Portal:Corporate Rights/Center for Media and Democracy Projects

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About CMD

The Center for Media and Democracy, which publishes this resource, believes we must discuss the problems with the Citizens United decision from the standpoint of core principles--fundamental principles of American democracy and what it means for people to have the right to vote and have representatives who represent us in government, and not big corporations. It is our view that this decision goes to the heart of the key problem with our government: that it is far more responsive to corporate interests than to the needs of the people who live and work in this country. And, we do not believe that this major failure can be addressed through some minor tweaks to the law. Aiming for such an amendment is a powerful organizing tool that can help unite a variety of issues people care about, which have their roots in excessive corporate influence, and can open a path to create pressure for a range of solutions to help restore our democracy and achieve policies to serve the basic interests of the vast majority of the American people.

CMD Files Amicus Brief Defending Election Disclosure, Questioning Corporate Rights in Wisconsin.

The Center for Media and Democracy has filed a brief with the Wisconsin Supreme Court defending proposed disclosure rules passed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, rules that are being challenged by the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity. In the brief, CMD also questions whether rights granted by Wisconsin’s Constitution can be legitimately extended to corporations. The case was argued in September 2011, and we are awaiting a decision by the court. (Controversial Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice, David Prosser, recused himself from the case.)

Right-Wing Groups Challenge Expanded Campaign Disclosure Rules

At issue in the lawsuit are rules passed by Wisconsin’s election board last summer that would expand the scope of campaign ads requiring public disclosure of the ad’s funders. Under the old rules, ads that did not explicitly say “vote for X” or “vote against Y” were considered “issue ads” that could avoid disclosure laws, even if the ad was an obvious appeal to vote for or against a candidate. In September 2010, Americans for Prosperity brought suit and the Wisconsin Supreme Court enjoined enforcement of the rule, allowing the 2010 elections to take place without strong disclosure regulations. Secret spending increased dramatically in those elections, and citizens only knew the origins of about half of the dollars spent in 2010. Overall spending also increased with groups taking advantage of the Citizens United ruling, which allowed for-profit and not-for-profit groups to spend unlimited money influencing elections under the guise of free speech. The Wisconsin Supreme Court will now consider whether to lift the injunction and allow the rule to stand, or side with Americans for Prosperity and deem it unconstitutional.

In the brief, CMD notes that weak disclosure rules create an environment that undermines justifications for reduced restrictions on "independent expenditures." The U.S. Supreme Court has reasoned that political ads or expenditures by "independent" groups are of little value to candidates if they are not directly coordinated with the candidate. On that point, CMD discusses how new groups forming post-Citizens United are operating in a highly-coordinated manner, and reference Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's request for independent expenditures in his February conversation with the phony "David Koch."

Do Corporate "Rights" Exist Under the Wisconsin Constitution?

CMD also argues that the Declaration of Rights in the Wisconsin Constitution may not extend to corporations. Section 1 in Wisconsin’s Declaration of Rights, Article I, states that “all people are born equally free and independent,” suggesting that all rights contained in the article, including free speech rights, are available only to those who are “born,” and not to artificial entities that come into existence through “incorporation.” The brief notes that “the corporation’s founders may open a bottle of champagne to toast the occasion, and perhaps even pass around cigars, but it seems unlikely that anyone would throw a baby shower.”

Read our article on the brief here.

Read the entire brief here.

Email brendan@prwatch.org with questions or comments on the brief.

CMD Director Lisa Graves Talks Koch on "Democracy Now!"

CMD Director Lisa Graves on "Democracy Now!"

In February, the Center for Media and Democracy's Executive Director Lisa Graves appeared on "Democracy Now!" to discuss David Koch and his influence on the radical politics arising in Wisconsin and elsewhere to bust the unions and privatize public institutions.

"This is a situation in which a billionaire is exerting extraordinary influence, far more influence than tens of thousands of Wisconsin residents who have come out to protest his outrageous effort to destroy the unions here," Lisa said. She reminded viewers of the history of the Koch family and their political activities in the U.S.: "David Koch's father was a co-founder of the radical 1950s group the John Birch Society which opposed civil rights laws," Lisa stated. David Koch ran for president once back in 1980 on the Libertarian ticket, on a campaign platform much further to the right than Ronald Reagan, in which he opposed Social Security, a minimum wage and other safety-net programs. After he lost that race, he spent the last 30 years forming a series of groups to advance his agenda of far right-wing positions. You can watch the entire video of the interview here.