Corporations 1, citizens 0

In a ruling today (pdf), the Supreme Court of the United States said, essentially, that corporations are people, too, and no restrictions on spending should apply to them. Think we’ve had influence-peddling before now? Just wait.

While corporations still cannot contribute directly to candidates, they will be able to spend freely on the candidates’ behalf.

Money in politics – the influence of money in politics – just increased exponentially.

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28 thoughts on “Corporations 1, citizens 0

    1. That it does; but only living animals speak. Corporations are legal entities. Having worked for a few, none have spoken to me. I would be worried about my sanity if they did. =)

  1. Why should a corporation which sells entertainment TV programs(which often carry a political POV) have unlimited free speech rights, but a corporation which sells lumber or petroleum be denied those same rights?

    1. We do that because there’s a clear Constitutional basis for a near-absolute (if not actually absolute) freedom of the press, and because we’ve judged limits on the speech of corporations to be good policy (no lying about what’s in your product, taking advantage of certain classes (children’s advertising), etc.

      It’s admirable that you’re concerned about Exxon’s ability to share its feelings, though. Truly.

      1. Not talking about news programs, I’m talking about entertainment with an anti-corporate political slant.

        If that is OK (and it is) then why would it not be OK for those same companies to defend themselves or advocate policy more favorable to their endeavors.

        I have seen energy companies, slammed in everything from childrens’ programs to sitcoms, for example. Dramas like Law & Order make political statements every night. Do corporations which make sitcoms have freedom of speech but corporations which make gasoline not?

        Why is one point of view on their activities OK but another not? Corporations, after all, are really assemblies of shareholders. Do those shareholders not have the same right to speech as critics of those corporations?

        Do we decide that people who do not own stock have freedom of speech but those who do may not speak?

        1. Not talking about news programs, I’m talking about entertainment with an anti-corporate political slant.

          Please show me the law that prevents anyone from making entertainment shows with pro-corporate themes. The only operative law here is the one of supply and demand – it may shock you, but no one really wants Ayn Rand wanking material on prime time. (It’s okay, you can be sad. I still don’t understand why Firefly was canceled.)

          Do we decide that people who do not own stock have freedom of speech but those who do may not speak?

          Nope, we sure don’t. I own a wide variety of stock, shares, and membership interests. Do I strike you as someone who is limited by law in his ability to speak?

          1. Still the issue is collective speech by people who share an interest.

            If one group of people, say the Sierra Club, wishes to pool their resources to run ads advocating a ban on timber cutting in a given watershed, can we deny another group of people, say the shareholders of Acme Lumber and Mining, the right to pool their resources to run ads advocating harvest of that lumber?

            Corporations are just groups of people with a common purpose just like advocacy groups. Both groups get to speak their piece.

          2. Still the issue is collective speech by people who share an interest.

            No, it’s not. And since you’re willing to take the consequences of intellectual consistency to all sorts of other extremes, I don’t understand why you’re unwilling to do so here.

            If one group of people, say the Sierra Club, wishes to pool their resources to run ads advocating a ban on timber cutting in a given watershed, can we deny another group of people, say the shareholders of Acme Lumber and Mining, the right to pool their resources to run ads advocating harvest of that lumber?

            There is absolutely nothing stopping the individual shareholders of Acme Lumber and Mining from pooling their money and running an ad. Please show me the law that prohibited that. You know, right after the you answer my question about the other law.

            Corporations are just groups of people with a common purpose just like advocacy groups.

            No, Don, they’re not. And I’d have a lot more respect for you if you could be honest about that. Corporations aren’t people. Corporations don’t suffer the full range of social pressures that people do. Corporations have the capacity to redirect an enormous amounts of money into very specific interests, far beyond that of any human being. Corporations have a legal obligation to act against the social interest when it will serve the interests of a small subset of society. If you want to champion that, have at it. But at least be honest about it.

