Arizona Attorney Magazine, March 2015 Dark Money cover

The way elections are funded may be one of the more contentious features of our republic in 2015. In fact, even use of the term “Dark Money” upsets some partisans, who believe it casts a negative inference over those who believe campaign speech-supporters need not be identified.

(We covered the topic in three articles published in the March issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine.)

On Tuesday, April 28, the Goldwater Institute is hosting a debate on the topic. It will be held at the downtown Phoenix Cronkite School of Journalism from 7 to 9 pm.

The debate will be free and open to the public. But you also can watch it streamed live here.

The debaters will be:

  • Kurt Altman, national policy adviser and general counsel, Goldwater Institute
  • Allen Dickerson, Legal Director, Center for Competitive Politics
  • Tom Irvine, legal expert on election law, ASU Alumni Law Group
  • Daniel Barr, First Amendment expert, Perkins Coie law firm

It will be moderated by Robert Robb, a columnist and editorial board member at the Arizona Republic.

The specific question they will address in the Dark Money debate? Is anonymous political speech protected by the First Amendment?

The hashtag for the event will be #DarkMoneyDebate.

And here is more background from the organizers (can you tell where they stand on the issue?):

“Anonymous political speech has been a cherished principle since the earliest days of the American republic. The ability to speak anonymously—and to privately support others who speak on your behalf—has played a central role in historical milestones from the ratification of the U.S. Constitution to the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s.”

“Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizen United, there has been a new outcry from some critics that the public deserves to know who seeks to influence elections by giving money to private political groups. Describing anonymous giving as “dark money,” these critics want new laws that compel independent groups to give the names and addresses of their donors to the government.”

“On Tuesday, April 28, four legal experts will debate whether this campaign against anonymous giving benefits or harms free speech and democratic participation.”

Corporations and other people are invited to hear author Jeff Clements this Friday, January 9, in an Arizona Advocacy Network event at Changing Hands Bookstore.

Corporations and other people are invited to hear author Jeff Clements this Friday, January 9, in an Arizona Advocacy Network event at Changing Hands Bookstore.

WordPress can tell me exactly how many followers there are of my blog (more on that tomorrow). Oddly enough, though, when I scan the list, not one of those followers appears to be a corporation.

Why does that surprise me? Well, given that we have been taught that corporations are people, I figured they may like blogs in roughly the same ratio as do regular old-fashioned people. But no.

That thought leaps to mind as I consider an event at the Phoenix branch of Changing Hands Bookstore this Friday evening. That’s when we can meet Jeff Clements, attorney and author of Corporations Are Not People: Reclaiming Democracy From Big Money & Global Corporations. (What appears to be his own corporation-free blog is here.)

The event is hosted by the Arizona Advocacy Network, whose smart gatherings I have mentioned before. (Here is one regarding the negative qualities of judicial campaign dollars.)

Jeff Clements, looking a little corporate.

Jeff Clements, looking a little corporate.

More detail about Friday’s event—plus a free-but-necessary RSVP—is here. (Another event partner is the Justice and Social Inquiry unit within ASU’s School of Social Transformation.)

And for some particularly pointed insight into how this book and its author are the ideal interlocutors to speak to a lawyer audience, read here. As this opinion piece by Eleanor Goldfield opens:

“The title says it all: Corporations Are Not People. And Jeff Clements is in a position to know. During his tenure at the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, Clements was involved in a number of cases that saw corporations eager to gain all the rights of a person without holding the responsibility of a person. … This is the cornerstone of Clements’s book: common sense blended with first-hand experience and pointed research. It’s a simple comment on what has become a complex issue.”

Not sufficiently persuaded? How about this: The book has a foreword by Bill Moyers.

Changing Hands First Draft Book Bar-logoStill nothing? How about this: This is the Phoenix location of Changing Hands Bookstore, the one in a building that formerly housed generations of lawyers who lunched at Beefeaters, the one with the bar and the ready access to Southern Rail Restaurant across the breezeway.

There you go. I figured those may be some corporations you can support. I hope to see you there; I’ll save a stool for you.

Dear Bizzy Business Entity,

You don't look a day over 100!

First of all, a thousand times sorry sorry sorry. I don’t know how I missed your birthday yesterday. You have done so much for me and everyone else in this country. I can’t believe that I let your wonderful event pass by.

It still amazes me that you’ve turned 125. So much history between us, but you’re still as vibrant and rabble-rousing as ever. In fact, recently you seem to have opened an even more dynamic chapter in your life history. Congratulations!

Sure, I know people who say that you are “merely” a “Corporation.” But I know different. And, more important, the United States Supreme Court agrees with me. You, ol’ pal o’ mine, are a “Person,” through and through.

Astounding! It was way back in 1886 that the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. Oh, you wag! You managed to transform a routine, forgettable tax case into something far greater. Its landmark lesson has changed this nation in so many ways. It almost brings a tear to my eye—and to your Personal “eye” too, I’m sure.

You wise old soul. YOU always understood that equal protection under the law, as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, was not just intended to benefit former slaves. It must extend to you, the Corporation. It was as clear as the “nose” on your “face.” But the nascent nation had to wait until the Supreme Court recognized this universal truth. Finally, FINALLY, in Santa Clara County (118 U.S. 394, 1886), the Court conferred personhood on you.

(And even that case showed your Personal chutzpah and creativity. The case itself does not address the question of Corporate Personhood. But the official Reporter added the conclusion to the headnote. Only later did anyone mention the fact that the Reporter was Bancroft Davis, former President of the Newburgh and New York Railway Company, whose business would benefit by the change. You CRAZY man, you! Would anyone dare argue that a mere business shell could come up with a strategy like that? You are not only a Person, you’re the MAN! Some stones, buddy.)

And what a bouncing baby corporate entity you were. Your bronzed baby shoes wasted no time before you were stomping around the house, toppling achievements others had wrought, taking more than your fair share, requiring others to work hard to serve your vision.

“Mine” was the cry you uttered over and over, your cherubic “face” blushing with the effort of clambering to the top of the furniture. Such a bruiser, you were, pushing aside the weaker—understandably!—to ascend higher. The jealous and uneducated throngs saw only “a spoiled brat,” but we know different. The Supreme Court and I recognized that you were merely “committed to your goals.” O happy day!

Sure, there were setbacks in your adolescent years. A few Justices have offered weak little arguments against the Truth that you are a Person (“Boo!” Justice Black. “In your face!” Justice Douglas. “Where’s your head at?” Justice Rehnquist.) Fortunately for our darling Corporate toddler, those arguments were framed as dissents. And your string of Personal successes, like Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, show that our little boy is all grown up.

I thought hard on what gift to get you. As I look over your recent “life,” it’s obvious that you’re hard to shop for—you’ve pretty much got everything you ever wanted!

But ultimately I decided that a little hard cash was always appreciated. Or, as the Supreme Court and I like to call it: “Speech”! LMAO. Don’t spend your “speech” all in one place! Maybe put it toward wages, benefits and R&D.

Omigod, I almost broke a rib laughing at that last one! I know you and your ways, you Corporate Person. I’m sure you’ll pass this speech on to the CEO, or maybe a Senator. Paying it forward—what a guy!

You know I would “hug” “you” if I could, or “tousle” your “hair.” But enjoy your birthday party, which I understand will be held offshore again this year. Here’s looking forward to more great life chapters.

Sincerely,

The American “People”