Saturday, January 23, 2010

Historic Decision Reversing Campaign Laws

The Supreme Court, in a five to four decision, on  this Thursday overturned a six decade old law designed to limit the influence of large corporations and unions on elections.

The new ruling will allow for unlimited spending by both large business and unions in support of, or opposition to candidates for Congress and the presidency.

The six decade old law essentially prohibited labor unions and companies from using monies from their general treasuries for the purpose of producing and running campaign ads. The reversal however leaves intact the prohibition on direct contributions from businesses and unions.

The decision of the court also overturned the McCain/Feingold campaign finance bill which prohibited corporate and union funded issue ads in the final days of a campaign.

The case brought before the High Court by Citizens United, was framed essentially as a first amendment issue. That is the right of organizations to exercise their right to free speech expressing   their position on political  issues and candidates. 

Since it is difficult the grasp the concept of corporations, or unions, as  individuals it is equally as difficult to immediately understand how freedom of speech would apply to organizations. Whether they be corporations or unions. This is why initially I felt the decision was a mistake. However, after rethinking the issue, at a non emotional level,  I now believe the Court's decision was proper.   

As corporations and unions are organizations being made up of individuals that form a consensus opinion or judgment, it is proper that these opinions are allowed  to be heard. As a matter of principle the Government should not limit the right of organizations to express their opinions and judgement on political issues. Nor should the Government allow these organization to directly contribute money to political campaigns. 

The real concerns should be directed at  1) limiting government interference and excessive or unneeded regulation on the business sector , 2) eliminating government subsidies and favorable treatment to corporations who come begging for favors, and 3) revise the tax code on corporations so as to allow for investment in growth opportunities and training.

The following is an excerpt from the CATO Institute. 

 "Under the new ruling, will businesses (and labor unions) dominate talk about candidates and elections? Well, for two decades before McCain-Feingold, both could spend freely on advertising about candidates for federal office. Such spending made up a relatively small part of election-related speech and no one group dominated said the political arena.

Still, yesterday's ruling might lead to more election spending by both corporations and unions. It is important to remember, however, that none of this money will go directly to candidates for office. It will go instead to broadcasting or otherwise communicating speech about candidates and issues. Such increases in spending should be welcome because studies have shown that more spending—more political communication—leads to better-informed voters.

Finally, we need to keep the central question in mind here: Who should decide how much Americans can speak during elections? As Justice Kennedy said in announcing the opinion:

"If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits jailing citizens for engaging in political speech." The Supreme Court has decided the First Amendment does have force. Now the American people have the right to decide how much to spend on their own political speech. We all will benefit from this affirmation of our Constitution."

Read the complete article at CATO.

The concern that continues to trouble me is the number of foreign owned corporations doing business in the United States. This change in law may benefit their self interest at the expense of America's interests. From a purely philosophical , and perhaps legal view, applying these newly reinstated  freedom to foreign owned corporations may be defensible. The greater question is, should a foreign corporation doing business in the U.S. have the stage to influence our politics. and possibly government policy in their favor?

In the end the decision was the right one for liberty and the right to free speech. Free speech for Americans, and American (100% owned) corporations.

Via: New York Times
Via: The Humble Libertarian


  1. I almost always love the Cato Institute's analysis. Thanks for the link love!

  2. I also like their no nonsense analysis. This was a difficult one for me to decide on. However, after reading multiple opinions and analysis's I had no choice but to change my initial (and somewhat emotionally clouded) opinion.

    Thanks for the help on this one.

    The more I read your razor sharp analysis of issues the more I will likely link to you.

    Thank's for stopping by RN USA.

  3. if a corporation can be taxed and regulated then they have every right to be a participant in the political process.

    our whole government was based upon the concept of no taxation without representation. and representative government is participating government.

  4. Griper - Good points all!

    I am however still somewhat troubled by the foreign corporation dilemma.

  5. "I am however still somewhat troubled by the foreign corporation dilemma"

    be a little more specific, RN. that can be interpreted a few different ways.

  6. Two decades ago there also was no such thing as lobbyists and K Street.

    Corporations are not organizations of members; they are legal entities established by the government to protect investors and their investment.

