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Today's Poll: Should corporations have same political free speech rights as individuals?

Chris Charvella
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I'm no constitutional scholar, but the problem here, as I see it, is that if you grant first amendment rights to corporations then you're setting a precedent that allows them to have all constitutional rights extended their way. I don't know how thrilled I'd be about seeing corporate militias. Also, bear in mind that a corporation is simply a legal document. No one is trying to stop individual citizens within a corp. from exercising their right to free speech.
John Roach
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If you are a candidate for office and you running on attacking corporations or big unions, then they should be able to respond (overlooked by some, unions are now free to spend money also). That just makes fair. True,Corporations and big unions have more money than many candidates, but as the last election showed, both sides find ways for 2nd tier groups to spend millions for their side.
Chris Charvella
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Howard, a corporation is a legal entity, not a person. The people within a corporation have their own right to free speech. Along those same lines, it is unreasonable to expect that a corporation speaks for all of the people it employs. As a matter of fact, if a corp. is granted full rights of free speech, wouldn't that action be limiting the rights of their employed?
Dennis Jay
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I think it's interesting that conservatives decry judicial activism — unless it supports their own causes. Constitutional rights are not absolute. There have always been limits on free speech, gun ownership, etc. This is an intellectual dishonest decision. The voices of common people are already drowned out. This will make it worse. We truly are becoming the Corporate States of America.
John Roach
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Dennis, How can labor unions and corporations defend themselves during an election from attacks?
James Renfrew
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Dennis speaks my mind - conservatives decry judicial activism. I can't think of a more bald-faced example of what they decry than this decision. In tiny increments states had been creeping towards "clean election" laws - this wipes it all away. I suspect it will take a very long time to repair this damage. Free speech is now available to highest bidder. My $25 is not going to get me very far in the marketplace of ideas when these big players have billions to spend.
Bea McManis
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This somewhat long preamble leads to the discussion on the SCOTUS decision. On the cold morning of Friday, March 6th, 1857, a very old man who was born just eight months and thirteen days after the Declaration of Independence was adopted; a man who was married to the sister of the man who wrote "The Star Spangled Banner;" a man who was enlightened enough to have freed his own slaves and given pensions to the ones who had become too old to work read aloud, in a reed-thin voice, a very long document. In it, he ruled on a legal case involving a slave, brought by his owner to live in a free state; yet to remain a slave. The slave sought his freedom, and sued. And looking back over legal precedent, and the Constitution, and the America in which it was created, this judge ruled that no black man could ever be considered an actual citizen of the United States. "They had for more than a century before been, regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far unfit, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." The case, of course, was Dred Scott. The old man was the fifth Chief Justice of the United States of America, Roger Brooke Tawney. And the outcome, he believed, would be to remove the burning question of the abolition of slavery from the political arena for once and for all. The outcome, in fact, was the Civil War. No American ever made a single bigger misjudgment. No American ever carried the responsibility for the deaths and suffering of more Americans. No American ever was more quickly vilified. Within four years Chief Justice Tawney's rulings were being ignored in the South and the North. Within five, President Lincoln at minimum contemplated arresting him. Within seven, he died, in poverty, while still Chief Justice. Within eight, Congress had voted to not place a bust of him alongside those of the other former Chief Justices. But good news tonight, Roger B. Tawney is off the hook. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72ZwG5vQ_04
C. M. Barons
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Posted by John Roach on January 25, 2010 - 12:40pm Dennis, How can labor unions and corporations defend themselves during an election from attacks? John, I hope you are being facetious! When Nixon lost to Kennedy in 1960, the close-call election win was chalked up to the televised debates- not the subject matter: the difference in appearance of the two candidates as viewed by the public on their TV screens. In 1968 Joe McGinniss published The Selling of the President, a book describing how Richard Nixon applied the lessons from his failed bid and revolutionized political media stategies. Our elections have devolved from substantive contests based on issues to guages of campaign slickness ie: who spent the most and who had the best ad agency? Bossie did not tackle a Constitutional rights case; he is hedging the limits of political advertising. As to depriving corporations of their speech rights- any owner, CEO, chairman of the board or stockholder is an individual with the right to speak out. Corporations are not entitled to personal rights; they are not people.
Chris Charvella
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John, corporations and unions are welcome to 'defend themselves' by running ads that tell folks how great they are. They do it all the time now. I'm not so naive as to believe that this hasn't been going on for decades, there was absolutely no reason for the SCOTUS to make it even easier. Let's take the 'defending themselves' argument one step further. Let's say Candidate A is advocating war with North Korea, Candidate B wants nothing to do with such a war. What's to stop Kim Jong Il from funneling money to a corporation in America to run ads in favor of candidate B. Since no money trail would be required we'd have foreign interests influencing American elections. It's an extreme example, I know, but this is the sort of thing you open yourself up for when you give legal entities the same rights as living, breathing citizens.
Lorie Longhany
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How can a corporation be given this individual right when the corporation is made up of many individual shareholders? How is the will of all those diverse shareholders discerned? Will there be a vote before the money goes out? For instance if I'm a shareholder of Wal-Mart and I don't want the corporation giving a billion dollars to candidate X, maybe I support candidate Y my free speech as part owner of the corporation is being suppressed. Unions will never have the vast amounts of money that the corporations will be able to pour into elections. They will be vastly out spent, so there is no balance there for workers and the middle class. And there again, union's are also made up of people coming from diverse political leanings. With this horrible ruling the politicians might better just go the way of professional athletes and wear their corporate sponsors logos on their apparel and advertise for them on the TV.
