A First Amendment Round-Up

Friday, April 01, 2011


The Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case has sparked much controversy but New York Times Supreme Court correspondent Adam Liptak says the decision fits neatly into this Court's broad interpretation of protected speech under the First Amendment. Liptak discusses some recent First Amendment cases and what's up next for the court.

Comments [10]

Dana Franchitto from S. Wellfleet, MA.

Well, mark you have given me more food for thought and I thank you. But I think what's important here is to get corporate money out of elections becasue they wield too much power. Even if it's true that some voices will always be louder than others ,that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to level the playing field.

Apr. 08 2011 04:57 PM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

To Dana, thanks for your temperate response. I just don't think you can write a law that censors 'corporate' speech (quite apart from the fairly straight-forward language of the First Amendment) that doesn't end up censoring people or organizations with whom you agree. The First Amendment says nothing about 'equalizing' speech. It just says that people, including groups of people, can say what they want without government intereference.

'Corporations' are not always profit-seeking, it's just a form of legal organization. Even cities are chartered as 'corporations'. You would have to try to censor 'profit-seeking' corporations. As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, artificial 'non-profit' corporations would proliferate as 'fronts'. Or else 'corporations' would buy up or establish their own news outlets - General Electric, for example, owns NBC and MSNBC. The latter have free speech rights but the parent company does not? That doesn't scan. Universities are usually organized as 'non-profit' corporations in the sense that they don't pay dividends to stockholders. But that doesn't stop them from (a) being institutionally 'greedy', as parents of college students know well, and (b) involving themselves in partisan politics, especially when education budgets are being drawn up.

'Campaign finance reform' has always foundered on its own contradictions, which may be one reason that the Supreme Court threw up its hands, and struck down logically tortured attempts to restrict it. Some voices will always be louder than others, no matter what laws anyone tries to write. The AARP, which is a non-profit organization, is far more powerful than any other lobby in Washington.

Apr. 06 2011 05:38 PM
David Schneider from Germany

It strikes me as strange that the Supreme Court makes an exception to First Amendment rights as regards pornography, but refuses to do so with violence, as in the case from California about video games.
Roughly cooked down, it seems as if the courts are saying portrayals of sex are more dangerous or harmful to the land than portrayals of violence.
An American living in Germany, I note it's somewhat the reverse here, where Puritanism never existed, and where the effects of portrayals of violence are all too memorable.

Apr. 06 2011 03:58 PM
Dana Franchitto from S. Wellfleet, MA.

to Mark,
You make some good technichal points that I hadn't thought of, such as how would the corporate media ply its trade if denied 1st amendment rights(although this may be an implication of capitalism). but remember that corporations are legal fictions created by the state. no stae aapproval? no corporation. they wer created originally, to make money a certain way .once they did their jobs they were liquidated.but now they've become out of control frankenstein monsters that enjoy undue advantage over citizens. People, realpersons fall in love ,have dreams, vote, eat ,sleep, defecate , think and eventually die. Corporations do none of these . They can always reform or be controlled by different people whose poersonal aspirations are subsumed by corporate pursuit of the bottom line. i could write an essay here but space and time forbid. The First Amendment was meant for everybody equally. That's democracy. But the current state of affairs can be likened to me facing Mike Tyson in the boxing ring. regardless of how well constructed the ring is, the playing field can hardly be declared "level"

Apr. 05 2011 04:16 PM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

. . . which is illustrated, I suppose, by the election of leftist Senators back in the day like Burton K. Wheeler and Mike Mansfield. Liberals want to have it both ways; criticizing corporations for environmental harm done by things like copper mining, but senstive to labor's desire to preserve those mining jobs.

The Supreme Court's ruling was the only logical one under the First Amendment - which makes no exception for censorship intended to impose a fake equality on debate. What's shocking is that four left-wing justices were willing to support censorship if freedom of speech doesn't produce the outcomes they wanted. If corporations are strong, it's because consumers vote with their dollars to make them strong. I have to laugh - - even the 'anti-corporate' teachers in the Wisconsin protests didn't seem to be aware that those pension funds they are fighting for are invested on evil old Wall Street. And NPR certainly wasn't going to inform them of this reality. It would make them look delusional.

Apr. 04 2011 01:01 PM
Carole Mackin from Helena, MT

It only took the Amalgamated Copper Company ten short years to dominate government -- both state and local in Montana. It took over sixty years for the citizens to regain control.

The People's Power League; made up of independent newspapermen, labor, lawyers, farmers and ranchers; was one of the pivitol groups fighting the corporation. The group understood that corporate funding of campaigns was a major factor allowing the Amalgamated to take power. The PPL passed a Corupt Practices Act by initiative to bar those contributions.

What the PPL managed to stuff back into Pandora's Box, the Supreme Court has released. Montanans want you to know that it takes only ten years to lose control of your government.

Apr. 04 2011 10:40 AM
Carole Mackin from Helena, MT

It took only ten years for the Amalgamated Copper Company to subvert state goverment and make the residents into little more that surfs serving the interests of Company.
Montanans organized the People's Power League 100 years ago to take back their state. The stuggle was not fully decided until 60 years later when the remnants of the corporation imploded under mandates to clean up the damage done to the land.

Apr. 04 2011 10:21 AM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

To Dana, your comment would, if logical, uphold censorship against the corporate press. Is it a 'level' playing field when the Sulzberger or Graham families, or Rupert Murdoch (or OTM) have a bigger 'voice' than you or I? You are making this comment on a web page financed by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, I have to note.

If 'corporations' (i.e., aggregates of individuals acting collectively for greater impact) do not have some of the same attributes as 'individuals', then why are they subject to taxation, lawsuits, and regulation? As it is, much more money is spent advertising dog food in this country than on advertising political campaigns. The cowardly and hypocritical establishment press in this country supported restrictions on political advertising because it is information that encroaches on what they regard as their industry's monopoly.

Left-wing governments have invariably used the 'economic' argument to justify censorship. Chavez is using it in Venezuela. As a consumer, I feel that I have the right to hear an argument no matter who is making it. The Left wants to censor and intimidate political speech based on who is making it. Liptak must have some sensitivity to the illogic of saying that The New York Times Corporation should have freedom of speech but some corporation making ball bearings should not.

Apr. 03 2011 03:55 PM
Dana Franchitto from S.Wellfleet, Ma.

Adam Liptak is not telling the whole story in his comments about the Roberts court being more committed to 1st amendment than the Left. What the left is saying is that.the playing field is not equal as befits a democracy because of the large financial resources wielded by corporations. the 1st amendment is a sacred trust to be held by all people(which Corps are not) not a market commodity to be sold to the highest bidder.

Apr. 03 2011 02:33 PM
Dana Franchitto from S.Wellfleet, Ma.

has Justice Roberts actually ruled against corporate "personhood"?(I would be in favor of that.)

Apr. 03 2011 02:29 PM

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