Archive for January 2015

Let’s renew efforts to undo terrible Citizens United decision


Jan. 21, 2015 is the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. That ruling opened the door for unlimited corporate spending in elections by declaring unconstitutional all laws that had limited corporate campaign spending in elections; these included the federal McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2008, and many state and local laws adopted in order to protect elections from being bought by corporate money.

Many people across the political spectrum were horrified by the Supreme Court’s 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. Congressmen can no longer simply represent those who elected them; they represent those who funded their campaigns. In foreign countries, when elections are bought, we call it corruption. The high court has made it legal here.

The Supreme Court’s slim majority based their Citizens United 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 means there can be no constraints on money spending in elections.

Corporations are creations of people, and are rightly given the privilege of doing business and of concentrating wealth in order to undertake big projects. The combination of great wealth and legal equality with people as “corporate persons” means, however, that corporate profit motives completely overpower public interest when they conflict. Our creations become our masters.

Additional toxic effects of corporate personhood include the following:

Corporations can 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,” intended to protect people from government overreach.

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.

Free speech for corporations will allow them to lie in their advertising (just as individuals are free to lie, except when under oath).

Elimination of corporate personhood will require a Constitutional Amendment. Such an amendment was introduced into Congress in 2013 (House Joint Resolution 29). The Resolution can be read at

You can be sure that any representative who fails to support this amendment is more interested in re-election than in protecting democracy.

John N. Howell, Coordinator
Democracy Over Corporations