Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Move to Amend

Here's a group that wants to amend the First Amendment in the wake of the Supreme Court's recent decision in favor of free speech (paragraph below on the decision is from Wikipedia):

The majority opinion, which was delivered by Justice Kennedy...Kennedy wrote: "If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech." He also noted that since there was no way to distinguish between media and other corporations, these restrictions would allow Congress to suppress political speech in newspapers, books, television and blogs.

The group, Move To Amend, a "project" of something called the Campaign to Legalize Democracy (I'm against them just based on their name!) says:

We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to:

* Firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.
* Guarantee the right to vote and to participate, and to have our votes and participation count.
* Protect local communities, their economies, and democracies against illegitimate "preemption" actions by global, national, and state governments.

Well, maybe that last one, depending on interpretation, has some merit.

As for money not being speech, here's what the great Glenn Greenwald has to say:

Anyone who believes that would have to say that there’s no First Amendment problem with any law that restricts the spending of money for political purposes, such as:

“It shall be illegal for anyone to spend money to criticize laws enacted by the Congress; all citizens shall still be free to express their views on such laws, provided no money is spent;” or

“It shall be illegal for anyone to spend money advocating Constitutional rights for accused terrorists; all citizens shall still be free to express their views on such matters, provided no money is spent”; or

“It shall be illegal for anyone to spend money promoting a candidate not registered with either the Democratic or Republican Party; all citizens shall still be free to advocate for such candidates, provided no money is spent.”-source

And here's Greenwald on what the Supreme Court got right.


  1. I would bet my left nut they don't touch the first ammendment, and I really hope they don't.

    I also like the pre-emptive law. States and even communities within those states ought to have the right to play experimental politics, trying out new things which may work and be adopted by other places. Still, I wish that were suggested seperately.

    Unless we're going to somehow have the government equally fund every candidate who wants to run (total nightmare...), we're going to have to concede that private individuals can use their own funds. This will therefore always favor the wealthy, so there's not much getting around it (Bloomberg...). I guess they could try to put limits on how much any one source can donate to you and have the same limit for how much of your own money you can spend, but it would still favor those who appeal to the most people who can afford to donate the maximum.

    I'm not personally upset about any of the private donations. I just hate corporate donations and non-profit/church propoganda. Corporations should be allowed to make commercial propoganda all they want, but non-profits/churches don't even pay taxes. They should have to pay admission if they want political power.

  2. The founding fathers had no intent for this perversion of the 1st amendment. They, in fact, were suspicious of corporate power (East India Tea Company) comes to mind. Roberts pushing this as an association of persons is ridiculous and has no foundation in the history of the founding fathers and their thoughts on the matter which was intended for flesh and blood human beings. Might I suggest a review of the blog at the Harvard Business Review, for a discussion on the opinions of historians of this ruling. This is purely an ideological decision on the part of the Roberts court.

  3. If Corporations lose their personhood and are exempted from enjoying the rights and protections of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights then they can be regulated strictly by their primary business function. All lobbying of Congress would then be only on the merits of the proposed legislation and not with bags of money intended for the candidacy of the representative.
    Freedom of Speech would not be affected in any way for any human citizen; not even corporate executives who may spend money expressing themselves.
    People with a common goal may pool their individual contributions without having to incorporate.
    Today, Corporations enjoy equal protection under the law. That means that if a judgment goes against them , they can appeal. However, if a human wants to appeal, they are limited by money and time. The appeal process ends when the individual runs out of money or he dies. Corporations will never run out of money and they are immortal.
    Corporations are not people. Corporations are an efficient and necessary economic tool in our present day economy. However, when the SCOTUS says that Corporations are equal under the law to human citizens, then “We the People” will be guaranteed to be excluded from representational government.

  4. All opponents to Move To Amend have to avoid three basic issues:

    1) Move To Amend is promoting traditional Constitutionalism and original intent. The proposed amendment is limited to one single issue. It clarifies the meaning of personhood to be limited to what the Founding Fathers meant by 'persons' when they wrote the Constitution.

    Constitutional persons are different than legal persons. So, constitutional rights are different than legal rights. In traditional Constitutionalism, the rights of humans precede and trump all laws and all government. Whether or not one believes in natural rights, Constitutional rights are declared as being inalienable rights. They aren't given to us by government.

    However, corporations are inventions of government by definition and design. A corporation can't have a Constitutional right for the Constitution came before all government laws and creations. None of this says anything about the legal construction of corporations as fictional persons. It just means that legal personhood says nothing about Constitutional personhood. They are simply two separate things. But the opponents of Move To Amend seek to conflate the two.

    2) Studies have shown that money influences politics.

    Obviously, more money means more influence and unlimited money potentially means unlimited influence. The opponents of Move To Amend will point to some particular election in order to say that this particular candidate spent a bunch of money and yet still lost, but this is cherrypicking data. When all elections are looked at, the pattern becomes clear. In most cases, the candidate that gets the most money wins.

    Money isn't speech. The Founders never intended money to be speech and would have found the concept absurd. It's just a way of trying to extend a Constitutional right to a corporation, but the Founders never intended corporations to have Constitutional rights. It makes no more sense to say that corporations have a right to free speech than to say that corporations have a right to vote or a right to pursue happiness.

    3) The unlimited spending allowed by Citizens United is extremely unpopular among the American public. Move To Amend, however, is extremely popular.

    It isn't just popular among one single group, as the opponents would like to portray. Move To Amend bills have been passed all across the country, including in conservative places. This is an issue that cuts across the political spectrum. It is true populism.

    In a democracy, it is hard to get around the public seeing something as being fundamentally undemocratic. It's a strange notion that a moneyed and political elite should tell the democratic public what democracy means. The American people genuinely want self-governance. That is what the Founders wanted as well.

    This goes back to original intent. It is something that has always concerned Americans, as our country was founded with specific ideals. We know the reasons the American Revolution was fought and we know the debates involved in forming a new country. The first action was to declare independence and the second action was to create a Constitution, a declaration of purpose for our society.

    We don't have to speculate about this. We can go back so as to read the words of the Founders and understand the context of events.


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