MSNBC Guest Defends Free Speech Rights of Giant Corporations

MSNBC contributor and newspaper columnist Mike Lupica said Tuesday that Delta Air Lines’ First Amendment rights are "probably" violated by having its tax break in Georgia threatened.

Lupica joined MSNBC’s "The Beat With Ari Melber" to talk about his column advising Delta to move its headquarters from Atlanta to New York City after Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R.) threatened to kill the corporation's tax break over a dispute with the NRA. Lupica described how corporations left New York when he was younger to go to more hospitable states, and he said Delta could do the same by leaving Georgia.

"I can remember when I was a kid and I first got to New York, American Airlines left 3rd Avenue and went to Dallas, so I think Delta is perfectly capable of leaving Atlanta and coming to New York City," Lupica said. "The governor of the state, Andrew Cuomo, made a statement today about that."

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Delta said last week it would cease offering a discount to NRA members visiting the organization’s annual meeting, prompting Cagle to demand Delta reverse that decision or potentially lose its $50 million tax exemption on jet fuel. The Georgia Senate blocked a tax bill Monday that would benefit Delta.

Melber expressed his astonishment at Georgia politicians’ willingness to support the NRA, even if that meant "threatening corporations."

"What about this deeper, crazy place we are in, this ridiculous place we're in, where you've got people in charge of state government, trying to effectively threaten corporations, because those corporations don't agree with their favorite political groups?" Melber asked.

Lupica replied by saying that Georgia officials, by threatening to end the tax break, are likely violating Delta's free speech rights.

"Ari, by the way, it's probably a violation of the First Amendment rights of Delta, even though you know we're now living in a time in America where guys like Casey Cagle think they can take the First Amendment and fold it into a party hat," Lupica said. "This is a mild political statement they have made, but to me, it speaks to how insecure the NRA is these days."

"They think they're a branch of the government now," Lupica added about the NRA.

Lupica did not explain how threatening to revoke a tax break amounts to a violation of the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court ruled to liberalize corporate speech rights, including the right to political speech, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a decision Lupica has criticized in the past. In a 2011 column, Lupica described Citizens United as the Court "roll[ing] over on corporate spending in elections."