Sunday, January 24, 2010

False facts, misplaced priorities, rotten decision

Our Supreme Court judges are called Justices, not Fundamentalists, because their profession is to respect underlying universal ethical principles of social welfare rooted in empiricism, not to mechanically and superficially apply literal readings of old laws without regard to the logical implications and empirical realities of the current social context. The majority's radical 5-4 ruling this week in "Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission" relied heavily on the fiction that corporations are indistinguishable from voluntary political associations of citizens (such as Political Action Committees) to reach the foolish and unreasonable conclusion that corporations should have the same 1st amendment protections as individual citizens. To support their disingenuous first amendment rationale, they created various supplemental falsehoods, including the fictions that large sums of money have no corrupting influence on politicians absent proof of a quid pro quo, that corporate policy is democratically controlled by shareholders, and that the law they struck down "banned" corporate political spending. They also overlooked or ignored relevant facts, such as the facts that shareholder's economic interests compromise their ability to act on their political convictions and widespread stock ownership via mutual funds makes it more difficult both to monitor and to alter particular holdings.

Justice Stevens, in a lengthy, clear, and relatively easy to understand (despite some legal citations and jargon), dissent joined by the remaining three Justices, had no difficulty identifying the obvious false factual basis and misplaced priorities of the five Fundamentalists whose overreaching ruling parodied our constitution with their cynically superficial "free-speech" arguments. The dissent burst the majorities 1st amendment hot air balloon in one sentence: "Take away the ability to use general treasury funds for some of those ads, and no one’s autonomy, dignity, or political equality has been impinged upon in the least." Because of the historical importance of this decision, the enormity of its failures, and the threat to our democracy that these Fundamentalists sitting as Supreme Court Justices potentially pose, I quote excerpts of the dissent in this blog:

".... Citizens United is a wealthy nonprofit corporation that runs a political action committee (PAC) with millions of dollars in assets. Under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), it could have used those assets to televise and promote Hillary: The Movie wherever and whenever it wanted to before the last primary election. Neither Citizens United’s nor any other corporation’s speech has been “banned,” ante, at 1. All that the parties dispute is whether Citizens United had a right to use the funds in its general treasury to pay for broadcasts during the 30-day period. The notion that the First Amendment dictates an affirmative answer to that question is, in my judgment, profoundly misguided. Even more misguided is the notion that the Court must rewrite the law relating to campaign expenditures by for-profit corporations and unions to decide this case."

"The basic premise underlying the Court’s ruling is its iteration, and constant reiteration, of the proposition that the First Amendment bars regulatory distinctions based on a speaker’s identity, including its “identity” as a corporation. While that glittering generality has rhetorical appeal, it is not a correct statement of the law. Nor does it tell us when a corporation may engage in electioneering that some of its shareholders oppose. It does not even resolve the specific question whether Citizens United may be required to finance some of its messages with the money in its PAC. The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court’s disposition of this case."

"In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant. Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters. The financial resources, legal structure, and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process. Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races."

"....Had Citizens United maintained a facial challenge, and thus argued that there are virtually no circumstances in which BCRA §203 can be applied constitutionally, the parties could have developed, through the normal process of litigation, a record about the actual effects of §203, its actual burdens and its actual benefits, on all manner of corporations and unions.4 Claims of facial invalidity often rest on speculation,” and consequently “raise the risk of premature interpretation of statutes on the basis of factually barebones records.” Id., at 450 (internal quotation marks omitted). In this case, the record is not simply incomplete or unsatisfactory; it is nonexistent. Congress crafted BCRA in response to a virtual mountain of research on the corruption that previous legislation had failed to avert. The Court now negates Congress’ efforts without a shred of evidence on how §203 or its state-law counterparts have been affecting any entity other than Citizens United.5"

"....It is all the more distressing that our colleagues have manufactured a facial challenge, because the parties have advanced numerous ways to resolve the case that would facilitate electioneering by nonprofit advocacy corporations such as Citizens United, without toppling statutes and precedents. Which is to say, the majority has transgressed yet another “cardinal” principle of the judicial process: “[I]f it is not necessary to decide more, it is necessary not to decide more,” PDK Labs., Inc. v. Drug Enforcement Admin., 362 F. 3d 786, 799 (CADC 2004) (Roberts, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment)."

