Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission

images5thumbnail1.thumbnail.jpegAdam Cohen of the New York Times is a fairly astute writer on legal issues, and he has a new article up on the interesting case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The case involves the ability of corporations to further pollute elections in the United States with unregulated big money. From Cohen’s NYT article:

The founders were wary of corporate influence on politics — and their rhetoric sometimes got pretty heated. In an 1816 letter, Thomas Jefferson declared his hope to “crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

This skepticism was enshrined in law in the early 20th century when the nation adopted strict rules banning corporations from contributing to political campaigns. Today that ban is in danger from the Supreme Court, which hears arguments next month in a little-noticed case that could open the floodgates to corporate money in politics.

The court has gone to extraordinary lengths to hear the case. And there are worrying signs that there may well be five votes to rule that the ban on corporate contributions violates the First Amendment.

If the ban is struck down, corporations may soon be writing large checks to the same elected officials whom they are asking to give them bailouts or to remove health-and-safety regulations from their factories or to insert customized loopholes into the tax code.

The entire article is not that long and well worth a read for the history and set up for the case at bar. Cohen is right that the ban is in jeopardy; and the Roberts court does seem to have a hard on for this issue, having taken extraordinary steps to wade into this case, which is not that well set up for a Supreme Court determination on such a critical and far reaching issue.

The Court did indeed take a case in which the ban on corporate political contributions was not a central issue and instructed the parties to brief on the ban’s constitutionality. The Court then accelerated oral argument on its calendar to a September date before the new SCOTUS term even starts. This sure looks to be the handiwork of Chief Justice John Roberts; anybody who says Roberts is not an "activist judge", and has no agenda, is nuttier than a fruitcake.

I do wish, however, that Cohen had written a longer piece and gone into some of the other fascinating aspects of this very important case. First off, Cohen did not even mention that this is the infamous "Hillary: The Movie" case from the 2008 primary election campaign. Citizens United is a right wing political hatchet group run by David Bossie, one of the key front men for the Congressional Republicans pressing the Whitewater investigations. There is a lot of wingnut skulduggery rooting around in the background here.

Secondly, Cohen (nor I) isn’t kidding when he says the Court is reaching wildly to frame the issues as it has demanded on corporate campaign donations. The issues on appeal were originally: (1) did the 2003 decision in McConnell v. FEC resolve the constitutionality of as-applied challenges to the disclosure and disclaimer rules; (2) do said rules impose an unconstitutional burden when applied to ”political speech” protected by the FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life decision; (3) did the FEC v. Wisconsin Right To Life decision require, for regulation, a definite call for a vote for or against a candidate; and (4) whether a feature-length documentary can be treated as if it were an “ad” of the kind at issue in the McConnell v. FEC decision. With, really, a fair amount of emphasis on "4", whether the movie was a political ad. This is a far cry from where the Roberts Court is now heading.

Third, Cohen doesn’t mention the bizarre procedural history behind where the case sits now. SCOTUSWiki has an absolutely great history and explanation, written by Lyle Denniston, of the issues and process of Citizens v. Federal Elections Commission. Suffice it, for here, to say that the case has already been argued to the Court once and ought to be decided by now. Problem seems to be that Chief Justice Roberts was put off by the more liberal members questioning of Ted Olson after some passionate, but mostly tangential, First Amendment arguments he made at the first oral argument. Remember that horse manure that John Roberts pitched at his confirmation hearing about his "job being to call balls and strikes"? He lied through his teeth.

Lastly, there is the advance of the femme fatales Cohen forgot to mention. First, and foremost, is the newly sworn in Justice Sonia Sotomayor. It will be, of course, her very first case heard as the new junior member (Alito must be relieved to be off coffee and donuts duty) of the Court. Here is Russ Feingold questioning Sotomayor about Citizens United v. FEC at her confirmation hearing (as with all questioners, he didn’t get much out of her).

And then, of course, we have Obama’s crack Solicitor General Elena Kagan. At least Sonia Sotomayor has a long and deep history of work in trial and appellate courtrooms, both as an attorney and a jurist, under her belt. Not so Elena Kagan. The Justice Department has confirmed Kagan will indeed personally argue the case on September 9. By all accounts, and all I have been able to discern, Kagan’s first words on September 9 will be the first words she has ever uttered in battle in any kind of courtroom, anywhere, at any time, ever. That, in and of itself, is both fascinating and stupefying.

