Archive for the ‘Legal’ Category
Humor has always been a great way of lightening the mood on controversial topics and making uncomfortable issues easier to address.
And stand-up comedians have always known that good comedy is laughing at ourselves over taboo topics related to social, political, and religious issues.
But even as comedy, and especially political satire, has always been one of the most common ways Americans exercise their First Amendment right of free speech, many forget that offensive and critical speech, even in a comedic platform, is protected by the First Amendment.
Freedom of expression is the universal right to communicate one’s ideas and views through speaking, publishing, dancing, painting, protesting, debating, and even through comedy.
Freedom of speech is not absolute, and the right is commonly subject to limitations; libel, slander, obscenity and incitement to commit a crime that can lead to criminal prosecution are not protected under the First Amendment no matter which media it comes from.
Though comedians like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin had more than one run-in with the courts over stand-up routines deemed “obscene” by local authorities, both won in court or had cases dismissed because their speech was always ruled to hold some “literary, artistic, political, social or scientific value,” thus saving it from being ruled obscene.
But even decades after these comedians trail blazed obscenity law for stand-up, audiences are still recognizing its benefit for dealing with uncomfortable – but vital – topics in American society.
“I think humor is a great way to use offensive material because it allows people to have a chance to not only laugh at the person being roasted but at themselves,“ said Blake Crossman, a junior business major at Dominican. “When a comedian tells an offensive joke, the person most likely to laugh is the person the joke is about.
“Humor can absolutely disarm an audience and occasionally give people a chance to consider another viewpoint that it normally would never listen to in a serious conversation,” Crossman added.
Mort Sahl, one of the pioneers of political satire in the 50s and 60s who wrote jokes for JFK and was the first comedian on the cover of Time magazine, says satire must be , “merciless, devastating and on target.
“Humor is the road to conscience, and it is rarely welcome but also always welcome. It is the quickest way to tell the truth, and the truth is always recognizable. The heart knows,” says Sahl, who currently lives in Mill Valley and still does gigs at the Throckmorton Theatre occasionally.
People of all backgrounds enjoy – and even need – comedy that pokes fun at religion, sex, politics, and anything else that’s uncomfortable to talk about but something everyone thinks about.
“It gives people a chance to relax and laugh about the stereotypes of people whether its race, religion, sexual orientation, or career,” says Corey Wheelan, senior communication and media studies major. “It is usually easier to accept in the form of comedy, especially nowadays due to current society accepting many more of these topics which used to be off limits.”
Just look at the popularity of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “The Colbert Report,” and “Saturday Night Live” to see how satire has provided a main avenue for criticizing American government, American media, and much about our society.
”By making us laugh, comedy leads us to let down our defenses, making us more open to looking at subjects that in a more serious form might evoke repression, anxiety or fear,” says communication and media studies professor John Duvall. “The apparent non-seriousness of comedy allows it to be a vehicle for consideration of serious issues.”
Communication & Media Studies
What college students write on their Facebook and Twitter pages is generally their business.
Except when they are student-athletes and their freedom of speech could be a representation of their teams, their athletic programs and their schools.
Universities around the country are getting more involved in the social networking of their team members, often to the dismay of student athletes.
The University of North Carolina and Villanova University have hired companies to track what their student athletes are doing on social media networks.
The universities say the purpose is to see if student athletes are getting involved in activities that are illegal – in general and by NCAA standards – such as using street drugs, abusing alcohol, gambling, engaging in violent behavior or any other behavior that could represent the university in a negative way.
Student athletes argue such monitoring invades their rights to privacy and could lead to a violation of their First Amendment rights of free speech.
Dominican University has so far done nothing regarding a policy for the Penguin athletes, and Associate Athletic Director Sharon Takeda says the university has not given them any guidelines for educating the athletes on what they should or should not say in social media.
But the NCAA does suggest some minor ones for college athletic programs to implement.
“NCAA said ‘here are some rules and guidelines you can practice’ and ‘here’s what’s best to practice at your institution’,” Takeda added.
