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Lessig calls for constitutional amendment to rid Congress of influence of lobbyists and donors

Sen. Franken announces bill to keep foreign interests out of elections.

  • woody

    I was having a debate in another forum with a person that was quite adamant that the supreme court was correct in calling money speech. I had a pretty good argument against it, which changed several people’s view on the topic. I feel it may be preaching to the choir here, but felt it may help others trying to convince their friends that money is not speech.

    Money in and of itself is not speech. Money left on a door step alone carries no influence from the person that left it. Add a note or a call to let it be know where the money came from or why it was left, and the money amplifies that message proportional to how much was left. Money (like fame and power) is an _amplifier_ of speech, adding volume, reach, and/or repetition. Anyone can speak, be it a CEO with billions in the bank, or a penniless homeless person on the street. Commonly money is used to drown out the speech of other people or make it look like more people are speaking with a like mind.

    Understand, I have no issue with a corporation speaking, stating they are
    pro-this or anti-that. There’s a big difference between Exxon Mobil saying they think the science on environmental damage of offshore drilling is flawed and Exxon Mobil pledging
    hundreds of thousands to a senators campaign if he endorses a bill to let them skirt environmental laws. One is speech, the other is clearly not to me.

    Btw: If you think there aren’t laws against using other amplifiers (like a bullhorn) to promote speech, you should try using one some time. There ARE laws on the books in most states preventing their use without a permit, and those laws are often enforced at protests or really anywhere when used without a permit.

    I do understand that groups “I like” like the ACLU would be affected by any laws put out to regulate corporations. I’m fine with that. I think there’s a twisting of the system from all sides, which doesn’t help anyone in the end. I also think Exxon lobbyists have a lot more cash than people. True grass roots groups (like the ACLU) can change to promote it’s actions via it’s members, as it attracts it’s membership because of a belief in a common ideal. Exxon Mobil will have a harder time of doing that, since not all people that buy gas believe as they do. Right now though they have money to amplify their voice, and don’t need supporters to speak with them to make themselves heard.

    If you say money is speech, then any incentive or call to cut external money out of a process is curtailing “speech”. Public finance reform that would prevent people or corporations from donating money would, by that definition, prevent them from being able to exercise their “speech”. And since laws can’t be made to constrain speech… Do you see where this is going?

    In the end, the supreme court is classifying what is actually a speech amplifier as speech. There are laws against using speech amplifiers. There should be laws against using them in our law making process as well, be they bullhorns or wallets. This ruling just let corporations bring their bullhorns onto the Senate floor. If you think our representatives had problems hearing us over the corporations before, how is this at all a good idea?

    • There are also laws against heckling, i.e. yelling while a speaker is speaking. Yelling when he pauses is fine, but not while he’s speaking. I’ve seen people arrested for doing this.

      There appear to be no rules now against corporations doing that, drowning out opposing views with a steady barrage of noise.

    • DJ

      Well said! Hey, that’s twice we agree on something.

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