Friday on HBO during “Real Time with Bill Maher,” former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer broke with liberal tradition, saying the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was the right call.
Spitzer explained, as he has before, that the Court’s decision is consistent with with the First Amendment.
“Now, having said that, Bill, we rarely disagree. I am with the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] on this one. I think as a First Amendment principle, Citizens United was correct.”
He told Maher that there is no distinction between some shows on the airwaves — all owned by corporations — and a company’s participation in politics through paid advertising.
“Your show is owned by a corporation,” Spitzer said to Maher. “You have a First Amendment right. And so I don’t know how you distinguish between the New York Times editorial page, The Rachel Maddow Show, George [Stephanopoulos]‘s show — all owned by corporations.”
“The First Amendment,” he reminded Maher, says government “shall pass no law abridging the right of speech.”
“Doesn’t say by anybody. It says speech. I don’t care whose speech it is. The ACLU agrees with me, and Larry Lessig, great academic, on this. So this is a more textured issue. It has done horrific things to politics. But as a First Amendment issue, it’s a much more complicated issue.”
Spitzer explained that while there could be some restrictions, freedom of speech would ultimately make democracy better.
“We can limit contributions to candidates, and we should be able to do that. We should mandate absolute disclosure. But as a First Amendment principle, people should be able to say what they want, how they want with their own money. I don’t care if it’s [Sheldon] Adelson or somebody who is of my political views on the left. Let speech breed speech.
“‘You never defeat speech by limiting speech’ is the First Amendment principle by which I live. I just think we’ll be a healthier democracy for it.”