I’m all for free speech, and I’ve criticized McCain-Feingold quite harshly. But this headline — “Supreme Court appears poised to allow corporate contributions” — worries me, because corporations aren’t the independent entities they once were.

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court’s conservative bloc sounded poised Wednesday to strike down on free-speech grounds the nation’s historic ban on corporations spending large amounts of money to elect or defeat candidates for Congress and the Presidency.
If the justices were to issue such a ruling in the next few months, it could reshape American politics, beginning with the Congressional campaign in 2010. For the first time, big companies and industries–and possibly unions as well–could fund campaign ads to support or defeat members of Congress.
For example, the health insurance industry would have a much greater ability to target for defeat members of Congress who supported a so-called “public option” for medical insurance. Banks and investment firms could oppose representatives who favor stricter regulation of the financial industry.
And far more money could flow into elections. Last year, the political parties spent about $1.5 billion on the 2008 campaigns, while corporations earned more than $600 billion in profits.

That’s not what bothers me.
At the outset, let me say that corporations have free speech rights the same as anyone else. The right to free speech does not disappear on the filing of articles of incorporation, any more than it disappears upon matriculation at a college or university.
The problem comes when the state becomes so entangled with certain corporations that it’s no longer clear whether the corporation is really an independent entity, and not an adjunct of the state. At some point, a certain line is crossed, and I think it’s crossed when huge sums of money go from the taxpayers to a corporate entity in the form of bailouts. Corporations that are considered “too big to fail” and are therefore bailed out to prevent their failure can no longer be said to be independent entities. At that point, they owe their “success” not to the hard work or business acumen of their executives, but to the government, which gets its money from the taxpayers. Their free speech is not free speech in the usual sense, as it is tainted. It amounts to government speech. And if the bailed out corporations are allowed to donate money to political campaigns, it is inherently suspect, because it means that the taxpayers are unwittingly forced to donate money to political campaigns.
It’s like, I can decide whether to buy a car from GM. And if GM is allowed to donate to a political campaign, I can take that into account in deciding whether I want to buy a GM car. But if my taxes are used to bail out the company, then I have no choice, and I am donating to whatever campaign it is. (And we all know what campaign that would be, don’t we?)
I’m not even sure I approve of executives who work for bailed out companies being allowed to donate personally, because their salaries and bonuses are taxpayer subsidized. But this is ridiculous.
In fact, I’m so irritated that I feel like quoting a famous radical:

“to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical.”

And I’m enough of an extremist that I’ll agree with Thomas Jefferson.
Corporations have a free speech right to contribute to political campaigns, but to make me contribute is sinful and tyrannical.