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Business Should Mind Its Own Business
January 25, 2010 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Alan Grayson (D - FL) has introduced a bill to tax corporate political campaign donations at 500% (via). The bill is called the "Business Should Mind Its Own Business Act."
posted by lohmannn (93 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Grayson is a Democrat.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:39 AM on January 25, 2010


Rejoice!

Oh. That may not be appropriate here.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:39 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Alan Grayson (R - FL)

/foxnews'd
posted by billysumday at 9:40 AM on January 25, 2010 [11 favorites]


Oh, so he is. Damn.
posted by lohmannn at 9:40 AM on January 25, 2010


Fixed that for you lohmann
posted by mathowie at 9:41 AM on January 25, 2010


Thank you mathowie.
posted by lohmannn at 9:41 AM on January 25, 2010


OMG REPUBLICANS ARE FINALLY GETTING IT, IT IS BEGINNGING TO... wait what?
Grayson is a Democrat

damn it
posted by wheelieman at 9:41 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


otherwise known as the BS MOB act.
posted by klanawa at 9:42 AM on January 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Isn't minding their own business exactly why they try to buy politicians? I mean, it doesn't get more literal than that..their business is BUSINESS.
posted by spicynuts at 9:42 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


wheelieman that was my exact train of thought.

Anyway, unfortunately I feel like this is the legislative equivalent of stuntposting.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:43 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


This would be great if it actually gets passed (which it won't, at least not in this form).
posted by DoublePlus at 9:43 AM on January 25, 2010


You don't think the Supreme Court majority that issued the Citizens United ruling wouldn't rule such a tax an "abridgement" of these corporabeing's freedom of speech?
posted by Joe Beese at 9:44 AM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why wouldn't this be ruled unconstitutional on the same grounds as the Citizen's United case?
posted by demiurge at 9:45 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyway, unfortunately I feel like this is the legislative equivalent of stuntposting.

Why is that unfortunate? Democrats suck at messaging, publicity, developing a storyline, or defining themselves. This will (hopefully) get a lot of pub, Grayson can hit the airwaves and tell his side of the story, and force the Republicans to "side with big business". Republicans are great at this kind of stuff and though this isn't perfect, at least Grayson shows he understands that politics isn't all about having the smartest people on your side - it's about developing, branding, and marketing your side. Sometimes a good stunt is a good way to do that. More like this please.
posted by billysumday at 9:46 AM on January 25, 2010 [39 favorites]


Won't someone think of the poor corporations?
posted by vibrotronica at 9:46 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another suggested way to deal with the Supreme Court ruling is to limit donations from companies which have foreign shareholders (who, of course, have no first amendment rights). That would be the vast majority of corporate donors.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:46 AM on January 25, 2010 [14 favorites]


Franken/Grayson in 2012
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:47 AM on January 25, 2010 [18 favorites]


It's grandstanding, to be sure, but it does help make clear who is in favor of big $$ from big business in the political process.
posted by Mister_A at 9:48 AM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Why is that unfortunate?

Because stuntposts are deleted, the OP is regarded as a troll, and generally the mods and community become a lot more concerned about his/her behavior than the topic of the post.

Although it would be cool to see a congressperson flame out.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:49 AM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm always amazed how Republicans manage to go their constituents to oppose things like this.

"Even through right now you're a roofer with just a GED, one day you might somehow get an Ivy league degree and become friends with a bunch of East Coast financiers and become the CEO of Tyco or GE or eBay and then how will you get that sweet zoning exemption and tax break on your new corporate headquarters or a no-bid government contract for your company's new 'torture scissors with focused kill ray' without being able to lobby politicans? It could happen!

