Is democracy in peril? That's the conclusion of many political operatives and campaign finance reformers after Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. FEC, which removed some restrictions on corporate participation in political campaigns. In fact, the opposite is true (Star Tribune, Jan. 22).
Unless one believes more voices and more speech is "chaos," as one professor said, or prefers elections in which the political parties and the candidates they force upon us have more ability to control the information the public receives, as one GOP activist put it, then the court's decision is a big victory for robust and open debate.
Furthermore, corporations -- which are really just associations of people -- do not speak with one voice. They are large and small, for-profit and nonprofit, and often have widely diverging interests.
Refreshingly, the court's decision trusts the people themselves to make responsible judgments about the information they receive. In an age of increasing regulation and paternalism, that is a message some don't want you to hear.
JASON ADKINS, MINNEAPOLIS;
STAFF ATTORNEY, MINNESOTA CHAPTER, INSTITUTE FOR JUSTICE, WHICH FILED A FRIEND-OF-THE-COURT BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF CITIZENS UNITED
You’re absolutely right, Jason, corporations are just “associations of people.” Of course, so was the Wehrmacht. Al Qaeda is just an association of people, too, isn’t it?
And who can forget, as Tbogg (at least Spot thinks that’s who it was; he can’t find a link at the moment) reminds us, Soylent Green is people, too.
Rarely in the history of constitutional jurisprudence has such sophomoric thinking and rhetoric been offered to justify, well, such a sophomoric Supreme Court decision. Perhaps Jason will remind us soon that two wrongs don’t make a right. Jason isn’t alone, however.
First, there was Mitch McConnell and our own Doug Tice arguing that the decision merely levels the playing field between media corporations and other corporations. It would be tragic, in their view, if any corporation is left behind. Spot is sure they are both still sobbing with relief that the injustice has been cured.
And now comes Jason offering the jes’ people gambit. After all, says Jason, corporations come in all shapes and sizes, just like people! Big, little, for profit and non-profit.
But ask yourselves, which corporations on Jason’s little list are likely to spend big dollars? If you really think it’s the small ones, or the non-profits (except maybe ones that are bankrolled by other institutions for other than charitable purposes), you’re kidding yourself. Jason also forgot one category of corporations: foreign owned or controlled.
Jason, until a corporation checks itself in for a colonoscopy, Spot ain’t buyin’ it.
Justice John Paul Stevens, who read his long dissent in Citizens United from the bench, called the personhood of corporations a “conceit.”
It’s every bit of that, but Spot would add that it’s a delusion, too.
It is either naive or cunning of Jason to write that the court in Citizens United was putting its trust in the “people.” Never mind that the court already fuzzed up the meaning of people. It is a regrettable fact that the candidate with the most money behind him or her often wins. The decision is only going to assist in the transformation of elections into auctions.
Update: Forgot the link to Adkins’ letter; sorry.