Saving Democracy from activist judges

It was announced today, in response to the recent Supreme Court ruling giving corporations unprecedented influence over the American elections, that Representatives John Conyers and Donna Edwards had introduced a Constitutional amendment to remedy the situation. The amendment, which is being called the Free Speech for People Amendment, reads as follows:

Amendment XXVIII

Section 1. The sovereign right of the people to govern being essential to a free democracy, the First Amendment shall not be construed to limit the authority of Congress and the States to define, regulate, and restrict the spending and other activity of any corporation, limited liability entity, or other corporate entity created by state or federal law or the law of another nation.

Section 2. Nothing contained in this Article shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.

And, in related news, our friend Lawrence Lessig just launched a new online initiative called Fix Congress First, which is dedicated to both the idea of a Constitutional amendment on the corporate funding of election campaigns, and the passage of the Fair Elections Now Act, which would accomplish the following:

Under this legislation, congressional candidates who raise a threshold number of small-dollar donations would qualify for a chunk of funding—several hundred thousand dollars for House, millions for many Senate races. If they accept this funding, they can’t raise big-dollar donations. But they can raise contributions up to $100, which would be matched four to one by a central fund. Reduced fees for TV airtime is also an element of this bill, creating an incentive for politicians to opt into this system and run people-powered campaigns.

I’d encourage you all to read up on these issues, and write to your elected officials, reminding them that corporations aren’t people, and that money isn’t free speech.

And why is it that we don’t hear the right howling about “activist judges” anymore? It seems that, for a few years, it was all that they could talk about.

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99 Comments

  1. Posted February 4, 2010 at 1:56 am | Permalink

    Every politician currently serving got elected under the current system. Therefore, to them, the system works.

    Conyers and Edwards can gin up the base by proposing amendments like this that have zero chance of going through.

    If Lessig wants to have a real legislative reform effect, the man needs to win an election.

  2. Posted February 4, 2010 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    The Fair Elections Now act is co-sponsored by a number of politicians, on both sides of aisle. So it may not be such a long-shot. I share your concern about Conyers though. I like the guy, and what he says. But he doesn’t have a track record of being all that effective. I’m thinking primarily of his half-hearted efforts to impeach Bush. (And I still can’t figure out why he’d be married to Monica Conyers.)

  3. Edward
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    If I remember correctly, the last big blowup over activist judges had to do with the Terri Schiavo case in Pennsylvania.

  4. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    It’s not judicial activism to rule in keeping with the Constitution for shit’s sake. That’s their job.

  5. Ed
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    That was also the job of all the courts before them, who they just overturned.

  6. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Like that’s the first time that’s ever happened to a previous bad ruling! You should read the opinion of the court. It was the right decision for this case.

  7. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    …and I love that the XXVIII Amendment not only excepts media corporations, but gives Congress the power to regulate ANY activity of a non-media corporation, no matter what legislative body chartered it, even though they never had that enumerated power in the first place!

    This is like watching children trying to figure out how to use dynamite.

    Everybody pretends to love the Bill of Rights until it benefits the people they hate.

  8. EOS
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Are we talking about the activist judges who found the right to privacy hidden in the Bill of Rights? You know, the judges who thought the murder of the youngest and most vulnerable humans was a private decision somehow protected by the constitution.

    Or are we talking about the judges that rule that the Christmas holiday can’t be celebrated in public with religious symbols unless they are outnumbered by reindeer?

    I’m with BA on this one. Upholding the Constitution is not activism.

  9. Ed
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    What, in your opinion, made the first rulings “bad,” and this one correct?

    On one hand you’re telling us we should respect the ruling of the Supreme Court, and on the other you’re telling us that their previous rulings were bullshit. The logic of your argument escapes me.

  10. Ed
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Also, there’s a good article on Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards at The Nation:

    http://www.alternet.org/story/145535/progressive_leader_donna_edwards_is_out_in_front_to_stop_corporate_dominance_of_elections

  11. EOS
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    The SC should uphold the Constitution in its rulings. Their proper role is to interpret existing law, not to legislate new laws. (Ius dicere, non ius dare.)

  12. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Read the opinion of the court, Ed. They explain it much better than I could, and in great detail. Want me to put up a link to it or something?

  13. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    …and thanks for agreeing with me EOS, but the 9th and 10th Amendments certainly lend themselves to conclude that there exist many rights left unenumerated in the Bill of Rights that are retained by the States and the People if not granted to the feds. I say this in response to your saying that the right of privacy is not in the Constitution, and the implication that it therefore doesn’t exist. But maybe I’m just inferring something you’re not implying.

  14. Stephen
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    From Mr. Lessig:

    Yesterday I introduced you to our new website, FixCongressFirst.org, which is dedicated to reforming our political system through the Fair Elections Now Act.

    As you explored this new site, you might have wondered, “Fix Congress first… then what?”

    We all know it’s going to take a comprehensive effort to achieve the kind of lasting reform that our democracy needs. Passing the Fair Elections Now Act is an essential first step, and with your support I know we can help make this legislation into law.

    But the Citizens United ruling two weeks ago made one thing clear: the Supreme Court will not be our ally in the fight to restore the public’s trust in Congress. If we want to guarantee that nothing will stand in the way of fundamental reform — now or in the future — then we have no choice but to write this reform into our founding document, the Constitution itself.

    That’s why I called last month for a constitutional amendment to protect the independence of Congress that would guarantee its accountability to no one but the People.

    Today we announce another new website, CallAConvention.org, which is devoted to this effort to pass a constitutional amendment.

    Our Constitution provides two paths to an amendment. The first begins in Congress, but I don’t believe we can rely on Congress to upend the status quo that keeps members in office by giving them financial incentives to cater to special interests. Moreover, we shouldn’t distract Congress from the vital task of passing the Fair Elections Now Act.

    The second path — the path I believe we should take — is to call a Constitutional Convention. Our Framers established this process for moments just like this one: when the American public demands fundamental change, but Washington is unable or unwilling to heed their call. This path bypasses Congress, enabling the states to initiate a convention by passing resolutions through their legislatures.

    Our new website will help our community lead the way to a Constitutional Convention and a constitutional amendment that preserves the integrity of our governing institutions. Click here to visit this new site, learn more, and sign on to support this movement:

    http://CallAConvention.org

    Our country has never held a Constitutional Convention, and the audacity of such a call does not escape me. But I am convinced that this is possible.

