

This all came out of a case on whether or not a corporation could pay to show an anti-Hillary movie on old school broadcast media. Apparently the Supremes haven’t been paying attention to video streaming sites like YouTube. The real issue is buying off politicians- it’s bad enough what the lobbyists spend:

A campaign finance watchdog’s analysis of insurance and HMO political contributions and lobbying expenses found the industries spent $126,430,438 over the first half of 2009 and $585,725,712 over the past two and a half years to influence public policy and elected officials. The group, Public Campaign Action Fund, found that in the first part of 2009, the industries were spending money at nearly a $700,000 a day clip to influence the political process and that the monthly pace of political spending this year has increased by nearly $400,000 over the average spent per month in the previous two years.

via INSURANCE AND HMO INDUSTRIES SPEND NEARLY $700,000 PER DAY TO KILL HEALTH CARE REFORM MEASURES | Public Campaign Action Fund.

How are our interests protected by that kind of spending power- especially, when campaign costs keep escalating?

Greg and I have a real short 3 minute discussion on the subject:

What do you think of this latest decision?

I think we have the best politicians money can buy.

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19 Responses

  1. Rahn Keucher January 21, 2010 / 11:39 pm

    O, Canada. . ..

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  2. Pseudonymous January 22, 2010 / 1:27 pm

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    The Constitution can be amended, but as it stands…it’s pretty cut and dry.

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  3. David Esrati January 22, 2010 / 2:32 pm

    @Psudonymous you are confusing “people” – breathing, living and human-  with corporations.

    Big difference. Check out what the word “responsible” means-

    Individuals can be held responsible- corporations- well, in a much different way.

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  4. Gene January 22, 2010 / 4:07 pm

    Ahhhh, mmmmm, ahhhh…. corporations don’t exist without people. Corporations also don’t talk. Corporations are held responsible all the time. But it is individuals in the corporations that screw up, so…..

    This is a non issue. Why don’t we all walk to work today.

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  5. Brian January 22, 2010 / 5:41 pm

    >Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press


    Yes, it’s a wonderful document, but I seriously doubt the Framers intended for us to equate Political Contributions with the concept of Free Speech.  This is an unintended consequence or a misinterpretation, but I’m not qualified to tell you which one.
    Does this mean the $2000 limit per individual for political contributions has been removed as well?   Or, does the ruling mean that Corporations can contribute up to $2000 (just like a Person), in which case all this hand-wringing is much ado about nothing?
    So far, I agree that it is a very bad ruling which will have dramatically bad consequences — not that our political system wasn’t completely bought-and-paid-for already, but this cinches the deal.

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  6. jstults January 22, 2010 / 6:08 pm

    Greg, your sentiment about not being able to compete with corporations as an individual is overly pessimistic; ‘netroots‘ campaigns like Mayor Leitzell’s, Senator Brown’s (and to a lesser extent even Esrati’s) show that plenty of money and political impact can be had by pooling the little contributions of individuals and using cheap, ubiquitous communication technologies to get the word out, no need for multi-millions on TV spots (though Brown did get the big party bucks and spots too).  I really think the people are more empowered by tech than ever, and we will trend towards more virtual, loose associations which can focus significant political clout with low overhead.  Maybe I’m too naive/optimistic, but I don’t think this ruling will slow that down very much.

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  7. Dan January 23, 2010 / 1:21 am

    @Pseudonymous
    I’ve never understood how the freedom of speech covers the right of on entity to transfer unlimited funds to another entity, no matter the political context.