With all this time, and a whole Solicitor General’s office of more experienced attorneys, not to mention the DOJ, to help her with the training wheels, she should at least not embarrass herself you would think. But, then again, she will be up against Ted Olson, as seasoned a SCOTUS pro as exists on the face of the earth (and a distinguished former Solicitor General himself). We shall see; ought to be worth paying attention to I think.

56 replies
  1. perris says:

    morning bmaz…my busy season and haven’t spent much time on the tubes


    The case involves the ability of corporations to further pollute elections in the United States with unregulated big money

    this is the very biggest problem facing america, it’s this problem that has caused all other problems

    corporations are somehow given personhood and allowed to buy our law through campaign contributions

    if our democracy can be saved it will only happen when corporate personhood is eliminated and the rights given them as personhood by some clerk are rescinded

    personhood allows a number of things which should never be allowed to corporations, the first being the right to free speech, a corporation should not be allowed to enjoy this right the same way a person can

    the second is the right to contribute to politicians for their re-election which clearly buys law

    the third is the right for a person to petition the government for reddress, it’s this right that gives them the ability to lobby

    I believe for profit corporations need to have limited access to government, the right to lobby is a person’s right and should be given in only limited form to corporations

    so the first thing we reall y need to do is rescind the personhood a clerk awared to corporations

    • TheraP says:

      Perris, I simply can’t rec’d your comment highly enough. Although it should be self-evident to all, would a blog on this underscore a point which seems like it needs to be made weekly, if not daily?

      Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I agree with your diagnosis of the problem.

    • TJWV says:

      This is the core issue, you are exactly right.
      You can find the history here:…..R1886.html

      The concept of corporate personhood is the most corrosive and corrupting influence on our representative democracy. This was never intended in the constitution or Bill of Rights. Corporations have no national allegiance.

      • nahant says:

        The concept of corporate personhood is the most corrosive and corrupting influence on our representative democracy. This was never intended in the constitution or Bill of Rights. Corporations have no national allegiance.

        Couldn’t have said it better. This has galled me most of my adult life.
        As the Bumper sticker Teddy P gave me at the meetup says:

        Since when did unquestioning obedience to corporate interests become patriotic?”

        • TJWV says:

          Thanks for the link @15. I’m on my way to You Street. Hope I don’t get lost.

          BTW – don’t know if you’re familiar with Thom Hartmann. He has written extensively on this issue.

              • nahant says:

                Thanks and Cool! We all need to do our part to change the way our elections are funded. Time to get big money out of the game, it WILL be a difficult task but it must be done or we will truly have a country where the corporate interests come before the people’s interest… Sorry state indeed!! We are close to that already…FUCK!!

    • bobschacht says:

      The case involves the ability of corporations to further pollute elections in the United States with unregulated big money

      this is the very biggest problem facing america, it’s this problem that has caused all other problems

      corporations are somehow given personhood and allowed to buy our law through campaign contributions

      I totally agree with this. There are a lot of essays floating around about America’s descent into fascism (Naomi Wolf’s The End of America, of course, but also recent essays by Laurence Britt, and Project for the Old American Century highlight this slide. If the Supremes certify the right of money as free speech, then we’ve pretty much officially become a fascist state.

      Bob in HI

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        This is an odd thing; I’ll bet it’s been about a year now that I first heard this topic mentioned by some accountants that I’ve known for years.

        It may be a post-Enron phenomenon, but for the 25+ years of their employment, I don’t think they ever saw corporate structures as ‘evil’ in any way. They thought corporations were synonymous with ‘efficiency’ and a lot of other really good ideas.

        But post-Enron, and post TARP (!), the word ‘corporation’ seems to be taking on a whole new, cankerous, stench-ridden crust of associations.

        I doubt that the conversation on this thread would even have been articulated a year ago.

        If the corporations ‘win’ this SCOTUS precedent, then it is possible they’ll be untouchable. But it is also quite possible that it’ll expose them as the opportunistic, predatory entities that Enron, Tyco, outsourcing, offshoring, signify.

        It may turn out to be a Pyhrric victory for them; I don’t know about you, but it’s my sense that the bloom is long since off the corporate lily. Maybe it’s only on the left, but even some pretty conservative folks that I know are more skeptical post-TARP than I ever expected to see them.

        • bmaz says:

          Once acquired, the corporate spirit in the US does not ever tend to relinquish power; only expand upon it. It does not matter haw craven they are, nothing seems to slow them down.

