by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
January 27, 2010
The Supreme Court’s atrocious Citizen’s United green light for unlimited corporate campaign spending had a willing accomplice—the American Civil Liberties Union.
As long-time supporters, we are horrified by the ACLU’s betrayal of political reality and plain common sense.
Standing proudly with the victorious corporate hacks on the steps of the SCOTUS was none other than the legendary First Amendment crusader Floyd Abrams.
Keith Olberman has called him a “Quisling” for aiding and abetting this catastrophic confirmation of corporate “personhood.”
The ACLU has long been the go-to stalwart of First Amendment rights. Its list of accomplishments is long, impressive and essential.
The ACLU has bravely faced divisive, expensive controversy. Long ago it defended the right of American neo-nazis to march through Skokie, a heavily Jewish suburb of Chicago.
The ACLU has also defended the right of such loathsome haters as the Ku Klux Klan to gather and speak.
In these and other such cases, the ACLU has been right, and has courageously paid a price.
But perhaps the organization has confused those valid First Amendment cases with a Citizen’s United decision perpetrated by the most virulent judicial opponents of individual speech in the history of the Court. In reference to this case the ACLU says it “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.”
We respectfully—but vehemently—disagree. Simply put: money is not speech, corporations are not people.
Given the immense sums of cash these corporations have to spend, the Citizen’s United decision is the equivalent not of guaranteeing individual Nazis the freedom to march, but instead of granting the Party itself the right to drive tanks down the street, guns ablazing.
It’s not the same as giving individual Klan members the right to hold a rally, but rather for the organization to do public lynchings as part of a terror campaign aimed at taking tangible power.
Nowhere in the Constitution do the Founders mention the word corporation. There were a small handful of them at the time of ratification, all strictly limited by state charter to where and what kind of business they could do. They bear scant resemblance to the multi-national behemoths we confront today. Those who wrote and ratified the First Amendment would be horrified by their very existence.
The moneyed power of these corporations and their access to the First Amendment through the myth of “personhood” has been the ultimate pox on American politics since the 1880s.
It has been reported that the ACLU Board is now considering endorsing limits on campaign spending. Abrams has been reported ( http://reason.com/blog/2010/01/25/liberals-vs-free-speech-aclu-e ) as arguing that “The worst thing you could do – the absolutely worst thing you could do – is transform a civil liberties organization into a liberal political organization.”
But this decision has transformed the ACLU into a conservative political organization, working to arm the ultimate enemies of democracy with unlimited monetary and political power.
We are confident the activist community can survive this latest assault on democracy. It will not be easy, but it can be done.
A good first step would be for the ACLU to face reality and now oppose the false claims anti-human money machines have made on our sacred Bill of Rights.
Attorney Bob Fitrakis & Historian Harvey Wasserman have co-authored four books on election protection. Bob’s Fitrakis Files are at www.freepress.org, where this article first appeared. Harvey’s History of the US is at www.harveywasserman.com.