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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Are. You. Kidding me? (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Are. You. Kidding me?
Alcon
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Justices Block Key Part of Campaign Law

quote:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that corporations may spend as freely as they like to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, easing decades-old limits on business efforts to influence federal campaigns.

By a 5-4 vote, the court overturned a 20-year-old ruling that said companies can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to produce and run their own campaign ads. The decision, which almost certainly will also allow labor unions to participate more freely in campaigns, threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.

I'm... I'm speechless.
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TomDavidson
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Heh. Is that an intentional pun? [Wink]
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Alcon
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No, I was just speechless. But now that you point it out, it couldn't be more appropriate [Big Grin]
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kmbboots
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Get lot of money and you won't be speechless anymore. You will have EXTRA speech. All the speech your money can buy!
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DarkKnight
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quote:
Get lot of money and you won't be speechless anymore. You will have EXTRA speech. All the speech your money can buy!
You will have the same speech that others enjoy, like all the pundits who have their own shows, print media, and on and on.
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kmbboots
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Sure. Because they buy it. Or work for someone who has bought it.
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Tresopax
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This ruling seems reasonable.

It also seems increasingly less relevant in the YouTube age, when an ad can be produced on a very limited budget, not be distributed at all except via the internet, and nevertheless make national headlines.

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Mucus
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Man, combined with that Massachusetts thread, I really gotta start investing in US healthcare.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
It also seems increasingly less relevant in the YouTube age, when an ad can be produced on a very limited budget, not be distributed at all except via the internet, and nevertheless make national headlines.
Interesting, Tres. As I parse it, this ruling is actually more relevant in the YouTube age.
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DarkKnight
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kmbboots, I'm honestly confused about your second post, can you clarify it?
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Tresopax
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quote:
Interesting, Tres. As I parse it, this ruling is actually more relevant in the YouTube age.
Why so?
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TomDavidson
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Because the Internet is surprisingly vulnerable to well-funded injections of "pseudo-viral" capital, and because (as I understand it) many laws regarding the timing of politically-themed television broadcasts remain unaffected by this.
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Itsame
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I am not exactly pleased with this ruling, but I think that it was the right one. It appears that if we are to treat companies as agents (which we have in most cases when acting against them), then we ought to give them the rights that we give to any other agent.
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kmbboots
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Of course. Pundits, newspapers and so forth are owned by people who have bought them. With money. Of course, they are supposed to follow certain rules and are not supposed to be out and out commercials for specific candidates. That has pretty clearly been eroding. This erodes it even further.
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DarkKnight
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Nothing was preventing the talk shows from promoting or demoting any candidate they wish before this ruling.
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kmbboots
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As I noted:
quote:
Of course, they are supposed to follow certain rules and are not supposed to be out and out commercials for specific candidates. That has pretty clearly been eroding.

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The White Whale
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There was a point brought up on Reddit that went:

If corporations are people, and it's possible for a corporation to own another corporation, then isn't this basically slavery? A person owning a person.

I don't really think that we can claim it's slavery, but at the same time I think it's absurd to think of corporations as people, and treat them as such for some things, and not others.

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DarkKnight
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kmbboots, then this should be a good thing because now many more people can participate
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fugu13
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Corporations are treated as people in some circumstances as a useful legal fiction that deals with the fact they are, in fact, an association composed of individual people. It makes many things much simpler.

Since owning a corporation does not entail owning the people who own the corporation, no such problem arises.

quote:
I think it's absurd to think of corporations as people, and treat them as such for some things, and not others.
This isn't the problem you think it is. As I observe above, the actions of corporations are often treated as the actions of people because there are people acting through the corporation, and thus it would be restricting their rights to restrict the actions of the corporation in certain ways. This does not mean it makes sense to shoehorn every right of a person into the rights of corporations.

Also, keep in mind that person does not mean citizen.

You can find a number of cogent explanations on Bainbridge's blog and in his writings.

