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Green Party: The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling will make the Democratic and Republican parties into subsidiaries of top corporations

Rich Whitney

Green Party urges a new constitutional amendment affirming that ‘We the People’ means humans, not corporations

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United v. FEC ruling will turn national, state, and local elections into a corporate power game, said Green Party leaders in reaction to the decision handed down on Thursday.

Rich Whitney, 2010 Green Party candidate for Governor of Illinois (http://www.whitneyforgov.org) said :

In a transparently political decision, a majority of the US Supreme Court overturned its own recent precedent and paid tribute to the giant corporate interests that already wield tremendous power over our political process and political speech.  Drawing upon a much older precedent — the legal fiction of corporate ‘personhood’ that it created in 1886 – the Court determined that these contrived ‘rights’ trump the public interest in having genuinely representative government….  In the face of this devastating threat to what remains of democratic process in our country, I, along with my fellow Green Party candidates, now present an even clearer choice to voters.  We remain the Party that stands on principle, the Party that does not accept, and whose candidates do not accept, corporate money.  We are the Party that is serious about establishing government of, by and for the people.”  (“How We Can Trump the Supreme Court and End Corporate Domination of Government,” http://www.whitneyforgov.org/joomla/index.php)

Greens predict that the decision, which strikes down laws limiting the use of corporate money for campaign advertising, will have extremely damaging consequences for democratic elections and for the existence of the US as a republic.  The Green Party accepts no corporate funding and advocates clean elections, free of the money and influence of corporations.

The Green Party asserts that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights; that money is not speech; and that the right to vote and have one’s vote counted must be guaranteed.  The  Green Party demands a constitutional amendment enacting these principles.

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, in his dissent to Citizens United, wrote “[C]orporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires…. [T]hey are not themselves members of ‘We the People’ by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.” (http://www.leagle.com/unsecure/page.htm?shortname=citizens_united_v_fec_stevens

• Treasurer of the Green Party of the United States: “The decision will cement the Democratic and Republican parties’ status as subsidiaries of Wall Street, oil companies, defense contractors, insurance firms, media conglomerates, and other top corporations.  It cancels the idea that candidates run for public office to serve the public interest.  The ruling will help block government measures to curb global warming, regulation of financial firms, health care reform, consumer rights, and all other protections for ‘We the People’ against corporate power.”

• Sanda Everette, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States: “Thanks to the Court’s ruling, we’ll see a flood of election season ads promoting corporate-sponsored candidates, overwhelming those who would serve the interests of the public instead of the demands of lobbyists.  The ruling also frees unions from campaign advertising restrictions, but unions don’t have the economic resources and clout of major corporations.  The ruling especially hurts the ability of parties that don’t accept corporate contributions, like the Green Party, to compete.”  (Ms. Everette is working with other democracy activists to pass the California Fair Elections Act (http://www.yesfairelections.org); such efforts are threatened by the Citizens United ruling.)

• Farheen Hakeem, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States: “This is a civil rights issue.  The legal idea of ‘personhood’ for corporations was introduced after the Civil War and passage of the 14th Amendment, which was intended to protect freed slaves.  But around the same time that Jim Crow laws were enacted, the protections of the 14th Amendment were in effect transferred from Black Americans to corporations in a series of landmark Supreme Court decisions beginning with Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad in 1886.  These decisions helped set off the Robber Baron Era of unrestrained corporate power, until campaign financing laws and other restraints on corporate power were passed.  The Citizens United ruling strikes down those restrictions and puts America in danger of a new Robber Baron Era.  Restoring democracy and the idea that constitutional rights should only apply to humans will now require a citizens’ effort as strong as
the Civil Rights Movement.”

We need publicly financed elections, we need laws requiring a majority of shareholders to approve corporate political contributions.  But even if every one of those laws passed, it would not be enough.  The Court relied on the illegitimate legal doctrine of ‘corporate personhood’ in order to justify this profoundly undemocratic decision.  The Court has literally legalized corporate bribery of our elected officials.  It’s time to amend the US Constitution to make it clear that only human beings can claim to be ‘persons’ with constitutional rights.

3 Responses

  1. “Corporate personhood” has nothing to do with the First Amendment. The First Amendment protects all speakers, not just persons. It says, “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.” If there were aliens from another planet living on earth (as in the movie District Nine) the First Amendment would protect their speech. If animals could talk, the First Amendment would protect their speech. The US Supreme Court had already ruled in 1964 that state libel laws couldn’t be used to shut down the speech of corporate newspapers (New York Times v Sullivan). In 1978 the Court had said that corportions could speak about ballot measure. In 2007 the Court said in Wisconsin Right to Life v FEC that corporations could speak about candidates if they weren’t saying explicitly to vote for or against them.

    • NY Times v Sullivan was freedom of the PRESS, not speech. So your analogy does not hold. The myth of corporate personhood traces back to a misinterpreted note on a Supreme Court decision.

      And if your thesis is that we have to give rights to corporations because we give it to them under freedom of the Press, then I am all for yanking those rights there too. The corporate media has long ago given up their place as a marketplace of ideas to merely being a mouthpiece for their corporate masters. They no longer deserve to be included as the only constitutionally protected business.

  2. This ruling my be a two edged sword. If corporate monies flood the media ( or even swamp it a bit) and candidates with lesser resources cannot get their “speech” “heard”, would not thier freedom to speak be restricted?

    Seems to me that the only solution is to have publically funded elections and moreover funded on par with the biggest media expenditure.

    J.J. Hayden
    Covington, GA

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