Some of those suggestions include having members of the athletic department monitor student-athletes at random or simply having coaching staffs monitor their own teams at random.
The NCAA cannot force rules on monitoring the student-athletes but only advise since such monitoring is definitely an ethical issue and more than likely a legal one too.
The NCAA can make rules about student-athletes doing their sport, but it cannot force student-athlete to surrender their personal social media accounts because of a violation of their rights to privacy.
Takeda also believes it is unnecessary for Dominican to have its own guidelines since the entire athletic staff is already doing random checks and monitoring the student-athletes’ online activities who are under suspicion of illegal or violent activities.
When a coach or administrator hears of possible problems, they will check the public pages of any social media accounts available.
Garrett Mitchell, a junior men’s soccer player for the Penguins, serves as Dominican’s president of the Penguin Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. He said the issue of monitoring social networking accounts came up during a PacWest conference meeting in Hawaii recently.
“But in the end we decided that student-athletes should be smart themselves in what they post, and to my knowledge there has not been any recommendation to Dominican about monitoring social media,” Mitchell said.
For schools like UNC and Villanova that are doing formal monitoring, they make it a requirement student-athletes to give the school – or a hired company that specializes in online monitoring/tracking of social networks – access to their private social media profiles and accounts.
Villanova has hired Varsity Monitor to track its student-athletes. Varsity Monitor finds any information from the students and shares it with school administrators and athletic departments.
Speaking to a local CBS news reporter, Varsity CEO Sam Carnahan said the company scans for things made public to everyone on students’ social networks.
“We always say, nothing you post online is private,” Carnahan said.
Vince Nicastro, the athletic director at Villanova, says the University’s reason to do this is to benefit the student-athletes, not to invade their privacy.
“Our goal is to try help ensure our student athletes place themselves in a positive light on and off the field,” said Nicastro.
The state legislature in Maryland has gotten into the fray on this issue and will be considering a bill to prevent such monitoring. Senate Bill 434 believes this is an invasion of privacy and wants to prevent universities from being able to do it.
Bradley Shear, a first amendment lawyer involved in drafting this bill, believes social media monitoring to be the first step in a slippery slope of universities monitoring other forms of private communication.
“If UNC has a right to access the private social media posts of its student-athletes, then what will stop UNC from claiming it has the right to access and monitor private email accounts, voice-mail messages, etc… and installing eavesdropping equipment into off-campus apartments?” Shear asked.
Takeda points out that there is a fine line in granting student-athletes privacy on their social networks and needing to monitor things said about the school or athletic program.
“It can become an issue if somebody crosses a line and ultimately it could ruin it for all the other student-athletes,” Takeda said, adding she hopes universities can continue allowing students privacy in this arena.
Mitchell believes it would be unfair for schools to control the social lives of student-athletes.
“We are college kids with lives and we like to have fun. Social media is an easy way to connect with all of your friends,” said Mitchell. “There are tons of positives to social media and just because we play for the school doesn’t mean that they control every aspect of our lives.”
Communication & Media Studies
Three high school student editors in a Washington school district have formed a coalition to ask the school board to pass a student publication policy that prohibits prior review.
The group’s creation stems from current prior review policies within the Puyallup School District in which content deemed inappropriate or controversial may be censored and omitted from the final edition.
This policy was applied to the February 2008 issue of the JagWire, a student newspaper at Emerald Ridge High School, where an article about oral sex was omitted. In its place, and in the place of other rejected stories, the phrase, “This story has been censored” was printed.
Student journalists and editors are currently in conference with school officials and are attempting to negotiate a new policy that does not allow administrators to edit the JagWire and similar publications.
Amanda Wyma, an editor the newspaper, says that the establishment of the new policy would give them “the chance to cover the things that really matter.”
