Supreme Court Ruling for Free Speech
The Supreme Court ruled that “free speech” includes money in Citizens United and McCutcheon. Also, the “Hobby Lobby” case (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby) shows that corporations can have “free speech” with religious objections.
“The Citizens United ruling, released in January 2010, tossed out the corporate and union ban on making independent expenditures and financing electioneering communications. It gave corporations and unions the green light to spend unlimited sums on ads and other political tools, calling for the election or defeat of individual candidates.”
In the Hobby Lobby case, “the US Supreme Court ruled that some employers can decide for themselves whether the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a substantial burden on the exercise of religious freedom”
How Free Speech Works For Citizens
I feel as though all these cases are in a grey area. Written law is black and white. It should contain no gray areas. However, with the rulings in Citizens United, the law now declares money as free speech.
I can understand this from an individualistic point of view. As an American individual, I have my own rights granted to me by the constitution.
When I go to the store, I ‘vote’ on the products I support by purchasing them with my money. Supporting a company with my purchase is technically a way to utilize my free speech. Ultimately, where we choose to spend our dollar is the greatest power we have, and we should vote carefully who we give that dollar to.
How it Works For Business
The lines become grey when associated with businesses. Businesses are a thing, not a person. They should not have the same rights as a person. Corporations do not walk into a ballot box.
However, with the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling, we see that the Supreme Court pierces the corporate veil and assigns individualistic rights to corporations. Allowing businesses to enjoy religious freedoms that were only granted by our constitution to citizens is not what the drafters of the Constitution intended.
With businesses having rights, they are allowed to spend money to support their political parties with advertisements but not directly. Individuals still have limits they can personally donate to a candidate.
“It is still illegal for companies and labor unions to give money directly to candidates for federal office”
Though there is still a cap on direct donations, there are ways to circumvent the system with anonymous donations. This is where Political Action Committees (PAC) enter the picture. They are allowed to donate unlimited amounts of money to campaigns, without disclosing who donated to that PAC.
“I predict that as a result of recent Court decisions, there will be scandals involving corrupt public officials and unlimited, anonymous campaign contributions that will force the system to be reformed once again.”
It is important to understand that when there is no cap on the amount that can be spent on advertising to support or destroy political parties, the ultra-wealthy have more sway over what is being broadcasted. Money now becomes a weapon.
In essence, the ultra-wealthy gain the ability to set the agenda. Agenda-Setting Theory does not tell the public what to think but it does tell them what to think about. This is how the rich rig the system.
With the constant bombardment of someone else’s agenda, it can be difficult to form an accurate individualized opinion.
How Do These Ruling impact Democracy and an Open Society?
For me, this greatly reduces the opinions of those who do not have the funds to support their stance like the ultra-wealthy and now, corporations. If the common voice is unheard than we cannot represent all voices. We live in a country that has adopted the model of, “taxation without representation.”
This lack of representation is the opposite of democracy. In democracy all sides have a voice. The public makes educated and valued opinions that determine their decisions.
Though I can almost understand legally why the Supreme Court made these rulings, I do not think they are ethical. Our judicial system is displaying partisanship by ruling on these cases in this manner.
The power of one’s speech should not overshadow another based on the ability to support their speech with funds.
Another point to consider when giving business individual rights after the Hobby Lobby ruling is bankruptcy.
“Corporate creditors are often highly motivated to recover as much of the debt they’re owed as the law will allow in bankruptcy proceedings”
With rulings like that of Hobby Lobby, businesses are moving closer and closer to having the same individual rights as people too. Businesses are owned by people, so businesses should be seen as things and not people.
They should not have the same rights.
We are further priming law investigations when it comes to business filing bankruptcy or when expressing their freedoms granted by our constitution.