A Partisan Shift

A little commentary by Jeff Bishop of damnum absque injuria about a decision that came down today:

Falwell v. Hustler Magazine, the case widely misrepresented as “People vs. Larry Flynt,” was decided 8-0 on First Amendment grounds in favor of a corporation. Citizens United and today’s American Traditions Partnership decision were both decided 5-4, with all four liberals arguing in dissent that legal persons (corporations, LLCs, etc.) aren’t really “people” and therefore, any natural person with the audacity to form one should check his own First Amendment rights at at the door.

So for all four liberals on the Supreme Court, along with an overwhelming majority of self-described liberals outside it, corporations are “people” with First Amendment rights when they peddle porno and smear public figures, but cease to be “people” as soon as they contribute anything of value to national political discourse.

9 thoughts on “A Partisan Shift”

  1. Some not-so-slight differences: Hustler involved speech as part of business sales; Citizen’s United involved speech purely for political purposes. Flynt meant to make money and took aim at politicians for fun; Super PACs are aiming to redefine the nation’s political and legal landscape.

    I agree with the outcome of both, but to compare them so simply give short shrift to each call.

    1. The editor won’t work for me (FF 13.0.1 on OSX)…

      I’d would like to add that philosophically I agree with the hypocrisy. “Free speech for all, except those who disagree with me,” is not limited to the liberal side of the aisle, but it’s insidious regardless of the source.

      What if the Citizen’s United case was actually, [i]SEIU v Walker[/i]?

      The liberals would have probably agreed with the same outcome (unlimited spending, but this time by unions), and those on the right would be decrying the horror of Scott Walker getting railroaded by Union dollars.

      Again, overly simplistic example, but I hope it gets across my personal view that we should not be picking who gets to exercise a right. We should just let them be, except in the very limited circumstances when an individual must lose a right due to their abhorrent behavior.

      That means the other side gets to talk, too. Even Larry Flynt.

      1. Practically speaking, Citizens United was also SEIU v. Walker; the law in question applied to both unions and corporations.

        1. Absolutely. Had the CU case plaintiffs actually been the unions, would the hysterical cries from the current MSM/lefty quarters been the same? Would Obama have called out the Supreme Court as making a bad call, or would he have upheld the decision as exemplars of constitutional jurisprudence?

          Likewise, would the folks on the right be upset that unions now have even more ability to lobby than they had before, or would they still celebrate the triumph of the First Amendment for all?

          Same law. Same right. Same constitution. Same outcome, but different plaintiffs. I think we’d see each “side” reacting completely differently in this case.

          The fact we have gotten to a point where we think the constitution has partisan “sides” is scary. ObamaCare is being decided pro or anti Republican; or Citizens United, or Heller…


  2. Given that commercial corporate charters have not restricted scope of business for a hundred years or so, I don’t see how speech being a primary business venture of a corporation is relevant. It certainly isn’t more protected. And while Hustler wasn’t a serious attempt to change the political and legal landscape, the oped pages of the NYT certainly are.

  3. Right, but the NYT (and the rest of the news media) relied on a statutory exemption from McCain-Feingold, not a constitutional theory that their corporations are people while everyone else’s corporations aren’t.

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