A Question for Critics of Citizens United: Did Corporations Have A Right To Join The SOPA/PIPA Blackout?

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102 Responses

  1. I asked this very question yesterday and I'm happy to see more people addressing it. This question seems like a damning indictment against those who believe corporations do not have First Amendment rights.

  2. Correction: In "government restrictions on government speech", the second "government" should be "corporate".

  3. Damon says:

    Ken,
    I might be tempted to say the following. There's nothing in the constitution that would ALLOW the gov'mit to do anything about a company taking down it's website as a form of protest. But what do I know, I also think 99% of laws comming out of the fed gov'mit are unconstitutional on the face of it.

  4. "why can't the government punish the corporations that blacked out yesterday?"

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that at least in theory, the government can only "punish" people to the extent that there is a law or regulation which gives the government the authority to do so.

    It therefore seems to me that the whole "are corporations people?" argument is a red herring. The right question to ask is, "Is there any law or regulation which Google / Wikimedia / whatever violated?"

    You try to address this in your post by claiming that the government overreaches their authority all the time. Perhaps that's true, but if they try to overreach against a huge corporation like Google, then they're going to get taken to court, and they're going to have to prove to a judge that they have the authority to do what they're doing. It won't / shouldn't be a constitutional question; it should simply be a question of, "Is there a law or regulation which authorizes the government to do what it is trying to do to Google?"

    The judicial branch doesn't always do the right thing when answering questions like that. Partisan judges make partisan rulings and people and corporations sometimes suffer for it. The system isn't perfect. But if you make that argument, then we can talk about how to make the checks and balances work better, which again is not a constitutional question about whether corporations have constitutional rights.

  5. David says:

    But you, Google, you have no First Amendment rights; you have no right to list Popehat in search results.

    "… especially in view of the kinds of searches that may lead there… "

  6. ZK says:

    Jonathan Kamens:

    I think Ken is asking if Congress could simply pass legislation making similar future protest illegal. I don't think he intended to raise hypothetical ex post facto laws or propose a bill of attainder.

    My apologies if I've misunderstood.

  7. Ah. Well, in that case, I think the problem is that Ken and others are trying to position this as an absolute question — do corporations have all the same constitutional rights as people, or do corporations have none of the same constitutional rights as people — when in fact it's no more absolute than anything else in the legal arena.

    As much as I shudder to type it, I think Citizens United got something right — corporations do have some constitutional rights, as Ken hints at above when he points out that they are "vehicles through which people do things," including exercising their constitutional rights.

    But neither the right to free speech nor any other right enumerated in the Constitution is absolute. I don't have to lecture anyone here about time / place / manner restrictions on speech. And I'm sure everyone here has heard or said, "Your right to swing your fist ends at my face."

    What Citizens United got wrong is that by allowing corporations to spend money without limit in the political arena, they allowed said corporations to so damage the political process that many other people are prevented from exercising their rights. It is a situation where limits are necessary to even the playing field.

    Furthermore, just as corporations are "diluted" from being actual people, so too their rights are "diluted" and should be subject to reasonable regulation to keep things fair and balanced *natch*.

  8. Dan Weber says:

    I don't know why you are making this so hard. It's pretty easy:

    It's bad when corporations lobby for laws I don't like.

    It's perfectly okay when corporations lobby for laws I do like.

    Come to think of it, that applies to individuals, too.

  9. Scott Jacobs says:

    So, to critics of Citizens United, I have a question: should those business entities have had a right to engage in SOPA/PIPA protests like they did? If so, what is the source of that right

    Of course they should have the right.

    I mean, it's only wrong for Corporations to engage in political speech if we disagree with what they say. Duh.

  10. Scott Jacobs says:

    There's nothing in the constitution that would ALLOW the gov'mit to do anything about a company taking down it's website as a form of protest.

    Spoken like a man who is unaware of how the gevernment views the Commerce Clause.

    If the government can force you to purchase something based on the logic that NOT buying something is economic activity, then what the flying monkey-fuck make you think they wouldn't go after a company for ceasing operation?

  11. Ken says:

    Jonathan, I meant to reference that nuance in my parenthetical, which made it clear that I was not speaking to people who feel that limits on political spending pass First Amendment muster. That's a whole other question.

    Yes, of course the First Amendment is not absolute, and there are multiple exceptions, like time-place-manner restrictions and, for instance, the lower level of protection given to commercial speech. That's different than the anti-personhood "corporations have no rights" argument that's recently prevalent.

  12. Scott Jacobs says:

    Also, David raises a fine point… Considering how some people get here, I'm not sure that governmental action restricting these hallowed halls wouldn't be a net good for humanity…

  13. If the government can force you to purchase something based on the logic that NOT buying something is economic activity, then what the flying monkey-fuck make you think they wouldn't go after a company for ceasing operation?

    The government passed a law to allow them to penalize people for not having health insurance.

    If they wanted to go after Google or Wikipedia for protesting SOPA and PIPA, they would have to pass a law to make it possible for them to do that.

    In case you haven't noticed, passing a law is hard. I don't think they could get such a law passed, and even if they could, I think the courts would throw it out for the reasons I've previously outlined: corporations don't have all the same rights as people, but they do have some rights, and such a law would violate them.

    That's different than the anti-personhood "corporations have no rights" argument that's recently prevalent.

    Just because it's prevalent doesn't mean it isn't a stupid argument.

    But perhaps that was your point. :-)

  14. There are two reasons why the debate has turned into "corporations have the same rights as people" vs. "corporations have no rights at all":

    1. As Bill Maher put it recently on Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me!, "Well, you know, if you're going to keep it real in America, at some point you're going to have to say that people are stupid."

    All too many people in this country can't handle subtlety, nuance, or grey areas. To them, it's got to be all or nothing, black or white. They can't cope with a middle ground.

    2. As everyone here knows, politics in general has become so polarized (some would say that it has always been this polarized, but I don't remember it always being this bad, and I'm only 42) that it's very difficult for anyone to maintain middle-of-the-road positions on any issue.

  15. It occurs to me that there's another angle to this discussion that's worth mentioning.

    The electric company can't decide to shut off your power for a day as a form of political protest. Ditto for the gas company and the phone company. This is true even if they are private, for-profit companies, as so many of them are nowadays thanks to deregulation.

    At what point do the internet and some of the major services running on it become so critical to our lives that they move into that category? Will Google ever be a "public utility"?

  16. Scott Jacobs says:

    As everyone here knows, politics in general has become so polarized (some would say that it has always been this polarized, but I don't remember it always being this bad, and I'm only 42) that it's very difficult for anyone to maintain middle-of-the-road positions on any issue.

