Corporate Personhood

Corporate Personhood
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Yesterday the Roberts Supreme Court pushed our democracy in the direction of corporate domination with its decision overturning limitations on corporate spending in U.S. elections. Alliance for Democracy has been monitoring the case and has released the following statement:


January 21, 2010 Barbara Clancy, National Office, Waltham, MA,

(781) 894-1179

Jim Tarbell, California Office, (707) 964-0463

Alliance for Democracy joins national cry of outrage over U.S. Supreme Court opinion allowing unlimited corporate money for political campaigns and affirming the rights of corporations as "persons."
Waltham, MA - January 21 - Today's Supreme Court opinion in Citizens United v. the

Federal Election Commission, a campaign finance law case, opens the floodgates to allow unlimited corporate spending to influence state and federal elections and further entrenches corporate power in our nation.

This 5-4 decision overturns previous Court decisions that limited corporate money in politics. In lifting the previous federal ban on corporate "independent expenditures," the court has overridden laws in 22 states banning "independent expenditures" by corporations and unions. Now corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money to buy the election results they want and manipulate politics and policy in their self-interest.

"The Constitution was written to protect real people, not to give corporations the power to challenge our fundamental rights and enacted laws," said Nancy Price, Alliance for Democracy Co-Chair. "With this decision, a business-friendly Supreme Court majority is further eroding the very basis of our democracy by allowing corporate money to dominate the political process. Corporate political speech is a lot louder than that of ordinary persons. This is a critical time for our democracy and many are alarmed."

The Alliance welcomes the observation by Justice Stevens in his dissent with Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor concurring, that

"The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court's disposition of this case."

However, this should apply to all Constitutional rights conferred on corporations by the courts through the doctrine of corporate personhood. It is these court-conferred rights which have robbed, "we, the people" of our ability to govern ourselves without interference by the monied-power of corporations.
Corporations are not persons. They are artificial entities. And as Stevens et al make clear,

"Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office."

The Supreme Court's expansion of corporate free speech rights under the First Amendment further entrenches corporate power in the law of the land. It is a stunning setback for American democracy and a crime against the rights of ordinary people.

"We join with our grassroots allies in the Campaign to Legalize Democracy in support of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to remove personhood rights and protections from corporations for all time," Price said, urging that concerned citizens visit the new website and sign in support.

This opinion further entrenches the controversial legal doctrine of "corporate personhood" arising from the 1886 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Santa Clara railroad case. In this decision, the activist court asserted, without explanation, that the 14th Amendment, enacted to guarantee equal protection and constitutional rights to recently freed slaves, applied to corporations. As a result, corporations, artificial entities created by and subject to state laws, have successfully claimed many of the constitutional rights that real persons possess, even though the word "corporation" never appears in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

Corporations have used the Constitution to challenge the constitutionally recognized rights of human beings, not just the First Amendment right to free speech but other protections under the Bill of Rights and the Constitution itself. The concept of corporate personhood, though absurd on its face, has been slowly gaining momentum since the mid-19th century, as the hard-won Fourteenth Amendment has been used effectively over the decades to expand corporate power rather than to protect the rights of ordinary people. Today's Supreme Court ruling continues this misdirection.

The Alliance calls on the American people to stand up and take back our democracy which has
fallen under corporate rule and end this corporate crusade to subvert democratically enacted laws.
One step is mandatory public financing of state and federal elections. Another step is a
constitutional amendment to deny corporations First Amendment rights to political speech and to
spend money in elections.

Ultimately, a Constitutional amendment is needed to deny corporate personhood and thereby stripping corporations of all constitutional rights conferred on them piecemeal by the Court over the years.


The Alliance for Democracy, with its national office in Waltham, Mass., is a nonprofit membership organization with local chapters that work through national and local campaigns to end corporate domination, establish true democracy, and build a just society with a sustainable and equitable economy.
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