United Citizens Moving Forward

OSPWendy Kaminer writes a good editorial in the June 8 Boston Globe regarding the Citizens United v. F.E.C. ruling. It is a good read. She points out that most of the big donors to campaigns are not corporations but wealthy individuals. Kaminer reminds us of the  McCain-Feingold law, which parts were overturned by Citizens United, criminalized showing a documentary on pay-per-view television 30 days before an election. Many bemoan “Citizens United”, however, the ruling was good for freedom of speech—especially on the internet.

Imagine if a documentary about a candidate for public office was banned from YouTube during the election season? The SCOTUS majority that struck down this provision in McCain-Feingold was keen about the convergence of television and the internet. They said,

“Rapid changes in technology—and the creative dynamic inherent in the concept of free expression—counsel against upholding a law that restricts political speech in certain media or by certain speakers. . . . Today, 30-second television ads may be the most effective way to convey a political message. . . . Soon, however, it may be that Internet sources, such as blogs and social networking Web sites, will provide citizens with significant information about political candidates and issues. Yet, §441b would seem to ban a blog post expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate if that blog were created with corporate funds. The First Amendment does not permit Congress to make these categorical distinctions based on the corporate identity of the speaker and the content of the political speech.” (Opinion of the Court p 49.)

Kaminer is also correct when she states that those who disparage Citizens United could be manipulative, “[Turning] this complex ruling to a political symbol helps aspiring reformers raise funds and aspiring Democratic presidents organize support.”

Indeed, don’t believe the hype. Continue reading United Citizens Moving Forward