Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Photo of Bill Moyers Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Watch & Listen The Blog Archive Transcripts Buy DVDs

« Maggie Mahar Answers Viewer Questions - Part I | Main | Bill Moyers on Obama's Moment »

Balancing Big Money and Free Speech

(Photos by Robin Holland)

This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with two prominent legal experts about an important case regarding campaign finance restrictions and free speech that the Supreme Court will hear in a special session on September 9th.

The case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, concerns a political film, HILLARY: THE MOVIE, that criticized Hillary Clinton during last year’s bruising race for the Presidency. The conservative group Citizens United had planned to make the film available through on-demand cable and advertise it on television but, because the group had accepted contributions from businesses, the Federal Election Commission ruled that such distribution would violate campaign finance laws that ban the use of corporate money to advocate directly for or against political candidates.

Citizens United challenged the Federal Election Commission with a lawsuit that reached the Supreme Court in March. After hearing arguments, the Court took the unusual step of requesting that the case be re-argued at the special session next week. Many observers fear that the Supreme Court will declare unconstitutional many of the laws that aim to prevent corporations and unions from using their vast funds to influence political campaigns.

Floyd Abrams, a well-known progressive First Amendment lawyer, will argue before the Court against the current restrictions on corporations and unions. He said:

“There was a time back in the 1940s and 1950s when it was the liberals who were the ones saying, ‘Don’t go after the unions, they have a free speech right to put out pamphlets and the like to members urging them to vote for Franklin Roosevelt...’ That’s what I’m saying now... It’s all very well just to characterize this and diminish the problem by calling it just spending a lot of money. It’s more than that –– it is participating in the political process, it is speaking out, it is being heard... The First Amendment is not just the property of the press. The press deserves the broadest protection, but so do all other speakers... We should not make technical distinctions about the degree of First Amendment speech rights, depending on the nature of the entity that engages in the speech –– we [would] then go down the road to start defining press entities which will get the protection [and] speech entities which will not get the protection, and I don’t think that’s a place we want to be.”

Trevor Potter, former Chairman with the Federal Election Commission and General Counsel of John McCain’s 2000 and 2008 Presidential campaigns, has submitted a legal brief in support of existing campaign finance laws. He said:

“The Supreme Court has turned [this] into a case about whether 100 years of American tradition of regulating the speech of for-profit corporations in elections should be changed... That tradition [says] that individuals speak and vote and are citizens, and corporations have a different status and ought to be focused on the economic marketplace and not the political marketplace... Everybody has the ability to participate in the political process, meaning the election or defeat of candidates, except the for-profit corporations using shareholders’ treasury funds. That, it seems to me, is an appropriately narrow exemption given whose money that is, the shareholders’... [It’s a] dangerous and novel idea [that] we should change what has worked, what has been held constitutional, and go to a system when we have no idea what the effect will be. Based on what we can see, and have seen in the past, [it] could have some really bad effects on our democracy.”

What do you think?

  • Should corporations and unions have the same free speech rights as individuals? Why or why not?

  • Do you see a danger, as Floyd Abrams warns, in allowing government to determine which groups have First Amendment protection? Explain.

  • Should campaign spending be seen as a free speech issue? Why or why not?


  • TrackBack

    TrackBack URL for this entry:
    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/mt4/mt-tb.cgi/1849

    Comments

    In response to Anna D.
    What is one vote in a federal election, or even a state election when compared to the power of large sums of money going from the corporations through the hands of the lobbyist and into the hands of the "decision makers". There is no agenda in one vote. Lobbyist influence has an agenda and undo influence.

    I'm hearing a lot of people pissed off about our inadequate Congress. Bill Moyers interview with Lawrence Lessig and Nick Gallespie I thought went to the heart of why we're all pissed off. Though it was a conversation about the Supreme Court decision on "free speech" I noticed that it became a conversation about LOBBYISTS. I didn't really hear Mr. Libertarian disagree with the harmful effects of LOBBYISTS. Does anybody think that Corporations giving money to help influence the decisions of Congressmen is a good thing? WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?

    Posted by: Brian Subbdash

    So who is a "lobbyist" - is s/he a citizen with one vote?

    Then who is a lobbyist when they are lobbying for a corporation? Still a citizen with one vote?

    Maybe lobbyists should be denied to vote in an election because they already voted with their lobbying.

    I'm hearing a lot of people pissed off about our inadequate Congress. Bill Moyers interview with Lawrence Lessig and Nick Gallespie I thought went to the heart of why we're all pissed off. Though it was a conversation about the Supreme Court decision on "free speech" I noticed that it became a conversation about LOBBYISTS. I didn't really hear Mr. Libertarian disagree with the harmful effects of LOBBYISTS. Does anybody think that Corporations giving money to help influence the decisions of Congressmen is a good thing? WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?

    Posted by: Brian O'neill

    Has any theater or TV network in America shown Death of a President, a British made movie about a fictionalized assassination of George W Bush?

    Had anyone on PBS or in the general public taken up that cause?

    Or how about Path to 9-11, a movie almost totally at odds with the 9-11 Commission Report, did you hear anyone trying to stop the broadcast?

    But a movie about the Reagans by CBS created a great hew and cry from the great unwashed conservatives, and the network caved and put it on cable.

    Oh and I should mention that the Supreme Court could've limited their decision on Citizens United v the Federal Election Commission to the time-frame involved, 60 days before an election, since as we know, nation- wide there are probably all kinds of elections nearly every day.

    It was the time-frame that was the legal question raised, not censorship. The courts didn't censor Citizen's United on the merits/demerits of their propaganda screed, only their timing.

    The curt didn't have to say an abstract principle like corporations could spend as much as they want, whenever they want on elections. This was judicial activism at it's rawest.

    And I am for the time frame, within reason, since it is the usual time and place restrictions that all speech has. Could a local party sue, because the police ejected them from campaigning, and "arm-twisting" right as people were inside their precinct, approaching their voting devices?

    And what did ever happen to creating a paper trail for all these electronic voting booths anyway?

    Sorry for the double-post, this is my first time on the site, and I thought the first one was rejected.

    That guy from Reason Magazine was a big joke. He couldn't even dress for the appearance? With the brushed over the forehead forelocks, leather jacket and basic black garb he looked like a greaser wannabe or a fascist.

    As for corporate contributions v lobbyists approach there is no dissimilarities. They just approach the same process from different ends; the former to finance those they agree with and the latter to pay-off those who might be wavering in their support of them, perhaps because they're committing the capital sin of listening to the voters.

    Both Dan Quayle and Elizabeth Dole pulled out of the 1999 run for the Republican nomination for the presidency citing their inability to raise funds, and that not being somehow right since they hadn't even had the first primary votes yet. Quayle and Dole are hardly bastions of the hard Left.

    There is a distinct difference between the court/legalistic definition of a Corporate Person, starting with Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, 118 U.S. 394 (1886), and the Ius Naturale definition of a person as provided by the US Constitution.

    And as for Citizens United v the Federal Election Commission being about more free speech, I seem to recall hearing that same argument about the Telecommunications Technology Act of 1993, and instead that has led to the consolidation of the media to essentially five major corporations. Presumably they are the same corporations who put on advocacy advertising, payoff Congress (if not justices), get all the tax breaks, get executive compensation in the hundreds of million dollars, and then on top of that push for tax payer funded bail-outs in the name of the "free"-market.

    There has to be no quid quo pro proof of political corruption, if the people with the money act as the gatekeepers of national discourse.

    Saying a case like Citizens United was what the Founding Fathers had wanted is a joke, when you consider Washington's warnings to prevent the creations of political parties, largely corporate or religious interests in Europe. It sets on end the Founding Fathers (and indeed Aristotle's) definition of Democracy being primarily for selfish purposes, i.e."mobocracy," rule by whoever could gather the largest mob. So while Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics favored a Constitutional Monarchy, our Founding Fathers favored a Constitutional Democracy, which gave it some of the flavor of Republicanism, if by that you mean governance by charter.

    The argument that the Founding Fathers favored an unrestrained clamor of free speech and would support the results of Citizens United v FEC sets on end that the franchise was even initially limited (to prevent mobocracy), to those who had 50 pounds worth of property (roughly $250-300, worth, roughly a year's income), until the reforms of Andrew Jackson in 1828.

    Sorry this letter is so long, but I'm ticked.

    Turning away from the current party system filled with corruption. What is corrupting our politicians. MONEY, from large corporations and their lobbyists. Could we just make it illegal to continue this huge conflict of interest? Would it go a long way in solving the corruption problem?

    Coady wrote, in part, "Political parties are mainly made up of people who come from the white collar criminal, corporate community and range from lawyers to former corporate sheep. They are fleacing us and they must be sent a message."

    Don't get nervous, you can continue to ignore me :-))

    I just wanted to say thanks - I finally got the first joke of the night Humorist In Chief gave in his schtick...they all LAUGHED at the "american people" being fleeced...whew, had to have the joke explained to me...

    Reply to Brain Subbdash:

    Yes I agree with you on citizens in the USA and Canada taking direct public action.

    If we are to ever get a political system that works for both countries ...we must turn away from the present party system.

    As I have said many times..political parties are used by the elite/ corporate community to hijack , what was suppose to be all the peoples system of governing.

    Political parties are mainly made up of people who come from the white collar criminal, corporate community and range from lawyers to former corporate sheep. They are fleacing us and they must be sent a message.

    Our courts in both countries are appointed protectors of an elite community ho have been getting away with fraud, while they burden we commonors with laws that make no one safe , but do make rich lawyers.

    Time for change and I mean real change. Time to stop these clowns from using the taxation system to extort money away from what is left of a middle class.

    The business community have been profiting off the backs of their injured employees for far to long , with the backing of a bad faith law known as the Workers Compensation Legislation.

    ... the national debt, including all liabilities, is closer to 100 trillion dollars and counting. No wonder the dollar is equal to the French franc today, and headed to the value of a 3rd world country. I have never heard of a country raising it standard of living with a weak currency. Let's vote on that...

    On Bill Moyers Journal the president of the AFL-CIO said that instead of going after the election of a politician
    to create a 60 member super majority, we should crate a ground swell of support for an issue. I would be curious to know how many people would think that making it illegal for lobbyists to give money or favors to politicians may be a good issue to create a ground swell of support for. To protect free speech, allow them to talk to politicians as much as they like. I think this would help in solving "the" major problem in Washington, and provide a setting that may make it easier to solve the rest of our problems. I would also be curious to know what the opinion of the president of the AFL-CIO would be on this issue. I'm sure it would take a very large ground swell of support to accomplish something like this. Probably a hunger strike by everybody in the nation. I know there are many side effects that need to be looked at, but I think there are presently answers for most all of them. For now it would be nice to at least have a dialog on the subject. It's more or less taboo in Washington and on the news media. Which reminds me "Thank you Bill Moyer"

    Wayne Coady wrote, in part, "Here in Canada we have decided that since the system nolonger works for many of us, not to vote."

    Here in USA, when we realize that someone "in political office" is certifiably nuts, we think it is an act of mercy to vote them out instead of tar and feather them.

    :-))

    Too many baby boomers lived too hard for too long and are now heavily medicated - so it's no surprise that getting up to "vote" could be too much for them. Why not use the internet for voting...? Boomers still like to blog :-)

    Most boomers might have relied too heavily on the hormonal and hedonistic energy readily available during the breeding years of life to get passionate about ALL aspects of CIVILIZATION

    scientific, philosophic and religious

    Subsequent generations after the boomers ALSO had their hormonal and hedonistic infusions into the life politic with a distinctive "mono cause" focus, meaning that all of science, philosophy and religion was corraled into excrutiatingly minute examination of PERSONAL neurosis.

    The Dark Ages were dark because "religion" went comatose - relying exclusively on mystery and paganism as a political strategy. The modern dark age being ushered in by technocratism are because people CHOOSE to live in a dream state (virtual reality) fighting through IDEAS about POWER to be the LONE VOICE in the COSMOS, not just on earth :-))

    When you love just yourself, makes sense that you really DO want to be the ONLY voice you hear.

    Two of the Supremes are "Romans" - Scalia and Alito. Part of the debate culture, protected in the Roman Empire's Senate, was a trick known as "reducto absurdum" - for real - not jerking your chain here...

    How will CIVILIZATION be served by turning everything upside down? What GOOD will come from using "reducto absurdum" to rule in favor of absurdum instead of against it...?

    Scalia should check in with people who knew him as a youth back in Trenton NJ...that warm "love" of familia might be able to remind him about "human"...

    I watched President Obma when he addressed the Republican Party… he said something that shocked me. He said that not counting what his party added to the deficit , it was 1.3 trillion and when he added on his 1 trillion that brought it up to 2.3 trillion and that on that day the national debt was over 8 trillion plus another 2.3 trillion , this would be a total of 10.3 trillion.

    Now in his 2010 budget he is expected to add another 3 trillion , so, by the end of 2010 the USA will be on the hook for 13.3 trillion.

    Much of this spending is going to fight wars , so my question is the economy of the USA now based on wars they can get involved in ?

    I am also shocked that the USA who calls its self a free market democracy , uses the taxes collected from the public to bank role business , who should be let fail. In a free market system, shouldn’t businesses be let to stand or fall on their own ? And if the state is going give these companies handouts / bailout , then the state might as well own them and reap the benefits.

    Sooner or later the present system will fall and all because the public let things get out of control.

    Here in Canada we have decided that since the system nolonger works for many of us, not to vote.

    Political parties are used by big business so they can hijack what should be the people "system of governing".

    We believe that the only way to bring down these political parties , that business uses as a vehicle to control and over power we common citizens, is to stop supporting "their governing beliefs" .

    Fewer and fewer are voting , the old party loyal are filling up the grave yards and the youth are much smarter than most , they do not vote.

    The babyboomers are catching onto the way these political parties operate in both Canada and the United States, thus they too are turning away ... I know , I am one of many.

    Look at the people who run these days, they very people who once served for a big business or they are a lawyer or doctor...not many common folk , and those that do..get bullied into folling the party line.

    So, if you want to bring about change ..do not protest in the streets, they will turn the military or police on you, simply stay away from the ballot box.

    Isn't democracy great? But for whom?

    Hey "jp",

    WAKE UP!!!!

    GET UP!!!

    :-)

    jp channeling from his dream state, "The prophet Daniel had a dream that envisioned four major world powers to come while he was held captive by the third major world power, Babylon...."

    To Tony,

    The short "feedback" answer to your inquiry.

    First, the Bible sometimes uses the words or terms "wild beasts" or "mountains" to describes the major world, Kings or Kingdoms that have existed and the one's that still do in man's/earth's history.

    While there have been many world powers in history the Bible only mentions seven as major world powers as having caused a great effect on human history.

    The prophet Daniel had a dream that envisioned four major world powers to come while he was held captive by the third major world power, Babylon. You may want to read the Bible book of Daniel chapters 7 and 8.

    Prior to Babylon becoming the third major world power, were the first two Egypt the first and Assyria the second.

    The forth was Medo-Persia, the fifth was Greece, the sixth was Rome and the seventh, the Anglo-American dual world power of Britain and America.

    So at Revelation 13:11-15 it says:

    And I saw another wild beast ascending out of the earth and it had two horns like a lamb, but it began speaking as a dragon. And it exercises all the authority of the first wild beast in its sight. And it makes the earth and those who dwell in it worship the first wild beast, whose death stroke got healed. And it preformed great signs so that it should even make fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the sight of mankind.

    And it misleads those who dwell on the earth, because of the signs that were granted it to perform in the sight of the wild beast, while it tells those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the wild beast that had the sword-stroke and yet revived. 15 And there was granted it to give breath to the image of the wild beast, so that the image of the wild beast should both speak and cause to be killed all those who would not in any way worship the image of the wild beast.

    This "beast that ascends out of the earth" (of mankind) is the seventh world power the "two horns represent the Anglo-American world power) and because the horns are "like a lamb" is because it disguises but "speaks like a dragon".

    The "first wild beast" that it exercises all the authority of was the League of Nations but after the death stroke the United Nations also the "eight king" mentioned in Revelation 17: 11 there is mention of an eight King.

    Hope that helps.

    Kojo A wrote, in part, "Ninety nine percent of the time when someone on a media broadcast, via TV, radio, or internet, they refer to this country as a “democratic government” when in fact we are a republic form of government."

    Okay, and so?

    We're pretty much simply in a perpetual WAR mode, Kojo.

    Who declared the "war"...?

    The "republic" or the "democratic"...?

    Neither, right?

    And neither expects to PAY for perpetual war - just throw out that big piece of the budget pie called "entitlements" - AKA the COST OF BEING ALIVE.

    I'm all ears for how the "republic" can work better than the erroneous "democratic".

    Thoughts from someone else:

    "Civilization is a racial acquirement; it is not biologically inherent; hence must all children be reared in an environment of culture, while each succeeding generation of youth must receive anew its education. The superior qualities of civilization - scientific, philosophic, and religious - are not transmitted from one generation to another by direct inheritance. These cultural achievements are only preserved by the enlightened conservation of social inheritance."

    "Hillary, The Movie" comes from WHO'S "culture"?

    I haven't a clue...a Republic form of Government?

    Balancing Big Money and Free Speech: I truly believe the four judges got it completely wrong, and I wonder if, and how much they were paid to make these decisions. Ninety nine percent of the time when someone on a media broadcast, via TV, radio, or internet, they refer to this country as a “democratic government” when in fact we are a republic form of government. We are actually witnessing the last few processes of dismantling The United States Of America, the country not the corporation, which was established as a Republic form of Government.
    People are bewildered and emotionally defeated by the bull-crap we experience daily in this country. Plus, the people have been dumb-down by the media; mainly the TV. Not to mention the public fool system. I mean the public school system.
    With the latest manipulation of the public trust, I believe that we need to roll back corporate chartering to be structured as it was in the beginning where their charters were temporary and revocable after a short period of existence.
    See treasonous acts performed regularly by our government, such as congress giving their soul duty to coin money to a private for profit corporate entity called the Federal Reserve Banking System. Wear doomed for failure; it just a matter of time. And our time is running short.

    To me this is not about free speech as such as the right to spend Millions of dollars of other people's money, by something that cannot claim to have a mind of its own. I have no problem with the courts decision per se except to say that when an Inanimate personage speaks ( there's a misnomer for starters)It must have the agreement of at least 60 % of its supporters = Stockholders or Members of E.G the NRA for:-
    a) What is to be said precisely over what period and the media via which it is to be said.
    b) The amount of money to be spent.
    I believe also that at least two previous Supreme court Decisions were overturned by this decision, and that seems wrong to me, because on another day a more Democratic Judiciary can overturn this one as well.
    Nonsense.
    My view Is the House and Senate must pass legislation, after receiving the advice of constitutionalists, but eliminate this nonsense. Also I think it is wrong ( checks and balances and inprinciple) even that the supreme court can overrule the Legislature on the grounds that they( legislature) are elected and the Judiciary appointed
    Long live Sandra Day O'Connor.
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    The present court, and ones previous, relied on the 1885 case Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad in affirming that corporations are persons protected under the 14th amendment. This is what Thom Hartmann has to say (search Internet: Thom’s Corporate Personhood rant, 09 September 2009):

    …actually the court did not rule that corporations were persons, but they have been claiming that ever since then because the clerk of the court, John Chandler Bancroft Davis, former President of the Newburg and New York railroad, wrote into a head note – the commentary on the case – which has no legal standing, a quote from the chief justice who had since died, he was dying of congestive heart failure during the year the proceedings happened, he died the next year. This was published two years later. He wrote that the chief justice said, “a corporation is a person and therefore entitled to protection under the 14th amendment.” When nobody knows if the chief justice said that. Even if he did, it doesn’t matter. It’s not the case. (Thom Hartmann)

    And so five members of today’s Supreme Court have handed over the country to the corporations based on a clerk’s unbinding commentary in a head note to the case.

    For all this discussion about the influence of money in politics, what I don't ever hear discussed is the sociology of the media. Why are these political ads as effective as they are?

    This supreme court ruling doesn't allow corporations to directly buy votes, but allows them to buy more advertising time. While I don't agree with the supreme court ruling, I don't agree with your coverage of the ruling either.

    What does it mean that our elections are decided by fractions of percentages falling within the statistical margin of error for polling results?

    Although the scope of our participatory democracy has been expanded from the original class of white land-owning men to now include women and black folks, some 60% of americans typically don't vote. What does it mean that most people are still excluded from the political process? If you believe the news, you'd think for every person you run into on the street, they're either a democrat or a republican; really, democratic and republican voters each are no more than 15-20% of the voting-age population. If an electoral victory of 2% is a landslide, what is the media telling that 2% that is so influential? From what does the media derive this influence? What does the media do to ensure that a small group of voters can tip an election?

    There are various aspects of how the media is organized that make political ads effective; for example: every day, every major media outlet decides that, more or less, the same daily events are most important. Given how many people there are and how many things happen every day, this is quite amazing. If different media outlets are supposed to be competing, you'd thing there would be competing narratives. It's my view that this homogeneity is pathological rather than conspiratorial, but these political ads are effective in no small part because the media reinforces the perception that only certain issues are relevant.

    Therefore, the competition among media outlets is competition to determine how this handful of pre-selected events are perceived and discussed rather than competition to determine which events are acknowledged and discussed. Personally, I think N987SA was worthy of media coverage, but didn't see it on the news even once and most people I know were unaware that the more dubious Ollie North shenanigans are still going on. Contrary to what the media would have me believe, I don't think it's objectively the case that only certain events matter. When a newscaster tells me that the Dow dropped because of some event, that's not objectivity, but mythology.

    Since a "Unanimous" decision needs to be reached by a jury, before such an over-reach of a case can be concocted and 100 years of precedence be chucked out...

    The Supreme Court, in such EXTREME rulings, should ALSO be required to be unanimous in its decision - just like a jury...

    The LOVE of money is the root of all evil.

    And what GOD had given HUMAN BEINGS - FREE WILL - Lucifer et al decided to take away.

    What do both "evils" have in common?

    SELFISHNESS.

    It's all about ME ME ME.

    More misery for others =
    More money for ME ME ME.

    All the problems with "governing" in the USA come from the political appoinments a President makes and not the "elected" officials.

    Obama's tragic weakness is the search for a father's love. He needs to stop asking for love from sadistic, hate filled, more money for ME ME ME "conservatives".

    Corporate Personhood - Life to the Image

    We are living in the age of "global commerce", about this most agree. We are also living at the beginning of an age of "global commercial control", about this, only few are aware.

    Capitalism, with all its trappings, is the dominant financial model for the entire world.

    Capitalism has no god, but it is money, the acquiring of it, and the steady increase of the bottom-line that it serves, and is completely dedicated to.

    Considering the Bible clearly states that total dedication to money, avarice, is the root of all evil, this means the world is serving, and dedicated to an entity, which is an anathema to the very nature of God.

    At the head of this entity, which the world serves, is the cold, immortal, all-powerful corporation.

    To Tony:
    The mark of the beast is GREED. Greed is why Satan was thrown out of Heaven. You will know the devils children or his creations by their greed.

    Greed has been the driving force behind the corporation. Don’t ever get in its way to make maximum profit or it will fight you tooth and nail. Morality or social responsibility is never on their agendas. I am not saying that all corporations are immoral but the biggest are.

    You can read between the lines here.

    Correction from my last post...head = feed

    "feed back from my..."

    I don't know how many of those who visit here are religious or read the Bible but for some weird reason when I first heard of and read this decision for some reason my memory went directly to this passage from the book of Revelation:

    And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. ~~ Revelation 13:15

    I would love to get some head back from fellow Christians on this.

    Bill you forget to mention the amount of negative campaign ads that will result from the Supreme Court ruling. The ads that corporations will now get to swamp the air waves will be attack ads not infomercials. THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE.

    How can the Supreme Court be so stupid to allow big money to have more influence that is negative in our elections? Corporations are not people, CEOs and U.S. shareholders ALREADY get a vote on Election Day like the rest of us! There is no need to have their corporations to be able to flex their mega wealth muscles and taint elections and drown our voices because of money. It is time to kill that Frankenstein monster called corporations with their B.S. free speech rights; their employees already have that right

    Yes, free speech for corporations. You can't seperate humans from the institutions they are associated with for purposes of free speech. Thus, Big Oil has free speech, as does the Public Broadcasting Corp., and the Washington Post Corp, and Pacifica, and the Weekly Standard, and Bill Moyer's Journal, and Halliburton, and Hollywood. Liberty does not guarantee the best result, but it is the most just and honorable social order.

    Yes, free speech for corporations. You can't seperate humans from the institutions they are associated with for purposes of free speech. Thus, Big Oil has free speech, as does the Public Broadcasting Corp., and the Washington Post Corp, and Pacifica, and the Weekly Standard, and Bill Moyer's Journal, and Halliburton, and Hollywood. Liberty does not guarantee the best result, but it is the most just and honorable social order.

    It's "funny" on so many levels, that this whole bowl of crazy revolves around a really bad movie designed to bring down a WOMAN.

    Did SCOTUS actually watch the movie...?

    If they did and they still came up with this RADICAL interpretation of 100 years of precedence about "corporate" donors,

    then that's something to very important to consider moving forward...

    Money can't buy love, or "class"...

    Billy Bob, "Fetus have no rights
    Corp. have rights?"

    Actually, the WOMAN who is pregnant has a pre-existing condition and the HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANY will not cover the costs.

    Sine you want to solve the problem, WHO in the above scenario is LEAST respected?

    God has no mercy to the woman (in your opinion),

    Health insurance companies have no mercy to the woman,

    And, obviously, the man who impregnated the woman has no mercy to the woman otherwise she would not be seeking the abortion...

    So, yup, we are not all "equal" when it comes to "mercy"...beginning with what YOU claim about "god"...

