Portal:Corporate Rights/Selected Articles

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  • In Bloomberg's Business Week, Cardozo Law School professor Susan Crawford writes on how the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) could require that the shadowy corporate front groups that buy political ads on the public airwaves be required to say where their funding comes from. Doing so would likely be within the FCC's authority, she writes, but "Oregon Republican Greg Walden, chairman of the House committee with jurisdiction over the FCC’s budget, has promised to go “nuclear” with budgetary reprisals if the commission dares require full identification of campaign ads’ funders."
  • Mike Sacks writes in the Huffington Post about how U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Field intentionally worked the notion of corporate personhood into American jurisprudence in the late 19th Century. The commonly-held notion is that a Court Reporter erroneously inserted "corporate personhood" in a case summary, but Sacks argues the act was much more deliberate. Additionally, Richard White, writing in Politico, describes the Gilded Age-era court decisions that gave rise to corporate personhood, and how that era's corruption and corporate power gave rise to reform.
  • In the 2011 article Only People Can Vote—Only People Should Finance Campaigns, tax attorney Greg Colvin argues for a constitutional amendment that, rather than attacking corporate personhood directly, would aim to drive big money out of politics by only permitting individual citizens to make campaign-related expenditures. Corporations (both for-profit and nonprofit), labor unions, business associations, banks and trusts, foreign donors and multi-national conglomerates would all be prohibited from attempting to influence elections, but public financing would be permitted. Colvin is a specialist in the law surrounding political and lobbying activities of nonprofit organizations, and he has also commented on the very important need for the U.S. government to establish a uniform definition for when expenditures amount to "political intervention" or are for a "political purpose."
  • The New York Times reports that Common Cause is making a unique attempt to reverse the Citizens United decision by claiming Justices Scalia and Thomas should have recused themselves from the case. The advocacy group has filed a petition with the Department of Justice alleging the Justices may have been biased in favor of conservative campaign financiers the Koch brothers (one of the major beneficiaries of the decision) based on the participation of the Justices in one of the brothers' "political retreats." Common Cause also cited as grounds for disqualification the role of Justice Thomas’s wife, Virginia Thomas, in forming the conservative political group Liberty Central.
  • Jamie Raskin writes at Huffington Post on the first anniversary of the decision, and touches on the strange position we are placed in by the Supreme Court's treatment of non-profit and for-profit corporations as identical for First Amendment purposes.
  • Soon after the Supreme Court's decision, Greg Palast wrote a provocative article "Supreme Court to OK Al Qaeda donation for Sarah Palin?", discussing the potential implication of the decision for foreign influence on U.S. policy (even though the Court sidestepped the issue in the case).

"If corporations are truly "persons" protected by the Constitution, decades of rules protecting consumers from unsafe working conditions, unsafe products, harmful pollution and other ills are likely to be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court or be undone by politicians afraid of provoking corporate attack ads. Those laws were enacted to "promote the general welfare" at the request of "We the People."

For more State and Federal legislative proposals responding to Citizens United, see our Legislative Proposals Responding to Citizens United article. Also see the Congressional Hearings on Citizens United article.