    I’m convinced by the outpouring of outrage in the wake of the Citizens United decision. I’m convinced by the passion of those who offered me words of support and encouragement after my call for an amendment last week. And I’m convinced by the American people’s history of strength and resolve in the face of overwhelming obstacles.

    There is a will in this country to solve problems that have blocked progress for too long. If we can channel this will, remain focused, and unite around a common vision — a vision that ignores partisan agendas in favor of a shared desire to preserve the integrity of our political system — then I have no doubt this can be done.

    In the coming weeks, we’ll begin a discussion about exactly how we’re going to get this done, and we’ll be asking all of you to get involved and take a leadership role in a movement to change this country. Stay tuned for much, much more.

    Fix Congress first. Then call a Convention.

    This is our path — this is how we’ll restore our democracy.

    — Lawrence Lessig

  15. L'eagle Ease
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Achery is correct. It is useful to read the document, in its entirety, found in PDF here: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-205.pdf

    From page 89 (in the PDF), let me quote Justice Stevens:

    “In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant.Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed
    and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters.”

    Of the myriad issues this decision raises, I would like to highlight one item from the above quote. Corporations are not citizens of the U.S. As such, they are not entitled to the protections of Constitution. Visitors to our country do not have the right to purchase and bear arms (for good reasons). Citizens do.

    They do, it seems, have the right to purchase elections.

    That foreign/international corporations are now granted equal rights under the Constitution is a staggering change. This is not, solely, about the rights of Americans to free speech. This is about extending those rights to foreign persons. Interests from Saudi Arabia, China, France, (insert your personal bias) now have the right to influence U.S. Elections that the Constitution intended to provide to its citizens.

  16. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    Congress has the authority to abridge the free speech of foreigners?

  17. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    …and let’s not forget, we’re talking about buying a political ad here. If the Saudis want to pay for a commercial about how great or lousy a particular politician is, so what? Some other corporation will pay for an ad saying the opposite. I don’t buy everything I see on a commercial, do you? Give me a break!

  18. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    …AND, corporations are so members of our society. They are affected by our laws, they are affected by our taxes, they CONTRIBUTE their taxes, they contribute their goods… hell, they’re probably more affected by our laws than you or I because of their size and incomes! Of course they should be able to represent their own interests in the form of buying a political ad! They have a stake in it, too!

  19. Posted February 4, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    You’re a hard guy to figure out, BA.

    Not that I’m trying to.

  20. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    I’m in the process of formulating an opinion, so I have to argue all sides of it till I figure out what I think. The most impenetrable argument wins.

  21. L'eagle Ease
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Fundraising and campaign spending is the number one predictor of who will win primary elections (in a 2006 study, this was true in 92 percent of the cases). Commercials may not persuade every person, but they persuade many. I find it hard to believe that anyone would suggest commercials do not have immense influence over the electorate. Superbowl ads run more than two million precisely because commercial’s proven influence. Fundraising also does more than buy commercials, it develops the entire political machine from consultants to travel.

    And no, those not born or naturalized in this country do not share the same rights as citizens, under the Constitution.

    Congress has the power and discretion to protect us from foreign invaders. The Nazis were not permitted to buy radio ads during WWII. Congress has the power to prevent Bin Laden from filling the airwaves with infomercials. Those are stark examples. But the current stakes are huge and include such national security items as trade, awarding of public contracts, drug laws, energy policy, border control, exporting military technology, and so on. There are huge, huge amounts of money to made in many sectors by even subtle shifts of policy.

    We have a representative system. It was intended, by my understanding, to provide representation for American citizens. No one else. If you recall, the East India Company did a lot of business here in the 18th Century. They were big investors with a lot at stake. But they were not granted a vote. Not after the Revolution.

  22. Posted February 5, 2010 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Thank you for that, L’eagle Ease.

  23. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Corporations aren’t given a vote now. We were/are at war with Nazis/Bin Laden.

  24. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I assume then, that you think fair trials are also only for American citizens?

  25. L'eagle Ease
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Mr. Achery,

    I am responding, primarily, to your question as to whether: “Congress has the authority to abridge the free speech of foreigners?”

    The answer from history, is an emphatic “yes.” Non-citizens have often been granted, but never guaranteed, the right to free speech. We grant many Constitutional rights to our visitors, some we grant equally, others we limit or deny due to prudence and security reasons. I truly hope you can appreciate that there are times when it is not prudent to grant equal rights to non-citizens. To go into the nuances of every Constitutional right and case (including Guantanamo) would seem a fruitless distraction. There are cases where I, personally, would want a fair trail for a non-citizen. There are other cases where I would want them deported. The Constitution affords Congress this flexibility, on some issues. Again, this seems a distraction from the discussion at hand, do you agree?

    If you disbelieve me that Congress has authority to limit the free speech of foreigners, I ask that you take some time to look at history. Laws restricting foreign propaganda and ownership of media are easy places to begin.

    If you object to limiting the free speech of foreigners, that is fine, but your quarrel is not with me, it is with our founding fathers.

    Finally, I realize that “Corporations aren’t given a vote now.”
    My contention is they are given something far more powerful.

  26. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    If you disbelieve me that Congress has authority to limit the free speech of [black people], I ask that you take some time to look at history. Laws restricting [voting] and [gun ownership for black people] are easy places to begin.

    If you object to limiting the free speech of [black people], that is fine, but your quarrel is not with me, it is with our founding fathers.

    I’m not trying to sidetrack you, I am trying to point out the absurd logic of your argument.

    We are not at war with Hostess, nor Chef Boyardee, nor unions, nor the NRA. If you want to argue against free speech for foreign-owned corporations, you might be able to convince me that it merits a separate argument, MAYBE. But you are arguing against free speech for all corporations (foreign and domestic) based on not letting foreign people we are at war with buy air time. That’s an absurd stretch.

    It even occurs to me that the US government does not censor Osama Bin Laden’s propaganda speeches. We can look them up, or hear them on the nightly news for Pete’s sake!

    But somehow it’s not okay to let the Kool-aide Man talk about how awesome U.S. Congressman Jim Gerlach is! Hahaha! It’s a grave threat to the American People!!!

  27. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    …and shall we limit speech because of some amorphous concept about undue influence? Musicians’ and actors’ free speech has undue influence over the electorate. So does that of filmmakers. Possibly even bloggers.

    I think Canadian celebrities might be the biggest foreign threat to the US of all. “Their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters.” Congress clearly has not only the right, but the duty to pass laws making it illegal for those foreign devils to use their undue influence over the US electorate by opening their big yappers.

