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January 21, 2010

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Other Democrats, who honestly feel that the Senate bill is worse than no bill, are making "not $1" pledges to withdraw support from any House member who votes for the Senate bill.

Did you ever read the Dr. Seuss parable about the north-going Zax and the south-going Zax ?

With respect, those Democrats are making a colossal misjudgment -- one that completely ignores how important this bill is, how fleeting and rare the window is, and how easily it can be improved.

Jane Hamsher is not exactly my favorite person right now.

We suck.

Agreed on Hamsher.

I honestly haven't been this annoyed since October 2002.

Publius, I don't disagree with you.
I was describing the situation Pelosi with which Pelosi must cope, not arguing in favor of either Zax.

My suggestion is for everyone to just chill the fuck out until the SOTU next week. One way or the other, that's going to be Rally Point Alpha.

Clothes-rending, hand-wringing, and dire oaths of retribution are all premature until then.

Sasha -- I would normally agree with that. But the last two days have been different. Obama should be out there doing something.

This has really tainted my view of his leadership. For the first time, I'm thinking maybe he is Carter

I think there are a lot more pro-bill people like me than there are firebaggers like Hamsher and her ilk who want to kill it. A lot more.

Up to now, a lot of us have been quiet because...well...it's not like we love this bill either. But passing this bill is, flawed as it is, is a lot better than having no bill at all. It will help a lot of people who really need it. Once there is a bill, we can always fix/tweak it as time goes on.

I think a lot of Dem politicians breathed a little sigh of relief when Brown won because it meant that they could dodge this hard vote and push the blame off on someone else. It's up to us to let them know that this is not an option.

I don't think he is Carter, see Carter reallu cared. Obama is a really good politicia. How else do you retain his favorability while his parties crashes. He is pragmatic to a fault. Feigned irritationis about the most you get from him. Oh well.

What exactly should Obama be doing then?

I'm sure he's doing whatever he can behind the scenes, but perhaps you feel he ought to be out in front of the cameras, stridently arguing for House passage of the Senate bill. He'll have a much larger bully pulpit to argue that in the SOTU so let him keep his powder dry till then.

The thing is, this *is* Obama's leadership style: When any sort of crisis hits, he doesn't automatically charge into the fray -- he calmly assesses the situation, decides the best course of action, then fully commits himself. That's what he did during the campaign, that's how he's managed his presidency. That's also why we elected him: he doesn't merely respond reflexively to a problem, he actually takes time to reflect before solving it.

Or, in the words of the man himself, "I like to know what I'm talking about before I say anything."

Not passing the bill at this point is suicidal for the Democratic party. Not only does it encourage the Republicans even more, demoralize their base even further, and make them look weak, but they throw away the entire last year of work, and get nothing in exchange.

If only they'd listened to the Republicans' brilliant ideas more! /sarcasm

I've unsubscribed to every list I was on because I donated money. I doubt calling my rep will do any good (although I have) but if I let them know I'm going to hit them in the pocket book and phone bank maybe they'll listen to me. At least until they're bought by a CEO.

i'm right there with ya.

the Dems are worthless, and a worthless investment. not a dollar nor a dime.

i'll support primary challenges, but no incumbents. they are dead to me.

The problem with 'not 1 dollar' pledges and the like is that they punish the people who tried to help you and do nothing to harm the people who didn't. Some Dem who's balking because he thinks the constituents won't like it would most likely be glad to say to his constituents that those wild liberals on the internet are boycotting me because I took the stand that you favored.

I strongly doubt that Pelosi is leaving any material stones unturned here. She understands the stakes and, unlike a lot of the others, has the stones to act. But she can't make scared Dems vote her way, and she can't scare them more than their constituents can.

There's no magical formula for deriving Victory from Defeat. Acting in a way that make defeat more likely -- whether cheerleading the death of the bill, or providing a triangulation argument -- isn't going to help.

It's probably hard for O, but I'd consider asking WJC to go visit gettable House Dems, and explain to them that their no vote isn't going to save them in November. And by the way, this has been a Dem priority since Truman, and voters will come out in favor once it's done.

Other Democrats, who honestly feel that the Senate bill is worse than no bill, are making "not $1" pledges to withdraw support from any House member who votes for the Senate bill.

If they could articulate a vision where a better bill gets passed (one that isn't based on wishful thinking scenarios or a profound misunderstand of what reconciliation can accomplish), then I would find their position credible.

Until then, they should be explaining to folks with pre-existing conditions who cannot get insurance that it's better to sacrifice a couple hundred thousand sick people and hope that we can get single payer 15 years from now. Those lives will help make the case for HCR in 2025, so we need to make sure they don't manage to fix the system even a little bit...

And, although I agree with your basic point: some people hold this position, and the Dem leadership has to deal with this, I find it incredible that this is the one moment since the McGovern election that the Dem leadership is suddenly hostage to the left wing of the party. They've been f&cking the left wing of the party for decades.
So that just cannot be the reason that they're paralyzed. They're paralyzed because they lack the courage of their convictions & are most interested in preserving their jobs (and lucrative post-Congress lobbying gigs).

Jeez. No-one even said "welcome back, publius."

Welcome back publius.

And its as good a time as any to quote Will Rogers:
Democrats never agree on anything, that's why they're Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they would be Republicans.

...and of course:
I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.?

We don't matter.

SCOTUS just completed the process of making corporate America into sociopathic virtual voters.

We are Soylent Green.

We live in a fascist state.

Emigration.

Violence.

Goodbye.

First, Italics off!

And yeah, I agree with Thullen that the Supreme Court giving elections to corporations is a bigger deal than the mofo in MA, but I don't think the politicians are going to notice until it's too late.

Carleton Wu: I'm not sure that characterizing health care reform as "hostage to the left" is accurate. Besides the fact the politicians and media's first instinct is to punch a hippie any time something happens, the useless anti-abortion Blue Dogs like Stupak in the House are probably a bigger block to passing the Senate version of the bill than "the left".

efgoldman, you forgot to hit SHIFT

I therefore name you shiftless.