Oh, also, when you and your crew put the slate up on the guest house, make sure the Mexicans aren't visible from our enormous bedroom windows."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:49 AM on January 25, 2010 [73 favorites]


While this will never pass, and he doesn't always go about his grandstanding in the most adept manner, the fact that he's willing to grandstand while all the other democrats run around with their tails between their legs makes him my hero. A few more like him in office and we might start getting something done.
posted by Caduceus at 9:54 AM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


But, the Supreme Court and Glenn Greenwald have spoken:

Commercial, for-profit speech is protected political speech! This decision heralds the dawn of a new day, a day of freedom and equality under the law for all our long-suffering, cruelly marginalized corporate citizens! I only pray I might leave to see the day when corporate person-hood is fully recognized as the self-evident, natural right it truly is, and the first corporation is elected to the highest office in the land, finally giving corporations a real voice in the future of our Democracy like anyone else, just as the founding fathers intended. Wal-Mart for President! Not tomorrow! Today! Make Wal Mart your write in candidate now!

I plan to run an ad campaign, as soon as I round up the capital, that touts the demonstrated, FDA-approved medical benefits of eating shit.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:54 AM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why wouldn't this be ruled unconstitutional on the same grounds as the Citizen's United case?

It might well be, but bringing up a popular but probably unconstitutional bill for a vote can be politically useful if you can get Republicans to vote against it, and passing a popular but unconstitutional bill and then forcing the court to strike it down can be politically useful as well.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:54 AM on January 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


I don't think this will pass - especially not after the recent ruling we've all heard so much about - but it sure nice to see somebody trying.
posted by amanzi at 9:56 AM on January 25, 2010


Franken/Grayson in 2012

I think a good pairing would be ultra liberal media nutcase Al Franken with the ultra conservative media nutcase Ben Stein in a sort of Franken/Stein ticket that would have something for everyone.
posted by The Bellman at 9:56 AM on January 25, 2010 [49 favorites]


Optimus Chyme, see also: Stop demanding that you get screwed
posted by tippiedog at 9:57 AM on January 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


ultra liberal media nutcase Al Franken

/foxnews'd
posted by billysumday at 9:58 AM on January 25, 2010 [27 favorites]


Isn't a punitive tax like this effectively a bill of attainder to go against a supreme court decision? I agree that corporate contributions are icky, and I generally like Grayson, but there's a good reason for the separation of power. Grayson explained that pretty well in this video.

Granted, I understand that this is probably a bill more for publicity. Even if some of the more populist Republicans agree with this, I don't expect them to cross the aisle for this, especially for Grayson.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:58 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's a pretty smart idea. And actually, it would be nice if it also taxed contributions to PACs, and hell throw in payments to what Grayson calls "K-Street whores", lobbyists. Why not place a tax on all corporate political activity. Certainly, there are hell of a lot of negative externalities.
posted by delmoi at 10:02 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually here was my plan for preventing corporate contributions:

1) Make it illegal for any foreign owned corporation to donate money to candidates.

Think about it, who wants The People's Bank of China making campaign contributions? Yet, as far as I know there's no reason they couldn't. And even if they couldn't do it directly they could buy up shares in American companies and influence elections that way. What's to stop 'em or any foreign company from buying U.S. elections?

On the other hand, pretty much any multinational is going to have some foreign ownership. Banning foreign ownership (regardless of %) would pretty much eliminate all corporations from donating to campaigns or electioneering.
posted by delmoi at 10:05 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's a pretty smart idea. And actually, it would be nice if it also taxed contributions to PACs...

I believe it does...

To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to impose a 500 percent excise tax on corporate contributions to political committees and on corporate expenditures on political advocacy campaigns. (political committees =? political action committees)

Grayson is sharp SOB. He needs to get elevated in the Democratic party. He just needs to work on cutting the vulgarities while still maintaining the illustrative quality of his soundbites.
posted by SirOmega at 10:07 AM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I agree that corporate contributions are icky, and I generally like Grayson, but there's a good reason for the separation of power.

Yeah. The way to reverse this decision is with a constitutional amendment or something along those lines. The purpose of this bill is just to make Grayson look good, not to actually affect change.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:08 AM on January 25, 2010


I love Alan Grayson because he seems to have an extreme version of "no internal monologue-itis." Yeah, we all knew that the most insane Republicans think of poor people as no better than stray dogs, but Grayson actually said that Republicans want people without health insurance to die quickly and quietly.