  28. Twinkie the Kid
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    I support urban goats.

  29. Fuzzy Math
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Musicians and Actors are people, not corporations. Congress can limit the rights to corporate speech because they’re not people, let alone citizens. However, they have no right to limit the share-holders or board members in their capacity as individuals.

  30. L'eagle Ease
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Mr. Archery. I can no longer tell if you are genuinely interested in the topic or just being a polemicist and deliberately posturing yourself as astoundingly naive. The Supreme Court ruling effectively granted citizenship to Hugo Chavez. If that doesn’t concern you, so be it. Thank you for the entertaining dialogue. It will now be a monologue as you seem most interested in entertaining yourself.

  31. Edward
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    L’eagle Ease For The WIN!

  32. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Fuzzy — Congress can not limit the rights of corporate speech because a) they have not been granted that authority by the Constitution, and b) they are unconditionally forbidden to make a law abridging free speech. It doesn’t say anything about only applying to natural people or citizens.

    I think your beef should be with the overly-wide interpretation of the 14th amendment, and the fact that government foils the fetters of the free market by granting corporations limited liability and corporate personhood in the first place.

    L’eagle Ease — I shot down your assertions, you can’t answer back convincingly, you lose by forfeiture. You seem to be giving up because you can’t make your case.

  33. Fuzzy Math
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    But limiting the ability of corporate speak doesn’t actually limit anyone’s right to free speech since everyone involved in that corporation retains that right as individuals.

  34. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    …and Fuzzy, by your argument Congress can limit the free speech of fictional characters in books, film, or TV. They’re not real people, either. If their creator wants to voice his/her political opinion, he/she can just come out and say it rather than have his/her character say it. Congress should have the power to review and censor the speech of all non-natural fictional persons. By your argument.

  35. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    …but if people want to pool their money as corporations so they can pay for a nice fancy TV spot, they ARE exercising their right of free speech. Limiting their ability to do that abridges their right to free speech.

  36. Robert
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Mark, I’ll pay you $1 for every Brackinald Achery comment you erase.

  37. Fuzzy Math
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    But a corporation isn’t a a form of expression, it’s a business. People can pool their money in PACs and other like groups for the purpose of political speech, but when they pool it into a corporation, it’s for the purpose of business, which is definitely regulated by the government.

  38. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    How does the goal of the legal group (not at war with the US) give Congress the power to do something it doesn’t have the power to do, and is expressly forbidden from doing? Where does it say “unless they’re only a legal person and just in it for the money” in the 1st Amendment?

    In your version of the way things should be, is government able to regulate business to the point of forcing McDonalds to change their logo into a gray ice cream cone, and force the employees of Dominos pizza to wear assless Darth Vader costumes if it wants to? Where does this ability to regulate business end, in your mind? Whim? Popular fad? What?

  39. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if the answer is in States explicitly stating in their charters to corporations that the corporation as a legal person with certain granted rights has not, as a legal person, been granted freedom of speech. That way, it becomes less a matter of abridging freedom of speech, and more a matter of not granting it in the first place to a government-created person.

    Of course, then corporations will just move to a State that grants it, then that State will rake in all those fat juicy taxes. Hell, the taxes are probably going to be more of a “bribe” to politicians than any stupid commercial would be.

  40. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Robert, that would give me great relief. I only comment here because I feel morally obligated in some weird way. I keep trying to get Mark to tell me to leave and never come back, but he doesn’t go for it.

  41. Fuzzy Math
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    It gives them the power because a corporation isn’t an form of speech and thus not protected by the constitution. Your examples are safe because they fall squarely under the operation of the business.

  42. Fuzzy Math
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Can someone summarize how it was decided corporations are people? Or point me to a link explaining it?

  43. kjc
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    “I only comment here because I feel morally obligated in some weird way.”

    i think that’s a narcissism disorder. and treatable.

  44. Fuzzy Math
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    “I wonder if the answer is in States explicitly stating in their charters to corporations that the corporation as a legal person with certain granted rights has not, as a legal person, been granted freedom of speech. That way, it becomes less a matter of abridging freedom of speech, and more a matter of not granting it in the first place to a government-created person.”

    I didn’t get a chance to read that when I posted. If certain rights as a person are necessary for a corporation to operate, I could get behind this. I think it’d have to be determined at the federal level though to avoid the problems you foresee.

  45. Simple Math
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    B.A.’s logic:

    The Bill of Rights grants the right to purchase weapons and form militias
    +
    Foreigners are protected by the Bill of Rights
    =
    The Bill of Rights grants foreigners the right to purchase weapons and form militias.

  46. Simple Math
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    “Fuzzy — Congress can not limit the rights of [foreign visitors purchasing nuclear weapons] because a) they have not been granted that authority by the Constitution, and b) they are unconditionally forbidden to make a law abridging [the right to bear arms].”

  47. Simple Math
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    “…and Fuzzy, by your argument Congress can limit the free speech of fictional characters in books, film, or TV. They’re not real people, either.”

    Then by B.A.’s argument (equating fictional characters to “not real people”) fictional characters from books, film, or TV should have the right to contribute to political campaigns?

    “Newsflash: Jughead contributes $100,000 to Ron Paul.”

  48. Simple Math
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    “…but if [foreigners] want to pool their money as [militias] so they can pay for a nice fancy [weapon], they ARE exercising their right [to bear arms].”

  49. Simple Math
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    “In your version of the way things should be, is government [un]able to regulate business to the point of allowing McDonalds to change their logo into a [large] gray [cock], and allow the employees of Dominos pizza to wear assless Darth Vader costumes and [cum in people’s food] if they want to? Where does this ability to regulate business begin, in your mind? [Eating babies? Putting crack in Happy Meals?] What?”

  50. Simple Math
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    “a government-created person.”

    Now who’s going beyond what’s delegated in the Constitution? (Snort.)

    “Hell, the taxes are probably going to be more of a ‘bribe’ to politicians than any stupid commercial would be.”

    Cause everybody knows that taxes go straight into the politicians pocket. That’s where the real money is in politics. Thank God for all those selfless Republicans who cut taxes at the cost of personal gain. (Snort, snort.)

  51. Simple Math
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    There’s a funny little phrase that pops up over and over in the Constitution: “the people.”

    I’m curious how B.A. would define “the people.”

    I find the Declaration and Constitution to be a magnificent statement of the rights of individuals against the powers of tyranny, notably despotism and oligarchy.

