Read my lips -- who speaks for a corporation?
State Lawmakers Move to Limit Corporate Clout (WSJ ticket req'd.)
State lawmakers in New York and Massachusetts are advancing legislation that would put hurdles in front of companies engaging in political activity.How dare they?!
In doing so, the lawmakers say they are attempting to contain the consequences of January's landmark ruling by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that overturned federal limits on corporate political expenditures. The efforts were assailed by business groups.
Democratic leaders of the Assembly and Senate in New York this week quietly introduced a bill that would require corporations to get approval from shareholders before spending money on campaigns or issue advocacy.
"It's unconstitutional on its face," said Heather Briccetti, vice president and general counsel to the Business Council of New York State. "It would pretty much bar any larger publicly traded entity from participating in the political process in this cycle."
Floyd Abrams, a prominent First Amendment lawyer, said the provisions under consideration in the statehouses didn't appear to be violations of free speech, but raise questions.
"States do have considerable powers to assure that shareholders' views are taken into account with respect to topics such as this," Mr. Abrams said. "What they can't do is burden the First Amendment."
Said Mr. Abrams: "The question is, when you do this, are you in effect loading the dice against a corporation's exercise of its First Amendment rights?"
When a corporation spends its money to speak its political mind, who speaks for the corporation speaks: the shareholders or management?
One of Guambat's Opuses in the right-side column gives away the clue to his opinion: