A common take by critics of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC was that the ruling will allow corporations to dominate the electoral process by spending money. Many in the media also glossed over the fact that the ruling also applies to labor unions, allowing members of organized labor to express their political opinions freely through the campaign process.
So hemikudos to the AFL-CIO for having filed an amicus brief in support of Citizens United in challenging the limits on First Amendment rights imposed by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, aka McCain-Feingold. We halve our praise because of the union’s churlish statement issued after the 5-4 ruling, in which the AFL-CIO claimed unions deserve special rights: “Unions, unlike businesses, are democratically-controlled, nonprofit membership organizations representing working men and women across the country, and their independent speech should accordingly be given greater protection.”
Make a profit? No First Amendment for rights for you!
Still, the union stuck its neck out by siding with David Bossie, the conservative activist, and his litigation against the FEC. The AFL-CIO’s lawyer in the case was Lawrence Gold of Lister, Trichtman and Ross, who even joined such notable conservative legal minds such as Bradley Smith and Hans von Spakosvky on a media briefing call after the Supreme Court decision.
Now the AFL-CIO is taking grief from the left for having joined other advocates of free speech. It’s probably no consolation to the labor bosses, but we say good for you.
George Mason law professor Ilya Somin explains more about the rights of corporations and individuals in several posts at the legal blog, Volokh Conspiracy:
- Why Restrictions on Corporate Speech Reduce Political Equality
- People Organized as Corporations are People Too
- Should People Acting through Corporations be Denied Constitutional Rights Because Corporations are ‘State-Created Entities’?
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