    B.A. how do you define “the people of the United States of America?”

    How do you define oligarchy? More importantly, is oligarchy an inalienable right?

  52. Simple Math
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps plutocracy wasn’t so bad? Maybe we owe Old England an apology? Consent of the governed was a little narrow of a concept, wasn’t it? Consent of the investors maybe was better?

    “Of all forms of tyranny, the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of plutocracy.” – J. P. Morgan

    (Above quote from Morgan the man, not the corporation, if you acknowledge the distinction.)

  53. Simple Math
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    If you’re still confused, here’s a link to JP Morgan the man and here’s one to JP Morgan the Court appointed person.

  54. Simple Math
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    If JP Morgan the collective person commits a crime, does that mean everyone who is part of that person goes to jail?

  55. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    Simple — I’ll try to get each comment in order of their appearance:

    1) The Constitution does not grant rights to the people. God (or nature, whatever) does. The Constitution grants authority to the federal government in specific, well-defined areas. The Bill of Rights enumerates some of them, but it does not actually grant them. You have a fundamental misunderstanding of basic civics. And no, Congress does not have authority to prevent foreigners from arming themselves and forming militias if we’re not at war with them.

    2) Congress is not obligated to sell military technology if it isn’t for sale. Where would you get that idea? I’m pretty sure authority over the US Military is indeed covered by the Constitution.

    3) If Jughead can raise $100,000 and donate it to Ron Paul, go to town. Corporations sure can.

    4) See #2

    5) You’re on to something! Nothing in the Constitution grants the Federal government those powers. See your various State and local government Constitutions/whatever to see if they can.

    6) The States create corporations by charter, making them government-created people. I’m not saying I think that’s a good idea. Who’s talking about the federal Constitution at all with this one? I even said “States.”

    7) Political ads do not go straight into a politicians pocket. Taxes literally do. That’s how they get paid. They aren’t selling lemon-aid on the side. Plus, taxes go towards their reelections, via spending bills that send the taxes back to their localities, like to fix up the Freighthouse and whatnot. People like that they get a piece of the federal tax pie, they have a better chance of getting reelected.

    8) & 9) That’s very moving and all well and good, but the Constitution still does not grant Congress the authority to make laws abridging the political speech of corporations (which, by the way, are made up of People, as in “We the People”). It’s just not in there. J.P. Morgan was certainly entitled to exercise his right to speak freely.

    Simple is as simple does.

  56. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    Oops, missed one.

    10) No. You could have google-searched that one yourself.

  57. Simple Math
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    If the members of a corporation (CEOs, employees, unwitting shareholders) have the unified consciousness to express their free speech “wants” by buying a fancy TV spot, then doesn’t it follow that they are singularly conscious enough to be collectively culpable for any misdeeds they do?

    If future Enron’s are entitled to free speech to protect their rights as a “person” aka single entity, doesn’t if follow that all parts of that person shall void those rights and be imprisoned for the crimes of that collective person?

    If the hand of a man strikes another down in murder, is not the entire body sent with it to the gallows?

  58. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    “I didn’t get a chance to read that when I posted. If certain rights as a person are necessary for a corporation to operate, I could get behind this. I think it’d have to be determined at the federal level though to avoid the problems you foresee.”

    Fuzzy — the original idea behind corporate personhood is so the corporation could be sued if it violated a contract — only individuals can be sued, so it had to become an individual entity in the eyes of the law. So it became a “legal” person with certain rights granted to it, such as the right to sign contracts, the right to own property, the right to be sued, and the ability to be sued.

    That was the original idea anyway, and right now, individual States are in charge of granting corporations their legal personhood, which is why I mused about bringing it down to the State level to regulate it (or just not grant it in the first place or whatever).

  59. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    Simple — you should bring that up to your State rep. Why are you asking me? Have I advocated against what you’re proposing here?

    My point remains that Congress can’t make a law abridging free speech. It doesn’t say anything about who or what is speaking. My other point is that Congress doesn’t have Constitutional authority to forbid Corporations from buying political ads. You can postulate and pose whatever questions you want to try to make me look as ridiculous as you, but you aren’t changing those two things.

  60. Simple Math
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    So when the amendment says “the right of the people” who is it talking about?

  61. Simple Math
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    So if a group of Brits had exited a ship in 1792, it’s your contention that the founding father’s would have supported selling them whatever arms they desired?

  62. Simple Math
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    2) “Congress is not obligated to sell military technology if it isn’t for sale.”

    Who said anything about Congress selling it? What gives Congress the right to oversee the sale of arms? Why shouldn’t anything be for sale, by private enterprises, under the Constitution?

  63. Simple Math
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    “1) The Constitution does not grant rights to the people. God (or nature, whatever) does.”

    So people in China have the same rights as us? What good is the Constitution?

  64. Simple Math
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    “3) If Jughead can raise $100,000 and donate it to Ron Paul, go to town. Corporations sure can.”

    So you’re conceding that corporations are as real as Jughead? Now we’re getting somewhere.

  65. Simple Math
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    “They aren’t selling lemon-aid on the side.”

    Is that a joke? Have you looked at the annual income of Congress folk vs. what they get paid from taxes?

  66. Simple Math
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    “Why are you asking me? Have I advocated against what you’re proposing here?”

    If you can’t answer a question raised by implication of your ideas, just say so for Christ sake.

  67. Simple Math
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    “My point remains that Congress can’t make a law abridging free speech. It doesn’t say anything about who or what is speaking.”

    The point of contention here seems to begin and end with the definition of “the people.”

    You seem to think that somewhere between the preamble and the body of Constitution “We the People of the United States” expanded to include every possible interest.

    The definition of who the People are in the Constitution rights seems rather self-evident and clearly defined to me. Please, please explain where, in your mind, the rights afforded the “People of the United States” were expanded to include foreign interests.

  68. I live in Ypsi.
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Robert,
    I just print out Brackinald Achery posts and use them as toilet paper.
    Brackinald Achery is helping the envirment and doesn’t even know it.

    I live in Ypsi.

  69. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    My point remains that Congress can’t make a law abridging free speech. It doesn’t say anything about who or what is speaking. My other point is that Congress doesn’t have Constitutional authority to forbid Corporations from buying political ads. You can postulate and pose whatever questions you want to try to make me look as ridiculous as you, but you aren’t changing those two things.

  70. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech…”

    Doesn’t say whose speech. Doesn’t even say “the people” in front of that part. Just says “the people” in front of the peaceably assemble/redress of grievances part. Not the speech part.