    It isn't that you don't recall it being polarized, it's that the terms we think are mild now were not mild then.

    And there is the stuff people forget, like how they called Dolley Madison a whore on the floor of the House.

  17. billb says:

    One thing I thought of immediately after having this same thought was that if CU hadn't been decided the way it was, then Congress could also have outlawed the $94m in lobbying money the copyright guys spent to get these bills before Congress.

    I'm pretty sure I know where I come down on which I prefer, but I still think it's worth thinking about.

  18. Ken says:

    If they wanted to go after Google or Wikipedia for protesting SOPA and PIPA, they would have to pass a law to make it possible for them to do that.

    But passing a law isn't the only way the government can retaliate against speech.

    Say a particular town never prosecutes people for the "loitering" law it has on its books at parades and protests and so-on. Until OWS comes to town — at which the town's City Attorney starts going after the protesters for every little technical local law it can.

    The protesters would have a remedy under the doctrine of selective prosecution.

    If, however, we posit that corporations have no rights, then corporations are not protected from selective prosecution (being targeted for special enforcement of laws not generally enforced), because they have no rights to be infringed.

    Given the utter ubiquity of legal restrictions on commerce in the regulatory state, it would be easy to make any corporation's business unsustainable by targeted strict enforcement.

    In case you haven't noticed, passing a law is hard. I don't think they could get such a law passed, and even if they could, I think the courts would throw it out for the reasons I've previously outlined: corporations don't have all the same rights as people, but they do have some rights, and such a law would violate them.

    OK. But I haven't heard a principled, legally sound, First-Amendment-compliant definition for which rights they have and which they don't – except for the framework we already have in place, confirmed by a century of precedent and completely consistent with Citizens United.

  19. It isn't that you don't recall it being polarized, it's that the terms we think are mild now were not mild then.

    I don't think that's the only reason. Things really have gotten worse. See http://www.economics.cornell.edu/uploads/harbridgeAgendaControlManuscript-7262011cornell.pdf for a rigorous analysis.

    If, however, we posit that corporations have no rights…

    As I already said, I reject that premise because it's stupid and wrong, so I don't see any point in discussing it. And you don't seem to agree with it either, so why do you keep basing arguments on it?

    But I haven't heard a principled, legally sound, First-Amendment-compliant definition for which rights they have and which they don't – except for the framework we already have in place, confirmed by a century of precedent and completely consistent with Citizens United.

    I've already explained why I think CU wasn't consistent with precedent or the framework we already have in place… CU allows the rights of corporations to trump the rights of individuals and damages to the public sphere to such a large extent that the restrictions which CU overturned in fact should have been upheld as reasonable time / place / manner restrictions on speech.
    The restrictions which CU overturned were no different, e.g., from the fact that your right to free speech doesn't mean that you have the right to stand up in the middle of a speech that someone else is giving and make such a ruckus that they are unable to speak.
    That's exactly what the floodgates of corporate money in political speech opened by CU is doing.

  20. Barry Parr says:

    There's no double standard. MPAA's members have the right to black out their websites in order to urge Congress to pass SOPA.

    Conversely, no one is arguing that Wikipedia is a human being.

  21. GDad says:

    Ken and Commenters,

    This discussion is fascinating. IANAL – in fact, the closest I ever came to law school was the time I helped a passed-out drunk guy on the steps of the law building get back up and to his dorm when I was in college. My reason for the joke is to preemptively beg for mercy if I say something Astoundingly Stupid.

    If the current "corporations are not people" sentiment were to prompt a Constitutional amendment to that effect, what do you think would be the outcome for our current body of corporate law?

    [cue scary music]

    "In a world where corporations have been relegated to unperson status…"

  22. Earlier, I wrote, responding to Ken:

    If, however, we posit that corporations have no rights…

    As I already said, I reject that premise because it's stupid and wrong, so I don't see any point in discussing it. And you don't seem to agree with it either, so why do you keep basing arguments on it?

    I just figured it out. Ken, I assume you keep harping on "corporations have no rights" to stress that if you carry that argument to its logical conclusion, you end up in a place that the people who actually believe it would find abhorrent?

  23. CTD says:

    "In Which Snark Substitutes For Grammar And Serious Analysis: The Taint-Snorting."

    Is that the new title for Jezebel.com?

  24. Ken says:

    Well, sure.

    But I'm also not particularly happy with the rather ambiguous standard you are suggesting in its stead.

    CU allows the rights of corporations to trump the rights of individuals and damages to the public sphere to such a large extent that the restrictions which CU overturned in fact should have been upheld as reasonable time / place / manner restrictions on speech.
    The restrictions which CU overturned were no different, e.g., from the fact that your right to free speech doesn't mean that you have the right to stand up in the middle of a speech that someone else is giving and make such a ruckus that they are unable to speak.
    That's exactly what the floodgates of corporate money in political speech opened by CU is doing.

    The problem I have with this line of argument is that boiled down to its basics it seems to be "excessively effective speech is unfair."

    I don't like the analogy of standing up and making a ruckus, because if it can be applied to corporate (or individual) donations, it could just as well be applied to recruiting famous people (You can't have Nathan Fillion endorse you, he's too popular! that drowns out other speakers!) or effectively recruiting individuals (I got 50 people who wanted to legalize squirrel-strangling, but you drowned me out and suppressed my rights by organizing 150 people against it!)

    In other words, I'm not seeing the consistent and coherent principle behind the anti-money-in-politics rhetoric. I'm not seeing the firm line.

  25. There is no firm line.

    There doesn't need to be a firm line.

    Constitutional precedent, especially when it comes to free speech, is rife with decisions that require judgment calls and complex, multi-step tests to be applied to reach a decision.

    Any time you're talking about weighing one entity's rights vs. another's, you have to make a judgment call. Sometimes that's straightforward. Often it's not. That doesn't mean it's wrong to say that the judgment call is there and has to be made; it just means that life, and the law, are messy and complicated.

  26. delurking says:

    Ken wrote:
    "In other words, I'm not seeing the consistent and coherent principle behind the anti-money-in-politics rhetoric. I'm not seeing the firm line."

    Hi Ken, I lean towards agreement with you. I am given pause by an argument I heard or read elsewhere. Unfortunately, I do not remember where so I cannot give credit.

