Monday, January 23, 2012

Citizens Unite To Engage Congress

"G is for Google"
It’s ironic that the biggest event during the two year anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling was citizens uniting with corporations to kill the SOPA / PIPA legislation in Congress. Do we really need to overturn Citizens United – a decision that lifted prohibitions on political advertising on television – when the information revolution is rapidly merging TV, computers, cell phones and other gizmos?

The protest against SOPA / PIPA was a milestone in the convergence of technology and our democratic process. Top technology corporations joined forces with internet users resulting in a massive mobilization that effectively killed the bills in almost no time at all. In an age where approval of congress is at an all time low and cynicism towards government widespread, after last Wednesday’s protest, there should be no question that when people engage the system with social media, they can get results.

American technology corporations like Google, Yahoo, eBay, Microsoft, AOL, PayPal and others didn’t want new laws compelling them to root out foreign companies violating copyrights. Many individual internet users didn’t trust the government control proposed by the legislation. These interests converged resulting in a historic mobilization utilizing 1st Amendment rights. This convergence of people enjoyed the rights of association, freedom of speech, petitioning the government and even, if need be, prayer!

Citizens Should Unite

The Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission ruling has a clear impact in this year’s election process. The decision repealed laws prohibiting any corporation whatever, or any labor organization, to make a contribution or expenditure 30 days before a federal primary election*. This paved the way for wealthy individuals and or corporations to now band millions of dollars together with what is loosely known as a super PAC. The super PAC will assume a nice sounding name then flood media markets in the days prior to a primary with ads that support or oppose a candidate.

Considering the glaring lack of transparency behind the mounds of special interest political cash, most people are leery of super PACs dominating media during elections - myself included.

Google Exercising Their Constitutional Right To Speak
Before the Citizens United ruling, a corporation like Google couldn’t promote on TV which candidates could be for, or against, legislation like SOPA and PIPA within 60 days before a federal general election. But Google is a massive media company itself that doesn’t need television as we know it today. As we found out with last week's protest, this corporation can easily disseminate a widespread message to help persuade public opinion.

The US Supreme Court was keenly aware of the convergence of technologies in the Citizens United ruling. They said,

Rapid changes in technology—and the creative dynamic inherent in the concept of free expression—counsel against upholding a law that restricts political speech in certain media or by certain speakers. . . . Today, 30-second television ads may be the most effective way to convey a political message. . . . Soon, however, it may be that Internet sources, such as blogs and social networking Web sites, will provide citizens with significant information about political candidates and issues. Yet, §441b** would seem to ban a blog post expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate if that blog were created with corporate funds. The First Amendment does not permit Congress to make these categorical distinctions based on the corporate identity of the speaker and the content of the political speech. (Opinion of the Court p 49.)

Imagine if SOPA, PIPA or even some new legislation proposed censorship that, “. . . would seem to ban a blog post expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate if that blog were created with corporate funds”? Many people opposed SOPA and PIPA for the simple reason they don’t want more government regulation of the internet.

Let's think long and hard before we take the rights away from groups engaged in free enterprise with an amendment to the US Constitution that will allow the regulation of corporate speech on the internet.

* 60 Days preceding a federal general election.
** (The expenditure prohibition.)


  1. To answer the question, do we need to overturn Citizens, the answer is NO as I explained in a previous post. The media has not done their job and only talk and write like cavemen (D-good, R-bad). Most only promote and protect, so someone has to step up and take on the political spinsters.

    Super Pacs will not "dominate", as you suggest, just by running a bunch of ads. But they will raise many questionable actions taken by this administration that have not been addressed. Lightsquared, Fast & Furious, etc. Hopefully people do their research to discover the damage of the purely political actions being taken behind the scenes. Yea, right.

    Lastly, the constitution should not be touched by this or any administration. I am beginning to notice the president can't be bothered by Congress and will just pass laws by Executive Order, like a tyrant or king. How about addressing NDOA? You do know for the first time in US history the president can now pick up any American on our soil , at any time, for any reason and detain them indefinitely. Ahh, hope and change.

    And you should worry about Facebook and Google, their support for SOPA was like fumes. They are in bed with the current Administration and will protect him, for their own interest, at any cost to you.