An end-run around Citizens United: passing state laws that ban rewarding campaign donors with political favors

#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/03/26/democracys-labratories.html

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#2

All for it, but it would likely get tied up in court and under our current USSC, would not stand a chance.

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#3

How long before the DNC starts pushing back against Metcalfe?

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#4

Remind me why we can’t get Congress & Senate to pass a repeal of Citizens United.

Oh yeah, I remember now…

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#5

I hope this also has a chance of making it through, but if it does, I imagine it’ll be something like this:

A side thought: If corporations are legally people, how come nobody was arrested for murdering Toys-R-Us?

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#6

Well, it’s a Supreme Court decision, so you can’t repeal it.

Now they could amend laws that allow corporations to be incorporated to put in something like, “Corporations are not people, you fucking dumbasses.” Then when the case returned to the court the court would kind of have to find the other way.

Obviously constitutional “originalism” is just a bullshit veil over “do-whatever-I-want-ism”, so I shouldn’t be annoyed at the hypocrisy, but the idea that the founders wanted corporations to be protected by the first amendment is laughable.

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#7

And why hasn’t anyone married Apple yet?

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#8

(S)He’s a gold digger.

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#9

I’m likely sticking my head in a buzzsaw, but here goes.

A corporation is not a person. But corporations are people. Sort of like how orchestras are people, unions are people, and political parties are people. They are a collection of individuals. And collectively they retain many of the same rights as individuals.

Corporations feel different somehow. But they aren’t a building or a balance sheet. The organizing principle of corporations is that there are members. Those members can be a natural person or another group of people (corporation, union, etc). The roots will be people.

So how do you create a rule that restricts one group of people collectively exercisng their rights without either restricting the individual right or the collective right of other groups deemed legitimate? If you really want to end Citizens United, that’s the approach. Going on about corporations people/not people is a harder path.

It might seem easy to make a rule that only applies to corporations. But don’t forget that BoingBoing is owned by Happy Mutants. How do you make a rule that also wouldn’t shut down political speech here without also creating a loophole for a future Mutant Citizens United?

I think it can be done, but I haven’t a clue how to do it.

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#10

This looks like a good set of laws directly targeting behavior that should be criminal.

But this isn’t an end run around Citizen’s United, nor really connected to Citizen’s United in any real way.

A movie critical of an election candidate should not generally be seen as a donation to their opponents’ campaigns. Primarily, it’s political speech. Yes, making and publishing it can be a favor to those candidates running against the one being criticized, but it can also be a legitimately held position that causes the support of the opponent.

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#11

Sure. If so, then the board, executives, several salespeople and major shareholders of Purdue Pharmaceuticals need to be charged with and convicted of 300,000+ counts of negligent homicide. Let me know how that goes.

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#12

Wait, isn’t this quid-pro-quo already thoroughly illegal? The law isn’t the problem - enforcement is the problem. Who wants to take on the legal department of Uncle Pennybags?

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#13

No argument from me there. The sword cuts both ways.

But that does touch on the corporate death penalty idea. On one hand, we aren’t generally in favor of collective punishment. On the other hand, we shouldn’t be squeamish about dispersing groups of people that are up to no good. It’s interesting to note that the people of a corporation does not mean the employees. They can be the same or different. Employees are the ones who take action on behalf of the corporation members. As long as the members use proper governance to avoid employees wreaking havoc, they are legally insulated. Corporate veil. But that’s a big if. Purdue may be a prime example of corporate veil piercing and those major shareholders held liable.

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#14

But that’s part of it. If your investment in a company supports de facto bribery of politicians, and that’s legal under Citizen’s United, then fuck the noise of that layer of insulation. It’s used by people to fund bad actions (both political and criminal) while staying arm’s length from the blow back.

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#15

Obligs:

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#16

Made harder still by the fact that Citizens United did not come up with the “corporations are people” concept. The fact that corporations are persons and can receive the protection of constitutional rights has been accepted and upheld by courts at all levels for over a century. Citizens United wasn’t even the first case to explicitly address first amendment rights for corporations. Citizens United was about the scope of those rights in the context of a specific election law. So if when we talk about “ending” Citizens United we actually mean “ending the recognition of corporations as persons” that goes way, way beyond dealing with a single contemporary judgment.

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#17

This seems both specious and spurious. I don’t see any practical sense in which you might restrict the “rights” of a group without it being possible to account for that in terms of the rights of its individual members.

Like, if it were illegal to make political posts on this BBS, that might curtail the free speech of its users. Or it might not, if the users were still free to say the same stuff anywhere else; but then it might infringe on their individual right to free association, and it would probably also infringe on the rights of the owners.

Anyway, the point is that if a question can’t be decided by considering the rights of individuals, then it’s not a rights question. The concept of “corporations as people” is just bizarre, untenable entity-multiplication in service of explaining why laws don’t apply to the rich.

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#18

The distinction between a corporation and the people who make it up is the entire point of a corporation. When the corporation goes bankrupt, the shareholders don’t got bankrupt. A corporation spread false information about the addictiveness of opioids, killing throngs of people, but their advertising department hasn’t been charged with murder yet.

The distinction between a corporation and the people who own it, or between a corporation’s money and the people’s money, is easily made every day by lawyers and courts. The fact that the supreme court couldn’t make it is because the US supreme court is populated by idiotic hacks who use bullshit that sounds like legal reasoning to justify whatever position they want to take politically.

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#19

Corporations are legal persons but not natural persons. Individual human beings are natural persons (as well as legal persons). The law makes distinctions all the time between legal persons and natural persons.

#20

I never said otherwise. One is an individual, the other represents a group of individuals. The rub is how do you say to a group of people because of the way they are organized that rights that they have individually may not be exercised collectively? I’m not saying one way or the other it can or can’t be done. I’m saying it’s not so easy to do.