Suppose you’re an agent in a tightly-regulated market — a dietitian in North Carolina, maybe. You have other regulated competitors, and you strive to out-do them and seize as much of their market share as possible: This is no cartel or oligopoly, no sir! You and your competitors don’t normally get along at a level beyond formal politeness, except maybe at the hotel bar after a day of trade-conferencing. But should someone come along and suggest deregulating your market, well, that’s different. Of course you and your competitors are going to band together to make sure the populace is aware of the benefits of artificially restricting the size and scope of your competition… er, that is, of carefully regulating this vital sector of the market in the best interests of the public good. Yeah, that’s it.
Is it any surprise, then, to discover a chronicle of the established media’s hysterical distortions of the Citizens United ruling? After all, before Citizens United, corporations were heavily restricted from political speech… that is, unless they were news corporations, in which case how dare you suggest that they’re not protected by the First Amendment!
Jacob Sullum, who reads Mediaite so that I don’t have to, has the details:
Abrams highlights two common misconceptions: 1) that Citizens United abolished disclosure requirements, when in fact it explicitly upheld them, and 2) that Citizens United let rich people spend unlimited amounts of their own money on political messages—a right they have always had, as recognized in the 1976 decision Buckley v. Valeo.
I have also been amazed at the vitriol directed at my civil libertarian dad from the left over his defense of a constitutional principle he firmly believes in. Defend a Nazi’s right to march? No problem. Defend the most repugnant members of our society’s right to speak? Absolutely. Defend a corporation’s right to engage in the political process? Inexcusable.
Sullum leaves out the part that’s always confused me about the left-progressive hate party against the Citizens United ruling: Citizens United, the organization that launched the challenge, is a non-profit. As I understand it, the biggest beneficiaries of the decision, in terms of money actually spent on political speech, have been unions. The backlash against Citizens United is as hypocritical as it is mendacious.