Steven Rosenfeld

June 18, 2012

Academia’s best and brightest include conservatives who help corporations hide behind the First Amendment to protect profits.

In the political world, the Supreme Court continues to expand corporate speech rights, opening one more avenue for big money to flow into elections. And in the business world, federal courts have also cited commercial speech rights to block all kinds of government efforts to add health warnings on products or change the way unhealthy products are advertised.

The list is startling. America has an obesity crisis, but food producers and broadcasters beat back voluntary advertising guidelines. Tobacco beat back adding images to cigarette boxes. Milk companies beat back milk hormone labels, as did cell phone makers with radiation labels and video game makers with violence and sexual content labels. These defeats were based on asserting corporate speech rights—arguments with which the courts have all too often agreed.

But behind this depressing trend—which could change if there were more fair-minded federal judges—is an eyebrow-raising corporate ally: esteemed law professors who have been paid by business to expand on their scholarship as private consultants.

They develop pro-corporate strategies in papers and are far better paid than their liberal counterparts. Their work is cited by lobbyists and judges. Whether conservative scholars see the social costs of using the First Amendment as a deregulatory tool is debatable, but what is indisputable is that they are a key pillar in America’s ongoing “war of ideas.”

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