The First Amendment should not protect corporate political expression.

In your individual response state whether you support the position of the other peer groups regarding the Citizens United decision in the case. If so, why? If not, why not? Be sure to provide detailed justification for your response and support in the way of scholarly research cited in APA style.

Group 1:

The First Amendment should not protect corporate political expression. There are many reasons for it, but one of the main reasons is that most people view this as “ a threat to democracy that would cement power in the hands of the few,” (Shribman, 2020). Large companies such as Amazon, Apple, and Nike could now flood the political landscape with millions of dollars. When this money is being submitted, it is not the ideals of all of the employees and the company overall, it is the thoughts and values of a few people. This means that corporations can have large effects on the outcome of elections. Companies will most likely fund certain political figures that they know will work in their interest and either help them receive tax breaks or extra benefits that would otherwise give them an unfair advantage over other companies in the same market. Some wealthy individuals who have been able to take advantage of this are David Koch and Michael Bloomberg. Non-profits could also easily give money to campaigns or figures because their money did not have to be tracked. This type of money is now referred to as “dark money” (Shribman, 2020).

One of the other major issues is that a large amount of the money that these companies would be spending on campaigns and public figures, might not actually be their money in the first place. “Unfortunately, managers cannot always be wholly trusted with other people’s money, and as reviewed above, corporate governance provisions consistently correlate negatively with shareholder wealth,” (Coates, 2012). The money that these companies would be spending could in fact be stakeholder dollars that were not meant for campaigns but were to be spent to improve the company so that they could get a return on their investment. This also starts to give stakeholders a voice on the larger political stage that they might not have wanted or not believed in as well. This is not fair to these stakeholders and these companies are using their money for different priorities.

The lines between freedom of speech and corporate restrictions was appropriately drawn in the Supreme Court’s 1976 decision that upheld the limit on individual contributions under the FECA, and continued the prohibitions on corporate independent expenditures and contributions (Steiner, 2012). This struck a solid balance because election environments in which these corporate prohibitions are not in place breeds situations in which massive corporate treasuries and resources, unrivaled by the vast majority of the voting public, can be employed to sway elections in favor of corporate interest and and complex political relationships that may place on overcast on the interests of the greater public (Tindera, 2019). The Supreme Court even cites this as having been their deciding factor in their opinion which proclaimed that campaign contributions were in fact protected by free speech, but that the possibility of the aforementioned condition that could become prevalent due to lax restrictions on corporate contributions threatens the integrity of U.S elections and resulting political relationships (Steiner, 2012). As such, the danger this poses overshadows these rights under the first adornment (Steiner, 2012). However, this decision strikes a great balance between these rights and restrictions because is also struck down the limits on independent expenditures by individuals (Steiner, 2012). Therefore, this provides individuals with an avenue through which they can express their political opinions, and exercise their right to free speech using their own resources, not those of organizations and corporations (Steiner, 2012).

As a result, individuals are free and able to exercise their right to free speech in regards to elections and campaigns, as they should be. They do not, however, need the resources of large corporate bodies to do so, nor should they be allowed to due to the above cited reason around undue influence and public interest suppression. This rings especially true given the brand range of lobbying powers corporations possess to look out for their own interests in the end. However since Citizens United has set a different precedent now, action from congress would be necessary to draw a new line between freedoms and corporate restrictions. Legislation would be required to return the level of balance, corporate limitations, and individual freedoms that once existed as a result of previous legislative efforts such as the FECA and the McCain-Feingold Act. Said new legislation that could strike a great balance would likely be around the topic of allowing independent expenditures, but placing key limits on these as to ensure the continued integrity of U.S. elections and the political landscape.

Citizens United has been an extremely controversial decision with regards to the the first amendment and corporate political donations. As a corporation there is a certain amount of leniency afforded by the public when it comes to political support. If a corporate entity goes too far in one way or the other, then they can alienate part of your customer base. This could also alienate the rank and file as well because the corporation’s decision to support a specific party, cause, or campaign does not necessarily speak for the al those employed with said business. Therefore, this is not expressing everyone’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech; remaining neutral would be the best way to keep the peace between politics. This is always something that needs to be reviewed when deciding how to advance a position because both Republicans and Democrats buy many of the same products and services (Steiner & Steiner, 2012). In an effort to advance a corporation’s agenda it would be best to remain politically neutral so you do not alienate a part of you customer/employee base. Instead of supporting a candidate or party directly, it would be better to work with advocacy groups that are inline with the position the corporation is looking to advance. Of course they would just want to stay away from groups that are too polarizing. This way they could help move their position forward but in such a way that the majority of their customer base may not be aware of any political leaning and instead just focus on the issue(s) the group or groups are advocating for. An example would be a company that works in the sustainability field could help fund the World Wildlife Foundation instead of supporting a progressive candidate that is opposed by a majority of their republican clientele because most people agree that helping endangered animals is a good cause.

References:

Coates, J. (2012). Corporate Politics, Governance, and Value Before and After Citizens United. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. Retrieved from https://web-a-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=4d2b4916-4d70-427d-9aac-9748d9c65371%40sdc-v-sessmgr01

Shribman, D. (2020). Ten years on, Citizens United ruling has changed U.S. politics – but not in the way many feared. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-01-12/citizens-united-ruling-anniversary-how-it-changed-american-politics

Steiner, J., Steiner, G. (2012). Business, Government, and Society: A Managerial Perspective, 13th Edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Tindera, M. (2019, February 26). These Senators Received The Biggest Checks From Pharma Companies Testifying Tuesday. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/michelatindera/2019/02/26/these-senators-received-the-biggest-checks-from-pharma-companies-testifying-drug-pricing-abbvie-sanofi-merck-pfizer/.

Group 2:

Should the First Amendment protect corporate political expression? Why or why not?

The first amendment is a law of significant importance in the country. I totally agree that as citizens of the country, freedom of speech and religion should play a fundamental role in society to which it does. However, if the freedom of one group inflicts harm on another, it makes it difficult for one to support this particular Amendment. I accept that our Bill of Rights is valuable and ought to be valued and regarded. It can be noted that, not every country gives their citizens the privileges of practicing freedom of speech and religion. With this said, I know that our Press is, to a point, censored and we may not be receiving the truth in its entirety. The United States still upholds its people’s freedoms better than any other country. What is corporate political expression? The law states that corporations can’t donate money directly to individual candidates. However, they should have a way to voice their opinions (as it pertains to their service or product) with the government. Lobbyists work for the group(s) that pays them to sway the political forum. I believe that all corporations and businesses share similar basic rights as all individual people. It just seems a bit bias when money is allowed into the forum; however this is the only way for corporations to push their political influence.

After reading the assigned material for our group discussion post, I felt that the First Amendment should not protect corporate political expression. According to Steiner & Steiner (2012), “The Founding Fathers also believed that if citizens were to vote wisely, they needed full, open debate on candidates and issues.” My argument sides with that of the First amendment only applying to an individual rather than that of an entity’s political expression. In the case study of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Citizens United, a political advocacy group that promotes a conservative agenda, has 1% of corporation contributions despite it mainly being funded by individuals. This advocacy group had made a documentary in 2008 to be released during the presidential primaries, called Hillary, which was focused on a political agenda of putting her in a negative light (Steiner & Steiner, 2012). “ The movie was very negative, containing comments such as “[s]he is steeped in controversy, steeped in sleaze” and “[s]he is the expert at not saying what she believes,” and “we must never forget the fundamental danger that this woman [poses] to every value that we hold dear.”” (Steiner & Steiner, 2012).

The advocacy group wanted to go as far as to have the documentary available on video on demand and run as ads, which would have been seen as electioneering communication. Protecting the corporations’ political expression allows any group with any type of political agenda to be less transparent and share things that may or may not be true with the help of millions of dollars to push that said agenda. This would not be fair to citizens who have the right to vote because they should have the right to correctly informed without being given biased or false information. Steiner & Steiner (2012) said this after it was mentioned that in fact corporations have protections in regard to political expression, “In consequence, corporations and unions are now more free to make independent expenditures, spending as much as they wish on any form of political advertising.”

After some internal deliberation, the First Amendment should protect corporate political expression. The First Amendment is one that should be valued, and I believe that during its inception this was so highly regarded that it was first for a reason. Individuals should be allowed the ability and freedom to express beliefs of any kind. Some may argue that corporations are not “individuals” – a fair assessment – however, the individuals involved with that corporation should not be punished for having the opportunity to use it as a platform. Speech should not be based on the identity or wealth of those speaking (Steiner, 2012).

As much as value that the First Amendment deserves, there is a part of this issue that is less about freedom of speech and more focused on government regulation. Whereas government regulations are vital to protect in some circumstances, excessive regulation can inundate the relationships between government, business and society. The goal is not to argue against regulations, but to quantify the impact and provide a rational evaluation to create a beneficial economy (Alden, 2012).

The first amendment provides six rights. Among them is the right to free speech, this applies to individuals and businesses. There have been some rulings that limited the amount a company can donate, and it must be public record. As long as the company does not infringe on the rights of others, it is acceptable. This is up to how one interprets an infringement on rights. It could be argued a company can donate millions of dollars where an individual may not be able to donate to a campaign. This has then infringed on the individual’s right to be heard equally by their delegate(s).

· If not, where should you draw the line for corporations between freedom and restrictions?

