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Forum Post: Money in Politics Survey

Posted 2 years ago on April 4, 2012, 7:02 p.m. EST by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

These questions will ask about your knowledge and opinions on the use and influence of money in politics. This is for a graduate class in media activism but could be expanded to assist in the larger movement to abolish corporate personhood and money as speech. It's very quick. If you have a couple minutes, please drop by and take the survey. Thanks!

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dEpnYXdXaEk1dWx5bTNiRTFjNHVPTmc6MQ

24 Comments

24 Comments


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[-] 1 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

I still don't understand how you can get rid of "corporate personhood and money as speech" without completely banning all political talk. You would have to shut down every blog, newspaper, radio station and tv station.

How would a company like Fox or MSNBC use its money to launch a political talk show like Hannity or the Rachel Maddow Show that advocates some political candidate like Hannity did for McCain and Maddow did for Obama if you "abolished corporate personhood and money as speech"?

[+] -5 points by DKAtoday (26974) from Coon Rapids, MN 2 years ago

FCC should look into a very old law that 1st was enacted to regulate truth in favor of lies in paper journalism. The thing being regulated then was what was called yellow journalism. Bias based not factual. The FCC has become really lame and hopelessly lost in modern broadcast policing. They mainly go after curse words, big fucking deal - lets go after context and twisting of truth and blatant lies.

[-] 0 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

So you want to lock people up who are misinformed?

That would be the end of free speech.

They do that in Singapore and not surprisingly, the party that came into power after that law was passed has never lost an election since. People are too afraid to speak out.

It would be a tyrannical law in practice.

[+] -4 points by DKAtoday (26974) from Coon Rapids, MN 2 years ago

You are saying that the environment of no responsibility and no accountability is preferred to offering up truth in full context. That to put forth lies and deception and misinformation is a good thing?

[-] 1 points by FriendlyObserverB (1871) 2 years ago

This is interesting .. I always felt journalism was too far.. emotionally removed when reporting .. the news.. , but I can see how when adding a personal bias is not a good thing either.. The tricky part is when facts are left out , and the story becomes altered that concerns me.. journalist loop holes. Of course getting the whole story diffuses the audiences interest .. and than there is free speech .. are we free to lie ?

[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 2 years ago

There's no such thing as an objective human being. The well-know NYU journalism professor, Jay Rosen (http://pressthink.org/), says that the "view from nowhere" is a fallacy that gets journalism into trouble more often than not. The key is to be transparent about editorial content.

Yes, we are free to lie. We should NOT be free to lie under the protection of a free press but the expansive definition of speech has now encompassed press and makes lying, even in that context, legal.

[-] 1 points by FriendlyObserverB (1871) 2 years ago

.. yes, but somehow taking all the emotion out of reporting has negative repercussion to our society.. to talk about an awful happening with bland tone and absence of emotion and than go on to a completely new subject as most news casts do .. has numbed the human psychy .. IMHO we no longer know right from wrong when emotion is removed.

[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 2 years ago

I think I agree with that pretty much completely. :)

[-] 1 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

There is responsibility and accountability. Fox is regularly debunked by MSNBC and the rest of the media world. And MSNBC is debunked by the Right any time they give out misinformation.

Putting out lies is not a good thing. But making lies against the law when you are giving your opinion is worse.

And there are legal consequences when those lies become slander.

[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 2 years ago

Freedom of the Press protects truth-tellers. Freedom of speech protects liars. By expanding the definition of speech to include abstract concepts (like spending money or throwing a rock), speech now encompasses both the press and religion. If the Founders intended "speech" to be so broadly defined, there would be no need to codify a free press and freedom of religion in the very same amendment.

Responsibility is not being debunked by someone else, it's correcting your own mistakes. Not only does Fox studiously avoid ever making a correction, they deliberately blur the lines between speech and press, sabotaging the whole concept of journalism itself, intentionally. The Fairness Doctrine was well-intentioned but flawed in design -- balance of opinions presented. A proper Fairness Doctrine would enforce truth in the press and compel news outlets to clearly distinguish between factual news reporting and editorial opining.