I hear and share the anger here, but I don't think letting Congressional seats turn from (D) to (R) is going to help anything.

SCOTUS just completed the process of making corporate America into sociopathic virtual voters.

Corporations are people.

Money is speech.

Welcome to the American Newspeak.

@femdem. Me too. I unsubscribed from OFA. I called barney frank's office. I called Sheila Jackson Lee's office. No response from her. I'm going to support her primary challenger if she opposes. Hell, I'm going to walk the streets of Houston to do it.

I hear and share the anger here, but I don't think letting Congressional seats turn from (D) to (R) is going to help anything.


Apparently it's not going to hurt anything either.

Well, of course if healthcare failed it was the left that the moderates and centrists blamed rather than all the sleazy deals and compromises that were made by Obama and the Senate.

Funny how this has worked out. Never coulda imagined.

Femdem- Really? How do people manage to forget the Clinton and Bush years so quickly?

One would assume that if Obama cared to pass this, he could put some pressure on the oh-so-important Blue Dogs.

Is Jane Hamsher a larger problem than Stephanie Herseth or Charlie Melancon? I don't see any harm in letting those seats turn from (D) to (R).

I'm not sure everyone involved realizes these three things:
1. There is NO WAY to get a bill passed before the elections if the current bill isn't passed out of conference or by using the Senate bill, and it's doubtful you'd get any Republican to sign on by combining the two bills in any way.
2. The biggest sticking point between the bills is the funding mechanism (I think the Stupak problem is manageable). This happens to be exactly what reconciliation is good for. And the Byrd rule won't be triggered since it won't affect the deficit to switch from the Cadillac tax to a surtax or some hybrid between the two. On top of that, the big corporate players opposed to HCR don't care how it's funded; the stuff they're worried about is already in both bills. In fact, the insurers would prefer the House scheme.
3. The Cadillac tax doesn't kick in until 2013. There's lots of time to fix it.

I just got an email from MoveOn saying how now's the time to ask Congress for a real health reform bill with a real public option. I guess they're proud of derailing it long enough for Brown to win.


Apparently it's not going to hurt anything either.

It's easy to think that out of disappointment at an ineffective Congress. It's easy to forget that the last Republican Congresses were very effective at rubber-stamping every bad idea the Bush Administration came up with.

And this is why I am a leftist and Jane Hamsher is about my favorite person.

Because there apparently is absolutely nothing liberals won't sacrifice, sell, or give away in order to feel powerful and self-righteous.

What could possibly have been a deal-breaker, since reproductive rights were allowed on the table?

Liberals have no "deal breakers." And so the war goes on.

Withholding donations and inducing primary challenges to Democratic incumbents is fine as far as it goes. I hope I'm wrong, but my guess is in most cases it goes as far as giving the feckless incumbents a run for their money before they pull out the primary.

(I could be wrong; I certainly didn't think the Democrats could lose Teddy Kennedy's seat, so upsets obviously do happen.)

I think at least you need to think another step ahead to whether you then support the feckless (and hopefully chastened) Democrat in the general election. Believe it or not, things really can get worse than a Congress populated by Democratic cowards and sycophants.

It's worth noting that the only reason the Dems have a majority, let alone a big one, is because of the big tent strategy. Every time we curse the Dems for lacking party unity in the Senate, realize that the consequence of demanding uniform unity is manifest in the GOP minority. I'd rather have 50+ votes to have the majority than 45 votes guaranteed on anything.

Also, it's times like these I really wish we had a groundswell of support for instant-runoff voting, as long as we're discussing fantasy scenarios.

Zach: What good is a 51 seat majority, when they need 60 seats to get anything done, and even when they have it, can't get anything done?

What good is power if you won't use it?

All those years of laughing at Republicans as suckers because they vote for politicians who, as soon as elected, turn around and screw them on economic issues while ignoring the social issues they were elected on - well, it doesn't seem so funny now.

Perhaps we need "What's the Matter With California?"

What good is power if you won't use it?

Because it keeps power away from those who will use it.

Zach: A "big tent" model is still compatible with leadership and a semblance of party discipline.

If Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson want to join a filibuster of a super-duper high-priority item like Health Care reform, threaten their committee leadership and threaten to campaign against them.

The specific problem isn't a lack of uniformity but a willingness on the part of members of the Senate Democratic Caucus to actively sabotage major policy initiatives and a willingness on the part of the White House and Harry Reid to condone and enable that.

There's a mile of difference between not-voting-for a bill and supporting-the-filibuster-against a bill.

Apparently it's not going to hurt anything either.

That makes no sense. How would having Republicans in charge make better? Were you people even paying attention during 2000-2008?

Nate
the useless anti-abortion Blue Dogs like Stupak in the House are probably a bigger block to passing the Senate version of the bill than "the left".

That's not my sense at all- the Senate bill was to the right of the House bill that passed. While some Blue Dogs might still move from "yes" to "no" despite that shift, it seems to be the progressives (eg Barney Frank) agressively declaring the entire effort DOA.

To some significant extent I think that the progressives in the House don't care what the Senate's excuse is, they aren't interested in being told to put out or walk. Institutional perrogative and all.

Zach
The biggest sticking point between the bills is the funding mechanism (I think the Stupak problem is manageable). This happens to be exactly what reconciliation is good for.

Totally agree, yet almost no one is talking about this; afaict ditching the bill now is based on a pretty flimsy series of excuses. I think there's a pretty serious commitment problem for Dems here: both centrist and left-wing Dems have an incentive to oppose the bill (for either being too liberal or not liberal enough). Everyone can find a flaw.
And there's nothing practical to be gained in supporting the bill if it won't be passed. So the rank-and-file looked to the leadership, and the leadership apparently wasn't even prepared for the possibility- again, witness Frank strongly taking one position and then changing it a day later.

Bob
Because there apparently is absolutely nothing liberals won't sacrifice, sell, or give away in order to feel powerful and self-righteous.

