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Volume 27 • Number 2

April 2013


Democratic Equality and Corporate Political Speech

by Jon Mahoney

The aim of this paper is to examine some of the ways that equality in political status is threatened by corporate political speech. Through an examination of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, I show that if we take equality in political status seriously, there are compelling reasons to reject the claim that corporations have a right to political speech. In section 1, I present the case for why the idea of equality in political status is important for evaluating arguments in favor and against corporate political speech. In section 2, I examine the legal argument in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. After considering the Court's legal argument, I present some examples of corporate speech that show why Citizens is such an important case. My aim is to show how an egalitarian position can propose a practical remedy to one of the factors that undermine equality in political status in contemporary American politics. I consider two objections to the democratic equality approach to corporate political speech in section 3. The first appeals to a conception of liberty according to which restrictions on political speech undermine the legitimacy of democratic government. The second objection relies on a common complaint that legal professionals present against philosophers who write about the law; namely, that debates about abstract political values are extraneous to American constitutional law.

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ISSN: 2152-0542