Get It Right: I do love the 1st Amendment…

Opinion by Erica Morgan
Jan. 27, 2010, 12:00 a.m.

Will history remember January 21, 2010 as the day that democracy perished? You might be inclined to think so, given the turbulent liberal reaction to the Supreme Court ruling last Thursday. A close vote (5-4) overruled prior limits on political campaign spending by corporations and labor unions. The decision of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission overturned two legal precedents of government restrictions, and lifted constraints on corporate investment in political broadcasts.

The current upheaval stems from the creation of the film Hillary: The Movie by nonprofit organization Citizens United. The film was banned on the premise that it served no purpose but to damage the reputation of Clinton.  The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 forbade the use of independent expenditures by corporations to support or discredit a candidate. Hillary: The Movie violated this regulation it seems.  Loathe though I am to admit that I would waste any moment of my life giving the benefit of my thought to Hillary Clinton, I confess that I have ordered the movie and will be watching it upon arrival—I am hoping it will lend further insight to the current hoopla. Citizens United claims that the film is a fact-based documentary. I suppose that remains to be seen, but I think the point is irrelevant. Pretend, for the moment, that the film is the most inflammatory, unfounded, reel of political bombast ever created. Does the government have the right to prevent its release? There are obviously some who think so: our president and four Supreme Court justices to name just a few.

Obama cannot think of “anything more devastating to the public interest” than this ruling. Truly a man of the people, Obama is devastated at the thought of the malignant, all-powerful corporations utilizing their filthy profits to sway public opinion come election-time. He cannot allow corporate money to corrupt the voice of the people in true democracy. He promises to “fight for the American people” and “repair the damage.” What I want to know is this: if Obama is so opposed to the political influence wielded by affluent corporations, why did he accept such generous campaign contributions from companies such as Goldman Sachs, Microsoft Corp, and JP Morgan? The question is rhetorical: we should not be surprised, considering Obama’s track record of blatant hypocrisy. The president sees this ruling as problematic because it poses threats to his political agenda. As Yahoo!News observes, “…the decision will make it harder to enact financial reforms, close tax loopholes, promote energy independence and protect patients from insurance company abuses.” Obama is not concerned with preserving democracy and protecting the voices of his constituents.

True protection comes in the form of the First Amendment, which was thankfully reinforced with this ruling last week. Justice Kennedy wrote, “When government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought….The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.” Many are blustering over the treatment of a corporation as an individual being extended 1st Amendment rights.  What of media corporations? If the government can dictate the content of political commentary of Citizens United, why can it not dictate that of newspapers, T.V. programs and books? Oh, wait! Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart (representative for the Federal Election Commission) suggested that the government should have the power to ban books funded by unions and corporations based on political content.

While they naysayers flail their limbs in despair and offer lip service to Democracy’s eulogy, I am quite contentedly exercising my right of free speech.

Join me for a viewing of Hilary: the Movie? [email protected]

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