    Originally, the individual States weren’t bound by this, but later interpretations of the 14th Amendment made it so. So there’s your beef. It’s not with me, it’s with the interpretation of the 14th Amendment. Solve that problem and the States can restrict (or just not grant) Corporate legal persons’ speech till the cows come home.

  71. James Madison
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    Regardless of what the ideologues who now control a majority of the Supreme Court say the First Amendment does or was meant to do, the authors of that amendment did not mean to equate living persons with business organizations, which most assuredly are not citizens. I know. I wrote the First Amendment.

    And now that the ever so easily baited B.A. has been baited, will he bit in the usual illogical fashion of personal attacks that is his signature style? John Roberts Jr. has the intellect of a snail to want to use the Court’s power to repeal the acts of the democratic branches going back a century. Defending the Chief Justice with a mind of a snail is the task of ideologues, not reasoning men and women.

  72. Gerald
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Brackinald Achery said, “I only comment here because I feel morally obligated”

    If only more people felt your moral compulsion towards insult and provocation this world would be a better place! Good for you Brackinald Achery! So many selfless comments that you leave here for the benefit of humankind! Your giving knows no end. You are a true humanitarian philanthropist. It takes a wise man to realize he is blowing things up out of moral obligation and not some underlying pathology to destroy.

    As for me, I’m just feeling vindictive and left out since you never responded to my comments on a previous post but have endless time to give and give and give to so many others who don’t even appreciate it the way that I would.

  73. Amen Dement
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    At the risk of prolonging this I feel compelled (for whatever immoral reason) to post this:

    Article XIV

    1: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

    You’ll notice that any person within the jurisdiction of the U.S. is granted equal protection and neither the federal government nor the states have the authority to alter that. I understand this to mean that free speech can only be removed, like other rights, by due process and proving criminal or ill intent in a court of law.

    I also find this informative on the question of what a person is (someone born). I personally feel that granting personhood to corporations is neocon activism and that neocons have proven they care no more for the Constitution than their liberal counterparts.

    But the question at hand is personhood. Whether foreigners have the right to free speech is a mute point. Carry on.

  74. Me
    Posted February 7, 2010 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    Wouldn’t a perjury charge in a US court against a US citizen be an abridgement of free speech?
    Just curious. Does the Constitution say anything about it?

  75. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Good post, Amen.

    I’ll never understand why some people get so mad at me for being open minded and trying to work things out in an intellectually honest fashion, trying to see all sides of an argument in order to develop a correct opinion. I don’t see that as very threatening, personally.

  76. Steph's Dad
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    A “mute point,” is it?

  77. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    http://www.instantrimshot.com/

  78. Steph's Dad
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    I think a “mute point” calls for something a little more like this:

    http://www.sadtrombone.com/

  79. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    hahaha!

  80. Simple Math
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    B.A. Okay, I’ll try to engage you more constructively. Amen is right, his/her point is neither mute nor moot, the issue is personhood.

    “…nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction… ”

    In your strict reading of the Constitution, where do you find “person” to mean anything but an individual?

    Sample: “No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President”

    What gives the Supreme Court the right to redefine the Constitution?

    As you review the Constitution, consider as well the difference identified between “persons” and “the people” and “citizens.” Certain rights are afforded persons. Additional rights (e.g., voting, peaceable assembly) are granted “the people of the United States” and citizens.

    Where in the Constitution (line and verse) do you see the rights of persons being extended to corporations?

    Do you accept the dictionary definition of a corporation?

    “an association of individuals, created by law or under authority of law, having a continuous existence independent of the existences of its members, and powers and liabilities distinct from those of its members.”

    You’ll note the phrasing “independent” and “distinct” from those of its members.

    Perhaps if you could offer your definitions, it would move this discussion along. What is a person? Who are the people? Who are citizens? What are corporations?

  81. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    In your strict reading of the Constitution, where do you find “person” to mean anything but an individual?

    Sample: “No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President”

    Well, that’s a pretty good example right there of the Constitution differentiating between “person,” and natural born citizen, or citizen of the United States. Note too, that the last couple clauses of the 14th talk about “persons” rather than just persons who are citizens. So, we can see there is a difference. It does not differentiate between State-created legal persons and natural persons by the word “persons.” Says right there a legal person who is not a natural born citizen or a citizen of the US at the time of the adoption of the Constitution can’t be President. Awesome.

    What gives the Supreme Court the right to redefine the Constitution?

    They didn’t.

    As you review the Constitution, consider as well the difference identified between “persons” and “the people” and “citizens.” Certain rights are afforded persons. Additional rights (e.g., voting, peaceable assembly) are granted “the people of the United States” and citizens.

    Right there with you.

    Where in the Constitution (line and verse) do you see the rights of persons being extended to corporations?

    Where in the Constitution do you see anything against killing your wife? You seem to be making the leap that because the absence of Constitution-granted authority to Congress means that Congress doesn’t have that authority, that therefore any right not spelled-out in the Constitution doesn’t exist. You couldn’t be more wrong, according to the 9th and 10th amendments. No doubt next, you will argue that corporations aren’t “the People” talked about in the 9th and 10th Amendments. Fine, but Congress still hasn’t been granted authority to make a law abridging the freedom of speech (unqualified as to “people,” or “persons,” or “corporations,” or “States,” or whatever. That right is retained by the States, or the People. Until the 14th Amendment was interpreted to say otherwise, anyway.

    Do you accept the dictionary definition of a corporation?

    “an association of individuals, created by law or under authority of law, having a continuous existence independent of the existences of its members, and powers and liabilities distinct from those of its members.”

    You’ll note the phrasing “independent” and “distinct” from those of its members.

    Yes… in the sense that Corporations can own property as if it were a person distinct from its members, and be held liable as a person distinct from its members. I think you’re reading something into that definition, and assuming I think corporate personhood and limited liability are awesome things, which I am in the process of figuring out. I can see the original legal justification for it, but my free-market libertarian philosophy is leaning against any sort of State-created entity, which is what a corporation is. If government didn’t create them in the first place, they wouldn’t exist in the free market (in the sense of having limited liability and legal personhood). One thing you also seem to not be picking up on is that I am making my argument from the standpoint of the proper delegation of authority in a federalist system, rather than on whether ANY authority should be able to not grant free speech to corporate legal persons or not. And the end of that argument winds up at the 14th Amendment, which was passed in order to keep ex-slaves from being screwed over by ex-Confederate State governments.