As a timid person, I fully support That Guy That Says What Everyone's Thinking, Even Though He's Going to Get Beat Up in the Parking Lot. If someone else wants to start the slow clap, I'll join in.
posted by giraffe at 10:09 AM on January 25, 2010 [13 favorites]


You don't think the Supreme Court majority that issued the Citizens United ruling wouldn't rule such a tax an "abridgement" of these corporabeing's freedom of speech?

Well, if money is now speech, it appears to me that any Government limitations on what you can do with your money have become First Amendment issues. That would include all taxes, drug laws, vice in general, money laundering regulations, etc. etc. In fact, I'm pretty sure printing your own money (or counterfeiting the Government's) now qualifies as more (protected) speech.
posted by Naberius at 10:10 AM on January 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


The point is to make the GOP not cross the aisle on all sorts of things. They want to play lockstep games? Fine. There's a price to be paid, and it's high time the Dems made them hurt paying it. This is a good opening salvo - something populist with across-the-board approval from the general public, yet not something that is essential in and of itself for the Democratic agenda. By rejecting it en masse, the Republicans can be painted as in the pocket of special interests, and as contrarian children unable to agree to something agreeable, all the while the Dems look good for trying to "do something" on a hot-button issue.

More of this, please.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:10 AM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Isn't a punitive tax like this effectively a bill of attainder to go against a supreme court decision?

It's not a bill of attainder, but it would almost certainly be unconstitutional. This won't hit the floor of the House, so it's all moot anyway.

If people wanted a legit legislative workaround, they'd need to go to the spending power, not the taxing power. Congress could prohibit any corporation that spent more than $10k on political speech from receiving government grants. That'd be constitutional (but also unlikely to pass). Of course, corporations would use front groups to represent their interests. Which is basically what we have now.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:11 AM on January 25, 2010


I disagree, Solon–the first step is awareness, and Grayson is trying to shed some light on the issue, how much money is involved, and who supports the status quo. There are a lot of congresspersons on both sides of the aisle that depend on corporate cash to hold onto what is, let's be frank here, a really frickin' sweet job.
posted by Mister_A at 10:12 AM on January 25, 2010


er, by government grants I meant government contracts.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:12 AM on January 25, 2010


Same thing innit, allen.spaulding?
posted by Mister_A at 10:16 AM on January 25, 2010


I wish we had 500x more Alan Graysons in politics.
posted by grounded at 10:18 AM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Never hold up in court. Targeted taxes are one thing. Targeted taxes on speech activities are another.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minneapolis_Star_Tribune_Company_v._Commissioner

That case was a tax on a media company, so it's not completely analogous. But it's still political speech that's being taxed different from nonpolitical speech.
posted by aswego at 10:18 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyway, unfortunately I feel like this is the legislative equivalent of stuntposting.

Every year some Republican mouthbreather from East Childraper county puts a bill banning flag burning forward in the house, every year it dies swiftly; unlamented even by its sponsor. The message gets out though.
posted by atrazine at 10:21 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why not require unanimous consent of all stakeholders in the company for any political speech? This is pretty much never going to happen, so problem solved. For a publicly traded company, all it would take is one person to buy a single share and disagree to the speech, and the company is gagged. After all, why should a company be able to speak on behalf of its owners if it's saying something they don't want to say?
posted by mullingitover at 10:22 AM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yes. I'm starting to think that the solution to Democrats being wusses lies entirely in making more active use of rhetoric. I'm sick of the Democrats being "too good" for spin and manipulation. Fuck it. I'm ready to win.
posted by lunit at 10:23 AM on January 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Why not require unanimous consent of all stakeholders in the company for any political speech?

