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January 23, 2010; Washington Post | This is such an important issue to our democracy we wanted to pass along another story. Here, a Washington Post columnist lays out four flaws in the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case concerning whether “Hillary: The Movie” was an example of a political attack ad or free speech at its best—or worst depending on your point of view. First, she points out that the court could have simply ruled on the merits of the case that was before the justices:  Was “Hillary: The Movie” (to be advertised as available through CU’s “video-on-demand” capability) a form of “electioneering” that was prohibited by the McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation?

But the Court decided that it had to go beyond that and determine whether McCain-Feingold violated the free speech rights of corporate “persons,” the quaint notion that your local neighborhood multinational corporate behemoth is a person just like you and me. The Court seems to believe, according to Marcus, that McCain-Feingold served to silence corporate persons from speaking out. Come again? There were and still are lots of avenues for well-heeled corporations to impact the electoral process with much more impact—and dollars—than most “persons.” Second, Marcus agrees with us that what justice Stevens called the “conceit” of corporate personhood “does not mandate absolute equivalence” between the electoral protections afforded real people and corporate persons. She asks, if corporations are persons, are they entitled to vote and run for office? We would add that a concern about spending money as the equivalent of exercising freedom of speech. The combination of corporate persons and money means that there is a lot of free speech lurking in corporate coffers just waiting to exercise unfettered First Amendment rights, to the detriment of this nation’s already pathetic electoral process.—Rick Cohen