An academic article: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=10335

Comments on the recent case: http://www.professorbainbridge.com/professorbainbridgecom/2010/01/citizens-united-v-fec-the-first-amendment-rights-of-corporate-persons.html

Another comment: http://www.professorbainbridge.com/professorbainbridgecom/2009/09/sonia-sotomayor-and-the-corporate-personhood.html

Volokh's (very thorough) take: http://volokh.com/posts/1253637850.shtml

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fugu13
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quote:
Get lot of money and you won't be speechless anymore. You will have EXTRA speech. All the speech your money can buy!
So, if I'm understanding you correctly, you think individuals should be forbidden from spending too much (whatever too much is) on promoting causes they support?
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TomDavidson
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I think she's saying that corporations are not individuals and should not be considered to be individuals. I think there are a number of issues arising from the conflation of money with speech (to which I don't universally object) that are relatively minor when applied to a mortal human being but become considerably more problematic when the "individual" in this case is a corporate entity.
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fugu13
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She has an awfully strange way of saying that, then.

Also, I don't think the argument is that doing so won't cause problems, but that the owners of corporations have the right to use (by collective action) the corporation to engage in free speech, as it is their property, just as a large supply of paint and signboards could be their property and used to engage in speech.

There are many people who cause problems, often extreme ones, by having free speech rights. That's usually not considered a very good reason to remove those rights.

The articles I link have some good examples. Notable organizations that wouldn't have free speech rights if corporations didn't: newspapers & churches.

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TomDavidson
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Well, I think she's speaking in a way that realistically simplifies (rather than distorts) the political reality, so it's probably okay to overlook it.

---------

quote:
the owners of corporations have the right to use (by collective action) the corporation to engage in free speech, as it is their property
I understand the logic. The problem is that corporations cannot be realistically described as tools applied on behalf of individuals; that model simply doesn't accurately describe corporate behavior.
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fugu13
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I strongly suspect she's against the use of large amounts of money for free speech in general, not just by corporations. My suspicion is aided by it being part of the literal content she protested. She can clarify as she desires.
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fugu13
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Why not? For instance, numerous corporations (I believe the majority, by a lot) are solely owned by individuals. They behave very much as tools applied on behalf of individuals.

Then there are the still-numerous corporations owned by a small number of individuals who also very much direct the operations of the corporation directly.

Perhaps you mean the small minority of corporations that are public corporations? I can see at least the glimmer of an argument there.

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Tresopax
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quote:
Because the Internet is surprisingly vulnerable to well-funded injections of "pseudo-viral" capital, and because (as I understand it) many laws regarding the timing of politically-themed television broadcasts remain unaffected by this.
But the amount of capital needed to orchestrate that sort of thing is decreasing over time, meaning you don't really need a ton of money to do it - just some organization. A campaign could reasonably do it on their own without deep pockets.
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kmbboots
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fugu, I don't see where I have protested anything. I did note that if you have a lot of money, you have more "speech" available to you. This ruling, as I understand it, makes this even more the case.
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fugu13
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Oh, and in this particular case, there's basically no question that the majority of members of this corporation were in favor of engaging in this sort of speech; that was the founding reason of the organization. That makes restrictions on this corporation's speech in this particular instance most definitely a restriction of the members' free speech rights.
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fugu13
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Perhaps I misinterpreted the tone. Returning to my original question, do you agree or disagree with this statement:

quote:
individuals should be forbidden from spending too much (whatever too much is) on promoting causes they support
?
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TomDavidson
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quote:
Perhaps you mean the small minority of corporations that are public corporations? I can see at least the glimmer of an argument there.
I think that's the scariest possibility, yes. No one's worried about Bob's Bait Shop -- with three stores in Atlas County! -- influencing the presidential election.
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kmbboots
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Aren't there still limits on my campaign spending?

I do think that there is a fundamental problem with a government that purports to be of, by, and for the people becoming more and more of, by, and for whoever can purchase it. This ruling is just a tiny part of that fundamental problem.

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Jhai
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I believe you can spend however much you would like putting up signs or creating pamphlets to support whatever you would like to support. What you can't do is make a direct donation more than X amount to a particular candidate's campaign. And neither can corporations:

quote:
By a 5-4 vote, the court overturned two of its own decisions as well as the decades-old law that said companies and labor unions can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to produce and run their own campaign ads. The decision threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.

It leaves in place a prohibition on direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions.


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Tstorm
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Maybe we should focus on finance reform that requires all donations to be recorded and publicly accessible. If you accept money from a private individual, a PAC, or a public corporation, then it's recorded and available for anyone to peruse.
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fugu13
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Tstorm: That's already required for the most important races and many sorts of organizations.

See here: http://www.fec.gov/disclosure.shtml

(And there are numerous private organizations that then parse the data and make it available in easily searchable forms, for free, in a healthy exercise of their corporate free speech rights).