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  8. Ice Bandit January 23, 2010 / 7:54 am

       Jay Leno walks into a bar. The bartender ambles up to him and says “hey, fella, why the long face?” Well David and Greg, the barkeep’s same question could be asked of you. As several of your posters have noted, this Supreme Court mulligan is a victory for free speech and personal freedom. The question the Supremes wrestled with was not of campaign finance but of censorship in general and curtailing political commentary in particular. As Pseudonymous notes, the very first amendment of doens’t say speech or press freedoms are suspended just because an election happens to be 30 days away. And as for the New York Times and other media outlets critical of the ruling, the Old Bandito noted they didn’t suspend political criticism during that critical 30 day period, for in the last election that is when these outlets shifted into hyper drive in praise of the Great Helmsman.  Their attitude seems to be “freedom for me but not for thee.” And if the Old Bandito decides to sit down and write a 10 million dollar check to the David Esrati campaign, the Dayton Satans motocycle gang or  Terri Lynn (that brown haired hooker who frequents the Circle K at East Fifth and McReynolds), that is his decision alone. What continues to puzzle the Old Bandito, David, is your Pavlovian hatred of corporations, insofar as 98 percent of them are not mega-corps, but the mom-and-pop variety that this economy needs for its’ resurrection. And that includes a small marketing outfit operating out of South Park………

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  9. Greg Hunter January 23, 2010 / 11:44 am

    Well I guess I am just one big dummy but I really cannot believe that the Framers, nor anyone with a brain would like to extend the rights of an individual with those of a Corporation.  I cannot conceive of anyone individual that would actually convey American Rights to a Corporation.  The Supremes have conveniently avoided this issue in their ruling but they are defacto fascists.
    Colbert
     
    Strait Dope
     
    Nader

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  10. jstults January 23, 2010 / 12:46 pm

    Greg:

    I really cannot believe that the Framers, nor anyone with a brain would like to extend the rights of an individual with those of a Corporation…

    What about non-profits, which get most of their funding from individual contributions?  This was the sort of ‘corporation’ that was the topic of this specific case, from the recent opinion:

    Citizens United is a nonprofit corporation. […] Citizens United has an annual budget of about $12million. Most of its funds are from donations by individuals; but, in addition, it accepts a small portion of its funds from for-profit corporations.
    […]
    The Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether.
    […]
    First is the uncertainty caused by the litigating position of the Government. As discussed above, see Part II–D, supra, the Government suggests, as an alternative argument, that an as-applied challenge might have merit. This argument proceeds on the premise that the nonprofit corporation involved here may have received only de minimis donations from for-profit corporations and that some nonprofit corporations may be exempted from the operation of the statute. […] The Government thus, by its own position, contributes to the uncertainty… When the Government holds out the possibility of ruling for Citizens United on a narrow ground yet refrains from adopting that position, the added uncertainty demonstrates the necessity to address the question of statutory validity.

    So if the for-profit corporate donations are a ‘small’ amount of their funding, are they exempt from the limits or not?  The government’s position pushed the court to a broad ruling on First Amendment issues because there was a grey area here.  I think this ruling strikes a good balance between protecting speech and protecting the republic from being bought.  Corporate funded speech can still be regulated, but it can’t be censored completely.
     
    The important take-away isn’t about for-profit corporation behaviour.  It’s about the power of the non-profit, technology-enabled association of citizens.  Virtual organizations like these are a great way for individuals to come together and achieve change without needing the backing of big commercial interests.  This ruling just allows commercial interests to contribute to those same non-profits too, and when they do those non-profits are still able to ‘speak’.
     
    For those who like to rail against ‘Inspector Gotcha’ at the local level, this part of the opinion should strike a chord:

    Campaign finance regulations now impose “unique and complex rules” on “71 distinct entities.” […] These entities are subject to separate rules for 33 different types of political speech. […] The FEC has adopted 568 pages of regulations, 1,278 pages of explanations and justifications for those regulations, and 1,771 advisory opinions since 1975.
    […]
    Yet, the FEC has created a regime that allows it to select what political speech is safe for public consumption by applying ambiguous tests. If parties want to avoid litigation and the possibility of civil and criminal penalties, they must either refrain from speaking or ask the FEC to issue an advisory opinion approving of the political speech in question. Government officials pore over each word of a text to see if, in their judgment, it accords with the 11 factor test they have promulgated. This is an unprecedented governmental intervention into the realm of speech.