    'In-side-the-belt' (DC)seems In-sain, and only Mainstreet is sain enough to realize it.

    Fetus have no rights
    Corp. have rights?

    Republicans think 'Only' Democratics are Dummies! Guess they don't look in the mirror?

    President Amazing takes 1 year to realize 'Jobs" are important to voters----yeh, if you are not a voter (or Rep.) they don't think about you or your pain! But continued unemployment may reduce campaign contributuins!

    Sound too negative?

    I am amased how negative Mainstreet is about Washington, AND Washington is in shock that it keeps on keeping on!

    Shockingly,

    Billy Bob Florida

    Friends, I would love to see who [a Justice's name] corrupted the 14th Amendment. I've been told a conservative clerk did it, not a Justice of the Supreme Court. The 14th Amendment gave black men the vote. Corporations, through the Constitution, must pay taxes, as they are merchant structures. They can not vote as they are not humans. They are tools.

    I don't see how this is a free speech issue at all. If anything, outlawing corporate money from affecting elections would be a win for free speech. In the most extreme case, suppose we outlawed ALL corporate (and union) money from participating in elections, both by eliminating all corporate contributions and disallowing any corporate-backed political advertisements in the public mass media. Even in this extreme case, name one single US citizen who has been barred from speaking.

    The employees of any company can still express themselves. So can the shareholders. Nothing changes for any real person. As an average American, I worry more that my voice is getting drowned out by companies who are very rich and have the ability to buy access to the politicians who I can only send letters to! That can't be what the Founding Fathers had in mind!


    Posted by: Anna D
    "Yet another consideration about corporate "personhood" - they'll have the right
    to bear arms and form armies...whoops, that's already happened...and guess..."

    WHAT! The health care has been put on the back burner.

    As "JUSTICE delayed is Justice DENIED," Now we have, health CARE DELAYED
    IS HEALTH CARE DENIED and JOBS DELAYED is JOBS DENIED!
    These are, "JOBS, HEALTH CARE," made "ONLY IN AMERICA!"

    Crossing the bridge in the first one hundred years of life are hard, there after
    free Speach, freedom, liberty, peace etc. is available for everyone!

    "Of the People, By the People, For the People" is now only words. The Supreme Court's decision Wednesday officially sanctions a government who recognizes Corporations as individuals. "Of the Corporations, By the Corporations, For the Corporations." All is lost, all is lost.

    Right, it would be like giving other First Amendment rights to corporations.

    Like Freedom of the Press. Corporations shouldn't have rights like that, just individuals...

    Can the Government go out and silence/edit/censor the NY times because they're a corporation and not entitled to First Amendment protections?

    Wait, let me guess. That's somehow entirely different (while oddly being a separate clause of the same amendment).

    Well, the decision was handed down today...

    Any surprises...?

    Indeed, you can't legislate "morality", so why bother...

    I hope Bill that you do a follow up on the final outcome of this case.

    Yet another consideration about corporate "personhood" - they'll have the right to bear arms and form armies...whoops, that's already happened...and guess who is PAYING for all the protection of corporate "personhood"?

    Yup - TAX PAYERS. The IRS is even going to get the power to throw people in jail who don't "buy" health insurance that they'll never actually get if they ever get sick...

    The bowl of crazy is endless...but judging from the inanities that the Court has chosen to listen to, one wonders whether they are trying to "save" money by taking on cases that ANY civil court across the land should have been able to settle if everyone wasn't also on "tilt" with the enforcement of money SHOULD be able to have all the power of personhood"...

    So there you go, just turn MONEY into a person with "god-given" rights and be done with it all...

    The reason that this is a big bowl of crazy is that you cannot have freedom of religion without freedom of speech.

    So "big money" has a "bigger" voice in matters pertaining to freedom of religion. Using corporations and unwarranted surveillance to harass PEACE Marchers is state sponsored "religion".

    Not to mention that the economy is on "tilt". So many people were fired to benefit "profit" and "shareholder" that there is now no way "profit" can come back based on innovation, services, or products.

    Follow up, anyone?

    Urantia Book forums are back to practicing ruthless censorship of humanity...shoot, WHEN is some REAL homeland security group going to figure out where the REAL terrorists chat and plan their one world government using the code words found in that book...? RELIGION, people - ain't this a "holy war" where my god is bigger than your god...?

    Instead, the "fusion" center in Denver blacklisted a young, natural born leader (slavic name - let me tell you about being on the receiving end of irrational JEALOUS HATRED..) organizing PEACE MARCHES...

    Oh wait, after 8 years, ONE peroxide bomb maker is making BIG news...but how many were arrested, and put in jail from among PEACE MARCH organizers...? You betcha it's more than just ONE...

    Another area in which corporate rights exceed those of the individual is privacy. To this date the People have not been informed about the externalized debt of mega-banks and mega-bank like vehicles, which continues to metastisize. The Federal Reserve has not been forthcoming about the trillions loaned, nor has the Treasury nor FDIC, mainly because of corporate business supposed privacy rights. Kevin Phillips and Ravi Batra have both expressed suspicions that public moneys are being used to manipulate the stock indexes at critical junctures, which is a closely guarded conspiracy.

    Meanwhile corporate interests trade in private citizens' vital and private information for profit, and the names and addresses of evictees appear in newspaper columns daily, this by law.

    They bellow like thunder over the purchased airwaves and broadband while our peeps are squealched. They know my mother's maiden name, my bank accounts, my debts, my consumption and what the doctors treat me for, what medicines I take. I am naked and they are bubble boys. Is that natural? What are natural rights? And yet their spokespersons insist that they should have no limits in telling me how to vote or spend. Those corporately reared will mature as corporate clones. Is this the last generation of people: The next one only products?

    Dinah wrote, in part, "To understand freedom seems a process of personal character maturation; enhanced by education---but not acquired from."

    The only way an understanding of "freedom" could NOT be enhanced by "education" is if that "education" is based on fantastic-thinking "wisdom" rather than what CULTURE evolved over centuries of struggle towards "perfection". The culture of the founding fathers somehow educated their "ideas" about "freedom", I agree. But even "culture" can be selective when "profit" is concerned.

    Obviously, "minds" are still too lazy to figure out a way to "profit" other than slave labor (which is still what "freedom" means to most, Dinah).

    Our founders were people who desired civil and religious liberty; believed in freedom of personal conscience; that people were endowed by “Nature and Nature’s God” with “inalienable rights.” Liberty, God, conscience, rights---all exist within thought—are “self-evident”. To understand freedom seems a process of personal character maturation; enhanced by education---but not acquired from. In my opinion, only if ‘outside’ rules are compatible with an inherent common sense of right; are in the interest of common welfare—are they indeed ‘right’.

    Dinah offers, in part, this thought, "Freedom is an ideal; exists only in the mind."

    Precisely because some REAL people know the difference between how to generate electricity and how to LOVE one another is why YOU have the freedom to yaddayadda about "freedom only exists in the mind".

    Thanks to Rachel for providing the link to the Supreme Courts argument.

    Do a search, Dinah, on what the Supreme Court had to say about "magic word/s" in their arguments. Might help you figure out what "freedom" IS.

    Anna D.—I find myself wondering exactly what I had in mind; but believe it is this: Literalism is bonded to an objective reality founded by our primitive ancestors. Freedom is an ideal; exists only in the mind. Nevertheless, freedom is a very real on-going process; seems will be our eventuality. The freedom we experience, as an individual, and for humanity is from inaccurate perceptions; from misperceptions acquired from an immediate environment, or reality of an era. Truths entered our reality from; and are realized within personal consciousness. In essence, our journey is almost entirely subjective; with the transition being from illusion to truth. Because of the physical foundation of our reality, we focus on physical truths and literal communication; continue age-old coercive means to enforce physical conformity to the mind of an era.
    The U.S. Constitution instead enforces conformity to a Common SENSE of Right Behavior; an entity of an entirely subjective nature; which can’t be communicated in the usual manner of physical instruction. Still we seemed to comprehend; because conformity to this ‘common sense’,--released a compatible diversity. The substance of our Bill of Rights surrounds a common antipathy to oppression. Abhorrence to unjust use of physical power seems the cornerstone of our government. With the implication unjust use of that power surrounded actions injurious to the common good. I believe it is fair to assume the colonial belief was that God created humanity with an inherent social conscience, or right behavior; and the purpose of government should be to secure these rights.
    The personal sense of truth relative to right behavior I was referring to is that adherence to the letter of the law,--be it religious or secular—has never been the means to that end. Our founders believed government was necessary for a common good. Literal interpretation of free speech, where conducive to growth and an informed public; could also hold then the opposite effect. To consider one free to say and do anything could return us to a pre-civilized state. I feel we should reach agreement that dishonest, predatory, oppressive acts holding potential for harm should not be allowed; because they are incompatible with inherent human ideals. Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine believed the ‘world should not be ruled by the dead, but by the living’. Believed in a Constitution enabling us to remake the world; to bring a ‘New World’ into existence. Our Constitution is a work of art; a portal to realization of a world that has thrived in the heart of humanity throughout all the eras. Literal interpretation reduces its worth; and ours.



    David G. -This is exactly the point Frederick Engels was addressing when he introduced the concept "dead labor" to his discussion with Karl Marx. Dead labor is the stored up lifeforce of working individuals under control of wealth-holding concerns: In the modern case the multinational mega-corporation. This alienated accumulation, rather than serving common need is alienated from the interests of the general population and put in service of the corporation for further accumulation of more alienated lifeforce to be extracted from laboring people.

    At that time (mid to late nineteenth century) German educated philosophers (granted Mr. Engels never completed his formal education) were a sentimental bunch. The phrase "dead labor" then is historically related to such metaphysical concepts as Frankenstein and Vampires, because of generalized psychic fear generated by the mass horrors of industrialization. We'd often like to think injustice and maldistribution are behind us, because of justice and freedom struggles, but in reality bigger accumulations of wealth (dead labor in a corporate housing) make disparity of fair compensation and mass exploitation more likely, and more irresistible.

    Not only has a dynamic been normalized in which abstract rights of dead labor holders exceed the collective welfare of society, but a perversion of legal force is also being applied to make the situation more intense and more horror filled. If you were to travel to Pittsburgh to the G-20 Conference on Sept. 25th to redress your grievances about international finance, destructive trade agreements and regimes (actually corporate legal bodies), irresponsible food production, or support of repressive and illegitimate governments you would either be arrested or shunted to fenced enclosures far from the venue, to have your outrage echo (almost uncovered by media) among others like yourself, and the onlooking guards.

    We are now farther (in practice) from the meaning intended in the clauses of our founding documents than were the Russians in 1990 (and they had a very pretty but inactive Constitution). Michael Hudson has called our biggest financial institutions zombie banks, not because they are staggering in a trance, but because they unnaturally consume the vitality of the people who do the necessary work: laborers. If empire (USA global structural violence) is undeniably the collective interest of a coterie of mega-corporations, owned mostly by the wealthiest persons, then isn't this thing, that projects unjust debt and accumulates alienated dead labor properly called a Zombie Empire. (If you've read Paul Farmer's "The Uses of Haiti" you understand this pretty well.) You have only to ask this question,"Does a giant flesh eating zombie deserve free speech?"

    wouldnt giving corporations free speech rights create two classes of citizens?

    Everyone who worked for a corporation would have two votes (there own and the vote of the corporation) while those who did not work for any corporation would have only one vote.

    Corporations are not people.
    They should not have human rights or personhood.

    Excerpts from Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission
    Supreme Court 9/9/09

    MR. OLSON: Robust debate about candidates for elective office is the most fundamental value protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech. Yet that is precisely the dialogue that the government has prohibited if practiced by unions or corporations, any union or any corporation.

    JUSTICE GINSBURG: Mr. Olson, are you taking the position that there is no difference in the First Amendment rights of an individual? A corporation, after all, is not endowed by its creator with inalienable rights. So is there any distinction that Congress could draw between corporations and natural human beings for purposes of campaign finance?

    MR. OLSON: What the Court has said in the First Amendment context, New York Times v. Sullivan, Rose Jean v. Associated Press, and over and over again, is that corporations are persons entitled to protection under the First Amendment.

    JUSTICE GINSBURG: Would that include today's mega-corporations, where many of the investors may be foreign individuals or entities?

    JUSTICE GINSBURG: Could they in your view, in the view that you are putting forth, that there is no distinction between an individual and a corporation for First Amendment purposes, then any mega-corporation, even -- even if most of the investors are from abroad, Congress could not limit their spending?

    JUSTICE SCALIA: Do you think Congress could prevent foreign individuals from funding speech in United States elections?

    ------

    JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: Because what you are suggesting is that the courts who created corporations as persons, gave birth to corporations as persons, and there could be an argument made that was the Court's error to start with, not Austin or McConnell, but the fact that the Court imbued a creature of State law with human characteristics.

    But we can go back to the very basics that way, but wouldn't we be doing some more harm than good by a broad ruling in a case that doesn't involve more business corporations and actually doesn't even involve the traditional nonprofit organization? It involves an advocacy corporation that has a very particular interest.

    MR. ABRAMS: Your Honor, I don't think you'd be doing more harm than good in vindicating the First Amendment rights here, which transcend that of Citizens United.


    GENERAL KAGAN: But everything is geared through the corporation's self-interest in order to maximize profits, in order to maximize revenue, in order to maximize value. Individuals are more complicated than that. So that when corporations engage the political process, they do it with that set of you know, blinders -- I don't mean it to be pejorative, because that's what we want corporations to do, is to –

    CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, I suppose some do, but let's say if you have ten individuals and they each contribute $1,000 to a corporation, and they say, "we want this corporation to convey a particular message," why can't they do that, when if they did that as partnership, it would be all right?

    GENERAL KAGAN: Well, it sounds to me as though the corporation that you were describing is a corporation of the kind we have in this case, where one can assume that the members all sign on to the corporation's ideological mission, where the corporation in fact has an ideological mission.

    JUSTICE SCALIA: General Kagan, most -- most corporations are indistinguishable from the individual who owns them, the local hairdresser, the new auto dealer -- dealer who has just lost his dealership and -and who wants to oppose whatever Congressman he thinks was responsible for this happening or whatever Congressman won't try to patch it up by -- by getting the auto company to undo it. There is no distinction between the individual interest and the corporate interest. And that is true for the vast majority of corporations.

    JUSTICE SCALIA: Yet this law freezes all of them out.

    GENERAL KAGAN: To the extent that we are only talking about single shareholder corporations, I guess I would ask why it's any burden on that single shareholder to make the expenditures to participate in the political person in the way that person wants to outside the corporate forum? So single shareholders aren't suffering any burden here; they can do everything that they could within the corporate form, outside the corporate form. They probably don't get the tax breaks that they would get inside the corporate form, but I'm not sure anything else is very different.


    GENERAL KAGAN: . . . very recently members of Congress and others created a gigantic record showing that there was corruption and that there was the appearance of corruption.
    And in that record, many times senators, former senators talk about the way in which fundraising is at the front of their mind in everything that they do the way in which they grant access, the way in which they grant influence, and the way in which outcomes likely change as a result of that fundraising.

    JUSTICE BREYER: BCRA has changed all that.

    MR. WAXMAN: When the sober-minded Elihu Root was moved to stand up in 1894 and urged the people of the United States, and urged the Congress of the United States, to enact legislation that would address, quote, "a constantly growing evil which has done more to shake the confidence of plain people of small means of this country in our political institutions than any practice which has ever obtained since the founding of our government," he was not engaging in a high level discussion about political philosophy.


    . . . For this reason, Justice Kennedy, was that what Root said was the idea -- and I am quoting now from his speech which is also partly reprinted in this Court's opinion in McConnell -- the idea is to prevent the great companies, the great aggregations of wealth from using corporate funds directly or indirectly to send members of the legislature to these halls in order to vote for their protection and the advancement of their interests as against those of the public.

    . . . All I am suggesting -- and I hope that if you take nothing else from my advocacy today it will be this -- is that we have here a case in which the Court has asked a question that essentially goes to the bona fides, that is, the factual predicates of the interests that have been viewed as compelling in Austin, in MCFL, in McConnell itself, whether you call it the corrosive effect of corporate wealth, whether you call it, quote, "shareholder protection" -


    -----
    Entire transcript at:
    http://www.supremecourtus.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts.html

    Yet absent from all of the discussions of First Amendment protections or Fourteenth Amendment constructions is the mention of the cost, the human cost which sustains our Constitutional rights and the context of individual sacrifices verses the unconcealed intent to usurp it.


    Posted by: Kal Gallion


    That kind of conversation would, by nature, have to revolve around the private armies - the "blackwaters" - that have already been amassed. And that is the most "terrifying" conversation of all because it would lay clear that the REAL war against USA citizens (heck, ALL of humanity) is already in full force - psychic force (health) and physical force (created debt).

    It's not the "end times" so much as it is the "beginning" of depravity.

    People better stop worrying about their caloric intake and instead exercise free will in regards to participating and empowering the ethical depravity of "materialists".

    Just as (/11 was planned in advance by domestic empire builders, the appointment of Anti-Federalist Federalists Roberts and Alito was in preparation for confirmation of corporate personhood. In the case of these two corporate shills, fascists Thomas and Saclia and corporate butt-lick Kennedy I guess you'd say ignorance of the (original intent of) the law is a broad excuse hastily brought to bear in the forgone decision that diminishes the voice of every flesh and blood citizen. Anyone who describes rectification of this outrage by Congress, or by the People, through amendment of the raggedy Constitution, or a reinforcement of original intent, as somehow crude or out of order is an accomplice to treason. We are at a stage where circumstances dictate that wage slavery be abolished and human rights be expanded, and yet we are enthralled by the criminal reaction of a few parasites. Like any achievement of technology and/or philosophical understanding, our expectations justice and fairness can not be put back in a sequestration of ignorance by force or intimidation. The "memory hole" will back up like a stuffed toilet and flood the planet. Birth is scary but glorious and either death or advancement are on the way. In any case the days of empire are numbered, and will not exceed a decade. (My contacts in the world lead me to believe people are not as dumb, cruel or complacent as they act.)

    Thanks Anna for the complement, but I’m not any kind of hero.
    I believe that when we speak of the Constitution and heroes, we are ultimately speaking to those brave souls who gave their lives to uphold our Constitution. We have a flag that symbolizes our nation, but it is our Constitution that articulates what we hold dear, what we value, and what we what others to recognize as our strength. It is a proclamation of freedoms promises that we have bestowed on ourselves, protected by the bloodshed of our County’s sons and daughters. Yet absent from all of the discussions of First Amendment protections or Fourteenth Amendment constructions is the mention of the cost, the human cost which sustains our Constitutional rights and the context of individual sacrifices verses the unconcealed intent to usurp it.

    Thank you, Kal Gallion.

    Heroes like you are still sprinkled about everywhere in the USA among the citizens with the glaring exception of D.C.

    Government's ONLY role is to protect the INDIVIDUAL against force and fraud.

    Dear John Zuehlke,
    I appreciate your passion for First Amendment guarantees, though I disagree strongly with your underlying premise that criminalizing corporate speech would debase our fundamental Constitutional rights. While you and I probably agree that we would “like to see the power of the mega-corporations drastically reduced”, you seem to be conflicted as to the cause and the remedy of the situation. What is under question here is the First Amendment protections extended to corporations. First Amendment challenges are, in the end, decided at the Supreme Court level. And while partisan politicians can and will run ram shod over the Constitution, it is the Supreme Court that will ultimately decide Constitutional application and legitimacy.
    The genetic background in the progression of the idea of corporate citizenship is a long and dirty road. Certainly at its inception, the Constitution did not grant corporations the same rights of human citizens. If you can imagine our country as having no concept of corporate citizenship, you would see a country that Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Franklin would recognize as their own.
    It’s not much of a revelation to say that we have the best political system money can buy: “Golden Rule: He, who has the gold, makes the rules.” The right of corporations to influence, that is their right to free speech, is anchored in very insecure and corrupted holdings which have been under constructions for over 120 years. Beginning in earnest with the 1886 U.S. Supreme Court case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company (118 U.S. 394), was a non descript case that however butchered the basic intent and the plain language of the Fourteenth Amendment (overruling Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) by granting former slaves, and their descendants, the Constitutional right of citizenship). In Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite announced before oral arguments that:
    "The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does.”
    Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite made this declaration even though the Court did not base its decision on a Fourteenth Amendment question, and despite the fact that there was no precedence for this conclusion in Constitutional law. Notably, the Chief Justice’s excerpt is not in the opinion itself, but is rather printed in the syllabus of the decision: placed there by the court clerk, a man who was at one time a president of a railroad.
    One would think that such a broad expansion of the Fourteenth Amendment to include corporations would necessarily be originated on rock solid Constitutional considerations and practice. Not the case however. Our error is that we now see the idea of corporate citizenship as a rudimentary right that has always been incorporated in the Constitution, always principal to our First Amendment convictions, and therefore must be a protected as we would naturally protect all of our rights. Understand, over time we amended the Constitution to remedy some truly immoral Governmental actions and beliefs: Slavery, voting rights, ect. Clearly we undertook these changes to our Constitution in order to right some terrible wrongs. However, the denial corporate citizenship is not a wrong that needed to be righted. Rather, it is a development of the means and the methods of power in terms of competitive advantage and protections. Comparatively, the granting of corporate free speech rights is not, nor can it fall into the same category of establishing and protecting basic human Constitutional rights. Not by necessity and not by morality.
    But, this question of First Amendment Rights of corporations is itself erroneous. The legitimate Constitutional question here is really a Fourteenth Amendment issue. It is the erroneous interpretation and application of the Fourteenth Amendment, which has granted rights to corporations, that is the real issue here and not a First Amendment parsing.

    I love the debate, intelligently articulated and enlightening. My absolute understanding is that a corporation should not be allowed the same rights represented by our founding fathers for the citizens of the UNITED STATES, especially when they declared their reasons for independence, "he has made our judges dependant on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and amount of their salaries". An oppressive force looking out for it's own interests is not inherently entitled to the rights of citizens of this nation. Companies including multi-national corporations have no business where the rights of US citizens are involved. They can be completely foreign entities. They have already shown to be effective in manufacturing our consent to purchase their products don't enable them to sell us our liberties.
    It also seems that corporations penalties for breaking laws are mostly fine oriented, maybe I should plead the leniency given to corporate entities next time I bury my neighborhoods garbage on their property, but neatly plant a tree on top.

    Freedom of speech simply can’t be taken in its literal context, most especially on this issue; because this conflicts with a personal sense of truth relative to right behavior.

    Posted by: Dinah


    Not sure what your point is, Dinah.

    My "freedom" with the "corporation personhood" was limited to a simple choice - sign a CONTRACT that gives the corporation ownership of any "invention" I come up with while in their employ or go home. I went home because the "contract" did not end if I "invented" a new way to skin a chicken in my kitchen at home.

    Also, how did Michael Jackson end up with the "publishing" rights to The Beatles music? Seems to me that giving a "thing" the same "rights" to be a human means that YOUR "free speech" expression, such as musical songs, can end up not even being YOUR free speech - it can end up being "owned" by another.

    See how kuku it already all is...?

    Could have all been a practical joke by the secretary to the boss to slip in that edited line granting a corporation "personhood" just to prove that the "legislator" signed off without reading the final version...?

    Like I already noted - historical documents exist that prove that piece of legislation was changed by someone NOT authorized to change it - doing spelling corrections is not authorization to change the entire INTENT of the legislature by slipping in something that might even have been a practical joke!

    As I see it, the problem with reaching truth on this issue is that we function in a reality founded by our primitive ancestors. A reality formed through the physical senses; based on the appearance of objects. Progress in essence is our ability to penetrate this appearance, and find truth. Although we abandon pieces of primitive reality, we continue to perceive all through its basic foundation; or encapsulate all thought within a physical perspective. Freedom is not a physical entity, and therefore defies any physical or concrete confinement, or interpretation. Truths arrived from, and are realized within personal thought. Truths are not visible; not acquired through the physical senses; even objects are not as they appear; and no two people have identical perceptual devices. Physical truths can be assigned formulas to facilitate realization; behavioral truths as ‘fairness’ can’t; are entirely personal conscious experiences. Freedom has no physical formula; no physical definition; there is no physical freedom,-everything in the physical world is inter-related. Freedom of speech simply can’t be taken in its literal context, most especially on this issue; because this conflicts with a personal sense of truth relative to right behavior.

    How does that one-liner go...?

    Something about don't argue with a crazy person because, to observers, they won't be able to tell who is the crazy?

    It is NOT REALITY that a for-profit corporation is a PERSON.

    Why has the voice of the person/historians been silenced who have documented evidence that it was an editing mistake that gave "corporation" personhood status!? What happened to their "free speech"?

    The Bill Moyers Journal program discussing the Supreme Court’s then-upcoming re-argument of the Constitutionality of the Federal Government’s attempt to impose limits on the free speech of corporations has certainly generated a lot of spirited postings on this blog. The overwhelming opinion seems to be that the Supreme Court should uphold the McCain-Finegold Act and severely limit the ability of corporations to speak on political matters.

    I am not at all surprised that this topic would generate such spirited discussion on this blog, but I am very surprised, and also greatly saddened, that the overwhelming opinion here was to fly in the face of the American Civil Liberties Union, and condemn renowned civil rights attorney Floyd Abrams.

    The arguments that were presented in support of limiting corporate speech seem to be based on only a few premises:

    1) Corporations wield inordinate power in our political system and drown out the voice of the populace.
    2) Corporate interests are often not in the best interests of the populace.
    3) Corporations are legal constructs and therefore do not have the Constitutional rights of citizens.

    From these premises the writers come to the conclusion that our government both can, and should, limit the political “speech” of corporations.

