Quite a few politicians and media figures are up in arms over the Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday acknowledging the free-speech rights of corporations when it comes to political messages. In Citizens United v. FEC, the court ruled 5-4 that limits on political ads from corporations, like those exemplified in campaign-finance reform legislation, represented an unconstitutional abridgement of free speech. After all, the First Amendment does say, “Congress shall make no law.”
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) criticized the court’s ruling in the following way:
This activist and far reaching decision is even worse than we had feared. This opens the floodgates and allows special interest money to overflow our elections and undermine our democracy. The bottom line is, the Supreme Court has just predetermined the winners of next November’s election. It won’t be the Republican or the Democrats and it won’t be the American people; it will be Corporate America.
Similarly, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) appeared Thursday night on MSNBC and lamented the decision with host Keith Olbermann. They both predicted the decision would lead to mass corruption due to the influence corporations would have on the political process. Here is a clip of that segment:
Lost in all of this exaggerated fury is the realization that corruption in government comes largely not from people exercising their free-speech rights but from the size of government itself. If today’s federal government was constrained to the powers the framers of the Constitution intended, there wouldn’t be much room for corruption and influence-peddling, because no one could gain favors from the government. But today government is involved in all sorts of nefarious activities that allow it to essentially pick winners and losers. Vast subsidies, bailouts and regulations enable this.
To argue that a group of people acting through a corporation to express their political views on an issue is in itself corrupt is entirely misguided. The real corruption comes when politicians use government to favor one person or group over another — an unconstitutional practice our founders never had in mind.