Suddenly Public Citizen owns a share in every publicly tradable firm. I like it!
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:25 AM on January 25, 2010


Not going to hold up, which is a pity. It's better to try for a law that says donations above a certain amount by a company must be approved by a shareholder meeting and > 50% votes. The Court would never try to tell people they cannot decide what happens with their own money, be it in the form of currency or shares.
posted by DreamerFi at 10:27 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


atrazine: "Every year some Republican mouthbreather from East Childraper county puts a bill banning flag burning forward in the house, every year it dies swiftly; unlamented even by its sponsor."

I hate cynical panderers like that.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:29 AM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yay for Grayson. Still doesn't make me want to move to Florida, though.
posted by maxwelton at 10:30 AM on January 25, 2010


The cynic in me says even if this passes, it wouldn't be enough to help. The tax imposed would be 5 times the amount spent politicking; it would essentially make the corporation's political activities cost 6 times as much total. Well, the return-on-"investment" of lobbying is as much as 22,000% (i.e., makes or saves up to 220x the original amount spent).

One could argue that "soft money" contribution to a PAC constitutes a less direct influence on the legislative process and would be less effective, but I'll bet it would still carry greater than a 600% return.
posted by rkent at 10:30 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Think about it, who wants The People's Bank of China making campaign contributions? Yet, as far as I know there's no reason they couldn't. And even if they couldn't do it directly they could buy up shares in American companies and influence elections that way. What's to stop 'em or any foreign company from buying U.S. elections?

Wasn't that the premise behind Delta City's proposed government in RoboCop 2? That citizens could buy shares of the city government in order to have representation? There was "nothing more American", as I recall.
posted by Servo5678 at 10:30 AM on January 25, 2010


Every time this topic comes up, I keep waiting to hear some rationally, legally, or emotionally persuasive argument as to why corporations have free speech rights at all. I don't get it.

Also, isn't this going to pave the way for things like "truth in advertising laws or FCC rules are violations of corporate free speech?" There's no law preventing me from laying to my neighbor, so why would corporations be required to tell the truth about, say, where their products are made or what's in them?

This decision makes it even funnier to me when conservatives try to say that liberal courts are agenda-driven and conservative ones are "strict constructionists" or otherwise just trying to follow the law. Absolute baloney.
posted by freecellwizard at 10:37 AM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


rkent: " the return-on-"investment" of lobbying is as much as 22,000% (i.e., makes or saves up to 220x the original amount spent). "

The healthcare industry spent $20 million on Obama. In return, they're poised* to get millions of involuntary new customers and countless billions in taxpayer subsidies.

* Maybe not as poised as they were this time last week. But still needing only a cave-in from House "progressives" being pressured to pass the Senate bill unchanged. That's poised enough for me.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:40 AM on January 25, 2010


But it's still political speech that's being taxed different from nonpolitical speech.

It's not political speech anyway, regardless of the court's ruling. It's commercial speech. If you're a company communicating with the public in a way intended to increase your profits, you are in fact engaged in commercial speech. The fact that the speech on its face appears to be concerned with political issues should make no difference: at bottom, it's still commercial in nature, it's still intended to increase profits, and so it should still be subject to whatever regulations the legislature deems fit.

This is a power grab on the part of the Supreme Court and part of a calculated political strategy designed to give the movement conservatives more power to influence the midterm elections.

The rest is just so much rationalization.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:40 AM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oops. Lying. Lying to my neighbor. I think "laying" to my neighbor is prohibited on some stone tablets someplace or something.
posted by freecellwizard at 10:41 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


This legislation is a good thing, if only to have a bill that is (hopefully in its final form (if it ever reaches a final form)) short enough that all congresspeople can actually read it before voting on it.

How many times does that happen?

Every time this topic comes up, I keep waiting to hear some rationally, legally, or emotionally persuasive argument as to why corporations have free speech rights at all.

Well, corporations represent people acting collectively on a voluntary basis. Should they have less right to freedoms of speech because they are acting together to earn profits? (I would say yes, but I would think most Americans would disagree.)

Also, isn't this going to pave the way for things like "truth in advertising laws or FCC rules are violations of corporate free speech?" There's no law preventing me from laying to my neighbor, so why would corporations be required to tell the truth about, say, where their products are made or what's in them?