And no one that some leftists will not leave dying in a ditch in order to feel ideologically pure.
One thing I have not seen is someone with a preexisting condition criticize this bill from the left. I have not heard a woman with MS stand up and say "I will not accept this live-saving healthcare if it does not include family planning services! I would rather die than pay out of pocket!"

"If Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson want to join a filibuster of a super-duper high-priority item like Health Care reform, threaten their committee leadership and threaten to campaign against them."

My point is that this is exactly what the GOP did and they've lost several seats on account of it. I agree that there's a difference between voting for cloture and voting for passage, and I'd also prefer that Lieberman not be an attention starved asshole.

Zach: But it just won them the Presidency, Didn't you see?

What good is power if you won't use it?

Because it keeps power away from those who will use it.

Ayup. At this point I expect nothing from the Democrats other than not being Republicans.

Being gay, I just can't fall into "what's the difference" mode, however tempting it may be. Because there's still a difference. One party pretends to give a shit about me, but really doesn't. The other party very openly and explicitly hates my guts. It's not a pleasant choice to have to make, but it is still a choice.

At present we have two parties that stand for essentially the same things, broadly speaking: ever greater concentrations of corporate power and economic inequality, an ever-expanding military-industrial complex, military adventurism and neocolonialism abroad, the endless horrors of the "wars" on drugs and terror, and so on. But only one party thus far has been completely taken over by very dangerous, bugf*ck crazy authoritarians. Keeping them as far away from the levers of power as possible is more important to me than punishing the Dems for being the worthless wastes of space that they have repeatedly shown themselves to be.

"One thing I have not seen is someone with a preexisting condition criticize this bill from the left." Wu

Jane Hamsher has had three different episodes breast cancer.

Apparently it's not going to hurt anything either.

That makes no sense. How would having Republicans in charge make better? Were you people even paying attention during 2000-2008?


I didn't say it was going to make it better, I said it's not going to make it worse. It's not going to make any difference at all. The repubs have figured out they can make the dems roll over and play dead even when the dems have massive majorities (and 59% is a pretty massive majority). There are lots of things that could be done but all that's happening is dems cowering in the corner hoping they can bleach the stains out of their panties. I'll vote in the prmary but I'm thru phone banking, schlepping thru the appalachian country side, donating money I can barely afford and praying.

I just gave $$$ to Tom Perriello. He has been incredibly courageous through the entire health care battle, after winning an election by less than 500 votes. I will send him an email shortly letting him know that I want the House to vote for the Senate bill (something I'm pretty sure he will do), but the "not one dollar" strategy makes no sense in my jurisdiction, or in others where courageous Democrats need to be rewarded.

And echo the "Jane Hamsher is not my favorite person" statement. I am outraged at people like her who would stick it to so many millions of Americans.

I think a lot of Dem politicians breathed a little sigh of relief when Brown won because it meant that they could dodge this hard vote

It's hard to believe, in a way - since they've already done a virtually just-as-hard vote (the House bill which has already passed) - but this seems to indeed be the case. This is an object lesson on why people despise Democrats ('liberals') and why they have a good case for so doing. It's not about policy; it's about character.

Jane Hamsher has had three different episodes breast cancer.

And the money to pay her bills.

"And yeah, I agree with Thullen that the Supreme Court giving elections to corporations is a bigger deal than the mofo in MA, "

What's that about?

On the Dem-bashing, I'm all for it, but the problem has been there all along and I don't quite see why not supporting Democrats now is any different from voting Nader in 2000 (which I did then--I've been a good little Democrat-enabler since). We all have issues which are breaking points for us.

The dilemma is a perennial one--vote Democrat and they'll take your vote and keep it just so long as they are slightly less bad than the Republicans. Or vote third party or don't vote and then a Republican is more likely to win. I've not heard a good solution to this, which is why the Democrats are the way they are.

Maybe I need to write a post on it, but I'm not sure what people are complaining about on Citizens United. It certainly isn't worth "SCOTUS just completed the process of making corporate America into sociopathic virtual voters."

The law in question made it illegal even for non-profits to make advocacy speech. It would have meant for example that if this blog were organized as a non-profit to pool funds, that we would be criminals to advocate for a candidate.

See for example "Thus, the following acts would all be felonies under §441b: The Sierra Club runs an ad, within the crucial phase of 60 days before the general election, that exhorts the public to disapprove of a Congressman who favors logging in national forests; the National Rifle Association publishes a book urging the public to vote for the challenger because the incumbent U. S. Senator supports a handgun ban; and the American Civil Liberties Union creates a Web site telling the public to vote for a Presidential candidate in light of that candidate’s defense of free speech. These prohibitions are classic examples of censorship."

And the Supreme Court upheld 8-1 the disclosure requirements, so you can tell exactly which corporations are spending what money where.

imagine the difference it would make if "progressive", "activist" Dems threw their weight and dollars behind actual progressive Dems during primaries. we need better Democrats in office, not more blue pathetic dogs.

Sebastian: Oh gee, I don't know, because now GE, Blackwater, Montaso, Goldman Sachs, etc, can all just call up the advertisers they have on retainer, and churn out slick ads for the politicians they want? Political donations mostly get spent on ads and ad consultants and crap now, so this is just effectively making bribery even more legal. "Oh, remember that $20 million we spent last election on the ad campaign that helped you win? Vote our way, or next election, we'll use our spare change to kill you in the primaries and the general."

Also, because it's a BAD RULING. Corporations are not "people", and have no "free speech rights". Period. For profit corporations are legal fictions designed to hide the people behind the company from liability should the company crash or brea they law. Nothing more. Which has valid uses, but in NO way makes them "people".

Here's my model of American politics:

Imagine that the public knows absolutely nothing about policy, and makes their decisions about which party to vote for based solely on how well they personally have done over the last couple of years. If they've done well, they vote for the incumbents. If they've done badly, they vote for the other guys. The policy positions of the parties are perfectly irrelevant to the election.

