Thursday, June 28, 2007


The SCOTUS Ruling on Campaign Finance Reform

I actually am of mixed opinions about campaign finance reform in general, so I figure I won't post on whether or not I agree with the law SCOTUS struck down, however, two things have been bugging me about this ruling and its coverage in the media:

(1) Why do they always say "unions and corporations" as if the two are on equal footing here? It seems to me corporations can and do pump in a lot more money than unions do. What is the agenda behind trying to equate the two as if they had equal power and say? Hmm ...

(2) How do corporations have the same free speech rights as individuals?

Perhaps one of the law-talking folks who read this blog can fill us in on the case law here, but you'd think a strict constructionist would note that the Bill of Rights does not include rights for corporations and the original intent of many who pushed for the Bill of Rights was that corporations shouldn't even exist in the first place, and certainly not for the Bill of Rights to apply to corporations (or, for that matter, some of the Founders would be upset about us applying the Bill of Rights to people other than land-owning, non-Catholic white males, so we shouldn't always go by original intent ... and one wonders about someone, um, named Scalia being so keen to do so in other cases if not in this one).

At the very least, corporations are a legal fiction of an individual for the purposes of doing business. Thus, shouldn't corporations only have the rights of an individual, e.g. free speech (or in this case, paid advertising) only as much as they relate to the corporation's reason for being, i.e. to do business? (Of course, I'm not saying corporations shouldn't do extra-curricular things like charity, etc., but, in doing such things outside of business, they needn't have the same protections as individuals). So it might rightly be considered, IMHO, unconstitutional to prohibit corporations from funding issues ads related to business matters (why they exist) but it certainly should not be un-constitutional to prohibit corporations from funding non-business related paid political speech.

Thus, if the corporation in question wanted to fund an ad against Feingold (the irony that he was the target seems to have been lost on the media which usually loves to point out this sort of irony involving 'reformers' in order to advance a general, elite-friendly futility thesis regarding political reforms), they might have a right to fund an ad saying "call Feingold and ask him why he's bad for business". But that's not what happened: the ad said approximately "call Feingold and ask him why he loves abortions".

There is something fundamentally dishonest here. Unless the corporation in question had an interest in opposing abortion legislation, the corporation doesn't have any legal rights here. The corporation is a fictive, legal person only in order to efficiently deal with business and related issues, not to speak out on abortion. And anyway, since when do we have a right to be misleading or dishonest?

If the corporation wanted to run an ad against Feingold 'cause they felt he was bad for business, they should have done so, and perhaps federal law shouldn't interfere with this. But to hide a corporate agenda behind social conservatism? That's dishonest, has nothing to do with the reason for having a corporation as a legal, fictive individual, and thus corporations should not, in this sphere be treated as individuals with free speech rights.

OTOH, the Democrats should be all over this as it perfectly illustrates how the GOP tries to smuggle a corporatist agenda under the radar using social conservatism to get out the votes, etc., nu?

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