    Their purpose is one fold, to allow for individuals to achieve an economic goal: PROFIT.

    The investors in this corporation have all the freedom of speech that each and everyone of us have.

    I own two companies so now I can make three times the contribution to causes and things I believe in than you can. What gets lost in the concept of corporation is the fact that everyone thinks about Fortune 500 companies while most corporations in this country are privately held or closely held companies.

    The other real issue is that the money a corporation spends where the spending is determined by a CEO is not the CEO's money but rather than of the shareholders.

    I do not believe that any organization should be entitled to advertise or promote one set of views or one candidate over another.

    Politics must return to the individiual: Where the politician meets face to face with the citizens rather than hiding behind slick advertising, campaign staff, and polls....

    If, as you claim to believe, that government should be smaller, then you have to return the power back to the individual....this decision is a step in the opposite direction.

    As far as taxation without representation, corporations have a totally different tax structure than individuals do, which is one reason people like me form corporations rather than operate as sole propreitors...

    Corporations have all the representation they need....they have lawyers to represent them in court, they have jobs for office holders if they lose elections or if another administration takes over, they have hundreds of organizations with offices in Washington to promote their cause.

    Goldman Sachs has a direct line to the Treasury Department and to the Fed Chairman.

    Don't pity the corporation...pity the individual, pity the third party.....pity freedom of speech.....

    Don't think for yourself...let CATO tell you what to think....

    Remember, money talks and shit walks.....this decision gave money a megaphone....

  7. TAO - I think for myself. CATO is merely a resource, not unlike you. After a reasonable period of time,coupled with several competing sources and great reflection, I came down as I have.

    If you believe I let others think for me your are wrong.

    Insulting the opposing viewpoint (from yours) and those who hold it simply because they don't agree does not win your argument.

    but perhaps it is the liberal way. I know you do not define yourself as a liberal and I understand why. But please do not insult those who disagree after they have given reasoned thought to a position.

    I have always respected your insight and you have changed my thinking on more than one issue. insulting me will not change my mind or win the issue with those who think as I do.

  8. Rational, I apologize if I insulted you, that was not my intent.

    If we believe in smaller government and in capitalism then we all have to acknowledge that the influence of special interests and corporations on our political system is a big part of the problem.

    Conservatives go on and on about the evils of unions in politics and in our economic system and we blame them for all that is wrong with our ability to compete...

    Yet, we do not say one thing about the organizations that are created by corporations and business interests that do the same thing.

    Anyone who runs to the government for assistance does so because they are looking for freebies and an unfair competitive makes no difference whether that is a group of people or a group of companies.

    You of all people should recognize from your readings of Ayn Rand that this is evil....

    Recognize that this decision will not make government smaller nor less intrusive.

    You love to use the word "liberal" every chance you get when conversing with me...Why? Is it a slap down of some sort?

    What is liberal about wanting government out of my life and out of the business of supporting corporations?

    What is liberal about wanting a balanced budget?

    What is liberal about wanting our troops to stay out of international affairs and just maintain and protect our borders.

    If you sit and look at the Swiss Health Care plan you will realize that it is more capitalistic than anything the Democrats and Conservatives have come up with....and it returns the decision making about insurance back to the individual rather than having companies making the insurance decision for their employees...

    That is why I support the Swiss Health Care Plan: It gives power back to the individual.

    That is why I am against this Supreme Court takes power away from individuals.

    "Individual Liberties and private enterprise...."

    ...we can't get there from here....

    This bill benefits RHINO's.....and will push conservatives and libertarians even further out of potential consideration.

    This will push auditing the fed even further away from being enacted...

    This is not the case of the choice of the 'the lesser of two evils'

    What difference does it make about whether a corporation is 'foreign' when in fact some of the largest corporations in the United States largest shareholders are foreign?

    I used to marvel at how the democrats and all their welfare programs actually kept people poor...welfare, rent subsidies, daycare subsidies, medical cards were all income based and rather than gradually being phased out they all stopped once a person earned a certain amount of wages.

    I had employees who would quit their jobs when they realized that they were reaching the point where they were earning too much....and facing the loss of all of the government support.

    I used to tell democrats that your safety net had actually become a cage that one could not escape from.

    I believe Hayek calls this 'unintended consequences'

    Well, it appears that now the Republicans are going to find out about the unintended consequences of their decisions too...

    Government will not get smaller, it will get bigger and since taxes will not increase the debt will continue to increase....

    I see no reason why I should trade the slavery of big government for the slavery of big business.

    Not much of a difference to me....

  9. Griper - Specifically foreign owned corporation.

  10. TAO - Many of the points you raise here I would not necessarily disagree with.

    In fact I have supported balanced budgets, deficit reduction, controlled spending,even moderate tax increase at the right time and for the proper reasons.

    These things should be supported by both "liberal" and "conservative". Both have failed and the government continues to grow, and become ever more intrusive in our lives.

    The specific issue is the right to express positions, whether they be individual, corporate, or union. I ultimately came down on the side of the court ruling.

    I did not say unions and corporations should have the right to donate money directly to candidates running for office. In fact I believe that should be prohibited and oversight in this respect should exist and perhaps be made stronger.

    The expense of putting out an add in favor of, or in opposition to particular candidates should fall with in the realm of free speech.

    Prohibit the government from giving handouts (subsidies) to business yes, and same applies to favored treatment of unions by the government.

    When all is said and done this is a divisive issue for certain. Perhaps not an easy one for many to determine where they stand.

    It took me a few days of reflecting on the pros and cons, as well as the rationale to land as I did.

    Perhaps the Griper said it best;

    "if a corporation can be taxed and regulated then they have every right to be a participant in the political process."

    As always TAO, thanks for your insight and contributions.

  11. RN,
    The idea of foreign owned corporations still doesn't get it. we have foreign owned and foreign runned corporations that import goods to us. we also have foreign owned but domestically run corporations, like toyota.

    but regardless if we are to adhere to the idea of no taxation without representation we must give voice to both because they are still taxed.

    and those that are foreign owned but but domestically run are run by citizens of the US and any tax on that has an effect upon the citizens also.

    when we get passed the idea of protectionism and create a free trade zone,,then we can debate the issue again.

  12. Griper - Foreign owned, foreign controlled, foreign interests.

    Free trade? Who as benefits by our current free trade policy.

    It ain't been the good ole USA, that is for sure.

    Level playing field? Somehow we have managed to tilt the field to the benefit of our trading partners.

    Ahh yes my friend, when the field is level we can indeed revisit. I am not holding my breath.

  13. the american individual has benefitted from free trade, RN with lower prices.
    think in terms of the individual, RN.

  14. Operative word is has. Yes I realize at one time the individual has benefited. Perhaps still does.

    I am referring to the potentially negative effect of foreign corporation influence politically on American interests.

    It troubles me a bit. Perhaps not so much for myself as for those who come after.

    Perhaps it will become a mute point one day.

  15. RN,
    "It troubles me a bit. Perhaps not so much for myself as for those who come after."

    each generation has to fight their own battle in regards to the kind of govewernment they want just as we do. that is true for every generation. we live under a government that is far different from the one that our parents lived under and they lived under a government that was different from their own parents.

    the most we can do is leave them a nation worth fighting for just as our parents left us a nation worth fighting for.

    and that means instilling into our kids the principles of government worth fighting for too and then placing our trust in them.

  16. Griper - Agreed.

    Of course...

    we first do our best to instill the values that made our country great in our children's generation just as our parents did in our generation...

    then we must pass the torch to the next generation...

    it troubles me still...

    Perhaps it is only natural, or perhaps it's just me.

  17. Kiramatali -Thank you,and thanks for stopping by at RN USA.


As this site encourages free speech and expression any and all honest political commentary is acceptable. Comments with cursing or vulgar language will not be posted.

Effective 3/4/18 Anonymous commenting has been disabled and this site has reverted to comment moderation. This unfortunate action is necessary due to the volume of Anonymous comments that are either off topic or irrelevant to the post subject.

While we appreciate and encourage all political viewpoints we feel no obligation to post comments that fail to rise to the standards of decency and decorum we have set for Rational Nation USA.

Thank you for your understanding... The management.