Mark Potwora
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We all get to cast a vote for who ever we want to..My vote isn't swayed one way or the other because of how much money is spent on a candidate...Seems like the ones who think this Supreme Court ruling was wrong doesn't have much faith in the voters of the USA..A few more million spent on getting someone elected won't change how a Democrat or a Republican vote...The candidate with the most money doesn't always win..Give the voters some credit..
C. M. Barons
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Mark- if corporations determine who the candidates are (or are not) your argument is moot. ...And if you think corporate influence has no bearing on the slate of candidates, you are misinformed. Also- if we are going to extend Constitutional rights to corporatations, should we grant them the right to vote? And if corporations are owned or directed by non-U.S. citizens should they have the right to participate in political processes?
Chris Charvella
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Misinformed/Naive, Tomayto/Tomahto
C. M. Barons
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How much time did the networks and newspapers devote to the third party candidates? Chuck Baldwin, Darrell Castle, Daniel Imperato, Cynthia McKinney, Bob Barr, Ralph Nader, Charles Jay, Frank McEnulty, Gloria La Riva, Gene Amundson, Ted Weill, Brian Moore, Roger Colero and Alan Keyes ran for President in 2008. Few of them were ever given a platform of debate or allowed to air their positions; most didn't even show on the ballot. Do you think corporate ownership of the news media has anything to do with it? GENERAL ELECTRIC --(donated 1.1 million to GW Bush for his 2000 election campaign) Television Holdings: * NBC: includes 13 stations, 28% of US households. * NBC Network News: The Today Show, Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, Meet the Press, Dateline NBC, NBC News at Sunrise. * CNBC business television; MSNBC 24-hour cable and Internet news service (co-owned by NBC and Microsoft); Court TV (co-owned with Time Warner), Bravo (50%), A&E (25%), History Channel (25%). The "MS" in MSNBC means microsoft The same Microsoft that donated 2.4 million to get GW bush elected. Other Holdings: * GE Consumer Electronics. * GE Power Systems: produces turbines for nuclear reactors and power plants. * GE Plastics: produces military hardware and nuclear power equipment. * GE Transportation Systems: runs diesel and electric trains. ================================================== WESTINGHOUSE / CBS INC. Westinghouse Electric Company, part of the Nuclear Utilities Business Group of British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) whos #1 on the Board of Directors? None other than: Frank Carlucci (of the Carlyle Group) Television Holdings: * CBS: includes 14 stations and over 200 affiliates in the US. * CBS Network News: 60 minutes, 48 hours, CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, CBS Morning News, Up to the Minute. * Country Music Television, The Nashville Network, 2 regional sports networks. * Group W Satellite Communications. Other Holdings: * Westinghouse Electric Company: provides services to the nuclear power industry. * Westinghouse Government Environmental Services Company: disposes of nuclear and hazardous wastes. Also operates 4 government-owned nuclear power plants in the US. * Energy Systems: provides nuclear power plant design and maintenance. ================================================================ VIACOM INTERNATIONAL INC. Television Holdings: * Paramount Television, Spelling Television, MTV, VH-1, Showtime, The Movie Channel, UPN (joint owner), Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, Sundance Channel (joint owner), Flix. * 20 major market US stations. Media Holdings: * Paramount Pictures, Paramount Home Video, Blockbuster Video, Famous Players Theatres, Paramount Parks. * Simon & Schuster Publishing. ============================================= DISNEY / ABC / CAP (donated 640 thousand to GW's 2000 campaign) Television Holdings: * ABC: includes 10 stations, 24% of US households. * ABC Network News: Prime Time Live, Nightline, 20/20, Good Morning America. * ESPN, Lifetime Television (50%), as well as minority holdings in A&E, History Channel and E! * Disney Channel/Disney Television, Touchtone Television. Media Holdings: * Miramax, Touchtone Pictures. * Magazines: Jane, Los Angeles Magazine, W, Discover. * 3 music labels, 11 major local newspapers. * Hyperion book publishers. * Infoseek Internet search engine (43%). Other Holdings: * Sid R. Bass (major shares) crude oil and gas. * All Disney Theme Parks, Walt Disney Cruise Lines. ====================================================== TIME-WARNER TBS - AOL (donated 1.6 million to GW's 2000 campaign) America Online (AOL) acquired Time Warner–the largest merger in corporate history. Television Holdings: * CNN, HBO, Cinemax, TBS Superstation, Turner Network Television, Turner Classic Movies, Warner Brothers Television, Cartoon Network, Sega Channel, TNT, Comedy Central (50%), E! (49%), Court TV (50%). * Largest owner of cable systems in the US with an estimated 13 million subscribers. Media Holdings: * HBO Independent Productions, Warner Home Video, New Line Cinema, Castle Rock, Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera. * Music: Atlantic, Elektra, Rhino, Sire, Warner Bros. Records, EMI, WEA, Sub Pop (distribution) = the world’s largest music company. * 33 magazines including Time, Sports Illustrated, People, In Style, Fortune, Book of the Month Club, Entertainment Weekly, Life, DC Comics (50%), and MAD Magazine. Other Holdings: * Sports: The Atlanta Braves, The Atlanta Hawks, World Championship Wrestling. ======================================================= NEWS CORPORATION LTD. / FOX NETWORKS (Rupert Murdoch) (donations see bottom note) Television Holdings: * Fox Television: includes 22 stations, 50% of US households. * Fox International: extensive worldwide cable and satellite networks include British Sky Broadcasting (40%); VOX, Germany (49.9%); Canal Fox, Latin America; FOXTEL, Australia (50%); STAR TV, Asia; IskyB, India; Bahasa Programming Ltd., Indonesia (50%); and News Broadcasting, Japan (80%). * The Golf Channel (33%). MEDIA HOLDINGS: * Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Searchlight. * 132 newspapers (113 in Australia alone) including the New York Post, the London Times and The Australian. * 25 magazines including TV Guide and The Weekly Standard. * HarperCollins books. OTHER HOLDINGS: * Sports: LA Dodgers, LA Kings, LA Lakers, National Rugby League. * Ansett Australia airlines, Ansett New Zealand airlines. * Rupert Murdoch: Board of Directors, Philip Morris (USA).