School administrators agree that a negotiation is necessary and whatever is decided will be implemented before the start of the next school year. However, administrators are calling for the students and their families to accept full financial responsibility of the newspaper, thus creating an open forum. This arrangement will exempt the publication from prior restraint allowances offered through precedent from the 1988 student press case, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier.
The Hazelwood case involving censorship of a student newspaper said that as long as the school funds a student publication, the publication does not qualify as a public forum and is thus subject to administrator censorship. In removing financial accountability from the school and the school district, student editors have freedom to decide what is to be published.
Brad Van Alstyne, chair of the Dominican University Department of Communication and Media Studies, tends to side with Emerald Ridge High School administrators.
“As an administrator of a school with a newspaper, I would advocate for a prior review policy, even though I believe that it does take [out] the spontaneity, and in some cases the freedom from the press, he said. “I tend toerr on the side of caution.”
The censorship of student publications is controversial. While administrators have the right to review information in a publication produced on school grounds with school funds, the lack of student decision-making takes away from the educational experience and the lack of student journalist input in the censorship of their stories only serves to alienate newspaper staffs and produce animosity between students and district officials.
Not to mention, the censorship itself does not provide an avenue for students to express their views on local and world issues as potentially controversial topics are barred from final publication.
While censorship policies are aimed at preventing backlash from the public over the news itself or the treatment of news issues, censoring student publications omits a substantial viewpoint from the market.
Student journalists are not only educating the school population on popular opinion and controversial issues but are also learning how to best appeal to an audience on potentially touchy topics.
If the school can relinquish fiscal responsibility, student journalists will be given the proper freedom to express their opinions and report on the issues that matter to the student body. By requiring parental financial liability to negate prior review policies, administrators are not allowing students to learn how to effectively communicate and express their opinions on community and world issues in an environment where journalistic accountability is lessened.
The elimination of a learning environment for journalism students is unfair for it does not give these students an opportunity to learn to write for a publication. Assuming that scholastic settings are for education, it is the school’s responsibility to provide its students with the opportunity to learn without their opinions being eliminated.
Communication & Media Studies
The First Amendment has been a hot topic lately.
Whether it is Republicans and Democrats arguing over whether a healthcare bill mandating coverage of birth control is a violation of the First Amendment’s freedom of religion, or politicians and citizens debating the public good or evil of giving corporations free speech, the debate is on.
Who deserves freedom?
Is one person’s (or a corporation’s) freedom more important than another?
Should citizens have more say than corporations?
Should religious institutions have more say than women?
My answer to all of these is simple: America was founded on individualism and freedom. To take that away and force people to conform to another’s belief goes against everything we stand for.
I shouldn’t have to be a millionaire to have a say in the presidential race. I shouldn’t have to fight for the right to have safe and protected sex if I want to. Politicians and corporations rely on us not getting involved and not getting information, so that they can run the country in a way that suits their needs.
That needs to change!
A good place to start would be Political Action Committees. PACs are organizations that lobby for or against political candidates and/or legislation. SuperPACs – the latest evolution of political fundraising, thanks to Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision – have the ability to raise unlimited funds from any source for candidates as long as the candidate in no way coordinates with the SuperPAC on how to spend the money.
If this sounds confusing to you, you are not alone! Why wouldn’t a politician coordinate with his or her biggest donor? In fact, ABC News reported that throughout the Republican race so far, GOP candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have all been in contact with their SuperPACs. Santorum was traveling with his biggest supporter but told ABC, “they are just friends.”
That’s probably what Brad Pitt told Jennifer Aniston too.
It also seems impossible to believe that once elected, politicians wouldn’t give some kickback to the corporation or individual donating millions to their campaigns.
Television star Stephen Colbert has probably made the biggest statement against this absurdity. As the host of “The Colbert Report,” Comedy Central’s satirical take on political talk shows, Colbert started a SuperPAC – Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow – which raised $1 million. Colbert even spent some of that money on attack ads, prompting the New York Times to call the SuperPAC legit. And just to really highlight the loopholes in the Citizen’s United case, Colbert gave his SuperPAC to pal and fellow TV star Jon Stewart, temporarily calling the fundraising magnet “Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert SuperPAC.”