  2. Let’s just come out and admit we live in a plutocracy. We’ll teach it that way in schools so that our kids can know their roles and shut their mouths while their betters run the country. Because the Supremses have decided that money=speech. And speech=political power. So they’ve ratified the fact that the rich have much more power than the rest of us. Let’s just be up front about it. It’s this pretense of democracy that causes everyone so much frustration.

  3. If I were a corporation – I could have all the constitutional rights of human beings – but enjoy privileges and immunities far beyond those of lone individuals. Corporations have more freedom to sue, to go bankrupt, to pay lower taxes, and to receive welfare (corporations receive a plethora of tax-funded subsidies and legislative loopholes that amount to backdoor corporate welfare). Corporations can create overseas subsidiaries and holding companies, and can avoid being jailed because they are artifical entities. Corporations can deduct expenses for lobbying. Can you? Corporations can deduct expenses when they sue. Can you?

    Virginia, with the 2nd lowest corporate tax rate in the United States, would be a great place for me to become a corporation – and Bob McDonnell wants to end taxes on corporations altogether!

    85% of the wealth of the United States is owned by 20% of the population – the wealthy corporate elites.

    That leave 80% of the population (which includes the entire middle class and poor alike) to share the remaining 15% of the wealth of America. Those at the bottom live in poverty (15.8% of the population). And the bottom 1%, actually over 3.5 million Americans, experience homelessness each year – including over 1 million children.

    The urgent needs of people living in poverty are increaing – while resources are diminishing.

    Where are the jobs? Why don’t the wealthy corporations pay livable wages? Why isn’t there affordable housing? Why isn’t health care affordable?

    The wealthy corporate elites, controlling 85% of the wealth of America, virtually the entire economy, as well as the government at all levels, both federal and the states, including the Supreme Court, are answerable for these question – and more.

    1. Actually, most US Stock is owned by “Institutional Investors” essentially retirement plans, like 401Ks, IRAs, Annuities and Insurance companies, and are indirectly owned by the middle class.

      Google, for example, is 80% owned by such pension plans.

      1. This decision by the Supreme Court shreds the fabric of our already weakened democracy – by allowing corporations to more completely dominate the electoral process. The corporations already influence or bribe our political candidates through their political action committees. With this decision, corporations can now also draw on their corporate treasuries and pour vast amounts of corporate money – through independent (deductible)expenditures, into the electoral swamp already flooded with corporate campaign PAC contribution dollars.

        This decision should galvanize a grassroots effort to enact a Constitutional Amendment to end corporate personhood and to prevent corporate campaign contributions from commercializing our elections and drowning out the voices of the people – the citizens – the voters. It is time to restore the sovereignty of WE THE PEOPLE!

      2. The term “middle class” covers a wide range. Many people in the middle class do own some stock – but as a percentage of total wealth of America it is not a huge amount. The equation that the upper 20% of the population (which includes what some call “upper middle class”) owns 85% of the wealth is directly from Census Bureau and I.R.S. statistics.

        Those who control the corporations, control the stock of corporations, sit on the boards of most corporations, and control corporate spending, ie., paying the candidates that vote their way paying and buying advertising for those candidates and for the policies they support, all belong to that top 20%, the “wealthy corporate elite”.

        So a very small percentage of the population, 20%, is enabled, by the Supreme Court today, to have a much larger voice than the remaining 80% of the people. Those at the bottom 20% have absolutely no voice – and never have!

        The personhood of corporations, the enabling of corporations to affect our elections, gives more power to those at the top 20% who own the wealth, control the corporations, and determine which candidates will have funding to run (in both parties – Democratic and Republican alike).

        Elections are for the people. One person, one vote. We are all equal in that idea. But it all means nothing when corporations (ie., the upper 20%) have the power to determine the outcome by determining which candidates we will get to vote for.

        The era of personhood of corporations needs to come to an end.

