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Two cheers for the Supreme Court

Posted by Richard on January 21, 2010

I haven't read the 180+ pages of opinion, concurring opinion and dissenting-in-part of the Supreme Court's monumental decision in Citizens United v. FEC. But I've been reading the many posts about it at The Volokh Conspiracy and SCOTUSblog (links to main pages; just keep scrolling). The decision is not perfect (it upheld disclosure requirements, with only Thomas dissenting). But it strikes me as a huge gain for First Amendment rights and a very welcome repudiation of both McCain-Feingold and Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, along with the anti-free-speech mentality that drives such legislation and such court rulings.

Those anti-free-speech advocates are expressing outrage that corporations, which "aren't people," are granted Constitutional rights (as are unions, BTW). But as Ilya Somin observed, the owners and employees of corporations are people (as are the members of unions), and these individuals don't lose their rights by joining together to act in concert.

And the (mostly leftist) critics of free political speech conveniently forget that virtually all significant news media organizations are incorporated. If, as the critics claim, the government can restrict the free speech rights of (people joined together as) corporations, then government can restrict the free press rights of (people joined together as) corporations. Do they really want to go there? Of course not — because entities like CNN, NBC, CBS, and the New York Times are on their side. So they concoct some ridiculous argument of "special rights" for "the press." As if rights aren't universal.

The first amendment protects my right to speak and to print or publish (including modern equivalents like broadcasting, cable-casting, and online posting). It doesn't require me to meet some arbitrary standard of what constitutes a "journalist" in order to exercise those rights. And I don't lose those rights by joining with others to exercise them in concert. 

Citizens United is a significant and welcome ruling. And it's yet another ominous indication of the President's authoritarian mindset of that he reacted by essentially calling on Congress to enact legislation to restrict our Constitutional rights (as recognized by the Supreme Court). Hey, this guy taught Constitutional Law, didn't he? And he thinks Congress can, by legislation, abrogate Constitutional rights?

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