Editor’s note: Ellis Washington’s new radio program, “The Washington Report,” airs Thursdays at 11 a.m. Eastern on 1620 AM in Atlanta, Ga. It can be heard online at the Radio Sandy Springs website.
The negro has no rights which the white man was bound to respect.
– Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)
I can summarize in five words the Supreme Court’s Jan. 23 landmark decision, “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission”:
Corporations are persons; money = speech
The First Amendment plainly states, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”
New York’s Chrysler Building
However, since the 1907 Tillman Act, American businesses and corporations, the lifeblood of our market-capitalist economy for more than 230 years, have had their political voices unjustly restricted through limits on how much money they can contribute to political campaigns.
Alex Barker, writing for the Financial Times gave the shameful historical background of the Tillman Act:
The 1907 Tillman Act – named after “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman, a vile racist senator who made his name rampaging through the South attacking blacks and Republicans with his “Red Shirt” band of paramilitary terrorists – was the first attempt by Congress to clean up politics.
Tillman’s motive – stopping funding to civil rights politicians – was pretty disgraceful. But the means he sought was supported by the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, who were more interested in tackling dirty politics.
The decision in “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission” removed unconstitutional restrictions on the free speech of businesses, associations, organized labor and certain advocacy groups with regard to their participation in political campaigns. Regarding this case, the demagogue Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) said, “This is the worst Supreme Court decision since the Dred Scott case.”
In the 1857 Dred Scott decision, the Supreme Court ruled that black Americans who were either slaves or the descendants of slaves could not be, and never had been U.S. citizens.
In a “press release” I wrote for the think tank “Project 21 – The National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives,” I took great umbrage at Grayson’s remarks and wrote on Jan. 21:
As a black man, I am outraged that Representative Grayson would equate the bondage of slavery with today’s Court ruling extending freedom of speech to businesses and corporations in the political process, and having the courage to bring modern jurisprudence in line with the guarantees of the Constitution. In other words, the Court held that money equals speech and radio shows, media entities and corporations equal people. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech for everyone!
Justice Anthony Kennedy writing for the majority opinion in “Citizens United v. FCC,” said: “Our nation’s speech dynamic is changing, and informative voices should not have to circumvent onerous restrictions to exercise their First Amendment rights. The censorship we now confront is vast in its reach.” How ironic that Rep. Grayson, a Democrat, a member of the political party that sacrificed more than 600,000 lives defending slavery during the Civil War (1861-1865) would have the temerity to equate the Court’s courageous decision last week with the infamous Dred Scott decision which preserved slavery and arguably lit the fuse of the Civil War four years later.
Returning to the Citizens United case, a conservative nonprofit 501(c)4 organization, endeavored to run television commercials advertising its film “Hillary: The Movie,” a documentary critical of then-Senator Hillary Clinton, and to show the movie on DirecTV. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (a.k.a. “McCain/Feingold”) prohibited corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech that is an “electioneering communication” and restricted “electioneering communications” 30 days before primaries for political speech that directly advocated the election or defeat of a candidate.
Corporate personhood refers to the question of what subset of rights afforded under the law to natural persons (you and I) should also be afforded to corporations as legal persons. In the United States, corporations were accepted as possessing rights to contract, equal to contracts entered into by natural persons. For example, in “Dartmouth College v. Woodward Corporations” (1819) the Court settled the nature of public versus private charters and resulted in the rise of the American business corporations, and in “Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad” (1886) corporations were recognized as persons for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Proponents of corporate personhood believe that corporations, as representatives of their shareholders, were intended by the Founders and Framers to enjoy many, if not all, of the same rights as natural persons, for example: the right against self-incrimination, the right to privacy and the right to lobby the government.
Chief Justice Roger Taney
Justice Roger B. Taney, a chief justice of the Supreme Court for more 28 years and a notorious racist wrote the opinion in the Dred Scott case which upheld slavery and invalidated the 1820 Missouri Comprise, which was a previous attempt to restrict slavery’s spread. Taney wrote: The negro has no rights which the white man was bound to respect. In other words, prior to the “Citizens United v. FEC” case, for more than 100 years businesses and corporations had no rights that progressives and Democrat political hacks were bound to respect; now businesses all over America can fight back with political donations to support politicians who strongly believe in capitalism and free-market policies.
According to Jonah Goldberg’s 2007 book, “Liberal Fascism,” progressivism “is a civil religion run by an all powerful God-state.” The “United Citizens v. FEC” case has rightly restored personhood status of American businesses and corporations according to the original intent of the Constitution’s framers while taking away a potent weapon of the progressive movement – silencing Big Business.
No wonder President Obama, McCain-Feingold and the Democrat Party are squealing like stuck pigs! They know that both corporations and small and large businesses will seek revenge for the 100-years war progressives have waged against free-market capitalism and free speech. I predict that this strategic blunder will be one more nail in the coffins of RINO Republicans and the Democrat Party in the 2010 and 2012 elections.