    I, too, would like to see the power of the mega-corporations drastically reduced. However, doing so by criminalizing speech not only shreds our Constitution, but also WEAKENS the voice of the populace by effectively “throwing out the baby with the bath water”!

    The premises that corporations 1) drown out the voice of the populace, and 2) have interests that are antithetical to the best interests of the populace, are valid with regard to many corporations. However we must remember that many, if not most, of the organizations that are fighting FOR the populace, are ALSO organized as corporations. Mr. Abrams mentioned unions, but the list also includes everything from churches and soup kitchens to anti-war and health care advocacy groups.

    Do we want to give government politicians the power to determine whether or not to criminally prosecute these other groups? Apparently we have forgotten the California church which our government attacked because they had a guest minister who dared to make an anti-war statement. Have we forgotten how the government destroyed the anti-war Christic Institute? Both of these attacks were made under civil law – and, under McCain-Finegold, we have criminal law that does much the same thing, but with the additional threat of imprisonment!

    The mega-corporations have numerous ways of directly controlling the political process. We, the people. have very few. We must preserve our right to gather together and form political organizations to amplify our voice to a level where the politicians will take notice. Our organizations will usually be structured as non-profit corporations.

    DENYING POLITICAL “SPEECH” TO CORPORATIONS WILL ACTUALLY MAKE THE MEGA-CORPORATIONS MORE POWERFUL, while leaving the populace only the options of either writing letters to their legislators or marching in the streets.

    The premise that corporations do not have free speech rights because they are not human beings is off the mark. The problem with this argument was voiced very well by one of the blog postings that pointed out that corporations CANNOT speak because they are not human!

    Exactly! CORPORATIONS do not speak! Their officers or representatives actually do the speaking. The speech of a Director of a corporation is indistinguishable from the speech of an individual human. If the corporation has oodles of money to amplify the Director’s speech, so does a very wealthy individual. The only difference is that the populace, if they buy some stock, can influence the speech of the corporation by choosing or influencing the Board of Directors, while the populace has absolutely no control over the speech of an uber-wealthy individual.

    Our Constitution does not apply a wealth test when guaranteeing the right of free speech. The very rich have just as much right to free speech as the poorest among us. It should not matter whether it is a group of concerned people speaking through an organization’s spokesperson, or citizen-stockholders speaking through their corporate officers.

    It is imperative that we quickly and decisively curb the enormous influence that huge corporations have over our political process, but unconstitutional blunderbuss laws like McCain-Finegold are certainly the wrong approach.

    Criminalizing speech, no matter how odious that speech may sound to our ears, or how strongly we may despise its source, is antithetical not only to a functioning democracy, but also to the security of our nation. Attorneys such as Floyd Abrams, and organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, which valiantly take on causes that are so vital to our civil rights and our country’s wellbeing, despite representing clients we intensely dislike in the process, are true heroes of democracy!


    Dear Floyd,

    In your discussion, I think the point you overlook about "speech" is its character as a property of individuals. An "assembly" of individuals, such as a corporation, cannot have a character of speech separate from its individuals, at least for political purposes, and as well, can not have a relationship with a representative politician, that is separate from its individuals. It is the person who is the citizen, and that standing is complete and permanent within legal bounds. The citizen voice is spoken from the voice of the individual citizen, and not any citizen collectives but those constituted as government by the citizenry.

    Though your discussion mentioned equal corporate standing with the incorporated press, freedoms assigned to the press are not the same as freedoms assigned to speech, as the press is a collective designed to promote and employ the facilities of individual and collective speech under a freedom that cannot be impaired by statute.

    Speech is the combination of information and communication, its effect not withstanding. Under the idea of "one man, one vote", the citizen voice is heard from the individual speaker. Including coprporate speech in the political process, gives the corporate members either more than their share of voices in nearly unlimited potential, as such memberships are not limited, or, it gives them an incoherent voice, spoken by the citizen vote and support as well as by the corporate elective input that may be opposed to that stated by the citizen. The citizen with many coporate interests could likely face the outcome that the different firms in his porfolio may be politically opposed to one another, sending up the specter of the citizen in constant argument with onesself so that a clear voice and selection can never be made.

    I think that these are cogent points for consideration, and for this reason, I am sharing them with you as I am impressed by your advocacy. I also hope to share this response with the other members of the broadcast segment. Thank you for your appearance.

    Jack Martin. I wonder what other half truths our goverment schools passed onto me. I guess from now on I will have to test the things I learned and do some independent research. I am always excited when people present different perspectives on our republic. Thats why I listen to Moyers. He seems to have a never ending supply. Thank you for the history lesson.

    This was one segment where I was SCREAMING at the TV set. This was more MUCH more than a film about Hillary Clinton during the campaign. Look at what the middle class, the average Joe has had to endure at the hands of greedy, lying, cheating, omnipresent and omnipotent corporations. We are SMOTHERED by them in every field from health care to oil. They have undue influence and usually NOT for the better on my body and my life. NOW they want to usurp one of the PEOPLE'S FEW methods -- free speech -- as an EXCUSE to control the WHOLE enchilada?

    With all due respect to Mr. Abrams and the ACLU (an entity I adore) which his supporting his cause, the corporation is NOT an entity that suffers from too little influence in the marketplace of ideas but it suffers OR WE suffer too much because of the already undue influence of the corporation within politics in Washington. Just watch Rachel Maddow's exposure of Freedom Works a right wing front to figure that one out.

    What ordinary human being can compete with the money that the corporation has? What ordinary person would even figure out the rich corporate influence in things political? The corporation took Mr. Abrams and the ACLU for all it was worth to find yet ANOTHER way to insinuate itself into Washington politics. This is NOT what our founders meant by free speech. They meant I or any PERSON has the right to get up on a soapbox anywhere to say or write whatever we wish.

    The corporation should NOT be considered as a flesh and blood individual human being. It is made up of a PLETHORA of humans with different interests. It has NO feelings, it has NO sense of fair play, it cannot get sick and it cannot die BUT I can at the hands of corporations because what they do I often cannot stop even if I know what they are doing is toxic.

    This issue is about FAIRNESS and nothing but FAIRNESS. It is not fair to make MY opinion any less valuable than someone else's opinion. By endowing the CORPORATION with humanity you put it on equal footing with me and anyone else. I can assure you I do NOT have billions to put out speech against those politicians I loath.

    I THOUGHT our country was about FAIRNESS and fair play. This Supreme Court case if it goes the way I think it could go, I will have to throw up my hands and say I just CANNOT win! The president's new mantra will become NO WE CANNOT!

    robert: deebie has obviously read an accurate and informative history of corporations, and understands how this business model has impacted history. Royal personages chartered the East India Company, and were big investors in it, from the first colonies onward. Some of the taxes they opposed were corporate (stamps required).

    If you'd ever heard about the CORE and the Periphery you'd understand how the seaboard colonies were kept under-industrialized to remain a market for manufactured and processed goods coming from Europe. That is why, even as late as the Civil War, outside forces considered supporting the Confederacy to obtain inexpensive resources and labor, as well as a captive (indebted) market. In fact, that was the developing hoo-ha between industrializing New England and the agricultural and extractive South and West. Slavery was not the sorest point, though Emancipation was a blow against the plantation economy. And that is how wage slavery superceded chattel slavery, just as the corporation attained personhood.

    "Taxation without Representation" sounds exciting but amounts to a half-truth. DC continues taxed but unrepresented, as does Puerto Rico, along with other holdings and territories.

    It would appear that thinking people comment and debate the subject matter but ignorant people can only resort to personal attacks. So Sad!

    to debbie saye;

    I thought the Boston Tea Party was about representation. "taxation without representation". where did you get the idea that it was about corporate power?

    Floyd Abrams is a demagogue. Corporations cannot speak since they are abstract objects, so called legal persons, and they have not been created as legal means of individuals collectively exercising their right to freedom of speech. Floyd’s logic is dangerous. Those who can speak are corporate executives. Shareholders have no powers over political actions of these executives.
    In essence Floyd is advocating for unrestricted rights of corporate executive to influence politics at their shareholders expense.

    Posted by: anton ponomarev (Moscow, Russia)

    China, in short order, has surpassed the USA in the production of wind technology for energy. That's what NORMAL people do, they move on from "crazy" without the yaddayadda of demagogues who "own" ariwaves.

    The Supreme Court of the United States will be protecting the "free speech" (PROFIT) rights of the FICTIONAL Supreme Leader (AKA as "god" in most circles - sigh) today and who knows what is going to get thrown in to the bowl of crazy.

    The FICTIONAL Supreme has all paid workers channeling his "supreme" thoughts through the human larynx.

    Think about how EXTREME was the pendulum swing from "we will go to the moon" to the Wall Mart educational series "Left Behind".

    China has moved on from "crazy". I'm sure everyone else will after Supreme Court upholding of FICTION - the "who" providing "moral leadership".

    Imagine what that dude and the others kissing a-- for $$$ (sociopaths are enamoured with psychopaths) are saying NOW on the blogs in this "debate" about "health"?

    Question for all the patient people on these blogs still trying to speak with the crazies - what is the check of power against the Supreme Court creating laws to protect a fictional Supreme Being?

    The influence of corporate money has so corrupted politics that I truly wonder how much democracy we have left. This case has little to do with free speech and much to do with corporate power.

    The influence corporations have now in politics is too much. To add more would be disastrous. Our founding fathers had a great fear of corporate power (the Boston Tea Party was a rebellion against the East India Company’s trade monopoly) and they never in their wildest imaginations could have envisioned the size and influence of corporations today.

    California had the opportunity to switch to public campaign financing, a move that would have greatly benefitted Californians. Against their own best interests they voted it down because a massive corporate-funded ad campaign, filled with misinformation, convinced them it would be harmful.

    Corporations are not people; they are fictitious entities that should have no financial role in our political process. They have no constitutional rights, only a revocable charter. They have already done great damage. It would be disastrous for our country if they had even more influence.

    I await the Supreme Court’s decision with bated breath and a great deal of trepidation.

    One aspect of the health bill which I believe is important but not discused is that all medical records will be electonic. We all know that electronic records can not be secured.(Ask the VA,some banks,some retailers, some famous people).Therefore, Hackers will be able to get into anyones medical history. My emplyer, my ex-wife,the goverment will be able to get information that should be confidential.A safer way to have records immediately avalible would be for every person to carry their own flash card with the information on it. If I went into an emergancy room or docter's office I could give them the flash drive which would have the information they would need. I would decide what happened to my information not some hacker who wanted to make some money.

    If the court is made up of strict constructionists as it pretends to be, then it must rule that corporations have no standing under the constitution. Corporations are a useful fiction, created by government. Governments can choose to assign rights of persons to corporations or they can choose not to. The federal government clearly has the constitutional right to regulate interstate commerce.

    There is a difference between what a person may do with his money and what a corporation may do with its money. All money is not created equal.

    Only God can create a tree, but the state of New York can create a person? Fiction.

    Don't we hear enough slander and bashing of canidates on tv and radio, without help from corporations adding more commercials and/or movies into the mix? Where did the common sense go in America? The Constitution states "We the People", not "We the Corporations". Let's keep it that way...

    From Tennyson’s “In Memoriam”
    Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
    The flying cloud, the frosty light:
    The year is dying in the night;
    Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

    Ring out the old, ring in the new,
    Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
    The year is going, let him go;
    Ring out the false, ring in the true.

    Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
    For those that here we see no more;
    Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
    Ring in redress to all mankind.

    Ring out a slowly dying cause,
    And ancient forms of party strife;
    Ring in the nobler modes of life,
    With sweeter manners, purer laws.

    Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
    The faithless coldness of the times;
    Ring out; ring out my mournful rhymes,

    But ring the fuller minstrel in.


    Ring out false pride in place and blood,
    The civic slander and the spite;
    Ring in the love of truth and right,
    Ring in the common love of good.

    Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
    Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
    Ring out the thousand wars of old,
    Ring in the thousand years of peace.

    Ring in the valiant man and free,
    The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
    Ring out the darkness of the land,
    Ring in the Christ that is to be.
    Amen

    When will we listen and hear,
    The message written clear?
    DCE

    I found Mr. Abrams argument to be bought and paid for. He was trying to talk us into something that has been debated for at least 250 years and rejected as a potential threat to our democracy as put forth by our founders and guardians of the constitution moving forward.

    It is absurd to say that a corporation is a person or that money equals speech. Only lawyers, whose business is manipulating words, could contort the inane so far as to make it sound plausible.

    Is a corporation alive? When you prick it, does it bleed? How does "Freedom of Money" sound? That's what we're really talking about here. Does it ring as noble as "Freedom of Speech"?

    To whom it may concern,
    Freedom in a social setting is NOT the freedom to do or say anything you wish or desire to say.
    Lying under oath is a criminal offense for example.
    Freedom in a functional society is having the opportunity to say and do what is true and necessary to support a quality lifestyle in a quality society and a quality environment. Also, what is done needs to be consistent with the welfare of human beings.

    1.)Corporate democracy does not exist. I, as a shareholder, have little or no say over the executive salaries paid. The directors decide. They hand out millions to the chiefs who fail in their performance and bankrupt the business. 2)Due Diligence? The Glass-Stegall Act was repealed (year 2000)unleashing a tsunami of derivatives (CDS, CMO's, Option ARM's)by investment banks eviscerating the economy. We, the individual voters, pay, reluctantly, for their blunders. 3)The creator's of the ill-fated Pontiac Aztek and the twice-retired Chevrolet Monte Carlo make me, inadvertantly, the majority shareholder of the company. (Which brings me back to item #1).

    Interesting comments addressing the "non-entity" status or "not-a-real-person" status of corporations, and the conclusion that corporations are not and should not be afforded "freedom of speech" under the Constitution.

    If corporations are such non-entities and have no legal standing other than the standing afforded by States, then perhaps they shouldn't be held to the standard of paying taxes either?

    There is nothing "progressive" about Floyd Abrams. He pretends to respect "free speech" but plans to expand our corporatocracy with the use of an economic devise call the corporation. No doubt he is well paid.

    Floyd Abrams is a demagogue. Corporations cannot speak since they are abstract objects, so called legal persons, and they have not been created as legal means of individuals collectively exercising their right to freedom of speech. Floyd’s logic is dangerous. Those who can speak are corporate executives. Shareholders have no powers over political actions of these executives.
    In essence Floyd is advocating for unrestricted rights of corporate executive to influence politics at their shareholders expense.

    Judging from USA response to Katrina - that's already the kind of "free speech" we are living under.
    Posted by: Anna D

    It is just another proof that restricting free speech not going to fix problems. Think about who is given the power to decide on what information can be published and what is "inappropriate" or "national security matter" or just too controversial... Katrina, war on drugs, war on terror and many other issues show us again and again that giving power to the government to control information inevitably leads to suppressing facts that government does not like. So even if you and me do not like what they say, they still have a right to do so and I would rather suffer from too much of free speech than from government restrictions on it.


    Posted by: Volodymyr Butsky

    Dear Mr. Buttsky,

    The ONLY role of "government" is to protect the individual - that would be me, a human being who is not omnipotent nor endowed with the kind of labor talent of just twitching my nose and the diaper is clean - from FORCE and FRAUD.

    So you are correct, a "government" that is complicit in committing force and fraud against me, via "corporation", would ALSO want to limit my "free speech", wouldn't it?

    What possible "freedom" and "progress" for the INDIVIDUAL can be accrued when UNSELFISHNESS is oulawed?!

    This is the "global" formula:

    More misery for others = More money for me.

    Here's how a "corporate" appartchik interpreted the well-being of United Health Care....I was going to be out of the country for a while so I sent in 2 months of COBRA payments instead of one - trying to WIN the VICIOUS game of UNFORGIVENESS and INTOLERNACE for "late" payments that the COBRA program IS because it KNOWS that the person on COBRA is unemployed - but, whoops, my lack of omnipotence led to a TWENTY ONE CENT math error on the check. I was SHORT twenty one cents.

    COBRA's software is "genius", spit out that letter saying I was cut off faster than the speed of a sneeze. So I called the number they gave me to call if I could prove why they are NOT correct.

    The dude at the call center in Jacksonville FL showed NO MERCY for that 21 cent error. But he took it one step too far, imho, because he quoted a passage from the bible accusing me of trying to cheat and steal.

    If the Supreme Court OFFICIALLY makes it illegal for a "corporate" worker to be merciful for 21 cents because by doing so, the worker would be working against the profit making (NOW to read "free speech"!!??) ability of the "corporation" - well, you can see why I wrote that this whole IDEA is a big bowl of crazy.

    The "government" sold EMFs (electromagnetic waves/frequencies) in the air to PRIVATE CORPORATIONS. That should have been enough of a mafiosa protection racket stunt to satisfy the poor, long-suffering, i-have-needs-too "corporation's" hunger for "free speech" (AKA "profit").

    In my opinion, the most important decision to be made by the US Supreme Court in our lifetime begins tomorrow, September 9th. "Of the people, by the people and for the people" might soon read, "Of the corporation, by the corporation, and for the corporation..."

    To be decided: Whether or not corporations are granted unlimited freedom in contributing funds to political campaigns.

    Q. Is a corporation the same as an individual citizen in America with all of the same rights?

    If corporations are granted unrestricted spending on political campaigns, then our democratic republic will cease to exist. Congress will only represent competing corporations.

    Justice whispers, "One citizen, one vote."

    The problem in giving a corporation the same free speech rights as an individual is that the corporation does not have an "ethics" or "moral compass" which the individual does have.(The compass of a corporation points only toward making a profit). Yes, the corporation is treated as an individual, but an individual without a moral compass is at best unreliable, but at worst -dangerous or even destructive.

    I feel the concrete interpretation of ‘free speech’ alone is an indicator of our deviation from the path to justice opened by our founders. To carefully consider the nature of so-called ‘human conscious evolution’, we can see it was not an overall occurrence throughout our world. The energy of our ascent flowed out from the heart of the people in western civilization. In essence, the change was from ‘realism’, to ‘idealism’; from a mind formed through physiological adaptation, or the ‘physical senses’, to a mind formed through deeper reasoning, and common personal pure ‘conscious senses’—as equality, truth, freedom, compassion, justice--; from social laws that trace to our primitive ancestors, to those compatible with an everlasting inherent social conscience—called ‘our humanity’--; from an ‘oppressive mentality’, to expression of our ‘capacity to love’. To read the quotes and documents of our colonial ancestors, it becomes evident their method of communication is almost a lost art; as seems to be understanding of the Constitution they left as our guide.
    Freedom is not a concrete entity. Therefore escapes academic definition; so to understand the meaning requires personal effort; with the answer to be found not on any linear document; but within a common sense of truth. When the American Liberty Bell rang, the freedom extended; --what was released was ‘personal worth’. What this occult talent became free from, was oppressive government. Even though release was rudimentary, our Constitution opened a door for tedious escape from an inaccurate and incompatible reality. Every progressive change; every environmental and behavioral truth; every innovation; every positive step on our journey; flowed out from deep in the thought of someone; often of low rank on the social hierarchy scale. There was no blueprint; no concrete formula for success; no direction that came down from above.
    I believe the fact that the government arrangement of The United States of America happens to be a simulation of the intrinsic arrangement of all living things explains our success. One where each cell matters; contributes to an organ; contributes to a system; with all contributing for the welfare of the whole; with continued life dependent on freedom of each member to contribute its talent; that nothing oppress this inner flow of energy.
    So, I agree with Trevor Potter. A corporation is a synthetic entity; is not part of the intrinsic natural arrangement. To interfere with nature can hold undesirable effects; can be detrimental. Our Constitution is in accord with an intrinsic natural arrangement; does not give any person, or organization freedom to overpower; to oppress another person.

    Democracy is the UNADULTERATED show of one hand- one vote.

    It is worth pointing out that free speech is not the same thing as spending money. I spend money regularly without speaking and I speak often without spending money. Spending money can allow me to extend the audience of my speech, but it cannot enable those things unable to speak to speak.

    Corporations have no ability to speak. That's not because they are repressed. We no more repress a stone when we say it cannot speak then we repress a corporation when we say it cannot speak. Both simply have no capacity to speak.

    A general corporation – as the limited liability protected pooling of shareholder wealth – has the ability to spend money to produce and to sell its wares. None of those activities give it the power of speech. Nothing in our Constitution can change that.

    On the other hand, labor unions, political action committees and even public broadcasting corporations can be formed to extend the speech of their members. This extension of speech should not be confused with speech itself. This would be like claiming a megaphone had the capacity to speak and therefore must have its freedom of speech, religion, assembly and press guaranteed (do not repress the megaphones). Especially in broadcast (whether broadcast over airwaves or whether over the waves on cables run over public easements), the monopoly privileges granted to these corporations must be accompanied by severe restrictions on how that monopoly is used. Otherwise we might as well throw the entire Constitution in the garbage.

    Free Speech! You have the right to speak your mind and have your ideas heard. Floyd Abrams tells us more is better and it's unconstitutional to discriminate against the source, in this case corporations. But what exactly is Corporate Speech? The prime example we have of non-political Corporate Speech is advertising. Advertising is very, very effective. Remember cigarette ads on TV? The image of the Marlboro Man swamped the health warning. Catchy ads, created and aired prominently at huge expense outcompeted all the information about cigarettes and cancer. Cigarette ads were finally banned in the public interest. Could limited donations from single smokers or tobacco company employees or donations to a Tobacco PAC have produced such an effective pro-tobacco campaign?

    If the Supreme Court rules that corporations are entitled to the same political free speech rights as individuals large corporations will be a new and very influential class of political campaigners on economic issues. With more money to buy ads than individuals and even most groups they will make a difference when they advertise directly to the voters.

    Now that would be judicial activism!

    It is sad to see Floyd Abrams make such simpleminded and foolishly absolutist arguments for the "freedom of speech" of entities like corporations that are not even persons by any stretch of the imagination. Either his integrity has been corrupted or his reasoning has become quite faulty, since he clearly cannot tell whose prerogatives the Bill of Rights intends to safeguard.

    The First Amendment already explicitly protects the rights of individuals and of the press to free speech. Abrams wishes to arrogate to the individuals in corporations a double right to political speech -- once as individuals and once more as faceless cogs of a corporation, with the added distorting power of money to make it all the more noxiously unfair. That's not what anyone had in mind when our founding fathers wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

    The individual's right to free speech is already enshrined in our founding documents, and affording it to fictitious corporations is a direct attack upon the one-man-one-vote principle which underlies a functioning and fair democratic process like the one that our country claims to have.

    Besides, the distorting power of money inevitably ends up affording more free speech to those of us who have more money, irrespective of the merits of their argument. A Hitler with endless gobs of money will easily overpower and virtually silence a penniless Gandhi every time. We can, and perhaps should, all write to our congresspersons or to newspapers, and participate in political rallies, conventions and discussions to the best of our abilities, but no person (and certainly no corporation) should have the right to corrupt the essential fairness of the political process with mercenary "speech" (directly aimed at influencing the results of political elections mostly for private material gain) simply because they can afford to pay for it.

    Free political speech by individuals YES; money in the political process NO; and "corporate personhood" definitely NO.

    Abrams/Potter "should" be a nolo contendre with Mr. Potter winning the case running away.

    But listening to Mr. Abrams blandly, illucidly, lay out the preview of his "Free Speech for Corps." pitch was chilling.
    If the whims of the oligarchy are met and Mr A. should prevail in court I am taking my family to Canada.
    America is already in thrall to the Fascist/Corporatist interests that control this country.
    "Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission" simply "seals the feudal deal" in the same manner as the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the passing of the Commodities Futurization Act" sealed our current economic fate.
    Mr Potter is correct. Corporations are AMORAL constructs of Profit and "rent seeking". They may have secured "personhood" with the aid of a pliant, amoral Congress but they most certainly are NOT "persons".

    One more point...
    Mr Moyers, i admire you greatly but you fail to recognize that the nation you've long fought for is already lost to you.
    You make appeals to Mr. Obama to "fight harder" against foes who secured Mr. Obama's cooperation long before the presidential campaign even commenced.
    Will you at last take this as a sign....if "Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission" is affirmed in the SC that you will at last know who your masters are.

    It is evident from the attitude of Mr. Burns that he is an avid investor in corporate stock. His ludicrous suggestion that one category of wealth be segregated from another in a society based upon collusion among the wealthy, and which has failed to regulate its financial sector, seems wholly impractical. How would Mr. Burns feel about extremely high unearned income taxes to offset the unreasonable burden presently crushing the people performing the necessary work, and living entirely from the sale of their limited and completely expendable labor? I know I'd like to see such taxation, and the devolution of corporate limited liability along with it. All people should reap what they sow, unless their fellows take pity at their plight.

    I was quite frustrated by the conversation since it confused two separate issues. Corporations and free speech on the one hand and the concentration of wealth in fewer persons on the other hand. First is the issue that Bill Moyers touched upon: that money buys speech in the USA. Of course we should ponder how we can address that serious dilemma.

    However that problem is entirely separate from the Constitutional question facing us as a nation and which the Supreme Court has indicated it wants to address. That is the question: Does the first amendment apply to corporations? I think there is no question that it does not. Corporations are granted the special privilege in the limit of liability. In granting that privilege and crafting an entity, Congress has great discretion Constitutionally. Any person within a corporation is unrestricted in their ability to speak. However that does not allow the privilege-granted corporation free reign over our democracy. The corporation can choose to relinquish its privileged position and again enjoy free speech as an organization. The serious dilemma facing us underscores the absurdity of raising this as a Constitutional issue. That is the CEO of the corporation is free to spend her own money on political speech. So there is no real restriction on the speech of any person. And that returns us to the dilemma.

