Citizens United — Not as Bad As You Think
While I said the other day that I don’t know a lot about campaign finance reform and thus probably shouldn’t comment on Citizens United, I’ve decided — in typical academic fashion — not to let my ignorance stand in the way of my opinions.
1. I hope this case dispels the myth that there are any real “judicial minimalists.” All that means is “I don’t have five votes to reach the result that I want.” When five votes are present, the Court cuts through the narrow grounds for decision like a hot knife through butter. It’s happened before. It’ll happen again.
2. Of course treating a corporation as a person is a legal fiction. But so is the idea that corporations are a monolithic entity. Some corporations want patent reform. Some don’t. Some corporations support more oil drilling. Others want more subsidies for wind power or ethanol. The notion of corporate power makes sense in some instances (e.g., hiking the corporate tax rate) but in most cases it’s a wash.
3. I am not persuaded that lots of lobbying through money is the cause of policy gridlock. If that were true, then presumably social issues (which moneyed interests don’t care about) would be easier to resolve. Doesn’t seem to be the case for abortion, gay rights, or other similar topics though.
4. Filibuster reform would do a lot more than campaign finance reform to make our democracy healthier. Decades of campaign finance regulation accomplished very little.
5. Don’t I have a right to hear what corporations have to say about candidates or election issues? I might learn something useful, so long as I know who the source is and can make a credibility assessment.
6. Most corporations avoid politics because it could alienate potential customers. Thus, I don’t think that the predicted “flood” of corporate money into campaigns will actually materialize.
7. Note to Keith Olbermann: Citizens United is not the worst decision since Dred Scott. Good job insulting Japanese-Americans from WWII, kids who had to sit in segregated schools, and women who were sterilized because they were mentally handicapped. Your Howard Beale impersonation, though, continues to be right on target.