The Wall Street Journal carried an op-ed last week by Simpson and Sherman about Stephen Colbert’s difficulties in setting up a PAC post-Citizens United. I wrote a letter to the Journal but (no big surprise) they don’t seem eager to print it, so I am posting it here. It has sociological as well as political content, since the essential question is whether an administrative collectivity can be said to “speak”.
To the Editors-
The op-ed in Thursday’s paper appropriately demonstrated that there remain hurdles to forming PACs, even in the post-Citizens United environment. But the authors have missed a more fundamental point: corporations cannot “speak.” People speak. Corporations can pay–or inspire–people to speak on their behalf, and they can even organize groups of people to speak (or, for that matter, to write op-eds). In the case of media companies, they can provide spaces in which real people
The “real people who want to speak out during elections” do not in fact run into the barriers Stephen Colbert encountered, because real people have a battery of opportunities to speak: conversations, town meetings, telephone calls, petitions, campaign work, street demonstrations, individual contributions, even letters to the editor! All of these and more are available to “real people,” including Mr. Colbert and the shareholders, CEOs, employees, customers, and critics of corporations
across the nation.
Andrew J. Perrin
Chapel Hill, NC