Ray Yacuzzo
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Bea, you make a good point, but I believe the name of the Chief Justice was Taney. Keep up the good fight.
C. M. Barons
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Yep. Corporations certainly get the short end of the stick when it comes to being heard!
Bea McManis
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Ray, Corrected. Thanks, I did a copy and paste and should have checked it myself. Roger Brooke Taney (pronounced /ˈtɔːni/ "tawny";
Dave Olsen
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C.M. this is why I always get a laugh when the "conservative" radio & TV pundits complain about a "liberal bias" in the mainstream media. It's all just smoke and mirrors. They are all on the same side
Bea McManis
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Mark, Maybe you didn't watch the entire clip I posted. You may not agree with Oberman, but he does make good points on this one and directly answers your question, C.M. has this one right. Oberman says, "And now let's contemplate what that perfectly symmetrical, money-driven world might look like. Be prepared, first, for laws criminalizing or at least neutering unions. In today's Court Decision, they are the weaker of the non-human sisters unfettered by the Court. So, like in ancient Rome or medieval England, they will necessarily be strangled by the stronger sibling, the corporations, so they pose no further threat to the Corporations' total control of our political system." You might be okay with this: "Be prepared, then, for the reduction of taxes for the wealth, and for the corporations, and the elimination of the social safety nets for everybody else, because money spent on the poor means less money left for the corporations." He talks about placating the evangelicals: "Be prepared, then, for wars sold as the "new products" which Andy Card once described them as, year-after-year, as if they were new Fox Reality Shows, because Military Industrial Complex Corporations are still corporations. Be prepared, then, for the ban on same-sex marriage, on abortion, on evolution, on separation of church and state. The most politically agitated group of citizens left are the evangelicals, throw them some red meat to feed their holier-than-thou rationalizations, and they won't care what else you do to this corporate nation." This is where the major media would come in: "Be prepared, then, for racial and religious profiling, because you've got to blame somebody for all the reductions in domestic spending and civil liberties, just to make sure the agitators against the United Corporate States of America are kept unheard." Your tea party people aren't going to be left out: "Be prepared for those poor dumb manipulated bastards, the Tea Partiers, to have a glorious few years as the front men as the corporations that bankroll them slowly unroll their total control of our political system. And then be prepared to watch them be banished, maybe outlawed, when a few of the brighter ones suddenly realize that the corporations have made them the Judas Goats of American Freedom." Banks and Wall St. etc.: "And be prepared, then, for the bank reforms that President Obama has just this day vowed to enable, to be rolled back by his successor purchased by the banks, with the money President Bush gave them his successor, presumably President Palin, because if you need a friendly face of fascism, you might as well get one that can wink, and if you need a tool of whichever large industries buy her first, you might as well get somebody who lives up to that word "tool."" Be prepared for the little changes, too. If there are any small towns left to take-over, Wal-Mart can now soften them up with carpet advertising for their Wal-Mart town council candidates, brought to you by Wal-Mart. Be prepared for the Richard Mellon Scaifes to drop such inefficiencies as vanity newspapers and simply buy and install their own city governments in the Pittsburghs. Be prepared for the personally wealthy men like John Kerry to become the paupers of the Senate, or the ones like Mike Bloomberg not even surviving the primary against Halliburton's choice for Mayor of New York City. Be prepared for the end of what you're watching now. I don't just mean me, or this program, or this network. I mean all the independent news organizations, and the propagandists like Fox for that matter, because Fox inflames people against the state, and after today's ruling, the corporations will only need a few more years of inflaming people, before the message suddenly shifts to "everything's great." Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh don't even realize it: today, John Roberts just cut their throats too. So, with critics silenced or bought off, and even the town assessor who lives next door to you elected to office with campaign funds 99.9 percent drawn from corporate coffers — what are you going to do about it? The Internet! The Internet? Ask them about the Internet in China. Kiss net neutrality goodbye. Kiss whatever right to privacy you think you currently have, goodbye. And anyway, what are you going to complain about, if you don't even know it happened? In the new world unveiled this morning by John Roberts, who stops Rupert Murdoch from buying the Associated Press?