Meanwhile the parties themselves have a policy platform developed essentially at random, with the only rule being that while in power they don't change it much, and while out of power they make changes to it basically at random.

Now, if the party newly elected doesn't seem to be getting a handle on things, they'll get kicked out at the next election and the other party will get another chance (having randomized some of their policy) and so on until someone gets a grip on things.

As far as I can tell that is exactly how the public operates and policy, personality, and everything else has very little to do with the outcome of elections. And while it may seem crazy, it is also a process that will eventually work, and not necessarily any worse than any other system. It's basically the "random walk" method of government - keep randomizing policy until you find one that works.

I think the dysfunction in recent years has been that the rules for how parties should act have been broken: the Democrats don't follow their own platform once elected, and the Republicans don't change anything while they're out of power. That's a dangerous situation, but perhaps all we need is a few more cycles for everyone to remember that the game we are playing is about getting things done and not actually about ideology at all.

Punish the innocent and guilty alike? You're beginning to sound like a Tea-bagger!

"Also, because it's a BAD RULING. Corporations are not "people", and have no "free speech rights". Period."

Corporations are made up of people with free speech rights. Corporations are instrumentalities of people with free speech rights. And in fact most actual political organizations are corporations. Amnesty International shouldn't be allowed to publish political views? The ACLU?

And what about the New York Times, or ThinkProgress? Should they be banned from publishing political views which could be construed as supporting a candidate?

Because if you want to talk about really bad constitutional doctrines--the idea that reporters have more free speech rights than I do is twice as much crap.

Sebastian: Y'know, abstract debates about who should have more rights than who are all well and good, but the practical effect of this ruling will be to allow corporations to literally buy political contests. Period. That's what the entire thing is about. And I'm not talking about "interest corporations", I'm talking about "Billions of dollars a year in income" corporations, like Haliburton, GE, AOL, Microsoft, General Dynamics, etc.

Make up all the sympathetic corner cases you want, but the entire case was set up as a front to get exactly this ruling, to allow big corporations to buy elections. Period.

"Make up all the sympathetic corner cases you want, but the entire case was set up as a front to get exactly this ruling, to allow big corporations to buy elections. Period."

It's OK. The majority clearly signaled that the individual contribution limit is up next, so candidates can always raise billions of dollars themselves to combat the corporations. Problem solved!

The nice thing about what Thullen said is that it reminds Democrats that Obama's most important contribution so far has been to keep McCain from being the one appointing Souter's replacement.

"Corporations are made up of people with free speech rights. Corporations are instrumentalities of people with free speech rights."

No, they are not. Corporations are creations of the state in order to further state goals. They have no natural rights because they are not natural creations. They are given special rights and special legal protections because those rights and legal protections serve an end of the states.

Let's assume that politicians, whether Dem or GOP, are interested in nothing but their own re-election. With me so far?

Good. Now, here are two possibilities:
1) House Dems who balk at passing the Senate bill as is are accurately judging the mood of their constituents; or
2) They're not.

Take the second possibility first: that they are MISjudging the reaction of their constituents. I'm willing to entertain this possibility, despite the fact that some of them may be long-time incumbents -- and you don't get to be a long-time incumbent by misjudging what you can sell to your constituents. In this case, those House Dems are honest but wrong. Not intellectually honest, necessarily, but politically honest. They're doing what they think the plurality of their constituents want them to do; they're simply misjudging what that is.

The first possibility amounts to this: those House Dems are politically honest and right. They're doing what their constituents actually want them to do.

Please note that both cases imply the House Dems are "politically honest". The difference is whether they're right or wrong about their constituents.

Now, all this would be irrelevant if it did not apply to the Republicans, who uniformly oppose HCR, just as well. Am I suggesting that House and Senate Republicans are "politically honest", too? Yes, I am. In the very narrow sense of "politically honest" that I'm using here, all these congresscritters are honestly trying to get themselves re-elected, and honestly making the best guess they can about what will GET them re-elected. By their constituents.

See where I'm going with this?

I'm saying that the problem is the stupidity of the electorate, not the stupidity of the politicians. Name any Republican (except Cao of Louisiana). He or she voted against HCR. Now, tell me how likely that Republican is to lose re-election because of it. It would be nice to think that a bunch of Republicans will lose their seats because they opposed HCR. It would modify my judgement that (the plurality of) their constituents are stupid.

What's more likely is that a bunch of Dems will lose their seats because they honestly tried -- but failed -- to gauge how much their constituents really wanted the Senate bill to pass.

Yes, I know: it's bad form to call voters stupid. If you're signed up for this government-of-the-people-by-the-people-and-for-the-people thing, objective stupidity counts for nothing. If a plurality of some politician's constituents want something that's objectively bad for them, what's the poor politician to do?

You can read "poor politician" two different ways, of course. In one sense, a poor politician is one who cannot persuade his constituents to want what's good for them. But persuading people costs money, just like fooling them does, and the Supreme Court just made it easier to fool people.

So we're probably doomed. But not because our politicians are stupid.

--TP

Sebastian: "Corporations are made up of people with free speech rights. Corporations are instrumentalities of people with free speech rights."

This is even more disingenuous of you than usual. Are you truly meaning to suggest that every collection of individuals - on whatever terms - has the same rights as the individual members? The same duties? The same obligations? Is subject to the same punishments?

The corporation IS a legal fiction, and if you have any knowledge of our political and economic history, you know it. Prior to the Civil War, all such entities were strictly regulated & tightly controlled in every state.

And if you know those things, you also know that the "precedent" for considering corporate entities to be persons is itself extra-legal, and without basis in the Constitution.

Not that your argument wasn't popular back in Lincoln's day, but we've had an extra 150 years to observe the flaws inherent in it. If nothing else, if corporate rights flow without hindrance from the rights of the component individuals (who what, founded it? Work for it? Run it? Invest in it?), there is no argument for the protection of those individuals from personal liability for the acts of the corporation.

