Streams

Hillary: The Movie and Campaign Finance Implications

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Supreme Court will re-hear arguments today in a case that could have serious implications for campaign finance reform. The case regards the funding and distribution of "Hillary: The Movie", which was backed by conservative group Citizens United, and whether such funding falls under campaign finance regulations. Daphne Eviatar, legal reporter for the Washington Independent and Peter Overby, Power, Money and Influence correspondent for NPR, discuss the case.

Guests:

Daphne Eviatar and Peter Overby

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Comments [40]

Will from Brooklyn

The issue isn't speech, its the funding for speech. There's no constitutional right to having your ideas broadcast, or sent to a million people or whatever. Regulate how the funding works, as we do campaign finance, not the speech.

Sep. 09 2009 05:39 PM
Joel Salomon from Brooklyn

To extend Phil Henshaw’s comment (#33), corporations are responsible to their shareholders for how money is spent. If you can show return-on-investment for political contributions, you have just proven BRIBERY.

Sep. 09 2009 11:51 AM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from Langley, VA

Part II -- Nonetheless, this case is sometimes incorrectly cited as holding that corporations, as juristic persons, are protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. [2] The question of whether corporations were persons within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment had been argued in the lower courts and briefed for the Supreme Court, but the Court did not base its decision on this issue. However, before oral argument took place, Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite announced: "The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does." [3] This quotation was printed by the court reporter in the syllabus and case history above the opinion, but was not in the opinion itself. As such, it did not technically - in the view of most legal historians - have any legal precedential value. [4] However, the Supreme Court is not required by Constitution or even precedent to limit its rulings to written statements. The persuasive value of Waite's statement did influence later courts, becoming part of American corporate law without ever actually being enacted by statute or formal judicial decision. [5] [clarification needed] For these reasons, some believe it to be literally an unprecedented extension of constitutional rights to US corporations. [6]

Sep. 09 2009 11:32 AM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from Langley, VA

Part I -- Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, 118 U.S. 394 (1886) was a United States Supreme Court case dealing with taxation of railroad properties. The case is most notable for the obiter dictum statement that juristic persons are entitled to protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. For its opinion, the Court consolidated three separate cases: Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, California v. Central Pacific Railroad Company, and California v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company. California had created a law which provided for taxation of railroad property. The taxpaying railroads challenged this law, based on a conflicting federal statute of 1866 which gave them privileges inconsistent with state taxation (14 Stat. 292, §§ 1, 2, 3, 11, 18). This statutory question was the heart of the case and the basis of the Court's ruling. Nonetheless, other constitutional issues had been raised below, including claims that the taxes violated equal protection. The lower court had entered judgment for the railroads, holding that the tax assessments were void because they improperly included property which was outside the jurisdiction of the agency that assessed the tax. [1] The Supreme Court never reached the equal protection claims.

Sep. 09 2009 11:31 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

For all posters who think the personhood of corporations is a fiction, legally they are. The Supreme Court ruled in 1886 (how’s that for precedent) in the Santa Clara case, that corporations ARE people entitled to the same rights as the individual. I think it was a wrongheaded and unconstitutional decision, however it is thinking 120 years old. It was a lack of journalism on the BL Show/WNYC’s part not to mention Santa Clara v Southern Pacific and either ignorance or oversight or both on the part of the guests not to mention it for clarity.
It will definitely be judicial activism if corporate political speech is further expanded by this partisan court; however, Santa Clara paved the way.

Sep. 09 2009 10:56 AM
Peter Anderson from Highland Park, NJ

Corporations are People, Proxy People.

That corporations are persons is a fiction. They are, however, proxies for real people with real vested interests. The corporation and “it’s” right to free speech is a fig leaf for the naked agenda of its officers and board.

Allowing a corporation to speak directly in a general election is like letting a Major League ballplayer on steroids play in a Little League game.

Sep. 09 2009 10:55 AM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from Langley, VA

By the way, I am against any non-living entity being allowed to contribute directly or to any group that weighs in directly or indirectly through public advertising on any local, state or federal election. This includes corporations, industry groups, not for profits and unions. They can speak to their people and let them contribute as individuals, like AARP and the NRA do.

PS -- It's funny that after the Dems stole the election of 2008 with an obscene expenditure of $800,000,000.00 much of it untraceable, that there has been NO talk of campaign finance reform or even voting machine reform (which would block multiple voting as with ACORN and homeless people in several states). What a surprise -- the Dems are hypocrites and Obama’s change is a fraud, much as he is. PS #2 - People will be going to jail for what happen in 2008.

Sep. 09 2009 10:52 AM
Phil Henshaw from Washington Hts

What would actually settle the issue... and fix other things as well, is holding fiduciaries to their stated obligation to serve the best interests of their public stockholders.

Fiduciaries are obligated to serve the public, and in advocating public choices could be held to speaking truthfully and to not confuse or mislead informed people in significant ways. That's the rule we should be following for political as well as advertising "free speech" for "persons created by the state".

