Interestingly, while most newspapers have spent the better part of this last year criticizing Citizens United, Adam Liptak of the NY Times realized something today: Newspapers are corporations.
Liptak discusses the possibility that the decision in Citizens to extend First Amendment rights to the corporate “person” may very well be a bad decision, but without it, newspapers may be up a creek:
“If corporations have no First Amendment rights, what about newspapers and other news organizations, almost all of which are organized as corporations?
The usual response is that the press is different. The First Amendment, after all, protects “the freedom of speech, or of the press.” Since “the press” is singled out for protection, the argument goes, media corporations enjoy First Amendment rights while other corporations do not.
But the argument is weak. There is little evidence that the drafters of the First Amendment meant to single out a set of businesses for special protection. Nor is there much support for that idea in the Supreme Court’s decisions, which have rejected the argument that the institutional press has rights beyond those of the other speakers.”
He goes on to discuss the really interesting question of new media: Twitter, Facebook, or perhaps Blogs. When someone uses these mediums to report news, do they become “The Press.” My initial response to that is: “No.” (Except for the Blogs, I’m totally a member of the press, I get special treatment, right?) But that may be because I am not trying to make the argument that News Corps are different than IBM or Coca Cola. I think I may not have as much of a problem with corporate personhood as Mr. Liptak.
Anyway, Mr. Liptak expresses an interesting part of the corporate personhood debate that we haven’t heard much about: maybe not all corporations deserve personhood status for speech but maybe some do.
But, Mr. Liptak also admits that originalists have shown: “The [First] amendment surely meant to cover both oral and written expression… rather than a specially protected institution.” If that is true, how can we afford greater protection to some corporations (news media, publishers, etc) and not to others (AT&T, Coca-Cola, or God-forbid Citizens United)?