  2. zapkitty says:

    You are in error.

    This didn’t happen “somehow”… by accident or mischance.

    The corporations pounded away at that barrier nonstop day in and day out year after year decade after decade in court after court until they got what they wanted.

    They won’t “give it up” now.

    Or ever.

    In a very real sense America died a quiet death on that day.

    What we are dealing now with are just the remains.

  3. JLML says:

    “The case involves the ability of corporations to further pollute elections in the United States with unregulated big money.”

    This quote is also applicable to the other front on the corporate war on elections – electronic voting machines = outsourcing the counting of our votes. Let’s not forget who wrote HAVA.

    • zapkitty says:

      Or Rush Holt’s recurrent attempts to permanently encode corporate ownership of our elections into the law.

      Something he keeps trying with bill after bill year after year…

  4. MsAnnaNOLA says:

    So my question about corporate “speech” is why can’t we take the “rights” of corporations away. We are after all a nation of people not of corporations. How did we let it get to this place where corporations “rights” trump those of the citizens?

    We the people formed this union, we the people are the ones who must give consent to be governed. I for one do not consent to have corporations run my life through the governement.

  5. WTFOver says:

    Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen were military retirees and psychologists, on the lookout for business opportunities. They found an excellent customer in the Central Intelligence Agency, where in 2002 they became the architects of the most important interrogation program in the history of American counterterrorism.…..hs.html?hp

    [edited by mod]

    this whole torture thing pisses me off just as much as the rape of Iraq by cheney does.

    i have never felt so much rage and raw hatred in my life.

    [Edited by Moderator. Please do not suggest that acts of violence be carried out on anyone — including public officials. Thank you.]

    • Gitcheegumee says:

      Some Recent Hearing Volumes on Intelligence

      July 29th, 2009 by Steven Aftergood

      Some noteworthy, newly published congressional hearing volumes on intelligence policy and related topics include the following (mostly pdf).

      “Attorney General Guidelines for FBI Criminal Investigations, National Security Investigations, and the Collection of Foreign Intelligence,” Senate Intelligence Committee, September 23, 2008.

      “Nomination of Michael Leiter to be Director, National Counterterrorism Center,” Senate Intelligence Committee, May 6, 2008.

      “U.S. Interrogation Policy and Executive Order 13440,” Senate Intelligence Committee, September 25, 2007.

      “Fixing the Homeland Security Information Network: Finding the Way Forward for Better Information Sharing,” House Homeland Security Committee, May 10, 2007.

      “Budget Request on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Capabilities,” House Armed Services Committee, April 19, 2007._____________________________Secrecy News

    • skdadl says:

      Now, now. Much as I share your rage, and I really do, as a charter member of the we-don’t-believe-in-capital-punishment club, I feel compelled to ask you to reconsider the medieval revenge scenarios. We learned how to build democracy by thinking through the endless problems that personalized justice — revenge — causes; we built better justice systems, and we can’t revert; we can’t become what we behold.

      Jails will do.

      My rage has also to do with the terrible failure of our education systems in the democracies that are heirs to the Enlightenment. Your president is a graduate of Harvard, and he still doesn’t know what’s wrong with the Nuremberg defence? What a bricklefritzin’ disappointment.

    • bobschacht says:

      The NYT doesn’t cite EW in any of this, but I’ll bet they got the idea to focus on Mitchell and Jessen from EW’s work on them here and here, among other places.

      But here’s a new(?) angle. There’s a parallel thread on the influence Sen. Inouye’s office has had in providing psychological expertise to the interrogators (see Torture, Psychology, and Daniel Inouye: The True Story Behind Psychology’s Role in Torture), which has had a corrupting influence on the American Psychological Association (APA). But were the APA experts supporting Mitchell and Jessen, or trying to be a counterbalance? I have not been able to find any direct connection between Inouye’s office and Mitchell and Jessen, but there was an important conference held on Maui that it hardly seems credible would have escaped the notice of Inouye’s office. From the NYT article:

      Dr. Mitchell could keep working outside the C.I.A. as well. At the Ritz-Carlton in Maui in October 2003, he was featured at a high-priced seminar for corporations on how to behave if kidnapped. He created new companies, called Wizard Shop, later renamed Mind Science, and What If. His first company, Knowledge Works, was certified by the American Psychological Association in 2004 as a sponsor of continuing professional education. (A.P.A. dropped the certification last year.)

