It breaks down into three major categories:
- The Former Media Monopoly — This includes the New York Times and MSNBC. You’ll find their exemption under U.S.C §431(9)(B)(i). Their howling has included some great moments in hypocrisy.
The New York Times (whom you’ll recall as the petitioner who claimed the first amendment rights of its corporation had been violated in New York Times v Sullivan) opined: “Most wrongheaded of all is its insistence that corporations are just like people and entitled to the same First Amendment rights.” Since this was an unsigned editorial, this is a corporation complaining that corporations shouldn’t have first amendment rights. Of course, they’re exempted.
Keith “You Sir” Olbermann, in a special comment assailed the decision with the personhood argument. His comment is actually a work for hire, the property of a corporation and disseminated by it; but of course, they’re exempted. If they weren’t exempted, they’d be first in line with an amicus brief for Citizens United.
- Those in Under The Wire — In 2005, the chilling effects to first amendment speech was clearly seen by the blogosphere. The Internet isn’t even mentioned in the media exceptions of BCRA, but the blogosphere wound up almost entirely exempted by an administrative decision of the FEC. As such, the FEC under another board, could change its mind. If it had decided otherwise in 2005, bloggers would have fought for first-in-line position to deliver amicus briefs along with legacy media.
- The Exempted Political Idea Industry — This howling appears the loudest to those of us on a myriad of political action lists. This is another monopoly seeing itself lose power. Their exemption came through their ability to navigate the complicated work-arounds that resulted in the lawyered-up’s ability to express political opinions on behalf of the people paying them to do so. They’re the middlemen now cut out because anybody can go to a media distributor and buy time, or go to a computer store and buy DVD blanks and fill them with political commentary.
Poltitical contribution laws were out of step with the way media is changing. It resulted in Citizens United not being able to spew a load of crap, while Fox News does essentially the same thing every day.
It causes folks like Margaret McIntyre to be fined a hundred dollars for expressing her speech, while the Swiftboaters get awards.
The politically protected pundits can’t seem to agree what the effects of this will be. Perhaps we’ll hear nothing but corporate shills morn ’til night, perhaps we won’t.
But one thing it will do is change the game in a big way, because this decision gave a lot of freedom to a lot of people, and took away a lot of monopolies from a privileged few and its been those privileged few responsible for most of the noise that’s being made.
One of the most important cases regarding mass political discourse was argued before an unusual early session of the Supreme Court Wednesday last. The case is Citizens United v. The Federal Elections Commission (FEC), and the ultimate decision may rewrite campaign finance law. Common Cause is justifiably concerned, but they’re just not being honest about the fundamental issue that made SCOTUS revisit the whole question of campaign regulation.
This is first and foremost a first amendment question. You see that clearly in the amicus brief from the American Civil Liberties Union:
This case involves core political speech protected by the First Amendment, long recognized as a fundamental foundation of our democracy. Such core political speech enjoys the maximum possible protection under our Constitution. Yet a federal agency claims the legal authority to prohibit the broadcast of such core political speech. We submit that this Court should redouble its vigilance in protecting the fundamental freedom in this case so essential to our very democracy and self-governance, and our very nature as a free people.
It’s very possible, listening to Common Cause, that you wouldn’t even know the First Amendment is involved. If you joined their webchat expecting to hear the facts in the case addressed, you’d discover the words “First Amendment” never appeared in the discussion, though they did receive questions about it.
Here’s the problem:
U. S. C. §431(9)(B)(i)
The term “expenditure” does not include—
(i) any news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, unless such facilities are owned or controlled by any political party, political committee, or candidate;
So the good old boy media gets to say what it wants, even if some of that media (I’m talking to you, Fox) is so close to being owned or controlled by a political party or committee that it’s a distinction without a difference. But Common Cause doesn’t want you to think about this, even though they assure me in private email that they believe they did talk about the first amendment and “freedom of speech” in the chat.
Common Cause claims they’re writing responses to the comments they didn’t get to, though none appears to have been posted yet. Meanwhile, they’re sending out letters begging for money that still fail to acknowledge there are substantial first amendment issues here and a new media landscape that in itself could be a game-changer.
The computer media revolution that made video production on a laptop the equal of million dollar motion picture methods makes U. S. C. §431(9)(B)(i) capriciously discriminatory. Striking it down would result in some really reprehensible pieces of documentary style trash, for which I assume Hillary: The Movie is a prime example.
But that’s the way things work in a free media environment. Common Cause needs to argue its position as an honest broker. Not try to stack the deck by refusing to acknowledge the very facts in the case that troubled the high court in the first place.