Thursday, January 21, 2010

Why the Supreme Court Decision Allowing Direct Corporate Spending on Elections is Correct

Good for the US Supreme Court for overturning the 20-year ban on direct corporate spending on elections.  Last time I checked, the First Amendment - "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" - contained no language excluding corporations from its protections.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, no great champion of the First Amendment, predictably voted with the minority - that is, to uphold the ban.  President Obama, apparently also no great friend of freedom of speech, said the decision gives a "green light" to special interests.   Predictably, Keith Olbermann just finished ranting about the decision.  Fortunately his guest, constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, tried to set Olbermann straight.

Contrary to Senator Schumer of New York, the decision has "not just predetermined the winners of next November's elections."   The decision is not political.  It favors neither party.  It favors freedom.  (I'm a lifelong Democrat, who voted for Obama.)

Justice Stevens, who wrote the minority, dissenting opinion, thinks the First Amendment was not intended to apply to corporations, which  "are not human beings. They can't vote and can't run for office."  But  by that reasoning, The New York Times and The Washington Post would have been entitled to no First Amendment protection when Richard Nixon tried to prevent them from publishing the Pentagon Papers.

It's hard, I know, to support the right of people or organizations to speak and write and buy ads when you utterly and vehemently disagree with their positions.  But that is precisely what the First Amendment was designed to support and protect.   Because it protects the expression not just of opinions you may detest, but your own most cherished opinions, when others may find them detestable.
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