Thursday's Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United is being lauded by conservatives and loathed by liberals (including the Obama Administration). I thought Justice Kennedy's majority opinion, broadly rejecting limits on the speech of corporations (or unions), unusually good, and Justice Stevens' dissent unpersuasive for the reasons set forth in Justice Scalia's concurrence. But that's not today's topic.
Instead, this post is about Friday's editorials in both the New York Times and Washington Post decrying, as the Times headlined, "The Court's Blow to Democracy." Set aside the merits; my objection is to each paper's failure to disclose the conflict of interest inherent in their position. Remember, the Court voided a law banning for-profit corporate/union "electioneering" just before Federal elections, but exempting media companies from the prohibition. So, before Thursday, broadcasters and newspapers (like the Times and Post) had somewhat of a monopoly on election advocacy in the month or two prior to elections: uniquely among for profit corporations, they could (and obviously, did) endorse or oppose Federal candidates. This made those companies' voices relatively more visible and, possibly, more lucrative.
Thus, the press had an economic interest in the former law. Yet, the two leading papers failed to disclose that fact when editorializing. (An Adam Lipak Times story on Friday hinted at the issue.) So much for journalism's code of ethics -- which is enforced solely to shield news staff, not ensure neutrality.