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Tstorm
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I know that it is, but I think it should be expanded, in my humble opinion.
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fugu13
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Could you clarify what you want expanded?
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Lisa
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Pretty inevitable, once you grant corporations the rights of a "person".
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Bokonon
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I just think that corporations, being instruments, ostensibly for protecting individuals from financial liability, should not have its owners shielded from political liability. That is, I think that if a corporation wants to use money for political speech, the individual owners identities should be easily and obviously accessible. That would include the owners of any other corporations that are owners of said corporation.

At the very least. Just because a corporation can keep you from losing your house in case it goes under, doesn't mean it should protect you from potential hits (or boosts) to your political reputation.

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natural_mystic
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quote:
Originally posted by Jhai:
I believe you can spend however much you would like putting up signs or creating pamphlets to support whatever you would like to support. What you can't do is make a direct donation more than X amount to a particular candidate's campaign. And neither can corporations:

quote:
By a 5-4 vote, the court overturned two of its own decisions as well as the decades-old law that said companies and labor unions can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to produce and run their own campaign ads. The decision threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.

It leaves in place a prohibition on direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions.


One wonders how meaningful this prohibition actually is now. If a corporation can coordinate with a candidate and agree to, say, do all the attack ads against the opponent effectively a donation has been made as the candidate can direct their funds elsewhere.
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fugu13
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Large shareholders of public companies are already so identified. Closely held companies (where owners are the directors) are also frequently easy to determine the main owners of (since they're usually the directors)

Of course, individuals are not required to divulge that they are the one engaging in speak. It is entirely legal for an individual to post flyers anonymously, publish a paper anonymously, or do many other sorts of speech anonymously. I'm not sure if individuals are required to identify themselves for any sort of political speech other than donations (while corporations are frequently required to at least identify themselves, even if not their owners).

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fugu13
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natural_mystic: I believe that level of collusion would be illegal. Not that it would always be easy to prove.
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Tstorm
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Yeah, fugu, for one thing, I'd like to see every state doing it for state elections.

I'd also like to make sure there aren't any loopholes. Because I'm sure there are...

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Bokonon
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Well since I don't believe individuals and corporations are the same thing, I don't have a problem with higher standards of transparency. And when I mean identification, I mean requiring a phone number and/or web site, and also requiring that they register every ad they've funded and where it was broadcast on a publicly available registry.

Then they can spend all the money they want. Or if they don't like that, they can spend the money as individuals to post flyers anonymously, or even under a pseudonym.

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fugu13
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A phone number or website?

That's quite a requirement to be posted for nearly every person in America, since nearly every person in America owns a part of some company that engages in political speech.

If you want to go that route, you might as well advocate forbidding all public corporations from engaging in speech. It would be a more forthright method of achieving the same ends.

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Bokonon
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Well, I am sympathetic to that opinion, but since it is unconstitutional, I was proposing another way.

I'd be open to only documented the board and C-level execs, or any other way, to make it somewhat less onerous.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:
natural_mystic: I believe that level of collusion would be illegal. Not that it would always be easy to prove.

And yet I have no doubt that it happens on a regular basis. For both parties. That's basically what 527s are, and increasingly every candidate has their own PAC. They're fancy slush funds.

I can't think of a satisfying solution to the problem that wouldn't give me pause for constitutional reasons. But I'm unhappy with the status quo.

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AchillesHeel
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Dont worry about it, you are still as free as you were yesterday.... just now rich international corporations are more free than you.

Oh crap.

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fugu13
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Again, take a look at the actual case. A group of citizens that banded together for the express purpose of collectively speaking about political issues was forbidden from doing so. That is what the supreme court struck down. International corporations coming along for the ride (and, as an aside, having no more, and slightly less, right to free speech) is just a minor side effect.
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TomDavidson
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Were it in fact minor, I don't think people would be as bothered.
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fugu13
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I did not say it without a certain wry tone.

Of course, that it is not minor is far from proven. In particular, as we're not talking about donations, but political speech of other kinds, I think you'll find that remarkably few large international corporations engage in much even of the sorts that have long been allowed. They just aren't very interested in it.

If you perhaps have some numbers showing they have been maximizing their use of legally allowable political speech, or any other hard evidence that would suggest this decision heralds a barrage of political speech by large international corporations?

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