Sep. 09 2009 10:41 AM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from Langley, VA

It's ironic that this is being discussed on WNYC/NPR which is primarily funded by people with "moveon.org" sensibilities and connections and which acted as a free source of almost unlimited advertising for Barrack Hussein Obama in 2008.

I'm sure a case can be made against WNYC and NPR and with only a bit of legal discovery it could be proved that they acted as a de facto 527 organization without registering as such and may in fact have interacted directly with the official campaign. Both "no-nos." It would make a nice class action against radical public radio and one that would unfortunately end what was pre-2000 election, a wonderful cultural, educational and fair news entity.

Sep. 09 2009 10:39 AM
anonyme

Hillary lost all credibility with me as did her husband when I found out about the horse trading that put Vilsack in charge of our food supply - and earlier about all the Monsanto people they made regulators during Bill's term. They are no better than the ugliest conservatives - and this was a deep disappointment to me. I don't care what she did otherwise - handing over our health and well beign to big agra and big pharma. Disgusting.
And I am a dyed in the wool Dem for generations, even had a ranking grandfather in the party - which is not doing its job for me. I say support Ron Paul, the only person who tells it like it is: We are livign in a fascist country, corporations in bed with government.

Sep. 09 2009 10:31 AM
Susan from Kingston, New York

Corporations are not individuals period!

Sep. 09 2009 10:28 AM
hjs from 11211

soon corporations will have the right to vote

Sep. 09 2009 10:28 AM
Yosef Rapaport from Brooklyn

The New York Times could refuse an op-ed page by GE and that is their right under the 1st ammendment.

Secondly, If a corporation does not have the same 1st ammendment rights as an individual. Does Church have a less of a right to express its beliefs than an individual believer?

Sep. 09 2009 10:27 AM
cnh from NYC

Oh and lobbying should be illegal as well.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE NOT THE CORPORATIONS OR UNIONS!!

Sep. 09 2009 10:26 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

The law professor from Brooklyn seems to disregard the plain language of the First Amendment. I believe it did specifically enumerate free speech for the press. Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886) was one of the worse decisions.

Sep. 09 2009 10:24 AM
Carey from Jersey

I have a simple idea. Limit contribution amounts, and if you receive a contribution, it has to be listed for the public to see.
We can't be against campaign contributions, but we can limit the amount they are able to give. Why not?

Sep. 09 2009 10:24 AM
Len Steinbach from Forest Hills

Corporations are really the aggregation of individual stockholders, who in their own right have freedom of speech and contributions. Does extending this right to corporations in effect just duplicate and amplify these voices.

Sep. 09 2009 10:24 AM
Lewis from Long Island

Bottom line is corporations are not people and certainly not citizens in the constitutional sense. Therefore the rights afforded to citizens (in this case voting supporting candidates for office) should NOT be afforded to corporations.

This means that corporations should not finance directly or indirectly candidates for office as it is in effect voting though their dollars for a candidate AND the power of corporations (which have an existence separate from the people running it by legal design) far outstrips the common citizen when measured in terms of financial power.

If the floodgates are opened by the supreme court by removing the limitations, the net result will be disastrous for voters even in mass.

Sep. 09 2009 10:23 AM
cnh from NYC

Unions and Corps are not voters and should not be allowed to contribute in any way to the political process. It's simple really.

Sep. 09 2009 10:23 AM
Kent from Upstate

How did this possibly make it to the Supreme Court? Only because corporations have so much sway in government in the first place. The real issue should be whether a corporation can lobby its interests or not in terms of lawmaking.

Sep. 09 2009 10:23 AM
Maria from Harlem

Talking about money ruling the populous,

Let's look at Golisano and New York!

Enough said.

Sep. 09 2009 10:23 AM
oil monkey

Corporate 'personhood' is a dangerous fraud. By psychological definitions, most corporations would be diagnosed as often behaving in criminally sociopathic ways. If a corporation is given the status of 'personhood' shouldn't it also be subject to the punishments a human person is subject to? Corporate execution for egregious crimes, etc?

Sep. 09 2009 10:23 AM
Peg Roberts from Mt. Tabor, NJ

How about a simple disclaimer on all political ads: Please go to factcheck.org for complete facts on this issue.

This might stem the tide of blatantly incorrect statements that so often masquerade as "facts"!

Sep. 09 2009 10:22 AM
Lewis from Long Island

Bottom line is corporations are not people and certainly not citizens in the constitutional sense. Therefore the rights afforded to citizens (in this case voting supporting candidates for office) should NOT be afforded to corporations.

This means that corporations should not finance directly or indirectly candidates for office as it is in effect voting though their dollars for a candidate AND the power of corporations (which have an existence separate from the people running it by legal design) far outstrips the common citizen when measured in terms of financial power.

If the floodgates are opened by the supreme court by removing the limitations, the net result will be disastrous for voters even in mass.

Sep. 09 2009 10:22 AM
Fred Kahan from New Jersey

In the prior term, the Court found against a WV elected state Supreme Court justice who had been funded by a corporation subsequently benefited by one of his rulings (the details are even uglier.) Does this ruling suggest that the Court will be sensitive to this issue?

Sep. 09 2009 10:22 AM
Aaron from Harlem

It would be fine if corporations can vote or had the potential to vote. I guess the lobby for Iran can support a candidate...

Sep. 09 2009 10:22 AM
Mike from Manhattan from NYC

The idea that a corporation is considered a "person" is absurd. Newspapers (corporate, privately owned or a limited partnership) is specifically mentioned in the Constitution. The idea that any corporation is a person is an artifact of the 19th Century "Golden Age" of the robber barons who bought the supreme court of the day along with the Congress. It is established law, but no more so than the limitations from the Reform era.

Sep. 09 2009 10:22 AM
Hugh Sansom from Brooklyn, NY

The right-wing's determination that corporations be considered persons has no foundation in early Constitutional law. There is zero evidence that the founders had any view of corporations as persons.

The free-speech of papers and other news organizations is specifically guaranteed in the First Amendment. Not so General Motors or Microsoft.

Your guest also makes the excellent point that the owners and other figures at GM or whatever are completely free to exercise his or her right to speak.

As for more versus less speech, there is a very important point here: Floors work better than ceilings.

In other words, if we want to level the playing field, we should provide assistance to the less well-funded.

Sep. 09 2009 10:21 AM
hjs from 11211

calls
read this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senate_career_of_Hillary_Rodham_Clinton

IMO she was a great senator.

Sep. 09 2009 10:21 AM
anonyme

ABSOLUTELY NOT! CORPORATIONS ARE NOT INDIVIDUALS!

But I want to ask your two guest what they think the outcome is going to be today

Sep. 09 2009 10:20 AM
Dennis from Englewood

I'm sorry. Speech is speech. Money is not speech.

Sep. 09 2009 10:20 AM
upper west dude

Even if corporations could make donations, wouldn't they be subject to the same contribution limits as individuals? So Exxon could only donate $2,000 per campaign (or whatever the limits currently are)?

Sep. 09 2009 10:18 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Throwing around words like Socialist, traitor, treason, etcetera are no different now than pink or commie from the ‘50s. As partisan as things are today, it’s the equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater, and since we don’t even know who the corporate sponsor(s) is/are, it’s allowing someone to incite and do it anonymously.
I have plenty of unkind things to say about Hillary Clinton; however, the promo played was libel at best and couldn’t be described as anything but political speech and not an unbiased biography of the then Senator seeking truth.

Sep. 09 2009 10:18 AM
hjs from 11211

JUST say NO to all campaign finance regulations if people can't figure out who to vote for, who would be better for them, then screw the people.

OLIGARHY[sic] NOW!!

Sep. 09 2009 10:18 AM
Bobby G from East Village

The Constitution refers to "We the people," not we the corporations. Corporations are subject to written law.

Sep. 09 2009 10:17 AM
Charles from Harlem

1. Ironic that Sotomayor was taken to task in her Senate confirmation to claim that judges do write laws and her first case as a Justice is one where she is re-writing the law.

2. Corporations are legal fictions, recognized by the State to maximize profits. Why should a corporate shareholder get two political voices, one as a private citizen and another as a corporate citizen?

Sep. 09 2009 10:16 AM
Hugh Sansom from Brooklyn, NY

The law may lump unions and corporations together -- something that may have been plausible decades ago. But today there is no balance between the two. Moreover, the violently right-wing bias of Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito is patently clear. So we know what the plan is -- the right-wing aims to open the gates to a flood of corporate contributions to conservative candidates.

Only 7.6 percent of private sector workers are unionized (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures for 2008). Even in the public sector, only 36.8 percent of workers are unionized.

In typically conservative states, like North Carolina, figures are even lower.

(New York has the highest unionized rate -- 24.9 percent.)

Sep. 09 2009 10:16 AM
John Celardo from Fanwood, NJ

Each time a Democratic president nominates a Federal judge we hear the threat that the new judge will be “activist” and will “legislate from the bench.” If ever there was a case of judicial activism, this is it! We also heard from Roberts and Allito during their confirmation that precedent would be honored. HA!

Sep. 09 2009 10:15 AM
Ryan from Manhattan

This hearing disturbs me greatly. I worry for our democracy if corporations are allowed to play kingmaker with their vast warchests. Beyond that, I am terrified that this great check on power will be dashed by the supreme court. When scary bills come up in congress I can write to my representative. Once again were all held hostage by these 9 little dictators.

Sep. 09 2009 10:14 AM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from Langley, VA

Doesn't Hillary still owe the tax payers of New York State $1.4 million dollars for money spent protecting and transporting her during her first campaign to become your Junior Senator? Maybe one of your listeners knows whether or not she ever paid her bills. PS - did she ever do anything? I understand that she and Chuck only got NYC 5 billion of the 20 billion available after 9-11-01. "Heck of a job!"

Sep. 09 2009 10:13 AM

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