"Consider just three of the narrower grounds of decision that the majority has bypassed. First, the Court could have ruled, on statutory grounds, that a feature-length film distributed through video-on-demand does not qualify as an “electioneering communication” under §203 of BCRA, 2 U. S. C. §441b. BCRA defines that term to encompass certain communications transmitted by “broadcast, cable, or satellite.” §434(f)(3)(A). When Congress was developing BCRA, the video-on-demand medium was still in its infancy, and legislators were focused on a very different sort of programming: short advertisements run in television or radio. See McConnell, 540 U. S., at 207. The sponsors of BCRA acknowledge that the FEC’s implementing regulations do not clearly apply to video-on demand transmissions. See Brief for Senator John McCain et al. as Amici Curiae 17–19. In light of this ambiguity, the distinctive characteristics of video-on demand, and “[t]he elementary rule . . . that every reasonable construction must be resorted to, in order to save a statute from unconstitutionality,” Hooper v. California, 155 U. S. 648, 657 (1895), the Court could have reasonably ruled that §203 does not apply to Hillary."

"Second, the Court could have expanded the MCFL exemption to cover §501(c)(4) nonprofits that accept only a de minimis amount of money from for-profit corporations. Citizens United professes to be such a group: Its brief says
it “is funded predominantly by donations from individuals who support [its] ideological message.” Brief for Appellant5. Numerous Courts of Appeal have held that de minimis business support does not, in itself, remove an otherwise
qualifying organization from the ambit of MCFL.14 This Court could have simply followed their lead.15"

"Finally, let us not forget Citizens United’s as-applied constitutional challenge. Precisely because Citizens United looks so much like the MCFL organizations we have exempted from regulation, while a feature-length video-on-demand film looks so unlike the types of electoral advocacy Congress has found deserving of regulation, this challenge is a substantial one. As the appellant’s own arguments show, the Court could have easily limited the breadth of its constitutional holding had it declined to adopt the novel notion that speakers and speech acts must always be treated identically—and always spared expenditures restrictions—in the political realm. Yet the Court nonetheless turns its back on the as-applied review process that has been a staple of campaign finance litigation since Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1 (1976) (per curiam), and that was affirmed and expanded just two Terms ago in
WRTL, 551 U. S. 449."

" ....Our cases have repeatedly pointed out that, “[c]ontrary to the [majority’s] critical assumptions,” the statutes upheld in Austin and McConnell do “not impose an absolute ban on all forms of corporate political spending.” Austin, 494 U. S., at 660; see also McConnell, 540 U. S., at 203–204; Beaumont, 539 U. S., at 162–163. For starters, both statutes provide exemptions for PACs, separate segregated funds established by a corporation for political purposes. See 2 U. S. C. §441b(b)(2)(C); Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §169.255 (West 2005). “The ability to form and administer separate segregated funds,” we observed in McConnell, “has provided corporations and unions with a constitutionally sufficient opportunity to engage in express advocacy. That has been this Court’s unanimous view.” 540 U. S., at 203. "

"The laws upheld in Austin and McConnell leave open many additional avenues for corporations’ political speech. Consider the statutory provision we are ostensibly evaluating in this case, BCRA §203. It has no application to genuine issue advertising—a category of corporate speech Congress found to be far more substantial than electionrelated advertising, see McConnell, 540 U. S., at 207—or to Internet, telephone, and print advocacy.31 Like numerous statutes, it exempts media companies’ news stories, commentaries, and editorials from its electioneering restrictions, in recognition of the unique role played by the institutional press in sustaining public debate.32 See 2 U. S. C. §434(f)(3)(B)(i); McConnell, 540 U. S., at 208–209; see also Austin, 494 U. S., at 666–668. It also allows corporations to spend unlimited sums on political communications with their executives and shareholders, §441b(b)(2)(A); 11 CFR §114.3(a)(1), to fund additional PAC activity through trade associations, 2 U. S. C. §441b(b)(4)(D), to distribute voting guides and voting records, 11 CFR §§114.4(c)(4)–(5), to underwrite voter registration and voter turnout activities, §114.3(c)(4);§114.4(c)(2), to host fundraising events for candidates within certain limits, §114.4(c); §114.2(f)(2), and to publicly endorse candidates through a press release and press conference, §114.4(c)(6)."

"At the time Citizens United brought this lawsuit, the only types of speech that could be regulated under §203 were: (1) broadcast, cable, or satellite communications;33 (2) capable of reaching at least 50,000 persons in the relevant electorate;34 (3) made within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general federal election;35 (4) by a labor union or a non-MCFL, nonmedia corporation;36 (5) paid for with general treasury funds; and (6) “susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate.”38 ..."

"So let us be clear: Neither Austin nor McConnell held or implied that corporations may be silenced; the FEC is not a “censor”; and in the years since these cases were decided, corporations have continued to play a major role in the national dialogue. Laws such as §203 target a class of communications that is especially likely to corrupt the political process, that is at least one degree removed from the views of individual citizens, and that may not even reflect the views of those who pay for it. Such laws burden political speech, and that is always a serious matter, demanding careful scrutiny. But the majority’s incessant talk of a “ban” aims at a straw man."

"....Campaign finance distinctions based on corporate identity tend to be less worrisome, in other words, because the “speakers” are not natural persons, much less members of our political community, and the governmental interests are of the highest order. Furthermore, when corporations, as a class, are distinguished from noncorporations, as a class, there is a lesser risk that regulatory distinctions will reflect invidious discrimination or political favoritism."

"....49).51 Under the majority’s view, I suppose it may be a First Amendment problem that corporations are not permitted to vote, given that voting is, among other things, a form of speech."

"In short, the Court dramatically overstates its critique of identity-based distinctions, without ever explaining why corporate identity demands the same treatment as individual identity. Only the most wooden approach to the First Amendment could justify the unprecedented line it seeks to draw."

"The Framers thus took it as a given that corporations could be comprehensively regulated in the service of the public welfare. Unlike our colleagues, they had little trouble distinguishing corporations from human beings, and when they constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans that they had in mind.55 While individuals might join together to exercise their speech rights, business corporations, at least, were plainly not seen as facilitating such associational or expressive ends. Even “the notion that business corporations could invoke the First Amendment would probably have been quite a novelty," given that “at the time, the legitimacy of every corporate activity was thought to rest entirely in a concession of the sovereign.” Shelledy, Autonomy, Debate, and Corporate Speech, 18 Hastings Const. L. Q. 541, 578 (1991); cf. Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 4 Wheat. 518, 636 (1819) (Marshall, C. J.) (“A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law. Being the mere creature of law, it possesses only those properties which the charter of its creation confers upon it”); Eule, Promoting Speaker Diversity: Austin and Metro Broadcasting, 1990 S. Ct. Rev. 105, 129 (“The framers of the First Amendment could scarcely have anticipated its application to the corporation form. That, of course, ought not to be dispositive. What is compelling, however, is an understanding of who was supposed to be the beneficiary of the free speech guaranty—the individual”). In light of these background practices and under standings, it seems to me implausible that the Framers believed “the freedom of speech” would extend equally to all corporate speakers, much less that it would preclude legislatures from taking limited measures to guard against corporate capture of elections."

"....Although JUSTICE SCALIA makes a perfectly sensible argument that an individual’s right to speak entails a right to speak with others for a common cause, cf. MCFL, 479 U. S. 238, he does not explain why those two rights must be precisely identical, or why that principle applies to electioneering by corporations that serve no “common cause.”"

