Free Speech Incorporated: What Would Our Forefather’s Do?

founding fathers, citizens unitedOpinion by Mark Kneubuhl –

(June 26, 2012)  Many liberals believe (or at least preach) that corporations are anti-environment.  And, in a perfect world, a well-managed, community-minded corporation should be weary of all peripheral consequences. But to be fully cognizant of your actions and reactions – whether for or against, is a human trait, which corporations are not.

Or are they?  In 2010, this idea came to a head in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission,  in which the Court held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions.

Prior to that, the state of Montana already had an existing law on its books forbidding corporate political spending. The law dated back to 1912, when the “copper kings” and other mining barons largely controlled the state’s politics. Montana’s high court said that, even after Citizens United, the legacy of corruption and other factors unique to Montana justified the continued ban on spending by corporations in the state.

But on  Monday, the Supreme Court reaffirmed its 2-year-old decision allowing corporations to spend freely to influence elections. And to no one’s surprise, it was the same five justices who formed the majority in the Citizens United case two years ago who said in an unsigned opinion that Montana’s arguments “either were already rejected in Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case.”

But kudos to Montana for sticking to their guns and at least trying to stop this crazy idea that corporations have the same free speech rights as human beings. Corporations don’t make decisions, they don’t go to jail when they do something wrong and they don’t bear arms… people do!

Furthermore, when a corporation contributes to a candidate does that donation represent the wishes of ALL the shareholders?  I think not, but rather only those on the board who were put there to look after the financial interest of the shareholders, not their political interest.

Allowing corporations to lavishly contribute to political campaigns only serves to further destabilize our system of representative government by giving even more influence to those who have many shares versus those who have few.

And while the U.S. Supreme Court continues to uphold its decision on the Citizens United case, polls show that the vast majority of Americans want to see reform.

Earlier this year 1,000 voters were surveyed by the independent polling group, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, which revealed that 62 percent of all voters oppose the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, three-fourth of which, reported “strong” opposition.

Furthermore, public opinion research conducted for in 2010 and in 2011 found that voters strongly believed that corporate favoritism in the political arena carried over to the judicial system, and that most individuals did not enjoy the same protections and access to a fair hearing as corporations.

In addition, the work carried out by our founding fathers in the crafting of the US Constitution and articles, was based on the widespread and individual acceptance of personal responsibility. And although it is impossible to know, my belief is that this first generation of American leaders could not have envisioned a time when a man’s handshake was any different from his word. I believe that these America’s founders would have been puzzled by the concept of a corporation having the same free speech rights as human beings.  I can envision the scene in my head as they consider such a proposal. History tells us they were a group of the deepest and most profound thinkers.  I can see them poised in deep thought and having some short but poignant conversations.

And then I see them breaking down in a gut-busting roar of laughter.


Posted by at June 26, 2012
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