Legislature works to limit free speech of corporations

May 9, 2012 - By CalWatchdog Staff

May 9, 2012

By Katy Grimes

The U.S. Constitution is under attack again.

At issue is the controversial Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission U.S. Supreme Court decision. It basically allowed unlimited corporate contributions to political campaigns.

Two Assembly Democrats authored Assembly Joint Resolution 22 and say that it is part of a growing national grassroots movement to urge Congress to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

In March, the Assembly passed AJR 22 to urge Congress to amend the United States Constitution, and impose limits on political corporate contributions.

Assemblymen Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, and Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, presented AJR 22 to the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments Tuesday. “As the most populous state in the country, with the largest congressional delegation, California must take a stand in opposition to this misguided ruling,” Wieckowski said.

“Corporations are not people and money is not speech,” is the rally cry for those who want the case overturned.

“At a time when the people’s trust in their government is at an all-time low, Citizens United further erodes the public’s faith that the people’s interests will come before those of wealthy special interests,” the authors wrote in bill analysis.

Citizens United

In January 2010, the United States Supreme Court reached the landmark decision which reaffirmed that the First Amendment did, in fact, prohibit the government from restricting political expenditures by corporations and unions. The court said that political contributions are a form of free speech, and should not be regulated or narrowly tailored by the government for its own interest.

As part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, also called McCain-Feingold, Congress prohibited corporations and unions from using general treasury funds to make “independent expenditures” for “electioneering communications” within 60 days of a general election, or within 30 days of a primary election.

The AJR 22 analysis explained, “Citizens United was a controversial documentary entitled, Hillary, which was highly critical of then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, a candidate in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. Citizens United, a non-profit corporation, wanted to make the documentary available by ‘video-on-demand’ within the 30 days of the primary election. Concerned that the broadcast might be prohibited by BCRA, Citizens United sought declaratory and injunctive relief that the BCRA did not apply to the documentary and, indeed, would be unconstitutional if applied to the showing of Hillary.”

When  the case came before it in 2o10, the court proceeded not only to strike down the related provisions of McCain-Feingold, but to overturn long-standing precedents upholding the constitutionality of federal and state efforts to regulate campaign financing. In overturning its prior decisions, the Supreme Court in Citizens United held that corporations and unions are now free to spend unlimited amounts on “independent expenditures” — even for advertisements that expressly mention the candidate by name.

One of the outcomes of the Citizen United decision was the creation of Super Committees and SuperPacs, which may accept unlimited contributions from individuals, unions, and corporations.

Despite the Supreme Court stating that the First Amendment “must protect corporations and individuals with equal vigor,” California Democrats continue to push the passage of the resolution urging Congress to amend the Constitution, and limit corporate contributions to political PACs.

Elections Today

During the Assembly floor debate of AJR 22, arguments and floor speeches by Democratic legislators only addressed corporate contributions. Democrats in the Assembly never once mentioned union contributions. The Democrats repeatedly said that AJR 22 wasn’t just a resolution, but was part of a national movement to limit and control corporate political contributions.

AJR 22, is one of 13 resolutions seeking to overturn Citizens United. All of the other 13 resolutions seek to overturn the decision in different ways. Some of the resolutions also claim that corporations are not “persons'; others would seek more congressional power to regulate campaign contributions and expenditures more narrowly.

Wieckowski said that, with his resolution, California will be part of a “grassroots movement that believes corporations are not people and money is not speech,” a quote made famous by David Kairys, the civil rights law professor who warned that the 2010 court decision would unleash “a new wave of campaign cash and adds to the already considerable power of corporations.”

Supporters of the resolution who testified at the hearing included CalPIRG, the California Public Interest Research Group, a group founded by activist Ralph Nader; Common Cause, a non-profit association often described as “the people’s lobbying association,” but which also is a liberal activist grouip; California Church Impact; California League of Conservation Voters; Public Action; and a succession of private citizens angry about the Citizens United decision.

The groups supporting AJR 22 called for “reasonable limits” for contributions. “What are reasonable limits?” asked the committee chairman, Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana. “This is window dressing.”