  4. Such bigotry! I’m sure that if you were to just sit down and have a beer with Mr. Exxon, you would realize he is a person just like you, and should have all the same rights you have.

    1. True, Warren, true. I am thinking about re-orienting my legal practice to protecting the civil rights of that long oppressed class of Americans, the Corporation.

  5. Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision to approve corporate rights to influence our elections has given birth to a new movement today – a grassroots coalition is now working to establish the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: The Free Speech for People Amendment.

    This campaign seeks to restore the First Amendment to its original purpose: to protect people, not corporations. To achieve this goal, we do the following:
    1. Raise public awareness of corporate misuse of the First Amendment
    2. Mobilize grassroots support to reclaim the First Amendment for the people
    3. Create a legal environment for getting courts to return to the First Amendment’s intended purpose
    4. Work to amend the Constitution to make clear that corporations are not people entitled to free speech rights under the First Amendment

    RESOLUTION:

    WHEREAS the First Amendment to the United States Constitution was designed to protect the free speech rights of people, not corporations;
    WHEREAS, for the past three decades, a divided United States Supreme Court has transformed the First Amendment into a powerful tool for corporations seeking to evade and invalidate democratically-enacted reforms;
    WHEREAS, this corporate takeover of the First Amendment has reached its extreme conclusion in the United States Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Citizens United v. FEC;
    WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC overturned longstanding precedent prohibiting corporations from spending their general treasury funds in our elections;
    WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC will now unleash a torrent of corporate money in our political process unmatched by any campaign expenditure totals in United States history;
    WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC presents a serious and direct threat to our democracy;
    WHEREAS, the people of the United States have previously used the constitutional amendment process to correct those egregiously wrong decisions of the United States Supreme Court that go to the heart of our democracy and self-government;
    NOW HEREBY BE IT RESOLVED THAT WE THE UNDERSIGNED VOTERS OF THE UNITED STATES CALL UPON THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS TO PASS AND SEND TO THE STATES FOR RATIFICATION A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO RESTORE THE FIRST AMENDMENT AND FAIR ELECTIONS TO THE PEOPLE.

    DRAFT AMENDMENT:

    Amendment XXVIII
    Section 1. The sovereign right of the people to govern being essential to a free democracy, no corporation, limited liability entity, or other corporate entity created by state or federal law or the law of another nation shall enjoy the rights of free speech and expression protected for the people by the First Amendment.
    Section 2. Congress and the States may regulate the expenditure of funds by any corporation, limited liability company, or other corporate entity in public election activity.
    Section 3. Nothing contained in this Article shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.

    The Free Speech for People Amendment will overrule the Citizens United v. FEC case and return the First Amendment to its longstanding purpose as a guarantee of the fullest rights of a free people and the press. The Free Speech for People Amendment will overrule the fabrication by activist judges of a “corporate rights doctrine” to defeat democratically enacted laws, and will restore the First Amendment to its meaning and intent for two centuries. The Amendment will ensure that all people have the most robust freedom of conscience, speech and debate and that a vibrant, diverse press remains free and unfettered, thus strengthening, rather than weakening, democracy.

    If you are a HUMAN BEING, you can add your name to the RESOLUTION at the coalition website:

    http://www.freespeechforpeople.org

    TAKE ACTION NOW. Together, we can take back our elections from the corporations. It is time to change the score – in favor of WE THE PEOPLE.

    Please forward this information to your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

    1. Interesting.

      You do know that the Sierra Club, NOW and MoveOn are also corporations. As are nearly all newspapers and television news organizations. Will MSNBC enjoy free speech? How about Fox News?

      Will the amendment apply to all corporations, or only those with which you disagree?

      1. The proposed amendment does not discriminate against any corporation – and so would apply to all corporations equally. Whether I, or anyone, personally agree or disagree with any particular corporation is beside the point.

  6. It amazes me that now the American citizens are limited to what they can give but Chinese companies are not. Wow this country has really got some screws loose.

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