Linda Greenhouse uses the occasion of congressional Republicans reading the Constitution on the House floor to take a jab at the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC and the constitutional fidelity of its supporters.  Says Greenhouse:


It was just last January, in the Citizens United case, that the court granted corporations a robust First Amendment right, as citizens, to spend money in support of or against candidates in federal elections.


House Republicans could read the Constitution every day between now and July 4 without finding a word about corporate citizenship. Funny, but it just doesn’t seem to be there.  Call it a problem of democracy.


This critique turns the Constitution on its head.  It should surprise no one that the Constitution does not explicitly address the right of citizens to speak through the corporate form.  Indeed, the genius of our constitutional system is that it makes such an explicit statement unnecessary, because the rights we enjoy as Americans are numerous and indefinite, while the powers of Congress are limited and enumerated.


We_the_peopleFor those who complain that Citizens United lacks a basis in the text of the Constitution, we ask, “What is the textual foundation for Congress’ power to ban independent corporate speech?”  One could, after all, read the First Amendment every day between now and July 4 without finding a single exception to the plain command that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.”  One could also scrutinize Article I of the Constitution—which establishes the powers of Congress—in search of an enumerated power that grants Congress the authority to regulate the independent speech of any group of people, but this search too will turn up nothing.


If anyone is ignoring the text of the Constitution, it is the opponents of Citizens United.  A faithful reading of that text makes clear that Congress lacks the authority to restrict political speech, whatever the source.


Image source: Roberthuffstutter