NOTE: CORPORATE SPEECH ON POLITICAL ISSUES: THE FIRST AMENDMENT IN CONFLICT WITH DEMOCRATIC IDEALS? Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 1985 The University of Illinois
University of Illinois Law Review

NOTE: CORPORATE SPEECH ON POLITICAL ISSUES: THE FIRST AMENDMENT IN CONFLICT WITH DEMOCRATIC IDEALS?

1985

University of Illinois Law Review

1985 U. Ill. L. Rev. Online 445

Author

SUSAN L. ROSS

Excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

The extent to which the first amendment 1 protects speech reflects the society that the amendment protects. As a reflection of the vital importance of corporations in society, the first amendment protects their speech related to profit-making activities. 2 In a recent step in another direction, the Supreme Court extended the first amendment to cover corporations when they speak on issues which have no immediate, obvious connection to their profit-making goals. 3

The Court has applied the first amendment to corporations' political speech, 4 and legislatures, 5 judges, 6 and commentators 7 have responded with fatalistic warnings. Some writers fear that corporations' special access to capital markets may help corporations subvert the democratic process by "buying" voters' opinions. 8 Legislatures, acting upon this fear, have unsuccessfully attempted to ban corporate expenditures on political issues. 9 The Supreme Court, however, has not yet recognized any evidence proving that corporations skew the outcome of the democratic process. 10

Distinguishing between corporate speech that is subject to regulation and corporate speech that is protected by the first amendment presents many theoretical and practical stumbling blocks. Consider the following example. Suppose Millie Smith owns the Podunk Pets, an incorporated major league baseball team. 11 As owner, Smith uses a page in the program ("The Owner's Page") to expound on any subject in which she feels the fans have an interest. In the September program, Smith writes a page-long denunciation of the upcoming referendum on an increase in a bridge ...
 
 
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