Katherine Li on Corporations’ First Amendment Dodge

This week on CounterSpin: In 2023, the California legislature passed legislation that said that big corporations doing business in the state have to tell the public, investors, how much pollution they’re emitting throughout their supply chain. It’s knowable information, and people have a right to know it, right? The same way restaurants here in New York City have to tell potential customers how they did on their last health inspection; you can eat there or not, but at least you’re making an informed decision.

But no! This past January, the US Chamber of Commerce and a bunch of other industry groups challenged those laws, because, they said, making companies disclose the impact of their actions—in this case, their emissions—would force them to publicly express a “speculative, noncommercial, controversial and politically charged message.” That, they said, makes the laws a “pressure campaign” aimed at shaping company behavior.

Unfortunately, some courts are indulging this bizarre notion that regulation should be illegal, essentially, because it forces companies to say stuff they’d rather not say. Fortunately, other courts are calling this self-serving nonsense self-serving nonsense. But it’s not just a legal matter; public information, our right to know, is also on the line here, so we should know what’s going on.

Katherine Li addresses this issue in a recent piece for the Lever, where she is an editorial fellow. We hear from her this week on CounterSpin.

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