That seems to be up in the air. See Nike v. Kasky.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:50 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is there anything special about this bill compared to every other House bill that goes nowhere?
posted by smackfu at 10:53 AM on January 25, 2010


The healthcare industry spent $20 million on Obama. In return, they're poised* to get millions of involuntary new customers and countless billions in taxpayer subsidies

This is not related. Please stop doing this in every political thread.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:56 AM on January 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


The problem stems from the fact that corporations have effectively been granted the benefits of personhood (protected speech) without the responsibilities or risks. When was the last time you saw a corporation go to prison (i.e. be unable to conduct business) for a few years?
posted by chimaera at 10:57 AM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Enron/Arthur Anderson
posted by craven_morhead at 11:00 AM on January 25, 2010


I'd say this stunt is covered under "the power to tax implies the power to destroy." We need to look for methods that restrict corporate lobbying more effectively, such as possibly recording all interactions between elected officials and corporate lobbyists for posterity. Another good approach is requiring that all explicitly political advertisements, as well as all hires or contracts with lobbyists, must likewise be approved by shareholders.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:01 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


He just needs to work on cutting the vulgarities

LBJ managed just fine without cutting them; I seem to recall Cheney telling someone to "go f---k themselves" without getting much of a blowback.

Congress ain't Sunday School. I don't care if they all cuss like sailors so long as they get the work done. And constantly fretting about "vulgarities" and such just makes Democrats look even more like targets.
posted by emjaybee at 11:04 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Me: ultra liberal media nutcase Al Franken
billysumday: /foxnews'd

To be fair to me, billysumday, (a) Al Franken is quite liberal by the absurdly conservative standards of what passes for "liberal" in contemporary American politics; and (b) he's plainly nuts, though certainly less so these days than he was when he was a full time comedian; and (c) I am an ultra liberal nutcase by any contemporary American standard (because, for example, I care about privacy and personal civil liberties), though I'm not in the media, so I consider it a term of respect for Franken; and (d) it was in service of a joke.

Having said all that -- yes, that's the Fox News descriptor and probably not a good thing to perpetuate, even in jest, so apologies.
posted by The Bellman at 11:06 AM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Outline for me how Al Franken is plainly nuts. To me he seems like the most sensible man in Congress.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:22 AM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


If only a republican had proposed this it would be through the senate by now, but with the Democrats only controlling the house, the white house and nearly the senate it will never make it through.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 11:27 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's not political speech anyway, regardless of the court's ruling. It's commercial speech. If you're a company communicating with the public in a way intended to increase your profits, you are in fact engaged in commercial speech. The fact that the speech on its face appears to be concerned with political issues should make no difference: at bottom, it's still commercial in nature, it's still intended to increase profits, and so it should still be subject to whatever regulations the legislature deems fit.

Wait, is it the financial motive that disqualifies it from being political speech (and thus protected) in your world, or the fact that it's a company? Or both? Because individual citizens get to complain about their taxes, which is about their own pursuit of profit. And media companies get to report/editorialize/whatever with the knowledge that if they do it well they'll make higher profits. What about nonprofit institutions and their fundraising campaigns? What about unions?
posted by aswego at 11:33 AM on January 25, 2010


Unions are different, they have souls.
posted by RussHy at 11:40 AM on January 25, 2010


"Outline for me how Al Franken is plainly nuts."

Wrote and starred in "Stewart Little Saves His Family".
posted by anti social order at 11:49 AM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Stuart Saves His Family, featuring Franken as Stuart Smalley.

Though Franken playing Stuart Little would have been amusing in its own way.
posted by Naberius at 12:07 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm here for the postive-comment-about-Grayson faving.
posted by DU at 12:10 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait, is it the financial motive that disqualifies it from being political speech (and thus protected) in your world, or the fact that it's a company? Or both?

It's the fact that since practically the beginning of the union, the law has recognized and permitted distinctions to be made between commercial activity like advertising on behalf of a product or service and protected speech. Hence, we have rules (barely anymore, but that's another issue) that regulate the content of commercial advertising, and so, for instance, Red Bull cannot put out ads claiming that it has been FDA-approved as a treatment for cancer. In other words, it's not protected speech, because it's commercial speech. It's not some guy holding forth in the public square or pamphleteering to spread a political message, it's a company engaged in a business activity. The principles by why congress has been allowed to regulate companies engaged in commercial activities are so well established, it makes no sense whatsoever to hold up this particular subset of business activities as specially protected.

If commercial speech that touches on political issues is protected speech, then every other kind of commercial speech must be protected as well. We're really plumbing new depths of stupid now if you really believe the drive to maximize personal profit should be considered a legitimate form of political engagement.

Basically, if pursuit of one's personal commercial interests is now going to be viewed as a legitimate political position, then graft should be protected speech as well. Politicians who act solely to further their own personal financial interests, in this new paradigm, are patriots rather than crooks. If our political system has reached that point (and maybe it has) then it really might be time to call it a day.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:13 PM on January 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Every time this topic comes up, I keep waiting to hear some rationally, legally, or emotionally persuasive argument as to why corporations have free speech rights at all.

The New York Times is a corporation, right? And MSNBC is owned by a corporation, isn't it?

Seems like it's pretty important for them to have free speech rights....
posted by jenkinsEar at 12:19 PM on January 25, 2010


And media companies get to report/editorialize/whatever with the knowledge that if they do it well they'll make higher profits.

No, no, that was already totally covered with the law's "General Electric doesn't count" exemption. We just want the government to be able to control speech from by bad corporations. Or funded in part by bad corporations. Or by corporations like the ACLU that we forgot to carve out loopholes for.

Besides, can you imagine the alternative? If we just let everyone spend whatever they wanted to broadcast whatever opinions they wanted, we'd end up in a world where multinational corporate control was so efficient that half of the political labour was done by a single Australian man.
posted by roystgnr at 12:20 PM on January 25, 2010


Oh, Jesus. Have you ever seen Al Franken talk? He is just about the most down to Earth, insightful, *reasonable* person in congress.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:22 PM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


The New York Times is a corporation, right? And MSNBC is owned by a corporation, isn't it?

Seems like it's pretty important for them to have free speech rights....


I'm pretty sure the law is (or was) sophisticated enough to understand the difference between advertising and journalism.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:26 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure why this is news. Let's muck around on THOMAS for a few minutes and let's see what we can come up with...

H.R. 53: "To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to deny refinery expensing to owners of refineries that are permitted to increase the discharge of pollutants into the Great Lakes." (Kirk, R-IL)

H.R. 125: "To eliminate the exceptions to the prohibition on adjustment of status of aliens who are unlawfully present in the United States or who accept unauthorized employment." (Gallegly, R-CA)

H.R. 192: "To amend the Social Security Act and the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for an AmeriCare that assures the provision of health insurance coverage to all residents, and for other purposes." (Stark, D-CA)

H.R. 247: "To amend section 1369 of title 18, United States Code, to extend Federal jurisdiction over destruction of veterans' memorials on State or local government property." (Green, R-TX)

H.R. 355: "For the relief of Francisca Lino." (Gutierrez, D-IL) (One of a number of private bills to establish citizenship for a constituent)

H.R. 1981: "To require States to report information on Medicaid payments to abortion providers." (Olson, R-TX)

H.R. 2111: "To establish the Congressional Commission on Financial Accountability and Preparedness to examine and report upon the facts and causes relating to the breakdown in the financial and credit markets in 2008, and investigate and report to the Congress on its findings, conclusions, and recommendations for prosecution of criminal behavior." (Burgess, R-TX)

H.R. 3765: "To amend chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, to provide that major rules of the executive branch shall have no force or effect unless a joint resolution of approval is enacted into law." (Davis, R-KY) (This one's probably unconstitutional)

That took ten minutes. Conclusion: Congresscritters propose ludicrous and irrelevant bullshit that never makes it out of committee about as often as they take an actual shit.

