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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/11/10

Part 8 of Supreme Court Analysis: First Amendment Absolutism, But Only For Corporations

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This is the eighth of our much anticipated installments tearing up into little itsy bitsy pieces the rogue Supreme Court ruling to declare our country the kingdom of the corporations. We're not proud, we're not tired. But there are still yet more fundamental and unforgivable errors in this opinion we have not yet addressed.

Here we confront the shameless hypocrisy of creating a super protected status for the "speech" (amounting to nothing more than the power to spend vast sums of money) of corporations, by the same Supreme Court line up that has demonstrated ZERO tolerance for the "free" speech of just about anybody else.

In his opinion, Kennedy, writing for The Supreme Court 5 (including Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito), can find no other reading of the First Amendment except that the "speech" of corporations "beyond all doubt" cannot be constrained in any way (opinion p. 19). Even requiring them to maintain a PAC as a vehicle for their political speech is too onerous of a paperwork burden he says (opinion pp. 20-21). And though previous courts and Congress have long recognized a compelling governmental interest making sure ordinary citizens were not drowned by a flood of corporate money, for Kennedy this was somehow a new invention of the Austin case that he then arrogates to overrule (opinion p. 31), specifically a governmental interest in preventing

"... the corrosive and distorting effects of immense aggregations of wealth that are accumulated with the help of the corporate form and that have little or no correlation to the public's support for the corporation's political ideas."

That quote from Austin actually sounds pretty good to us just as it was.

And of course his own citations to other cases which he provides for this very quote proves that this concept in law is nothing new, but instead backed by a long line of case precedents. On another page (opinion p. 27) Kennedy cites a minority opinion from 1948, where they complain that the majority in that case (U.S. vs. CIO) should not have limited "undue influence" by a speaker's "large expenditures". The point he was attempting to make was that there has always been a line of dissent, of course proving nothing more than it has always been the MINORITY view.

The precept that there is a compelling governmental interest in limiting undue financial influence over our elections has been long recognized, long acknowledged, and long accepted, except by this same grousing, grudge settling minority (indeed two of these same judges were the dissenters in the Austin case itself), but which by the unfortunate and ill-advised seating of one final corporatist partisan has now been empowered to execute their long plotted judicial coup.

So what, you might now be asking yourselves, WOULD be a compelling governmental interest in limiting free speech? The opinion cites a handful of some 20-30 plus year old cases, examples of people in the military, people in prison, etc. (opinion pp. 24-25) But of course we don't have to look that far to find evidence of Kennedy's hypocrisy. This same line up of judges has spoken very recently on the free speech rights of ACTUAL people, and let's just see what they said.

In Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), Kennedy wrote the opinion that a whistle blower, who was a deputy district attorney, could be retaliated against for speaking out against wrongdoing by the police. Somehow defending the free speech of someone charged with protecting the integrity of our law enforcement agencies was not a compelling government interest. But making sure multi-national corporations are not even slightly inconvenienced in buying our elections? That is, according to this same judge.

In Morse v. Frederick, 551 U.S. 393 (2007), Roberts wrote the opinion that unfurling a nonsensical joke banner ("Bong Hits For Jesus") off of school property was such a threat to the foundations of our society that it must be stamped out with the biggest possible boot, a dire governmental emergency. But having our policy debate leading up to an election totally dominated by corporate special interests? For Roberts, not so much.

Yes, when it comes to actual people or real compelling interests (like stopping police wrongdoing) the First Amendment is not for us. Because we now have a majority on our Supreme Court for which only the rights of corporations are supreme, inviolable, and sacrosanct. But for more evidence of just how dreadfully bad this decision is, you will have to wait until the ninth bone chilling installment of the Night of the Living Dead Dissents.

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