Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court’

Kerry proposes free-speech amendment

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee, says there needs to be a constitutional amendment indicating that corporations don’t have the same free speech rights as individuals, reports Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), seconded the motion and said he planned to introduce legislation calling for a complete overhaul of the campaign finance system.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court threw out the prohibition on corporate use of treasury funds for political speech — specifically for broadcast and cable spots in federal elections — taking a big bite out of campaign finance reform law, B&C writes. “No sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations,” said the court in an opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy and joined in part by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.

Adoption of a Constitutional amendment is a long process and, in fact, Kerry said it would take some time even to craft the amendment.

Once a bill is written, to actually become part of the Constitution it must pass both houses of Congress by a two-thirds majority in each. Then it goes to the states, where it must be ratified by three-fourths of the states. Or, according to U.S. Constitution Online, two-thirds of the states could call for a Constitutional Convention, which would return any amendments it proposed to the states for ratification by three-fourths of the states.

Meanwhile, Kerry and others suggested the committee should pass various bills that have been introduced to tighten up disclosure and disclaimer rules and give shareholders more say in corporate campaign speech.

Open the local floodgates

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Edward Wasserman, Knight professor of journalism ethics at Washington & Lee University, says the Supreme Court’s January ruling that corporations have a right to advertise their political views is “Christmas in January” for media outlets. And while others have pointed out the potential windfall for national networks as corporations shape the big races, Wasserman says, local is where the opportunity for new money — and new influence — lies.

“If I ran a media company, I’d be putting together selling campaigns for local companies that want to be sure candidates sympathetic to their interests — development plans, changes in zoning laws, tax breaks, a new sports arena, road expansion — benefit from well-funded, expertly calibrated, advertising outreach.

“That’s also where the most toxic effects of the court’s ruling will be felt — not in the national arena, where big money long ago figured out how to get around the rules the court outlawed, and where a multiplicity of voices are already heard. The new era the court has opened is one in which local money can flood the zone with self-serving messages about matters that, thanks to the slashes in newsroom budgets among metro newspapers, are covered thinly if at all by available media.

“Soon enough, perhaps even in this election cycle, most of what people hear about state and local issues will be via paid corporate advertising.”

SCOTUS clears way for corporate political ads

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

The Supreme Court’s decision to remove limits on corporate political spending potentially opens the “floodgates for additional political ad spending by corporations, unions and special interest groups,” Advertising Age said in a report shortly after Thursday’s 5-4 ruling.

“I think it takes an already bulked up [election season] and puts it on steroids,” said Evan Tracey, president of TNS Media Intelligence’s Competitive Media Analysis Group, which tracks campaign finance spending.

“A flood of corporate and union money for ads in federal campaigns is expected as early as this fall’s midterm campaigns,” The Washington Post said.

In the Ad Age report, Tracey “suggested the decision’s biggest impact could be on last-minute spending in major races.”

In a 57-page opinion for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “The government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

President Barack Obama condemned the ruling and said he intended to work with Congress to pass legislation that would effectively reverse the Court’s decision.