Correa suggested that Proposition 34, passed in 2008, would be a more effective policy. Prop 34 limits the amount of money an individual can contribute to candidates for the California State Legislature and for statewide elective offices. It also limits contributions to political parties. Prop 34 expanded financial disclosure requirements and prohibited contributions from lobbyists to the election campaigns of politicians they lobby.

But the unintended outcome of Proposition 34 allowed many other ways for officeholders, candidates and special-interest contributors to legally circumvent the measure’s contribution limits.

Republicans are opposed to the resolution and have said that the government-imposed restrictions should be removed from political campaign contributions, and complete disclosure and transparency about who is contributing should be required instead.

During the Assembly floor debate about AJR 22, the most pertinent question to the argument was asked by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia: “What is a corporation? A corporation is an assembly of people. If you’re regulated by the government, don’t you have the right to address your government?”

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  1. Beelzebub says:

    Excuse me. There is no name attached to this blog. Who wrote it? I’m just curious. Is is possible to get a name?

    Most rational people understand that free speech does not equate to mega corporations being able to spend billions of dollars of money derived from the consumer to literally buy off and OWN politicians so that their organizations get special favors and immunity from criminal laws. That was not the intention of the Founding Fathers when they designed the First Amendment. Rational and reasonable people understand this. So free speech gives us the right to bribe decision making authorities? If I got pulled over by a cop for speeding and stuck a Franklin out the window to make him go away chances are pretty good I’d get a ride in his back seat to the slammer. Yet this is what corporations are doing with our politicians. And, of course, not just corporations……but public unions as well. So please stop with the ‘free speech’ nonsense. Whoever wrote this article knows better than that.

  2. CalWatchdog says:

    Beelzebub, the name was inadvertantly left off the story along with the date.

    However, I disagree with the perimeters of your free speech definition. The free speech clause prohibits the govt from limiting Individuals’ independent expenditures on political campaigns. The free speech clause’s protections extend to corporations, therefore the free speech clause prohibits the government from limiting corporations’ independent expenditures on political campaigns.


  3. queeg says:

    Yeah….Katy….your perfectly correct….

  4. Beelzebub says:

    No Katy. This argument centers around the question “Are corporations people and should they be treated as such?” Corporations are not “people”. They are huge apparatuses and organized machines that devour anything that gets in their way. Do they provide good? Of course they do. But based on their size, design, mechanisms, ‘greed above all’ mentality and POWER – they are able to use their massive wealth to bribe and pay off politicians so that even when they commit horrendous financial fraud and criminal acts – none of them go to jail. Do you know that Wachovia Bank – when it existed – laundered $378 BILLION dollars in drug cartel money for the mexican currency exchange houses from 2004-07??? It was the BIGGEST violation of the Bank Secrecy Act, the anti-drug laundering financial law, in US history. Do you know that not ONE bank official went to jail for this, Katy??? You want to know why??? Because of the unlimited corporate campaign payoffs that YOU advocate. What would happen to YOU as an INDIVIDUAL if you had a little drug money laundering business in operation and got caught. They would throw you in the slammer and seize every damn asset you owned and YOU would have to PROVE to the government that those assets were purchased with CLEAN MONEY before you got them back. The burder of proof would be on YOU!!! heh. So the notion that “Corporations are people too” is the biggest pile of horse dung that was ever dumped on to the American people.

    You’re smarter than that, Katy. Come on. Let’s all be frank here about the way the system operates!!

  5. CalWatchdog says:

    I am not arguing how the system operates; I am solely arguing what the law currently states. And that is the job of the SCOTUS. They reaffirmed the First Amendment with this decision. Guys like Wieckowski and Allen want the Constitution to be a living, breathing document they can manipulate as it suits their purposes.


  6. Beelzebub says:

    “I am solely arguing what the law currently states”

    So since when have you ever been a big advocate of current laws, Katy?

    The outrageous taxes we pay are all based on “law” too.

