…. I’ll not accept corporations as “persons” until Texas executes one of them. … Jim Hightower
Repeal the Farce of ‘Corporate Personhood’
By Jim Hightower, Jim Hightower’s Blog
19 January 12
he Powers That Be constantly try to pull the wool over people’s eyes, but sometimes the wool blinders are so itchy that people rip them off and clearly see the scam.
One of the itchiest ever is the Kafkaesque fiction, put forth by America’s right-wing power establishment, that corporations are “persons’ with the Constitutional right to control our elections with their bottomless troves of corporate cash. This is an absurd perversion of nature itself. A person, after all, has a navel. Where’s the corporate navel “ or its heart, brain, or soul?
Also, if a corporation is a person, shouldn’t it be subject to front-line military duty, to jail for its criminal violations, and even to the death penalty? As a reader pointed out to me in a recent email, many states do not allow persons under 18 years of age to marry (or, in corporate terminology, to merge). Plus, such young persons are subject to curfews and cannot legally be served alcohol. If you see a young corporation violating any of these teen laws “ call the cops on them! Read more…
Corporate personhood is the status conferred upon corporations exclusively under the law of the United States, which allows corporations to have rights and responsibilities similar to those of a natural person. There is a question about which subset of rightsafforded to natural persons should also be afforded to corporations as legal persons.
The Supreme Court of the United States (Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 1819), recognized corporations as having the same rights as natural persons to contract and to enforce contracts. In Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 118 U.S. 394 (1886), the Supreme Court recognized corporations as persons for the purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment. In a headnote”not part of the opinion”the reporter noted that the Chief Justice began oral argument by stating, “The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does.” Read More
Our Bill of Rights was the result of tremendous efforts to institutionalize and protect the rights of human beings. It strengthened the premise of our Constitution: that the people are the root of all power and authority for government. This vision has made our Constitution and government a model emulated in many nations.
But corporate lawyers (acting as both attorneys and judges) subverted our Bill of Rights in the late 1800’s by establishing the doctrine of “corporate personhood” — the claim that corporations were intended to fully enjoy the legal status and protections created for human beings.
We believe that corporations are not persons and possess only the privileges we willfully grant them. Granting corporations the status of legal “persons” effectively rewrites the Constitution to serve corporate interests as though they were human interests. Ultimately, the doctrine of granting constitutional rights to corporations gives a thing illegitimate privilege and power that undermines our freedom and authority as citizens. While corporations are setting the agenda on issues in our Congress and courts, We the People are not; for we can never speak as loudly with our own voices as corporations can with the unlimited amplification of money. Read More
An interview with Molly Morgan, a member of the leadership team for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s campaign to abolish corporate personhood
CITIZENS WORKING: What does it mean to talk about corporate personhood? Is the problem that corporations are treated like people or is the problem that corporations are not treated like regular people? For example, corporate criminals are rarely punished like street criminals.
MOLLY MORGAN: Corporations were given the legal rights of people for the purpose of thwarting democracy and maintaining minority rule. That was the drive behind legal strategies of railroad barons and lawyers, and it has worked well. But unlike a human being engaging in corporate crime, the corporation can’t go to jail. It’s not a thing, it’s just an abstraction and that’s part of the reason that the strategy of corporate personhood was a brilliant one – they created this artificial thing that could be endowed with any kind of powers and any kind of characteristics. Corporations can live forever and live in many nations at once and cut off parts of themselves and this is the entity they have given legal rights and personhood to.
CW: Corporate reform is a mainstream political issue these days, but there are a growing number of people who think we have to go deeper and look at some of the fundamental reasons behind why corporations got so powerful. Can you explain how looking at the legal doctrine of corporate personhood would accomplish that?
MM: We appreciate people looking at reform, but we think it needs to go much deeper. We’re using corporate personhood as a way to go deeper into changing the system of corporate power. We’re trying to examine our society and see what’s happened as a result of decisions made, to give people a better handle on the history. We chose corporate personhood because it was not difficult for the average person to understand and we’re hoping that’s a way to get people to look at the system more broadly and deeply, once they see how corporate personhood came to be and how it allowed corporations to gain so much wealth and power, people will look at the whole system and see what can we do differently to get different outcomes. Read more
|Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad|
|Argued January 26“29, 1886
Decided May 10, 1886
|Full case name||Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company|
|Citations||118 U.S. 394 (more)
6 S. Ct. 1132, 30 L. Ed. 118
|Prior history||Error to the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of California|
|The railroad corporations are persons with the intent of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.|
|Majority||Harlan, joined by unanimous court|
|14 Stat. 292, §§ 1, 2, 3, 11, 18 (an Act of 1866 giving special privileges to the Atlantic and Pacific Railway Corporation)|
Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, 118 U.S. 394 (1886) was aUnited States Supreme Court case dealing with taxation of railroad properties. The decision was instrumental in laying the foundation for modern laws regarding corporate personhood, ruling that the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause granted constitutional protections to corporations as well as to natural persons. For its opinion, the Court consolidated three separate cases:
- Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company
- California v. Central Pacific Railroad Company
- California v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company.
Corporate Personhood Was Key, Ironically, To New Court Ruling Requiring Donor Disclosure
WASHINGTON — Progressive activists angered by the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission allowing corporations to spend freely in elections often point the finger of blame at the legal doctrine that corporations have certain protections as legal persons. Ironically, that same concept of corporate personhood was just applied by a district court judge in reversing an FEC rule that had permitted the non-disclosure of donors to groups spending money on certain political ads. Many such secret donors are believed to be corporations.
The March 30 ruling in Van Hollen v. FEC held that the FEC may not issue rules, as it had done in 2007, that narrow a disclosure provision in the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law requiring groups to reveal donors paying for “electioneering communications” — ads that mention, but do not call for the election or defeat of, a candidate. The ruling, handed down by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington, D.C., said that an administrative agency like the FEC has no authority to reinterpret a congressional law that, as in this case, is clear in its intent.
The McCain-Feingold provision states that any “person” — meaning both real persons and legal persons — spending $10,000 in aggregate on electioneering communications must disclose the spending and that the person must also disclose all donors giving $1,000 or more to either the person or a segregated bank account set up exclusively for electioneering communications. The FEC rule invalidated by the court undermined the latter measure.
The FEC rule said that only contributions that were specifically earmarked for use in electioneering communications need be disclosed. As donors rarely, if ever, earmarked their contributions in this way, there was essentially no disclosure. Read more
We the People, Not We the Corporations
On January 21, 2010, with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions.
We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.
The Supreme Court is misguided in principle, and wrong on the law. In a democracy, the people rule. We Move to Amend.
“. . . corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their ‘personhood’ often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of We the People by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.”
~Supreme Court Justice Stevens, January 2010