"JUSTICE SCALIA also emphasizes the unqualified nature of the First Amendment text. Ante, at 2, 8. Yet he would seemingly read out the Free Press Clause: How else could he claim that my purported views on newspapers must track my views on corporations generally? Ante, at 6.57 Like virtually all modern lawyers, JUSTICE SCALIA presumably believes that the First Amendment restricts the Executive, even though its language refers to Congress alone. In any event, the text only leads us back to the questions who or what is guaranteed “the freedom of speech,” and, just as critically, what that freedom consists of and under what circumstances it may be limited. JUSTICE SCALIA appears to believe that because corporations are created and utilized by individuals, it follows (as night the day) that their electioneering must be equally protected by the First Amendment and equally immunized from expenditure limits. See ante, at 7–8. That conclusion certainly does not follow as a logical matter, and JUSTICE SCALIA fails to explain why the original public meaning leads it to follow as a matter of interpretation."

"The Court has surveyed the history leading up to the Tillman Act several times, see WRTL, 551 U. S., at 508–510 (Souter, J., dissenting); McConnell, 540 U. S., at 115; Automobile Workers, 352 U. S., at 570–575, and I will refrain from doing so again. It is enough to say that the Act was primarily driven by two pressing concerns: first, the enormous power corporations had come to wield in federal elections, with the accompanying threat of both actual corruption and a public perception of corruption; and second, a respect for the interest of shareholders and members in preventing the use of their money to support candidates they opposed. See ibid.; United States v. CIO, 335 U. S. 106, 113 (1948); Winkler, “Other People’s Money”: Corporations, Agency Costs, and Campaign Finance Law, 92 Geo. L. J. 871 (2004)."

".... The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 is of special significance for this case. In that Act passed more than 60 years ago, Congress extended the prohibition on corporate support of candidates to cover not only direct contributions, but independent expenditures as well. Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, §304, 61 Stat. 159. The bar on contributions “was being so narrowly construed” that corporations were easily able to defeat the purposes of the Act by supporting candidates through other means. WRTL, 551 U. S., at 511 (Souter, J., dissenting) (citing S. Rep. No. 1, 80th Cong., 1st Sess., 38–39 (1947))."

"After Buckley, corporations and unions figured out how to circumvent the limits on express advocacy by using sham “issue ads” that “eschewed the use of magic words” but nonetheless “advocate[d] the election or defeat of clearly identified federal candidates.” McConnell, 540 U. S., at 126. “Corporations and unions spent hundreds of millions of dollars of their general funds to pay for these ads.” Id., at 127. Congress passed §203 to address this circumvention, prohibiting corporations and unions from using general treasury funds for electioneering communications that “refe[r] to a clearly identified candidate,” whether or not those communications use the magic words. 2 U. S. C. §434(f)(3)(A)(i)(I). "

"When we asked in McConnell “whether a compelling governmental interest justifie[d]” §203, we found the question “easily answered”: “We have repeatedly sustained legislation aimed at ‘the corrosive and distorting effects of immense aggregations of wealth that are accumulated with the help of the corporate form and that have little or no correlation to the public’s support for the corporation’s political ideas.’ ” 540 U. S., at 205 (quoting Austin, 494 U. S., at 660)."

"The case on which the majority places even greater weight than Buckley, however, is Bellotti, 435 U. S. 765, claiming it “could not have been clearer” that Bellotti’s holding forbade distinctions between corporate and individual expenditures like the one at issue here, ante, at 30. The Court’s reliance is odd. The only thing about Bellotti that could not be clearer is that it declined to adopt the majority’s position. Bellotti ruled, in an explicit limitation on the scope of its holding, that “our consideration of a corporation’s right to speak on issues of general public interest implies no comparable right in the quite different context of participation in a political campaign for election to public office.” 435 U. S., at 788, n. 26; see also id., at 787–788 (acknowledging that the interests in preserving public confidence in Government and protecting dissenting shareholders may be “weighty . . . in the context of partisan candidate elections”). Bellotti, in other words, did not touch the question presented in Austin and McConnell, and the opinion squarely disavowed the proposition for which the majority cites it. "

