This 5-4 decision opened the door for unlimited corporate spending in elections by declaring unconstitutional all laws which limited corporate campaign spending in elections, including the federal McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2008 and many state and local laws which had sought to limit the influence of corporations in their elections.
Many people across the political spectrum were horrified by that decision, realizing as Justice Stevens pointed out in his dissent,” The Court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation.”
Corporate interests already dominate legislative processes through enormous expenditures on lobbying. Executive branch decisions are also heavily influenced by the revolving door of jobs in federal regulatory agencies filled by people from the industries whose activities the agencies regulate in the interests of public health and safety. Even with the campaign laws in effect prior to the Citizens United decision corporate wealth exercised inordinate influence on political campaigns.
The Court’s Citizens United decision guarantees the loss of the last shred of democracy we had left in this country – free and fair elections.
The Court’s slim majority based their decision upon legal precedent that had judged corporations to be “persons,” entitled to the protection of the human rights written into the Constitution, such as freedom of speech, and upon the assertion that freedom of speech equals freedom of money spending.
The conclusion that corporations are persons is not only absurd on the face of it, but deeply flawed legally. Such an interpretation of the Constitution has never been approved by elected representatives of the people and has never been subjected to full scrutiny by the courts. The efforts that were made by the railroads more than 100 years ago, to get the courts to give them the protection of personhood, can be only described as corruption.
! Corporate personhood allows corporations to hide illegal activity from legitimate regulatory efforts of OSHA and EPA by hiding behind the protections of the 4th amendment against “unreasonable search and seizure.”
! In cases in which corporations are accused of illegal activity, it lets them conceal their records from court inspection by claiming 5th amendment rights against self-incrimination.
! Corporate personhood means equal treatment under the 14th Amendment, and prevents communities from using differential taxation or zoning laws to shape their own development by encouraging desired commercial activities and discouraging others.
! Corporate personhood permits corporations to lie in their advertising (just as individuals can lie except when under oath).
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
There will be no way to counter deceit by corporation’s intent on selling their wares, regardless of concerns of public health, safety and well-being, until corporate personhood is eliminated.
And there will be no elections in which the merits of social values can be debated without being drowned out by interests promoting only the bottom line of corporate profits.
The high Court could change its mind, but Democracy Over Corporations and its allies across the country are unwilling to depend on that. We are working toward the 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution that will specify that the human rights in the Constitution apply to people, and only to people, forcing the Court to correct its pernicious error.
JOIN US IN THIS EFFORT!