How would Bernie Sanders's constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United actually work?

There is a valid justification for regulation of broadcast television, because there is only a finite number of channel-hours in the day: there’s only so much EM spectrum to go around, so it is a resource that needs to be rationed in some manner. The internet is not such a resource. There are literally hundreds of millions of “channels” simultaneously active, whose content is not restricted to a particular 1/24th of a second. It is functionally impossible for anyone except Google or Facebook to crowd out opposing speech on the internet.

And yet Google and Facebook exist.

I notice you still haven’t answered Richard Parker’s question.

Let’s rephrase it. Are you saying that Canada has laws minimizing the amount of money a person can spend expressing his believe that Stephen Harper is a horrible PM, such as say writing a book, commissioning a documentary, setting up the website Stephenharperisamoron.com or buying ads in media criticizing him even if that person doesn’t endorse another candidate or even explicitly tell people not to hot for him?

Yes or no?

I’m glad someone at least admits that there is a tension here between free speech and campaign-finance reform. Personally, I don’t want to go down the slippery slope of restricting political speech.

I don’t think they have thought it through. But if they are proposing to muzzle those groups, then I’m against it.

So if someone starts a nonprofit organization that’s basically the opposite of the Sierra Club, you would foresee there being no problem with the Kochs donating billions to that after this amendment is ratified? Don’t you see then how pointless this whole exercise would be?

As for Canada: my sister, my mother, my stepfather, my brother-in-law, and my niece and nephew are all Canadian citizens who have lived in that country for the past 20 years or more. Some of them used to brag on Canada being so much more progressive than the US., especially about 10 to 12 years ago. They have all shut up now, nearly a decade into the Stephen Harper era, except for my mother–who openly states that she was wrong to think that.

I’m merely responding the factual question.

Not sure what I think but my lean reading along so far is that this is not a meaningful stab at reform and more a silly something that feels good and does nothing.

I went overboard listing all of my Canadian relatives. To clarify, my niece and nephew are only five and seven years old, so they have not lived in Canada for twenty years, nor do they have opinions on politics.

That’s absurd.

Bear in mind that Democratic billionaires have outspent their Republican counterparts lately.

The 1st amendment is meant to be near absolute. If it’s not, then it’s not really a right, it’s just a statement of malleable principle.

THe Fairness Doctrine was a reasonable restriction in a time of limited airwaves, but with cable and the internet it no longer applies. It’s not that our interpretation of the 1st amendment became more absolute, it’s that technology changed, thus making what used to be reasonable restrictions to guarantee fairness on the few TV stations that existed would today be just speech restrictions for its own sake.

same goes for campaign finance. Campaign finance restrictions are entirely reasonable. The problem is that we found that restricting giving to campaigns just means that people can start their own campaigns. Or spend their own money on their own candidacies. The Supreme Court rightly said in 1976 that you can’t restrict the latter because there’s no compelling government interest at stake. A person can’t corrupt himself with his own money. And in 2010 the Supreme Court rightly said that you can’t restrict independent campaigning. There was no potential corruption issue with Hillary: the Movie. Now there could be some “independent” spending that isn’t, and Congress should attempt to address that by defining more clearly what constitutes coordination. It seems to me that these Super PACs the candidates are using are arms of the campaigns in all but name.

It seems a fairly clear distinction to me. An institution defined by law, created for specific purposes, with liabilities limited and fiduciary responsibilities prescribed by law, is clearly not the same thing as a natural person endowed with human rights which precede and define law.

It’s beside the point anyway, since individuals are the ones spending millions.

Presidential candidate James Earl Carter was a conservative.

Soooo, that means that Planned Parenthood offices can be searched without a warrant, since only persons have 4th amendment rights.

To the extent that doing so would not violate the privacy right of any person who might be a client of the organization. You would run afoul of that doctor-patient confidentiality rule, which I believe is still pretty strongly protected by the legal system.

That’s the rub. You can’t restrict corporate rights without also restricting individual rights.

You do come up with a good point occasionally!

No, it means that whatever arguments there are concerning how easy or hard it should be to search the Planned Parenthood offices, they are not automatically the same as the arguments concerning how easy or hard it should be to search a individual’s home.

Of course you can. We do it all the time. The fact that something is tricky and complicated and sometimes leads to ambiguity doesn’t mean that it’s impossible.

It’s a fundamental constitutional principle that I, as a US citizen, have the right to freely express my opinion. It’s also a useful legal concept to treat corporations as legal entities for purposes of signing contracts, being sued, etc. But there’s no reason to extend what is basically a useful legal fiction and treat corporations as equally protected by the 1st amendment. We could if we wanted to (and in general we do), but not doing so wouldn’t be depriving any actual person of their individual 1st amendment rights.

Not only does that not correlate in any way to what I said, it makes absolutely no sense. One of the main functions of LLC-type businesses is to insulate the participants from responsibility, so that they can invest money without fear of reprisal if the business gets in trouble. This makes a corporation very much not like a person, so they really ought not be subject to the same set of rights and responsibilities. Logically, the laws governing each should be free to vary independently wrt each other.

We give corporations some rights and not others. They don’t have a right against self-incrimination. They don’t get to vote. But they do get to speak.

It is not useful to defend or attack that principle by appeal to the analogy of corporation as person. It stands or falls on its own merits, which are simple: there’s not a very good reason for distinguishing between the rights of a partnership and the rights of a corporation when it comes to speech, and there is a good reason for thinking that restrictions on groups of people pooling their money together to speak would meaningfully limit free speech.

Indeed, forbidding corporate speech but allowing identical individual speech may well empower the billionaires even further. David Koch doesn’t need to pool his money with anyone else to produce a video. The people who donated to Citizens United probably do.

The strongest argument against corporate speech rights is the disconnect in accountability. It is harder to know who is speaking. But there are many ways to remedy that disconnect that do not implicate free speech: namely, disclosure requirements.

Do you ever get tired of being not only one of the most reasonable people on this MB, but also the one of the most articulate? :slight_smile: