Debate on Free Speech Rights of Corporations Added to BEA Program

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The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) will host a program at BookExpo America that will explore the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down limits on the money corporations can spend in political campaigns.

Critics of the decision, which held that corporations have First Amendment rights, predict that it will unleash a flood of contributions from wealthy companies, drowning the voices of groups without resources. Groups like People for the American Way and Public Citizen are calling for a constitutional amendment to establish that corporations do not have First Amendment rights. However, others worry that government restrictions on campaign spending threaten the free speech rights of unions, the news media, even publishers. The majority opinion in the 5-4 decision noted that the government had conceded that the restrictions could apply to books. The prospect of amending the First Amendment is of deep concern to many free speech advocates.

The ABFFE program, "Free Speech for Corporations?," will feature a lively exchange between advocates on both sides of the debate. Ira Glasser, the former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, will discuss the concerns that led ACLU to oppose campaign finance restrictions. Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, will explain why his group is supporting a constitutional amendment to restore campaign restrictions.

"Free Speech for Corporations?" will be held on Thursday, May 27, at 11:00 a.m. in Room 1E12 of the Javits Convention Center. The program is co-sponsored by ABFFE and the Association of American Publishers.