Now if only we could get their legislation to go the same place...
posted by valkyryn at 12:26 PM on January 25, 2010


I know Idiocracy quotes have been done to death but this...

Red Bull cannot put out ads claiming that it has been FDA-approved as a treatment for cancer

made me think of this: Brawndo. It's got what plants crave!
posted by shmurley at 12:30 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think it's silly to say spending money counts as free speech. Plus, it give weight to the ludicrous "vote with your dollar" argument.

We're a democracy, not a plutocracy. One person, one vote. It's not supposed to be about who gives the most money. I say limit the corporations to $3,300, just like private citizens.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:31 PM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh, what I wouldn't give if this actually passed.
posted by flatluigi at 12:38 PM on January 25, 2010


Actually we're a representative democracy, so it probably makes sense to get rid of our current governmental representatives chosen by votes and replace them with the corporate representatives chosen by purchases. You know, cut out the middle man.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:38 PM on January 25, 2010


I'm pretty sure the law is (or was) sophisticated enough to understand the difference between advertising and journalism.

It tried to be. But claiming the existence of a distinct difference between advertising and journalism is, by that fact itself, proof of a lack of sophistication. I'd like to think that Americans are smart enough to recognize "Fair and Balanced" etc. as purely ironic, but it turns out that even our Congressmen aren't that smart.
posted by roystgnr at 12:39 PM on January 25, 2010


Seems like it's pretty important for them to have free speech rights....

Which are protected under a different, specifically enumerated freedom: Freedom of the press.

NY times does not have freedom of speech because it's not a person, that's part of why the founders specifically put in another special protection for freedom of the press.

And like other companies, the NY Times still didn't have the right to buy attack ads against a particular candidate in an upcoming election before this ruling (although that's basically FOX NEWS' entire business model).
posted by saulgoodman at 12:44 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hmmm... I suspect that voting down a tax on corporate contributions won't work as a smear against Republicans. I'm pretty sure most of their constituency is on board with the whole "cash = free speech" mindset. Rather, they'll flip this as OMG I TOLD YOU DEMOCRATS ARE SOCIALISTS!!!1!
posted by LordSludge at 1:02 PM on January 25, 2010


I think what we need is a proposed amendment to stop having corporations get treated as if they were individuals. People have freedom of speech. Nothing in the Constitution says anything about companies deserving it.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:26 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


And like other companies, the NY Times still didn't have the right to buy attack ads against a particular candidate in an upcoming election before this ruling (although that's basically FOX NEWS' entire business model).

What's the difference between an attack ad and a newspaper endorsement?
posted by smackfu at 1:29 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here are the bills that Congressman Grayson has introduced, and what they aim to accomplish:

1) The Business Should Mind Its Own Business Act (H.R. 4431): Implements a 500% excise tax on corporate contributions to political committees, and on corporate expenditures on political advocacy campaigns.

2) The Public Company Responsibility Act (H.R. 4435): Prevents companies making political contributions and expenditures from trading their stock on national exchanges.

3) The End Political Kickbacks Act (H.R. 4434): Prevents for-profit corporations that receive money from the government from making political contributions, and limits the amount that employees of those companies can contribute.

4) The Corporate Propaganda Sunshine Act (H.R. 4432): Requires publicly-traded companies to disclose in SEC filings money used for the purpose of influencing public opinion, rather than to promoting their products and services.

5) The Ending Corporate Collusion Act (H.R. 4433): Applies antitrust law to industry PACs.


From Balloon Juice
posted by Max Power at 1:32 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Does he realize he can put more than one thing in a bill?
posted by smackfu at 1:49 PM on January 25, 2010


What's the difference between an attack ad and a newspaper endorsement?