      The last parenthetical clause suggests that Inouye’s connections with the APA may not have been supportive of Mitchell and Jessen.

      Bob in HI

  6. Gitcheegumee says:


    Reclaim Democracy! Revoke Corporate Corruption of American is committed to revoking corporate power and reviving grassroots democracy. – Cached – Similar

    Topics Primers
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  7. Gitcheegumee says:

    One of the most interesting articles at Reclaim Democracy is the piece entitled:

    Our Hidden History of Corporations in the United States

    “In the early days of our country, we allowed the creation of corporations to fulfill specific needs of society. This shared financial responsibility facilitated projects desired by residents of the state granting the charter (a license to exist).

    Business corporations were intended to serve a specific purpose–performing one designated business activity–and nothing else. Our country’s founders had a healthy fear of corporations and allowed them to form only with strict limits.

    Most of this vital history is unknown to citizens today, but it can provide critical understanding and tools for solving today’s most pressing problems.”

    Read more about the hidden history of corporations in America.

    (It would be well to review the ENTIRE essay,of which this is only the intro. Not long,but quite informative.)


  8. rosalind says:

    ot: for LA firepups – Dubya & B. Clinton, On Stage Together

    Two former presidents will share the stage when American Jewish University’s (AJU) Public Lecture Series returns in early 2010. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are scheduled to appear together at Universal’s Gibson Amphitheatre on Feb. 22, the university announced Monday…Tickets for the Feb. 22 Clinton-Bush event go on sale Nov. 5, with prices ranging from $75 to $125.


  9. nahant says:

    You can do you wee bit by joing other citizens to bring about change in regards to Corporate money in our elections by visiting and joining recent email from them:

    It’s time to celebrate a major milestone in the road to public funding of federal elections.
    The House Administration Committee will hear the Fair Elections Now Act this Thursday.

    If ever there were a time for Congress to hear from you, it’s now. Submit your endorsement into the official hearing record.

    What It Does

    The Fair Elections Now Act would provide qualified congressional candidates with a flexible blend of small citizen donations and matching public financing.

    We’ve seen the corrosive influence of big money politics all too clearly this summer. Critical progress is being stalled on healthcare, climate change and countless other issues. Coincidentally, special interests are spending unheard of amounts of money on lobbying and campaign contributions this year – millions of dollars a day on healthcare alone.

    A voluntary public financing system driven by small donors would provide an incredible alternative to our current reality, where candidates are left to cater to donors with fat checkbooks and aggressive agendas.

    Major Progress

    We’ve told you about solutions before, but together with our allies we’ve made incredible progress this year. The bill has 70 co-sponsors in the House, the most any public funding bill has ever accumulated. Many of its co-sponsors have never sponsored anything like this before, but understand that something needs to be done. Others are freshmen members of Congress, disgusted by the huge fundraising benchmarks they were told to reach just weeks after their election.

    This summer, Washington’s big spenders are pulling out all the stops on lobbying expenses and campaign contributions. We have one way to fight back: public funding.

    Submit your citizen testimony now for inclusion in the official record, and stay tuned for further progress.

    Yours in action,

    Nick Mitchell
    You Street

  10. NCDem says:

    So it appears that America was not begun as a Christian nation and now you are going to try to tell me that we weren’t born as a capitalist nation either. Why that’s almost too much to accept in one generation.

    Many teabaggers feel a loss of power and control. I’m not talking about the fatcats.. just the average Joe’s. And the media and our corporate backed incorporated non-profts is continuing to feed this fear. You can’t reason with most of these people. Their fear is real but the object of their hate is being remotely controlled.

    • tejanarusa says:

      now you are going to try to tell me that we weren’t born as a capitalist nation either.

      Actually, that’s not what this says. Capitalism does not necessarily mean corporations, by any means. Early capitalists were certainly not corporations; they were more likely to be wealthy individuals. Corporations developed well after capitalism did.

      • behindthefall says:

        A Swede will tell you that Storacopparberg (did I get the spelling right? Means ‘Big Copper Mountain’.) was the first corporation founded with a written charter (which might even still exist) back around 1100 A.D., if I recall the story correctly. However, I seriously doubt that any of the members would have mantained that their common endeavor was a person in and of itself!

        • tejanarusa says:

          Funny. There’s always an exception, right?

          I do believe our corporations laws need to be changed for even broader reasons than their influence on elections. American corporations are under much greater pressure to produce short-term profits rather than plan for the long view than in other countries.
          That can be changed. It’s the way the statutes and regs are written.

