Posts Tagged ‘first amendment’

For those of you keeping score at home, it’s now Citizens United 2, Democracy 0. The Federal Election Commission voted 4-1 Thursday to give Citizens United, the conservative advocacy group based in Virginia, an exemption to campaign finance requirements. If you remember, in January, Citizens United won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that gave corporations the right to spend an unlimited amount of money to influence our elections.

However, that court victory came with an *asterisk. Citizens United, and other corporations, could spend the dough but they would still have to disclose where their money was coming from i.e. the names of its donors, and how it was spending its money. As I blogged in April, Citizens United argued that since it produced “documentary” films, it should be considered a media company and exempt from disclosure requirements. This is the case for companies such as the New York Times, Washington Post and FOX News etc, which can produce opinion pieces about candidates and issues without having to fill out campaign finance forms.

SCOTUSblog has more about the FEC’s decision.


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Need help understanding why it’s ridiculous to think that corporations should have the First Amendment rights of people? Here’s a lesson set to music.

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Sophists have long known that when you cannot defeat a proposal based on merit, then resort to groundless – or even false – accusations to create hysteria and confusion over the proposal.

Those opposed to the recent health care reform legislation did exactly that when they invented the myth that the legislation would create the infamous “death panels” – government health officials ready and eager to pull the plug on granny when she gets too old. It was nonsense, of course. There was nothing in the legislation that would create death panels. But that wasn’t the point. The point was to spread hysteria and confusion about the legislation in order to defeat it.

We are now hearing some of the same sophistry from opponents of the DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 5175), legislation in response to the Citizens United decision, in which the Court ruled that corporations may make unlimited expenditures in elections. The DISCLOSE Act is a good but modest bill designed to open the books on who is paying for these unlimited independent expenditure campaign ads. (more…)

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You’d figure that Citizens United, the conservative advocacy group, would still be basking in its recent, epic victory before the U.S. Supreme Court. The  5-4 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission opened the way for corporations to spend an unlimited amount from their treasuries to support or oppose political candidates and issues.

Well, it seems Citizens United didn’t like another part of the decision that said while it was okay for corporations to spend freely on elections, they would have to adhere to rules requiring them to document how the money is spent and where it came from, including identifying  individual donors. Dan Eggen in the WaPo writes that Citizens United sent a letter to the FEC this week arguing that the group should not be required to do any of that because … wait for it … it’s a member of the media.

“After a dozen films in six years, with more on the way, I think it is time that the FEC recognized us for what we are: a documentary filmmaking studio,” said David N. Bossie, Citizens United’s president.

The funny thing is, Citizens United’s  own Web site has little mention of it being a documentary film company: (more…)

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A stunning blow of a court ruling deserves a strong response. We have that in a measure introduced late Wednesday by Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) to counter last week’s U.S. Supreme Court campaign finance ruling. In a powerful rejoinder to a court decision that allows corporations to spend unlimited money on pet political causes and candidates, Capuano has introduced legislation that requires CEOs to receive shareholder approval for each and every corporate political expenditure. Public Citizen enthusiastically supports Capuano’s “Shareholder Protection Act” and applauds his initiative in working to rein in the damage the court is causing by unleashing unlimited corporate spending in politics.

Last week, the court reversed 100 years of political tradition and ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations are “persons” under the First Amendment, entitled to spend unlimited amounts of corporate treasury funds to support or attack candidates. Never mind that corporations are not people, do not vote and were never envisioned by the Founding Fathers as “persons” under the Constitution. Five justices have taken it upon themselves to give corporations (more…)

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Public Citizen President Robert Weissman explained the ramifications of the recent Citizens United ruling during a webinar this past Tuesday. He also answered viewer questions and laid out Public Citizen’s strategy to get a constitutional amendment passed that would undo the ruling. The video above is an excerpt. The full webinar can be found on our Vimeo page.

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Back in October, the Yes Men parody troupe staged a “news conference,” pretending to be officials from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The news, if it had been true, would have been pretty startling — that the pro-industry, anti-regulation Chamber had seen the light and was changing its denial take on climate change.

Instead, it was high-comedy, punctuated by the appearance of a real Chamber honcho who was none too pleased with the shenanigans. In the aftermath, The Chamber sued the Yes Men for alleged trademark infringement. Their trademark case, however, is as faulty as their stand on climate change. Public Citizen attorneys filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief Tuesday in support of the Yes Men, which is represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. EFF attorneys have asked a federal judge to dismiss the case.

“The activists’ fake press conference was not commercial in any sense. Rather, it aimed to highlight the Chamber’s view on arguably the most weighty and controversial issue of the day,” said Public Citizen attorney Gregory Beck, who co-authored the brief. “Therefore, the group’s speech should be protected.”

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