    Perhaps if you could offer your definitions, it would move this discussion along. What is a person? Who are the people? Who are citizens? What are corporations?

    Why don’t you tell me, Socrates? You obviously know the answer. My question remains regarding whether those distinctions give Congress authority it hasn’t been given, and in fact has been forbidden (without such qualifications as “person,” “people,” “citizens,” “corporations,” etc.) from exercising. Clearly the Constitution does differentiate between those legal entities in some parts, but it sure doesn’t in the free speech clause of the 1st Amendment, does it? Nor does it grant Congress the authority to restrict Corporations from buying political ads.

  82. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    Just so we’re on the same page here, Corporations are considered “persons” because of State law. The Constitution does not spell out the difference between legal “persons” and natural “persons.” When it mentions “persons,” it just says “persons.”

    And, to reiterate, the free speech clause of the 1st Amendment doesn’t qualify who has the right, merely that Congress can’t make a law abridging it.

  83. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Person —

    In general usage, a human being; by statute, however, the term can include firms, labor organizations, partnerships, associations, corporations, legal representatives, trustees, trustees in Bankruptcy, or receivers.

    A corporation is a “person” for purposes of the constitutional guarantees of equal protection of laws and Due Process of Law.

    Foreign governments otherwise eligible to sue in United States courts are “persons” entitled to institute a suit for treble damages for alleged antitrust violations under the Clayton Act (15 U.S.C.A. § 12 et seq.).

    Illegitimate children are “persons” within the meaning of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

    The phrase interested person refers to heirs, devisees, children, spouses, creditors, beneficiaries, and any others having a property right in, or a claim against, a trust estate or the estate of a decedent, ward, or protected person. It also refers to personal representatives and to fiduciaries.

    — West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

  84. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    People —

    The aggregate of the individuals who comprise a state or a nation.

    In a more restricted sense, as generally used in Constitutional Law, the entire body of those citizens of a state or a nation who are invested with political power for political purposes (the qualified voters).

    — West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

  85. Simple Math
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    Well done, Gorgias! You are able to be quite persuasive without understanding the case.

    Here’s a couple excerpts from “The Corporate ‘Person’: A New Analytical Approach to a Flawed Method of Constitutional Interpretation” by Jess M. Krannich (Loyola University Chicago Law Journal 37 no1 61-109 Fall 2005)

    The Bill of Rights itself centers on protecting individuals from government action and discusses rights in terms of the “person” to whom they apply.(FN5) However, the American business corporation does not fit neatly into this framework, for a corporation is simply not a “person” as most understand the term. To overcome this dichotomy, corporate theorists have devised various metaphors to help supply a legal definition for the corporate entity.(FN6) The most common of these metaphors are the artificial entity theory, the aggregate entity theory, and the real entity theory, though each theory has its respective variants.(FN7) While these metaphors vary dramatically in their respective foci, they all have one thing in common: each attempts to force the corporate entity into a preexisting legal structure by way of analogy.
    The use of metaphorical descriptions of the corporate entity is especially prevalent in the Supreme Court’s corporate constitutional jurisprudence.(FN8) The Court’s decisions in this area seem to assume that a corporation is a “person” under the Constitution and is thus entitled to many of the same rights as a natural person.(FN9) However, the Court has never established a test to determine what a constitutional person is or whether a corporation meets such a test. Instead, the Court has continually borrowed metaphors from corporate theory to analogize the corporate entity to the “person” protected by the Constitution.(FN10) These metaphors of corporate theory are frequently deployed in an ad hoc, arbitrary manner; different corporate metaphors have been used within the same case, even in interpreting different portions of the same Constitutional Amendment.(FN11) The result is a foundational problem in corporate constitutional law, for the Court has granted corporations constitutional rights without engaging in the preliminary inquiry of whether a corporation is entitled to them under the Constitution.


    An examination of the values and policies underlying each constitutional right should be a threshold matter before a corporation is treated as a “person” under the Fourteenth Amendment. Such an examination would avoid the adoption of debated corporate metaphors into constitutional jurisprudence and would parallel traditional methods of constitutional interpretation. By examining the values and policies underlying each right, the Court would ensure that corporations are not granted constitutional rights meant only for individual citizens. Rather, a corporation would only be granted a constitutional right if the reasons a natural person is entitled to the right apply equally to a corporation. If this test were not met, constitutional rights could then be extended to corporations through the traditional amendment process, allowing for debate and discussion. This approach would prevent modern business corporations, which are simply not analogous to natural persons, from being treated in a manner not intended by the law.

    I apologize for such a short paste. (I don’t want to violate copyright laws.) If you can track the entire article down, it’s worth a read.

    It is my contention that personhood is not neatly defined in the Constitution. As such, I believe that any extension of the rights afforded to natural persons to legal or juristic persons should be extended through, as Krannich asserts, “the traditional amendment process” not by the arbitrary decisions of activist judges (remember, this was a straight party 5-4 decision). It is my further contention that “examining the values and policies underlying each right” would not lead us to grant multinational corporations the right to buy parties and elections, wholesale. I believe it flies-in-the-face of the very spirit of representative democracy and, yes, the Constitution.

  86. Posted February 10, 2010 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Simple Math. Your patience is magnificent.

  87. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 11, 2010 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    It is my contention that personhood is not neatly defined in the Constitution.

    No, the Constitution does not contain the legal definitions for most of the words in it. That doesn’t mean they didn’t rely on established legal definitions, though. For example, it doesn’t define what “press” is at all, but we can research what “press” meant legally at the time via other legal sources, and follow what it means now via current legal sources. By your reasoning, an Amendment is necessary to grant freedom of the press to media corporations, because “press” isn’t specifically defined in the Constitution.

    As such, I believe that any extension of the rights afforded to natural persons to legal or juristic persons should be extended through, as Krannich asserts, “the traditional amendment process”

    Again, that means media corporations do not currently possess freedom of the press.

    not by the arbitrary decisions of activist judges (remember, this was a straight party 5-4 decision).

    Judges don’t have parties. Except maybe in Judge strip clubs. I mean, seriously, if I were a Supreme Court Justice, I wouldn’t want to hang out at a regular guys’ strip club. It’d be pretty awkward.

    It is my further contention that “examining the values and policies underlying each right” would not lead us to grant multinational corporations the right to buy parties and elections, wholesale.

    Interesting, but the case involved putting out a political ad. It didn’t involve lobbying, or buying politicians. And you accuse ME of not understanding the case! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

    I believe it flies-in-the-face of the very spirit of representative democracy and, yes, the Constitution.