If you want to talk original intent, the record clearly supports the view that corporate persons have only those rights necessary for them to conduct their business, and only within the context of the conduct of their business - not in civil society at large.

The really ironic bit is that you're making a collectivist argument...unless I've missed your proposal to strip individual rights from those whose rights are being expressed rightfully through their collective.... I just don't see how you reconcile all this with a 'modern conservative' worldview.

The nice thing about what Thullen said is that it reminds Democrats that Obama's most important contribution so far has been to keep McCain from being the one appointing Souter's replacement.

just you wait.

the first SC fight is going to make the Dems performance on HCR look like a model of political courage.

they're going to completely write the rules on how many times something can fold before it can no longer be bent.

the blue dongs will turn Reid into a Klein bottle of capitulation.

"Sebastian: Y'know, abstract debates about who should have more rights than who are all well and good, but the practical effect of this ruling will be to allow corporations to literally buy political contests. Period. That's what the entire thing is about. And I'm not talking about "interest corporations", I'm talking about "Billions of dollars a year in income" corporations, like Haliburton, GE, AOL, Microsoft, General Dynamics, etc."

Darrell Issa's Senate run anyone? There is a limit. And speaking of limits those are still in place. Further, you're surely aware that this law passed in 2002, so at worst we're returning to the status quo, except with more disclosure because the disclosure portion wasn't shut down.

And you've never explained how your "corporations aren't people" argument applies to the NYT, or Mother Jones, or Dateline. Are we *really* to assume that corporations can't use money to publish the work of reporters? Under your constitutional theory it would seem that would be an example of a corporation employing its resources for potential advocacy situations and could clearly be barred. So the New York Times has no protectable free speech rights? Is that really a good policy?

(Note that the current jurisprudence doesn't believe that, but it is the same jurisprudence that suggests corporations share most of the same rights of the individuals that make them up. So you aren't really helped by that).

For the record, the ACLU argued against the goverment regulation in this case:

"Section 203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 prohibits unions and corporations (both for-profit and non-profit) from engaging in “electioneering communications.” The legislative definition of an “electioneering communication” was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2003 and then substantially narrowed by the Supreme Court in 2007. In scheduling this case for reargument, the Court specifically requested briefs on whether section 203 should now be struck down as facially unconstitutional. The ACLU has consistently taken the position that section 203 is facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment because it permits the suppression of core political speech, and our amicus brief takes that position again."

The ACLU seems right on point here. It is amazing to me that liberals on this blog and elsewhere can suggest that the First Amendment protects corporate publication and distribution of Hustler magazine and that it doesn't protect core political speech. The reason the Supreme court is so free on the obscenity concept is that it didn't want to come anywhere near the regulation of potential political speech. To allow Hustler while banning political advocacy would be to precisely invert the whole point of the 1st amendment.


Amnesty International shouldn't be allowed to publish political views? The ACLU?

And what about the New York Times, or ThinkProgress? Should they be banned from publishing political views which could be construed as supporting a candidate?

No, they shouldn't, but I'm pretty sure the law that was struck down applied only to "broadcast, cable or satellite communication."

"No, they shouldn't, but I'm pretty sure the law that was struck down applied only to "broadcast, cable or satellite communication."

But that was only a matter of statute, not constitution. It has nothing to do with Nate's argument. Are you suggesting that Nate is essentially correct, but the worst parts of his arguments weren't actually effectuated? His argument makes no useful distinction between GM and the NYT. And the distinction I suspect he wants to make is not in the constitution. "freedom of the press" is not a special protection for a special class of people. It isn't freedom of the PRESS (only corporations who get special government protection because they allegedly employ reporters). See here for cases showing that you don't have to be a member of a media organization to get the freedom of the press protections.

No Sebastian, this wasn't just overturning the 2003 law. This overturned precedent that's stood for 60+ years. From here, "A 63-year-old prohibition on corporations using money from their general treasuries to produce and run their own campaign ads."

That PLUS the McCain-Feingold ban on outside "issue ads" 30/60 days before the election.

They didn't let corporations donate unlimitedly to candidates. Yet. Wait for it, they will, if they can figure out a way.

But it's the first part that's the most important. As I mentioned above, any giant corporation now has the "right" to spend however much they want on their own ads in races. Which is what campaign donations generally go to, so the part about not allowing them to donate to campaigns is basically gutted. Which allows corporations to directly buy elections, and further legalizes the institutional bribery that "campaign contributions" have become.

Not that unlimited corporate bribes donations to candidates has ever bothered "conservatives", even though it's pretty damn radical to allow that kind of bribery.

Sebastian: If you don't see any difference between GE or Microsoft spending $FOO billion dollars running slick ad campaigns, and the New York Times running political coverage, I don't think there's any point in us having this discussion, because frankly I don't think there's any way we can communicate, our definitions are too different.

"Which allows corporations to directly buy elections"

Really? They can buy actual votes? I didn't see that part. Can you quote it for me?

You're sounding overdramatic. The general treasuries thing was just a formality question. They could set up PACs if they wanted to. The Supreme Court said that it wasn't proper to limit speech based on which form the corporation took to channel it--PACs vs. general treasury.

And you still have bothered to defend how your theory allows for the NYT to make political pronouncements.

Unless one can realistically demonstrate how a corporation can cast a vote or hold an elected office, I cannot fathom how anyone can sincerely believe that a corporate entity to be identical to a a flesh-and-blood individual.

Well, I for one am happy to run a giant, uncontrolled experiment in letting corporations spend unlimited amounts of money on influencing elections despite decades of negative experience with their actions under restricted regimes, because really, what could go wrong?

I mean it's not like anything major went wrong the last time corporations teamed up with right-wingers to run the government of a major industrial power.

Jacob, do you believe the election law in question particularly lessened corporate influence in politics? Really?

Okay, Sebastian, whatever you say. The New York Times publishing newspapers is exactly like Haliburton spending $30 million on attack ads to take out politicians who opposed some legislation they liked. So obviously if we allow one, we must allow it all. Money is exactly the same as speech, after all, everyone knows the age old saying "One dollar, one vote."

