Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

You often hear people who support campaign finance laws say that the First Amendment isn’t about money, “just speech.” These folks despise the Citizens United decision that forbade, under the First Amendment, regulation of groups of people (“corporations,” profit or non-profit) pooling money to advertise and promote ideas and arguments and slogans and such.

Though many are First Amendment extremists on other matters, desiring no government interference of protests or movies or the Internet, when it comes to politics they fear “Big Money.” So they want to censor speech that some groups would push near elections.

It turns out, of course, that the effects of the Citizens United decision have been mostly beneficial, as Tim Cavanaugh points out in Reason. As a result of that infamous decision, local political races have been “shaken up”; the decision “guaranteed ‘big laughs’” in many humorous political commercials that were all-too-rare before; interest groups have been freed of the old yoke of the major parties; the GOP presidential nomination process has been made far more competitive; and even President Obama, the Citizens United critic-in-chief, has raised millions under the auspices of the organizations the decision allowed to operate — so he apparently likes it, too.

The blessings of “more speech” are pretty obvious — if one looks for them. But for those with a prohibitionist mindset, who fear a wide open public discussion, they’ll no doubt hate actual free speech. As protected by the Citizens United decision.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

By: Redactor


  1. Don Perera says:

    The fact that large organizations/businesses/individuals can buy more influnce/earmarks/access/votes than the rest of us doesn’t worry you> It worries me after watching the deterioration of politics over the past 25 tears. The businesses/organizations/indviduals can’t actually vote but can buy the votes worries me. How do the rest of us poor folks compete with million dollar contributions? I usually agree with your thoughts and ideas, but on this one I’ll have to strongly disagree. There IS a difference between money and free speech.

  2. Brian Wright says:

    Paul, I think we’re going to have to disagree on the Citizens’ United decision. Mainly because it sanctions the legitimacy of state-privileged corporation (SPC) domination of elections… it goes in the wrong direction. Instead we need to eliminate entirely SPCs, and a good start is to eradicate SPCs from the electoral process: “No SPC shall be allowed to spend one red cent on behalf of any candidate for public office.” Now that’s a commonsense, practical decision freedom people can get behind:

  3. Drik says:

    Hate(d) speech is the only kind that needs protecting.

  4. John F. Brennan says:

    Mr. Jacob: The fear of additional voices, or their amplification, is the bogey man which those in power have always used in their efforts limit comment, and therefore competition.
    It is clear that the framers of the Constitution understood that freedom of speech was much more beneficial than the dangers of its restriction. Anonymous publications on political subjects were common, indeed the Federalist Papers were published under a single nom de plume.
    Ideas and opinions must survive in the sunlight, and their authorship or their supporters are not particularly relevant once they are subject to debate in public square.
    It appears we are, and will be, publicly discussing more principles and positions as a result of Citizens United.
    I have little or no concern regarding speech made in the open, whether or not the author or supporters of the position are disclosed. Facts are subject to checking, positions are subject to critical review.
    Regarding political speech, I would have even less concern – and perhaps be able to even ignore it altogether – were the federal government limited to its enumerated powers, and their original intent.
    I premise that were the situation there would little need to lobby, influence or possibly earmark. With a truly limited government there would be very limited economic utility to support lobbyists and SPC’s and their numbers and influence would soon diminish.
    It is what we have allowed Washington to do, wrongfully control each of us – personally and commercially, that makes the purchase of political influence worth the price.
    Until the government’s power is properly curtailed no rational person or entity can be expected to seek success solely by relying on mutually voluntary transactions in a free market. Free market activities are inefficient when you can “buy best friendship” with those who have the monopoly on force and confiscation (regulation and taxes)and for significantly less than the cost of a half minute’s time during the Superbowl.
    It is only by eliminating the excessive power of the government that the cash flow into Washington seeking favor can be curtailed.
    To limit one group, or another, from free speech activities in the current situation should be seen for what they are, efforts to regulate certain players out of the already skewed quasi-market for Washington’s power, most probably to the benefit of those who are already there.
    This is classic protective “reform” for the benefit of those already empowered.
    We must look to the cause, and not just the symptom, before prescribing the cure.

  5. Drew says:

    Many people do not understand Citizens United at all. Corporations have always been persons as a matter of law. This is why you can sue a company for damage. This is also why companies have a right to be in the political process to protect their investors. If they do not have such freedom, you are left with a bunch of environmental activists. The only real people complaining about Citizens United are the people who either do not understand it or who are part of the Status Quo political power who do not want change.

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