  11. tejanarusa says:

    Kagan’s first words on September 9 will be the first words she has ever uttered in battle in any kind of courtroom, anywhere, at any time, ever. That, in and of itself, is both fascinating and stupefying.

    WTF? I.cannot.imagine.this.
    I can’t imagine doing it, I can’t imagine why anyone in such a position would do it. Except, I guess, for a tradition of important cases being argued by the SG personallly, sometimes.
    I was pretty much terrified at moot court, my first “appearance”, not to mention my first real courtroom, in Boston Housing Court with a supervising attorney, as a student.
    Now, I know, she’s been a professional for a long time, but…..and opposite Ted Olson?
    Being a shy person who had to transform herself into a trial attorney, this is the number 1 WTF for me, but followed by – why the heck did they take this case, again?
    Actually, I remember reading much of the history you give here when the Court set the arguments. Not a good sign.

    • bmaz says:

      The only redeeming thought I have on it is that a time limited oral argument is a better place to start than a jury trial I guess. But when the oral argument is in front of the Supremes?? Yikes. I can understand that a person can be selected as Solicitor General without substantial, maybe without any, prior SCOTUS experience; but to have no adversarial courtroom experience at all just blows me away. And I have asked around, if she has any real courtroom experience, I have not found evidence of it.

  12. Starbuck says:

    Seriously, if this goes the way that unleashes unbridled corporate financial support as outlined in the header, I will not be participating in any election. I will not vote.

  13. Hugh says:

    the Supreme Court, which hears arguments next month in a little-noticed case that could open the floodgates to corporate money in politics

    The floodgates have been wide open for decades. McCain-Feingold was deceptive in that money representing corporate interests quickly found other channels to reach politicians. And none of this of course touches on all the lobbying money that is funneled into the political process, and whose destructive effects we are seeing so clearly in the current debate on healthcare (where corporations dominate and the public is shut out).

    A couple of typos: It should be femme fatale.

    And shouldn’t that read: And then, of course, we have Obama’s cracked Solicitor General Elena Kagan.

  14. timr says:

    Well, there you go. The United Corporate States of America. Run by and for the corporations. Congress, a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street.
    The DOJ, a wholly owned subsidiary of the republician party.
    The DOD, a wholly owned subsidiary of War Inc which in turn is owned by the military industrial complex.
    The republic which was formed over 200 years ago has been dying a slow death for decades, sure the forms remain, the congress continues to pretend that elections mean anything, but we all know who really runs the country and it is not “We the People”.

  15. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Secondly, Cohen (nor I) isn’t kidding when he says the Court is reaching wildly to frame the issues as it has demanded on corporate campaign donations. …that the case has already been argued to the Court once and ought to be decided by now. Problem seems to be that Chief Justice Roberts was put off by the more liberal members questioning of Ted Olson after some passionate, but mostly tangential, First Amendment arguments he made at the first oral argument.

    IMVHO, Roberts was a masterstroke by the GOP. He’s bland enough and buttoned-down enough to move largely under the radar. Problem is that his life experience is simply too narrow (plus, he appears to be largely ignorant of math, science, and technical topics) to think creatively.

    I doubt that it even occurs to Justice Roberts to wonder how many of the shareholders of US based corporations are even US citizens.

    Via corporate shares, we’re increasingly controlled by authoritarian sovereign wealth funds, oiligarchic interests, and drug lords. And using his narrow, dessicated ‘logic’, it appears that Roberts is primed to hand those forces even more power under the guise of ‘law’.

    The man is becoming positively Shakespearean. Problem is that he’s starting to look more like Shylock than like Portia.**

    He’s an ideal Ferenghi Justice.

    See “Merchant of Venice” if these names mean nothing to you.

    • bmaz says:

      Jodi loved the Ferenghi!

      Don’t you miss her constantly heading off into BS land and discussing things tangential to what was being done? C est la vie; she had to go.

  16. Nathan Aschbacher says:

    bmaz, perhaps you can answer something for me.

    I have never understood how it is that monied campaign contributions can be equated to free-speech without inherently violating the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, especially so when it’s clear that the monied influence aggregates more of that influence toward the agent from whence it originated.

    We all have equal access to our voice, to our vote, and to the same right to peacefully assemble and petition our government for grievances. What we don’t all have equal access to capital, so without an egalitarian redistribution, how can it be construed as free-speech?