None of this has anything to do with whether or not the spending of money is defined as a expression of speech. Because that is just a definition. It would still take acts of Congress to codify the limits on spending, which would be subject to the normal political process. Political talk shows do not depend on defining money as speech (or legal personhood for that matter).

[-] 1 points by JesseHeffran (3903) 2 years ago

I have to agree with this statement. When I was listening to my Journalism teacher tell me about objectionable reporting and thinking about all the news programs I watched on a daily basis, I could not help but chuckle at such a quaint idea. Howard Zinn said it best, "You Can't be Neutral on a moving train." You are right. It should at least be a journalist's job to get the facts correct and admit when he/she has got them wrong. The most subjective thing a journalist does is choose what is news and whose words they choose to quote.

[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 2 years ago

Spot <--- on. ;-)

[-] 1 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

"It would still take acts of Congress to codify the limits on spending, which would be subject to the normal political process. Political talk shows do not depend on defining money as speech"

If Congress limits the amount a company can spend on promoting a politician how does that not limit Fox from spending money on its shows to promote some politician?

[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 2 years ago

Nobody is going to try to pass a law with such a broad prohibition and even if they did, it would never pass. It all very much depends on the wording of any law that emerges. Properly defining money and legal fictions as tools would simply empower Congress to define limits in certain circumstances.

And yes, one of those circumstances would be the presentation of political opinions as facts. And yes, Fox News would be caught up in that and might even be forced to either clearly distinguish between fact and opinion, or simply change their name from Fox "News" to Fox "Politics" or some such. Freedom of speech protects liars. Freedom of the press protects truth-tellers. Fox "News" wants it both ways, to have their cake and eat it to. I have no problem with forcing news outlets to convey truth or suffer the consequences, which is libel suits. Don't like it? Don't call it "news." Simple.

[-] 1 points by April (3196) 2 years ago

I've read everything you said here. I think I understand a little better. Let me put in my own words a little bit and tell me if I'm getting this right.

Scotus has a way of eroding legislation. The idea of the Amendment is to prevent erosion of campaign finance legislation. This Amendment should have no effect on artificial entities speech or spending, except as it would be legislated, as we want, most importantly through campaign finance. You say that no legislation is going to pass that would limit the speech/spending of artificial entities, beyond campaign finance laws. I suppose it's unlikely, but potentially it could. No??

What about suits which could be brought against an entity questioning their rights to speech or spending. What is to prevent Scotus or any court from ruling against an artificial entity's free speech (which usually involves money as well) in any context, elections or otherwise? I'm concerned that ending the rights of speech of artifical entities could be used in a dangerous way by the courts.

Just because an association of people (any kind) speak in unison, this is a good thing (gosh I hate sounding like Mitt Romney.). And shouldn't be discouraged in any way. Even as it might involve the use of money to amplify their message to influence others, as it may relate to politics or anything else - through paid advertising, Fox News or airing a movie. Clearly a political candidate is going to know which groups are messaging on their behalf. So there will still be some degree of "pay back" or indebtedness, which is a natural inclination, by the politician. Which I think is ok. Associations naturally align behind candidates with similar views as their own.
And there will always be opposing forces which will balance this out.

I think the difference or distinction is whether the support (whatever form, usually money) is direct or indirect. In my mind, indirect support is ok. Direct support, by way of private money in the political process, not ok. The closer the money is to the candidate/politician (direct support) the more influential and potentially corrupting it's going to be.

As far as lobbying. Lobbying should be limited to speech only. Not direct money contributions (or other direct favors). There is no problem with a group of persons acting in unision, acting through a lobbyist, or on their own, as an artificial entity, in either supporting or working to prevent legislation that would be for/against their interests.

Put another way - the legislative and executive branches should work like the judicial branch. Natural people and artificial entities state their case to a judge/jury. They don't get to pay the judge. We are appalled by this notion. We don't and would never allow this. Yet we allow it for the legislative and executive branches in the form of direct contributions to campaigns. This makes no sense. We wouldn't want a judge to be unduly prejudicial, which is why we are so careful in guarding against conflict of interest with respect to the judicial branch. But the same could be said of the other two branches. They too, should be as fair and balanced as possible, while still doing their job of representing their constituents. Taking into account all concerns and interests, weighing them out, but ultimately, deciding and acting in the best interest of the whole of their constituency, or even the larger whole of the country. This is not possible with direct campaign contributions. Just as we would not be able to envision a judge could be entirely impartial if he was paid by the plaintiff or defendant.

