Northwestern law professor Martin Redish discussed the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court case with about 20 students at an event sponsored by the Northwestern University Political Union on Monday night.
Redish defended the 5-4 Supreme court decision, which overturned a ban on corporate spending in elections. Operating under the principle that more speech is better than less, he argued giving free speech to corporations leads to a better-informed public.
“The goal of the First Amendment is not equality,” Redish said. “It’s communication.”
The students, crowded around a table in the Buffett Center, commented on the issue at hand and asked questions of Redish, who dominated the conversation. Overall, he rejected the notion that corporations are soulless, and was unafraid to make light of the topic during his lengthy explanations, as shown in his discussion of the modern corporation.
Redish explained that corporations as they are known today had their beginnings in the Jacksonian period. “I do not mean Michael Jackson. This is Andrew Jackson,” Reddish said.
During the discussion, Weinberg freshman Arpan Doshi countered that corporations may express political opinions not supported by all of its employees, while “interest groups are essentially a collection of individuals with a particular interest,” according to Doshi. “And most members of that group represent that interest.”
In spite of some student opposition, Redish maintained his belief that all speech must be protected, no matter the speaker. “You can’t oppose corporate speech because you don’t like what the corporation is going to say,” he said.
Silencing corporations, he said, is analogous to the McCarthyism of the 1950s. The First Amendment protects unpopular opinions as well.
“We have to protect the rights of those with whom we disagree,” Redish said.