    • bmaz says:

      There is a whole litany of things out there on the Google, and a litany of court cases, to further delve into this, but the nutshell basic argument is that speech is not limited and money is equated with speech.

      • Nathan Aschbacher says:

        I guess I asked, because I’ve never been able to find the obvious consequence of that mode of thinking presented in the places where I’ve looked.

        I get the connection that’s been constructed, I just don’t get why it isn’t challenged then on 14th Amendment grounds, as equating money to speech would mean that there could be no more restriction on my access to money than to my writing, talking, or otherwise expressing myself.

        • bmaz says:

          Heh, I am probably close to your side on that; actually I could do away with corporate personhood (although it would not be easy, the ramifications are many).

  17. MaryCh says:

    Nice discussion here, ’cept for my blood pressure.

    Thom Hartmann has talked about this a lot on his radio show, especially recently. I think he also pointed out the growth of corporate ’personhood’ from the mid-19th century case (out of California?) through years of USSCt decisions holding that various constitutional rights of citizens extent also to corporations. Under that logic, Buckley v. Valeo was downright sensible.(glurk)

    On a different note, which country(s), if any, have gotten corporate regulation right, or at least significantly better than the U.S. of A.?

  18. Gitcheegumee says:

    If the tax avoidance scams and tax laws for corporations were revised, they would not have as much money as they do to spend on slobbyists:

    The Tax Justice Network promotes transparency in international finance and opposes secrecy. We support a level playing field on tax and we oppose loopholes … – Cached – Similar
    About TJN
    Contact us
    Corruption and Offshore
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    Archive – taxjustice networkToo many issues to cover comprehensively, but this blog points to research by the US Government Accountability Office and the Tax Justice Network on the ……..catart=134 – Cached – Similar

    Tax Justice Network – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaMay 17, 2009 … The Tax Justice Network (TJN) is a coalition of researchers and activists with a shared concern about what they argue are the harmful … – Cached – Similar

  19. Larue says:

    BMAZ, great post.

    Perris, your #1 was Ding Hoi! Ichiban!

    Two great minds, back to back.

    Thanks to both. We hope on.

    Campaign funding reform is the ticket to change.

  20. Stephen says:

    Picture this, a massive mainstream movement begins in America dedicated to upending the corporate stranglehold on our way of life and future. The internet which is not controlled ( yet ) has been able to reach out and fuse a common belief among the population that Big Corp needs to be restrained. Events, especially since the Viet Nam era have proven to almost everyone, that cares, that this has to be done to stop the Corporate Conspiracy. The movement knows that to succeed it must educate and organize The People, and to do that it approaches Big Media with all it’s donated millions to air thirty second and one minute infomercials to air during prime time. Then what? Will Big Media refuse to run the ads. It would certainly bring the constitutional issue of Free Speech to a head. Something must be done.

  21. cinnamonape says:

    Ironic ~ a group called “Citizens United” going to bat for the mega-corpses.

    We should carry this idea that corporations are more like foreign governments than persons and “citizens” a bit further. We certainly don’t allow foreign states to contribute to political campaigns. So how is it that a corporation, with foreign share-holders, executives, and even large-scale state ownership…can donate to political campaigns? Or a corporation with vast overseas empires which certainly would impact who it supports in terms of foreign policy (think Henry Ford and the Nazis), tax on foreign investments, contracts etc.

    In terms of real human beings, in the biological sense (which I’m sure was “original intent” we restrict political contributions to citizens and, in some cases, legal residents. But can a corporation be “born in the United States or of a citizen parent”, are they naturalized/naturalizeable? Do they reside in a home? Go through immigration, have visas? Get passports? Are they subject to the “PERSONAL INCOME TAX”.

    To allow a corporation to contribute to political campaigns or activities makes about as much sense as allowing ones pet dog to launder a contribution to them. Actually worse, since a dog is a biological “thing” with boundaries. Corporations are endlessly boundless and infinitely divisible. You can have a corporation of two persons, which can, by adding a third, become another corporation, which can be subdivided into two more that are not the same in composition as the other two. In addition, simply by giving these collectives different “purposes” they can, with the same members, become a different corporation.

    Thus the individuals within these gain vast influence over the electoral process over “citizens”. It’s money laundering, pure and simple.

    • TJWV says:

      Well, let’s take this thought to the logical extreme:

      Can a corporation run for President?

      The first step is to get corporate money out of the electoral process. There are folks at lobbying to do just that. Check them out.

