US Supreme Court Thinks Businesses are People. Does this mean businesses can marry?

So in another landmark decision by the supreme court last week the highest court in the land ruled in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that businesses have the same first amendment free speech rights as individuals, in this case, when it comes to campaign contributions.

Some (mainly me) might say this is a bad trend for democracy in general, as businesses and corporations gain and maintain assets in a way that individuals never could. When an entity like a business can exist for century that get passed on even as folks die, you end up with an immortal entity, now with bonus political power. It’s not that businesses shouldn’t be able to use their assets in a political way, however the limitation on campaign contributions evens the playing field when it comes to real life individuals making their $25 contributions. So what does this mean for democracy?

It means that the monetary voice of the individual is a much smaller piece of the pie when it comes to deciding who gets elected. Imagine a world where Exxon is able to contribute literally millions of dollars to get the person elected who will further their business interests. Don’t get me wrong, the issue of free speech is an important one, and the issue was brought to the court due to the inability to discriminate between propaganda, documentary, and expose type of media. The issue was brought about when a documentary about Hilliary Clinton ran during the 2008 presidential campaign . From CNN:

The specific case grew out of a documentary on Hillary Clinton. Produced last year by Citizens United, “Hillary: The Movie” was a scorching attack on the then-presidential candidate. The filmmakers wanted to promote it during the heat of the 2008 primary season, but a federal court blocked any ads, as well as airings on cable television’s video on demand.

Is there a legitimate issue here regarding the use of documentaries in terms of campaign propaganda? You bet. Should businesses be able to contribute to campaigns without restrictions, with the rights of an individual citizen? I think not.

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~ by K. Ritcheson on January 27, 2010.

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