Jeff Allen
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Lorie writes "Unions will never have the vast amounts of money that the corporations will be able to pour into elections. They will be vastly out spent, so there is no balance there for workers and the middle class. And there again, union's are also made up of people coming from diverse political leanings." The UAW spent $13 million in campaign contributions in 2008 - 99% to Democrats - $4.9 million to Obama alone...how is that diversity. SEIU spent $27 million on Obamas election. In total, 2008 SEIU contributions were 96% to Democrats and 4% to GOP. Other top 2008 union contributors: *Int. Brotherhood of Electrical Workers - $4 million 98% to Democrats *Operating Engineers Union - $2.7 million 87% Democrats *American Assn for Justice - $2.7 million 95% to Democrats *Laborers Union - $2.5 million 92% to Democrats *Air Line Pilots Assn - $2.2 million 85% to Democrats *Machinists/Aerospace Workers Union - $2.3 97% to Democrats *Plumbers/Pipefitters Union - $2.2 million 95% to Democrats *American Federation of Teachers - $2.2 million 99% to Democrats The list goes on and on. This outcry over corporate influence on elections is just masking the ENORMOUS amount of money unions have funneled to candidates and now the floodgates have opened for them as well. Unions can outgive corporations on any given day, don't ever doubt that.
John Roach
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Bea, You forgot the teachers union preventing school reform along with the examples you gave (oversight?).
C. M. Barons
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Jeff, I don't distinguish between unions, PACS, lobbyists, special interests, corporations, religious groups or any other entity that uses money to manipulate the political process to their advantage. There are two issues at hand: 1) All elections should be conducted, solely, with public funds to eliminate private funding. The FCC should mandate as part of licensing the public airwaves, dedication of air time to grant equal access to all candidates for public office. 2) The Bill of Rights and the protections offered by the United States Constitution are public- not private. Groups of people, whether corporations or unions, are not privileged to duplicate or redundant application of those rights assigned to each individual who is guaranteed those rights as a citizen. Depriving a coorporation or union of such rights does not rescind those rights for the individuals who comprise those groups. In 2009, when the Senate voted against importation of prescription drugs, Senate Democrats who voted to block imports received an average of $73,678 each from drug companies over the past six years—76% more than Democrats who voted in favor of imports. Among all Senators, those voting to block imports received an average of $85,779 each from drug companies, 69% more than those who voted in favor of imports. In the same year, when the public health care option died in the Senate, the Medicare buy-in compromise was also rejected, under pressure from Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT). Over the past six years Lieberman has received $114,900 in campaign contributions from health insurers and HMOs, which places him among the top 10 Senate recipients. Lieberman has similarly led the dissent against current proposals to reform health care insurance. Over the past six years, hospitals and doctors have given current House members almost $30 million in campaign contributions. Senators have received nearly $15 million. Commercial Bank PACs contributed $3,244,103 to Obama, $2,269,147 to McCain and $1,443,041 to Clinton. Education PACs contributed $22,915,462 to Obama, $4,349,063 to Clinton and $1,748,551 to McCain. The insurance industry contributed $2,431,906 to McCain, $2,270,069 to Obama and $1,159,874 to Clinton. The oil and gas industry contributed $2,402,437 to McCain, $889,051 to Obama and $609,358 to Clinton. The real estate industry contributed $10,395,123 to Obama, $8,841,748 to McCain and $6,297,668 to Clinton. Securities and Investment PACs contributed $14,808,875 to Obama, $8,666,235 to McCain and $6,360,806 to Clinton. Since 2006, the health sector has spent more money on lobbying than any other sector of the economy. In 2006 the health sector spent $379.8 million to lobby the federal government, about $5 million more than the finance, insurance, and real estate sector and about $28 million more than was previously reported.1 In 2007, the health sector spent $450.7 million, nearly a 20% increase from the amount in 2006 and about $35 million more than was spent by the financial sector. Within the health sector, manufacturers of drugs, medical devices, and other health care products spend the most and have increased their spending more rapidly than other health care industries. In 2007, PhRMA spent $22.7 million, the American Medical Association $22.1 million, the American Hospital Association $19.7 million, Amgen $16.3 million, and Pfizer $13.8 million, ranking 3rd, 4th, 5th, 9th, and 15th, respectively, among the top spenders on lobbying. The FBI and the IRS raided a defense contractor linked to Rep. John Murtha as part of an investigation by the Defense Department. The firms raided are Kuchera Industries and Kuchera Defense Systems, both have large contracts with the Defense Department and subcontracts with Raytheon and Northrup Grumman. Murtha is tied both professionally and privately with the Kuchera brothers who own the firms. Since 2002, employees of Kuchera firms have provided $60,600 in campaign contributions to John Murtha and his political action committee. Over those same years, Murtha has aided the firms through his position as ranking member and chair of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. In 2008, one of the few years in which earmarks were mandated to be disclosed, Murtha earmarked $8.2 million to the Kuchera firms. Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) faced a tough re-election fight for his House seat. As reported by the Associated Press, his situation improved after receiving telephone calls from General Motors Corp. chief executive officer G. Richard Wagoner Jr. and other auto and corporate executives. “I’ve never talked to as many bank presidents in my life, over my entire life,” he said. Knollenberg has received $131,500 from GM since he started serving in Congress in 1993, according to Federal Election Commission records. Surveys indicate that giving a legislator the maximum allowable political action committee contribution is a predictor of persuasion success. Lobbyists representing the housing, financial, auto and other business sectors pushed hard for the bailout bill. Several lawmakers have changed their minds on these issues after receiving campaign contributions from industry PACs. Rep. Judy Biggert (R) was the only Illinois lawmaker to change her mind about the bailout package. She has received $45,000 from the National Association of Realtors, $39,500 from the National Automobile Dealers Association and $37,548 from the ABA.