    How can we stop the richest in America from dominating the debates. That is a quite difficult Constitutional and general social problem. There we face the problem of balancing the rights of free speech for the super-rich against the needs of the people to have an equal footing in the campaign and electoral process. Those two tenets are placed at odds. It is in that issue, that Floyd Abrams’ proposed remedy is appropriate: to ensure wealth is not so widely dispersed so as to allow a small segment of wealthy Americans to completely control our political process.

    In contrast, restricting corporations is not a moral dilemma whatsoever. We can certainly have special kinds of corporations that represent the embodiment of the citizens peaceably assembled (like PACs or unions or other specific kinds of civic and political corporations). The special privilege of corporate-hood granted in that case prohibits those PACs from engaging in the profit-making of other corporations. It would be equally desirable to separate these two corporations from one another completely. No corporation (except for the special exceptions) should be allowed to own a broadcast network, produce “news”, or sponsor PBS broadcasts. Their corporate privilege simply should not include that wide-open abuse of power. So the problem of rampant corporate free speech is inseparable from the rampant problem of corporate free press. In both areas we need to segregate the general corporate entity from the specialized political and news corporate entity and keep them as far from one another as possible.

    Three highly educated and very intelligent adult men sitting around a table discussing whether an imaginary "person", in the form of a Corporation, ought to be given the same Free Speech Rights as a living and breathing American citizen?

    How dysfunctional are we as a Nation that we all participate in the mass hallucination that an imaginary person deserves to be treated as real?

    "When I was a child I acted as a child but when I grew up I put away childish things."

    Isn't it time that three grown men and the rest of us put away the childish idea that a Corporation is a real "person"?

    Let's take "personhood" away from corporations and restore and limit them to serving mankind, instead of our current state of mankind serving Corporations.

    Let's put away childish things!

    WOW! Are you kidding me?!?!

    The last thing our country needs is our laws giving corporations anymore power or leeway on anything.

    The discussions in the supreme court should be "How do we limit corporation's already perverse levels of power in our so-called democracy?", and "How do we stop corporations from detroying the country?".

    Special thanks to Trevor Potter for so intelligently and effortlessly debunking Floyd Abrams pathetic and corporate shill-like legal positions on giving more power to corporations...

    I thought Floyd Abrams was a champion of free speech, not a twisted corporate manipulator of it - how disappointing and disgusting!

    Anna D, " What more do you want?"

    "JUSTICE!" "Justice delayed is justice denied!"

    "$90 million dollars approved for the LEVEES were diverted."

    This resulted in "1500 death, catastrophic destruction and sufferings".
    No one has been charged!
    "$700 billions" no question asks! Ramped Bankruptcies - confiscation!
    Corrupt justice system, that has turned blind eye!

    "AMEND THE CONSTITUTION" so everyone can express their
    "WILL on ALL ISSUES!"
    "HEALTH CARE for ALL!"
    FREE WILL at the BALLOT on ALL ISSUES!
    FREE OUR HEART, SOUL and SPIRIT to the end of LIFE, either that be
    today, tomorrow, next year or thereafter.

    Judging from USA response to Katrina - that's already the kind of "free speech" we are living under.
    Posted by: Anna D

    It is just another proof that restricting free speech not going to fix problems. Think about who is given the power to decide on what information can be published and what is "inappropriate" or "national security matter" or just too controversial... Katrina, war on drugs, war on terror and many other issues show us again and again that giving power to the government to control information inevitably leads to suppressing facts that government does not like. So even if you and me do not like what they say, they still have a right to do so and I would rather suffer from too much of free speech than from government restrictions on it.

    After just seeing the movie Food,INC. I think we should all be concerned about giving the corporations the right to continue trying to control our lives. In this case with supporting movies meant to influence how we think.

    I am watching your show from last Friday on corporations and free speech. I find it amazing that there is no substantive dialogue over the obvious arguments. The two sides are free speech or censure. I do not see those as the two sides. We the people are guaranteed free speech. Corporations are not mentioned in the constitution. Indeed corporations are not people but are legal abstractions to protect people from liability. Even the landmark case: 1886 U.S. Supreme Court case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company (118 U.S. 394) did not address the matter of whether corporations were 'persons' with respect to the Fourteenth Amendment; in Chief Justice Waite's words, "we avoided meeting the question".
    Corporations do not vote and corporations are not representatives of people. They are consumers of human capital along with material and financial capital in the pursuit of economic growth and they do not suffer the consequences of their actions in the way that people do because these consequences are considered mere externalities from which they are shielded.
    As always, we pick an argument and line up people on each side without analyzing what we are arguing about. I say that the question is not about free speech bur rather about whether or not we should view corporations or unions or associations as representatives of people outside the charter of the organization in question. To this end a labor union could represent members with respect to labor issues. A trade association could represent its members in matters related to that specific trade but corporations represent only the collective desire to generate wealth and have no place in the discourse of men.

    What happens when you as an employee or a purchaser of corporate products cannot have a say in how the profits and treasury of the corporation BOD and CEO? The damage is already done by the time you figure out what the leaders of the corporations have alredy done and achieved? This will only circumvent the will of the poeple to an even greater degree....and drive greater penetration of corporate fascism and hegemony over the culture and the people. How can this man actually beieve what he is saying considering the outcome? Who is paying this man to lead this case....how much is it worth to YOU Mr. Abrams?

    But we need to be clear about this particular case of selective restrictions on political speach to some corporations by other corporations.


    Posted by: Volodymyr Butsky

    As much as I appreciate the patience and intellectualism of some people posting on here to get into the pharisaitical minutia of this usurping of the institution of JUSTICE by "Mad Men", I'm afraid that this kind of "civil" discussion is granting a status of "validity" to an IDEA that 99% of humanity considers a big bowl of crazy :-)

    The President of Taiwan resigned the other day due, supposedly, to political pressure because of the way he mis-handled the SAVING ROLE of government to the recent typhoon.

    I'm back to the point - giving FOR PROFIT corporations "human" status would make ANY TYPE OF "SERVICE" that is non-profit generating ILLEGAL ACTIVITY.

    Judging from USA response to Katrina - that's already the kind of "free speech" we are living under.

    What more do you want?

    It looks to me that our two major parties are corporations too. Corporations designed to win votes and than harvest spoils of political victory. These corporations are always trying to prevent any competition from getting into their field.
    As far as I'm concerned, republican or democratic party represents my voice as much as General Motors... They are not.

    I would agree that corporations are not citizens and therefore should do not have same right as people. But we need to be clear about this particular case of selective restrictions on political speach to some corporations by other corporations.

    If corporations are given free speech, people will be able to create corporate entities for the purpose of slander.

    The documents creating these entities would describe advertising or movie making as the business but the real intent would be to hide the founders of the corporation and their personal assets.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (Amendment I, U.S. Constitution)

    The clear language of the Amendment prohibits the legislative branch of the United States government from abridging (diminishing or extinguishing) the right of free speech. That prohibition was extended to the legislative branches of the individual States through incorporation found in the Fourteenth Amendment. Thus, legislative government is prohibited from diminishing the right of freedom of speech.

    While the Supreme Court has made it clear that free speech is not unlimited and has restricted expressions such as obscenity and defamation, it remains axiomatic that unless there is a free exchange of opinions and ideas, the people do not have the information they need for effective self-government.

    It is that free flow of opinions and ideas that is at the heart of the debate presented by the case discussed during Mr. Moyars’ program; specifically, who has the right to free speech, individuals only or corporations as well.?

    The language of the Amendment is clear that the right is non-discriminating; both individuals, groups of individuals (Thornhill v. Alabama (1940)) and corporations have the right to speak. That corporations are large, have resources that may provide them a larger stage on which, and from which to speak, and thus a louder voice that can be broadcast in more venues is really irrelevant. The main thrust is the right to speak and not be censored.

    That right should not be trampled even as it applies to a created entity. To trample that right is clearly antithetical to the fundamentals of American democracy – regardless of the label you desire to place on “democracy” or the American experiment. No one would consider placing tape over the mouth of anyone or any entity “American.”

    As General Colin Powell said: “Free speech is intended to protect the controversial and even outrageous word; and not just comforting platitudes too mundane to need protection.”

    If you don’t like big, evil corporations – consider living without them for a week and see how far you’d get.

    If you want to curb the breadth of corporate speech, then there are ways that corporations and their speech can be managed, but to disallow them the right to speak and be part of the free flow of ideas and opinions in America is not American. If you want to have a louder voice, then find it and others with like ideas, and speak.

    Free speech requires voice and therefore inanimate objects or entities, i.e., trees, animals, corporations who do not have the ability to generate speech, do not have 1st amendment rights, - only people do. Therefore, people who are in corporations already have the right to speak as human beings. They certainly do not have the right to an additional voice. The principal ought to be one person one voice.

    Bill,

    Thank you for following up with this particular Supreme Court case. I have been aware of this court case yet it has been difficult to get information on. Please keep us all informed of the outcome.

    Corporate-personhood - an interesting but misinterpreted constitutional application to a non-person. I have been aware of but never could figure out why the courts would allow corporations to have constitutional rights since they are an entity and not a person. I hope the Supreme Court gets in right this time so that political campaign finance becomes illegal.

    If you have not seen the documentary, The Corporation, it is well worth watching:

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3203253804055041031&ei=-qukSquKCpv-qAPv4JDCBA&q=the+corporation&hl=en#

    Good discussion, but the distinction between money and speech wasn't made by anyone, not even by Bill Moyers. I understand that some confued Supreme Court decisions have blurred the line between speech and money, but the two are not interchangeable.

    I have survived ll non-partisan elections. Many corporations are loaded with pension, union and corporate blocks of stock holders. They, through $ contributions BUY legislators who will foster their product or services. The indfividual has little ability to conbat these pressures. I spent 3 months walking my districts to win my elections. Corporate strength makes such effort unnecessary. Now elections are BOUGHT. The general public, even the individual investor has little or no effect on the actions of THEIR purchased legislator. Please, Mr. Moyers, run for president. Your programs are the best source an indicidual has to level the playing field. God Bless you with a long life and continued truthful programs of valuable information both positive and negativr. Thankyou
    Mary Carrington

    It does not matter what a cooperation does to influence my vote or one of my elected representative. I have the freedom to search out my own information and so does my representative. Its freedom of speech and the attempt to stop it thats at play.

    As a child of the 60's Bill I would just like to say "Right On" !!!

    There were good points made on the show. In addition to these, we need to examine the fundamental concept in our governmental structure and that is that it is a representative democracy. Those whom we elect make the decisions. Corporations, on the other hand, are not intended as intermediaries between us and our representatives and they could well be that, in a backhanded way, by being allowed to have the power to influence our decisions.

    The bill of rights were and adendum to the constitution in order to protect "individual rights". They were ment to be applied to people not entities. Case closed.

    [Just a quick sigh, after a quick scan of the writings, for all those who seem to think that opinion, spoken bombastically enough, forms fact.]

    I don't think that the relevant question is whether corporations should have equal free speech protection, but whether the presentation of money is a form of expression that qualifies as protected speech. We've had dancing, posing for photographs, acting for films, etc. protected as "free speech", but does the presentation of money fit into this category? I don't think so.

    Note that I'm not saying that money cannot be used to *prepare* presentations of free speech, since, presumably, that free speech can inform the recipients. Money, in and of itself, does *not* inform the recipients, except perhaps in the most vague, abstract way of "the giver values your presence, services, or whatever that much", since money is just an abstraction of value.

    It seems to me that saying that the presentation of money to a candidate is a protected form of free speech is a backdoor to protecting the more basic form of prostitution as free speech in the future. Elliot Spitzer would be proud.

    If a corporation wants to make a movie about Hillary Clinton, the cost of that movie is a cost of doing business and is therefore paid for in pretax dollars. If i want to make a movie about Hillary Clinton, I would have to pay for it with after tax dollars. Therfore the American taxpayer would be subsidizing corporate political speech. Does Floyd Abrams believe that the constitutional right to free speech should be treated as a cost of doing business, like any other cost. This gives a huge advantage to the corporation over the individual

    I do not believe corporations should have the same first ammendment rights as individuals. That said, I direct my comments to Bill Moyer's closing statements: If I understood him correctly he likens our political system to a Barnum and Bailey circus and he says Washington is a fantasy. I can only assume that Mr. Moyers is grinding his ax. I think Winston Churchill said that America's form of goverment is the worst in the world .. except for all the rest. I say to Mr. Moyers "Take all the rest. I'll take America anytime".

    Also! Most US corporations are owned by people that are not US citizens. Foreign interests have high-jacked our government and our nation.

    Another great subject, Bill. The data show that our country is run by those with the most money. Free speech isn't free. Our government is not run by those we've elected nor by the people for the people. Look at what happened in NYC when people demonstrated against the war a few years ago. They were confined in cages. Wake up everyone!

    As usual, Bill Moyers has brought a critical issue to the surface. Thank you, again, Bill.

    However, I think the focus on "free speech" works around the edges of the real issue we face. The real issue is the concentration of political and economic power in a single source. As was pointed out on Friday, American corporations need power and resources to successfully compete in an expanding global economy. This becomes all the more reason for political power to remain in the hands of "the people." History has shown that when a nation's political and economic powers are concentrated in a single source, that nation declines and loses out in global competition. For those interested, Niall Ferguson's book "The Ascent of Money" documents this phenomena very well.

    Not to digress, but the current debate on health care is a case in point. Corporate interests are carrying the day at the expense of "ordinary citizens."

    As to the "free speech" issue, I believe corporations should be allowed to say whatever they want, as long as we know who's doing the talking.

    Why is a government allowed to regulate how much media one company can control in one market but not control corporate takeover of elections? I can't wait to vote at the Capital One Bowl during the age of Idiocracy.

    Floyd Abrams says:

    You're opening the faucet, so to speak, so that more speech can occur.…that corporations and unions should be out of the picture either because they're too powerful, or because of the way their money has been created, is so inconsistent with the sort of First Amendment approach that we take in everything else, where we say over and over again, we don't care who the speaker is, we don't care where the speaker's coming from. And speech, we think, is, as a generality, a good thing.
    The multiple fallacies at the heart of Mr Abrams's argument are too glaring to let pass:

    The First Amendment is not concerned, at its heart, with having more speech but with protecting diversity of speech. The First Amendment, properly interpreted, would not disallow restrictions aimed at preventing one speaker (or class of speakers), with enormous resources, from drowning out others (especially if those resources derive partly from the state conferring economic privileges for economic, non-speech-related reasons). Nor would it prohibit restrictions aimed at that speaker (or class of speakers) having a single goal—profit maximization—unlimited rein in the free speech arena, if diversity is the underlying assumption. If the First Amendment envisions a "marketplace of ideas," it cannot be used to allow a relatively few participants with enormous resources to significantly impair that marketplace. We do not care, with regard to the First Amendment, "who the speaker is." We do care, however, whether those allowed to speak have the enormous resources to impair, or perhaps demolish, the marketplace.

    The First Amendment does not allow unlimited free speech regardless of the foreseeable consequences. If corporations can use their enormous resources unbridled in exercising speech, they can use that leverage to exert even greater influence over our elected representatives. It would be, as the NY Times says, "a disaster for democracy."

    That a corporation is considered a "person" for specific economic purposes doesn't mean that corporation is a "person" for all First Amendment purposes. The speaker the First Amendment envisions is different than the artificial corporate "person." To argue that it is the same is to commit the fallacy of equivocation.

    Thanks Bill and to both of your interviewees for an excellent presentation of what is at hand in our political world. I appreciate the intelligence
    and respect behind each of your comments. Though I don't side with Mr. Abrams I think his points were very well made and perhaps technically correct. Really what was not said, but perhaps implied as a consquence of Mr. Abrams point is, "Do we really have Freedom of press as it now stands?" I seriously question the statement made to the effect that the "status quo as it stands is all good." It is really corrupt in a round about way as it stands. Frankly why not let corporations have a say? I feel what is promoted as news on the regular network TV channels is just "news" disguised as real news. There is so much we are ignorant of because we constantly fed a pablum of nothing news. I deeply appreciate your discussion on this segment and feel it was one of the best. I appreciate hearing the oppositions point fully and respectfully without interruption even if I or your audience
    "demographic" wouldn't
    agree with it. It gives me the freedom to make up my own mind rather than feel a point of view was shouted down or kept from making their point.

    Mr. Moyers and all others who have responded to this discussion. I am almost finished reading a book that was published in 2004 @ therefore what I consider to be current. The name is the Corporation--The Pathological Pursuit of Profit @ Power by a Joel Baken--how well this fits with todays program. If you have not read it--pick it up at the library. This goes hand in hand with todays program. I would love to see Mr. Moyers interview Joel Bakan.
    Karol Hudson

    As usual, Bill Moyers has brought a critical issue to the surface. Thank you, again, Bill.

    However, I think the focus on "free speech" works around the edges of the real issue we face. The real issue is the concentration of political and economic power in a single source. As was pointed out on Friday, American corporations need power and resources to successfully compete in an expanding global economy. This becomes all the more reason for political power to remain in the hands of "the people." History has shown that when a nation's political and economic power are concentrated in a single source, that nation declines and loses out in global competiton. For those interested, Niall Ferguson's book "The Ascent of Money" documents this phenomena very well.

    Not to digress, but the current debate on health care is a case in point. Corporate interests are carrying the day at the expense of "ordinary citizens."

    As to the "free speech" issue, I believe corporations should be allowed to say whatever they want, as long as we know who's doing the talking.

    PJ Burke wrote, in part, "It is disturbing that it is Roberts and Alito behind such extraordinary moves just to hear this particular case, since those two have been on a multi-decade campaign to strip individual citizens of all protections that they once had from corporate predators... whether it be as employees, as consumers, as patients or insureds, or as whole neighborhoods poisoned by corporate polluters, Roberts and Alito have always ruled against the interests of those individual citizens and for the aggrandizement of corporate power."

    In this bowl of crazy, what is disturbing you, PJ, is the FACT that Roberts and Alito actually were breaking LABOR LAWS that were on the books!

    Thee has to be a lawyer or two here on this blog that can answer the question - what is that legal "word" that made it illegal for "corporations" to commit sadistic abuse - meaning that the worker had to "kiss a--", and worse, in order to maintain the privilege of getting paid for "labor"...? Being pressured to commit a crime to save your JOB...there's a LAW to prevent that....and that is the very LAW that Roberts and Alito are breaking by even listening to this corporate "free speech" crap!

    Mr. Brian O'neill:

    Your off-topic anti-Moyers rants are highly inappropriate here.

    I've looked and looked... high and low, far and wide... trying to find some pity for the woefully inadequate education which your posts demonstrate (and loudly proclaim) but alas, there's no pity to be found.

    Oh... and there was a ticket on your clown car parked outside. You really oughtn't double-park that thing.


    =====================

    On to the question:

    It is disturbing that it is Roberts and Alito behind such extraordinary moves just to hear this particular case, since those two have been on a multi-decade campaign to strip individual citizens of all protections that they once had from corporate predators... whether it be as employees, as consumers, as patients or insureds, or as whole neighborhoods poisoned by corporate polluters, Roberts and Alito have always ruled against the interests of those individual citizens and for the aggrandizement of corporate power. They want nothing less than corporations to be completely unregulated and absolutely free of all controls, period. This case will provide the opportunity to lay a very broad groundwork for a very bad half-century to come.

    This case -- and that Roberts and Alito took such extraordinary measures to hear it -- is such a very bad omen of what's to come with this radicalized pro-corporation Supreme Court... and there is nothing in Sotomayer's case history suggesting that she would be much of an impediment or obstacle. She's been a centrist technocrat, and that does not bode well for the task of deciding such big ideologically-driven questions as whether corporations ought have the same rights and protections, under the Constitution and the law, as do 'natural' persons.

    If the Court takes this leash off those big dogs, it'll be decades before we even get an opportunity to get them back under control... if we ever do. And that'll only come after they wreak such havoc on this country that, whatever else it may be, it will not be a Republic "of the People, by the People, and for the People." Roberts and Alito -- backed by Scalia and his toady-valet Thomas -- will arrange to knock down the little bit of that Republic that was left standing following the Republican Wrecking Crews of Reagan, Bush, and Bush, and make sure that it does, in fact, perish from the earth.

    Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia and any other Supremes who decide in favor of corporatism on the greater issue of free speech will have committed treason against the people.

    Robert Martin, I agree with you in almost every respect, but you overstate the case, to your argument's detriment, by using the word "treason." Yet I suspect you mean that in a moral rather than legal sense.

    The issue of corporations and unions using their funds to influence political campaigns is not seem an issue of free speech as it relates to the first amendment. The first amendment is about the right of the "people" to exercise free speech and the right of the press to exercise free speech. The first amendment says nothing about the use of funds toward that expression. So this is not a straightforward first amendment question. The real issue is that corporations in particular do not represent the political interest of its employees; and therefore using its funds and name to back any political campaign usurps the interest of individual Americans who work for those companies. Even if unions and corporations were said to first require complete and absolute agreement of all its members before using any funds to influence a campaign there is an obvious conflict of interest and slippery slope to coercion and extortion by corporation leaders. Politics is for the people because the government is a representative of the people. Our government was designed so that individuals voices can be heard and not have to compete with corporations or groups. The people know best the interest of the people as corporations know best the interest of the corporation. Sure the people are biased as are the corporations, but it is the right and responsibility of the people to own their perspectives and biased and worked to be informed. It is the duty of the people to protect their interest which is forever more multifaceted and complex than any one or collection of corporations. The political interest of corporations and unions have little to do with we the people so for me this is a non-issue. It seems to be a losing battle for Floyd Abrams as well as he did not mention the word corporation or union in his quote in this piece. Maybe he has spoken more plainly about it elsewhere; but when we find it difficult to write the matter plainly perhaps it is because of how plain the answer becomes when you see it in black and white. Corporations and unions influencing political campaigns??? Whether it currently happens or not is another concern, but its allowance seems absurd.

    LJH

    To me, this debate underscores something never mentioned here, i.e., that if business were more ethical we wouldn't have this regulatory dilemma. It's not really corporations who act. It's the individuals leading them. And there is no reason those individuals should act less ethically professionally than they do personally.

    The assumption made is that corporate free speech is biased by definition since it is completely interested with increasing short-term profit. But I don't see why this must be the case. In fact, there are a growing number of counterexamples to that thesis. Indeed, it would seem to be the very essence of corporate social responsibility.

    The promissory agreement to defend the interest of shareholders first is the corporate motivator. But there is also no reason why shareholders should consider merely short-term financial gain to the exclusion of all else. Socially-responsible corporations for example would not automatically lobby to sacrifice consumer safety requirements in the interest of higher profits.

    Thus, if corporations behaved more civically, there would be little reason to gag their speech. It's the arguable abuse of their great influence today that threatens to drown out citizens' voices which is the problem. As with monopolies, it's the abuse of power that is dangerous. Not necessarily the power itself.

    The debate between Mr. Potter and Mr. Abrams was framed primarily as a first amendment issue.

    I would reframe the issue as one about money's unfair influence on politics. And yes, I have a proposal. I'll leave the devil (read details) to others, but how about this?

    Require that political contributions, gifts, etc. of EVERY sort be sent to a newly created division of the IRS. The money would be deposited and detailed information about it recorded by the IRS. The IRS would then deposit the contributions periodically into the intended politician's campaign account without providing any information regarding where it came from.

    If someone supports a particular politician they may "speak" as loud as their checkbook will allow. (Free speech is now protected and that argument moot.)

    It would be a Federal felony for anyone to make known any information regarding any contribution. Likewise, the IRS could not release the information in its files absent a court order.

    The interesting assertion made by many politicians that contributions do not affecting his or her vote could be put to a practical test.

    Query: Would contributions go up, go down or remain about the same if the identity of the contributor could not be known to the recipient? I have my guess. Maybe yours is different.

    First, we should ALL register as independents - that way the lobbyists won't know who to pay to please and the politicians won't be able to depend on their old faithfuls - and second - we should refuse to vote for anyone who accepts lobbying money from this date forward. Both sides of the aisle are guilty of accepting lobbying funds - and Moyer is right - how can you blame them when it is the only way they can win the election. So, let's fix that problem. Let's make it the only way you can lose an election. Our votes put them there. We can decide not to vote for them if they take the money. As far as the supreme court issue is concerned, if business wins the right to run lobbying ads - the public can counterattack by running transparency ads right behind them. There are many political watchdog groups that can handle such an assignment, they just need our collective support, financial or volunteering. So instead of complaining, we need to get involved and start doing concrete things that will make a difference.

    Corporations are legal entities, not individuals. Corporations are by their very nature sociopathic. The principles of democracy (all men are created equal) are anathema to them. Allowing corporations to contribute to political campaigns is equivalent to taxation without representation: corporations can use the dollars of consumers and shareholders to support views and buy influence for causes that benefit only the corporation, and which all shareholders/consumers do not agree. It is my opinion that corporations should not be allowed to contribute to political campaigns at all. And they should not be allowed to vote, which is doubtless what they will be looking for next!

    Corporations are by their very nature sociopathic. They do not have the best interests of our society at heart, and the principles of democracy are anathema to them. They are not individuals, they are legal entities, a tremendous difference! They should not be allowed to contribute a cent to political campaigns.

    We forget that, first and foremost, a corporation is a group of people: management, staff and stockholders. It should have no special privilege above other groups of that same size. We get so used to thinking of corporate size in terms of dollars, we start to think they deserve civil rights in proportion to wealth rather than population.

    You did a flawed cut and paste, Martin. You put my name and date from the post just above the Grady post elsewhere on the website and I resent it strongly. You might want to see if you can get them to fix your error.

    Corporations already have all the free speech rights of the individual employees.

    The problem is loudness of free speech. The corporations, with the huge budgets can shout much louder than their numbers would warrant.