    Fine, but the law isn’t on your side.

    Here’s the US Code, if you want to know what the actual definition of “person” is in the eyes of the feds:

    “1 USC Sec. 1 01/05/2009

    TITLE 1 – GENERAL PROVISIONS
    CHAPTER 1 – RULES OF CONSTRUCTION

    Sec. 1. Words denoting number, gender, and so forth

    -STATUTE-
    In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise -words importing the singular include and apply to several persons, parties, or things; words importing the plural include the singular; words importing the masculine gender include the feminine as
    well; words used in the present tense include the future as well as the present; the words “insane” and “insane person” and “lunatic” shall include every idiot, lunatic, insane person, and person non compos mentis;

    the words “person” and “whoever” include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals;”

    So, nice article, but the law is not on your side. It’s on the side of the 5 judges.

    Anyone who thinks the law is on your side on this one, and that the judges are “activist” and not upholding existing law in their rejection of a previous court’s ruling, may be “insane” according the legal definition of the term.

    Thank you for being patient with my being right? What?

  88. Simple Math
    Posted February 11, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    So many paths to follow. Let’s keep it brief.

    By your reasoning, an Amendment is necessary to grant freedom of the press to media corporations, because “press” isn’t specifically defined in the Constitution.

    By my reasoning, we recognize that a “freedom” implies choice. A free press requires competition, as such, we advocate against press monopolies. Yes, I would like to require an Amendment in order to allow a single corporate media agency a complete monopoly over major media. By your reasoning, the U.S. has never had a free press.

    Again, that means media corporations do not currently possess freedom of the press.

    Again, by your reasoning Rupert Murdock doesn’t have freedom of the press unless he’s permitted to own every media outlet.

    Judges don’t have parties.

    Wow. Wanna buy a bridge to go over that swamp gas?

    Interesting, but the case involved putting out a political ad.

    I associate buying politicians elections with buying politicians. I feel the same way when I buy a lady dinner.

    Fine, but the law isn’t on your side.

    You’re correct. But that’s a circular argument. I am arguing here against current law (the US Supreme Court decision being one such current law). The US Code, and definitions therein, are simply a codification of current law. I believe current law is based on a flawed interpretation of the 14th Amendment and of the Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad decision.

    So, nice article, but the law is not on your side. It’s on the side of the 5 judges.

    The current law is not on my side, but I believe the Constitution is. I hope you will at least agree that the two (the Constitution and law) have not always been in harmony in our nation’s history nor does whatever law is en vogue always adhere to the intentions of the Founding Fathers.

    I assume you’re familiar with Madison/Jefferson’s proposed 11th amendment that would have prohibited monopolies and corporations giving money to politicians. The only objection to it was that some viewed restricting big money funding as a states right; the value of prohibiting donations by corporations was never in question. States did prohibit corporate funding until that power was usurped from them by a railroad tycoon and the justice and court reporter he held in his pocket (later Federal intrusions followed suit). This most recent court decision further advanced the interference from federal judges into states rights. For a quick case study, see: http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt_and_politics/elections/article_6a16b124-06f9-11df-933b-001cc4c03286.html

    And dig deeper into the Wisconsin law that is now unconstitutional. The intrusion of Feds upon the states was also advanced by Federal Elections Campaign Act which PACs legal. In hindsight, Jefferson should have gotten his amendment.

    The founders believed in the power of representative democracy as the single greatest force against oligarchy and tyranny. The Federalist Papers place much of their trust in the House to protect us against these powers. The logic was that Representatives would be held accountable by their literal friends and neighbors. That was a reasonable hope at the time when one member of the House represented 30,000 individuals. Ypsilanti, today, would essentially have their own representative to flog in the town square when he/she betrayed local interests. Now one member represents more than 700,000 citizens and is elected thanks to the contributions of national and international benefactors … the new friends and neighbors. The 14th Amendment was intended to protect the weakest voices, not grant protection to the strongest. A good intention that paved the way to hell.

    Look. I think the Constitution was a brilliant document. But even more brilliant was the Spirit of the Constitution. A Spirit of ’76 that Jefferson and his ilk decried as already being lost by the end of their lives. I view this Spirit as being against those who would use power, whether in the form of government, wealth, or the common collusion of both, to dictate the choices, opportunities and inalienable rights of natural persons. If we have arrived at the place where citizens, like yourself, believe prevailing Federal government and Court induced legal definitions trump the Spirit and word of the Constitution and are willing to hand over its keeping to government and its sponsors, we are newly enslaved by an old master. The king is dead. Long live the king. May you serve your master well.

  89. Mr.SwettyBallz
    Posted February 12, 2010 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    Simple Math wrote, “I associate buying politicians elections with buying politicians. I feel the same way when I buy a lady dinner.”

    Interesting discussion here, but gosh. Do you really feel that way about women?

  90. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 12, 2010 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    I believe current law is based on a flawed interpretation of the 14th Amendment and of the Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad decision.

    Corporations have been considered legal persons centuries before this court clerk jotted that shit down in the headnote of this case. You can find legal corporate personhood discussed by Blackstone before the Revolution. He claims corporations have been granted legal personhood from Roman times. To say that this case’s headnote was the beginning of the corporate personhood doctrine is just total bullshit. He (Blackstone) even points out in his description that corporations have the right of the seal, which he describes as its speech as a person.

    Your absolute best argument is the supposed 11th Amendment proposed by Jefferson/Madison. If you could provide an original source document for that, I sure would appreciate it, cause I’m having trouble finding one.

    I’m glad I got you to admit that the law isn’t on your side, because that means the judges weren’t being activist by rewriting the laws. They were doing their jobs by interpreting existing law (for better or worse), which was one of my points.

  91. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 12, 2010 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    …still no luck finding the Jefferson/Madison proposed 11th amendment. So far all roads lead back to “Jefferson Was Right” by Mike Byron, a contributing writer for Liberal Slant.

  92. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 12, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Thom Hartmann too. Those two guys sure have a lot of people repeating the things they wrote.

  93. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 12, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    By your reasoning, an Amendment is necessary to grant freedom of the press to media corporations, because “press” isn’t specifically defined in the Constitution.

    By my reasoning, we recognize that a “freedom” implies choice. A free press requires competition, as such, we advocate against press monopolies. Yes, I would like to require an Amendment in order to allow a single corporate media agency a complete monopoly over major media. By your reasoning, the U.S. has never had a free press.