Why couldn't the Amendment be more direct in simply banning direct money contributions/favors to political campaigns? Wouldn't this be more to the point and accomplish what is necessary to enact campaign finance legislation? Without any potential consequences or dangers in limiting speech and/or spending of people acting in unison as an artificial entity?

I'm sorry! I know this sounds like a rambling mess. But I'm confused still and I can't get a grip on this and I just have to get it all out there.

[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 2 years ago

First let me say that you're asking great questions and challenging me to form better arguments for this approach. Thank you for being so engaged and taking it so seriously. I truly think this one issue relates to everything else to such a high degree that it must become our top priority as a nation. And now let's go to the video tape...

"This Amendment should have no effect on artificial entities speech or spending, except as it would be legislated…"

Correct. It would overturn existing case law but it would not create new law on its own. Until legislation was passed, the status quo would remain intact. However, Federal Circuit courts would be obliged to view any current and pending cases in light of the new amendment and new case law could emerge even before legislation.

"You say that no legislation is going to pass that would limit the speech/spending of artificial entities, beyond campaign finance laws. I suppose it's unlikely, but potentially it could. No??"

I meant that legislation that is both sweeping and partisan will never pass the supermajority in the Senate. That isn't to say someone won't try. But those are partisan battles. The point of the Amendment is to remain non-partisan and simply fix the process. One person, one vote has been corrupted into one dollar, one vote (or more like one million dollars, one vote) and that's all we're trying to fix in the Constitution. SCOTUS has upended the delicate checks and balances framework and we don't want to repeat their mistake from the opposite direction. Legislation designed to limit contributions from legal fictions can be worded in too many ways to iterate here but suffice it to say that Congress has the power to both make laws and make exceptions to those laws embedded in the original legislation (as with the exemptions for anti-trust enjoyed by health care and MLB). The language is the key, which is why lawyers make so damn much money! ;-)

"What about suits which could be brought against an entity questioning their rights to speech or spending. What is to prevent Scotus or any court from ruling against an artificial entity's free speech (which usually involves money as well) in any context, elections or otherwise? I'm concerned that ending the rights of speech of artificial entities could be used in a dangerous way by the courts."

Again, it comes down to wording. If the Amendment states that legal fictions are stripped of all Constitutional rights, your fears are quite well founded. Senator Sanders' language does exactly that but omits unions in the process. That makes it both dangerous and partisan and renders it dead on arrival. This language simply denies legal fictions the protection of the 14th Amendment and denies the Supreme Court the power to use money to expand the rights of free speech. What Congress chooses to do with that new framework is anyone's guess -- but that's no different the current situation, with the exception that Congress is newly empowered to enact campaign finance reform without fear of SCOTUS overturning it for all the wrong reasons. They could still run afoul of other provisions in the constitution and NO amendment is capable abridging the First Amendment. We're simply clarifying who is and is not covered by the First. And we have all the backing we require in the First Amendment itself. More on that another time.

"Associations naturally align behind candidates with similar views as their own."

This Amendment is not designed to have a direct impact on the freedom to assemble and associate as we see fit. It simply clarifies the definitions we use to describe money and personhood. The Congress can distinguish between different types of associations. For instance, a law could be written that restricts spending only by those associations that are undemocratic by design, like corporations, foreign governments and poorly structured charities, but not like unions, which have a voting membership. Under that scenario, if corporations want to have a larger voice in the debate, they have to have a more democratic process, meaning putting workers in the board room (which is already done in Germany and they're kicking our asses).

"I think the difference or distinction is whether the support (whatever form, usually money) is direct or indirect."

The problem with indirect support is that you've just defined the SuperPAC. It's impossible, in this modern age, to separate the wheat from the chaff. That's why all entities need to be treated the same, but as second class to the individual citizen, UNLESS your assemblage is democratic by design. There are only two institutional rights recognized in the Constitution -- freedom of the press and freedom of religion. Freedom of "assembly" is not freedom to incorporate, it's freedom to gather (like Occupy). The instant Occupy incorporates as an entity (not that that would ever happen), it becomes second class to the individual. Freedom of assembly is still an individual right -- each of us has the individual right to associate as we see fit. The association itself only has rights we choose to grant it. SCOTUS has chosen to override Congress and grant more rights than we ever intended corporations (and other legal fictions) to have.