    The questions amounts to "Do you allow someone to bring in a 10,000 watt PA system to a town hall meeting and drown out all the individuals?"

    The corporations already corporations disproportionate power to threaten and bribe politicians. Look how they behaved in the health care debate.


    This deserves reposting from its obscure position below Winship's essay: Posted by: jan | September 4, 2009 8:41 PM

    Last Trip to the Hospital

    (sung to the arrangement of Neil Young's "Last Trip to Tulsa", in which Mr. Young's protagonist was felling a palm tree while on an acid trip...) Words by GLH

    Moyers sat in the hospital,
    Sobbing in a tissue.
    When the patient woke to ask,
    "Can I help you frame the issues?"

    Moyers sniffed,"It's not a case of moral outrage we have here;
    I've been broadcasting this same program,
    For forty-seven years!"

    The patient moaned,"I've lived too long,
    At least that's my impression.
    It would have been better had I died,
    Amidst this last recession."

    Moyers said,"Reform means nothing!
    Let me share a big confession.
    They've teased mules with this same carrot,
    Since before the Great Depression."

    The patient gasped,"I blame Obama!"
    Moyers shushed,"He's only human.
    We should have gotten single-payer,
    As a gift from Harry Truman."

    Then came an anguished death rattle.
    A nurse cried,"Bring the cart!"
    Moyers unbuttoned the patient's pajama top,
    And couldn't find a heart.
    So he uncapped his magic marker,
    And wrote D_N_R.

    Moyers whined,"Too bad he's soulless,
    And cannot go to Heaven.
    Capitalism died at 11:57."
    And he added,"It's not a case of moral outrage we have here. I've been broadcasting this same program for forty-seven years."

    So folks it's not a case of moral outrage on TV.
    The Master must be euthanized,
    Before the slaves go free.
    So don't blame Moyers,
    As he prattles through his tears,
    He's been broadcasting this same program for forty-seven years.

    Posted by: Grady Lee Howard | September 4, 2009 5:20 PM

    Makes me wish I could play the guitar, Grady.

    LVogt: So you agree with my point that corporate personhood amounts to unjust multiplication of the wealthy point of view? I would go farther and disallow the expenditure of unlimited amounts by INDIVIDUALS in pursuit of political goals. (ie: Jon Corzine's runs for senate or governor, or even for the hiring of any lobbyist) If citizens see something as important they should lobby on their own, no professionals! The Supreme Court decision that money amounts to free speech is heresy to democracy. Hannah Ahrendt, after the horrors of WWII, decided political life in a democratic state should be conceived of as divided between the eidos (housekeeping/ political economy) and demos (the realm of mature political judgment). This is a somewhat utopian idea I have struggled over decades to understand.(I may have embellished it with my own hopes.) Essentially though, she meant that there should be no question concerning the priorities of the highest general human welfare possible in any economy, and that only ethical and moral issues be subject to contentious debate. Operations to meet needs should be automatically implemented. The selfish focus on taxation and wealth accumulation, then, are mainly an alienated reflection of our inability to generate empathy for and trust in others. The definition of hate for a society is the inability to tend to the suffering of our fellows. Our entire public universe exhibits this incapacity at present.

    Abrams doesn't have a compelling argument for overturning laws already in place which have worked for a hundred years.Limiting free speech isn't the real question here but limiting the ability of an artificial entity to influence the outcome of an election is the real issue. Corporations already have the ability to speak to the issues concerning them through PACS and campaign donations to their preferred candidates. What corporations want is the ability to spend unlimited funds,money which doesn't belong to them.Abrams likes to inject unions into this like he is also advocating for them in this argument.Correctly stated I believe by Potter,was the fact that this would not affect unions. They are not corporations and this argument would put unions and every citizen who actually votes at a disadvantage.

    A corporation is not a person and should not have person hood. They exist for the sole purpose of making as much money as legally possible,no other reason.A corporation already has many advantages over an actual person wherein they aren't born,they don't breath,get sick or die a death.Many corporations have been in existence for well over a hundred years but if they were persons,they would have died already.

    I am totally against Abrams' argument opening up the flood gates of corporate cash to politicians already unduly and unequally influenced by corporate money.

    As it stands right now,a corporation can get a meeting with a politician by promising money to them.They have an advantage over me,I have no money to give to a politician or at the very least I cannot match the funds of a corporation.This gives them a distinct advantage over me,a natural person.

    I wanted to scream at all you intellectuals for not saying in plain English... (You danced around it with lovely language but never got blunt enough) Corporate speech is corrupt because it is CEO speech multiplied a million times. Corporations are not human beings. They are not Americans. They are often International... foreign. They do not have the responsibilities or interests of citizens. The CEO, the CFO, The COO, The VPs The managers, everyone at a corporation... Every HUMAN BEING has the right to speak as a person... as themselves... just like me. Non-humans do NOT and must not have that option. Giving a corporation human rights gives a CEO rights multiplied by his corporation's wealth. He speaks for himself and he speak, yet again, as a corporation and it's really of, by and for him... Him and maybe the stockholders. NO. He may only speak once, for himself, just like me. In fact, being able to spend money that does not come out of his own pocket for politics is in itself corrupt. It is more than free-speech it is payed-for-speech.
    Abrams' talk of "entities" made me sick. We are not a nation of entities... we are people. Every PERSON has these rights. An "entity", in his terms, is an organization formed to give its members an advantage and is a crass duplication of the opinions of its leaders. To treat them as people is to multiply the power of the individuals who control the "entities". This gives them raw and unfair political and financial advantage.

    Want real reform?
    Simple:
    Only qualified voters should be allowed to contribute to politicians, political parties and campaigns.

    As a person who has examined and discussed this and related questions on this blog for about 3 years I judge these as the most accurate and cogent posts:

    1.Question on the board for consideration: "Should corporations and unions have the same free speech rights as individuals? Why or why not?

    Sorry, but this question is taken from some big bowl of crazy...

    Posted by: Anna D | September 4, 2009 7:18 PM

    Note: Anna is correct that Moyers was wrong, and commited a crime against the American people by presenting this issue as an open debate. Because of the perverse nature of the arguments for corporate personhood it was equivalent to an argument for slavery or against female citizenship. As many have observed the balance of power is already skewed in favor of the wealthy by the use of corporate personhood(multiple acts of voting and lobbying by the same individuals without effective limit). Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia and any other Supremes who decide in favor of corporatism on the greater issue of free speech will have committed treason against the people. It is obvious that persons who support such nonsense are bought, and are probably hungry for intensified fascism.

    2.Posted by: diane | September 5, 2009 4:25 AM (in part)"Talk about opening a can of worms. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of corporations, this country is done for. TV is an example of what our our future will be if this happens."

    Note: Diane is a sensible and practical observer of real conditions hampering the exercise of citizenship. She agrees with Moyers et al that broadcasting is a key element in socialization as well as information. I think diane would go beyond "Mild Bill" and join me in the gradual decommissioning of corporate charters as a solution to our many woes. It is not so much what an obsolete and misused Constitution says, but what the actual needs and human rights of the populace amount to. Congress can override Supreme Court decisions with remedial legislation, as can Constitutional amendment. If the Court takes an innately criminal and corrupt path to fascistic corporatism, with government as a theoretical appendage of business needs we can only hope Congress and the People can act in time. A coup of sadism by any other name would sting as smartly! (We could change our name to North Honduras, I suppose.) Moyers, are you a business stooge or just getting senile. (I apologize for berating a hostage.)

    "Do you see a danger...?" Yes?

    "Increasing dramatically the power of corporations at the expense of the ( denying individual
    to participate in the process ) of true democracy."

    "The government ought to get out of the business of sort of rationing free speech when unions and corporations are involved."
    To get out of the business is to empower the people to express their "WILL on all ISSUES."

    "I don't think that we should make a distinction on First Amendment grounds in terms of who's speaking. I think that whether the speaker is an individual or an issue group or a union or a corporation that if anything, the public is served!" Is it?
    "I don't think you want to put any of those limits on their speech!"
    The Independent party president candidate was denied to be present at the president candidate debates, let along to participate to "speak free!" THIS WAS NOT "RATIONING the FREE SPEACH" it was DICTATORSHIP!

    "We say we don't distinguish between corporations and people, and unions and people. When folks get together and form a union, or when people invest in a corporation, there's no reason, in my view, why we should have different rules for them and for their institutions in terms of their right..."
    The institutions in terms of their right, they do have "different and special rules."
    Some, such special rules are the Debt Act, The Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Act and etc. That gives the
    corporation - "debtor in posesion" unlimited right. The creditors have none. "Debtor in posesion" is nothing less than a confiscation-fascism, socialism... that denies private individual rights!
    "To go after the underlying problems...," Professor Livingston states we need a Constitutional convention to "Amend the constitution."
    Empower the people to participate in the process on ALL ISSUES!

    "We say we don't distinguish between corporations and people, and unions and people. " I bet!
    The government gives funds to corporation and not the unions. The government fired the
    aircraft controllers! It was the power of dictatorship.
    "A corporation for certain political purposes is not the same as an individual?"

    "If you treat a corporation as an individual-- with the same rights as an individual."

    "FLOYD ABRAMS: --"but if you want to deal with that problem, you deal with..."
    Deal with...! Oh! Yes, they confiscate as "debtor in posesion" under the power of a corrupt justice system and go free!

    "It is participating in the political process. It is speaking out. It is being heard!"
    Being heard is one thing, protection of the private individual rights and property is something else!
    Kelo v. City of New London, the court denied the individual rights!
    "There are equality problems in our society. I don't think we should deal that, and so far the Supreme Court has said they don't think we can deal with that...!" Why would they? The Banks,
    corporation got trillions of dollars to impose their views, their will and the injustice on the people!

    "I think she's ignoring... this is a free speech issue." Is she?
    "Anyone that has money has an advantage. Anyone that has more power has an advantage"
    and anyone that has a "gun is right" and "has advantage!" The rights and privileges of the
    people should not be denied, because of "advantage by money, power or guns"!

    "This artificial creation... exists for economic, not political purposes." Is it? It reminds me of the
    "swift boat" campaign to defeat the democratic candidate with the help, was it a corporate funds?
    "They want the ability to defeat their competitors." I have no doubt, the trillions of dollars
    go long way!
    "Pfizer fined $2.3 Billion for illegal..." Where was the justice system during Bush administration to enforce the laws? Did the justice turned blind eye?

    TREVOR "the funds (700 billions)that are amassed under the preferential corporate treatment,"
    was a discrimination violations. The individual did not get the "preferential treatment"
    "bonuses" same as the corporations and Banks. This in itself is violation of the individual constitutional rights.
    The Justice System turned blind eye as the individual right were being tramped on!
    Law professor Livingston, "Does want to see another CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION."
    I am all for it, Before we embark on "free of speech," Amend the Constitution!

    Thanks for speaking and stating the facts! The only other person that I know was Mr. R. Nader,
    he had stated the facts and was "against the corporate welfare." It was unfortunate that
    the people were blinded, one of many reason we pay the price now.

    Thank you for an excellent show on Friday, September 4. I am currently in a law school class that is studying the Citizens' United case and found the exchanges, both between Mr. Moyers and Mr. Abrams and then between them and Mr. Potter to be fascinating and highly informative. I also appreciate Mr. Moyers' essay.

    Thank you for showing yet again what television can do for us when striving to be its best -- engage, inform, challenge, and expand horizons.

    I did not enjoy the segment with Floyd Abrams. He really used carefully crafted words that he was practicing before his Supreme Court argument. There is no way he was going to budge from his (IMHO: warped) talking points. I watch Bill Moyers for progressive views -- I can get the other junk any time. Please no more.

    I couldn't help but wonder, as I watched your program last night, if someone (person or persons unknown to most of us) aren't hiding behind their corporation to further a hidden political agenda. I can challenge an individual if I feel his views are misrepresenting the facts. How can I challenge a corporation doing the same thing? Something is wrong if we place a corporation on the same level as a human being when it comes to such matters.

    To the question of 'Should Corporations or Unions have the same rights to freedom of speech as an individual?' I must answer with a resounding NO!
    I can think of a few reasons others have sited.
    A Corporation is not a person.
    A Corporation has no Allegiance to this country.
    The CEO or broad of directors of a Corporation could be made up primarily of foreign nationals.
    A Corporation's interests may conflict or go against national security, the welfare of this country or it's citizens.
    It may sound ridiculous but really, suppose it is decided that Corporations should have the same right to free speech as a person how far of a leap is it to say they then have the same right not to incriminate it's self. How would you like to wake up one morning to read that some Wall Street firm was suspected of fraud and the Board of Directors took a vote and decided the the company and all it's employees have decided to take the fifth. If a company has the same right to free speech as a person can't they also claim the other rights in the bill of rights?
    For God's sake they already spend millions of dollars on lobbyists and pr firms do we want to give them the same rights to freedom of speech?
    I'll go one step further. I don't have a problem with Steve Jobs as John Q. Public talking to an elected official. However, Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, I don't even want him in the same room with my elected officials.
    Lobbyists and PACs should be outlawed too. The Syrians and Iranians and North Koreans can and do hire lobby and PR firms. They, like Corporations don't really care where the money comes from just long as they get it. And the Political whores we call Senators, Representative, and Presidents are only to happy to take it and to hell with the average citizen.

    Separation of Church & State.... Separation of Corporations & Politics?

    Separation of Church & State.... Separation of Corporations & Politics?

    I don't follow Floyd Abrams' contention that this law "limits speech." What it limits is the use of money to influence a campaign. There's absolutely zero prohibition against anyone expressing political, or commercial, speech.

    The film in question, recall, is about what the movie-makers believe to be the flaws of Secretary of STate Clinton. Can anyone seriously maintain that over the past 18 years there has been some sort of limit in this country on the expression of speech that criticizes Ms Clinton? Or that any such speech was limited when the BCFA (the McCain-Feingold law) went into effect?

    Only registered voters should be allowed to participate in the democratic electoral process. All politicians should be required to post all contributions and other receipts, including amount and source, on the internet within 72 hours. Political contributions should be strictly limited to an amount that 95% of the American people could afford. just sayin'....

    A corporation is a for profit entity, not a person. Heavily subsidized corporations, like Boeing or Lockheed, already buy off politicians and encourage war--because it is profitable. I can't imagine them having even more power and money to brainwash the public through advertising during political campaigns. This sounds like "war incorporated," multiplied by billions in profit, a huge corporate human meat grinder that has nothing to do with free speech, and everything to do with furthering us down the road to corporate fascism.

    In the first place one of the greatest legal mistakes in history was to define corporations as "individuals" with "individual" rights. The downfall of political democracy could have been predicted from that point on, and was by many. Mr. Abrams reminds me, a la Ayn Rand, that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

    I can see Floyd Abrahams in the guise of a Trojan soothsayer, explaining why knocking down the walls to bring in this wonderful wooden horse is such a good idea. Sure, maybe you can't predict everything that will happen, but the more gods we worship the better off we are...sorry, did I mean the more voices we hear, the better democracy works? or the more choices among competing insurance plans, the healthier we'll all become (at least if we are careful to always read the fine print...) But Potter was so good, clear, concise,to the point, and unruffled by the adversary's lawyerly tricks. And Bill Moyers too was good at keeping the issue from getting clouded by those sophistries. Is Abrams an example of how obsession with a single idea drives toward madness, or just a smart practitioner doing his job...

    Dear Mr. Ralph Wilson

    Thank you for your comment, I do blog on other websites, including those on the right. I been kicked off many including Glenn Beck and others with an agenda that leans to the right. Though also, there have been many on the left for whom I spoke out against. As for Bill Moyers, he tries to present himself as a so-called reporter above all others. He consistently hides behind the 1st Amendment while saying others do not have that right. He is a hypocrite and what he did in the LBJ administration proves it. His weeky addresses to the PBS audience should be looked thoroughly, just like he wants his crowd to look at those on FOX news with a fined tooth comb. Bill Moyers is in my book an "Absolutist", he and others like him on the left and right think its there way or no-way at all. When other approach him and his cause with another ideal or they protest an ideal, he see's them as a threat. His consant diatribes against right-wing talk-radio are proof that he cannot grasp another opinion. While he conjures up the usual leftist stance that talk-radio is hate radio and causes people to go out and kill, his proof is lacking and only gives his audience the sense that those who listen to talk-radio are rabid hate-mongers. Bill like many in the media like to take things out of context to promote there own agenda. Bill Moyers should listen to the rabid hate on Air America, especially the likes of Randy Rhoads and others that promote a political separatist attitude. Mr. Moyers is no saint and he should not try to present himself as one. When he and others do present the public with something, the public has every right to check that persons credentials.
    So, Mr. Wilson, I thank-you for your concern on this blog, though I will leave you with an old quote for you and Mr. Moyers.
    "People shouldn't throw stones, who live in glass houses."
    Thank-you again, dont hesitate to blog back. I enjoy all opinions whether I agree or disagree.

    What do you think?


    Should corporations and unions have the same free speech rights as individuals? Why or why not?
    Those persons who belong to unions and employed by corporations are "people" and should speak for themselves. We Americans do NOT need anyone to speak for us especially in the area of votes. Our choices are already limited by disfunctional parties (R&P)


    Do you see a danger, as Floyd Abrams warns, in allowing government to determine which groups have First Amendment protection? Explain.
    Yes, but I do not believe Government has a say. I believe that the Constitution has defined the who in free speech. I do however believe that current day so called "Journalism" has been reduced to Opinion, Speculation and Gossip at the expense of Fact and is a clear and present danger.


    Should campaign spending be seen as a free speech issue? Why or why not?
    No, I believe that Free Speech is a PERSONAL right and has no place in a discussion of political spending. Like many words, speech has been tinkered with (for political manipulation) and has been left stripped of value and purposful meaning.

    And begs to question what does a corporation have to gain by demonizing Hillary Clinton, or anyone else for that matter.


    Posted by: pedro santos

    Well if the corporation is a "person", then it's an entertaining cat-fight for power, right? :-))

    FACT - The more selfish you are, the more you'll profit from it...

    So the bottom line here is that the Supreme Court will be deliberating whether UNSELFISHNESS should be a crime against "corporate profit".

    The fruits ripening from the politization of the independent justice arm is, indeed, philosophical poison.

    However, it's probably a good thing to get to this extreme abuse of "justice" now, along with everything else...it's all in that same big bowl of crazy...back to whether you take the blue pill or the red pill...

    The Supreme Court will make it ILLEGAL for a flesh and blood human being to THINK and ACT upon an UNSELFISH impulse.

    It's crazy.

    Brilliant!
    A true patriot who stands up for truth!
    Honest, and Objective
    and I loved your commentary....
    Well spoken......

    To Whom It May Concern,
    Just like freedom; free speech is limited by circumstances...
    Institutions are not a person and by intention are profit driven with no concern for the welfare of people.
    Institutions are sociopathic by design.

    Mr. Moyers,
    I very much appreciate the topic of this program. The idea, the unbound consequence of corporate free speech is possibly the most predominate dynamic in our political process. Today, our individual rights as natural citizens are in direct competition with collections of assertive and prevailing influences of interest groups, whether corporation, unions or myriads of interest groups. Not surprising, we as citizens have lost control of our government. Our current economic state offers poignant evidence to the outcomes of corporate influences in our political process. These outcomes are clear and uncomplicated arguments that illustrate the foundation of influences and the decisions that are required by those who influence.
    While I very much respect the work of Floyd Abrams, I have to state that I fervently disagree with his position on corporate free speech. The frail First Amendment branch that Mr. Abrams is holding to offers an insufficiently view to the roots of the First Amendment tree. Someone purposely planted this tree so that it would provide fruit for their sons and daughters in generations to come. From Mr. Abrams perspective, he cannot see, the purpose, the foundation, the context of the First Amendment; “We the People.” What Mr. Abrams fails to understand is that to included corporate free speech is to practically and effectively exclude the exercise of our rights natural citizens. Trees, in order to remain fruitful, must be pruned from time to time. The time has come to cut off the corporate free speech branches so that, the promise of the First Amendment will again provide fruit to “We the People.”

    Corporate personhood is a legal fabrication constructed to serve some purposes. In some ways, this construct can be useful. But if we are unable to grasp the difference between human beings and legal constructs — if we are ready to grant such constructs equality with human beings — our future is indeed, hopeless.

    Rich's Comment - . . . The state uses these entites to meet its own objectives including feeding the state coffers and maintaining values for society.

    Goedel wonders what values those are. For example, would they include blowing mountain tops and toxic sludge into valleys and streams?

    Rich's Comment - ...Society decides which values corporations must uphold and how they must uphold them.

    Goedel asks if by that "society" is meant the US Chamber of Commerce or the American Petroleum Institute?

    Rich's Comment ... corporations do not elect officials

    Goedel observes if that is so why did Obama renege on his promise to run a publicly funded campaign?

    Rich's Comment - ...companies who go against the values of our society are ultimately changed.

    Goedel says enough of the values of our "society". Those values included napalming Vietnamese children and now "droning" Af-Pak villages; they include torture, environmental poisoning and Wall Street's subsidized gambling.

    Rich's Comment ... Give credit to our good citizens who form the corporations.

    Goedel remarks that those "good citizens" don't make corporate policy. Management does, and it is most often insulated from those "good citizens". Management also controls the media by which those "good citizens" are informed.

    I could go on but the task is boring, because Rich's comments are so divorced from reality. If he takes his own arguments seriously, then he ought not cross streets without someone's taking his hand. Unseen realities can cause injury.

    A second comment, if you please: how sad that just when many see the need to overturn the distortion of the 14th amendment SCOTUS should be considering expanding it! This is how far the corruption of our government has gone. We still remember Bush v. Gore. We don't need additional proof of the debasement of our Supreme Court.

    Interesting discussion - here are a few points for you.

    Rich confuses the entrepreneur with the corporation......

    Comment - No confusion - entrepreners incorporate because the structure meets their organization/revenue/personal objectives. The state doesn't create these entities. The state uses these entites to meet its own objectives including feeding the state coffers and maintaining values for society.


    because of the net advantage conferred by state and federal governments

    Comment - The government only offers one net advantage - legal maintenance of social values. The government can become a dangerous self serving entity due to its power to legislate inneficient business practices. Society decides which values corporations must uphold and how they must uphold them.

    What is at issue here is whether the corporation can go beyond lobbying lawmakers and actually ELECT the lawmakers they want their lobbyist to meet with. ---

    Comment - this statement is not based in legal fact or reality - corporations do not elect officials - people do and voting blocs can be developed to maintain control over the electoral process - aka Obama supporters, shareholders dissatisfied with corporate policies.


    (1) What happens when "what's good for General Motors is NOT good for the USA"?

    Comment - The shareholders, customers and American Citizens who comprise the corporation will change management directives - history has proven this as fact - companies who go against the values of our society are ultimately changed.

    GE no doubt would like a law saying they don't have to clean up their PCBs in the Hudson River.

    Comment - Assuming GE is an evil entity uncaring for citizens and their community is a false argument. The American Citizens who make up GE will drive the need to manage the ethics of their business. Look how American corporations have changed to meet the ethical concerns of our current society - it may take time but ultimately the people involved in the corporation understand that they must meet societal ethical standards. Give credit to our good citizens who form the corporations.

    Is it in the public interest to have such issues determined by votes influenced (bought) by large corporations or should the issues be decided -- one way or the other -- by legislators elected by their home state constituents? (Especially seeing as how no matter who gets elected, he or she daily must contend with a swarm of lobbyists.)


    Comments - Yes and Double Yes - Corporations represent the needs and lives of those employed citizens. It is critical they represent those citizens needs. Votes are not bought - your point assumes all politicians have no morals or ethics in representing their constituents. Influence is wielded to ensure the 80,000 employees of Boeing are properly represented by their legislators. This is free market capitalism at its best.

    (2) What happens if some CEO uses corporate money to back his or her own PERSONAL political views, either with or without a fig leaf of ostensible benefit to the corporation?

    Comments - The shareholders, citizens and public will eventually remove the bad egg.

    If such corporate-backed political support becomes legal, only the shareholders have any recourse, but they may never find out and, if they do, they have about as much power in the corporate arena as individual voters have in the national political scene.

    (3) Hmmm, corporations lobbying to have the same rights as a citizen, couldn't that be a little like insurgents using the tools of democracy to take over the democracy?

    Comment - Corporations CONSIST OF CITIZENS and therefore represent the needs of citizens. Assuming all corporate leaders are unethical and short sided profiteers goes against what we have seen over the last 200 years + history. Give people/corporate leaders credit - they are humans who care about our society just as you do.

    Toys with lead paint are cheaper for the importer.

    Comment - and ultimately removed from public consumption by concerned citizens.

    Meat packers make more money without salmonella safety regulations.

    Comment - salmonella kills and injures people - ask any meat packer executive if they want to kill their clientele and their revenue - they will quickly go out of business with or without safety regulations. They maintain safe practice because it is good for business and meets societal objectives.

    Comment - the false assumptions that corporations act independently of the individuals that run them foments a false belief that evil corporations run untethered over society.

    Corporations consist of the people that run them and they must be allowed to engage in the political process effectivly, legally and ethically. The constitution protects the rights of the individual and the rights of individuals in collective groups - like freedom of religious practice - a corporate entity is no different than a religious group - good American citizens providing their productive energies to make a better society. Those citizens employment needs should be represented in the political spectrum.


    Floyd Abrams is on the intellectual side of this issue and is not swayed by the emotional and intellectually shallow analysis (i.e., corporations are indpendent for profit evil doers) fostered by Moyers and Potter. Corporations represent people and the values of those people.

    For Brian O'neill--

    The danger in posting six times on the same topic is that your "style" really stands out. Although there have been several people who have posted comments critical of Mr. Moyers' position, your offerings are the only ones which are consistently and patently puerile.

