April 20, 2012

The Newest Hope for Limiting Political Expression in America -- and its Unintended Consequences

Carroll Andrew Morse

A top priority for liberals inside of government has become responding to the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United vs. FEC ruling, which prohibits government from banning political speech by corporations when the speech is independent of a campaign organization. Possible responses have come in two flavors.

One response (endorsed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse at the end of last year) was a move to amend the Constitution to give government an enumerated power to limit the political activities of both corporations and individuals. This, so far, has not gained much favor with the public.

The second response, pubicly supported by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi this week, is an amendment to strip Constitutional rights from people when they act through corporations. Though presumably intended to be less egregious than the first solution -- hey, it's only "corporations" affected, and not individuals -- this answer to the perceived problem is not as clean as some of its supporters might hope. As Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy explains...

...just as Congress could therefore ban the speech of nonmedia business corporations, it could ban publications by corporate-run newspapers and magazines -- which I think includes nearly all such newspapers and magazines in the country....State legislatures and local governments could do the same. All of them could seize corporate property without providing compensation, and without providing due process. All corporate entities would be stripped of all constitutional rights...
Given the scope of the "People's Rights Amendment" that has been proposed, Rhode Island liberals may want to consider, for example, what its impact would be on collective bargaining organizations, which would no longer be covered under the US Constitution's "no impairment of contracts" clause, allowing state governments to change the terms of contracts at will -- though this might actually be a feature and not a bug in the minds of some of RI's "pragmatic progressives"!

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" pubicly supported by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi this week, is an amendment to strip Constitutional rights from people when they act through corporations."

H'mmm. That would put you most of the way towards banning the Constitutional rights of people acting through labor unions. Maybe she's on to something ...

Posted by: Monique at April 20, 2012 10:02 PM

I'd like to know where Mr. Doherty stands on outside corporate influence of elections? Bet he stands with the corporations and not the people - especially since, as reported on the Buddy Cianci show - Doherty accepted $10,000.00 dollars from, you guessed it, Citizen's United! This guy doesn't care who he grabs cash from. He only gave back the Cicone cash when Dan Yorke told him to. So Brendan, corporations are people too? not in CD-1 their not. Another rich white guy republican content to have outside forces buy him a seat in Congress or, why don't you give back the 10 large - right, never happen!

Posted by: Tanya at April 21, 2012 3:20 PM

" Another rich white guy "

... really, you shouldn't look down on David Cicilline because of his wealth. (There are many, many other reasons to do so.)

"He only gave back the Cicone cash when Dan Yorke told him to"


Posted by: Monique at April 21, 2012 6:56 PM

" Another rich white guy "

Oh sure, we are supposed to be concerned about how 'rich white guys" (but presumably not rich guys of another color)spend their money, but ignore ow the government spends our money. Another recipe for success!

Posted by: Warrington Faust at April 21, 2012 9:21 PM

Apparently David Cicilline doesn't share your views Tanya.

GilbaneBuilding $7,500
Goldman Sachs $7,000
Kraft Group $6,000
National Amusements $6,000
Bain Capital $5,000
Baroda Ventures $5,000
Capitol City Group $5,000
CVS/Caremark Corp $5,000
Honeywell International $5,000

Posted by: Max D at April 21, 2012 10:27 PM

Good post but I wonder about the headline. The consequences of this amendment are so obvious that I can't believe they're unintended.

Posted by: David P at April 22, 2012 4:30 PM

"Bain Capital $5,000"

[gasp] David Cicilline accepted a contribution from a company once managed by ... I can't believe I'm saying this. David Cicilline took a contribution from a company once managed by ..... Mitt Romney?!?!?!

The horror ...

Posted by: Monique at April 23, 2012 7:21 AM
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