Charlie Mallow
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With this new ruling elections should be a lot easier in the future. I suggest holding them on Ebay and using Paypal to collect the bribes. The new system will be quick and secure.
Lorie Longhany
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How does everyone feel about CITGO and any of the Saudi US holdings, like the Saudi Refining Co. located in Houston, influencing American elections? If disclosure laws will be enforced it isn't out of the realm of possibilities to see this disclaimer after a political ad -- "I'm Hugo Chavez, dictator of Venezuela, and I approve this message"
Lorie Longhany
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James Bopp's bragging rights in today's NY Times http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/25/us/politics/25bopp.html?hp “We had a 10-year plan to take all this {campaign finance regulation} down,” he said in an interview. “And if we do it right, I think we can pretty well dismantle the entire regulatory regime that is called campaign finance law.” “We have been awfully successful,” he added, “and we are not done yet.” "Mr. Bopp said the next step in his 10-year plan is to roll back the {campaign finance} disclosure rules." Please someone tell me how this would be good for the electoral process?
Bea McManis
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Posted by Howard Owens on January 25, 2010 - 7:55pm @C.M. Barons: "Depriving a corporation or union of such rights does not rescind those rights for the individuals who comprise those groups." Not true. One of our rights is the right to assembly. We have the right to associate with any group we want. If you deprive any group the right to speak as a group, you deny it a key First Amendment right. Howard, If that was the case then, when talking about a corporation, before one is hired by that corporation, one should be expected to answer questions in the interview process that are now sacred, ie: your political affiliation; your stand on a myraid of issues including not not exclusive to, "how do you feel about abortion?", "what is your stand on same sex marriage?", etc. Stockholders should also be subject to a grilling to determine if their money is worthy of the company's political point of view. There is a difference between the choice to join a "group" who all have a similar interest and all agree to use their voice as one and people, from all walks of life, hired by a corporation. That is not the right of free assembly, it is a job or the option to purchase stock. While they may be associated with the corporation, they do not all have the same political outlook or philosophy. The millions that a corporation pours into poltical campaigns is not the collective voice of those who work there or even those who purchase their stock. Those employed or those stockholders still have their right to free assembly and their right to free expression. That right is not rescinded when they go to work or purchase stock.
Onofrio A. Perzia
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The differences between unions and corporations when it comes to campaign finance are quite distinct. The law that unions have to follow is that money from union dues cannot be used in political campaigns. Many unions today have separate funds expressly for that purpose of political campaigns. These funds come from donations, or specific fund raising(i.e.: raffles, parties, etc.) from the union members who have policy or for candidates whose interests involving labor issues are similar. However it is optional to donate to these funds, especially if a union member/s have individual opinions which are contrary to the union positions. This is basic fairness. Now that corporations have been declared a person with free speech rights because they have a vast amount of money in their treasury from profits, they can spend without limitations. But do individual shareholders have a voice? Especially if they disagree with corporations position on various issues. What about individual corporate employees? Will they have a voice in a corporation? I think the SCOTUS has opened up a pandoras box.
C. M. Barons
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Howard, the info you asked for- From the Hoover Institution website http://www.campaignfinancesite.org/history/financing1.html 1867: Naval Appropriations Bill The first federal attempt to regulate campaign finance · Prohibited officers and employees of the government from soliciting money from naval yardworkers 1883: Civil Service Reform Act Extended the above rule to all federal civil service workers · Previously, government workers were expected to make campaign contributions in order to keep their jobs. 1905: Teddy Roosevelt's Message to Congress President Theodore Roosevelt proposed that "(a)ll contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law." The proposal, however, included no restrictions on campaign contributions from the people who owned and ran corporations. Roosevelt also called for public financing of federal candidates via their political parties. 1907: Tillman Act Prohibited corporations and nationally chartered (interstate) banks from making direct financial contributions to federal candidates · However, weak enforcement mechanisms made the Act unenforceable. 1910: Federal Corrupt Practices Act Established disclosure requirements for U.S. House candidates · Legislation in 1911 extended requirements to cover U.S. Senate candidates and established expenditure limits for House and Senate campaigns. Lacking mechanisms for verification and enforcement, these measures proved meaningless. 1925: Federal Corrupt Practices Act (Revised) Codified and revised previous campaign reform legislation regarding expenditure limits and disclosure · Served as basic federal campaign finance law until 1971 · However, with power of enforcement vested in Congress, the Act was routinely ignored. 1940: Hatch Act Amendments Set limit of $5,000 per year on individual contributions to a federal candidate or political committee (but it didn't prevent contributors from giving that amount to multiple committees, each working for the same candidate) · Made campaign finance regulations applicable to primaries as well as general elections · Barred contributions to federal candidates from individuals and businesses working for the federal government 1943: Smith-Connally Act Extended to unions the prohibition on contributions to federal candidates from corporations and interstate banks (following major increase, beginning in 1936, in labor's use of union dues to support federal candidates) 1944: Formation of First PAC First political action committee (PAC) was formed by Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in 1944 to raise money for re-election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Because PAC money came from voluntary contributions from union members, rather than from union treasuries (i.e., union dues), it was not prohibited by the Smith-Connally Act. 1947: Taft-Hartley Act Made permanent the ban on contributions to federal candidates from unions, corporations, and interstate banks, and extended the prohibition to include primaries as well as general elections 1967: House Campaign Finance Reports Collected for First Time Former Congressman W. Pat Jennings was first Clerk of the House of Representatives to perform his duty under 1925 Corrupt Practices Act to collect campaign finance reports and to report violators · However, the Justice Department ignored his list of violators. 