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Political Talk Show Host and Internet Radio Personality. My show, In My Humble Opinion, aired on RainbowRadio from 2015-2017.
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Why should Corporations NOT have free speech?
First of all... that crack about applying the second amendment "six times" on those who keep forgetting about the first amendment? That was really beneath me. I'm not MUCH better than that, but I AM better than that. Now, don't get me wrong: If Anotin Scalia walked out of the courthouse and was struck by lightning I'd laugh my fucking ass off and pop open a bottle of champagne. But I would not see even a Government and Supreme Court overrun with Tea-Bagging Klansman "fixed" by violence and revolution. If someone WERE to kill a Supreme Court Justice, or any other public official, they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. I refuse to be the "Ann Coulter" of the left. Hopefully no one took that LITERALLY.
The OTHER was a clarification on why I do not apply my vehement and unconditional support of free speech to Corporations. Why would someone as zealous as I am about free speech want to put a limit on Corporate Speech?
First of all, let's be clear what we're really talking about. I don't care if a corporation wants to advertise, nor do I think it's the Government's job to make them prove their claims, etc... Outside of pharmaceuticals, which are regulated for obvious reasons, I don't care WHAT businesses say within the course of DOING BUSINESS. Nor do I really even care if they want to run ISSUE ads - if ExxonMobil wants to try and make the case that Oil and Gas are preferable to Solar? Go right ahead. That's really not much different than advertising anyway.
What I'm talking about here, is PARTISAN and ELECTORAL issues. If ExxonMobil wants to say "Vote for Palin" or pay for some Anti-Abortion ads (or any issue that DOESN'T have anything to do with their course of business) I have a problem with that. In fact, I'd go even beyond Austin. Forget regulating it, and treating it a political contribution, I'd be in favor of outright BANNING it. There are two reasons why.
The most commonly used reason is that corporations, with all their vast resources, can (and do) drown out the voice of the individual. So allow their free speech allows them to prohibit ours. I agree with that. I think it's reasonable, and it's why I support both the Fairness Doctrine and Net Neutrality.
But there's another way in which corporations act even more insidiously when they "speak." First of all, you have to realize that corporations don't really SPEAK. They SPEND MONEY to get a certain message put out there. And that money is, of course, the property of the shareholders. So who decides what the Corporation wants to "say?" Well, that's the board of directors, who are elected by the shareholders. Typically this includes several of the BIGGEST shareholders. Now, if assume for the moment that since most boards, consisting of very rich, very white, men and their proxies, the "shareholders" are "electing" people to put out Conservative, Corporatist, Republican message. And if they were polled according to their shares of the company, you might find rations reaching 90-some percent in favor. BUT, when you consider how many people own stock - usually though a 401-K - and that most of that stock is owned through MUTUAL FUNDS, and most Blue Chips are carried by pretty much every Mutual fund, you'll conclude that something like 90+% of the electorate owns SOME miniscule percentage of... ExxonMobil, for example. And if you were to poll that group BY PERSON, I submit that you would find their political demographic matches the general public pretty closely - IOW: It would cover a broad spectrum, with almost equal representation of Liberals and Conservatives, Republicans and Democrats.
Now... Why is that important?
Simple: Because corporate speech results in the ULTIMATE "winner takes all" approach to political speech! A dozen or so men decide what the Corporation will say, and end up speaking for literally Tens of Millions of Shareholders, not to mention Hundreds of Thousands of EMPLOYEES, many of which may not feel that the Corporations POLITICAL message matches what THEY want to say. So now, not only is the moneyed interest drowning them out... WORSE: They actually using assets partially OWED by that person to put out a message contrary to their beliefs! And I mention employees, because I do believe that they are stakeholders in a Corporation every bit as much as the shareholders are. One might also consider the CUSTOMERS to be stakeholders as well. After all, I give MY MONEY to that corporation. What right do they have to use it to put out a message that I don't agree with? OK, of course I can't just take my business elsewhere, but I think you're getting the idea.
When a corporation "speaks" it does on behalf of shareholders, employees, customers, and arguably other stake-holders as well. And it does so WITHOUT REGARD to those people's wishes. And THAT to me is why it's not the same thing. They don't just drown me out, the SPEAK for me, using assets that I own a piece of, to say something that I wouldn't say.
One more thing, regarding corporate boards. Those members that didn’t just BUY their way on were elected by the shareholders to RUN THE BUSINESS. If I'm a voting shareholder, then I want to vote for the guy who's going to make me the most money, all else being equal. I shouldn't feel as though I need to vote for someone I believe to be the less competent person because of political considerations. If you restrict corporate "speech" to those areas that are directly relevant to their business, then I don't HAVE this conflict.
ANYWAY, that's why I don't consider Corporate Speech to even fall under first amendment protection.