This letter is in response to Tony Bender’s Nov 29th column in which he babbles about threats to democracy. He specifically says, “The Supreme Court itself assaulted democracy when it ruled that political donations are free speech...” I suspect this is a reference to the court case Citizens United v FEC (2010). Many people hate this case and Democrat senators especially cite this case as the most important to overturn when confirming new justices to the Supreme Court and have even introduced Constitutional amendments to do so. I disagree. Citizens United was decided correctly and expands freedom of speech and protects democracy.

Campaign finance laws in general are a farce. The laws are enforced by the government which means the people in power go after political opponents and critics for not dotting every I and crossing every T. It hardly ever has anything to do with stopping bribery or misuse of funds. There is a difference between campaign contributions directly given to a politician’s campaign and independent expenditures in which private actors run their own advertisements without a politician’s oversight; the distinction is important. This case was about independent expenditures.

Citizens United was a nonprofit organization that created a film critical of Hillary Clinton too close to the 2008 election. It is well-established by many Supreme Court cases going back nearly 100 years that corporations, not just people, have free speech, but Citizens United specifically dealt with speech criticizing politicians.

People who want to overturn Citizens United do not understand the implications and the threat to free speech that would be. Critical rhetoric makes it sound like this is about Big Oil lobbying against climate protections, but that’s not all. The New York Times and the Washington Post are both for profit corporations. The ACLU and NAACP are nonprofit organizations. Even teachers’ unions that want to protect their pensions from being slashed are organizations. If Citizens United were overturned, all these organizations could be banned from criticizing politicians. Trump could finally go after CNN. If freedom of speech protects anything at all, it’s criticizing politicians.

Critics say corporations aren’t people so they shouldn’t have the same rights as people. A corporation is a “person” for accounting purposes. It allows many people to come together for a certain purpose without having to deal with the legal mess of who owns what. But the people who run a corporation are still flesh-and-blood people. Real people are still making decisions and real people are still voicing political concerns. Accordingly, overturning Citizens United limits the ability of real people to organize their resources for a common cause.

Critics do not care about who is speaking, a real person or a corporation, they care about what these people say. If an oil company says climate change is a myth, they don’t care that it’s a company, they care that a wrong opinion is being said. But it is not the business of government to silence wrong opinions; that is the essence of free speech. Bender is wrong; Citizens United protects democracy.

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