    Some viewers may find Bill Moyers Journal a tad tame since there is no shouting and nobody calls anybody else a socialist or a communist or a fascist or a Hitler. Kinda boring when three intelligent, well-spoken individuals can spend an hour discussing an issue over which there is deep disagreement and they remain calm, civil, and respectful of one another's views. But since you spend so much time on this forum it's pretty clear that underneath the camouflage of your postings, rational discourse really is what you thrive on.

    BTW - Can we look forward to some more of your lessons in ancient history, from 45 years back in 1964?

    BTW2 - Next time you see John, tell him that everyone here appreciates how he set whole new standard back in 2004 with his Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign. Truly memorable.

    Bill,

    Thank you for encouraging President Obama to stand up against bloatted profits in health care. There is way too much profit and theft in the current system that if curtailed could go a long way to achieving better health care for all.

    Floyd Abrams' arguments are basically dishonest. To assimilate the power of corporations to the power of unions is transparent fraud. Even in the days of FDR unions were no match for corporate power. In the brief period, from the passage of the Wagner Act (1936?) to the override of Truman's veto of Taft-Hartley, unions had increasing membership. Recall that a large chunk of that time was during the US in WWII, when the right to strike was curbed.

    Abrams knows all this. His arguments are not practical and law, unlike physics, cannot be theoretical.

    Dear Mr. Moyers.

    I could not help from feeling you frustration in your moral argument over the corporate right to vilify a political candidate. Of all that is bill Moyer’s journal, in this the root is laid bare. And begs to question what does a corporation have to gain by demonizing Hillary Clinton, or anyone else for that matter.

    Corporations are not human beings so do not "speak"--they promote their interests to increase profits, and they already have plenty of avenues to do that (many at tax-payer expense through subsidies, tax breaks etc).
    So,should businesses also be allowed to use shareholder money, under the guise of "free speech," to promote a political candidate who promises to facilitate company "X" to expand? What if that same political candidate holds OTHER strong views that some shareholders object to?--abortion (for or against), environment reg.s, etc. The same dilemma for the employees of Corp. "X" who are invested via their jobs.
    Corp. board members should have the right to free speech as individuals (which obviously they do). But they should not have the right to use other people's money to "speak" for them.

    'Free' market economics is an evil ideology which has been proved evil by history many times. Market economics with some oversight is another matter.

    Markets are, of course, about money. Money is a source of power. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Free markets are about absolute power. Despite the name, it means no rules or restrictions.

    The founders knew about the corrupting influence of government power and therefore built in checks and balances.

    Shouldn't there be checks and balances on money making entities that can afford a larger megaphone in public discourse that drowns out other voices?

    Bill Moyers and the Sex Police

    Today's Washington Post reports that the FBI once investigated the sexual orientation of Jack Valenti, the former aide to President Johnson who later spent decades as head of the Motion Picture Association of America.

    According to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover ordered a probe into Mr. Valenti's sexual preferences in 1964, shortly after he joined the Johnson White House. The inquiry was prompted by rumors of a relationship between Valenti and a commercial photographer in Houston.

    While President Johnson initially tried to block the investigation, the Post says he relented under pressure from Hoover. Agents never found any information to corroborate the rumor. Valenti had married Lyndon Johnson's personal secretary in 1962; they raised three children and remained together until his death in 2005.

    There is, of course, a certain irony in all of this. Hoover's sexual orientation has long been a matter of speculation; he never married and was often in the company of Clyde Tolson, his longtime aide at the bureau. Mr. Hoover's reported peccadilloes have been gist for psychologists, historians and the gossip mill since his death in 1972.

    Valenti wasn't the only person whose sex life came under scrutiny. Hoover was apparently fascinated with the personal preferences of the rich and powerful. Inquiries about their sexual habits have turned up in a number of FBI files that have been declassified in recent years. That doesn't excuse the practice, but it is a reminder that the 1960s were a different time, when the mere suggestion that someone was gay was enough to destroy them.

    But perhaps the most interesting element of the Post account comes in paragraph six, which reveals that FBI agents weren't the only individuals digging into the sex lives of administration officials. Turns out that Bill Moyers, the LBJ aide who became a liberal journalistic icon, was also on the case. Records obtained by the paper show that Mr. Moyers was gathering information on the sexual habits of White House staffers.

    Contacted by the Post about his role in the sexual investigation, Moyers offered only a vague reply, saying that his memory is "unclear" after so many years. In an e-mail to reporter Joe Stephens, Moyers suggested that he may have been looking for "details of allegations first brought to Johnson's attention by Hoover."

    That parsed reply reminds us of something else: Bill Moyers is one of the biggest hypocrites in the history of American politics. What the Post fails to mention is the Mr. Moyers was up to his neck in political dirt-digging back in 1964. As recounted by the Church Committee in the mid-1970s, Moyers was the White House aide that ordered FBI "name checks" on 15 members of Barry Goldwater's staff, looking for evidence of homosexual activity.

    According to the committee's final report, Moyers "publicly recounted" his role in the name check request, and the account was confirmed by FBI files. But others have suggested that Moyers subsequently tried to change his story. In a 2005 op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, Federal Judge Lawrence Silberman, who served as acting Attorney General for President Ford, recounts a "revisionist" phone call he received from Mr. Moyers, after the committee released its findings:

    When the press reported this, I received a call in my office from Mr. Moyers. Several of my assistants were with me. He was outraged; he claimed that this was another example of the Bureau salting its files with phony CIA memos. I was taken aback. I offered to conduct an investigation, which if his contention was correct, would lead me to publicly exonerate him. There was a pause on the line and then he said, "I was very young. How will I explain this to my children?" And then he rang off. I thought to myself that a number of the Watergate figures, some of whom the department was prosecuting, were very young, too.

    Readers will note that Bill Moyers requested dirt on Goldwater's aides about the same time that Jack Valenti's sex life became a matter for FBI inquiry. Coincidence? Well, the Washington Post story on the Valenti investigation reveals that Mr. Moyers also asked the bureau to investigate "two other administration officials suspected as having homosexual tendencies."

    Was the future PBS commentator merely trying to protect the White House, or did he see an opportunity to go after Valenti, who established himself as Johnson's closest aide after the JFK assassination? When President Kennedy visited Dallas in November 1963, Valenti wasn't even a member of the administration; he was a Houston ad man, hired to handle the press during the Texas trip. But Valenti was one of the first people Johnson called after JFK died, and appears prominently in the famous "swearing in" photo on Air Force One. He even lived in the White House for two months after moving to Washington.

    Not for publication: I posted a comment here about turncoat Abrams, who we revered at J School. My comment was not put up on the website. Is there a reason for that? At this point, I would prefer you would not go find my comments and post them, since I have to conclude you practice censorship of some kind. Sadly, Tony Pell (ex AFP, CBS News-Paris, etc).

    if a corporation is multinational, i.e. using an non u.s. based location to headquarter itself for tax purposes, hasn't the corp forfeited its 'citizens' right of free speech' in the u.s, does its have citizen's right in all countries it operates in, or does it cherrypick its multinational citizenship as the circumstances benefit? i'd like to sit down and have a face to face with a corporation NOT being spoken for by a spokesperson, PR person, attorney. corporations are artificial entities not people/persons and need to be treated as such. would an artificial intelligent computer program have the right of free speech or should we pre-emptively gag them? i wonder,....mmmm.....

    I heard Mr. Abrams state several times that; in lieu of limiting free speech, we should enforce the Anti-Trust laws. The Sherman Act of 1890 invoked anti-trust measures to address situations where various enities had accumulated over whelming monopoly interests in any one industry that allowed them to have unfair advantage over others in a free market environment. If this legislation had been left intact, it could haved curbed many of the excesses of the 1920s that lead to the Great Depression. But the ink had barely dried before special business interests were petitioning Congress for exceptions to this legislation. We never hear about anti-trust today because the law has been neutralized by a century of legal posturing and lobbying by corporate special interests.
    After the last thirty years of Reaganomics with unregulated corporate activities in every sector of the economy, meaningful legislation to return integrity to our system of government is nothing more than a pipe dream !

    be it's time to start breaking up large corporations where they can't make sub companies, turning them into large investment corporations and monopolies. Let them only work in the products they started with. GM is not classified as a bank, that's totally wrong and got TARP money besides the bailout money from there bankruptcy. GM started out with electric trains and switched to cars. Maybe to big to fail is the wrong size of anything. AIG an insurance company with a change of wording so they didn't have to have money reserves to back up what they insured. I'm waiting to see the regulations that were undone put back into place. Our economy can be blamed on Phil Gramm and his wife with the deregulations they got past. Meanwhile he's still collecting his federal pension for all the years in office. I think when you screw up the country with your bills you need to be held accountable. Lets not forget republican party is all about big business and nothing else, they have no morals, they don't care about people of this country. To think that 90% of republicans are not educated only with a high school education is a scary thing. Simple minds are easily shaped. The heath care debates are proof of that calling it words they have no idea what they mean.

    Re McCain-Feingold - Balancing Big Money and Free Speech

    Thank you for an excellent presentation.

    The U.S. Constitution was written for the protection of the "people."

    "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish

    Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the

    general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to OURSELVES AND OUR

    POSTERITY, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of

    America."

    The word "corporation" does not appear in the U.S. Constitution, but The Supremes

    have decided that corporations can sue and be sued (as artificial "persons.") They

    have not, however, granted them the title of "citizens."

    Under our Constitution, only U.S. "citizens"; i.e., real (human) people, have the right to

    vote.

    Since corporations cannot vote (as a single business entity), they should have no Free

    Speech right on voting issues.

    Allowing corporate financial/speech input into issues affecting U.S. citizens would

    create a totally unplanned and unwanted balance of power in our historic form of

    government.

    While America is busily engaged in going "green," we don't want THAT kind of

    corporate "big green" poisoning our land.

    Regarding "big money" in the hands of individual people - there are limitations against

    its use in politics, but the saving grace is that THEY ONLY GET ONE VOTE!

    I agree with Jeffrey Popeck: "The supreme court should ban PACs. Our country needs

    to return power to the individual." Ditto, lobbyists!

    Joe Ely said: "The Roberts Supremes will probably rule with Abrams." Of course!

    BUT...Congress has the right to enforce the XV, XIX, and XXVI right-to-vote

    Amendments; so they certainly can clarify that corporations have no voting rights,

    while only real people do.

    Gee, I used to admire Floyd Abrams.

    Re McCain-Feingold - Balancing Big Money and Free Speech:

    Thank you for an excellent presentation.

    The U.S. Constitution was written for the protection of the "people."

    "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish
    Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the
    general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to OURSELVES AND OUR POSTERITY, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

    The word "corporation" does not appear in the U.S. Constitution, but The Supremes have decided that corporations can sue and be sued (as artificial "persons.")

    They have not, however, granted them the title of "citizens."

    Under our Constitution, only U.S. "citizens"; i.e., real (human) people, have the right to vote.

    Since corporations cannot vote (as a single business entity), they should have no Free Speech right on voting issues.

    Allowing corporate financial/speech input into issues affecting U.S. citizens would create a totally unplanned and unwanted balance of power in our historic form of
    government.

    While America is busily engaged in going "green," we don't want THAT kind of
    corporate "green" poisoning our land.

    Regarding "big money" in the hands of individual people - there are limitations against
    its use in politics, but the saving grace is that THEY ONLY GET ONE VOTE!

    I agree with Jeffrey Popeck: "The supreme court should ban PACs. Our country needs to return power to the individual." Ditto, lobbyists!

    Joe Ely said: "The Roberts Supremes will probably rule with Abrams." Of course!

    BUT...Congress has the right to enforce the XV, XIX, and XXVI right-to-vote
    Amendments; so with that power, they certainly can clarify that corporations have no voting rights,
    while only real people do.

    Gee, I used to admire Floyd Abrams.

    Who speaks for a corporation, and does it matter where a corporation is domiciled? Do we really want foreign multinational corporate entities "participating" more vigorously in our representative democracy? Are these the "people" the framers had in mind when putting together the bill of rights?

    With billions spent each year on lobbying, corporations already have HUGE access to the political process, much to the detriment of our society. (Wonder why we’re not seeing so much corporate opposition to the health care bill? Drug and insurance companies have already gutted it.)

    I hope the Court will be wise enough to notice a distinction between FREE speech and PURCHASED speech, the latter of which is the loudest, and is REALLY running this nation. Despite the internet’s increased importance as a “voice of the people,” today’s political debate rests heavily on television. Few Americans can afford to buy even ONE 30-second spot on a local TV station; corporations and PACs blithely purchase chunks of time nationwide to fuel support for their candidates and agendas. (Some even OWN TV outlets -- Fox “News,“ anyone?) Perhaps the Fairness Doctrine needs to be reinstated; for every 30-second spot paid for by PACs or big business, equal time must be given to an average citizen -- if not at no charge, then at least at some sort of sliding scale.

    On the other hand, a broad interpretation to restrict purchased speech might be used to stifle TV program producers and film studios, both of which sometimes use entertainment to illustrate a point of public concern. After such a ruling, I can already envision the first target: Michael Moore.

    -Sigh.- Democracy ain’t easy.

    Mr. Moyers, your entire program was one of the best I've ever seen. Thank you.

    My question to Mr. Abrams is, "Does a corporation have the right to bear arms?" Just askin'

    If we are going to treat corporations as citizens in the instance of free speech, then they should be treated as citizens in all other respects as well. With rights come responsibilities and in some cases limitations. As an individual citizen, there seem to be some serious limitations on my actions. I cannot cause the death or dismemberment of others without answering for my actions and if I cause the death of any other person, I am liable to receive the death penalty as redress, depending of course on whether or not the state in which I committed the crime provides for the death penalty. Corporations, on the other hand, function as a shield for their individual members in an astonishing array of egregious behaviors with dire consequences for the innocent people who were on the receiving end of said egregious behaviors.

    I am under the impression, as well, that no matter how wealthy I am, as an individual citizen, my contributions to politicians and to PACS are limited by law to a certain amount nowhere near what corporations seem to be able to spend to derail the political process. If we are going to treat the corporation as a true citizen, then the corporation and its shareholders must accept the same limitations that are imposed upon the rest of us, and must be individually answerable and accountable for their actions. They can't have it both ways.

    Rich B. (September 5, 2009 12:55 AM) says: (a) corporations are not "creatures of the state", citing the founders of Apple and Boeing, and (b) that corporations have the responsibility to look out for the interests of their shareholders, employees, families, et al.

    Rich confuses the entrepreneur with the corporation. An entrepreneur with a profit-making idea files with a state government to create a corporation to nurture that idea - usually under the direction of the (ex)entrepreneur. He chooses to create this artificial entity called the corporation -- rather than to become a proprietor or to take on partners -- because of the net advantage conferred by state and federal governments, e.g., limitation of liability, preferred tax treatment, raising capital, etc. It is a "net" advantage because with the benefits comes government oversight and regulation. The management of the corporation -- whether run by the entrepreneur who created it or by some later CEO -- has two prime directives: (1) obey the law, and (2) maximize shareholder value. Depending on who is the CEO (and who is on the board of directors) the corporation may or may not have beneficent policies regarding employees and the larger community. The manager who fails at (1) or (2) may end up in jail or get fired; if he is not nice to employees and does not support the United Way, he just will be unpopular.

    To the extent that the corporation needs to look out for its stakeholders it has many tools. Boeing can mount a PR campaign about Airbus subsidies and global competitiveness, blanketing TV, radio, the Internet, and newspapers. Boeing can (and does) hire a virtual army of lobbyists to cajole and twist the arms of legislators.

    What is at issue here is whether the corporation can go beyond lobbying lawmakers and actually ELECT the lawmakers they want their lobbyist to meet with. If so, it would be like a whale in a sea of fish-sized individual voters, a whale dismissive of your values and mine, primarily contending against the other corporate whales.

    ---

    If corporations are given the right to fund publicity for their choice of candidate -- or more likely, against their candidate's opponent. -- three question arise:

    (1) What happens when "what's good for General Motors is NOT good for the USA"?

    Instead of the Boeing example, substitute General Electric. GE (a far cry from Thomas Edison's creation of 131 years ago) no doubt would like a law saying they don't have to clean up their PCBs in the Hudson River. Do the people who live by and on the river have a say? Big coal wishes all lawmakers could ignore carbon emissions. Is it in the public interest to have such issues determined by votes influenced (bought) by large corporations or should the issues be decided -- one way or the other -- by legislators elected by their home state constituents? (Especially seeing as how no matter who gets elected, he or she daily must contend with a swarm of lobbyists.)


    (2) What happens if some CEO uses corporate money to back his or her own PERSONAL political views, either with or without a fig leaf of ostensible benefit to the corporation?

    If such corporate-backed political support becomes legal, only the shareholders have any recourse, but they may never find out and, if they do, they have about as much power in the corporate arena as individual voters have in the national political scene.

    (3) Hmmm, corporations lobbying to have the same rights as a citizen, couldn't that be a little like insurgents using the tools of democracy to take over the democracy?

    Toys with lead paint are cheaper for the importer. Meat packers make more money without salmonella safety regulations. Why do drugs have to be safe AND effective -- isn't one good enough? If a candidate is in favor of those ideas or wants to rescind the antitrust laws, would he or she get the "corporate vote"?

    On the other hand, if candidate Mr. Smith wants to go to Washington as a reformer, will the corporation e-mail his voters links to "Jefferson Smith: The Movie"?

    One other thing. Listening to Mr. Abram's continual linking of corporations and unions I couldn't help but wonder if this was intended to be a two-fer. Either corporations get their freedom of speech and/or setting the stage to muzzle or silence unions...

    Thank you Mr. Abrams, Mr. Potter, and Mr. Moyer for having a dignified discussion about the issues.

    The discussion about corporate personhood took me back 20 years to the day when the local manager pulled us aside and told us that we had better not vote for the minimum wage unless we wanted to lose our jobs. He also told us for whom we should cast our vote for president. Did I cast my vote for his choice of president? No, but I'll not deny that I was intimidated enough to look around to see if he was in the room when I went in to vote either. Don't look for me to shed any tears of concern over whether corporations should get freedom of speech. It ain't gonna happen.

    Hey Randal
    Lay off the Hippie slurs. A Hippy Radical is an oxymoron. Us Hippies are clean, productive members of society all based on a book by Robert "Heinlein Stranger in a Strange land." The Hippie Bible. Those junkies and bums who looked like us are what you see on the History Channel. Keep your posts to things you know about. Where are all these lazy people you rant about. Clinton signed a law limiting welfare to two years.


    Now we give trillions to corporations and call it a bailout. How about the lazy drug manufactures who commit federal crimes and get fined.

    Shall we get rid of that commie post office, or perhaps the socialist water company.

    Just don't blame the Hippies. They are the good guys.

    Talk about opening a can of worms. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of corporations, this country is done for. TV is an example of what our our future will be if this happens. We are constantly bombarded with advertising, with relentless mindless gibberish, buy this, this is what you need to believe, this is what we want you to think about and what you should think about it, this is what you should look like and act like and if you don't you're not normal.

    And if you think you get sick and tired of campaigne commercials during elections, oh my God, just wait until this happens. Corporations will be telling us what and who to vote for 24 hours a day in the same way commercials are right now. It's bad enough that I have to watch all the corporate commercials to watch PBS. Even some of PBS's corporate sponsors are the biggest perpetrators of shoving a bad thing down our throats trying to make us think they're "green, or cleaning up our environment" while cutting down the rainforrest or strip mining our mountains, poisoning our food with pesticides and producing GMO foods, or producing high levels of carbon dioxide, such as oil companies. More examples are insurance companies and wall street firms that got bailed out.

    I don't understand why we have to pay for cable services when in essence cable is nothing but advertising, They should be paying us to allow it in our homes to watch the crap. Thank God for PBS(even though I don't like some of their sponsors).

    I have no faith in the Supreme Court to vote in favor of the people. The court has proven that its integrity has been compromised when it elected George Bush as President of the United States. What a great day in history that was. We're screwed!

    Bill Moyer's current essay asks a TMP simple question:"Would you like the opportunity to buy into Medicare before you reach 65?"

    I have found out the hard way, at 68 years of age, what this would cost me, as of August, 2009, through Social Security (labled FICA). Over $6000 per year.

    Huh? How can this be? I have worked part-time to finance my education since High School through University, since no contributions to my education were possible from my poor lower middle class family. My income averaged from $200+ a month to pay tuition, books, food, transportation, etc. Apparantly no social security was withheld, since I worked for a University, as library page through a Graduate Assistanceship. State plans for employees of state insitutions were aparently allowed some co-equal status for their "plan?" Did I know this at an early age, scrimping for obtainment of maximum take-home pay? Who knows now?

    Now I know. I have kept every pay stub from every employer (a CPD disorder?). When I got my first temporary summer jobs in public schools, paying for union/state pention funds, I note now that social security/later labeled FICA was seldom listed as paid due to similar co-equal plans. Why did I not know or care about this 50 years ago or not learn to smoke?

    When I worked my first full-time job for one year with VA, I apparently worked in a similar co-equal option system, where FICA was not deducted. My NIH Post Graduate personal stipend grants did not deduct social security. Only when I obtained part time a toy store for 75 cents per hour in 1968-69 was FICA begun to be deducted after working diligently to obtain my education from 1956 on. Even in 1972, my last University term employment (before moving to Canada) had co-equal option as state employer, to no deduct FICA.

    After all this, and contributing self-employed Social Security amounts through 1976, I found (Aug 09) was my quarterly QC/ FICA scores for work from 1956 through 1976, is 29, or 14 short for full 40 quarter benefits.

    Over $6000 per year to purchase Medicare at my "level?" What a shock to learn about, and now actually become aware about, how Social Security "ify" contributions were submitted and the cost to me now at age 68. A shock for any person who consitently must work part time, without benefits and various optional plans whatever employers have regarding payroll deductions, they may not hear about or know until retirement age.

    My mother, when she retired, had a company run health care option which partially funded her medical retirment medical plans (until the company was sold and plan promised funds were cut). She still maintained coverage at higher expense until death for at plan that cost a total $2,300+ in addition to Medicare/Medicaid.

    In answer to the essay question: "Yes I wanted to purchase Medicaid, but can't."

    $6000 per year to obtain Medicare/Medicaid benefits at 68, for a historic part-time worker, without benefits and without apparent FICA deductions listed on pay checks, is lot for anyone on fixed old age income.

    My funeral expenses shall be two Glad garbage bags left on the curb for pickup, or dumped as a "Dexter" option off the Florida coast, a retirement village for any snowbird.

    Bill Moyer's current essay asks a TMP simple question:"Would you like the opportunity to buy into Medicare before you reach 65?"

    I have found out the hard way, at 68 years of age, what this would cost me, as of August, 2009, through Social Security (labled FICA). Over $6000 per year.

    Huh? How can this be? I have worked part-time to finance my education since High School through University, since no contributions to my education were possible from my poor lower middle class family. My income averaged from $200+ a month to pay tuition, books, food, transportation, etc. Apparantly no social security was withheld, since I worked for a University, as library page through a Graduate Assistanceship. State plans for employees of state insitutions were aparently allowed some co-equal status for their "plan?" Did I know this at an early age, scrimping for obtainment of maximum take-home pay? Who knows now?

    Now I know. I have kept every pay stub from every employer (a CPD disorder?). When I got my first temporary summer jobs in public schools, paying for union/state pention funds, I note now that social security/later labeled FICA was seldom listed as paid due to similar co-equal plans. Why did I not know or care about this 50 years ago or not learn to smoke?

    When I worked my first full-time job for one year with VA, I apparently worked in a similar co-equal option system, where FICA was not deducted. My NIH Post Graduate personal stipend grants did not deduct social security. Only when I obtained part time a toy store for 75 cents per hour in 1968-69 was FICA begun to be deducted after working diligently to obtain my education from 1956 on. Even in 1972, my last University term employment (before moving to Canada) had co-equal option as state employer, to no deduct FICA.

    After all this, and contributing self-employed Social Security amounts through 1976, I found (Aug 09) was my quarterly QC/ FICA scores for work from 1956 through 1976, is 29, or 14 short for full 40 quarter benefits.

    Over $6000 per year to purchase Medicare at my "level?" What a shock to learn about, and now actually become aware about, how Social Security "ify" contributions were submitted and the cost to me now at age 68. A shock for any person who consitently must work part time, without benefits and various optional plans whatever employers have regarding payroll deductions, they may not hear about or know until retirement age.

    My mother, when she retired, had a company run health care option which partially funded her medical retirment medical plans (until the company was sold and plan promised funds were cut). She still maintained coverage at higher expense until death for at plan that cost a total $2,300+ in addition to Medicare/Medicaid.

    In answer to the essay question: "Yes I wanted to purchase Medicaid, but can't."

    $6000 per year to obtain Medicare/Medicaid benefits at 68, for a historic part-time worker, without benefits and without apparent FICA deductions listed on pay checks, is lot for anyone on fixed old age income.

    My funeral expenses shall be two Glad garbage bags left on the curb for pickup, or dumped as a "Dexter" option off the Florida coast, a retirement village for any snowbird.

    Elle Bach writes,

    "Mr. Labeit:

    And you seek to profit… by babbling nonsense?

    Limit government to cure corporate welfare?

    Who/what do you propose to replace government regulation as protector against the effects of rapacious capitalistic greed? Are you suggesting some of us will like being slaves if we just trust you and try it?"

    You realize that corporate welfare comes from the federal government. Corporate welfare refers to material benefits extorted from taxpayers or distributed at taxpayer expense and given to corporate entities to enjoy. Congress allocates corporate welfare.