  22. rkilowatt says:

    How corporations became faux-persons:
    Excerpt from review of Thom Hartmann’s UnequalProtection:

    In his spellbinding Chapter 6 — “The Deciding Moment” — Mr. Hartmann tells how corporate personhood was achieved.

    Orthodoxy has it the Supreme Court decided in 1886, in a case called Santa Clara County v. the Southern Pacific Railroad, that corporations were indeed legal persons. I express that view myself, in a recent book. So do many others. So do many law schools. We are all wrong.

    Mr. Hartmann undertook instead a conscientious search. He finally found the contemporary casebook, published in 1886, blew the dust away, and read Santa Clara County in the original, so to speak. Nowhere in the formal, written decision of the Court did he find corporate personhood mentioned. Not a word. The Supreme Court did NOT establish corporate personhood in Santa Clara County.

    In the casebook “headnote,” however, Mr. Hartmann read this statement: “The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment . . . which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Here, anyway, corporate personhood was “provided” — in the headnote, instead of the formal written decision of the Supreme Court. But that’s not good enough.

    What is a “headnote?” It is the summary description of a court decision, written into the casebook by the court reporter. It is similar to an editor’s “abstract” in a scientific journal. Because they are not products of the court itself, however, headnotes carry no legal weight; they can establish no precedent in law. Corporate personhood, Mr. Hartmann discovered, is simply and unequivocally illegitimate.

    The court reporter for Santa Clara County was Mr. John Chandler Bancroft Davis, a graduate of Harvard Law School.

    Mr. Hartman has in his personal library 12 books by Davis, mostly original editions. They display Davis’s close alliance with the railroad industry, and they support persuasively Mr. Hartmann’s argument that Davis injected the personhood statement deliberately, to achieve by deceit what corporations had so far failed to achieve in litigation. …

    • TJWV says:

      There is another inherent conflict in this situation. If the corporation has the rights of personhood, and the corporation is owned by its shareholders, does that violate the prohibition against slavery? See link @ #14.

  23. rkilowatt says:

    How can corp.s have the rights of persons…if corp.s cannot vote?

    Mayhap corp.s can be prohibited from lobbying,i.e., individuals can use their 1st Amend. Rights on their own dime, but cannot be legally reimbursed or paid by a corp. as a deductible [from taxes] expense by the corp. of doing business.

    You want a remedy? Just locate a demonstrated, truly brilliant person and give him/her the problem. Nader et al are available. It will be elegantly resolved.

  24. Gitcheegumee says:

    Talk about putting your money where your mouth is:

    Naomi Seligman Steiner 202.408.5565 [email protected]

    Related Documents
    06/21/05 – CREW FEC Complaint and Exhibits
    // 1.2 mb
    10/31/07 – FEC response
    // 100.8 kb
    10/31/07 – FEC General Counsel’s Report
    // 1.4 mb
    10/31/07 – Wade Conciliation Agreement
    // 480.6 kb


    31 Oct 2007 // Washington, DC – Today, as the result of a complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) announced the second largest fine in FEC history — $1,000,000 — has been imposed against MZM and Mitchell Wade.

    In June 2005, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the FEC alleging that MZM, Inc. and its president, Mitchell Wade, violated the Federal Election Campaign Act. CREW’s complaint was based on an article appearing in the San Diego Union-Tribune and alleged that Wade had used corporate funds to reimburse employees for contributions made to members of Congress who Wade believed could be helpful to MZM.
    MZM and Wade have entered into an agreement with the FEC admitting that MZM made corporate conduit contributions to the campaigns of Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) and former Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) and agreeing to pay $1,000,000 to settle the matter.

    Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, said today, “We are gratified to learn of the FEC’s disposition of this matter. As the presidential campaign season progresses, a fine of this magnitude should serve as a warning to all political donors that violating federal campaign finance laws has serious consequences.”

    The FEC release can be found here:…..__________

    Some here may remember that Mitch Wade was at the forefront of the Duke Cunningham scandal in California a few years back.

    Cunningham also had ties to Abramoff.

    Both Cunningham and Wade did prison time.

  25. youstreet says:

    The travesty of wiping out a century’s worth of corporate campaign regulations aside, I wouldn’t count Sotomayor out. She’s been an ally of campaign finance regulations in the past, and arrives to the Court just in time for this case. For more on what to expect from our newest Justice, check out…..sotomayor.

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