    SCOTUS says that according to the constitution that doctors are permitted to terminate pregnancies. I thought you were dead set against that.

    So if the Constitution is interpreted to mean that corporations can submit unlimited payoffs to the politicians to stay out of jail and to have all the laws written in their favor – you support that type of thing – because SCOTUS says that it’s okay – so it must be????

    Like I said, Katy. I think you’re smarter than that.

  7. queeg says:

    Katy…move on……your correct…period…end of subject!!!

  8. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    Citizens United is one of the two the worst decisions of out the SCOTUS in the last 100 years, the other was Kelo v City of New London.

    Corporations are artificial entities, they cannot breath, liver or be placed in a prison, they are therefore not “persons” as the SP Railroad case back in 1917 supposedly said they were.

    Allowing corps, unions and other artificial entities unlimited spending will destroy the country-we already see what it has done. In CA the largest campaign spender is Bank of America and PG&E, and they NEVER lose on legislation they want passed or defeated.

  9. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    Katy…move on……your correct…period…end of subject!!!

    Katy…move on……you’re correct…period…end of subject!!!

    Queeg will you PLEASE LEARN how to use contractions in your comments!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Beelzebub says:

    “Katy…move on……your correct…period…end of subject!!!”

    It’s side-splitting how twinkletoes calls the CWD blog site every vile name in the book – until I happen to disagree with one blog – and then twinkletoes becomes a big CWD advocate and supporter!!! HAH!!! :D

    The amateur posters are so easy to pick off!!! Like ducks in a bathtub.

  11. Beelzebub says:

    “Allowing corps, unions and other artificial entities unlimited spending will destroy the country-we already see what it has done. In CA the largest campaign spender is Bank of America and PG&E, and they NEVER lose on legislation they want passed or defeated”

    Of course, Rex. It’s legitimized bribery on a grand scale. To call it anything less than that is being either incredibly naive or deceitful. Basically, the corporations and the public unions have been allowed to hijack the nation and all of our children’s futures. It’s like an organized criminal syndicate that has been put in charge of all of our lives. A high school senior who keeps up with the news should be able to figure all of this out. It does not take a Ph.D. in political science to figure out what’s going on.

  12. queeg says:

    Your correct!!!

  13. Ted Steele, Associate Prof. says:

    Wow– I think for once many of us out here actually agree– Cit United is a bad precedent….. MMmmmmmmm— niiiiiiice.

  14. NTHEOC says:

    Beelzbub and Rex, I agree 100% with both of you!! Did you know that corporations outspend unions by a ratio of 15-1 on political donations and support. Katy has no problem with corporations in the political arena,but she always has a problem with the unions!! One of the sickest abuses of corporate power involved in politics is the KOCH BROS(read up on them!)Don’t get me wrong,I’m not saying the unions don’t do the same thing on a smaller scale but we have to have a level playing field here.The corporations and their political allies know that once they dumb down enough people and convince them to eliminate the middle class and the unions,then they will have ALL the power!!!! Just look at what the corps have done to the food industry,pharma industry,fuel industry,heck we even go attack other countries now for them!!

  15. Beelzebub says:

    “Did you know that corporations outspend unions by a ratio of 15-1 on political donations and support”

    Only because there are more corportations than there are public unions by far, ntheoc. Public unions are just as, if not more, corrupted than the major corporations. All of us must be painfully honest on these boards if we are going to change these scams. It does us no good to fight one another whether Frankenstein is a bigger jerk than Dracula. It’s counterproductive.

    Let’s just be honest, ok??? That’s the best policy. ;)

  16. queeg says:

    Freedom of speech…get over it!

  17. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    NTHEOC says: Beelzbub and Rex, I agree 100% with both of you!! Did you know that corporations outspend unions by a ratio of 15-1 on political donations and support

    NTHEOC, that may be true on the national level, but it is the opposite on the local and state level where public unions accoun for the vast majority of the spending.

  18. CalWatchdog says:

    Evil corporations employ millions of people. Unions suck money from millions of people who are employed by corporations and government. Without free speech, corporations have little or no say over the government and unions which already have a leg-up on them.