1971: Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) Repealed Corrupt Practices Act and created comprehensive framework for regulation of federal campaign financing of primaries, runoffs, general elections, and conventions · Required full and timely disclosure · Set ceilings on media advertising · Established limits on contributions from candidates and their families · Permitted unions and corporations to solicit voluntary contributions from members, employees, and stockholders, and allowed union and corporate treasury money to be used for overhead in operating PACs 1971: Revenue Act Companion legislation to FECA · Created public campaign fund for eligible presidential candidates (starting with 1976 election) through provision of voluntary one-dollar check-off on federal income tax returns · Provided option of $50 tax deduction (for individual filers) for contributions to local, state, or federal candidates (provision eliminated in 1978) or $12.50 tax credit (amount raised to $50 in 1978, provision eliminated in 1986) 1974: FECA Amendments (Post-Watergate) Provided option of full public financing for presidential general elections, matching funds for presidential primaries, and public funds for presidential nominating conventions · Set spending limits for presidential primaries and general elections, and for House and Senate primaries · Revised (previously unenforced) spending limits for House and Senate general elections · Created individual contribution limit of $1,000 to a candidate per election and PAC contribution limit of $5,000 to a candidate per election (triggering PAC boom of late '70s) · Limited aggregate individual contributions to $25,000 per year · Limited candidates' personal contributions to their own campaigns · Limited independent expenditures on behalf of a candidate to $1,000 per election · Ended 1940 ban on contributions from individuals and groups working on government contracts · Abolished limits on media advertising · Created Federal Election Commission (FEC) to administer campaign law, with Congress to appoint four of six commissioners 1976: Buckley v. Valeo Restrictions in FECA (as amended in 1974) challenged as unconstitutional violations of free speech · Supreme Court upheld disclosure requirements, limits on individual contributions, and voluntary public financing, and affirmed President's authority to appoint all six FEC commissioners · Court struck down, as infringement on free speech, limits on candidate expenditures (unless candidate accepts public financing), limits on contributions by candidates and their families to their own campaigns, and limits on "independent expenditures" (election spending not coordinated with candidates or their committees). 1976: FECA Amendments (following Buckley ) Brought FECA into conformity with Buckley decision · Limited individual contributions to national parties to $20,000 per year, and individual contributions to a PAC to $5,000 per year 1979: FECA Amendments Increased amount volunteers could contribute in-kind (use of home, food, vehicle) from $500 to $1,000 · Raised threshold for reporting contributions from $100 to $200 · Effectively prohibited FEC from conducting random audits · Allowed state and local parties to promote federal candidates by spending unlimited amounts on campaign materials (signs, bumper stickers, etc.) used by volunteers and on voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives As to Thursday's Supreme Court impact on McCain-Feingold: The court ruled that corporations may spend as much as they wish to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress. The 5-4 vote left intact limits on corporate gifts to individual candidates, while striking the prohibition on union/corporate funded issue-ads in the closing days of election campaigns. They pretty much gutted campaign finance restrictions.
Bea McManis
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This just came in the mail. I thought it was interesting. Do you hear that pop-pop-popping sound off in the distance? The good news is, it ain't gunfire. The bad news is, it's corporate lobbyists and their Republican lapdogs popping champagne corks and dancing on what's left of the Constitution. They're celebrating the Supreme Court's decision to allow giant corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to target any member of Congress who dares cross them. It's no exaggeration to say the very foundation of our democracy will be under attack once the tidal wave of corporate money floods into campaigns on the side of Republican candidates. Now is no time to throw up your hands. In fact, I say it's time to throw a few elbows. You're our only hope. We will never be able to match corporate America's billions. Get this: for less then ten percent of Exxon's 2008 profits, it could spend $10 million on every congressional race in America. And that's just ten percent of one company's profits for one year. Truly, the right-wing Supreme Court wants to put our Congress, our country, our very freedom on the auction block for the highest corporate bidder. And the far right wing of the Republican Party intends to be wielding the auctioneer's gavel. The Court's radical decision, overturning decades of settled law going back to Teddy Roosevelt, held that corporations can draw unlimited amounts of money from their general treasuries and spend it on "issue ads" to attack any candidate who challenges them. imagine that AIG executives may now take some of the billions in tax-payer funded bailout funds they received and target with a torrent of attack ads any Democrat who challenges their obscene bonuses. With absolutely no limit on their ability to spend money, oil companies, big insurance companies and powerful Wall Street banks will easily spend hundreds-of-millions of dollars trying to drown out the voices of the American people. Make no mistake, our freedom is under fire. Thank goodness it's not from machine guns. But as we say in Texas, a lawyer with a pen can steal more in a minute than a criminal with a gun can steal in a lifetime. But, we can fight back.
