Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, struck down a broad prohibition on corporate participation in the electoral process. The decision, handed down in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, lifts the ban on corporations (for-profit and nonprofit), and on labor unions, to use their funds to advocate for or against political candidates at any time, up to the day of the election. The ruling affirmed the First Amendment rights of Citizens United, a non-profit group, which was prevented by the FEC from distributing a video critical of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2008.
Politicians weighed in on the decision immediately, some with praise and others with scorn. Central Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, in his customary buffoonish style, gave the following statement, according to Politico:
“This is the worst Supreme Court decision since the Dred Scott case. It leads us all down the road to serfdom.”
Dred Scott v. Sandford was the 1857 Supreme Court decision that ruled African-American slaves were property, rather than citizens. That decision, of course, was eventually overruled by the 13th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Grayson’s statement is yet one more demonstration of his arrogance and contempt for the ability of the people to understand the arguments and claims made by different political groups.
In fact, it is Grayson who supports the kind of censorship that would prevent the public from hearing from all different points of view and make us captive to only-government-approved information. His thinking fits exactly into the mold described by columnist George F. Will in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post on January 21, 2010. He said:
“The essence of contemporary liberalism is the illiberal conviction that Americans, in their comprehensive incompetence, need minute supervision by government, which liberals believe exists to spare citizens the torture of thinking and choosing.”
While liberal politicians rant about the financial power of corporations to present their views on politicians, they ignore the fact that freedom of speech has two components: a speaker and a listener. When the right of a person or group to speak out is curtailed, the rights of those who would like to hear what is being said are also infringed.
The Court also bristled at the fact that, under the laws struck down, some corporations – namely news-media corporations were exempted from the restrictions. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion stated:
“. . . [M]oreover, the Government may commit a constitutional wrong when by law it identifies certain preferred speakers. By taking the right to speak from some and giving it to others, the Government deprives the disadvantaged person or class of the right to use speech to strive to establish worth, standing, and respect for the speaker’s voice. The Government may not by these means deprive the public of the right and privilege to determine for itself what speech and speakers are worthy of consideration. The First Amendment protects speech and speaker, and the ideas that flow from each.”
Before making any more absurd statements, Congressman Grayson should read the Court’s opinion.
(Above right: U.S. Supreme Court official photo. Front row: Associate Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, John Paul Stevens, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Antonin G. Scalia, and Clarence Thomas. Back row: Associate Justices Samuel A. Alito, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor)