Corporations (Juristic Persons) vs. Real People (under American law)

person in robot suit, Kanagawa Institute of TechnologyI’ve been discussing the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, in the “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission” case with some friends. I’m eager to understand how this could possible be a good thing. The only “pro” argument I’ve heard is that spending money is free speech and corporations are citizens of the United States with free speech protections. (but I have problems with both halves of that sentence).

Last night, a friend noted Adam Liptak’s article in defense of the decision:
I’m eager to better understand this situation. So please do comment if you have any sort of opinion or insight.
Here is my reply (reformatted for blog):

* Character:
Clarence Thomas was Monsanto’s Corporate lawyer from ’76 to ’79. (I hold Monsanto to be the most evil corporation ever)
Monsanto presents a weak argument that this doesn’t mean they’re in bed together.

I don’t buy it. I think he’s probably a swell smart guy, doing great things in some arenas. But I also think he’s clearly connected with the people inside Monsanto (A stooge for corporations, despite his merits).

– I would be thrilled to hear about anything that made corporations more powerful which he did NOT support. (anyone? I’m not saying it never happened, just that I can’t find it)

* 14th Amendment:
The whole concept of Corporations being juristic persons comes from a perversion of the 14th amendment (which was meant to protect slaves and native americans).

So mixing any defense of corporations with racism makes me very nervous.

* Tillman Act (1907)
The best thing Thomas could come up with is that a racist may have been involved in drafting the Tillman Act – when many GROUPS of people, including the president, put their weight behind it. (Irony? that a corporate supporter would single out an individual rather than acknowledge the group around him?)

Here’s a random historical perspective on Tillman Act, which I think adds more important context, from :
“Roosevelt used his Presidential stature to influence public opinion and to persuade Congress. The NPLA and other grassroots organizations also pushed for reform. The result of their efforts was the enactment of the Tillman Act of 1907. The act specifically prohibited direct contributions from corporations and businesses to political parties and election committees. It was the first law on the books to specifically address campaign funding on the federal level.
Unfortunately for those who wished for an incorrupt government, this law was easily circumvented. Businesses and corporations would give their employees large bonuses with the understanding that the bonus would be given to a company “endorsed” candidate. The corporations thus found a loophole, gained political access, and received an additional tax deduction for “employee benefits.”
” (I couldn’t find anything on wikipedia).

* Are Corporations People?
Thomas makes some weird implication that as individuals we have a right to free speech, so somehow when we form a corporation (so we can take risks necessary to make money – why else do we form coporations?) – we then expect this new juristic person (created purely to seek profits) to enjoy free speech. why? what?

To me this is like saying if we are all protected under the constitution, and then we build this big shield robot that eats money – don’t we expect it to be protected under the constitution? NO! WTF?!?!?! That is insane.

And I think it’s telling that Thomas couldn’t bring himself to come out and say it directly. He has to make a wink-nod joke out of it, where you fill int he blank. Because IT IS IN FACT SO INSANE. Maybe he doesn’t want to be quoted, or maybe he’s just a joker. Makes me uneasy, because of the importance of his position.

ok, now i’m messing with dramatic all-caps text formating to express exasperation. sorry.

* Please Answer This!
Here is the key for me (since I doubt we’ll change my mind about corporations being people, I’m seeking to change the subject):

Are people within this “juristic person” considered to BE the juristic person?
Can someone explain this to me definitively?
– Doesn’t the law allow individuals to break off from the corporation and do their own thing, without then representing the corporation?
Couldn’t Hugh Grant, the CEO of Monsanto, write a book called “Don’t vote for Obama,” and as long as Monsanto didn’t spend a dime on it – there would be no problem under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act?
There’d be a stink, sure, but isn’t he legally able to act separately from his Company???

– Or is the issue that Barnes & Noble couldn’t print it (because they’re a corp)?
(people could still review it, due to the McCain-Feingold law’s exemptions for reports, commentaries and editorials.)
Because if publishing is the issue, we’d have a whole ‘nother weird modern can-o-worms, thanks to the internet. When I self publish something on the internet, would they go after the internet service provider (corporation) who allow me access to internet?

– I mention this because the Justices seemed to latch onto this idea of banning books during their talking pony show. I think comparing “spending money to support or oppose political candidates” with epressing ideas/thoughts in a book is INSANE.

the only point I can see where I may be drastically out of line: is the question of whether individuals are separate from the corporations they are a part of (either by forming them, investing in them, or being employed by them).

I’ve typed to much. I’ll stop here.


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