    Again, that means media corporations do not currently possess freedom of the press.

    Again, by your reasoning Rupert Murdock doesn’t have freedom of the press unless he’s permitted to own every media outlet. ”

    I’m not following you at all. I’ve read that over and over again and I just can’t figure out what you’re talking about. Please exercise your magnificent patience, and walk me through it. We were talking about how the lack of definition of certain words (“persons,” or “press”) in the text of the Constitution itself does not mean that an amendment is necessary to grant rights to specific entities (“legal persons,” or “corporate media outlets”) that weren’t specifically defined in the text, but were in fact defined by other authoritative legal documents. This is all in the context of paying for a political ad — not of funding campaigns, nor lobbying, nor buying a congressperson dinner. How did we start talking about monopolies?

    I’m starting to think the solution is in the repeal of the 14th Amendment entirely. Then the States can abridge corporations their speech all they want. The 14th does kinda eviscerate the 10th, and the whole point of federalism (the real intent and spirit of the Constitution), after all.

  94. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 13, 2010 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    I assume you’re familiar with Madison/Jefferson’s proposed 11th amendment that would have prohibited monopolies and corporations giving money to politicians. The only objection to it was that some viewed restricting big money funding as a states right; the value of prohibiting donations by corporations was never in question.

    Still looking for any evidence that Messrs. Byron and Hartmann didn’t just pull this out of their oft-parroted backsides…. there doesn’t seem to be any record of any such amendment being proposed by Messrs. Madison and Jefferson, outside the claims of Mike Byron, and (ultimately) Thom Hartmann!

    James Madison, help me out here. Do you remember you and Jefferson writing anything to the effect of proposing an 11th amendment prohibiting monopolies and corporations giving money to politicians? Would you cite the original source so I can look it up myself?

  95. Brackinald Achery
    Posted February 13, 2010 at 1:16 am | Permalink

    Okay, Simple, I finally found some sourced Jefferson quotes for you here. That’s the closest you’re going to get to what you said being even remotely true… that I’ve yet found, anyway.

    Note that Mike Byron and Thom Hartman have misquoted him and taken him out of context as to the nature of his proposals, even exaggerating the lengths Jefferson went to regarding his proposals becoming amendments… unless there are other sources out there proving otherwise.

    The closest thing you get is a desire for protection against monopolies in the Bill of Rights. He wants protection against monopolies, except in copywrite law (which is a form of monopoly — a government-granted monopoly). But he’s talking about a limitation on the federal government to GRANT LEGAL MONOPOLIES like the English had done with the East India Tea Company, forcing out competition via the might of GOVERNMENT REGULATION. He’s not talking about breaking companies up, but about not granting them government-protected monopolies.

    Note, too, that he kind-of did get this goal regarding granting copywrite/patent/whatever being one of Congress’s enumerated powers. That’s a monopoly over your own invention/creation. Congress can grant that legal monopoly, but they haven’t been given authority to grant East India Tea Company-type legal monopolies.

    If you can find anything else to back up Byron and Hartmann’s claims, let me know. But so far it looks like those guys are just making shit up about corporations and funding elections.

  96. Meta
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    From the Washington Post:

    Americans of both parties overwhelmingly oppose a Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations and unions to spend as much as they want on political campaigns, and most favor new limits on such spending, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

    For more information:
    http://link.email.washingtonpost.com/r/U38ITL/SSJX7/IIYGYL/JULYBD/E9I5J/OS/t

  97. Meta
    Posted February 18, 2010 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Lessig sent out a new letter this morning:

    Last week, I wrote you about the hopeless response of Congress’s Democratic leadership to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

    Now, Larry Tribe, our nation’s preeminent constitutional scholar, has responded to my criticism. He argues that while incomplete, the Democrats’ proposals are attainable and not necessarily unconstitutional.

    I’ve written a full response to Larry Tribe on the Huffington Post, which you can read here. (http://fixcongressfirst.org/huffington)

    But this is the key point: Whether Larry and I agree or disagree on these issues, the question isn’t what we law professors believe — it’s what the Supreme Court will do. And so far, the Court has struck down Congress’s campaign finance regulations every chance it’s gotten.

    The Court has become an angry old dog, and it would be reckless for Congress to assume it won’t bite again. The measures proposed by the Democratic leadership are not just insufficient — they represent a major gamble against the Court’s recent history of remaking First Amendment law in the context of campaign finance regulation.

    So I’m not saying Congress shouldn’t pass what the Democratic leadership has proposed. Of course they should.

    What I’m saying is that we shouldn’t have to settle for these puny changes. We should demand that the leadership in Congress show real leadership and pass the Fair Elections Now Act.

    This legislation would fundamentally transform the economy of influence in our government. It would reform the campaign finance system so that Congress could return to its job of solving America’s problem, rather than continuing its current job of raising campaign cash.

    The Fair Elections Now Act has 135 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. Today I’m asking you to help increase that number to 218 — the amount needed to pass this crucial bill. FixCongressFirst.org has two ways for you to help make that happen.

    First, you can use our simple tool to determine where your representative stands on this legislation and give them a call to either thank them for their support or urge them to get on board. Click below to find out if you’re represented by an advocate or an opponent of reform:

    http://fixcongressfirst.org/call

    Second, you can forward this email to everyone you know and ask them to join you in sending Congress a letter of support for the Fair Elections Now Act. Tell your friends to click the link below to send their letter:

    http://fixcongressfirst.org/letter

    So far, the Change Congress community has sent nearly 17,000 letters to Congress urging passage of the Fair Elections Now Act. With numbers this big, we can, and will, get noticed. But it’s going to bold leadership from us to get Congress to exercise bold leadership of its own.

    Thanks for doing your part.

    — Lawrence Lessig

  98. Kim
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Dingell hasn’t signed on the the Fair Elections Now Act. Here’s the background.

    The Fair Elections Now Act is gaining serious momentum, with new supporters signing on each day. That’s because majorities of Democrats, Independents, and even Republican voters support citizen-funded elections free of big corporate money.

    But to win, the bill needs 218 votes in the House of Representatives. Right now it’s short, because most representatives haven’t taken any position at all—including Representative John Dingell.

    Can you call Rep. Dingell today, and urge him to cosponsor the Fair Elections Now Act? Here’s where to call:

    Representative John Dingell
    Phone: 202-225-4071

  99. amutuellen
    Posted July 13, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone ever wonder why we don’t hear people screaming about “judicial activism” anymore?

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