The full audio is at this link: Justice Thomas at Stetson University.
From the New York Times:
Justice Thomas responded to several questions from students at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Fla., concerning the campaign finance case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. By a 5-to-4 vote, with Justice Thomas in the majority, the court ruled last month that corporations had a First Amendment right to spend money to support or oppose political candidates.
“I found it fascinating that the people who were editorializing against it were The New York Times Company and The Washington Post Company,” Justice Thomas said. “These are corporations.”
The part of the McCain-Feingold law struck down in Citizens United contained an exemption for news reports, commentaries and editorials. But Justice Thomas said that reflected a legislative choice rather than a constitutional principle.
He 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.”
The audio is long, and I’m in the process of listening to it. Thankfully, Thomas is a very engaging speaker.