Friday, January 22, 2010

Court Commentary:Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

A brief juxtaposition. Here's Matthew Yglesisas on the campaign finance ruling that just came down in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which basically said that because corporations are people (an idea with its own fascinating court history), there should be no limit on their campaign spending:
Something worth mentioning in the context of the Citizens United decision, though not directly tied to the issue at hand there, is that a group doesn’t actually need to spend vast sums of money to have a decisive influence on politics. It just needs to be able to credibly threaten to spend said sums. Bank of America, for example, dedicates $2.3 billion to marketing in 2008 so it’s clear that they’ve got the budget to mount a $100 million series of scathing attacks on a Senator who pisses them off and basically laugh that off (and note that in 2004 total spending on Senate campaigns was just $400 million). And if you can have it be the case that just one Senator goes down to defeat for having pissed off BofA then everyone else will learn the lesson and avoid pissing them off in the future. You don’t need to actually sustain that volume of campaign spending.

Here's a quote from Anne Bogart (h/t Monica Reida) about Athol Fugard and his views on censorship:
Athol Fugard, the South African playwright, described censorship as hesitation. For him censorship is not necessarily the proximity of government inspectors or a threat of imprisonment but, rather, on the physical hesitation of his hand while writing. Censorship is his own private vacillation provoked by whatever doubts are out to ambush him. Censorship is a physical hesitation in the light of fleeting thought or doubt about how his peers might receive what he is writing, whether or not they will like it or if it will be published.
Two writers writing in different contexts about the same phenomenon. I think both of them speak to the heart of why this case sincerely disappointed me.