One of them is protected under Freedom of the Press.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:51 PM on January 25, 2010


It's the fact that since practically the beginning of the union, the law has recognized and permitted distinctions to be made between commercial activity like advertising on behalf of a product or service and protected speech. Hence, we have rules (barely anymore, but that's another issue) that regulate the content of commercial advertising, and so, for instance, Red Bull cannot put out ads claiming that it has been FDA-approved as a treatment for cancer. In other words, it's not protected speech, because it's commercial speech. It's not some guy holding forth in the public square or pamphleteering to spread a political message, it's a company engaged in a business activity. The principles by why congress has been allowed to regulate companies engaged in commercial activities are so well established, it makes no sense whatsoever to hold up this particular subset of business activities as specially protected.

I'm afraid this betrays an incomplete knowledge for First Amendment (and other) jurisprudence. Commercial speech (and generally, speech that specifically markets a product a service) has actually received LESS protection in the past century than it did beforehand (though there are good and natural reasons why we only really started regulating advertisements in the twentieth century...basically, advertising methods have gotten a lot more complicated and consumer protection law is a recent invention). Similarly, we have far more regulations now than "the beginning of the union," pretty much because there wasn't a regulatory state until the past third of our union's lifetime (and, again, consumer protection is a recent thing).

I really don't think you clearly articulated whether it was the fact that the speech had financial benefit, had a for-profit benefit, or specifically came from a corporation (a non-media corporation) that led you to believe it should be excepted from speech protection. It should also be kept in mind that while political speech was one of the main motivations behind our free speech clause, it was not the only one. The government might have illegitimate and nefarious reasons to quash speech that could not be construed in anyone's mind as political...we still want and have protections against that thanks to the First Amendment.

It's true that Congress has been given wide swath in the regulation of business activities, and I hope it continues to get it. That doesn't mean it gets to do so in violation of other rights outlined in the constitution. I suspect, however, that you are not comparing a post-Citizens United society with 1789 as you claim, though. It seems you are really comparing it some idealized version of the Great Society/Warren Court era.
posted by aswego at 2:12 PM on January 25, 2010


If commercial speech that touches on political issues is protected speech, then every other kind of commercial speech must be protected as well. We're really plumbing new depths of stupid now if you really believe the drive to maximize personal profit should be considered a legitimate form of political engagement.

Well, no. Commercial speech (some types, at least) does receive less protection. It is not that anyone is arguing there is a nebulous realm of speech, and commercial speech is so important it jumps up to an elevated "protected" class along with traditional political speech. You have to approach it the way SCOTUS has ALWAYS approach the First Amendment. There is a nebulous realm of speech (with First Amendment protection), and there are a few types that are either so bad or so easily manipulated that they don't get the same level of protection. Your default seems to be no protection, and the Court's default is protection.

Seriously, you can Wikipedia this and see the less of less-protected speech (obscenity/indecency, fighting words, commercial advertising, etc.). I'd quibble with some, but the scheme makes a great deal of sense.

Basically, if pursuit of one's personal commercial interests is now going to be viewed as a legitimate political position, then graft should be protected speech as well. Politicians who act solely to further their own personal financial interests, in this new paradigm, are patriots rather than crooks. If our political system has reached that point (and maybe it has) then it really might be time to call it a day.

Nobody relevant is equating all commerce with speech. No judge believes bribes should be protected by the First Amendment. I don't know why you are equating a paid political advertisement with a bribe. It's like comparing a radio jingle with a kickback.
posted by aswego at 2:19 PM on January 25, 2010


Nobody relevant is equating all commerce with speech.

No, what the Supreme Court has explicitly found in this ruling is that there is no legitimate basis for distinguishing between commercial and non-commercial speech under the law, which is a huge mistake.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:39 PM on January 25, 2010


Nobody relevant is equating all commerce with speech.

HEY! I'm walking here!
posted by Naberius at 2:55 PM on January 25, 2010


Always strange to see a Democratic with actual balls.
posted by bardic at 7:38 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's my congressman! SQUEEEE!

I love that it's January and he already has volunteers going door to door to work on his re-relection.
posted by cavalier at 7:29 AM on January 26, 2010


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