What Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Doesn’t Know about Corporate Law and the First Amendment

Stephen Bainbridge takes the young Kennedy to task for pretending that corporations can somehow be given some kind of “death penalty” for not agreeing with Kennedy’s views on climate policy. Of course, to say that Professor Bainbridge has forgotten more about corporate law than the young Kennedy will ever learn is to understate matters (and you should really read through both of the professor’s blog posts in order to get a sense of just how entirely overmatched the young Kennedy is), but there is another matter worth exploring as well when it comes to this particular debate.

Consider the following quote from the young Kennedy, which Professor Bainbridge provides us in his first blog post on this subject:

Hysterics at the right wing think tanks and their acolytes at The Washington Times, talk radio and the blogosphere, are foaming in apoplexy because I supposedly suggested that “all climate deniers should be jailed.” . . . Of course I never said that. I support the First Amendment which makes room for any citizen to, even knowingly, spew far more vile lies without legal consequence.

I do, however, believe that corporations which deliberately, purposefully, maliciously and systematically sponsor climate lies should be given the death penalty. This can be accomplished through an existing legal proceeding known as “charter revocation.” State Attorneys General can invoke this remedy whenever corporations put their profit-making before the “public welfare.”

Shorter Robert F. Kennedy: “I am entirely in favor of First Amendment rights for corporations which disagree with my views on climate policy . . . except that I am actually not.” And no, this isn’t an exaggeration; if the young Kennedy objects to a corporation’s stated views on climate policy, he wants “[s]tate Attorneys General” to revoke corporate charters in order to punish that speech and the corporations who issued that speech–which of course would have the effect of deterring the future issuance of speech to which the young Kennedy objects. Instruments of state power would be used in order to prevent debate. If this isn’t suppression and an effort to strangle in the crib speech that the young Kennedy dislikes, I don’t know what is. And I don’t know what is more amazing; (a) the possibility that the young Kennedy doesn’t understand that his own rhetoric undermines his supposed reverence for the First Amendment, (b) the possibility that the young Kennedy understands completely that his own rhetoric undermines his supposed reverence for the First Amendment, but hopes that the rest of us don’t notice, or (c) that there actually are fans of the young Kennedy who believe that he is being entirely intellectually consistent.

I am entirely willing to afford First Amendment rights to those whose views I despise. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is not, his claims to the contrary notwithstanding. Let there be no confusion about that particular fact.