"The majority attempts to explain away the distinction Bellotti drew—between general corporate speech and campaign speech intended to promote or prevent the election of specific candidates for office—as inconsistent with the rest of the opinion and with Buckley. Ante, at 31, 42–44. Yet the basis for this distinction is perfectly coherent: The anticorruption interests that animate regulations of corporate participation in candidate elections, the “importance” of which “has never been doubted,” 435 U. S., at788, n. 26, do not apply equally to regulations of corporate participation in referenda. A referendum cannot owe a political debt to a corporation, seek to curry favor with a corporation, or fear the corporation’s retaliation. Cf. Austin, 494 U. S., at 678 (STEVENS, J., concurring); Citizens Against Rent Control/Coalition for Fair Housing v. Berkeley, 454 U. S. 290, 299 (1981). The majority likewise overlooks the fact that, over the past 30 years, our cases have repeatedly recognized the candidate/issue distinction. See, e.g., Austin, 494 U. S., at 659; NCPAC, 470 U. S., at 495–496; FCC v. League of Women Voters of Cal., 468 U. S. 364, 371, n. 9 (1984); NRWC, 459 U. S., at 210, n. 7. The Court’s critique of Bellotti’s footnote 26 puts it in the strange position of trying to elevate Bellotti to canonical status, while simultaneously disparaging a critical piece of its analysis as unsupported and irreconcilable with Buckley. Bellotti, apparently, is both the font of all wisdom and internally incoherent."

"The Bellotti Court confronted a dramatically different factual situation from the one that confronts us in this case: a state statute that barred business corporations’ expenditures on some referenda but not others. Specifically, the statute barred a business corporation “from making contributions or expenditures ‘for the purpose of . . . influencing or affecting the vote on any question submitted to the voters, other than one materially affecting any of the property, business or assets of the corporation,’ ” 435 U. S., at 768 (quoting Mass. Gen. Laws Ann., ch. 55, §8 (West Supp. 1977); alteration in original), and it went so far as to provide that referenda related to income taxation would not “ ‘be deemed materially to affect the property, business or assets of the corporation,’ ” 435 U. S., at 768. As might be guessed, the legislature had enacted this statute in order to limit corporate speech on a proposed state constitutional amendment to authorize a graduated income tax. The statute was a transparent attempt to prevent corporations from spending money to defeat this amendment, which was favored by a majority of legislators but had been repeatedly rejected by the voters. See id., at 769–770, and n. 3. We said that “where, as here, the legislature’s suppression of speech suggests an attempt to give one side of a debatable public question an advantage in expressing its views to the people, the First Amendment is plainly offended.” Id., at 785–786 (footnote omitted)."

Bellotti thus involved a viewpoint-discriminatory statute, created to effect a particular policy outcome. Even Justice Rehnquist, in dissent, had to acknowledge that “avery persuasive argument could be made that the [Massachusetts Legislature], desiring to impose a personal income tax but more than once defeated in that desire by the combination of the Commonwealth’s referendum provision and corporate expenditures in opposition to such a tax, simply decided to muzzle corporations on this sort of issue so that it could succeed in its desire.” Id., at 827, n. 6. To make matters worse, the law at issue did not make any allowance for corporations to spend money through PACs. Id., at 768, n. 2 (opinion of the Court). This really was a complete ban on a specific, preidentified subject. See MCFL, 479 U. S., at 259, n. 12 (stating that 2 U. S. C.§441b’s expenditure restriction “is of course distinguishable from the complete foreclosure of any opportunity for political speech that we invalidated in the state referendum context in . . . Bellotti” (emphasis added))."

"The majority grasps a quotational straw from Bellotti, that speech does not fall entirely outside the protection of the First Amendment merely because it comes from a corporation. Ante, at 30–31. Of course not, but no one suggests the contrary and neither Austin nor McConnell held otherwise. They held that even though the expenditures at issue were subject to First Amendment scrutiny, the restrictions on those expenditures were justified by a compelling state interest. See McConnell, 540 U. S., at 205; Austin, 494 U. S., at 658, 660. We acknowledged in Bellotti that numerous “interests of the highest importance” can justify campaign finance regulation. 435 U. S., at 788–789. But we found no evidence that these interests were served by the Massachusetts law. Id., at 789. We left open the possibility that our decision might have been different if there had been “record or legislative findings that corporate advocacy threatened imminently to under mine democratic processes, thereby denigrating rather than serving First Amendment interests.” Ibid.