Colbert made his point loud and clear – there is no separation between candidates and the SuperPACs that support them.
The best way for any of us to fight against such ludicrous campaign finance laws or unfair laws prohibiting mandatory health insurance coverage of birth control is by voting and getting our opinions heard.
Although voting is not the only form of participation, it is a good start to being involved in politics. Sending emails, protesting, and putting in phone calls to politicians are also excellent ways to make it known what our opinions are. Many Americans have forgotten that the way to get our voice heard is by putting our opinions out there in whatever form works best for us!
Politicians bank on all of us feeling like our votes won’t make a difference, that we are too busy, and that politicians wouldn’t listen anyway. It doesn’t have to be like that. If enough of us show up, they have to listen. If students really unified together we would be a force to be reckoned with. So, basically, my message is to vote! Vote for whomever. Right, Left or even Colbert but please, just vote.
Communication & Media Studies
Releasing its first single in 1985, 2 Live Crew was popular from the very beginning. The Miami-based hip hop group gained a local following early that eventually became a global fan base that liked the sexually themed lyrics in most of the group’s songs.
Four years later, 2 Live Crew was thrust into the legal spotlight for the album “As Nasty As They Wanna Be” and its sexually provocative lyrics, primarily with the single, “Me So Horny.”
Thanks in part to the American Family Association, which did not think the “Parental Advisory” sticker for the explicit lyrics was enough, the album was deemed obscene by Broward County sheriff Nick Navarro. Navarro warned record store owners that selling the album may be prosecutable.
The controversy over 2 Live Crew’s lyrics ultimately made the group’s music more popular. And at the end of the day, because of the group’s notoriety and success, 2 Live Crew has held onto its popularity for more than two decades. In a classic parody of a Bruce Springsteen song, 2 Live Crew recorded “Banned in the USA” to talk about their experience.
2 Live Crew front man Luther Campbell filed suit against Navarro over the obscenity ruling, and in June of 1990, a U.S. district court ruled the album obscene and illegal to sell.
On appeal two years later, the 11th Circuit overturned the obscenity ruling, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Broward County’s appeal. Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., was a key reason for the ruling. Gates testified on behalf of Navarro, arguing that the profane material had important roots in African-American culture and therefore should be protected speech under the First Amendment.
In my opinion there is almost no way for lyrics to be deemed obscene because they are the thoughts and beliefs of their author and have artistic value embedded in that fact.
The truth is that people believe there is value even in offensive lyrics.
MTV writer Steve Huey noted that “no rap group (save, perhaps, N.W.A.) has stirred more controversy or provoked more heated debate than the 2 Live Crew.”
In the late 80s, society was different and there was less tolerance for explicit lyrics as presidents and Congress crusaded for regulation. Yet, if you want examples of our desire for such lyric, just look at Rihanna’s recently released version of Birthday Cake with ex-boyfriend Chris Brown.
Despite the public’s obsession with the pair’s tumultuous on-and-off relationship, the excitement over the sexually explicit song proves Americans have a strong taste for such music and lyrics.
Give us lyrics as nasty as we want them…because the market proves we want them.
Communication & Media Studies
Despite a right of free speech, not everything uttered is protected under the First Amendment.
Likewise, postings on Facebook are only protected if they fall within constitutional speech. A libelous comment, obscene photo, copyrighted film, or other expression not normally protected under the First Amendment, does not become OK just because it is being said through an informal channel and not mainstream media.
Peter Scheer, a lawyer at The First Amendment Coalition in San Rafael, has noticed many social media users are ignorant about libel law, particularly its application to the social networks.
“If you defame or libel somebody online rather than print publication, you are just as liable,” said Scheer. “Nothing is different. Medium doesn’t change anything.”
Libel, which falls under defamation law, refers to any published comment that is false and causes harm to a person’s reputation.
Any social media post that is both false and malicious toward an identified individual is breaking the law. As “cyberbullying” has become a growing problem in the last decade, it is clear far too many people feel comfortable attacking others while hiding behind a computer screen.
Libelous comments and cyberbullying are particularly troubling in social media as users wrongly assume their words are less confrontational and less damaging because not said in person. The fact that these words are sometimes broadcast to thousands or more, makes it even more troubling.
For a lot of Facebook users, an ignorance of the law could spell trouble unintentionally.
Torrey Fox, a senior photography major at Dominican University, admits she never really thought about the potential harm – and likely lawsuits – that could come from Facebook posts.
“I never thought twice about what my friends and I post on Facebook,” she added.
The issue of Facebook content has been particularly relevant in public schools as students often post derogatory comments about peers, teachers and administrators. The line between free speech and libel is often thin.
Most attention regarding hateful messages on Facebook has come from secondary schools and colleges. The big question is whether students have the right to vent and say what they want to say without facing repercussions from their school?
A high school student in Baton Rouge, La., posted this message on his Facebook page last fall about a teacher:
“[Teacher], no one likes you. Your [sic] more two faced than the average seventh grader. You cant [sic] teach worth a shit. You relate EVERYTHING to the Holocaust and WWII. Sure it was some bad stuff. But your [sic] an American Lit teacher. Not a history teacher. Maybe if you straightened up that back of yours and got your head out of your ass, you would realize that your [sic] a piece of shit and can burn in hell for all that you have done against the senior class. Not yours truly, The senior class of 2012 (Schraum, 2012).”
In response to this post, the student was suspended and kicked out of the honor society. Since this action did not take place during school or on school grounds, the student chose to fight for his rights with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. Before the case reached a judge, the two parties chose to settle out of the court and the student had his record expunged but was not allowed back in to the Honor Society.
Mark Lewis, senior business major and former student president at Dominican, believes that although the Louisiana student went about his complaint in an unprofessional and immature way, the message may have been valid, which is why is should be protected speech.
“The freedom of speech protects him,” Lewis said, noting, “However, I agree that he should have been kicked out of the honor society for what was written”.
In Sacramento, a high school sophomore posted that his biology teacher was a “fat ass who should stop eating fast food, and is a douchebag.” The student, Donny Tobolski, also faced a suspension from school and was aided by the American Civil Liberties Union to help him argue his case.
In the end, the court said the speech did not meet the requirement of causing a disruption to the school environment, the San Juan Unified School District had to clear Tobolski’s record of suspension.
Natalia Forrer, a Dominican graduate student of the family and marriage therapy program, believes that since there was no serious disruption at school, administrators should have done something more fitting than just suspending the student who was exercising his free speech.
“The boy should be mandated to take a class on bullying or disrespectful behavior about how the consequences of harmful words can have a true detrimental effect on the psyche of an individual,” she said.
The issue of censorship to prevent libel and cyberbullying becomes especially difficult.
Sarah Zykanov, adjunct professor of education and counseling psychology at Dominican, says she definitely discusses the issue of cybersafety and cyberbullying with the teaching credential candidates in her required course, Using Technology in Classrooms.
“Some students take this on as a mini research project, presenting their findings and thoughts to the group in an online discussion forum,” Zykanov says. “We also have class discussions of netiquette and appropriate online communications with our students.”
Dominican University, Communications & Media Studies
Student journalists at California’s La Serna High School were not allowed in 2006 to publish the June issue of their school newspaper, The Freelancer, as punishment for a previous issue.
Intended to encourage awareness and discussion among students, the May issue had centered on sex. It included a themed word search, interviews and surveys about student opinions of sex.
This information was meant to educate the student body about sexual concerns as well as elaborate on popular opinions among the school community about sex.
The various forms in which the information was presented were intended to appeal to a wide range of the student body. The school’s principal, Martin Plourde, banned further publication of the paper that year and asked adviser Holly Vance to resign.
Under California law, student journalists enjoy more freedoms than those allowed by the precedent of prior restraint that Supreme Court established in its 1988 landmark Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier decision. In Hazelwood – the first case to address free press rights of student publications – a divided court said publications produced as part of a school curriculum and using school resources could be subject to prior review and prior restraint by school administrators.
California’s Student Free Expression Act states that prior restraint of student publications is expressly prohibited unless the material to be published is obscene, libelous, or slanderous, or incites a disruption of the orderly operation of the school or students to commit illegal acts.
Though The Freelancer staff did not seek legal recourse through the law, they would have had a good case against the school.
Arguably, the publication of a suggestively themed public high school newspaper is controversial and possibly offensive to some readers, but it does not call for punishing the student journalists by squelching their First Amendment rights to a freedom of the press.
In publishing that May issue, The Freelancer intended to raise awareness of sex and its relation to the respective student body. The administration’s reaction was inappropriate and violated its students’ rights to free press and freedom of expression.
While all elements of the issue may not have been absolutely appropriate for a public school student body, prohibiting future editions of the paper only fosters a closed environment where important issues and opportunities to educate never see the light of day.
And that’s not good education any way you look at it.
Dominican University, Communications & Media Studies
“I believe our flag is more than just cloth and ink. It is a universally recognized symbol that stands for liberty, and freedom. It is the history of our nation, and it’s marked by the blood of those who died defending it.”- John Thune
The American flag represents hope, strength and the right to freedom.
Memorable images such as the U.S. Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima and Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong planting the flag on the moon reiterate the importance of this symbol throughout the country’s history.
It is precisely because of this importance as a symbol that protesters, such as those involved in the Jan. 30 Occupy Oakland protest, express their anger and disappointment in the country by burning this representation of American ideals.
Sociologist and Columbia University professor Todd Gitlin believes flag burning tends to tarnish peaceful protests, such as the Occupy protests.
“I’m quite confident that the general view is that of violence of this sort – whether it’s symbolic or otherwise – is contrary to the spirit of the movement and should be renounced,” Gitlin told the AP.
Since the flag is such a powerful symbol, should flag burning be protected by the First Amendment?
The fact that it is a powerful symbol is all the more reason for it to be protected.
The 1907 case of Halter v. Nebraska is one of the earliest rulings regarding flag desecration. Nebraska created a law in 1903 stating it was a crime to “sell, expose for sale, or have in possession for sale, any article of merchandise upon which shall have been printed or placed, for purposes of advertisement, a representation of the flag of the United States.”
Two years later, Halter, a bottling company owner, was charged for printing an American flag on a bottle of beer. After being convicted, the case was taken to the Supreme Court where the high court, in an 8-1 vote, upheld the conviction, stating Nebraska had the right to ban the desecration of the American flag, which ranged from any violent act against the flag to its use in commercial advertisements.
In a 1969 flag-burning case, the Supreme Court ruled that verbal disparagement against the flag is protected by the First Amendment, but the court did not directly address burning of the flag.
But 20 years later, the Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. Johnson that flag burning was protected, and effectively struck down laws in 48 states. The case involved Gregory Lee Johnson, who was convicted for burning the American flag outside the Republican National Convention as a protest to President Ronald Reagan’s policies. In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction and agreed it was a right of free expression.
Despite Congress’ seven attempts to overrule the Supreme Court by passing a flag protection amendment, the strength of the safekeeping for freedom of expression continues to prevail.
Flag burning is offensive. It’s meant to be.
If it weren’t, it wouldn’t be an effective protest.
And while it is offensive, flag burning also gives us a sense of security that our freedom of expression is protected, which is really a protection of our democracy.
Domincan University, Humanities with concentration in communications
Is the Occupy Oakland Movement over-played? Has it done all it can do?
Well, does economic justice ever become old?
The answer is no.
