I received an e-mail from WNYC Radio. They wanted to inform me of disgraced former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer’s “Jarring” comments on the recent SCOTUS ruling on campaign finance.
SPITZER: I have a position on that that is perhaps a little jarring to some people, and here’s why: I am as concerned as everyone is and should be about the money that will flow into politics. But the technical issue and it’s not so technical is that corporate free speech covers the New York Times Editorial Page, Rachel Maddow, Bill O’Reilly, in the same way that it covers the movie that was an issue in that case. And until people can distinguish for me how we can limit the free speech that attended to one without impacting the other, there’s a piece of me that thinks maybe the Supreme Court was right in saying, ‘look, this is what free speech is about.’
LOPATE: But the Supreme Court is also based on precedent, and in making such a broad decision, they just threw out a hundred years of precedent, didn’t they?
SPITZER: Well, they overrode some precedents. I will say precedent is used sparingly when you want to. Look, Brown Vs. Board of Ed., one of the greatest decisions in our history, also overthrew precedent, so precedent shouldn’t override good judgment.
LOPATE: Yeah, but Rachel Maddow isn’t General Electric. We’re talking about somebody saying something on a TV show that has a limited number of viewers as opposed to corporations that could spend millions of dollars to sway us. We’ve seen similar things in the past: the last time health care reform was proposed, a campaign really destroyed any possibility of that going through.
SPITZER: But on the other hand, in a way Rachel Maddow is corporate speech because GE does own MSNBC, and so soon will be Comcast, I suppose, and so the issue we need to parse is how can we make sure we protect that speech and differentiate properly among these different – if we can – among these different voices.
Spitzer also discussed the “most important” financial regulation needed right now:
SPITZER: Confront the issue of ‘too big too fail.’ The notion of institutions that are so big that they know that they have now an explicit guarantee of federal backing, which then permits them to invest in a way that takes on more risk than is appropriate, which creates what we call this asymmetry: socialization of risk, privatization of gain. That imbalance is dangerous.
Interesting. Then I heard that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (audio below) made a similar argument. In the case of Spitzer, I guess one could use the old “stopped clock” theory.
“If 10 of you got together and decided to speak, just as a group, you’d say you have First Amendment rights to speak and the First Amendment right of association,” he said. “If you all then formed a partnership to speak, you’d say we still have that First Amendment right to speak and of association.”
“But what if you put yourself in a corporate form?” Justice Thomas asked, suggesting that the answer must be the same.
Asked about his attitude toward the two decisions overruled in Citizens United, he said, “If it’s wrong, the ultimate precedent is the Constitution.”
As an interesting side note, Justice Thomas also revealed why he didn’t attend the State of the Union address.
“I don’t go because it has become so partisan and it’s very uncomfortable for a judge to sit there,” he said, adding that “there’s a lot that you don’t hear on TV — the catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments.”
“One of the consequences,” he added in an apparent reference to last week’s address, “is now the court becomes part of the conversation, if you want to call it that, in the speeches. It’s just an example of why I don’t go.”
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Eliot Spitzer denies wearing black socks while having sex with that woman! (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist slipping that one in there. Oh, did he say that? I better just end it here.)
Update: I’m kicking myself for not picking up on Justice Thomas’s comment at the beginning regarding Tillman. Thanks to Rhymes with Right for pointing it out.
He added that the history of Congressional regulation of corporate involvement in politics had a dark side, pointing to the Tillman Act, which banned corporate contributions to federal candidates in 1907.
“Go back and read why Tillman introduced that legislation,” Justice Thomas said, referring to Senator Benjamin Tillman. “Tillman was from South Carolina, and as I hear the story he was concerned that the corporations, Republican corporations, were favorable toward blacks and he felt that there was a need to regulate them.”
It is thus a mistake, the justice said, to applaud the regulation of corporate speech as “some sort of beatific action.”
Rhymes with Right adds:
Yeah, that is right. Barack Obama stood before the people of the United States and praised legislation introduced by a fellow Democrat who preceded him in the US Senate, one of the most vile enemies of African-Americans to ever serve in the United States Senate, a despicable man who owed his election to public office to his participation in an armed assault upon a body of black soldiers during Reconstruction and the lynching of several of these soldiers, and a dangerous demagogue who was censured for his physical assault of another Senator on the floor of the US Senate and barred from the White House over the incident. Indeed, an honest observer could rightly refer to the Tillman Act, lauded today by Obama and his fellow enemies of free speech, as the “Shut Up The N*gger-Lovers Act of 1907”. If I were to construct a case to demonstrate the fundamental evil of allowing government to censor and silence disfavored speech, this piece of legislation that successfully silenced the voices of those who supported constitutional rights for all Americans would stand as Exhibit A in that effort.
Read the entire post at Rhymes with Right.