Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date

2018

Center/Program

Center for Contract and Economic Organization

Abstract

The Supreme Court has looked to the rights of corporate shareholders in determining the rights of union members and non-members to control political spending, and vice versa. The Court sometimes assumes that if shareholders disapprove of corporate political expression, they can easily sell their shares or exercise control over corporate spending. This assumption is mistaken. Because of how capital is saved and invested, most individual shareholders cannot obtain full information about corporate political activities, even after the fact, nor can they prevent their savings from being used to speak in ways with which they disagree. Individual shareholders have no “opt out” rights or practical ability to avoid subsidizing corporate political expression with which they disagree. Nor do individuals have the practical option to refrain from putting their savings into equity investments, as doing so would impose damaging economic penalties and ignore conventional financial guidance for individual investors.Most individual shareholders cannot obtain full information about a corporation’s speech or political activities, even after the fact, nor can most shareholders prevent their savings from being used for political activity with which they disagree. More generally, the Court's focus on whether union non-members are effectively forced to fund political speech or activity with which they disagree should reflect the fact that most Americans must routinely fund speech with which they disagree. While some of this compulsion is from practical reality rather than law there are numerous examples outside the union context of laws that require individuals to fund expressive activities. There is, simply put, very little way for most individuals in modern America to avoid subsidizing speech with which they disagree.

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