The entire Occupy movement is growing with the world’s youth. What started as a few – and then a few hundred – disenfranchised and out-of-work New Yorkers, has grown to a movement for the young who want a different future than the one they feel certain is theirs – no jobs, no homes, no tax breaks, no hope.
In addition to attention to the country’s ills, Occupy protesters are also reminding the American public of the importance of the First Amendment.
This movement is much more than a growing trend on Twitter or Tumblr. Since the first Occupy Wall Street protest that was held in New York’s Zuccotti Park last September, the movement has grown exponentially and is now present in 1,580 cities.
Occupy Oakland has been trailblazing with its growing activity and number of participants. The people of the Bay Area are taking full advantage of the First Amendment and standing up for what they believe in. Through freedom of speech, and freedom to assemble, Oakland Occupiers’ are making waves across the country. By bringing up issues like economic equality, high unemployment, and bank bailouts, our generation is taking the right steps toward exercising real democracy.
“We are the 99%” refers to the 99% of citizen who have lost their jobs, lost their homes and their livelihood, while the 1% of the wealthy have reaped the benefits of bank and corporate bailouts.
Is it fair that the majority of working class Americans is getting shammed of basic healthcare, employment, shelter and income because of Wall Street’s irresponsibility?
No, it is not fair.
At Occupy Oakland, people from all walks of life are forming focus groups at the General Assembly. Every Sunday and Wednesday, issues are discussed and tactics are formed. Peaceful protest – a very basic First Amendment right – is always the central idea.
“We are striving for change, and stand in solidarity with other fighting powers around the world,” said Robin Fitzgerald, one of the Oakland Occupiers.
OUR generation is leading this cause and finally standing for something we believe in.
“Unconventional campaigning is what America needs to remind ourselves of the rights we hold,” says Nick Shoppard, an Oakland Occupier.
Don’t overlook it because you’re in it. We are the 99%.
Dominican University, Communication & Media Studies major
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in 2010 that the government cannot limit the amount of campaign contributions made by corporations in its controversial Citizens United case.
This case represents an interesting problem for First Amendment advocates. The dilemma is whether corporations should be given the same rights as individuals, and therefore deserving of First Amendment rights, or not.
Many are torn between not wanting to limit First Amendment rights by limiting spending or the alternative of certain companies potentially being able to obtain too tight a grip on the media due to unlimited spending possibilities.
President Barack Obama called this ruling “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”
First Amendment lawyer Peter Scheer called the decision a “game changer,” marking a turning point in campaign politics and overturning previous limits on corporation spending for political advertising.
It is a perfect example of the debate and struggle that has been occurring recently in America. Should the wealthy – whether that means a person or a corporation – have restrictions in order to make it more equal for the rest of us? Or is it part of the American dream to live unfettered by the government?
A few things come to mind regarding the Citizens United decision. If one candidate has major corporations on his or her side and another one is lacking such contributors, the likelihood is great that the first candidate will win.
Politicians already spend large amounts of their own money to run for office. The political climate is such that one needs to be rich – or at least have very successful supporters – to launch a successful campaign.
When corporation contributions are added to the mix, running for political office becomes unattainable to most.
But the biggest problem is the influence of money on national policy. Consider Goldman Sachs, an investment bank that received huge government bailouts but continues to pay huge salaries to its employees. This fact has not been lost on the Occupy protesters who see the problem. Employees at Goldman Sachs have given current GOP candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign more than $350,000. If Romney is elected, why would anyone expect his policies to be anything but beneficial to Goldman Sachs, also the firm that handles his personal fortune estimated around $250 million, regardless of whether that is good for the American people?
This election year is already exposing the effect of the Citizens United case as Super PACS are dominating the election season. In fact, a new study by the Center for Responsive Politics shows that last year, many Romney donors maxed out their limit to the campaign (a total of $444,000) but gave a total of $16 million to Romney’s Super PAC, Restore America.
Thanks to this Supreme Court decision, we could be find that in November, Goldman Sachs and a few other deep pockets have chosen our new president.
Dominican University, Communication & Media Studies