The line has been drawn by the government. Corporations cannot use monetary compensation to directly influence their political agendas by funding a candidate. Yes, this is muddied water that does not always seem right, but these corporations should have similar rights as the people of their country. Congress should create laws that prevent large oil corporations, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies, and other powerful interests from drowning the voices of everyday Americans out of the political arena. The law should allow a certain, limited amount of capital to be invested in running their own ads advocating for or against candidates or ballot initiatives. This can allow everyday Americans to have their voices heard instead of being silenced by big money corporations.

Corporations should not have a hand in funding political campaigns or political advocacy groups. According to Kenton (2020), “A corporation is a legal entity that is separate and distinct from its owners.” That being said, a corporation should have restrictions in the manner in which they donate, fund or help political agendas. Steiner & Steiner (2012) states that the following has been considered “Several have been suggested including (a) giving Congress the power to regulate corporate expenditures, (b) prohibiting corporations from using general treasury funds in elections, (c) prohibiting all corporate political activity, and (d) defining a corporation as an artificial entity to which First Amendment rights do not apply.” This being said, I believe that corporations should not be involved in the nation’s politics. Corporations should solely act as a business and the individuals within the corporation should solely have freedom of speech. If the CEO of an organization wants to fund a presidential candidate’s campaign, they should do so as an individual.

The first amendment has been reviewed over the years. There is no easy way to reduce the power of money, but that is what would need to be done. A large company can donate to a candidate and they will sway how they vote. This cannot be done by individuals to push their agenda. Whether for small businesses or to change how things are done locally, the small donations are not likely to gain ground. Over time a candidate can sway from their own agenda due to the backing of businesses. This is what needs to be addressed, overall. How much does a candidate come through on promises they make? When did they sway and how can it be reduced? This type of control in government by large businesses is infringing on our freedoms. We do not know what back room dealings occur or have the time to read thousands of pages for an imitative to be sure there are no hidden items.

· If you were in charge of government relations at a business, what strategies would you now employ, in light of the Citizens United decision, to advance your position?

Citizen’s united decision gave corporations and unions the green light to spend as much money as it takes to convince the common people of the United States to vote for or against a candidate or referendums. If I oversaw government relations at a business the strategies that I would implement would consist of various strategies. The most important would be to create a team devoted to identifying issues, developing positions for and against my company, and collect relevant international benchmarks. Benchmarking, data collection, and using the information with the marketing team to utilize in all scopes of advertisement is crucial. I would not want my company to be seen as a political powerhouse, but I would try to use subconscious tactics until it was necessary to use consciously aware advertisement.

If I were in charge of government relations at a business, I would state that as a corporation we will not partake in the funding of any political campaigns or political advocacy groups. I would do this in light of maintaining the sanctity of the business and keeping politics separate from business. On the other hand, if the business I worked at had to partake in political contributions, I would need to make sure that all political activity is transparent at all times. This would include full disclosure of all political activities taken on behalf of the corporation.

In light of the decision, I think businesses still have a responsibility to accurately and truthfully inform the public about the issues at hand or individual being supported. To decrease controversy, supporting candidates that share similar values as the corporations will allow for transparent messages. This will allow corporations to exercise their freedoms, and to avoid any notion of guilt for utilizing the platform they have created; although the deserves this to be with ethical intentions, giving support is within their right.

I came across and interesting take surrounding this issue: “big business will always be bigger than small business, and rich people will always have more money than poor people” (Kinsley, 2016). I am not saying this is good/bad, right/wrong – but it made me think. Is this one of those things that is “just how it is”?

The first thing I would do if I were in charge of government relations would be to identify all of the local candidates. I would look to see what their agenda is and who has provided campaign funding to them, and see their agenda. This would allow the business to see where there are similar businesses or where it may be tough to compete against those with a different stance. This would allow money to be spent wisely to fund the right candidate(s) and not waste money. Then I would look at ways to saturate the jurisdiction, with door hangers, stickers, placarding, and find social media outlets to tap the local population. This would ensure most avenues are covered to push a candidate or drive support.

References:

Alden, E. (2012). The Costs (and Benefits) of Government Regulations on Business. Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/blog/costs-and-benefits-government-regulations-business

Dunbar, J. (2012, October 18). The ‘Citizens United’ decision and why it matters. The Center for Public Integrity. Retrieved from: https://publicintegrity.org

Kenton, W. (2020). What Everyone Should Know About Corporations. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/corporation.asp

Kinsley, M. (2016). Did the supreme court make the right decision in the citizens united case after all? Vanity Fair. Retrieved from https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/04/supreme-court-citizens-united-case-decision

Steiner, J., & Steiner, G. (2012). Business, Government, and Society: A Managerial Perspective, Text and Cases (13th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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