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In an opinion piece in the Christian Science Monitor Robert Reich unloads on Mitch McConnell's mealy mouthed attempt to justify blocking reforms introducing transparency for corporate political giving.  


Just like us: Why Republicans worry about corporate feelings

By Robert Reich, Guest blogger / June 19, 2012

He describes the current push to disclose the sources behind campaign contributions as a “political weapon,” used by the Democrats, “to expose its critics to harassment and intimidation.”

Harassment and intimidation? It used to be called accountability to shareholders and consumers.

And now the minority leader of the Senate – the highest-ranking Republican official in America – takes this logic to its absurd conclusion: If corporations are people, they must be capable of feeling harassed and intimidated if their shareholders or consumers don’t approve of their political expenditures.
Clearly, McConnell doesn’t want corporations to be forced to disclose their political contributions because he and other Republicans worry that some shareholders and consumers would react badly if they knew – and thereby constrain such giving.

And the reason McConnell and other Republicans don’t want any constraint on corporate political giving is most CEOs are Republicans who want to use their firms – and the money their shareholders legally own – as secret slush funds for the Republican Party, funneled through front groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Crossroads GPS.

Reich goes on to point to the pattern from the most recent years where its these non-profits that have been the real heavy hitters, and not the Super PACs (who must disclose their doners).  

Claiming that a right exists protecting the anonymity of corporate political speech to keep its shareholders and customers in the dark, is an absurd attempt to use the First Amendment to expand corporations' political influence beyond their already dis-proportionality loud voice in our political decision making process.

Then as if to drive the point about buying political influence home I see where Mitt Romney and Eric Cantor have scheduled a joint fundraising swing through a favorite enclave for the 1%, the Hamptons, where one of the fundraising events will be held at the mansion of David Koch.

Americans are painfully aware that the relationship between big money and our political leaders has grown far too cozy. This is one of the biggest reasons many Americans say that this country is on the wrong track.

Its time to take the first step toward restoring some fairness to how our elections are conducted.  The Disclose Act should be that first step. Call your congresscritters and tell them why McConnell is wrong.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Making our Democracy a commodity to be sold (40+ / 0-)

    to the highest bidder.

    "We don't need someone who can think. We need someone with enough digits to hold a pen." ~ Grover Norquist

    by Lefty Coaster on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 02:35:44 PM PDT

  •  Anonymity of speech *is* freedom of speech (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnny wurster, BachFan, dougymi

    The title misses the point.  The issue is corporate vs. individual political speech.  I think that for whatever speech we recognize as protected, anonymity has to be part of it.  We just shouldn't recognize corporate speech.

    Romney '12: Bully for America!

    by Rich in PA on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 02:42:17 PM PDT

    •  Adding corporate made the title too long (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rich in PA, dougymi

      I tried.

      "We don't need someone who can think. We need someone with enough digits to hold a pen." ~ Grover Norquist

      by Lefty Coaster on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 02:49:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  "McConnell says anonymous corporate speech = (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blueoasis, cany

        free speech; Reich calls BS"

        •  If the first amendment applies regardless (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          of the identity of the speaker - which we know is the case from Citizens United - then why should the analysis for anonymity be any different for corps or individuals?

          •  The only thing I could think of... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            johnny wurster, Calamity Jean

   that for publicly held companies the shareholders might conceivably have the right to know what their company says politically. Maybe they do already, I don't know.

            Romney '12: Bully for America!

            by Rich in PA on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 03:03:09 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  They don't (8+ / 0-)

              so yeah, compelling disclosure as a corporate GOVERNANCE issue would make sense. Shareholders should know if their company is engaging in potentially damaging activities like partisan politics.

              •  kos - re: Corporate funding of elections (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                I know much of this could be under the radar, which is part of the subject of this diary, however have you seen any information that the Fortune 1000 is playing a role in this election, up to this point? I tend to believe a friend of mine who was a very senior Fortune 500 executive who strongly believes in big companies "there are no secrets" that if Exxon or Eli Lilly were funding political activity we would hear about it. It seems as thought the big money is coming from individuals, and possibly private corporations. I think nearly all large, public companies agree with you that direct political activity is dangerous, as they all have shareholders and customers across the political spectrum.