"As far as lobbying. Lobbying should be limited to speech only. Not direct money contributions (or other direct favors). There is no problem with a group of persons acting in unison, acting through a lobbyist, or on their own, as an artificial entity, in either supporting or working to prevent legislation that would be for/against their interests."

This Amendment says nothing about lobbying or assembly, nor does it empower Congress to restrict assembly in any way. It does empower Congress to restrict money contributions to politicians or political campaigns but how that would be achieved is again in the language. I agree that lobbying should be separated from money but that's a very tricky and delicate balance that would have to be achieved in legislation and the partisan battles will rage on that front, as always. But this Amendment is simply laying the groundwork, not creating the policy.

"Why couldn't the Amendment be more direct in simply banning direct money contributions/favors to political campaigns? Wouldn't this be more to the point and accomplish what is necessary to enact campaign finance legislation? Without any potential consequences or dangers in limiting speech and/or spending of people acting in unison as an artificial entity?"

Two reasons. First, the Constitution is a process document. When we use the Constitution to enact law, like Prohibition, it becomes an outcome document. Outcomes are for legislation. Process is for the Constitution. As hard as it is to get an Amendment ratified, it is equally as hard to get it repealed. If we create unintended consequences in legislation, we can undo it with relative ease in Congress. If we create unintended consequences in the an Amendment, it could take decades to correct. That's why Prohibition was such a huge mistake -- it took years to correct the unintended consequences (the rise of organized crime) of that Amendment.

Second, because this is still viewed as a partisan issue in many quarters, the probability of ratifying legislation as an Amendment is so close to zero as to be indistinguishable from it. We need not just a supermajority, but 67 "yes" votes in the Senate and three quarters of the State legislatures. That means we need 38 States to ratify. I can name six that are a "no" before we even get out of the gate -- Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, Utah and Wyoming. I can name six more that are almost guaranteed to be against it -- Louisiana, Nebraska, Kansas, Idaho, Texas and Montana. That means we need ALL of the other States, including Iowa and North Carolina, Indiana and South Dakota, and so on. It's already a hard enough battle without inviting partisan sniping, rendering it dead on arrival.

At the moment, I know of 17 Amendment proposals being floated in the general public, including mine, which I introduced to my State Senator this week with a comprehensive packet of information. (We're hoping to get a resolution introduced into the NY State Senate and Assembly.) Sixteen of those Amendments either fall short or go too far or both. You can see what I mean on my little-used blog where each of the versions is broken down, section by section.

http://wanderinginthezero.blogspot.com/2012/03/28th-amendment-comparison.html

I encourage you to take the time to read through each proposal and critique and I think a lot of your questions will be answered there. I also have a short essay on the reasoning behind my proposal on the Abolish Corporate Personhood Now website:

http://abolishcorporatepersonhoodnow.org/2012/02/25/the-human-rights-amendment-tackles-corporatism-plutocracy-and-the-supreme-court/

Please check these out and let me know what you think. Your input has been fantastic and illuminating and I love the challenge. We have to win so many people over to our side of this issue that any and every dissenting view must be acknowledged and addressed with sincerity. And if I've overlooked any of your points, please let me know so I can address them here. Thanks again!

[-] 1 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

I still don't understand how you can limit company money in any way. Can you give me an example?

If you say a company cannot spend more than $1000 on ads, then a company who wants to spend millions would just spend millions on its own "political show" instead of spending millions advertising on a political show.

And I don't see how it is fair to limit the spending of non media companies and not limit the spending of media companies.

[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 2 years ago

This is presuming an awful lot about any laws that could potentially be enacted. We'd have to see specific legislation language before being able to engage in a meaningful critique on how it would work. For instance, there are currently two industries that are exempt from anti-trust legislation -- health care and major league baseball. Before anti-trust was enacted, we could have engaged in all kinds of speculation on how it would impact employer-based health insurance or an industry that colludes by its nature (MLB) but the law itself finally gave the answer.