All this is going to do is allow the Republicans to rake in even more cash, and make the Democrats even more worthless corporate whores. In addition to Obama's campaign turning millions of new voters out, then doing their best to turn them all off of politics for good.

Oooh, I know, why don't we just legalize selling offices, and then use the money to reduce the deficit give tax breaks to the richest 1%, in the exact amount of how much they spent to buy the office?

If the effects were limited to the law in question, that would be a reasonable point. Since the effects are much broader (this being a widely-framed & precedent-setting Supreme Court decision after all), the fine points of the particular law that was overturned aren't the actual issue.

But you know that.

"Okay, Sebastian, whatever you say. The New York Times publishing newspapers is exactly like Haliburton spending $30 million on attack ads to take out politicians who opposed some legislation they liked."

So I take it you have no argument you would like to share about the differences then? No useful thoughts on how the Constitution protects the NYT?

I can see you just want to rant. Got it.

No useful thoughts on how the Constitution protects the NYT?

Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of ... the press....

Um, the NYT is "the press"?

The first amendment says the freedom of the press, Sebastian. The New York Times is a newspaper, which publishes news, and investigates, and is the "press", as defined in the first amendment. The definition of "press" has expanded to include things like blogs, TV, cable TV, etc.

These are a different breed of thing than a company like, say, GE, that produced many things besides just the NBC news network and the various papers they own. Media consolidation is another entire kettle of fish, where I'm sure you don't see any problem with one company owning a huge number of news outlets, or "presses", broadly defined, despite the fact that does as much to weaken the POINT of the First Amendment as allowing legal fictions the "rights" of personhood, without any responsibilities to anything other than making short-term profit for their stockholders.

So where, pray tell, do you find the part of the Constitution where it says that legal fictions shall be allowed to spend as much money on propaganda for elections as they wish? Since you're so dead-set on making generalizations based on corporations and ignoring the point.

But you just want to turn this into nitpicking about hypotheticals, rather than address the actual, wide-ranging, and practical effects this Supreme Court decision will have. Got it.

"Since the effects are much broader (this being a widely-framed & precedent-setting Supreme Court decision after all), the fine points of the particular law that was overturned aren't the actual issue."

Which effects are you particularly worried about. More particularly, what influence *NOT CURRENTLY AVAILABLE TO LARGE CORPORATIONS* do you believe will now be available. The corporate treasuries thing that Nate is having a fit about was already finesseable by creating PACs. Corporations already have huge back channel ties to congressman.

The disclosure requirements were upheld 8-1, so this doesn't increase secrecy.

I'm strangely in the position of being more cynical than Nate about corporate-government ties. I think they ALREADY exist and that all this does is bring them more into the open. I don't think this substantively changes the influence matrix of corporations and government, because I believe they are already deeply entwined. It isn't as if we live in a world where before this ruling, the US government let GM and Chrysler go under right?

I'm actually not entirely hostile to the idea that the restrictions on speech violated the First Amendment. What I am concerned about is that the change that has just been instituted is very sharp, very radical, and that un-countered political speech by corporations has already shown itself to be quite dangerous in American (and foreign) experience, and there has been little preparation for this new world.

Now the Supreme Court has only certain instruments at its disposal, and cannot engage in fine distinctions in policymaking; but that's all the more reason to be cautious. This sounds a lot like the arguments made against the "sharp, radical" changes of Civil Rights-era decisions, and I appreciate that fact, but I think the dangers to society as a whole from unrestricted corporate speech are genuine in a way that the fears of opponents of civil rights were not.

In the end it's up to us how to deal with this. It's possible that a decade from now we will look back and laugh about the worries we had, but I guess I'm just not that confident in the abilities of people to resist persuasion on television; television has a particular power that newspapers and books do not. Both amplify and spread the thoughts of one person to an audience larger than that person could reach in person, and the effect of paper media has mostly been positive. But television (to a lesser extent radio too) provides much greater amplification than a book, and has emotional effects that go beyond what a book can do, and to me it is quite apparent that those amount to a difference in kind and not just degree. Combine that with today's hyper-corporate world, where we have (essentially) synthetic, non-human organisms programmed solely for profit-seeking and lacking the human capability for empathy and choice of action based on consequential harm to others, and I think you have the makings of a situation not anticipated by those who wrote the First Amendment. Which doesn't mean it is obsolete, but that it requires some thought as to how to mitigate the destructive effects - for instance, the equal time rule, or public funding for factual broadcasting by entities devoted to serving the public interest and not private profit motives.

Now I am hopeful that the internet provides a new medium that greatly diminishes the amplification effect of any one voice. But I'm not an idiot - I know that for most of the population, television still holds the same power it always has. There is a quote much beloved of conservatives under other circumstances, which I did not realize until now emerged in another First Amendment case(*): "This Court has gone far toward accepting the doctrine that civil liberty means the removal of all restraints from these crowds and that all local attempts to maintain order are impairments of the liberty of the citizen. The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the Court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact."

I don't buy the logic there, and maybe I shouldn't buy it here. But if nothing else, even if we are to accept the idea that the restrictions violated the First Amendment, we should certainly not pretend that there are no dangers inherent in their removal.

"The first amendment says the freedom of the press, Sebastian. The New York Times is a newspaper, which publishes news, and investigates, and is the "press", as defined in the first amendment.."

No you're wrong and you didn't read what I linked. The press is an instrumentality used by the NYT and blogs and TV stations. Freedom of the press isn't held by some special elite. It is held by everyone. You have it too.

" shall be allowed to spend as much money on propaganda for elections as they wish?"

The whole point of a huge swath of 1st amendment jurisprudence is that the government doesn't get into the game of deciding what is propaganda and what isn't.

Which is exactly what I said about the press, Sebastian. But claiming that a legal fiction such as General Dynamics is a "person" with first amendment rights, or part of the "press", is absurd.

