We share Lawrence Lessig’s view that the Supreme Court wrongly decided Citizens United v. FEC and that the Court should recognize that institutional corruption is as pernicious as quid pro quo corruption. Lessig’s description of the Court’s aggressive dismissal of legislative judgment about campaign finance laws as “First Amendment Lochnerism” is exactly right. But the threat of the Citizens United ruling to our democracy goes far beyond the narrow definition of corruption. Here we have some disagreement with Lessig, who seems insufficiently worried about the expansion of First Amendment protection to “corporate speech” at the expense of the people’s speech. The ruling in Citizens United follows many over the past three decades that have used unprecedented notions of corporate speech in order to strike down state and federal legislation. Among these, Citizens United represents the most extreme extension of the First Amendment to corporate rights. A mistake of this magnitude can be corrected only by constitutional amendment, historically a useful tool for the protection of democracy. Corporations today use the First Amendment in order to overcome reforms they dislike—reforms to environmental regulation, health care, consumer protections, civil rights, and campaign finance, to name a few areas of legislation. Ignoring common sense and the framers’ intent, entities created by law argue that they are “persons” with free-speech rights, thereby debasing the place of the First Amendment in American democracy. Unfettered corporate speech (in reality, corporate spending) turns the free-speech clause of the First Amendment—intended to protect and encourage self-government by a diverse, freethinking people—into a threat to self-government by a free-thinking people. The domination of our political process by corporate money and resulting corporate power undermines self-government, and the Court essentially has stated that the Constitution provides the people no recourse against that power. FULL STORY HERE:


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