"In sum, over the course of the past century Congress has demonstrated a recurrent need to regulate corporate participation in candidate elections to “ ‘[p]reserv[e] the integrity of the electoral process, preven[t] corruption, . . . sustai[n] the active, alert responsibility of the individual citizen,’ ” protect the expressive interests of shareholders, and “ ‘[p]reserv[e] . . . the individual citizen’s confidence in government.’ ” McConnell, 540 U. S., at 206–207, n. 88 (quoting Bellotti, 435 U. S., at 788–789; first alteration in original) ...."

"The majority’s rejection of the Buckley anticorruption rationale on the ground that independent corporate expenditures “do not give rise to [quid pro quo] corruption or the appearance of corruption,” ante, at 42, is thus unfair as well as unreasonable. Congress and outside experts have generated significant evidence corroborating this rationale, and the only reason we do not have any of the relevant materials before us is that the Government had no reason to develop a record at trial for a facial challenge the plaintiff had abandoned. The Court cannot both sua sponte choose to relitigate McConnell on appeal and then complain that the Government has failed to substantiate its case. If our colleagues were really serious about the interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption, they would remand to the District Court with instructions to commence evidentiary proceedings.66 "

"Rather than show any deference to a coordinate branch of Government, the majority thus rejects the anticorruption rationale without serious analysis.67 Today’s opinion provides no clear rationale for being so dismissive of Congress, but the prior individual opinions on which it relies have offered one: the incentives of the legislators who passed BCRA. Section 203, our colleagues have suggested, may be little more than “an incumbency protection plan,” McConnell, 540 U. S., at 306 (KENNEDY, J., concurring in judgment in part and dissenting in part); see also id., at 249–250, 260–263 (SCALIA, J., concurring in part, concur ring in judgment in part, and dissenting in part), a disreputable attempt at legislative self-dealing rather than an earnest effort to facilitate First Amendment values and safeguard the legitimacy of our political system. This possibility, the Court apparently believes, licenses it to run roughshod over Congress’ handiwork."

"We have no record evidence from which to conclude that BCRA §203, or any of the dozens of state laws that the Court today calls into question, reflects or fosters such invidious discrimination. Our colleagues have opined that “ ‘any restriction upon a type of campaign speech that is equally available to challengers and incumbents tends to favor incumbents.’ ” McConnell, 540 U. S., at 249 (opinion of SCALIA, J.). This kind of airy speculation could easily be turned on its head. The electioneering prohibited by §203 might well tend to favor incumbents, because incumbents have pre-existing relationships with corporations and unions, and groups that wish to procure legislative benefits may tend to support the candidate who, as a sitting officeholder, is already in a position to dispense benefits and is statistically likely to retain office. If a corporation’s goal is to induce officeholders to do its bidding, the corporation would do well to cultivate stable, long-term relationships of dependency. "

"So we do not have a solid theoretical basis for condemning §203 as a front for incumbent self-protection, and it seems equally if not more plausible that restrictions on corporate electioneering will be self-denying. Nor do we have a good empirical case for skepticism, as the Court’s failure to cite any empirical research attests. Nor does the legislative history give reason for concern. Congress devoted years of careful study to the issues underlying BCRA; “[f]ew legislative proposals in recent years have received as much sustained public commentary or news coverage”; “[p]olitical scientists and academic experts . . . with no self-interest in incumbent protectio[n] were central figures in pressing the case for BCRA”; and the legislation commanded bipartisan support from the outset. Pildes, The Supreme Court 2003 Term Foreword: The Constitutionalization of Democratic Politics, 118 Harv. L. Rev. 28, 137 (2004). Finally, it is important to remember just how incumbent-friendly congressional races were prior to BCRA’s passage. As the Solicitor General aptly remarked at the time, “the evidence supports overwhelmingly that incumbents were able to get re-elected under the old system just fine.” Tr. of Oral Arg. in McConnell v. FEC, O. T. 2003, No. 02–1674, p. 61. “It would be hard to develop a scheme that could be better for incumbents.” Id., at 63. "