    The argument is that some money-in-politics looks a lot like bribery or vote-buying. Certainly, it doesn't formally fit the definition of bribery or vote-buying because the money doesn't go to the politician personally, but he can use it in ways that are of great utility to him (including, for example, private plane flights while campaigning, which are simply consumption; as well as getting re-elected). So, the argument is that restrictions on money in politics are reasonable to prevent such near-bribery. Of course, there cannot be a firm line if this argument is accepted (which is why it has not convinced me), but there isn't a firm line with obscenity or incitement-to-violence limits on speech either.

    Anyway, sorry to steer the thread away from your original question, but I'd certainly like to hear your and others' thoughts on this.

  27. Scott Jacobs says:

    There is no firm line.

    There doesn't need to be a firm line.

    Yes! Yes there does!

    If you fail to give a firm line, you leave open the ability to selectively enforce.

    I don't know where you get this trust that the government won't do the wrong thing, but I assure you that it is misplaced.

  28. Scott Jacobs says:

    So, the argument is that restrictions on money in politics are reasonable to prevent such near-bribery.

    Then you get the following issue, which this SOPA thing illustrates perfectly…

    The MPAA and such are bitching about the "millions Google has spent to fight the law", and are doing so completely without any irony since they have dumped tens of millions into promoting their draconian bullshit.

  29. Ken says:

    There is no firm line.

    There doesn't need to be a firm line.

    Constitutional precedent, especially when it comes to free speech, is rife with decisions that require judgment calls and complex, multi-step tests to be applied to reach a decision.

    Any time you're talking about weighing one entity's rights vs. another's, you have to make a judgment call. Sometimes that's straightforward. Often it's not. That doesn't mean it's wrong to say that the judgment call is there and has to be made; it just means that life, and the law, are messy and complicated.

    The entire constitutional doctrines of vagueness and overbreadth are in conflict with this argument. In First Amendment issues, more than other areas, specificity about what is or can be prohibited is essential.

    Otherwise, the government can draw the line where it wants depending on its feeling about the speaker or the speech.

  30. There doesn't need to be a firm line.

    Yes! Yes there does!

    If you fail to give a firm line, you leave open the ability to selectively enforce.

    Spoken like a man who is unaware of how law enforcement works in this country.

    Selective enforcement is a fact of life at every level of the legal system, from local sheriffs all the way up to the U.S. DoJ. It is not going to change.

    Police and prosecutors make judgment calls every day about whether laws were broken; about whether there's enough evidence to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt; and about whether their limited resources would be better spent pursuing something or someone else.

    It's impossible to construct a working legal system that doesn't require any such judgment calls. To pretend otherwise is sheer fantasy.

    I don't know where you get this trust that the government won't do the wrong thing, but I assure you that it is misplaced.

    The government does the wrong thing all the time. It's unavoidable. Trying to write laws to make that impossible is an exercise in futility. No matter how perfect a law is, it is enforced by people, and people are not perfect.

    Don't be naive.

  31. The entire constitutional doctrines of vagueness and overbreadth are in conflict with this argument. In First Amendment issues, more than other areas, specificity about what is or can be prohibited is essential.

    Those doctrines say that a law can't be vague or overly broad. We aren't talking about any particular law right now, but rather about the general question of whether corporations have rights and, if so, to what extent they can be limited for the common good, compared to the extent to which individuals' rights can be so limited.

    When Congress writes a particular law, then the courts get to rule on whether it is vague or overly broad. That's the point at which the abstract philosophical discussion we're having turns into a discussion where a firm line is needed.

    I think there was a firm line in McCain-Feingold, and I think it was neither vague nor overly broad, given the damage that unlimited corporate spending does to political discourse and to the rights of others to participate in said discourse. SCOTUS disagreed (or, at least, some of them did). I think they were wrong.

    Maybe you're right that some gifted jurist needs to be given the opportunity to write the landmark, precedent-setting decision which will make it clear just what standards the courts should / will apply to laws restricting corporate speech. The fact that a nobody like me is unable to spell out such a standard doesn't mean that one can not or should not exist. It merely means that I don't belong on the Supreme Court. :-)

    (And no, I emphatically don't believe that CU is the right standard.)

  32. Don says:

    Ken,
    Could we define, by legislation perhaps, that only citizens have rights guaranteed by the Constitution? Corporations are legally "persons", not citizens.
    However, as long as their conduct doesn't violate any law, they would still be able to do as they wished as regards speech, economic activity (or lack thereof), etc., without government interference.

  33. Dan Weber says:

    1. Corporate personhood means that corporations can sue, can be sued, and can enter into contracts.

    2. Also, corporations also have some of the rights of the people they are made of, but not all the rights.

    I don't know what writing an amendment that "corporations aren't people" would do to the above two statements. SCOTUS unanimously said last year that corporations don't have all the rights of people, but the people most upset are completely unaware of this.

  34. Kasey says:

    I was going to write a whole long post until I got to this part…

    (Note that I'm addressing people who say corporations have no First Amendment rights, not people who say campaign donation restrictions do not violate the First Amendment because money is not speech, which is an entirely different ranty post.)

    I am eagerly awaiting that promised rant, Mr. Ken@Popehat.

  35. I Got Bupkis, Fomenter of "small-l" libertarianism says:

    You think that corporate influence will be so driven from politics that, for instance, the MPAA and RIAA won't be able to induce the government to retaliate against the Wikimedia Foundations and Googles of the world?

    OK, if you're agreeing with me, mea culpa, but….

    If it's wrong for Wiki and Google to express their opinions on this matter… then why is it ok for the RIAA and MPAA to express THEIR opinions on this matter?

    Goose, Gander… something like that.

    Or Kettle, Pot.

    Either way.

  36. I think it is significant that the RIAA and MPAA are using their money and influence to primarily lobby Congress to do what they want, while Wikimedia and Google are using their money and influence to primarily convince the American people that what the RIAA and MPAA want is wrong.
    I wonder if that idea might just be the seed from which the "firm line" that Ken so desperately wants could grow.

  37. I Got Bupkis, Fomenter of "small-l" libertarianism says:

    if they try to overreach against a huge corporation like Google, then they're going to get taken to court

    Unfortunately this is often not the case. It depends on whose interests are getting stepped on.

    If the government action is stepping on you or me but not the corporation, then the corporation often has no interest in helping to protect you, and will happily bend you over and pants you for your unrequested government nookie.

    The design for DMCA requests are a lot like this. Someone complains to your ISP, the ISP informs you and gives you a chance to take it down or they will shut you down. There are avenues to challenge it but it's a headache for someone not getting paid for it — unlike the likely attorney who filed the DMCA take-down request.