    Why do the Moyerites throw a fit when corporations seek to express opinions free from government suppression? Because they believe corporations will use such a right to lobby for special benefits, grants, subsidies, authority, contracts, i.e., corporate welfare. Well, if the problem is corporate welfare, Then BAN the provision of corporate welfare. A "duh" would be appropriate now. All of the gripes and complaints of the Moyerites on this forum would be solved if corporate welfare would be abolished.

    Slavery??? Keep jumping to conclusions brain.

    And yes, all action is profit-oriented, regardless if is seems modest. Voters, churches, government agencies, etc., prosecute specific agendas with specific means. So corporations want money. So do voters. They want free healthcare and free education and free health insurance and free infrastructure. Government agencies want more money too. The IRS wants tax dollars. The military wants a bigger budget. The Fed wants more printing press currency. As if voters and the government cannot be as base/greedy/insouciant as corporations.

    Has it even occurred to anyone why the big evil corporations are big to begin with? The hidden premise, the cloaked assumption behind this entire "debate" is that bigness is bad, regardless of what corporations that possess that attribute do? Not a word was mentioned of the productive and innovative capabilities of corporations.

    But more importantly, corporations are as much a creation of the state as marriage is a creation of the state. Contracts are not creations of the state - they only require recognition from the state when it comes to litigation. Limited liability clauses and incorporation procedures do not require government creation, only government recognition (that is, governments should recognize these market forms).

    Brad Edmonds writes that

    "Equally simple, and already in use in various types of contracting, are clauses that limit recourse of one party to the other party, used to protect passive investors from contract shareholders (lenders and vendors): when you or a business signs a contract with Corporation X, the contract will include a clause by which you agree to hold Corporation X, and only Corporation X and its officers and directors (and not those of its shareholders who do not participate in the daily management of the business) liable for any debts or contract breaches. Such conditions are already assumed when people contract with corporations, LLCs, and limited partnerships today."

    Just because governments stamp their official approval upon market decisions does not mean that those market decisions were developed by the government. If that were true, than the legal authority of the government would become immeasurably oppressive as it would have a hand in all contracts.

    Now, if we going to play the "Constitution says this not that" game well than we must be consistent. Democracy is not mentioned in either the Constitution or in the Declaration but there certainly is no shortage of "democracy" on the Journal or on this forum. The Founders opposed democracy as a matter of fact, choosing a "republic" instead. Abortion is not mentioned either. And how are we interpreting the Constitution here? If we are taking an originalist approach, then such an approach would view the Constitution as, above all things, a delimiting document who's focus is reducing the federal government. The Founder's surely would have opposed both the FCC and the FEC. Jefferson and Madison, by today's standards, were far-right laissez-fairists.

    The Constitution doesn't say many things. Just because it doesn't say X should be legal does not mean that X therefore should be abolished. That is an inordinately fallacious non-sequitor.

    Wow, Just watched the show. I find it sad that you never talked about the real reason for this bill. This free speech bill is all about shutting up the opposition to Obama's administration. Clearly, his "corporation" attack is about shutting down FOX, Beck, Limbaugh and the like. These individuals are simply the point men of the "corporate" entities this bill addresses. Only a government with something to HIDE would have a problem with people pointing out the faults they see. Free speech is to keep us all free from tyranny and oppression. In the same way, gun ownership is NOT about protecting us from each other. It is REALLY about protecting us from the Government. And if an administration wants to take EITHER, they need to be removed. Once those things are gone, we are powerless and soon to be divided and conquered. I always thought you were a smart guy. But tonight I saw you for what you are. Another Government stoodge either on their payroll or just REALLLLLLLY out of touch with what is going on in the country right now. Although you have always been a liberal, I at least thought you were a relatively smart one. No longer.
    Think about this: what if Obama's agenda is just HALF as communist, socialist and Marxist as the evidence (and his own words) point to? Is that what you really want? America WAS great during the industrial revolution and even WWII days (under TEMPORARY government control). But as they give more and more away to those who do not work while TAKING from those that DO, we have become a pitiful, stupid nation of lazy beggars, high school dropouts and fatherless families. YOUR leaders created this world by making it EASIER to live off the government than getting an education and WORKING for your money. What will happen when NO companies create jobs? We can't ALL sponge off handouts like PBS. Who would PAY THE TAXES to feed the lazy? Where would we GET the money we donate to YOU. THIS administration is JUST LIKE the 60s hippy radicals. And how much pot did YOU smoke in those days? Did you ever QUIT??

    Revolution mannn. Down with the oppressor.
    Having flashbacks?

    Floyd Abrams’ core argument for attacking any regulation on what corporations can say to influence elections in the U.S. came down to just two words, “free speech”. He claims that our founding fathers intended the right of free speech to be sacred, no matter where the voice comes from.
    Would Abrams be willing to defend the right of Hugo Chavez to purchase air time just before an election to air a movie that dishes out dirt on Republican candidates and advocates passionately for every one of them to be voted out of office? Chavez would just be exercising his free speech.

    Our Constitution has never given corporations the same Constitutional rights as individuals. Individuals who are American citizens can vote. Corporations cannot. Voters must be U.S. citizens. Corporations do not have to be owned by U.S. citizens. Individuals are natural persons. Corporations are non-natural persons created by lawyers and state law. Our Constitution says, "We the People. . ." It does not say, "We the People and Non-Natural Persons. . ." The basis of our First Amendment Rights are rooted the concept of HUMAN rights, NOT NON-HUMAN rights. To give non-humans the same rights as human beings would substantially diminish and threaten human rights. That "all men are created equal with certain inalieable rights endowed by our creator" does not mean that lawyers who create corporations should have the hubris to think that the corporate non-natural persons whom they create should have the same fundamental rights as human beings.

    What was it,1913 when the congress in it's wisdom declared that a corporation was an individual.

    If the court agrees with the movie producer then unless I am mistaken, capital gains will be taxable income without restriction. This will make corporations vulnerable to taxation on capital gains based on the graduated scale instead of a fixed rate. Watch what you ask for, you might get it.


    Shall we give the rights of the Disabled to a Corporation that is doing poorly.

    If we can put Pfizer in jail then I will think about letting them have free speech. How about that? If a corporation kills someone can we execute them?

    We put ourselves in this situation by allowing them to collect welfare.

    I think a good post was from an immigrant who said he could not vote, as of yet. Can a German corporation influence an election? Middle-eastern or South American?

    I don't know the answer to this.

    There is a large problem with this case going before the Supreme Coutr... will there be any arguements brought before the court by civil rights advocates? If not, the citizenry will lose no matter the outcome.

    http://www.jeffreypopek.com

    This weeks show about corporations and free speech was the most intelligent, informative and civil debate that I have ever heard.

    Creating an artificial entity (a corporation) and then giving it human rights?

    Sounds like science fiction a la "I, Robot" or the "Terminator" movies.

    And we know that those ended well. Not!

    I just watched the latest Bill Moyers Journal episode Balancing Big Money and Free Speech.
    Great job Bill for working all who saw this episode into a frenzy! As a journalist it is your job to engage as many viewers as possible-such is the nature of NEWS. In this case it could be argued that Bill has become a bigtime journalistic audience grabber!

    Let's keep it simple here-There now stand limits on contributions by individuals and organizations and the same should stand for corporations.

    Just because HILLARY:THE MOVIE funded by 'unlimited' corporate dollars and categorized as free-speech got produced doesn't mean we have to fear it nor will it be an automatic big influential hit making people follow like robotic sheep! The rules of Hollywood still hold that budget has little to do with what makes a film hit! The viewer is always smarter than anyone corporation! Word spreads fast on whether a movie is worth seeing!

    Three cheers to Mr.Moyers on his bunda kicking Obama's Moment speech! President Obama is up against a corporate wall of giants and needs all the kicking he can get!
    Xcorps


    The Bill of Rights applies to individuals. A corporation is an entity in all legal respects and not an individual. Instead of giving corporations free speech, the supreme court should ban PACs. Our country needs to return power to the individual.

    Corporations are not given the same rights as human individuals. They are given GREATER rights. Corporations are not persons, they do not have natural rights. But according to the wisdom of our courts, they do.

    The airwaves supposedly belong to the people. They don't. They belong to corporations. Television, radio, internet, all media exist to advertise and propagandize.

    The government is supposed to defend the rights of the people. It doesn't. It takes away the people's rights and gives them to corporations.

    God Bless you and your staff, Bill Moyers.

    Without folks like you we would have to get all our information from corporations...and we all know that they have the country's best interest at heart..lol.

    Just imagine what would have happen in seniors had to rely solely on large corporations for their health care...how many millions of them would have suffered and died prematurely.

    Potter 10 - Abrams 0. Every time Moyers and Potter made the glaring distinction that corporations are not persons, Abrams made the lame argument that you can't discriminate between different corporate entities or different types of corporate entities (eg. press and auto companies), so therefore you can't discriminate against any corporate entity. He ignores his opponents differentiation between persons and commercial entities tries to turn it into an argument about discrimination against and between non-persons. What's wrong with discrimination against non-persons, anyway?? The Roberts Supremes will probably rule with Abrams.

    By the way, a voluntary system of full public campaign financing is the solution to the corruption of our democracy by big private money from any source. We need Clean Money / Fair Elections. Support the Fair Elections Now Act bills in the Senate and the House.

    The Solicitor General's comment said it all, "use of corporate treasury fund is inherently likely to corrode the political system by actually corrupting public office holders and by creating the appearance of corruption." Who is this clown whoring with corporate interest; by repeating phrases like "free speech", "First Amendment Right" and "free press" and "anyone that has money has an advantage.." "We haven't seen anything in the way of corporate control." I wonder whether this guest has been living in Pluto for all these years and has no idea that "big business dominated the political discussion today", as the host politely reminded him...

    Potter 10 - Abrams 0. Every time Moyers and Potter made the glaring distinction that corporations are not persons, Abrams made the lame argument that you can't discriminate between different corporate entities or different types of corporate entities (eg. press and auto companies), so therefore you can't discriminate against any corporate entity. He ignores his opponents differentiation between persons and commercial entities tries to turn it into an argument about discrimination against and between non-persons. What's wrong with discrimination against non-persons, anyway?? The Roberts Supremes will probably rule with Abrams.

    By the way, a voluntary system of full public campaign financing is the solution to the corruption of our democracy by big private money from any source. We need Clean Money / Fair Elections. Support the Fair Elections Now Act bills in the Senate and the House.

    It was rather unsettling to listen to Floyd Abrams defend Corporations right to free speech when it was Corporations who lobbied the Hill and were successful in getting The AETA into law in Nov. 2006, (the Animal Enterprise Terriorism Act), which essentially takes away a citizen's right to free speach! The AETA criminalizes activities protected under the First Ammendment of the US Constitution. Heck, there are four people on trial right now in San Jose, CA charged with, get this: "conduct including protesting, chalking the sidewalk, chanting and leafleting -, and the alleged use of “the Internet to find information on bio-medical researchers.” These acts are all protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution!

    http://aeta4.org/
    (Please BMJ follow and report on the AETA4 case!)

    Pretty obvious corporations have too much influence in the political world as it is. If Abrams side wins this case, say goodbye to democracy as we know it!

    The problem with corporations having freedom of the press is that they hide who is speaking. You need to know something about a person or entity before you know how to evaluate anything they tell you. What if corporations bought air time and hired people to vilify and lie about the current president?

    A corporation is a FICTITIOUS PERSON - this is the legal term. A corporation exists as a creation of the state. Corporations have been assaulting the boundary between the rights of fictitious persons and the rights of actual persons for decades, moving the boundary toward no boundary.

    Bill Moyers' makes the point that the corporation has a fiduciary responsibility to ALL of its shareholders, and thus must not engage in political speech without the express permission of the shareholders on each issue.

    Why doesn't a shareholder sue a corporation for breach of fiduciary duty? After the corporation engages in advocacy on a political issue, without prior permission from the shareholder.

    Two Points:

    1. A corporation is not an individual citizen. The law must be returned to that sensible and necessary position.

    2. Bill Moyers' conversation with Abrams gets mired almost from the get-go in the fallacy of SPEECH = MONEY. Mr. Moyers lets Abrams say "speech" throughout the interview when usually Abrams really means MONEY.
    -- Speech can be persuasive, or not. But in our society, a million dollars is ALWAYS persuasive. Prime examples of the "persuaded": most Senators and our President.

    But guess who absolutely won't change the law on those 2 points? The current victors in that corrupt system.

    Sal B.,

    Is this:

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3203253804055041031#

    what you were hoping people would find by doing a "corporation psychopath" search?

    It's a good documentary. My fiance is going to find a way to use it this year in the media literacy class that he teaches high school seniors.

    A Corporation is a piece of paper but a Union is a group of people, Floyd Abrams just conflates the two without justification.

    People can die but pieces of paper as Corporations cannot die.

    There still exist corporations from the time before the civil war that still owe reparations to the descendants of former slaves.

    Corporations are the problem!

    The American People are the solution!

    Sebastien,

    Israeli citizens frequently impact the electoral process in the United States. Organized poltical groups (even non US Citizens) wield tremendous influence on our political process. 1 person 1 vote is a myth. Political power is succesfully wielded only by motivated groups of citizens - like corporations or hoards of republican hating liberals.

    Google "corporation psychopath" as to why, if a corporation has the rights [but not the responsibilities] of an individual, the more rights we give to this fictional individual, the worse off society will be.

    The 5-4 right-wing majority on the Supreme Court, having declared that money is, in essence, free speech, has changed the equation: Instead of one person, one vote, it is now, one dollar, one vote.

    BTW, on the paucity of corporate free speech: What about lobbyists???

    Oh, for goodness sakes, the argument is not about "Free Speech" it is about whether a corporation, which is a piece of paper, has the same rights as an actual living and breathing human being!

    I suggest that we return to the idea that a corporation is limited in its' charter!

    1 vote -- 1 voice.

    Question:
    As a foreigner, I am not allowed to vote and I am not allowed to give political contributions. Makes sense.
    What is the law about contributions from companies with partial foreign ownership (most of them are)? Can a company that is, say, 30% or 70% foreign-owned make political contributions? Do they get free speech rights, the same one that applies to citizens?

    Sebastien

    Bill, this was another extremely important show. I wonder if Mr. Abrams is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. What world is he living in? Can he really not be aware of the massive influence corporations already have on our government, on our 'public servants', who serve those corporations that fund their campaigns rather than the people in their districts? It was so interesting to watch two republicans going at it, agreeing for the most part with one, and witnessing a discussion involving republicans in which verbal attacks and name calling were not evident. How refreshing!. I couldn't help thinking about the content of this film about Hillary Clinton. I'm not a fan of Hillary's, by the way. But I was surprised that the issue of the film's content didn't enter in at all. From the short clip shown, it seems to me to be poisoned with slanderous hateful self-serving statements, like the right wing talk radio we've been subjected to. On that subject, I am forwarding your report on right wing hate speech to the spiritual leaders in my community. They should all be speaking out against this disgusting level of 'discourse'. One last thing that came to mind in the discussion about corporate power and its influence on our politics and our media. I remember painfully how Dennis Kucinich, as a democratic presidential candidate with active campaigns in 50 states, was shut out of the presidential debates by NBC (GE) and ABC (Disney). I believe that corporate interests, and the corporate money in politics, were responsible for that decision. I know people who were disappointed that Kucinich had dropped out - only he hadn't dropped out. He was shut out of the debates, giving the appearance he had dropped out. At which point there was no candidate to discuss Expanded Medicare for All single-payer health care and a host of other progressive views on the issues. There was no candidate to push the others to be more clear on where they stood. I am sure that had to do with corporate 'free speech' to deny a legitimate presidential candidate his free speech, and the free speech of those across the U.S. - in every state - who supported him. He knew where our country needed to go on health care and he would have led on this issue. Thank you so much for your courageous speech tonight, Bill. It reminded me of what Dennis Kucinich would say, and it was so great to hear. Thank goodness for you and for PBS!

    If corporations want a voice like a individual then when they commit crimes all the people in the corporation should be held responsible. Exxon got off real cheap for it's oil spill in Alaska and never paid the fines or cleaned up after the spill. If the board and executives were all jailed until the fines were paid and a good clean up would have been done, they would be doing there best to pay the fines and have coastline cleaned up as soon as possible and not still waiting for the fines to be paid.

    As it is, corporations are not in any allegiance to any country. To give them the rights to influence a election where the corporation could be a adverse entity.

    The shady lawyer fighting for Mich McConnell was the only one named as far as who wants this corporate free speech. Lets not forget Mich is out to make this a totalitarian style government. Who is the corporation that backed the movie against Hilary?

    Lets not forget the last eight years and what Bush and Chaney have done to get us to where we are right now with the world economy and our standing in the world.

    The first time around, I could hardly write coherently. Sorry.

    You did it Bill! You said it! Thank you so much. Please, let us keep it up until the opposition begins to take us, and rationality, seriously.

    Keep it up! The time is now!

    Boeing was created by people who loved to build airplanes, Apple was built by Jobs and Wozniak and a deicated crew of computer lovers, The Nature Consevancy was created by people with a love for our planet. Corporations are built by people who want to contribute their productive efforts to society - they are not "creatures of the state" - they subsequently have been licensed and regulated by the state. The roughly 80,000 families, sharholders, employees employed by Boeing MUST be represented in the political process when legislation affects airplane manufacturing. Not do would be irresponsible on Boeing's mangement part and would mis-represent the citizens/individuals that make up Boeing's community. Corporations are an alchemy of the people who form them - not for profit demons marauding the world.

    Mr. Labeit:

    And you seek to profit… by babbling nonsense?

    Limit government to cure corporate welfare?

    Who/what do you propose to replace government regulation as protector against the effects of rapacious capitalistic greed? Are you suggesting some of us will like being slaves if we just trust you and try it?

    You’re right. Profit seeking (selfishness) is inextricably linked with human behavior, and as long as humans are CEO’s of large corporations, the corporations they control should never be granted status as individuals, lest the appetite of their mutual selfishness consume our democracy.

    TO: Dennis Neville

    …thanks…I was looking for that AL quote… here’s another one from Australian social scientist Alex Carey:

    “…the 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: The growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.”

    Both guests made important points that must be reconciled. Corporations are entitled to a voice (the term is a personification, itself), but it is not protected under the Constitution. The Constitution applies to citizens. The voice that private institutions have is covered by something else.

    "I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country; corporations have been enthroned, an era of
    corruption in High Places will follow, and the Money Power of the Country will
    endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the People, until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed." -
    Abraham Lincoln

    Great quotation! I fear that the near future is already here. Listening to Mr. Abrams’ argument, and Mr. Potter’s counter argument, reminded me of Paul Farmer’s insightful book, The Pathologies of Power.

    Farmer quotes the prophetic voice of Howard Waitzkin in The Second Sickness, “As the United States enters the new millennium, it remains the only economically developed country without a national health program that ensures universal access to care…The structures of oppression and the social origin of illness…have emerged as even greater problems as corporate penetration of health care has increased.”

    Farmer writes, “Pathologies of power damage all concerned – and who isn’t concerned? –
    but kill chiefly the poor. These crimes are the symptoms and signs of structural violence. Indeed, when we regard the perpetrators of these crimes from any comfortable reserve, it is important to recall that with our comfort comes a loss of innocence, since we profit from a social and economic order that promises a body count. That is, surely there are direct and causal relationships between a protected minority enjoying great ease and those billions who go without the bare necessities of food, shelter, potable water, and medical services? Pathologies of power are also symptoms of surfeit – of the excess that I like as much as the next guy.”

    Farmer asks, “How do we…process such abominable contiguity? Our best hope, it sometimes seems, is oblivion. Let the world’s endless jeremiad be blotted out by action films and other entertainments, sport-utility vehicles, high irony, identity politics that erase the world’s poor, or struggles for personal advancement within this or that institution. Choose your poison; choose your anesthesia. Help yourself. Soon we will all be too old for justice, anyway.”

    You need to go back to the founding document of the United States to shoot down the disingenuous arguments for corporate free speech.

    "All men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights..."

    So, the unalienable rights of flesh & blood human beings come prior to government, by their Creator (even if you're an atheist, you have a Creator: natural selection).

    But as was argued tonight, the corporation is a "creature of the state,"
    so it cannot be said to have the same rights as flesh & blood citizens, since everything that a corporation is comes from how it is defined by the state, in which sovereignty resides with the People (all human) of the United States.

    Wallah! Corporate personhood can be slayed
    this easily.

    Sponsoring a reasonable discussion of an issue is, of course, good. When between people with fundamentally conflicting views, it must be working toward some sort of civilized resolution.

    Admirable principle. When one of the discussants adopts the passive-aggressive strategy of refusing to acknowledge your point even when you're trying to illuminate *his/her* view, discourse breaks down.

    These people, such as McConnell's toady (and McConnell himself), are talking in bad faith. Obama has invested half a year in trying to reason together. So have you, Bill, and many of us. It is clear that the people in opposition who understand the issues are acting in bad faith, and that they are demagogueing the issues in addressing citizens who don't understand the issues.

    It is time to stop. Call them spoilers. Call them spoilers loud and clear. Give testimony on it in detail, from their own words, and then refuse to engage further. If they wreck a piece of legislative action, let it die, and spend the rest of the election cycle talking about it to the electorate. That is a rational outcome for healthcare "reform," for instance.

    These people have made themselves despicable. It has become a moral stance to articulate why you despise them. This interview was worth nothing but profits to the folks who make my blood pressure pills.

    I meant corporations already have enough power, and frankly, too much power over the right to form unions.

    Elizabeth,

    Please publish Wikipedia URL so we can pass on to Mr. Abrams. He may have time to bone up on his arguments before he appears at court.

    Should corporations and unions have the same free speech rights as individuals?

    No. Nein. Nope. Ne. Na.Never.

    Why or why not?

    They already have enough power.

    There are those who focus on the way that America was founded as a commercial enterprise. There are those who focus on the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights and believe America is a beacon of freedom for individuals and their communities. The men interviewed in tonight's show represented these different views of America. I hold with the America of citizen voters talking together in advance of elections about their values and which candidates best represent those values. Corporations are not citizen voters. The argument that corporate "speech" is different from corporate "money" influencing elections did not fool me for a minute.

    Regarding corporations as being entitled to the same rights as individuals is ludicrous. Other people's comments have argued or demonstrated the reasons for this quite well, but if one needs further justification for this point of view just look at the inflammatory approaches that have been used in the current health care debate, mainly funded and motivated by corporations. And how about the long history of the tobacco lobby's influence in Washington that finally was exposed after years of lying to and deliberately deceiving the public?

    Assertions such as Mr. Labeit's that all things are done for profit, and therefore Mr. Potter's arguements don't hold water, are absurd. It blatantly overlooks the fact that such a sweeping generalization omits a number of factors. Mainly that although for some the main motivation is money ('profits' in his vernacular) is sometimes true, it is not always true and that other factors, in addition to making money, more often than not motivate people to do what they do. I'm certain, for example, that Mr. Moyers motivation for what he does comes as much from love of his work and a desire to provide people with objective information as it does from his salary. For most people money is a means to achieve the basic necessities of life and those are the main motivation for 'profit', not the money itself. Corporations, on the other hand, as so accurately identified by Potter, are soley about making money.

    And since when does a slanderous smear campaign qualify as free speech anyway?

    Thank you for hosting this discussion. It was very revealing.

    Bill, Bill, Bill, my Dear Bill,

    Regarding whether to allow corporate "free" speech in politics, the most important point was omitted; it was alluded to but never framed in the following way.

    The difference between corporate free speech and individual and union free speech in political campaigns is . . . corporations have no obligations to anyone EXCEPT to return profits and value to their shareholders. The do not have any responsibility for educating children, for providing health insurance for families, for making sure there's food on the table each day, or any of the things that people and families have to do in order to provide for themselves each and every day. Again, their only responsibility is to return value to their shareholders. Union members and individuals, are concerned with providing for their families, our future citizens, and the requirements needed to live a civil and prosperous life as productive citizens. Again, the only responsibility of corporations is to return profits, and "value", to shareholders.

    The goal of free speech by corporations is to create a political climate that enhances their shareholder value, most often at the expense of the individual and families.

    Corporations and Unions certainly have needs and issues and perhaps, and I say "perhaps," the boards of these entities, thanks to their position, have a point of view that needs to be heard. If a Board of Directors wants to educate their members on issues potentially important to the entity and its membership, that is well and good, though I am concerned when Wilson Widgets, Inc. has a position on something that is NOT a business issue.

    I think my worry in the free speech of "entities" is the assumption, often false, that a Board of Directors speaks for the votes of the entire body. That is, if the Board of Directors of Wilson Widgets is against a minimum wage increase, they should not be allowed to drown out the voices of individuals that support it.

    Bill, Bill, Bill, my Dear Bill,

    Regarding whether to allow corporate "free" speech in politics, the most important point was omitted; it was alluded to but never framed in the following way.

    The difference between corporate free speech and individual and union free speech in political campaigns is . . . corporations have no obligations to anyone EXCEPT to return profits and value to their shareholders. The do not have any responsibility for educating children, for providing health insurance for families, for making sure there's food on the table each day, or any of the things that people and families have to do in order to provide for themselves each and every day. Again, their only responsibility is to return value to their shareholders. Union members and individuals, are concerned with providing for their families, our future citizens, and the requirements needed to live a civil and prosperous life as productive citizens. Again, the only responsibility of corporations is to return profits, and "value", to shareholders.

    The goal of free speech by corporations is to create a political climate that enhances their shareholder value, most often at the expense of the individual and families.