"Just as the majority gives short shrift to the general societal interests at stake in campaign finance regulation, it also overlooks the distinctive considerations raised by the regulation of corporate expenditures. The majority fails to appreciate that Austin’s antidistortion rationale is itself an anticorruption rationale, see 494 U. S., at 660 (describing “a different type of corruption”), tied to the special concerns raised by corporations. Understood properly, “antidistortion” is simply a variant on the classic governmental interest in protecting against improper influences on officeholders that debilitate the democratic process. It is manifestly not just an “ ‘equalizing’ ” ideal in disguise. Ante, at 34 (quoting Buckley, 424 U. S., at 48).69 "

"The fact that corporations are different from human beings might seem to need no elaboration, except that the majority opinion almost completely elides it. Austin set forth some of the basic differences. Unlike natural persons, corporations have “limited liability” for their owners and managers, “perpetual life,” separation of ownership and control, “and favorable treatment of the accumulation and distribution of assets . . . that enhance their ability to attract capital and to deploy their resources in ways that maximize the return on their shareholders’ investments.” 494 U. S., at 658–659. Unlike voters in U. S. elections, corporations may be foreign controlled.70 Unlike other interest groups, business corporations have been “effectively delegated responsibility for ensuring society’s economic welfare”;71 they inescapably structure the life of every citizen. “ ‘[T]he resources in the treasury of a business corporation,’ ” furthermore, “ ‘are not an indication of popular support for the corporation’s political ideas.’ ” Id., at 659 (quoting MCFL, 479 U. S., at 258). “ ‘They reflect instead the economically motivated decisions of investors and customers. The availability of these resources may make a corporation a formidable political presence, even though the power of the corporation may be no reflection of the power of its ideas.’ ” 494 U. S., at 659 (quoting MCFL, 479 U. S., at 258)"

"It might also be added that corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their “personhood” often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of “We the People” by whom and for whom our Constitution was established."

"It is an interesting question “who” is even speaking when a business corporation places an advertisement that endorses or attacks a particular candidate. Presumably it is not the customers or employees, who typically have no say in such matters. It cannot realistically be said to be the shareholders, who tend to be far removed from the day-to-day decisions of the firm and whose political preferences may be opaque to management. Perhaps the officers or directors of the corporation have the best claim to be the ones speaking, except their fiduciary duties generally prohibit them from using corporate funds for personal ends. Some individuals associated with the corporation must make the decision to place the ad, but the idea that these individuals are thereby fostering their self expression or cultivating their critical faculties is fanciful. It is entirely possible that the corporation’s electoral message will conflict with their personal convictions. Take away the ability to use general treasury funds for some of those ads, and no one’s autonomy, dignity, or political equality has been impinged upon in the least."

"In this transactional spirit, some corporations have affirmatively urged Congress to place limits on their elecioneering communications. These corporations fear that officeholders will shake them down for supportive ads, that they will have to spend increasing sums on elections in an ever-escalating arms race with their competitors, and that public trust in business will be eroded. See id., at 10–19. A system that effectively forces corporations to use their shareholders’ money both to maintain access to, and to avoid retribution from, elected officials may ultimately prove more harmful than beneficial to many corporations. It can impose a kind of implicit tax.73"

"The Court’s blinkered and aphoristic approach to the First Amendment may well promote corporate power at the cost of the individual and collective self-expression the Amendment was meant to serve. It will undoubtedly cripple the ability of ordinary citizens, Congress, and the States to adopt even limited measures to protect against corporate domination of the electoral process. Americans may be forgiven if they do not feel the Court has advanced the cause of self-government today. "

"There is yet another way in which laws such as §203 can serve First Amendment values. Interwoven with Austin’s concern to protect the integrity of the electoral process is a concern to protect the rights of shareholders from a kind of coerced speech: electioneering expenditures that do not “reflec[t] [their] support.” 494 U. S., at 660–661. When corporations use general treasury funds to praise or attack a particular candidate for office, it is the shareholders, as the residual claimants, who are effectively footing the bill.Those shareholders who disagree with the corporation’s electoral message may find their financial investments being used to undermine their political convictions. "