The question here is what mechanism we're talking about. If we're talking about legislation, the devil is in the details.If we're talking about a constitutional amendment, overreach is indeed quite possible if it's structured like legislation. However, if a constitutional amendment simply narrowed the definition of speech to preclude the use of tool as an expression of speech and the recognition of legal fictions (of all types, not just corporations) as individual citizens, all that would be accomplished is empowering Congress to enact campaign finance reform without fear of the Supreme Court gutting the restrictions on spending. It would upend 123 years of activist Supreme Court case law but it wouldn't make NEW law. That would still be up to Congress.

The bigger question you have to ask yourself is what happens to the notion of limited liability without the protection of the 14th amendment, which could be dramatic. And I, personally, have no problem with forcing corporations to make the public good priority one, instead of maximizing profit, which could also be a consequence of such an amendment. That isn't to say that profit should be relegated to second class status, just that it should be second in line to the public good. And if a profit cannot be turned within the context of the public good, bye-bye Birdie. If that was the outcome of properly defining the instruments we call "legal fictions," I'd be quite pleased, all in all.

[-] 1 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

You still didn't give me an example of how to not make money as speech or how to limit corporate spending on politics.

My contention is that you cannot. The only way you can is to ban all political speech.

[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 2 years ago

Human Rights Amendment

Section one: In all instances wherein the words "person," persons," and "people" appear in this constitution, such words shall be construed to define living human beings only.

Section two: "Money" is defined only as legal tender for the purpose of settling all debts, public and private. Congress shall make no law recognizing the free flow of money as an expression of speech of any kind, or as an expression of any of the rights enumerated in this constitution.

Section three: Congress shall have power to enforce this article and to regulate federal elections by appropriate legislation.

[-] 1 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

I have no idea what that means what you wrote!

I don't understand how that will specifically limit a company. Can you give a specific example?

If my company uses $1 million to satisfy my private debt with CBS for the ad campaign I ran promoting my favorite candidate, would that be legal under your amendment?

[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 2 years ago

[out of replies below]

"However, my original post still stands. I don't think you can come up with any kind of law, even if you got SCOTUS out of the way, that can limit corporate spending on the political process."

Oh, I think I can, quite honestly. But it would be way, way too complicated to even consider trying to draft something at one o'clock in the morning after a long day that included a meeting with my State Senator on this very topic. But I may revisit our chat at some point in the near future if I can muster the energy to put something in writing. Thanks for the challenging questions.

[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 2 years ago

The amendment is not law. It simply narrows the expansive definitions SCOTUS has been using to grant rights (unconstitutionally) to corporations, unions and other legal fictions, and equate the spending of money as an expression of speech. It empowers Congress to act but it doesn't tell them what to do. It then falls to Congress to make law that will be considered appropriate and acceptable to the majority of the citizenry, including campaign finance reform. All this does is prevent the SCOTUS from using money as speech and corporate personhood to overturn duly enacted law.

As to specifically how campaign finance reform would be enacted or how corporations, unions and other legal fictions would be restricted in their spending, that's way, way down the road. This clears the path for full public financing of all elections or a watered-down version of McCain-Feingold, or anything in between. The impediment to meaningful reform is SCOTUS. All this does it get SCOTUS out of the way.

The reason I posted that language is because I drafted it, it's the language endorsed by a majority of the group Abolish Corporate Personhood Now and it has been viewed favorably by the drafter of the Move To Amend language. We're not trying to legislate, we're trying to correct a deliberate misinterpretation of the Constitution. Once that battle is fought and won, we can return to our partisan corners to haggle over the form legislation should take. But right now, we're prisoners of CU v. FEC and the Roberts 5 and that has to end. The rest is up to Congress.

Lastly, TV networks don't do campaign spending, even if they're paying Sarah Palin to promote herself on the air because that process is profitable. If anything, it should be regarded as political profiteering, not political spending. I don't think the Constitution has a provision that protects anyone's right to earn a profit from our political process. So it's a moot point, even under current law.

[-] 1 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

Gotcha, I understand now.

However, my original post still stands. I don't think you can come up with any kind of law, even if you got SCOTUS out of the way, that can limit corporate spending on the political process.