Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Conrad Anker: In a democracy, does money equate to free speech?

Humans have a tendency to anthropomorphize animals. Penguins, with their tuxedo like plumage and waddle, are a fine example of how we extend characteristics and behavior of humans to animals. The physical similarity makes the connection logical: They are born; they die and they share a brief time span on this planet. Obviously animals, cute and adorable as they are, would not be granted personhood in the Bill of Rights. Less obvious are corporations and unions. Do groups of people speaking as corporations and unions have the same rights as individuals?

On Jan. 21, the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission will observe its second anniversary. In 2010, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to allow corporations and unions to support political candidates. The ruling gave corporations First Amendment rights, under free speech, to favor or oppose candidates as they choose. The central theme is that corporations are people. However, the question should be, “Does money equate to free speech?”

Ninety-nine years ago, Montana faced a similar dilemma with the powerful Copper Kings of Butte spending large sums of money to influence elections. The 1912 Corrupt Practices Act specifically blocked political speech by corporations. The citizen initiative won on the ballot, as there was a clear need to balance the might of the, then, powerful Copper Kings, who were buying elections.

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