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I notice again Bea that you failed to mention the unions. As I pointed out in a previous post, these new freedoms apply to unions as much as corporations. I also stated that SEIU pumped $27 million into campaigns with 96% going to Democrats. That is only what was reported to Federal Election Committee. Andy Stern, SEIU president said the following in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun and I quote "We spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama -- $60.7 million to be exact -- and we're proud of it," There are no corporations pumping that kind of money these days. Is it any wonder that Stern is the most frequent visitor listed on the White House guest list and that unions "Cadillac insurance" policies were recently exempted from taxation in the healthcare bill? Bea, I actually agree with you on your point about individuals in corporations, but if we are going to ride big business for their influence on elections and policy, then let's ride big labor as well.
Chris Charvella
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"There are no corporations pumping that kind of money these days." You're joking right... I'll agree that the unions and the ACLU were on the wrong side of this issue just like the corporations were, but it's naive to think that corporate money doesn't dwarf the amount that unions spend on campaigns.
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Bea, I thought you would be happy General Electric (they own NBC, MSNBC, etc) can now spend more money for the Democrats. It is rather stupid to think corporations will be, as Bea thinks, in the tank for Republicans. They will be in the tank with who votes there way: Can you spell Crhis Dodd (D)? And not all big unions will spend on Democrats. You have to be a blind party member to think they will. Again, they will spend on the person they think will vote their way. This is a arguable 1st Admentment issue, but stupid to think it is a political party one. Both major parties will go after the money and it will go to who is in power in any given term.
Jeff Allen
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No joking Chris...http://www.fec.gov/
C. M. Barons
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There is a theory, if change is bad for business, give to both Democrats and Republicans; nothing will change. As far as I can tell, it works.
Chris Charvella
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John, I don't think this is a partisan issue. I'm just as amd at unions and the ACLU for supporting this as I am at the corporations. Jeff, I wasn't doubting the number you supplied for the SEIU contrubutions, I was just shocked at your belief that corporations don't put up the same kind of money. As a matter fo fact, during the 2008 election cycle, the political action committees of business interests contributed roughly four-and-a-half times as much to candidates and parties than their labor counterparts.
Jeff Allen
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Chris, what is the source for your figures?
Chris Charvella
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http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2010/01/use-opensecrets-to-track-group.html I copy/pasted the figures directly from this page.
Jeff Allen
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You copy and pasted a statement. I went to the link and what your statement was referring to was overall spending by PAC's. which actually creates some diversity. Looking at the actual data shows that SEIU outgave the next top 3 combined and there weren't any corporate PAC's in the top 20. Given Andy Sterns statement, what SEIU reported to the FEC is dwarfed by the the actual number of dollars invested and they are now along with the UAW directly influencing legislation in this administration. I am not saying corporate interests do not influence elections and legislation, they do and they shouldn't, what I am saying that is in this administration big labor is the driving force and yet somehow corporations are still getting the blame when the numbers just don't support the assertion.
Chris Charvella
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I'm not sure where the confusion is here Jeff. Business contributed substantially more than labor. My position on this issue is that neither should be able to spend unlimited amounts of money to elect anyone. I don't want my elected officials (of any party) to be owned by their largest donors. I believe in publicly funded elections and I want the people running for office to be accountable to voters, not special interests. It disgusts me that a company, or any special interest for that matter can call an elected official's office and threaten to pull campaign donations if they don't vote a certain way. Our representatives should be free to do what they think is right for the people in their district without being swayed by the promise of big money.
Richard Gahagan
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Chris, in New York as in all the "blue states" politics and politicians are run and owned by public employee unions.
Chris Charvella
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What's the point Rich? The same could be said for corporations in other states and if you don't think Wall Street interests have a heavy financial stake in New York politics you're nuts. I'm saying that none of it should be allowed. Campaigns should be publicly funded. Wouldn't it be nice for candidates to be pro-union or pro-corporation and to have come by that position honestly instead of being a paid sponsor.
Jeff Allen
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"Wouldn't it be nice for candidates to be pro-union or pro-corporation and to have come by that position honestly instead of being a paid sponsor." To that I wholeheartedly agree!
Bea McManis
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Sadly MoveOn.org will benefit from this as much as Citizens United. This decision opened a pandora's box. I'm with all who believe that money from corporations; unions; PACs, etc. is better spent to improve their own business and not filling the election war chests of either party. I'm with all who believe that those holding office should report all dealings with lobbyists. The time for lining the pockets of our lawmakers, of all parties, is over.
Chris Charvella
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Howard, they didn't rule on the video, they decided to go a step further (a step no one asked them to take by the way) and overruled Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission.
Bea McManis
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Howard, I realize they can't be banned, and I'm not advocating banning films or other forms of media. My comment was more personal opinion than judicial ruling. I feel that both films (either real or supposed)further muddy the already rank political process.