    This is one reason the DMCA is an abortion, the other being that it's just flat out in the wrong direction — rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic of historical copyright-as-control.

    SOPA/PIPA are even worse in that direction.

  38. I Got Bupkis, Fomenter of "small-l" libertarianism says:

    It is a situation where limits are necessary to even the playing field.

    Yeah, I wonder who gets to set those limits, then…. :-/

    If corporations really got and/or were abusive, one would think advocacy groups would form with the power and finances of thousands or hundreds of thousands…

    Wait….

    Greenpeace. WWF. NAACP. The Equal Justice Foundation. FIRE…

    Ah….

    **Never mind**

  39. I Got Bupkis, Fomenter of "small-l" libertarianism says:

    >>> what the flying monkey-fuck

    LOLZ. Gonna have to remember that one.

  40. I Got Bupkis, Fomenter of "small-l" libertarianism says:

    >>> In case you haven't noticed, passing a law is hard.

    Yeah, it's so hard there's like 10000 pages of them in legal fine print.

    I think it needs to be a flying monkey-fuck of a lot harder.

    >>> As Bill Maher put it recently on Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me!, "Well, you know, if you're going to keep it real in America, at some point you're going to have to say that people are stupid."

    Certainly the case for anyone who listens to Bill Mahar and doesn't have an overwhelming urge to put a brick through the TV within 10 minutes. If you can listen to him for more than 20 minutes without your brains dribbling out your ears, likely the reason is they aren't there any more.

    Bill Mahar gauges humans by the people willing to put up with his ass being on his shoulders. That's kind of a self-selection bias for sub-30 IQs right there.

  41. I Got Bupkis, Fomenter of "small-l" libertarianism says:

    >>> All too many people in this country can't handle subtlety, nuance, or grey areas. To them, it's got to be all or nothing, black or white. They can't cope with a middle ground.

    My experience is that this is the Left and Liberals entirely.

    If you don't agree with them, then you're evil, stupid, or otherwise incompetent… probably all three. Especially compared to them.

    There are not in my experience too many areas in which The Right is not willing to reason and compromise.

    That's how we got here, to the brink of destruction (OK, hyperbole, but we can SEE it from where we are). The Right kept trying to compromise, and the Left just stamped its feet and threatened to hold its breath until it got what it wanted. Over and over and over. The Left is now so far left that they can't see the Middle of the Road with the Hubble telescope from where they are. The Right, meanwhile, is now well to the left of where the Left was 40 years ago.

  42. Greenpeace. WWF. NAACP. The Equal Justice Foundation. FIRE…

    All of those but Greenpeace are 501(c)3's. Which means they're prohibited by law from attempting to directly influence legislation or participating in any way in political campaigns. It is hardly an even playing field.

    Not to mention that you're deluding yourself if you think that the amount of money such organizations can raise is anything like the money a mega-corporation can spend to get what it wants. Again, it's not an even playing field.

  43. My experience is that this is the Left and Liberals entirely.

    *snort*

    You are clearly living on a different planet from me, and I shall henceforth not waste my time responding to your comments.

  44. David Schwartz says:

    This argument only applies to the loopy critics of Citizens United who argue that corporations shouldn't have the same Constitutional rights people do (where the rationale for the right applies, of course). The sane critics argue that while corporations have first amendment rights, laws against unlimited, secret corporate spending to affect the political process survive strict scrutiny.

  45. I Got Bupkis, Fomenter of "small-l" libertarianism says:

    And there is the stuff people forget, like how they called Dolly Madison a whore on the floor of the House.

    The heck with that, there's Aaron Burr and Hamilton, as well as the Brooks-Preston-Sumner Incident

  46. b says:

    "Passing a law is hard."

    Two possible answers:
    1) Is that why we'll only have 40,000 new signed bills this year? (Per MSNBC reporting)
    2) If it were hard, then we'd have smarter legislators.

  47. I Got Bupkis, Fomenter of "small-l" libertarianism says:

    >>> your right to free speech doesn't mean that you have the right to stand up in the middle of a speech that someone else is giving and make such a ruckus that they are unable to speak.

    Who needs to speak to raise a ruckus? All you have to do is to be smart:

    The power of a pocket

    >>> You are clearly living on a different planet from me

    I'd already figured that part. Let us know when you get back to Earth, n'kay?

    I will happily trade examples of such anytime you like. You'll run out of them long before I will.

    The first move of almost all liberals is almost always to silence dissent from their cherished views. There's a reason for that. Clearly anyone who doesn't share their views is an extremist and not fit for casual conversation.

    Note, for example, how my response is to trade examples to show I'm right, while yours is to end the discussion. Kinda hard to find any middle ground when you end the dialogue. I'm open to being convinced I'm wrong. You, on the other hand, could not possibly be such.Q.E.D.

    >>> laws against unlimited, secret corporate spending to affect the political process survive strict scrutiny

    I grant I could be wrong, but I'm under the impression that all financial contributions must be reported. I don't even have a problem with that applying to individuals. I just wish there was an actual penalty for not reporting it — on both sides of the matter, but particularly, even primarily, on the politician's side — that stung, and stung badly. What happened to William Jefferson should be the norm, not the most extreme case.

  48. I Got Bupkis, Fomenter of "small-l" libertarianism says:

    All of those but Greenpeace are 501(c)3's. Which means they're prohibited by law from attempting to directly influence legislation or participating in any way in political campaigns. It is hardly an even playing field.

    If you don't think those organizations don't have MASSIVE effects on both laws and their interpretations, you might want to bring the shuttle back from your planet for a visit.

    There's this bogus concept known as "AGW" which has become defacto public policy largely due to efforts by some of those organizations, despite a clear and blatant failure to be able to predict jack, regular and steady misuse of the concept of peer revue, and a whole host of chicanery in which dogs eat homework and other assorted excuses to prevent anyone from seeing how something purporting to be "science" has been done.

    And that's just a single example of their capacity to affect policy, even when there is next to no legitimate justification for their claims. Add in some actual justification which raises the chance of something being 25% true, and some of those organizations can make defacto laws by pushing the public to believe something should be law, even when it's not even the proper purview of government in the first place.

  49. I Got Bupkis, Fomenter of "small-l" libertarianism says:

    I think there was a firm line in McCain-Feingold, and I think it was neither vague nor overly broad, given the damage that unlimited corporate spending does to political discourse and to the rights of others to participate in said discourse. SCOTUS disagreed (or, at least, some of them did). I think they were wrong.

    I would be far more likely to consider this claim if you could detail a couple examples of such excessive corporate influence, and how making MORE laws can reduce such influence.