    Follow the money – everything is economic. And the free market pendulum always swings, and eventually corrects itself, as long as government stays out of the way.


  19. Ted Steele, Associate Prof. says:


    Your analysis of Cit United is 100% correct, but I still hate it. It was a free speech case. Likely some folks out here never actually read it…..mmmmmmmmm

    I used to buy into that free market correction nonsense (vis Folmer et al.) until 2007/2008 and NO free market self policing and the collapse of Lehman and the rest. Gov has a role— bad facts make bad law—— THAT is where we are.

  20. Beelzebub says:

    “Evil corporations employ millions of people”

    Yeah, that’s true. But that should not give them the right to commit criminal acts of drug money laudering, robosigning mortgages and financial fraud which resulted in millions of people LOSING their jobs, homes and life savings – and not go to prison. We are supposed to be a civilized society afterall. In civilized societies bad people who hurt others are supposed to get punished. But in America bribes and payoffs protect shield them from punishment. Sorry, that’s clearly wrong.

    “Without free speech, corporations have little or no say over the government and unions which already have a leg-up on them”

    They can have all the free speech they want. They just can’t bribe politicians to get special favors and illegal privileges that are prohibited for the rest of us. As I said, if a cop pulled me over for speeding and I handed him a Franklin for the special privilege of avoiding the fine – my bail would be $30,000. Yet a corporate pig can bribe a pol and have his cake and eat it too. If I have to follow the law – so should they. That is the basic core of decency and civilization.

    ” And the free market pendulum always swings, and eventually corrects itself, as long as government stays out of the way”

    That’s a complete myth. One reason Wall Street was able to get away with all the financial fraud and criminality was because all the regulators who were supposed to be watching over them were intentionally asleep at the wheel. And that’s an undeniable fact. The free market does not work when crooks can commit acts of fraud and swindle people out of billions of dollars – all hidden from public view. By the time you figure out what’s going down – all the damage has occurred. Come on Katy. You oughta know that.

  21. queeg says:

    Corporations good. Capitalism good. American great!

  22. Ted Steele, Associate Prof. says:

    apologies to JPS–
    The basic premise underlying the Court’s ruling is its iteration, and constant reiteration, of the proposition that the First Amendment bars regulatory distinctions based on a speaker’s identity, including its “identity” as a corporation. While that glittering generality has rhetorical appeal, it is not a correct statement of the law. Nor does it tell us when a corporation may engage in electioneering that some of its shareholders oppose. It does not even resolve the specific question whether Citizens United maybe required to finance some of its messages with the money in its PAC. The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court’s disposition of this case.

    Fellow trolls– do your own work and at least read the whole opinion before you spaz out here like you know something……often, you don’t.

    The Ted

  23. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    Wow, Ted is using Google again.

  24. queeg says:

    When Teddy speaks….people listen!!!

  25. Beelzebub says:

    Frack ♥ Frick :)

  26. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    Teddy Steals= Queeg :)

  27. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    Teddy/Queeg, I just busted you :)

    queeg says:
    May 9, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    Corporations good. Capitalism good. American great!

    Ted Steele, Associate Prof. says:
    May 9, 2012 at 10:39 pm

  28. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    Teddy/Queeg, I just busted you :)

    queeg says:
    May 9, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    Corporations good. Capitalism good. American great!

    Ted Steele, Associate Prof. says:
    May 9, 2012 at 10:39 pm

  29. LGMike says:

    Another diversion by a couple of Liberal politicians on behalf of the current administration. Ask them if they define the Democratic or Republican National committees the same as a private Corporation. Do they define “unions” as a Corporation. Look at how much “buying” goes on during election cycles by just these 3 organizations in both local, state and federal offices, school boards, water districts, etc. The point of this article is the US Supreme Court correctly ruled on the Constitutionality of free speech. The people have the right and duty to address any perceived grievance by legal means under the rule of law. Politicians should reflect actual majority opinion of the people they represent, not just decide on their own what is best.

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