                Any thoughts?

                "let's talk about that"

                by VClib on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 08:13:47 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  Because anonymous corporate "speech"... (4+ / 0-)

   the form of huge campaign funds is deeply corrupting to our political process, whereas the anonymous comments of a blogger--or blog commenter--are not.  The latter's anonymity promotes free speech; the former's "free speech" drowns others' out.  The analyses cannot be the same.

            The road to Hell is paved with pragmatism.

            by TheOrchid on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 03:10:11 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The First Amendment means that (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              johnny wurster, VClib

              government is supposed to stay out of speech.  It has no business regulating how much of an audience has.  It has no business regulating speech to determine who is "drowning out" whom.   The First Amendment is pretty clear that Congress can't pass a law abridging the speech of one party because it thinks that party is "drowning out" other speakers:  "Congress shall make no law abridging . . . the freedom of speech."

              I don't know how you read "Congress shall make no law abridging" to mean "Congress can regulate speech so that one speaker does not drown others out."

        •  Well (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lineatus, New Rule, Calamity Jean

          I just like the way mauls Mitch McConnell sounds.

          "We don't need someone who can think. We need someone with enough digits to hold a pen." ~ Grover Norquist

          by Lefty Coaster on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 03:11:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  From EFF: (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe, BachFan, coffeetalk, TKO333
      Anonymous communications have an important place in our political and social discourse. The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the right to anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment. A much-cited 1995 Supreme Court ruling in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission reads:
      Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.
      The tradition of anonymous speech is older than the United States. Founders Alexander Hamilton James Madison and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers under the pseudonym "Publius " and "the Federal Farmer" spoke up in rebuttal. The US Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized rights to speak anonymously derived from the First Amendment.

      That said, I lean toward agreeing with the diarist and Scalia, both of whom think anonymity isn't as important as precedent and history suggest.

      •  Citizens United has created a new class of persons (0+ / 0-)

        for which there is no settled law.

        "We don't need someone who can think. We need someone with enough digits to hold a pen." ~ Grover Norquist

        by Lefty Coaster on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 04:00:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No it did not. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          The CU majority specifically said that corporations are not "natural persons," but are associations of persons -- which they are.    From the majority opinion:

              This protection has been extended by explicit holdings to the context of political speech. See, e.g., Button , 371 U. S., at 428–429; Grosjean v. American Press Co. , 297 U. S. 233, 244 (1936) . Under the rationale of these precedents, political speech does not lose First Amendment protection “simply because its source is a corporation.” Bellotti, supra, at 784; see Pacific Gas & Elec. Co. v. Public Util. Comm’n of Cal. , 475 U. S. 1, 8 (1986) (plurality opinion) (“The identity of the speaker is not decisive in determining whether speech is protected. Corporations and other associations, like individuals, contribute to the ‘discussion, debate, and the dissemination of information and ideas’ that the First Amendment seeks to foster” (quoting Bellotti, 435 U. S., at 783)).      The Court has thus rejected the argument that political speech of corporations or other associations should be treated differently under the First Amendment simply because such associations are not “natural persons.” Id., at 776; see id. , at 780, n. 16. Cf. id. , at 828 (Rehnquist, J., dissenting).
          The idea that CU held that corporations are "natural persons" is a myth.
          •  That is some bizarre reasoning (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            "We don't need someone who can think. We need someone with enough digits to hold a pen." ~ Grover Norquist

            by Lefty Coaster on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 04:25:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  How is that bizarre? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              The First Amendment is a limit on Congress, not a right given to people.  

              The limit on Congress does not change based on whether an individual, a group, a club, a partnership, or a corporation pays for the publication of the newspaper, the printing of the book, the website (this blog is an LLC) or the movie.  

              "Congress shall make no law abridging . . . the freedom of speech."  That says nothing about "unless a group of people pays for it."