    It is unbelievable to me that people who appear rational and thoughtful can be so miss guided and deluded. How in the world can a corporation have free speech? Does it have the right to vote, why not? It is a ludicrous and dangerous argument to say a entity should have the same rights as a citizen. Does this mean the entity now should have the right to rule the country and the citizenry? Is this not the most fundamental issue of our democracy today that corporations are usurping the will of our elected official by lavishing millions upon millions of dollars upon those officials in order for them to vote in opposition to the will of the people and for the best interest of the corporation? Isn't that what this health care debate is about? We must end the greed or face the fact that fascism is the destiny of this nation and the end to the American Dream.

    It concerns me for our country how many well-intentioned commenters are ignorant of Constitutional history and law, as well as the difference between the citizen collective (allowed by the First Amendment) and the corporate economic entity (never intended to be allowed speech by the First Amendment). I will never again take for granted how lucky I was to have some great civics and history teachers. The standardized test has destroyed this country's ability to assess issues correctly or critically. (As if we need to be seen as even more stupid by the rest of the developed world.) Commenters: You have every right to disagree with Bill Moyers (I do sometimes), but don't blame him for your ignorance when his program addresses issues you don't understand. One word: Wikipedia. It's pretty darn handy.

    Shame on Brian o'neil for not obeying the rules of the comments page and for using it for demagoguery. As for some the corporate sympathizers like rich b,every member of a corporation can exercise his or her free speech by voting or contributing to a legal campaign or PAC. Because one works for a corporation one does not relinquish his right to speek. What next extend voting rights to corporations. The right wing loves to cite the founding fathers intentions on every other argument, did they intend for corporations to have this kind of power and control over the PEOPLE'S political process?
    Thank you Bill for another outstanding and informative show.


    As a Boeing production worker - I chose to join the corproation. I stay at the corporation because management and union represents the corporation's interests and therefore my interests, my family's interest and my community's interst. Therefore, the corporation speaks for all of the Boeing community. If they engage in anti-social behavior - society and the management will demand a change to meet our collective values. Mr. Boeing is a great guy for me, represents me and my kids and deserves a voice because of the impact to so many lives in the boeing community. I am a willing and engaged piece of Mr. Boeing. I hope they spend all the money possible to represent my interests in the political arena - and when they mis-represent me or choose an unethical path - I am free to find a different Mr. Boeing. Freedom and free speech are a wonderful thing.

    "the States or Congress shall not abridge the right of free speech" is the reason for the current laws. As States created a business enterprise in the form of incorporation, that action would increase the number of mouths and ears and abridge all of us, were they not stopped from voting or using their power in elections.

    As one who works in the corporate world I can say with assurance that corporations do not act like citizens or in the best interests of their home countries. The simple fact that so many of our corporations are owned in large part by foreigners is all the reason I need to be against giving corporations the right to weigh in on our political campaigns. Why should China (for example) have any say in our political process?

    Abrams I think is correct that individuals must be allowed free speech however...how can a group of individuals (board of directors) who manage a legal person (corporation) which only seeks to increase profits and market share be considered a moral unit i.e. a person? It is to me utterly irrational...corporations are institutions not persons and therefore should not be given seperate, distinct, political rights.
    Run this thought experiment - Yeah, Boeing he is a nice guy and really good with the kids? Huh? It makes no sense!
    NOTE TO RIGHT WINGERS:
    Trevor Potter was general counsel for John McCain's campaigns (no leftie) do a little reading prior to conducting ad hominem attacks and threats. This could be a topic for the Bill Moyer's Journal but are the majority of right wingers intellectual cowards?

    Thank you Bill Moyers AGAIN for finding ways to deconstruct the idiocy that Washington has become. Listening to the man who defended Pentagon Papers for all the CORRECT Constitutional reasons try to use these reasons to defend illegal and Unconstitutional propaganda, bribery, and corruption was an exercise in sheer bewilderment and ultimately fury for me.

    This was NOT what George Mason had in mind when he wrote the Bill of Rights, and I sure as heck wish someone would remember that next week and put it in perspective. Maybe our newest Justice can dazzle us with her grasp of Constitutional history.

    I'm glad to finally see a dissenting voice on the Journal for once.

    Of course, the convenient scapegoats here are corporations. The argument against corporate free speech however contains a major defect. It claims that if the right of corporations to freely express their opinions (the opinions of the individuals who make up corporations) is recognized than corporations will use that right to lobby for more and more special privileges, subsidies, grants, i.e., corporate welfare. If the problem is corporate welfare than its not corporations that should be restricted, its the government. If liberals are frightened by the prospect that politicians will grant corporations special benefits, than ban the provision of such benefits, not the speech of corporate entities. Banning corporate speech does not nearly address the fundamental problem. The problem is corporate welfare, not corporate free speech. That corporations use free speech to gain corporate welfare is irrelevant. Banning corporate welfare would address the dilemma. It may be counter-argued that banning corporate welfare is too difficult, too lofty, too unrealistic. My rebuttal is that desperate times call for desperate measures.

    It was argued by Trevor Potter that corporations are mere profit-driven entities and that therefore they may not be trusted when it come to free speech. I have news for Mr. Potter: all action is profit-driven. The late economist Ludwig von Mises noted that all human action is an attempt to gain a profit, whether psychic or material. All action is an attempt to exchange a less satisfacory state of affairs for a more satisfactory state of affairs. That corporate profit is monetary completely non-essential. Corporations, by satisfying consumer demand, seek profits - what they believe to be as a more satisfactory state of affairs. The FCC and FEC, by regulating speech, seek profits as well. Mr. Moyers seeks profits by broadcasting the Journal. Floyd Abrams seeks profits by litigating in defense of free speech. Trevor Potter seeks profits by litigating in opposition to free speech. Contrasting voting and corporate profit-making as Potter does is non-sensical. Voters seek profits by voting. Profit seeking is inextricably linked with human action and it cannot be avoided.

    My definitive memory of this type of "free speech" came from a California proposition campaign back in the 70's when gasoline prices and oil company profits had gone sky-high. A substantial number of citizens managed to put a windfall profits tax on the ballot for the fall. In June, it had the support of 75% of the electorate according to polls. The state's oil producers put on a massive billboard campaign that consisted of the words "More taxes? NO! Vote No on Prop 5!" No other advertising. It was defeated 60 to 40.
    Money may talk, but political money shouts. Guess who has the most to "invest".

    Messrs. Moyers and Potter enjoy demonizing corporations. These dreaded "for profit" entities that are out to damage the world. In fact - Corporations exist of employees, unions and shareholders that mirror a set of culture and values for their community. Free speech from a "corporation" includes and represents all the hard working productive individuals who elect to join and build a working community that contributes to society. The demon coropration rhetoric is boring, tired and lacks depth of analysis. Thank-you Mr Abrams for speaking for hard working citizens who contribute their productive efforts to society and thank you for your refusal to indulge in the limiting of free speech as proposed by Moyers/Potter. It was wonderful to listen to your support of employees, unions, citizens, shareholders and corporations right to the free speech we are granted by our constituion. We must never allow individuals/government to control freedom and speech as they see fit.

    Floyd Abrams' arguments are ridiculous! In the first place, corporations & unions are not comparable entities. Regardless, neither should be allowed to use members'/shareholders' funds to influence political activities of any kind. Further, to suggest that corporations (especially international corporations) are entitled to all the rights of individual citizens is beyond ridiculous. Why not invite Osama bin Laden to run for office?

    Mr. Abrams is so full of it! This was the first time ever that I found myself yelling at my computer screen while watching The Journal.

    IMO, the debate that the Supreme Court and the country ought to be having is whether corporations deserve to have personhood rights at all. My position is that "they" absolutely do not. The Supreme Court decision to grant corporations personhood rights led to disastrous consequences for this country. Now, Abrams wants to extend those rights even more over and against the rights of the rest of us. And he seems intent on doing it in a similar manner to the way that corporations got rights in the first place. Corporations used the 14th amendment that protected newly-freed slaves to argue their case for personhood. Abrams, it would seem, thinks that he can garner sympathy for corporations by repeatedly mentioning unions as also having their "speech" limited--as if the interests of corporations and unions or their access to resources are one in the same.

    Mr. Moyers, I have a topical suggestion for a future Journal: Are Americans currently living under a system of corporate fascism? Ralph Nader would be one good person to ask that question of.

    A new broom might sweep clean, but an old broom knows where the dirt is! We need more "old brooms" like you to clean up (or out?) the corridors of power in Washington. Thank you, Mr. Moyers, for all that you do to keep those of us who would be disinherited of the American dream aware of the threats to our freedoms.

    Floyd Abrams would have us believe that billion dollar corporations, or perhaps well intentioned multinational "mom and pop businesses", are simply exercising their "freedom of speech" under the first amendment.

    It's rubbish. Last time I checked, I was not able to exercise my free speech by hiring an army of writers and publishing a well polished but politically motivated book. I am in no position to produce a politically motivated blockbuster film. A full page add in the NYT would bankrupt me.

    Even if one allows that a corporate entity has the right to freedom of speech under the first amendment, which one should not, then the scope of that speech should be limited to that which an ordinary citizen such as you or I would typically be limited. So let them buy all the free speech they can afford on a $1,000 budget just like the rest of us PEOPLE, by whom and for whom this democracy was established.

    That would not be an infringement on their (hypothetical) first amendment rights any more than refusing you or me an hour of prime time television for lack of million dollar financing would be an infringement on our first amendment rights. Corporations could exercise their (again hypothetical) right to free speech along side the rest of us.

    Wow after watching this left-wing crap, I need some balance! Ooo, FOX News is on and the other Bill is talking and sounds more truthful.

    MI oligarches (thru corporate lobbyists) have doubtlessly been keeping us in preemptive wars-of-choice since Vietnam. Give them even more say - thus power - will finish off our democracy; already sold to the venal whores of Congress.

    Yeah, it's tough to have to confront the truth, that voters are people susceptible to being brainwashed and just having democracy and free speech doesn't guarantee good results. Trying to make a democracy work is trying to threading a needle that might not even have a hole. I fear civilization doesn't actually work. Sorry.

    Mr. Moyers:

    Listening to Floyd Abrams strain to find just the right string of words to make his warped logic ring less hollow was really, really painful.

    Painful and Scary.

    “Unions” appear foremost on Mr. Abrams mind, so it seems transparent that he’s batting – not for free speech – but in support of yet another Republican criminal conspiracy – this one to turn the US into a fascist oligarchy.

    The good news, I guess, is that many younger Americans are on to them now. If the Supreme Court dare advance this warped mangling of “one person, one vote,” I dare say they’ll have a riot on their hands.

    And it’s so good to know you’ll be around to keep us up-to-date.

    Thank you for all you do to contribute truth and clarity to our national dialogue. I honestly don’t know what we’d do without Bill Moyers.

    "I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to
    tremble for the safety of my country; corporations have been enthroned, an era of
    corruption in High Places will follow, and the Money Power of the Country will
    endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the People, until
    the wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed."
    Abraham Lincoln

    FREE SPEECH forPEOPLE not Fictional persons like corporations because "free speech" isn't free, but paid speech. Mark Lincoln's warning.

    All three members of the panel seemed to be unaware of one of the most basic reasons for the first amendment, indeed for any right. It is NOT just to have more people talking. No, of course not. Is public discourse really enhanced by having more and more voices saying things like:

    "Where's the beef?"
    "The holocaust never happened."
    "If you kill civilians for allah, you will have 72 virgins waiting for you in heaven."
    "We must keep the white race pure."

    These are all protected by the first amendment but add little to our civilizations. Indeed, many rights exist because it would be too dangerous and tempting to give governments the power to take them away. Perhaps, because our collective humanity is exceedingly fragile. Yet we are not necessarily enriched by having every voice heard, and certainly not enriched by having only the wealthy voices heard.

    It is ironic that this issue will be decided by the Supreme Court. The same institution that is singularly most responsible for the modern corporation. By twisting both the word and spirit of the 14th amendment, passed to end slavery and guarantee the rights of individuals, the supreme court created the limited liability corporate individual while never helping a single former slave.

    Corporations are immortal individuals instilled with more privileges and less responsibilities than any natural individual who is "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights". When was the last time a corporation sat on death row? When was the last time a corporation was responsible for someone's death?

    The question here is; do we continue on with this masquerade?

    Do we give back the first amendment rights we took from corporations in the past hundred years?

    Should we go even further and finally extend to them their long overdue right to suffrage?

    Almost sincerely,
    Ben Schainker
    Silver Spring, MD

    To OLD NEWS......this is why Washington, D.C. is our toxic asset.

    The corporations already control most of the voices we hear, images we see and words we read, because they own the major media conglomerates. Anti-trust laws are not enforced. Washington politicians in both parties have been bought and paid for by the banks and corporations. Mr. Moyers taught me that years ago. It's old news!

    Limits on corp donations, yes, but how much more effective to use the FCC to ban all political attack ads from both radio and TV and force the networks to provide two hours of free time each month during national campaigns for debates that are run by bi-partisan groups only and specifically exclude the egos of anchorpersons.

    The Truth about Bill Moyers


    After the resignation of Walter Jenkins because of a sexual misdemeanour in the run-up to the 1964 election, President Lyndon B. Johnson, alarmed that the opposition was framing the issue as a security breach,[3] ordered Moyers to request FBI name checks on 15 members of Goldwater's staff to find "derogatory" material on their personal lives.[4][5] Goldwater himself only referred to the Jenkins incident off the record.[6] The Church Committee stated in 1975 that "Moyers has publicly recounted his role in the incident, and his account is confirmed by FBI documents."[7] In 2005, Laurence Silberman claimed that Moyers denied writing the memo in a 1975 phone call.[8] Moyers said he had a different recollection of the telephone conversation.[9]

    Moyers, acting for Johnson, also sought information from the FBI on the sexual preferences of White House staff members, most notably Jack Valenti.[10] Moyers indicated his memory was unclear on why Johnson directed him to request such information, "but that he may have been simply looking for details of allegations first brought to the president by Hoover." [11]

    Journalist Morley Safer said that Moyers and President Johnson met with and "harangued" Safer's boss, CBS president Frank Stanton, about Safer's coverage of the behaviour of US troops in Vietnam (Safer had filmed them burning down a village).[12] During the meeting, Safer alleges that Johnson threatened to expose Safer's "communist ties". This was a bluff, according to Safer. Safer says that Moyers was "if not a key player, certainly a key bystander" in the incident.[13] Moyers stated that his hard-hitting coverage of conservative presidents Reagan and Bush were behind Safer's allegations.[14]

    In The New York Times on April 3, 1966, Moyers offered this insight on his stint as press secretary to President Johnson: "I work for him despite his faults and he lets me work for him despite my deficiencies."[15][16] The details of his rift with Johnson have not been made public, but may be discussed in a forthcoming memoir.[17]


    It's an interesting proposition frought with complexities(multi-national corporations, media corporations like GE), but as Moyers pointed out, are we really suffering from a lack of corporate Free speech at the moment. I find it ironic discussing the free speech rights of corporations. Corporations by their very profit seeking nature are anti-competitive/monopolistic and borderline anti-capitalist. If you didn't catch it at the begining of the segment they mentioned that most corporations are privately owned and as such have free speech throught their owner. This particular issue only applies to public corporations with shareholders. If a corporation decides to "go public," it should understand that as part of going public, it should deal with certain limitations. I think we've all seen well what effect powerful corporate interests have in politics.

    Usually after a week of hearing/viewing confusing, disjointed and muddled blah-blah commentary from a litany of TV talking heads, it is so refreshing to reach weeks' end, tune in to Bill Moyers Journal and listen to a discussion which is spoken by well mannered guests and commentator, in rational tones of logical English about a very serious topical matter concerning our democracy. This, is viewing at its absolute best. Thank you.

    Everyone is missing the point. If corporations or any other entity were to be included under the "We the people" umbrella, then freedom of the press would not have been needed. The press was set apart because they are not a part of "WE THE PEOPLE". Elementary....Freedom of speech is for the people.

    Bill Moyers only brought this up tonight because the right made a movie bashing one of his own. If a business made a movie about a republican, there would not this so-called discussion. As a matter a FACT, Bill would most likely promote it 24-7.
    Moyers calls himself part of the press, hogwash! He is a paid employee of the DNC, hiding behind the Constitution. His regular tirates against the Right are proof that this hate monger is a paid employee. PBS should be ashamed!

    Dear Mr. Moyer: I applauded and yelled aloud after your commentary : "BRAVO!!!" I hope President Obama heard you too. You are our nation's conscience.

    Mr. Moyer: I applauded and yelled aloud after your commentary on the health care: "BRAVE!!!" I hope President Obama heard you too. You are our nation's conscience.

    Bravo! Bill Moyers for championing Health Care Reform as it was meant to be.

    Trevor Potter was right. Floyd Abrams is wrong to argue that for-profit corporations have the right to have more free speech than individual voters because for-profit corporations have more money than individual voters. Bill Moyers, your call to President Obama to be a fighter for us was powerful! You Mr. Moyers are my hero. Would that Obama could be the same on this issue of health care reform. Americans do want the opportunity to sign up for Medicare before the age of 65.

    Floyd Abrams gave the best example of the ability to talk out of both sides of his mouth while seeming to interact with two honest people. He should be given the Republican Award of Deception.

    An excellent program on an important issue, which, unfortunately I think the Court will find some way to avoid confronting directly. But I think Abrams is right for two reasons: 1. because altho I do not agree at all with the argument that the 1st Amendment should be construed to extend to commerce, to regulate speech in this way is like shutting the barn door after horse has escaped; and 2. because altho I dislike the present form of corporation, it is clear to me that they assume the place of the nobility in our current polity, and so for reasons of subsidiarity should be maintained. To muzzle them would be like withdrawing the Magna Carta. Indeed, many wealthy individuals, themselves, are a greater threat to an equal voice than most corporations. The best way, of course, to tackle the issue of the distribution of wealth is to increase the bank fractional reserve requirement and curtail the kind of shenanigans the Fed can pull. Corporations can be prevented from manipulating their shareholders by better securities regulation, and their employees, by REMOVING healthcare and pensions from their control, employee ownership being, I suppose, out of the question for the present.

    Bill Moyers is whining again that someone from the other side of the political spectrum, is trying to speak up. Well Bill, this isn't North Korea or Iran, your dream home.
    Free speech is for all, not just for democrats, unions run by the mob, Bill.

    It seems to me that the monied interests use their clout to lie and mislead and create fear. If a law were to state that any campaign ad had to have a counter-point of equal time prepared by the opposition and only time could be bought for which both sides could pay, that might cut down on the crap we see before elections. Both sides should be heard, no matter if the A party pays for the B side to get the A side out because of the weight of their argument.

    Bill Moyers is whining again that someone from the other side of the political spectrum, is trying to speak up. Well Bill, this isn't North Korea or Iran, your dream home.
    Free speech is for all, not just for democrats, unions run by the mob, Bill.

    What do we not understand about "We the People"? All our rights are spelled out in our founding documents. These rights and guarantees have as it's object "WE THE PEOPLE" No one and nothing else. Artificial entities are not a part of the equation. They need to find another source of expression.

    Bill,
    Toward the end of the piece I was hoping the issue of freedom of the press, and the fact that most of the mainstream press are corporate owned would have made an interesting issue to discuss. Maybe keep it in mind in the coming week.

    In my opinion you can give corporations the rights that people have when you can put a corporation in jail.

    Yes, on the surface, Mr. Abrams appears as a dunce, but his only real intention was not to make a rational argument, but rather to drum the buzz word "free speech" into the air waves, over and over, so that the numbskulls among us become brainwashed into thinking that this cretin is protecting free speech.

    I didn't hear Trevor Potter say it, but he did plenty of circumlocutions around it: One vote should represent one conscience.
    Consider a jury for compare. You wouldn't put a corporation in one seat and ask it for impartiality and an open mind, would you?

    Where in the Constitution does it say anyone else but "persons" have the right to free speech? Are organizations and corporations persons? Do they have the same legal rights and requirements as you and I? (Nike lied about sweat shops and the courts said they did not have to tell the truth)Read the Federalist Papers to see what the Founders thought. Google the 1886 Santa Clara vs. Southern Pacific Railroad and see if this influences your opinion.

    Thank you, Mr. Moyers for your brilliant and thoughtful commentary. It was sorely needed after a full hour of listening to the dinosaur, Eliot Abrams, argue that corporations are humans, and their billions in bribe money is the same as "speech". what torture.

    Is McCain/Feingold an issue of freedom of speech? No, and here is why: Corporate speech is already limited; if a corporation publishes a lie or fails to publish warnings about hazards associated with its products, it is liable for fraud.

    But political influence by corporations amounts to a conspiracy to obscure their liability by having politicians effect their otherwise prohibited actions or expressions. And politicians are easily influenced because they cannot be held criminally liable for their speech.

    Leo Toribio
    Pittsburgh, PA

    Also, Bill Moyers as usual is great. He always is democratic, intelligent, considerate, respectful, and fair in all issues he covers. Thank goodness we have something like this where there is civility, decorum, intellectual depth, and constructive dialogue on tough issues. This is exactly the model for true journalism that should be followed. Thank you!

    Is McCain/Feingold an issue of freedom of speech? No, and here is why: Corporate speech is already limited; if a corporation publishes a lie or fails to publish warnings about hazards associated with its products, it is liable for fraud.

    But political influence by corporations amounts to a conspiracy to obscure their liability by having politicians effect their otherwise prohibited actions or expressions. And politicians are easily influenced because they cannot be held criminally liable for their speech.

    Leo Toribio
    Pittsburgh, PA

    Also, Bill Moyers as usual is great. He always is democratic, intelligent, considerate, respectful, and fair in all issues he covers. Thank goodness we have something like this were there is civility, decorum, intellectual depth, and constructive dialogue on tough issues. This is exactly the model for true journalism that should be followed. Thank you!

    Floyd Abrams wants to give corporations more influence than they already have?

    Is he nuts?

    Who's pocket is he in?

    Crazy!

    Corporations are not people.

    No. Corportions and unions should NOT have the same free speech rights as individuals. 1) They are artifical entities. This is suppose to be a govt OF THE PEOPLE. 2) This is suppose to be a democracy, not a corptocracy. 3) Corporations/unions are comprised of employees. It's a conflict of interest to profit off the labor of individuals and also exploit them or "speak for them" as a collective with a particular political vent. It would have employees under duress if they completely disagree the with corp. The historical perspective has no basis here. We have a history of genocide, lack of civil rights, and racism toward individuals in the U.S. and globally. That certainly negates Abram's consistent weak reference to our "history" and the mythically perfect free speech value he purports exists.

    Compared to the right wing extremists on the tv and radio, Bill Moyers is relatively rational and level headed. At least you get to hear both sides of an issue on his show without him being rude to anyone who disagrees with him.

    Simple solution.

    The corporations want to be treated exactly like citizens, so let's oblige them. That would of course include subjecting corporations to the same penalties as citizens for breaking the law.

    If a corporation is convicted of theft, sentence them to «jail» terms which, because you can't put a «corporation» in jail, would have to be a complete closing down of its business(es) for the duration of said sentence. The death penalty should also apply which would mean dissolving a corporation, period end of story.

    This question of if corporations should have more freedom of speech. Corporations are run by their workers and their shareholders, that is many different opinions than just one or twenty of it most highest ranked people and its major shareholders. They can not be allowed to have any more than have now. The one or twenty people in the company are the only one(s) really benefiting from that. It should be illegal to use shareholder money for political reasons.

    I'm a member of a group who practices free speech in Union Square Park, NYC where we, citizens and people, are harassed by the police for using a bullhorn, even though the Supreme Court has already ruled this a violation of first amendment rights.
    Now, you want to give the same Corporations the NYC Police obey the right to use all their wealth to get THEIR MESSAGE across for political purposes. Not just no, but HELL NO!

    Wouldn't it be nice if the Supreme Court used this case to make all FUNDING of political speech during an election by anyone illegal? That would give every voter an EQUAL VOICE. Imagine that, democratic free speech. Maybe they would even go one step further and make all campaign funding illegal so every candidate would have an equal voice as well.

    Every candidate could publish all their positions in one election publication by the board of elections at public expense. Then the voter can vote. Fair is fair.

    Charles Michael Couch

    With so many right wing extremists on the tv and radio, I think Bill is a refreshing voice of reason and compassion. I thank those responsible for puting his show on the air. I believe that free speach is for everyone, but limits should be put on corporations who try to dictate public policy by buying influence in Washington.

    Bill Moyers is a complete disgrace to common sense journalism at the very best. At worst he is a communist political hack. Free speech is just that and it applies to all. Even those he backs and somehow leaves out, like Michael Moore and his film corporation. There is no rationing of free speech and you're not changing the constitution to get the opposition silenced. The government has more money than all the corporations combined. Put limits on the first amendment and they are the only ones who get to speak, just like communist governments. Bill Moyers is no more than a nattering nabob of the moronic socialist movement. I withdrawal my funding for PBS.

    Question on the board for consideration: "Should corportions and unions have the same free speech rights as individuals? Why or why not?

    Sorry, but this question is taken from some big bowl of crazy...

    Post a comment

    THE MOYERS BLOG is our forum for viewers' comments intended for discussing and debating ideas and issues raised on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL. THE MOYERS BLOG invites you to share your thoughts. We are committed to keeping an open discussion; in order to preserve a civil, respectful dialogue, our editors reserve the right to remove or alter any comments that we find unacceptable, for any reason. For more information, please click here.

    THE MOYERS BLOG
    A Companion Blog to Bill Moyers Journal

    Your Comments

    Podcasts

    THE JOURNAL offers a free podcast and vodcast of all weekly episodes. (help)

    Click to subscribe in iTunes

    Subscribe with another reader

    Get the vodcast (help)

    For Educators    About the Series    Bill Moyers on PBS   

    © Public Affairs Television 2008    Privacy Policy    DVD/VHS    Terms of Use    FAQ