Corporate Personhood

Even before the decision in Citizen’s United v Federal Election Commission, 558 US 08-205, (2010), courts had long treated corporations as persons in limited ways for some legal purposes. Corporations could own property.  Corporations could enter into contracts and sue or be sued.  Corporations were even granted some limited rights to free speech that allowed them to advertise their products and services.   But, there were limits.

Corporations could not vote, run for office, or bear arms. They can also not be tried as a criminal and thrown in prison.   Since 1907, Congress had banned corporations from contributing to federal political campaigns.   This was a ban the Supreme Court had repeatedly upheld..  And, They were granted limited rights to free speech. But corporations cannot and should not be allowed to vote, run for office or bear arms. Since 1907, Congress has banned them from contributing to federal political campaigns — a ban the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld.

In Citizen United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled in a landmark decision that the First Amendment prohibits government from censoring political broadcasts in candidate elections when those broadcasts are funded by corporations or unions in a 5-4 decision.   The dispute involved a bradcast of ads featuring Hillary Clinton’s image in apparent violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.

It is interesting to note that C. Thomas although concurring with the majority did not concur in the decision to uphold the disclosure requirements under the law concerning those contributing to such corporations.  It is also interesting to note that a year after the decision, the liberal advocacy group Common Cause asked the Department of Justice to investigatre conflicts of interest on the part of two of the Justices in the majority.   It alleged that Thomas’s wife was the founder and president of Liberty Central, a conservative political advocay group that would be empowered to accept corporate contributions to run campaign advertisements, and that Scalia and Thomas had participated in political strategy sessions organized by David H. Koch and Charles G. Koch, who stood to “benefit” from the decision” by taking advantage of the rights upheld by the Court.

Move to Amend was formed in response to the ruling and is seeking an amendment to abolish corporate personhood as interpreted by the Court.   It is felt that the interpretation gives corporations and corporate interest groups excessive influence in elections and lawmaking.


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