              •   No including corporations as persons is bizarre (0+ / 0-)

                and very radical IMHO.

                "We don't need someone who can think. We need someone with enough digits to hold a pen." ~ Grover Norquist

                by Lefty Coaster on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 04:33:06 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Did you even read that quote? (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  It specifically said corporations are NOT persons.  I even put that in bold -- the part about they are not "natural persons."  

                  That's the whole point of my post -- The court in CU said that corporations are NOT persons.  

                  What is said is that a corporation is an association of persons -- which it is. It's a legal method of people getting together and pooling capital for a single purpose.  

              •  that's the fatal flaw in the 1st Amendment. n/t (0+ / 0-)

                "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                by G2geek on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 04:52:57 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  So, you want to rewrite the 1st Amendment? (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  How would you do that?  

                  How much power do you want to give, say, a Bush administration, or a Congress headed by McConnell and Boehner, to regulate speech?  Because that's the test for how much power you want to give government:  imagine if the other side was in power, and then decide how much power you want them to have.  

              •  WRONG! BUUUUUUUUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ! (0+ / 0-)

                Read the Citizens United decision. It not only allows for transparency in INVITES it!

                "We don't need someone who can think. We need someone with enough digits to hold a pen." ~ Grover Norquist

                by Lefty Coaster on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 06:38:14 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  the problem is size and power. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean

        Difference in degree becomes difference in type.

        Ever wonder why the highway speed limit for trucks is typically 5 - 10 miles per hour less than for cars?  

        It's not to make it easier for you to pass the trailer truck up ahead.

        It's because of INERTIA: the sheer physics of stopping a much heavier object (a large truck) compared to a much lighter one (a car), particularly when its velocity is considered.   The stopping distance of a fully-loaded truck (20 to 30 tons) at the higher speed, is much much larger than "common sense" and "intuition" would predict.  Reducing the speed of the truck by 10 miles per hour reduces the stopping distance to a point that motorists can grasp when they're in traffic.  

        All of this so the trailer truck behind you doesn't squish you like a bug when you jam on the brakes.  

        As above, so below: what works in physics works in politics (see also the phrase "energy converter").  

        This is why there has to be a restricted set of rights for much larger entities (corporations) than for much smaller ones (individual persons or "natural persons" in legal terms).  

        Corporate persons of large size have much higher inertial mass in politics than natural persons.   They need to be kept in the slow lane or they will squish us like bugs when we try to put on the brakes.  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 04:52:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  So, you would give Congress the power to (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          regulate books, movies, magazines based on the content -- if Congress thought that, say, an anti-war book was too popular, or that there were too many anti-war books out at a time, Congress could ban anti-war books?  Corporations pay for publishing books.  

    •  Issue is money vs. speech. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lefty Coaster, New Rule

      Or, more accurately, power vs. speech.

      What Republians want to pretect is the anonymous exercise of power, not anonymous speech.

      The road to Hell is paved with pragmatism.

      by TheOrchid on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 03:03:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What's the Lesson? (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Coaster, kos, cany, Calamity Jean, TKO333

    Corporations are afraid of bad PR and consumer boycotts.

    "The fundamental strength of the economy is unimpaired". Herbert Hoover December 2, 1930

    by Superpole on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 02:43:29 PM PDT

  •  Cockroaches don't like the light of day. -eom- (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Coaster, TKO333

    The road to Hell is paved with pragmatism.

    by TheOrchid on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 03:01:26 PM PDT

  •  hey...did you get my kosmail? n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Coaster

    Die with your boots on. If you're gonna try, well stick around. Gonna cry? Just move along. The truth of all predictions is always in your hands. - Iron Maiden

    by Cedwyn on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 04:06:39 PM PDT

  •  I want to know why (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RosyFinch, Calamity Jean

    people who work for or hold stock in corporations get an extra say in elections.  Every one of them gets to vote.  Why are all of them together somehow a new and distinct "person" with extra-special rights and privileges?

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 06:35:16 PM PDT

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