    Since most corporations have substantial input into the making of laws (and this is, in fact, of necessity, since most corporation have a substantial percentage of the actual experts in a field), it is hard to see how you plan to make laws about a field which control the needed input from experts in a field and limit it only to "good" input.

    This is a problem which is outside the possible solution by government entities, being old enough that it essentially exists in Latin: "Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?" (think I spelled that right). I'm sure it existed in Hellenistic, if not Mycenaean Greek, as well.

  50. SPQR says:

    The sane critics argue that while corporations have first amendment rights, laws against unlimited, secret corporate spending to affect the political process survive strict scrutiny.

    Which had nothing to do with the issues in Citizens United.

  51. SPQR says:

    All of those but Greenpeace are 501(c)3's. Which means they're prohibited by law from attempting to directly influence legislation or participating in any way in political campaigns.

    Actually that's not correct.

  52. All of those but Greenpeace are 501(c)3's. Which means they're prohibited by law from attempting to directly influence legislation or participating in any way in political campaigns.

    Actually that's not correct.

    I believe it is. Would you care to elaborate on your disagreement with my statement?

  53. SPQR says:

    CU allows the rights of corporations to trump the rights of individuals and damages to the public sphere to such a large extent that the restrictions which CU overturned in fact should have been upheld as reasonable time / place / manner restrictions on speech.
    The restrictions which CU overturned were no different, e.g., from the fact that your right to free speech doesn't mean that you have the right to stand up in the middle of a speech that someone else is giving and make such a ruckus that they are unable to speak.
    That's exactly what the floodgates of corporate money in political speech opened by CU is doing.

    Utter nonsense. The analogy is just silly. Corporate spending to convey a message does not prevent others from speaking. There is simply no rational way to make this claim. And pretending that the McCain-Feingold restrictions were "time, place or manner" is equally bizarre. The restrictions were not content neutral – the foundation of the "time, place and manner" doctrine – and were not time place or manner restrictions at all. For the McCain Feingold restrictions utterly forbade speech.

  54. SPQR says:

    Jonathan, your understanding of the restrictions of 501(c)(3) corporations is wrong because such corps are not forbidden from attempting to influence legislation. They may not do so as a "substantial" part of their activities. The details of what that is varies among different types of 501(c)(3) organizations.

  55. Jonathan, your understanding of the restrictions of 501(c)(3) corporations is wrong because such corps are not forbidden from attempting to influence legislation. They may not do so as a "substantial" part of their activities. The details of what that is varies among different types of 501(c)(3) organizations.

    This is a trivial nit with the wording of my comment which is obviously irrelevant to the point I was making.

    Even if there was no restriction whatsoever on even substantial attempts to influence legislation, it would still be an entirely uneven playing field, because 501(c)3's are categorically prohibited from any campaigning for or against candidates, whereas CU opened the floodgates to allow corporations to spend as much money as they want campaigning directly for or against candidates. Therefore it is patently obvious that is is absurd to cite 501(c)3 organizations as a legitimate, effective response to the influence of corporate money in campaigns.

  56. Scott Jacobs says:

    This is a trivial nit with the wording of my comment which is obviously irrelevant to the point I was making.

    No, it just means that what you said was completely fucking wrong.

    You think the NAACP doesn't influence Congress?

    Are you fucking HIGH???

    Speech is speech, bumble-fuck. Just because Google spends a shit load doesn't stop any other group from spending money.

    If the 99% really is the 99%, then it shouldn't matter HOW much is spent, since they control 99% of the fucking electorate, unless a large part of the 99% is also really fucking stupid.

  57. Scott Jacobs says:

    because 501(c)3's are categorically prohibited from any campaigning for or against candidates,

    Sure, they just need to form a 501(c)4 or 527 to engage in that behavior.

    For example, the NAACP has at least 3 such groups.

  58. TimS says:

    Jonathan, if you consider this argument for a moment longer, I think you'll see some glaring flaws. You seem to be saying that talking to Congressional members is more protected than talking to private citizens. Let's leave aside the lack of historical support for this position and that it renders the "petition" language of the First Amendment irrelevant. You seem to be saying that Civil Rights era blacks could talk to their state officials, but the southern states were permitted to pass laws prohibiting blacks from discussing whether to form a "National Association" for their advancement.

    Ken, I think you hit the nail on the head in this post. I am eagerly awaiting your "money=speech" rant. Give us a hint: are you in favor or opposed to the proposition?

  59. Michael says:

    I weep Ken, because I fear I will never stumble across another post this brilliant. There is no other acceptable way to view this issue.

  60. SPQR says:

    No, Jonathan, its not a trivial nit. Your point was simply wrong.

  61. ElamBend says:

    What if the Snark was boojum? You see?

  62. Kiwanda says:

    Campaign contributions by foreign nationals are prohibited. Does registration in the US qualify a corporation as not foreign? I don't understand why, for example, a company with 7% ownership by a Saudi prince, and world-wide interests, should have a huge influence on US politics.

  63. I Got Bupkis, Fomenter of "small-l" libertarianism says:

    >>> unless a large part of the 99% is also really fucking stupid.

    Well, it is a largish part mostly composed of fans of Bill Mahar.

    :D

  64. Z says:

    I think its comparing apples to oranges. McCain Feingold didn't prohibit companies from contributing to campaigns, it simply said that there would be limits on how much they can contribute. It didn't dictate what they could or could not do within certain limits but said that they couldn't engage in certain conduct. The goal wasn't to prohibit a type of action or point of view but to prevent that view from dominating discourse. It was an attempt to keep the U.S. from becoming a total oligarchy. (All pretenses have since been abandoned.)

    So how would McCain Feingold have applied here? It wouldn't have. McCain Feingold prohibited activity, not inactivity. And since McCain-Feingold had no applicability neither did Citizens United. (Not to mention that Mc-F was limited to mentioning candidates not issues.)

  65. Matt says:

    Ken:

    Everyone knows that Citizens United critics are Socialist nutjobs. Now give us some of your former AUSA insight on the Megaupload thing. Specifically how can the govt proport to deny MU safe harbor based on knowledge of infringement. When Sevral of the precedents in DMCA cases, say that actual knowledge doesn't attach until a DMCA notice is filed See one of the Perfect 10 cases (v AOL i think)
    kthanks

  66. SPQR says:

    Z writes: It didn't dictate what they could or could not do within certain limits but said that they couldn't engage in certain conduct.
    What a bizarre way to tip toe around the fact that some, not all, corporate entities were forbidden from speech entirely for significant periods of time.