"The PAC mechanism, by contrast, helps assure that hose who pay for an electioneering communication actually support its content and that managers do not use general treasuries to advance personal agendas. Ibid. It ‘allows corporate political participation without the temptation to use corporate funds for political influence, quite possibly at odds with the sentiments of some shareholders or members.’ ” McConnell, 540 U. S., at 204 (quoting Beaumont, 539 U. S., at 163). A rule that privileges the use of PACs thus does more than facilitate the political speech of like-minded shareholders; it also curbs the rent seeking behavior of executives and respects the views of dissenters. Austin’s acceptance of restrictions on general treasury spending “simply allows people who have in vested in the business corporation for purely economic reasons”—the vast majority of investors, one assumes—“to avoid being taken advantage of, without sacrificing their economic objectives.” Winkler, Beyond Bellotti, 32 Loyola LA) L. Rev. 133, 201 (1998). "

"... The Court dismisses this interest on the ground that abuses of shareholder money can be corrected “through the procedures of corporate democracy,” ante, at 46 (internal quotation marks omitted), and, it seems, through Internet-based disclosures, ante, at 55.76 I fail to understand how this addresses the concerns of dissenting union members, who will also be affected by today’s ruling, and I fail to understand why the Court is so confident in these mechanisms. By “corporate democracy,” presumably the Court means the rights of shareholders to vote and to bring derivative suits for breach of fiduciary duty. In practice, however, many corporate lawyers will tell you that “these rights are so limited as to be almost nonexistent,” given the internal authority wielded by boards and managers and the expansive protections afforded by the business judgment rule. Blair & Stout 320; see also id., at 298–315; Winkler, 32 Loyola (LA) L. Rev., at 165–166, 199–200. Modern technology may help make it easier to track corporate activity, including electoral advocacy, but it is utopian to believe that it solves the problem. Most American households that own stock do so through intermediaries such as mutual funds and pension plans, see Evans, A Requiem for the Retail Investor? 95 Va. L. Rev. 1105 (2009), which makes it more difficult both to monitor and to alter particular holdings. Studies show that a majority of individual investors make no trades at all during a given year. Id., at 1117. Moreover, if the corporation in question operates a PAC, an investor who sees the company’s ads may not know whether they are being funded through the PAC or through the general treasury."

"If and when shareholders learn that a corporation has been spending general treasury money on objectionable electioneering, they can divest. Even assuming that they reliably learn as much, however, this solution is only partial. The injury to the shareholders’ expressive rights has already occurred; they might have preferred to keep that corporation’s stock in their portfolio for any number of economic reasons; and they may incur a capital gains tax or other penalty from selling their shares, changing their pension plan, or the like. The shareholder protection rationale has been criticized as underinclusive, in that corporations also spend money on lobbying and charitable contributions in ways that any particular shareholder might disapprove. But those expenditures do not implicate the selection of public officials, an area in which “the interests of unwilling . . . corporate shareholders [in not being] forced to subsidize that speech” “are at their zenith.” Austin, 494 U. S., at 677 (Brennan, J., concurring). And in any event, the question is whether shareholder protection provides a basis for regulating expenditures in the weeks before an election, not whether additional types of corporate communications might similarly be conditioned on voluntariness. "

"Today’s decision is backwards in many senses. It elevates the majority’s agenda over the litigants’ submissions, facial attacks over as-applied claims, broad constitutional theories over narrow statutory grounds, individual dissenting opinions over precedential holdings, assertion over tradition, absolutism over empiricism, rhetoric over reality. Our colleagues have arrived at the conclusion that Austin must be overruled and that §203 is facially unconstitutional only after mischaracterizing both the reach and rationale of those authorities, and after bypassing or ignoring rules of judicial restraint used to cabin the Court’s lawmaking power. Their conclusion that the societal interest in avoiding corruption and the appearance of corruption does not provide an adequate justification for regulating corporate expenditures on candidate elections relies on an incorrect description of that interest, along with a failure to acknowledge the relevance of established facts and the considered judgments of state and federal legislatures over many decades."

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