Friday, February 05, 2010

"Pitchfork Ben" Tillman in the News

Haven't started it yet, but I just bought Stephen Kantrowitz's biography of "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman, Ben Tillman and the Reconstruction of White Supremacy. I therefore noted with particular interest a post at the Volokh Conspiracy indicating that Pitchfork Ben is in the news.

The post refers to New York Times article reporting "on recent remarks by Justice Clarence Thomas at the Stetson University College of Law in which he responded to criticism of the Court’s Citizens United ruling. In addition to defending the underlying rationale of the ruling, he also addressed the Tillman Act — the federal law barring corporate campaign contributions, which was not at issue in the case . . .."

The eponym of (or is it "for"?) the Tillman Act was - you guessed it - none other than Ben Tillman. According to the Times article:
[Justice Thomas] added that the history of Congressional regulation of corporate involvement in politics had a dark side, pointing to the Tillman Act, which banned corporate contributions to federal candidates in 1907.

“Go back and read why Tillman introduced that legislation,” Justice Thomas said, referring to Senator Benjamin Tillman. “Tillman was from South Carolina, and as I hear the story he was concerned that the corporations, Republican corporations, were favorable toward blacks and he felt that there was a need to regulate them.”

It is thus a mistake, the justice said, to applaud the regulation of corporate speech as “some sort of beatific action.”

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