Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, decided in the US Supreme Court in 2010, struck down laws that tried to control money given by corporations and other artificial entities in elections. The ruling essentially gave corporations free speech rights. It conferred personhood under the law for corporations. There are currently cases in the courts that could give religious freedom rights to corporations and remove any limits on the amount of money individuals could spend on election campaigns. Giving human rights to corporations or saying that money equals free speech is bad for actual humans. The Move to Amend group is working to change this terrible trend toward Corporate personhood.
The majority ruling in Citizens United v. FEC (2010) said:
The majority argued that the First Amendment protects associations of individuals in addition to individual speakers, and further that the First Amendment does not allow prohibitions of speech based on the identity of the speaker. Corporations, as associations of individuals, therefore have speech rights under the First Amendment. Because spending money is essential to disseminating speech, as established in Buckley v. Valeo, limiting a corporation’s ability to spend money is unconstitutional because it limits the ability of its members to associate effectively and to speak on political issues.
What that means is that money equals free speech.
It’s a bad for people because Corporations will have the right to spend as much money as they want on elections thereby giving them an unfair advantage to get laws and public policies based on their goals or agenda. This can mean a polluter will spend money on a candidate and that person will introduce a law favoring the polluter. We could see a roll back on laws that protect our air, water, and food supplies. We might also see laws that protect corporate property more than personal rights and property.
The game is tilted in favor of those with enough money to influence it, and against those without. For years our democracy has been moving toward a plutocracy. It is now in danger of becoming an oligarchy. Yet we still have the power to reclaim it if we (1) understand what has happened and why (which is why we made the movie “Inequality for All”), (2) push for policies the must be changed or reversed (such as raising the minimum wage and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, eliminating tax preferences, limiting the size of big banks, resurrecting Glass-Steagall, eliminating Social Security payroll taxes on the first $15K of income and removing the gap on income subject to it, and so on. I’ll continue to post ideas and suggestions), and (3) organize and mobilize to get big money out of politics.
Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. currently being considered by the US Supreme Court would, if Hobby Lobby wins, allow religious freedom rights for for-profit corporations.
Move to Amend is a group working to change things back to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The group isn’t anti-corporation. They want to see an amendment to the US Constitution that would explicitly prohibit corporations from having the same rights that individuals have such as freedom of speech or freedom of religion. They also want to restrict the amount of money flowing from corporations to elected officials – a.k.a. legal bribes.
House Joint Resolution 29 introduced February 14, 2013
Section 1. [Artificial Entities Such as Corporations Do Not Have Constitutional Rights]
The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.
Artificial entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.
The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.
Section 2. [Money is Not Free Speech]
Federal, State, and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of their money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.
Federal, State, and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.