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Fiction. As in, not real. Which is pretty much what the United States Supreme Court has just done with our fundamental right to freedom of speech where political speech is involved.  As in, made it not real.

From SCOTUSblog on this point of being a legal fiction:

Justice Stevens, writing for the dissenters, turned Chief Justice John Marshall’s celebrated comment in the Dartmouth College case — in a ruling that actually favored the corporate form — into a belittling comment: “A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law.  Being the mere creature of law, it possesses only those properties which the charter of its creation confers upon it.” [emphasis added]

I’ll tell you who can make a lot of money off of Citizens United: the first law school textbook publisher who comes out with the text needed for law schools, since they will have to change their corporate law curriculums to explain the Sybil-like personalities of the previously all-fiction personhood of corporations.

Ugh. Don’t get me started. Too late. Some reading to do for more on this SCOTUS decision:

Jill Filipovic, who is a lawyer: Democracy, It was fun while it lasted

On Angry Black Woman: There goes America’s democracy: I never thought I would be living in a dystopian cyberpunk novel!

Whose been giving corporate money within the previous confines (on OpenSecrets)

Three must-read posts from

Ellen Miller: How the Citizens United Case Affects Money & Politics and Tranparency as We Know It

Lawrence Lessig of Change Congress and Creative Commons: Institutional Integrity: Citizens United and the Path to a Better Democracy

Micah Sifry: Can the Internet Counter the Coming Gusher of Money in Politics?

Be sure to keep up with the Sunlight Foundation, one of the premier organizations that focuses on transparency.  They have posts related to Citizens United organized under a tag.

And be prepared to learn how to use every tool that exists to track contributions, and be prepared to boycott the corporate “people” giving in ways you don’t like.  I still can’t wrap my head around how we’ll deal with foreign corporations.

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By Jill Miller Zimon at 4:24 pm January 24th, 2010 in Business, Campaigning, Courts, democracy, Ethics, Government, Law, Politics, Tech, Voting 


4 Responses to “Corporations Are A Legal Fiction, And Now So Is Political Speech”

  1. 1 Daniel Jack Williamson on January 24th, 2010 5:39 pm

    The campaign contribution restrictions should have been lifted on individual citizens. A citizen should be able to donate however much he/she wishes to whatever campaign he/she wishes. Then, we’d be making progress toward free speech.

    The Bill of Rights secures liberties for United States citizens.

    While law bestows “personhood” upon a corporation, does it also bestow citizenship? I don’t think so, because, if so, corporations would have the right to vote on election day. We don’t allow non-citizens to contribute to political campaigns. We don’t invite foreign nationals to manipulate our elections. Corporations have no boundaries. Every corporation has the potential to be multi-national, so even the thought of assigning citizenship to a corporation is difficult to fathom.

    While, in nearly all respects, extending freedom of speech to corporations has desirable effects because it allows them to thrive, providing goods, services, employment, and return on investment, the Bill of Rights, at its core, spells out the liberties of individual citizens and of the states. I think we can, and should, split hairs over the distinctions, so I think the dialogue over how much influence corporations have on political speech should be ongoing, but, from my own understanding of the constitution, I don’t perceive that the First Amendment automatically applies just as equally to corporations as it does to individual citizens.

  2. 2 Have Coffee Will Write » Blog Archive » WHAT THEY SAY… on January 25th, 2010 8:44 am

    [...] than Lyle Denniston. His analysis of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is spot on (via Writes Like She Talks), but I take exception to this passage: It does not matter that the right-to-vote scenario is quite [...]

  3. 3 Paul Lambert on January 25th, 2010 11:15 am

    I’ve long been an advocate for campaign contribution and spending controls in hope of giving the little guy a stronger voice in government.

    The problem is that we’ve never figured out a way to do that. Every attempt at campaign finance reform has been so riddled with loopholes and exceptions that situation worsens every time it’s tried.

    If there should be limits on corporate contributions, then there should also be limits on contributions from labor unions. Some might try to draw the distinction that a labor union is not an ‘artificial person’ in the manner of a corporation, but I find that distinction hard to defend. Underlying both are people who have chosen to organize into an association with a purpose, and therefore a political agenda.

    The development of PACs hasn’t helped. The insanity of creating an amendment to the Ohio Constitution to permit specific entities to build casinos in specific locations is one of the most shameful examples. There were no ‘candidates’ in this referendum, so PACs with euphemistic names like “Ohioans for the Protection of Family Values” were formed on both sides of the argument, and both were funding by – guess what – gambling interests.

    So if we can’t make rules that get rid of this kind of nonsense, let’s just get rid of the rules altogether. The rules haven’t stopped what we’re trying to stop – they’ve just made the parties get more clever about how they hide their identities.

  4. 4 nataly@israel on January 25th, 2010 11:52 am

    i am sure that after 8 years of Bush there is no sence to talk about free speach anymore. i suppose its a dream of very few intellegent people who think they need it.

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