    The goal wasn't to prohibit a type of action or point of view but to prevent that view from dominating discourse.

    By prohibiting some corporate entities from speaking at all. Your comment is really bizarre.

    It was an attempt to keep the U.S. from becoming a total oligarchy. (All pretenses have since been abandoned.)

    Oh, prevent an oligarchy … why didn't you say so? Sheesh.

  67. Ken says:

    Matt: it remains to be seen what their actual evidence is, but the emails they quote in the indictment seem rather damning.

  68. John David Galt says:

    Am I right in thinking that MPAA is a corporation? Maybe its principals should follow their own standards and shut up.

  69. Matt says:

    It's a 501c(6) IIRC

  70. Brendan says:

    Excellent post, Ken.

  71. Brett says:

    It occurs to me that there's another angle to this discussion that's worth mentioning.

    The electric company can't decide to shut off your power for a day as a form of political protest. Ditto for the gas company and the phone company. This is true even if they are private, for-profit companies, as so many of them are nowadays thanks to deregulation.

    At what point do the internet and some of the major services running on it become so critical to our lives that they move into that category? Will Google ever be a "public utility"?

    Wait … what?? The last time I looked, I had service agreements (contracts) with the electric company, phone company, and other public utilities that I use. I don't have any contract with Google. You don't see any difference between those situations?

    Is the grocery store a "public utility" because it's critical to my life? That would be an absurd contention. Given that I don't have any contractual right to their services, however, they would certainly be able to close their doors for a day as a means of political protest.

    You can't compare corporate protest involving violation of legal obligations to corporate protest that involves no such violation (even if you think they have a moral obligation to provide service). That would be the same as comparing individual protest involving punching someone in the nose to individual protest by displaying a poster.

  72. InMD says:

    Personally I think the debate about whether "corporations have rights/are people" is a bit of a red-herring. Corporations aren't inherently good or bad, they're tools we've created to handle questions of liability for businesses and other enterprises. There's nothing special about them nor is there any rule out there saying we must have them or that makes them any more special than other legislatively created entities (LLC's, LLP's, Workers Unions).

    Personally I agreed with Citizen's United because as I understand the First Amendment it bars restrictions on speech generally without caveats about what sort of entity is making the speech, be they individual or an organization of some kind.

    That being said I find it difficult to be so optimistic about this outcome. There's a serious cultural problem in this country that allows special political access to small, wildly wealthy groups and tends to deny it to everyone else. This major setback and possibly permenant defeat of SOPA is not the result of principled blogs like Popehat standing up. It's the result of one major entrenched interest (the MPAA and other content creators) being outflanked by another entrenched interest (Silicon Valley). Ideals of freedom of speech weren't really part of the equation beyond the PR campaign. Had an accomodation been reached between the two big boys SOPA would have passed easily regardless of principle or how it impacted the public and the market place of ideas.

  73. Ken says:

    Matt: in the light of morning, after adequate sleep, I'd also point out that the DMCA safe harbor is of limited relevance because it's a defense to civil remedies for infringement, not a defense to criminal infringement.

  74. By this logic, shouldn't corporations be able to vote?

    If not, why not?

  75. Ken says:

    Tim:

    Because the set of people who can vote is different than the set of people who have First Amendment rights.

    For instance, someone who is not a citizen of the United States cannot vote, but still has First Amendment rights in the United States.

  76. Dan Weber says:

    See again AT&T vs FCC, from the same term as Citizens United, in which SCOTUS unanimously ruled that corporations do not have personal privacy.

  77. Orphan says:

    The clause struck down by Citizen's United would have applied, from my reading of the law, to Wikimedia, at least.

    The clause prohibits spending on communications targeting particular federal candidates (Wikimedia's blackout page linked to a list of supporters) thirty days before a primary (it is) targeting their constituents (it does) without being a non-profit.

    Section 204 is usually read as pertaining only to television and radio communications, but it also includes a line about being distributed through -providers- of television and radio communication, which as far as I can tell would mean internet distribution functionally counts.

  78. Orphan says:

    Edit: Without being an exempted entity, which it isn't, not a non-profit.

  79. Piper says:

    @ Ken – isn't the non-citizen application of selective enforcement vis-a-vis the first amendment defined? As such, though Corporations may have some rights regarding free speech under the First Amendment, that selecting against such speech may be legal? After all, non-citizens can be deported or barred from entry based on speech that would be covered under the first amendment. I believe there are also limitations on non-citizen lobbying activities that aren't present for citizen groups…

  80. Linus says:

    Not to mention that you're deluding yourself if you think that the amount of money such organizations can raise is anything like the money a mega-corporation can spend to get what it wants. Again, it's not an even playing field.

    Harrison Bergeron is on line two.

  81. C.S.P. Schofield says:

    Before i accept as a reasonable position the idea that corperations should not have a right to freely express themselves I want to hear how corporations are different, in a practical sense, from any other group of people gathered under any other legal model.

    What exactly is the moral and practical difference between, say, Occupy Wall Street and Pepsi Corporation?

    As regards free speech, please.

  82. Christina says:

    Ken, here are some of my challenges to unrestricted corporate rights:

    Corporations are by definition a legislated entity. They do not exist without government mandate. It would be like saying the government authorized the EPA, and now the EPA can do absolutely whatever it wants without regulation or oversight. Laughable, right? In theory, the government has the authority to revoke any corporate charter under the due process required by the laws of the particular state. The government therefore has complete authority over creating regulations for corporations. The government can pass a law saying web browsers and reference sites are public utilities and subject to special regulations regarding shut-downs.

    Corporations are by law restricted in their considerations. A corporation is legally required to maximize profit to the shareholders, and if a corporation takes actions that are contrary to that mission, shareholders can sue. Corporations engage in all sorts of behavior in pursuit of that stated goal, including outright illegal behavior, believing the profit mandate overrides all other considerations: dumping toxic wastes rather than follow legal disposal methods, hiring undocumented workers to keep wages and benefits down, violating employment laws in order to do the same, failing to file proper paperwork on mortgages, keeping two sets of books… (And we all know how minor any threat of prosecution or penalty for corporate wrongdoing is.) Because of its legally restricted vision, a corporation is unable to make fully rational decisions, since the range of acceptable choices is limited by the law.

