Friday, July 13, 2012
In its Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court held that companies have a First Amendment right to make electoral expenditures with general corporate treasuries. And they’ve done so, with relish, pouring millions into the political system.
What Citizens United failed to account for, however, is that a significant portion of the money that corporations are spending on politics is financed by equity capital provided by public pension funds — capital contributions that the government requires public employees to finance with their paychecks.
This consequence of Citizens United is perverse: requiring public employees to finance corporate electoral spending amounts to compelled political speech and association, something the First Amendment flatly forbids.
Contrast this situation with how the court treats political spending by unions. In many states, public employees are required to pay dues to a labor union. If the public employees union were to spend any of the money raised through dues on politics, the court has ruled, the dues requirement would amount to forced political speech and association. To prevent this First Amendment violation, the court has held that no union may use an employee’s dues for political purposes if the employee objects.
The same should be true for pension funds and corporate politics.
Hat tip to Joe Slater (Toledo) for posting a link to this article on facebook.