"The whole point of a huge swath of 1st amendment jurisprudence is that the government doesn't get into the game of deciding what is propaganda and what isn't."

But they went way beyond that in their ruling. Speech may be free, but media air time is an asset that is bought and sold. It went so far beyond to facts of this case to open up pandora's box.

All those on the right who are cheering this rule as a blow in defense of free speech are sadly mistaken, no one is going to like where this ends up, not even the corporations who spend time passing laws against each other once they've eaten what passes for the middle class these days

The case before the USSC was perfect: a movie about a candidate. If free speech means anything, than surely Congress can't prevent art and political speech.

This just seems to be an area where we should not want government officials having the authority to say yea or nay.


But that was only a matter of statute, not constitution. It has nothing to do with Nate's argument. Are you suggesting that Nate is essentially correct, but the worst parts of his arguments weren't actually effectuated? His argument makes no useful distinction between GM and the NYT.

It seems to me that one can make a case for the constitutionality of such regulation of the public airwaves, without implying constitutionality of similar regulation of private printing presses.

I mean, he wasn't saying that the NYT should be exempt from the restrictions on buying electioneering ads on the teevee, or that GM shouldn't be allowed to print and distribute pamphlets, right?

No that isn't what you just said about the press, which is clear because you immediately say "or parts of the 'press'", which makes no sense in the sense of "press" as an instrumentality of publishing. The NYT isn't 'press' either in that sense. It is a corporation that communicates using the printing press and other instrumentalities of communication that we say fall under press protections.

The 1st amendment doesn't protect the freedom of speech for citizens and an additional special freedom for reporters and corporations supporting reporters. It has freedoms of speech and of the press which are held by everyone protected by the first amendment. You can argue that corporations are not intended to be protected, but then you run into the problem of the fact that almost all reporting systems are corporations.

You want to have it both ways. You just don't seem to remember that the NYT *is a corporation*. It isn't "the press".

Corporations are made up of people with free speech rights. Corporations are instrumentalities of people with free speech rights.

But that doesn't mean that corporate management (in a normal, for-profit corporation) speaks for the political views of shareholders. That's the problem I see, and it's a big one. The shareholders are united not by their political views, but by their desire to earn a return from the business activities of the corporation. For their money to be used to support political objectives, including the election of candidates, that they oppose, is simply wrong.

You know, I thought that conservatives favored judicial restraint, and narrow rulings. So it's interesting to read the decision where the majority proclaims its utter inability to distinguish between organizations like the NRA or the Sierra Club on the one hand and Microsoft or GE on the other. Utterly bizarre. And I thought Roberts et al were such geniuses.

Sebastian, every time this comes up, you make the same arguments in favor of allowing corporations to buy elections.

Also, the difference between TV ads played on public airwaves licensed to private entities and the many many kinds of other distribution should be obvious, but you ignore that as well.

Nate, for someone allegedly capable of discerning fine distinctions, you seem to read everything that anyone who disagrees with you as saying that they are for "buying elections".

Bernard " So it's interesting to read the decision where the majority proclaims its utter inability to distinguish between organizations like the NRA or the Sierra Club on the one hand and Microsoft or GE on the other."

Apparently Congress can't do it either. And the lack of distinctions that area is the entire basis for the obscenity permissiveness in 1st amendment jurisdiction. If you want to revisit so widely as the Hustler precedents, you might have a point. Otherwise I can't understand how you can believe that the periphery of 1st amendment protections are strong to allow obscenity laws to be almost impossible while the very core--political speech--can be legislated without a care. It just doesn't make sense.

"But that doesn't mean that corporate management (in a normal, for-profit corporation) speaks for the political views of shareholders. That's the problem I see, and it's a big one. The shareholders are united not by their political views, but by their desire to earn a return from the business activities of the corporation."

But for the most part corporations are spending political money to influence the government i.e. get a better return from the business activities of the corporation. You have a much better case against unions or professional associations getting involved in things that don't necessarily track their members' views (say the BAR association taking a stand on an inheritance tax or a Teacher's Association taking a stance on gay marriage).

I'm not saying that money--corporate or otherwise--can't be a problem in politics. I'm saying that regulating speech isn't a good way to deal with it.

And contra Nate's hyperventilating, running ads because you like someone's politics is not the same as actually buying them a house or something.

Back to Nate, though against my better judgment: "Also, the difference between TV ads played on public airwaves licensed to private entities and the many many kinds of other distribution should be obvious, but you ignore that as well."

You mean like the internet? Because you know that it was covered by the act, right? So you would be ok with outlawing the NYT political expression on the internet, right?

Can we agree that we're not having an argument about free speech, but expensive speech?

Can we agree that expensive speech only works, politically, because it actually does buy voters? (If it doesn't, what's the big whoop?)

Can we agree that if it's okay to buy voters with expensive speech, then it should be okay to buy voters straight up?

At least the voters would get something out of the deal, that way:)

--TP

No, we can't agree. We're talking about free speech in the sense of freedom, not in the sense of cost. And talking to voters is not BUYING voters.

Aside from the ACLU, which agrees with this decision, it seems that the liberal rush to abandon freedom of speech is almost complete. All it took was the perception that they'd be the ones doing the censoring.

To clarify what I said above, having now read much of the dissent (not yet the opinion itself) I am not at all convinced that there were real First Amendment issues at stake. From the dissent:

"Under BCRA, any corporation's "stockholders and their families and its executive or administrative personnel and their families" can pool their resources to finance electioneering communications. A significant and growing number of corporations avail themselves of this option; during the most recent election cycle, corporate and union PACs raised nearly a billion dollars."

The free speech rights of the individuals who composed a corporation were not impinged upon, nor was their right to pool their own resources in collective entities in order to speak about issues of collective concern. Their ability to use the resources of the corporation for political speech is what was at issue. One wonders what it is about a corporation that is different to, say, a public school, or a prison, that it should be permitted to divert its resources to the financing of political speech where those entities are not. Certainly it has a profit motive, but then, a public school could argue that supporting a candidate who would increase school funding was in line with its chartered purpose; a prison could argue that supporting a candidate who promised to lock up more (or fewer) people was in line with its purpose. What is different about for-profit corporations that they should be permitted to divert resources intended for investment in profit-making enterprise toward political influence? The fact that it is convenient, or their stakeholders would like them to, applies just as well to any other synthetic entity, including those that are public institutions. As a parent I might encourage my child's school to pursue political speech to secure additional funding, but that doesn't make it a very good idea. Those other entities are not permitted to engage in political speech because of the obvious problems with corruption and diversion of purpose from that which they were chartered for, so why are private corporations & unions different?

"No, we can't agree. We're talking about free speech in the sense of freedom, not in the sense of cost. And talking to voters is not BUYING voters."

Let's be straight here, they are buying the candidate, not the voter. Heck, why not buy both candidates - they're all easily replaceable if they don't play ball. the general election ends up being the freedom to choose coke or pepsi. If they want to keep their job they'll vote as they're told.

If that's how you want to run things, fine - but international corporations aren't interested in your small government fantasies.

You know, I have zero interest in arguing with people who can't see why corporate attack ads are anti-democracy.

Rather than waste time on Sebastian's fantasies, does anyone have any practical ideas for rolling this back?

Obama appears to think there's some kind of legislative fix along the lines of Senator Durbin's Fair Elections Now Act (S. 752), but, (a) public funding can't possibly outspend big multinationals, and (b) I'm not at all sure that under Citizens United, Congress can distinguish between individual and corporate contributions when awarding matching public funds.

Frankly, I see no possible solution short of a constitutional amendment, which was a non-starter even before this decision gave its opponents this much power.

I'm stuck. Anybody?

It's kind of funny to see how the same crowd that claims that "the bill of rights is only for american citizens" says, "limited-liability corporations have the protections of the bill of rights!"

And talking to voters is not BUYING voters.

Talking to voters doesn't require money. I have no objection to your favorite corporation or mine merely talking to voters the way you and I can talk to voters.

As for "talk" not BUYING voters, are you freakin' kidding me? Pfizer "talks" in multimillion dollar TV ads about the virtues of its latest boner pill. If it's not "BUYING" customers with its expensive speech, then what the hell is it doing? If it runs a TV ad touting its favorite tame politician instead, are you suggesting it's not "BUYING" voters in exactly the same sense?

--TP

Sebastian,

Bernard " So it's interesting to read the decision where the majority proclaims its utter inability to distinguish between organizations like the NRA or the Sierra Club on the one hand and Microsoft or GE on the other."

Apparently Congress can't do it either.

Of course they can. And so could the court, if they had wanted to. I mean, how hard is this? Profit vs. non-profit; funded by contributions and memberships vs. revenues and return-seeking investors; financial objectives vs. political objectives.

There's a start.

But for the most part corporations are spending political money to influence the government i.e. get a better return from the business activities of the corporation.

The question is the broad effect of the expenditures. It's one thing to lobby for, say, tax breaks. It's another to support a candidate who favors the same tax breaks, because that same candidate also favors a lot of other things that some shareholders may not like. Indeed, they may be entirely willing to give up the tax breaks for some other goal. In other words, a candidate is a bundle of positions, and many shareholders may dislike the bundle, even if part of it appeals.

Consider someone who is strongly opposed to abortion on moral grounds. A corporation in which she holds shares spends money in support of a pro-choice candidate because he also favors some legislation that would benefit the corporation financially. WOuld such a shareholder have a right to be aggrieved? And before you tell me she should sell, remember two things: first, that she may not even know she is a shareholder; second that by the time she learns about the expenditure, if she ever does, it's been done. Horses. Barn door.

Frankly, I see no possible solution short of a constitutional amendment ...

Barney Frank was just telling Rachel Maddow that as chairman of the House financial services comittee, he's gearing up to look for a solution from the corporate governance side, rather than the campaign finance side, of statute law. Corporations are bound by all sorts of statutes, in return for recognition as legal entities. A corporation law prohibition on specific types of spending by corporations ought to pass constitutional muster, since nobody is required to be a corporation.

--TP

In answer to Crafty's question, http://www.davidkorten.org/>these http://www.hazelhenderson.com/>people come to mind: no doubt the foofy New Age fantasies of aging hippie baby boomers, but for all that, possibly in the same general ballpark (or at least continent) as the approach Tony P. reports from Barney Frank: change the terms under which an entity can be a corporation.

It ain't gonna happen; the corporations already have almost all the money and power, and Congress bought and paid for. So where on earth would the leverage for such change come from?

Talking to voters doesn't require money. I have no objection to your favorite corporation or mine merely talking to voters the way you and I can talk to voters.

Ah, but Tony, corporations aren't physically capable of carrying on conversations with voters in the same way you or I can. Stop discriminating against Corporate-Americans! Are you some kind of an ablist bigot? I'm sure we can find some provision in ADA to shoot down your mean 'ole ideas...

Stop discriminating against Corporate-Americans!

NV, some of my best friends are Corporate-Americans, so there!

--TP, Inc.

Barney Frank was just telling Rachel Maddow that as chairman of the House financial services comittee, he's gearing up to look for a solution from the corporate governance side, rather than the campaign finance side, of statute law.

Good idea.

Here's an idea, Barney:

Once a quarter the corporation announces to its shareholders that it intends to spend $X on polkitical activities in the coming quarter. It explains what specific matters are involved - helping candidate Y, etc.

Any shareholder of record on a certain date can object, and have his portion of $X paid to him, and the political budget is then reduced by the total amount of all refunds. That is, if there are a billion shares out, and the corporation wants to spend $10 million on politics, any shareholder can get a penny a share payment, paid out of the $10 million.

Note that this means the corporate political expenditures really are voluntary on the part of the shareholders. It also restrains political expenditures, since the larger the per share refund the more shareholders will demand it. Plus, it really is not particularly onerous. The information can be included in quarterly information already sent out.

How about that?

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