Sometimes it is a good idea to take a few minutes, even half an hour, to pause and "think." Sadly, it is something in which our august political leaders and many law professors do not often seem to indulge. Five Supreme Court nominees, including Justice Kennedy, and at least two brilliant Constitutional Law experts could not bring themselves to read the entire First Amendment! That is the one that prohibits laws abridging freedom of speech, but also ensures the right of the people to petition the government for redress of grievances. Allowing corporations, who are not voters, unlimited, bribed access to "their" personal public officials, negates virtually any chance for the average citizen to even communicate with his representative, let alone redress grievances. Meanwhile, the Fourteenth Amendment is sooo far away. Who wants to read that far in that boring old document?
Well, maybe it won't be so boring if we just skip a few sentences here and there. The Second Amendment looks sooo much better if we skip that stupid part about "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State..." and just stick with the part about "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Oooh, this is sooo much easier! Let's skip all the way to the Fourteenth amendment! We had better skip the part that defines "persons" as citizens, especially if we want "corporations" to be considered as citizens, because those silly old men forgot to include them. Not to worry. The Supreme Court will be happy to redefine that for us. They would consider it a privilege,their privilege, of course.
While we are at it, skimming through the Constitution, let's see how we can deprive people of "life, liberty or property, without due process of law" and get away with it, sort of a "get rich quick" course, only "quicker." We'll just look puzzled,like attorneys, and admit that we don't know what "due process" is. As for the part that says "nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law," if one is lucky enough to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, that person is allowed to skip the entire first section of the pesky Fourteenth Amendment. The Court has more important things to do, besides, if they knew what "due process" and "equal protection" meant, they might have to worry about things like stealing Seniors' social security funds and spending them on foreign wars or denying them the right to negotiate Medicare prices.
It seems that the whole "attack" on "free speech" started with the "McCain/Feingold" attempt to limit non-voting, non-citizen corporations' contributions to their favorite lackey. The plaintiffs, in their case before the Supreme Court wanted their movie, a political advertisement against Hillary Clinton, to be considered as just another movie. Because the movie was, admittedly, an all out attack on Hillary, not about a political subject or concept, under McCain/Feingold, it was treated as a political ad. Normally, many stations, not wanting to be forced to give equal time to Hillary, might choose not to air the program. In this case, Citizens United, the producers of "Hillary: The Movie," were not permitted to advertise their product because their expenditures were coming out of the treasury of their corporation. This was expressly forbidden by campaign finance law.
At first, of course, I was appalled by the new hierarchy established by an extremist, highly biased court. Deliberately placing corporations and their "rights" above regular citizens, is clearly insulting and demeaning to personal liberties. These personal liberties were earned with the blood and guts of our forefathers and cost many of them their lives. Now, in one fell swoop, five self serving jurists give these valuable prizes over, free of charge, not only to American corporations, but to foreign entities as well! By their careless actions, Venezuela's dictator, Hugo Chavez, could buy a whole election with his limitless oil revenues. Ronald Reagan must be turning over in his grave at the thought of a Communist country or organization purchasing a candidate or a whole election! Libertarians have to be both concerned and confused over this whole issue.
Somehow, the case was transformed into an attack on "freedom of speech" for corporations. "Free" speech by corporate entities to the tune of billions of dollars in bribes to various Democrat and Republican candidates for the express purpose of prostituting themselves, became more important than any other part of the Constitution. Yes, "free speech" and "freedom of speech" are two distinctly different terms, but, so too, are "corporation" and "citizen," a distinction made very clear by one hundred years of Supreme Court decisions. The fact that the Court took advantage of a correctable weakness in McCain/Feingold to "sell their souls" to Corporate America, amounts to "throwing the baby out with the bath water." A better remedy might have been to treat the movie as a legitimate political campaign ad, distribute it through a viable political action committee, subject to "equal time" and any other common campaign regulations. Instead, a biased majority went out of their way to grant corporations privileges that even legitimate "citizens" do not enjoy!
After taking a nice relaxing breath, I did take a moment to calm down and rationally reconsider what had just happened. The Supreme Court had just struck down portions of a well intentioned bill which was poorly written, which was too complicated and too confusing. Like the election of Mr. Brown in Massachusetts, the Court's decision should represent a wake-up call to campaign reformers from both parties. The most important aspect of this reform is "transparency," that is, divulging every penny's source, including foreign entities. AARP would need to acknowledge United Healthcare as the source of the funds for their multiple "health care reform" ads whenever appropriate. Similarly the Political ads begging Seniors not to improve the corruption in Medicare Part D, would have to admit that they were funded by Pharma. Democratic groups would be similarly required to expose their financial sources in their efforts to block Medicare's requirement for competitive bids for durable goods, oxygen products and laboratory tests. With true "transparency," spending huge amounts of money on amoral candidates might seriously backfire, especially among independent voters!
In fact, villifying the entire Republican party, simply because some of them are completely obnoxious is a "fool's errand," at best. It is as useless as wishing away the sometimes equally obnoxious Democratic House Speaker, since she cannot compare with the likes of John Boehner, Mitch McConnell or Barbara Bachmann on her meanest day. Yes, sometimes, a little pause in a busy day, can change ones perspective, especially if it is accompanied by a constructive thought or two. Good advice, I think, not only for Congresspersons, but also for Supreme Court Justices, caught in that "No Man's Land" between the welfare of their country and that of their party.
Allen Finkelstein, D.O.
The O'Finky Factor