Chris Charvella
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General Motors and other corporations CAN look after their interests by donating to or forming their own PACs and they do. This decision changed things by letting these groups spend money directly which is a problem. Lets use the unions as an example. Before this week, unions had to form a PAC that members donated to of their own accord if they wanted to spend money on political campaigns. No money from union dues could be used for political purposes. This small but useful buffer ensured that the free speech rights of union members were protected because, as we all know, not all union members agree philosophically with union leadership. By requiring the existence of a PAC to take individual donations, dissenters within the union could be comfortable knowing that their dues weren't being used for something they didn't believe in. After this week's ruling, the unions will be able to spend money directly out of their general fund for whatever they see fit. I'm a pro-union guy, but I'm not so naive as to think that union leadership represents every member when it comes to political speech and it's the same with corporations. The folks who are employed at Company X have their own systems of belief and their speech must be protected as well. Let's use the corporate example now and I'm going to attack this from a different angle just to see if the point resonates. I've already explained how direct money hurts the free speech rights fo employees, but what about consumers, here we go: Company X makes widgets, they sell about a billion widgets a year to 20 million consumers. Company X is getting sick of the congressman in the district where their factory operates because making widgets creates a ton of air and water pollution, people are starting to get sick and the Congressman has requested that they be investigated by the EPA. The guy running against the Congressman couldn't care less about pollution so Company X decides that they're going to spend 10 million dollars of their own to run ads smearing the congressman. Earlier this week, they wouldn't have been able to do so, they would have had to start a PAC and raise the money from individual donors. Now, they can take the money they made from widget sales all over the country to greatly affect an election in a single congressional district. By the way, Company X is actually owned by a holding company in France. See where I'm going with this? What I'm saying here is that my free speech can't get in the way of your free speech and vice versa. Allowing direct political spending by corporate or union interests infringes on the free speech rights of every day citizens and needs to be stopped.
Richard Gahagan
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Obama lied about the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision during his State of the Union Address, and the purpose was to intimidate the Court during its future, related decisions. Federal Election Commission member Bradley Smith wrote that, “The corporate ban is not about foreign contributions, and the government never tried to defend it as such. To suggest that this ruling allows foreign expenditures in elections is wholly misleading.” The court did their job they ruled a piece of legislation was unconstitutional. Obama didn't like their decision because it allows corporations to openly and freely disagree with his agenda and policies and he doesn't like the constitution.
Chris Charvella
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Howard, the Constitution grants rights to people living in the United States corporations are not people. Well, I suppose they are now...
Chris Charvella
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If the COurt had just ruled on the damned video everything would be fine. I honestly believe that the video was fine because if you wanted to watch it you had to pay for it. The Court didn't bother with the issue at hand though, they decided overturn decades of accepted law instead. Whatever level of free speech a corporation or union can claim could have been protected simply by ruling the movie legal, there was no reason to reach further.
Richard Gahagan
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The Court's decision in Citizens United dealt, not with campaign contributions, but with "using . . . general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech defined as an "electioneering communication" or for speech expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate. 2 U.S.C. §441b." (emphasis added). The Court did not expand the ability of corporations or other entities to make contributions to candidates. When Government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves
Bea McManis
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Posted by Howard Owens on January 25, 2010 - 7:55pm @C.M. Barons: "Depriving a corporation or union of such rights does not rescind those rights for the individuals who comprise those groups." Not true. One of our rights is the right to assembly. We have the right to associate with any group we want. If you deprive any group the right to speak as a group, you deny it a key First Amendment right. Howard, "the right to free assembly" is also part of the free speech issue. The owner(s) of the Widget Company Inc. all have their individual right to free speech. Now, that corporation also has the rights formally granted to citizens. As you mentioned in the post this includes the 'right to assemble'. Can you give us an example of the 'right to assemble' a corporation could use to support thier favorite candidate?
Chris Charvella
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No one is talking about direct campaign contributions here Richard, but you're point is correct and I'm glad you made it. This can be a confusing issue.
Chris Charvella
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The people who run corporations have rights, correct. They are free to exercise those rights as individuals, write a check, form a PAC etc... Corporations are not covered by the spirit or the letter of our right to assembly. The DNC and RNC are not corporations in the sense we're talking about here, they are a different type of legal entity and are registered under the charities and non-profit section of our tax code. They are highly regulated when it comes to accepted donations and expenditures. I daresay they are more regulated in fact now than corporations and unions.
Chris Charvella
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Corporations always had the right to form PACs. What they're doing now is slipping around the regulations (that were there for a reason, by the way.) They will now be able to spend unlimited amounts of money on electioneering and all they have to do is put their name on it. One thing that hasn't been brought up is the ridiculous amount of loopholes this decision opened up for soft money. If I'm a big donor but don't want money to be traced back to me I can get in touch with the CEO of Widget International(tm) and pay that company a 'consulting fee.' That money goes into their coffers and out comes a smear add asking whether or not Candidate Smith had carnal knowledge of the animals on his farm. The money can't be traced back to me or anyone else for that matter. This is the reason PAC's exist and are required to show who their donors are.
Chris Charvella
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As for the bonus paying strategy, why the hell do you think it was illegal in the first place? The goal was to keep the copious amounts of corporate money OUT of our electoral system. We've been bitching about soft money in this country for a decade now, but for some reason the Supreme Court decided to open the floodgates
Richard Gahagan
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No the Supreme Court merely detetermined that major portions of McCain-Feingold were unconstitutional-know why? Because they were. That's it.
Chris Charvella
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We're going to have to respectfully disagree Rich for all of the reasons stated above.
Chris Charvella
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I wish I could remember the name of the case, but Justice Kennedy (the swing vote on the most recent ruling) ruled against this kind of 'speech' just a few years ago. The case involved an elected Judge who ruled in favor of a major campaign donor in a civil suit. Kennedy was of the opinion that because of the size of the corporation's donations to the Judge's campaign he couldn't possibly have a neutral opinion on the matter at hand. Kennedy ruled that the judge should have recused himself from the proceeding and voted to overturn the verdict.
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