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  11. David Esrati January 23, 2010 / 2:07 pm

    A few things-

    @ Bandito- no corporation at the corner of Bonner and Adams- I’m a sole proprietorship. I take responsibility for my work.

    @Jstults- surprise, there are a ton of voters who’ve never written an e-mail, looked at a blog, or read Drudge or Huffington-

    The only true way to provide absolute freedom of speech is to provide equal funding to all candidates- and do away with privately bought elections. Real campaign finance reform.

    Would any sane person (other than Michael Bloomberg) spend millions for a job that pays thousands?

    End of story.

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  12. Gene January 23, 2010 / 4:15 pm

    “Would any sane person (other than Michael Bloomberg) spend millions for a job that pays thousands?”

    Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, and Ross Perot to name a few.

    This is such a non-issue. Corporations already have influence on both sides of the coin. And really who cares? We elected Obama out of white guilt. Do you propose “guilt” voting be made illegal? Hell, the liberal media, bought and paid for, keeps ramming BS down our throats all the time. They affect elections more than corporations…. blame Olberman.

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  13. Dan January 23, 2010 / 4:46 pm

    @Gene
    I can’t believe people still use the term liberal media.  I mean NBC/MSNBC is owned by GE, which is pretty far from a liberal corporation.  ABC is owned by the bastion of ‘family values’ Disney Corp.  Liberal Media is dead, long live Corporate Media!
    Usually people spend millions to be elected to public office to officially make thousands but to have a steady stream of income from speaking deals, connections, consulting, etc.  Presidents, Senators and Congressmen don’t make a ton (relative to people in equivalent positions in the private sector) while in office, but they sure do rake it in afterward.

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  14. Greg Hunter January 24, 2010 / 1:03 am

    We elected Obama out of white guilt.

    Is that why you voted for him?  At least you are finally admitting that whites have some guilt.

    The sheeple have bought what the Corporations are selling.  Everybody loves to argue nuances but there is no way the Constitution should apply to Corporations.

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  15. jstults January 24, 2010 / 9:25 am

    Greg:

    Everybody loves to argue nuances but there is no way the Constitution should apply to Corporations.

    The text,

    …abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government…

    seems to already apply to certain types of corporations (<a href=”http://raglinen.com/2010/01/17/new-collection-treaties-of-peace-1783″>the press</a>), and ad-hoc organizations of people (assemblies).  Maybe I’m just reading too much into it, and the Republic is suffering from judicial activism here, but it seems like this is about more than just a single person standing up and talking on the corner or writing pamphlets in their basement.

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  16. Ice Bandit January 24, 2010 / 1:35 pm

    I really cannot believe that the Framers, nor anyone with a brain would like to extend the rights of an individual with those of a Corporation…(Greg Hunter)
    I never understood how the freedom of speech covers the right of on entity to transfer unlimited funds to another entity, no matter the political context.(Dan)
    Yeah, gentlemen, as Supreme Court decisions go, the Dartmouth College case ain’t all that sexy. Lacking the drama of a Dred Scott decision or a backstory like Brown v Topeka, this case just ain’t gonna’ be the subject of a major Hollywood motion picture. Yet the Dartmouth College case, in which the Supremes ruled that contracts by corporations are as valid as those signed by individuals, has been settled case law since 1819. And as a historical sidelight, Greg, the winning barrister for Dartmouth was Daniel Webster, so we will let the historical record reflect that he did indeed have a brain….
     

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  17. Bruce Kettelle January 25, 2010 / 4:55 pm

    There is an interesting description of the history of the corporate/personhood topic here
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_personhood_debate

    especially read far enough and find the history section that includes Jefferson’s take on the topic. He almost sounds a little like Esrati!!!!

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