    People have the right to assemble as they choose, and their individual rights are not erased by the aggregation. Many businesses do not incorporate and so maintain greater regulatory privacy in their operations. No one forces any group of people to incorporate and open themselves to additional government management. Groups of people (or even one single individual) choose to incorporate because they want to gain special legal and economic advantages from the government, and in return for those advantages they give government the authority to regulate the corporation to the extent of the current statutes. I think this boils down to a fundamental principle of liberty: If you want the government to leave you alone, don't ask it for special favors.

    Re Citizens United, the group of people who have voting rights is a subset of people who have free speech rights. Is there a subset of free speech rights that should be restricted to those who also have voting rights? I believe there is. Those without voting rights should not be allowed to contribute money to or otherwise influence a campaign for public office, IMO: foreign nationals, corporations, residents from outside a particular state, etc. Beyond those campaigns, any constituent of a public official or institution should have the unrestricted access and right to speak on any government matter, a constituent being defined as an individual or business in the jurisdiction of the official or institution, who would therefore be impacted.

    In practice, do these principles have any real effect on the system? Of course not. It doesn't matter if Google makes a statement, or if Sergey Brin does; if a PAC makes and distributes a political ad, or if an individual Mr. Koch or Mr. Soros does the same. The power is still where the money is.

  83. Scott Jacobs says:

    Not to mention that you're deluding yourself if you think that the amount of money such organizations can raise is anything like the money a mega-corporation can spend to get what it wants. Again, it's not an even playing field.

    I can only wonder what your reaction to the massive, record-setting piles of money that Unions spend to get Democrats elected is.

    I mean, the money shoveled at the Democratic Part of Wisconsin during the Prosser affair would astonish you.

    I say that it would astonish you because I rather suspect you're quite ignorant of such things.

  84. Scott Jacobs says:

    The government can pass a law saying web browsers and reference sites are public utilities and subject to special regulations regarding shut-downs.

    Ignoring all the other fallacies in that paragraph, this one is just plain stupid.

    Web browsers are created without any governmental input, without the benefit of any governmental action, and thus are beyond such ham-fisted bullshit.

    A corporation is legally required to maximize profit to the shareholders, and if a corporation takes actions that are contrary to that mission, shareholders can sue.

    No, they are not. That is the basic function of one, but it is not a legal requirement…

    If it was, I could sue Microsoft for not charging more for the Xbox 360, since doing so would maximize their profit.

    Many businesses do not incorporate and so maintain greater regulatory privacy in their operations.

    Name 5 major companies that are not incorporated.

    Is there a subset of free speech rights that should be restricted to those who also have voting rights? I believe there is.

    So can we arrest Andrew Sullivan already? Or shut up every non-citizen who protests efforts to actually enforce federal immigration law?

    Pretty please?

    Those without voting rights should not be allowed to contribute money to or otherwise influence a campaign for public office, IMO: foreign nationals, corporations, residents from outside a particular state, etc.

    So Unions can't give money to elections any more?

    You know what? I changed my mind. I fully support this idea.

    The power is still where the money is.

    I'm terribly sorry that you are so easily swayed in your voting by shiny ads.

  85. Linus says:

    I think this boils down to a fundamental principle of liberty: If you want the government to leave you alone, don't ask it for special favors.

    Are you saying that you think it is "asking a special favor" of the government to allow individuals to pool their money and resources to accomplish a common goal?

  86. Christina says:

    Linus: It's asking a special favor of the government to limit liability, assess different tax rates, allow for deductions that non-incorporated individuals and groups cannot use, etc.

    Any group of individuals can assemble themselves and their money; incorporation is not necessary for that.

  87. Scott Jacobs says:

    Linus: It's asking a special favor of the government to limit liability, assess different tax rates, allow for deductions that non-incorporated individuals and groups cannot use, etc.

    Indeed. What a favor it is to make it easier to be sued, pay a higher tax rate than individuals…

    Oh, I guess they get to deduct business expenses, and individuals can't do that… Oh wait, WE CAN.

    So what "favors" do corporations get, hmmm?

  88. Another guy named Dan says:

    @Christina: none of the illegal actions that you ascribe to coprpoations can happen unless an individual human being makes the decision to cause them to happen. It is a crime to dump toxic waste, period. The people who dump the barrels should be arrested and tried; the people who order the dumping should be arrested and tried. Just as the individual employees and shareholders of a company have personal responsibilites that cannot be abrogated by being part of a corporation, they reflexively have rights that cannot be abbrogated by this structure either.

  89. Ken says:

    Christina:

    Ken, here are some of my challenges to unrestricted corporate rights:

    I'm fine with an attack on unrestricted corporate rights, but I wasn't arguing for unrestricted corporate rights. I was arguing against the concept "corporation's aren't people and therefore lack any First Amendment rights, resolving any disputes like that in Citizen's United."

    In theory, the government has the authority to revoke any corporate charter under the due process required by the laws of the particular state.

    Sure — but by saying so, you are pointing out that corporations have at least some right to due process in the face of government demands, which is consistent with my point.

    The government can pass a law saying web browsers and reference sites are public utilities and subject to special regulations regarding shut-downs.

    I think you might have meant web search engine (like Google) rather than web browser (like IE or Firefox). Also, I disagree that it is self-evident that the government can nationalize these, in whole or in part, under current law. Nor should they be able to.

    Because of its legally restricted vision, a corporation is unable to make fully rational decisions, since the range of acceptable choices is limited by the law.

    I'm not sure I follow your logic. A corporation's general obligation to protect the interests of the stockholders does not legally obligate it to do anything it possibly can to maximize profits at the risk of breaking the law or harming its public relations. If it did, corporations wouldn't be able to donate to charity. Corporate law is not that limiting. Corporate officers actually have a fairly wide range of discretion under the business judgment rule and the good faith/rational decision defense. Moreover, I'm not sure of the basis for presuming that corporations are less rational decision-makers than humans, just because they have a rather loosely enforced rule pointing them towards profit, which most humans pursue without any particular rule.

    People have the right to assemble as they choose, and their individual rights are not erased by the aggregation. Many businesses do not incorporate and so maintain greater regulatory privacy in their operations. No one forces any group of people to incorporate and open themselves to additional government management. Groups of people (or even one single individual) choose to incorporate because they want to gain special legal and economic advantages from the government, and in return for those advantages they give government the authority to regulate the corporation to the extent of the current statutes. I think this boils down to a fundamental principle of liberty: If you want the government to leave you alone, don't ask it for special favors.

    All of this is fine, if you want to operate on a very small, blog-in-your-pajamas, make-copies-at-Kinkos sort of way. But to run any operation of any significant size, an entity is almost essential. The rule that you suggest — that people who want to organize ought to just do so informally — actually tends to favor people with lots of money over people without it.

