Some people exist on Twitter for the sole purpose of trolling. And, putting aside whether or not this helps advance the public discourse, some people are good at it and produce objectively funny, if substantively irritating, little posts.
Georgetown University Law Center professor Randy Barnett is not one of these people.
But he’s trying his best and bless his heart for that.
If you don’t like eggs, why do you like bacon? Is breakfast food good after all? What even is this?
No one actually argues that corporations don’t have First Amendment protections. It’s how we get cool Super Bowl ads and stuff. But these rights are sometimes limited when the state has a sufficiently powerful countervailing interest. Citizens United struck down laws designed to protect the sanctity of elections. On the other hand, Sullivan exists to protect freedom of the press. You can believe that a corporation’s rights should be subject to reasonable campaign finance laws and that press freedom is good without even a whiff of contradiction.
One could say the cases are apples and oranges, but that’s an unfair comparison. It’s more like comparing apples and ribeye.
Also, when did the guy who pre-screened attendance at a campus event to shield Trump administration official from hearing any challenging questions become such a champion of free speech?
Just remove the superficial connection of both cases involving corporations, and the professor’s attempt to own the libs manages to somehow look even more stupid. A person can’t stand in a polling place and electioneer for a candidate, with states imposing restrictions requiring them to stay a number of yards away. Do people have First Amendment rights or not?!?!? Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.
Of course they do, but the government has an interest in protecting the election process. Citizens United challenged the conclusion of nearly a century of cases that the government could limit how much the fictitious person that is a corporation could spend on electioneering during the time period immediately running up to an election. The Supreme Court’s outcome didn’t turn on whether or not a corporation had First Amendment rights, it turned on whether or not this country can go full plutocracy.
As for the countervailing interest in Sullivan, freedom of the press is itself part of the First Amendment. This guy knows that, right? I guess only knowing part of the First Amendment is enough for conservatives these days.
But, as I pondered the Tweet over the weekend, another horror descended upon me: what if this wasn’t made in bad faith? What if his honest legal analysis of these two cases turns on both featuring corporations? Let’s shut out those thoughts. It’s too terrifying to imagine a school turning out lawyers with such shoddy reasoning skills.
Somehow it’s more comforting to believe he’s just being a disingenuous hack dumbing down the public discourse with facile Tweet. Which is sad, but here we are.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.