The New York Times and The Boston Globe, which are owned by the New York Times Co. — a publicly-traded corporation with about $3 billion in annual revenue, both published editorials today arguing that the Supreme Court should limit the rights of corporations in deciding Citizens United v. FEC.
I’ll briefly note the hypocrisy of the New York Times Co. papers: The New York Times vigorously defended its First Amendment corporate rights in the landmark New York Times v. Sullivan Supreme Court case — which upheld a press freedom relating to defamation or libel of public figures. The corporate-owned paper, not just its individual editors or reporters, enjoy this First Amendment freedom.
Setting that aside, let’s look at the substance of the arguments in the editorials:
The Boston Globe’s editorial warns against striking down Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which allowed the government to ban the independent speech of corporations. “Striking down that precedent would be a mistake. Corporations, which are authorized by the government, can’t vote or serve on juries…”
But wait, can The Boston Globe vote? Can The Boston Globe serve on juries? Certainly not. Then why does it enjoy First Amendment rights? According to the Globe, “the distinction between corporate speech and individual speech is clear enough.” So, if the government so desired, it could require the Globe‘s editorial board to only editorialize using their individual resources. After all, if there’s something sinister about combining resources using the corporate form to speak out on elections, the Globe needs to be stopped from making endorsements or opining on political issues immediately.