L’argent a-t-il droit à la parole?

La décision de la Cour suprême des États-Unis au sujet de Citizens United soulève un problème essentiel: les corporations doivent-elles avoir les mêmes droits en matière de liberté d’expression que les individus? Brian Pellot discute ce cas.

Exposition des faits

Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (2010) désigne une décision de la Cour suprême des États-Unis qui déclare en pratique que la liberté d’expression s’applique non seulement aux individus mais aussi aux compagnies et aux syndicats. Le cas fut soulevé lorsque Citizens United, une organisation sans but lucratif de droite, fut empêchée de diffuser un documentaire critique sur Hillary Clinton avant les primaires du parti Démocrate en 2008. Le jugement contredit un article du ‘Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act’ de 2002 qui limite les publicités financées par des corporations lorsqu’elles nomment directement des candidats au système fédéral. Les critiques de la décision, dont le président Obama fait partie, argumentèrent que les dépenses politiques illimitées par de riches organismes ayant des agendas politiques, créeraient d’énormes inégalités dans le discours qui pourraient affecter la démocratie.

L'avis de l'auteur

L’ancien sénateur Démocrate Russ Feingold, qui avait co-sponsorisé le ‘Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act’, a eu totalement raison en décrivant le jugement de Citizens United comme une «terrible erreur.» Ronald Dworkin, un philosophe proéminent du droit qui écrit sur le sujet de la liberté d’expression argumenta que l’augmentation du financement de campagnes publicitaires par des corporations induirait le public en erreur et engendrerait une diminution, et non pas une augmentation, de l’éducation politique du peuple. L’équipe du Débat sur la Liberté d'Expression définit explicitement «Nous» dans le Principe 1 comme «tous les êtres humains» – pas comme toutes les organisations et corporations. Les sociétés ne sont pas des citoyens individuels; ce sont des géants munis de poches profondes qui ne devraient pas recevoir les mêmes droits de liberté d’expression que les individus. Feingold travaille désormais à combattre l’influence des corporations en politique avec une nouvelle organisation baptisée ‘Progressives United’. Je lui souhaite bonne chance.

- Brian Pellot

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Commentaires (8)

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  1. All of you raise interesting and valid points. Dinatee’s idea of a spending cap is a perhaps good one, primarily because this is how things DID work before Citizens United. Troubling developments, like Sheldon Adelson’s recent $10 million contribution to a pro-Romney super-PAC (political action committee), confirm the need for the Citizens United decision to be overturned. Let’s keep a close eye on how super-PAC donations from the super wealthy affect the electoral outcome in November.


  2. This decision absolutely strikes me.

    It threatens a principle enshrined in law for many years that corporations, because of their artificial legal nature and special privileges pose a unique threat to American democracy.
    One could certainly argue that a corporation that is allowed to free speech has a higher leverage than individuals in regard to power relations. Free speech thus becomes a power question, not a legal one.
    The American elections this year will be driven by an influx of unlimited cash from super-rich Americans and shadowy campaign organisations (super-PACS) that can hide their donors.

    Is that what can be understood as free speech?

  3. I wonder if there is a middle ground that would be more appropriate to look into… maybe a cap or a provision that takes into account the organization’s mission (that seems like a legal nightmare, but still…). I admittedly have very rudimentary knowledge of the case, but to me things seem a little less black and white.

    For example, while I do not agree that large corporations should have the power to trump individuals, I also believe that there are a lot of NGOs and, dare I say it, lobbyist organizations who serve as a representative of many whose voices wouldn’t be heard otherwise.

    What I mean to say is, if we only allow individuals to contribute monetarily, then doesn’t that just mean that the wealthiest of individuals can similarly shut out those of us average or below average citizens who would also like to through our support for a certain candidate who may better protect our rights and freedoms as we see it? Don’t some (admittedly a minority) of these organizations bring organization, expertise, and money to stand up for things like women’s rights (how many men are millionaires compared to women), minority rights (same argument), etc?

    I hope this comment doesn’t seem ridiculous as, again, I know little about the case. But I enjoy hearing different opinions and would love to learn more (which is another way of saying this website is awesome)!

    • typo: « …below average citizens who would also like to express our speech freely through our support for a certain candidate who… »

  4. A corporate body is inanimate therefore cannot possibly have right to free speech which by definition belongs only to humans. However nothing prevents employees of such bodies from speaking about their needs which must not ever superceed human rights, which I suggest is what led to the Bophal disaster in India with the loss of human lives and health. It is right and necessary for Corporations to express views but I suggest to protect the rights of those standing against claimed rights of such powerful bodies they should be provided with equal funding by them to make for a level field of play the cost of which no doubt would be offset against tax so justice could not only be done but seen to be. How different it would have been then for the people in India had such a law been in place at that time would it not?

  5. Corporation , though not individuals do play an important role in society in every possible way. Lets take the example of Google and social media like Facebook and Twitter and how has it changed the face of society. These so-called corporations would are responsible for providing a platform for the Arab spring and have provided a voice to the grieving masses which were ignored by the nations. I however also agree with Brian that corporations can mislead the public but this argument can also be used for general current media which has biased views ( like Fox News which has a open conservative agenda) but then why are there no restrictions on them. Inspite of limiting the voice of corporations we should provide regulators that would ban and penalize any forms of false propaganda. Stopping corporations from expressing their message will only lead them to employ illegal means of getting their message to the people by bribing senators and other public celebrities. This attitude can be more dangerous for a democracy and defeats the idea of free speech. Hence , giving corporations a voice is essential for a progressive democracy.

  6. Such freedom of expression should be limited to individuals within corporations having the right to express their own views

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Le Débat Sur La Liberté d'Expression est un projet de recherche du Programme Dahrendorf pour l'étude de la liberté au Collège St Anthony, Université d'Oxford.

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