    Those without voting rights should not be allowed to contribute money to or otherwise influence a campaign for public office, IMO: foreign nationals, corporations, residents from outside a particular state, etc.

    OK, but this just brings me back to the question in the post. What's the principled difference between "otherwise influence" an election and a piece of proposed legislation? Should Google be allowed to do what it did — post noticeable advocacy on its page to influence people to contact their legislators to oppose a proposed bill, but NOT acceptable to post advocacy saying, for instance, "make sure you vote for someone who opposes SOPA" or "educate yourself on the candidates' position on SOPA before voting?"

    In practice, do these principles have any real effect on the system? Of course not. It doesn't matter if Google makes a statement, or if Sergey Brin does; if a PAC makes and distributes a political ad, or if an individual Mr. Koch or Mr. Soros does the same. The power is still where the money is.

    Of course principles make a difference. Legal principles like freedom of expression make a difference. Exceptions to First Amendment protections make a difference — they are used as precedent, and they are inevitably applied disproportionately against the less powerful in favor of the more powerful.

  90. Dan Weber says:

    The rule that you suggest — that people who want to organize ought to just do so informally — actually tends to favor people with lots of money over people without it.

    Indeed. Citizens United is what gives me a chance against Bill Gates.

    Citizens United was a non-profit corporation. It formed because the people involved needed to pool their money for their political speech: a documentary about Hillary Clinton.

  91. BL1Y says:

    "A corporation is legally required to maximize profit to the shareholders, and if a corporation takes actions that are contrary to that mission, shareholders can sue."

    "No, they are not. That is the basic function of one, but it is not a legal requirement…"

    I think you're both wrong …or maybe both right?

    Corporations owe a duty to their shareholders, they have to act in the shareholder interest, and 'shareholder interest' is basically shorthand for 'profits.'

    But, corporations are given a lot of latitude when it comes to strategy, and under the business judgment rule, any claim about long-term growth or fostering consumer loyalty that passes the laugh test is good enough. They have to maximize profits, but not immediate profits. They can sell the x-box for less if they think it will increase sales of games, or create fans that will buy the x-box 360.

    Courts won't require you to prove your business strategy was the best, but you do have to present an argument that it's a plausible strategy. Look at Dodge v Ford. Ford slashed prices and raised pay under the reasoning that they were making too much money. Dodge (and investor) sued and won, claiming that not making too much money wasn't the corporation's job. If Ford had just said "I did it to create long-lasting good will" he would have won, but he didn't.

  92. bigAl says:

    While this discussion is well-thought out and civil for the most part, it really is just a whole lot of sound and fury, like most "polarized" political debate. Where's the beef? money = speech anyone?

  93. This argument presents a false choice between two extremes. One
    extreme is the current state of affairs, where corporations can
    anonymously pay for political ads for or against candidates. The
    other extreme is one in which corporations are not allowed to advocate
    any position on any political question.

    However, those extremes are not the only options. Overturning the
    bizarre idea that corporations are entitled to human rights would mean
    that Congress could legislate conditions for what corporations can do,
    but Congress would not have to choose one extreme or the other.

    For instance, it might decide that corporations can post signs stating
    a political position on their (physical or virtual) premises — where
    it is clear what entity is making the statement — but that they can't
    buy ads for or against candidates.

    I would not favor a total ban on political statements by corporations.
    Indeed, that would have forbidden corporations from participating in
    the anti-SOPA blackout. The ironic thing is, it would also have
    avoided the need for the blackout. SOPA was proposed due to the
    political influence of business, which has grown through intervention
    by corporations in our elections.

    That hypothetical total ban would go too far, but not as far as the
    current situation goes. To adopt any sensible criterion requires
    rejecting the position, launched by the US Chamber of Commerce in the
    1970s, that corporations have "human rights".

    I recommend the book Corporations Are Not People, by Jeff Clements,
    which I am reading now. It describes several laws that were casualties
    of that position.

  94. SPQR says:

    Richard, you confuse several things and build at least one strawman. The Citizens United decision does not assert that corporations have "human rights". Like so many opinions about Citizens United, that's very distant from the actual opinion's holdings.

    Second, the pro SOPA corporations got their legislation written and sponsored through others kinds of influence than First Amendment rights, they got it sponsored even while subject to campaign contribution limits. They got it sponsored using the kinds of influence that don't disappear just because you can prevent a corp from buying an ad.

  95. Renee Marie Jones says:

    Chris Dodd said: hey, the MPAA paid you lawmakers a lot of money and now we expect you to pass the laws we tell you to pass. Google and Wikimedia and others were not demanding quid-pro-quo for their bribes. That is the difference. Bribery should not be protected by the first amendment.

  96. Dennis says:

    What I found disappointing is that we went from an era of "… and I approve this message" to "I'm legally forbidden to tell them to stop." This extra layer of separation (and anonymity) basically allow parties to troll. I don't mind corporation taking a stand with their own name, as in the case with Wikipedia. I don't even mind if overtly partisan organizations buy ads and make movie. What dislike are shell corporations which exist simply to win a single election and are disbanded afterwards. They may or may not be a person, but they surely don't have a soul.

  97. Ben says:

    This question can be answered without getting the First Amendment rights of corporations. There was no law stating that corporations can't protest. Citizens United was about a law that prevented Corporations from donating money to support political campaigns.

    I suppose your follow up question to this would be "what if there was a law that stated corporations could not protest the way google and wiki did?" In response I would have to say that corporations have Free Speech rights.

    How would I reconcile this with Citizens? Well I'll take the easy way out and join the Money is not speech camp.

  1. January 19, 2012

    [...] A question for critics of Citizens United: Did corporations have a right to join the SOPA/PIPA black… (Popehat) Some of the criticism began with the Citizens United case, which held that the McCain–Feingold Act violated the First Amendment to the extent it purported to prohibit a non-profit corporation from producing and airing a film attacking Hillary Clinton. Elements of the Occupy Wall Street campaign took up the cry, asserting that corporations are not people and only people, not corporations, have constitutional rights. [...]

  2. January 19, 2012

    [...] But the absolute best asking of the question, and exploration of the issues surrounding it, comes fr…. [...]

  3. January 19, 2012

    [...] isn't it funny how lots of the same people who decried the Citizens United ruling are singing the praises of [...]

  4. January 21, 2012

    [...] the legal personhood of corporations is both bad logic and dangerous policy, read Ken at Popehat, here.) Keeping people indignant, misguided and uninformed isn't funny, it is irresponsible and [...]