Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

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Keybounce
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Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby Keybounce » Tue Mar 02, 2010 10:18 pm UTC

I'm trying to write an amendment for the US constitution, to address some bad court decisions that seem to contradict the constitution.I'd like to get some feedback, as well as some popularity and notice. There are some areas that I know I do not have good wording on, and the whole amendment looks nothing like existing amendments.

It's also going to be a regular blog of mine, on economic and political issues. Like any blog author, I want readers.

This is not the place for pimping your personal blog, nor copy editing. But there's a relevant discussion in here somewhere, so it's THREAD REBOOT TIME:

Fact: The ruling in the US Supreme Court case Citizens United vs The Federal Election Commission recently overturned two precedents about corporate First Amendment rights by ruling that the government could not ban campaign donations by corporations.

OP's Opinion: This is bad, and the Supreme Court ruled in a manner counter to the Constitution.
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Re: Help draft a constitutional amendment (Court decisions)

Postby MrGee » Tue Mar 02, 2010 11:37 pm UTC

What policy of corporate personhood do you object to exactly?

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Re: Help draft a constitutional amendment (Court decisions)

Postby Keybounce » Wed Mar 03, 2010 12:10 am UTC

MrGee wrote:What policy of corporate personhood do you object to exactly?

I do not understand what you are asking.

In general, the idea of saying that corporations have rights equal to those of people is something that I object to.

Some specific examples? Alright.
People have the right to give up some rights in exchange for other considerations. This is part of contracts. But that doesn't mean that they have to give up rights. Yet corporations will routinely say "You have to give up your rights to do business with us".

If that is enforceable, then the rights are no longer rights.
Can person A say "I will only do business with you if you agree to give up right X"? Sure. Negotiate a contract. Can't agree on the contract? Don't do business.

Can a corporation do the same? No, because suddenly it's not a right, it's ignored by business.

Another example?
Do people have the right to lobby congress to change policy, to try to create law favorable to that person or group? Sure.

What about groups of people? Yep. Some examples: Republican party, Democratic Party. For legal reasons, can that group incorporate -- as a group that is going to take money specifically for that cause, to forward that cause? Sure.

What about a corporation that is a business?
If business X can get law Y passed, they will see their revenue go up, and their competition go out of business. They spend money to get it passed.

But whose money are they spending? It's not money sent in by people to forward that law change. It's money from people who buy the product of business X. If business X makes a better product, they can charge more for the purpose of getting laws passed to put their competition out of business. Why should I, by buying your product, be able to help you hurt your competition? Why should I be forced to pay for your legal lobbying? Why should you -- NOT a person -- even have the right to lobby for law changes in your favor?
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Re: Help draft a constitutional amendment (Court decisions)

Postby mmmcannibalism » Wed Mar 03, 2010 12:41 am UTC

People have the right to give up some rights in exchange for other considerations. This is part of contracts. But that doesn't mean that they have to give up rights. Yet corporations will routinely say "You have to give up your rights to do business with us".


and the business can then say "we refuse to give up our rights we will find a competitor who will work with us"

But whose money are they spending? It's not money sent in by people to forward that law change. It's money from people who buy the product of business X. If business X makes a better product, they can charge more for the purpose of getting laws passed to put their competition out of business. Why should I, by buying your product, be able to help you hurt your competition? Why should I be forced to pay for your legal lobbying? Why should you -- NOT a person -- even have the right to lobby for law changes in your favor?


How are they forcing you to buy the product? If you don't want to support the companies lobbying then don't buy stuff and by doing such deprive them of funding.
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Re: Help draft a constitutional amendment (Court decisions)

Postby Le1bn1z » Wed Mar 03, 2010 2:42 am UTC

You don't need a constitutional ammendment to abolish the absurd abuses of corporate personhood, only an amendment to the legal definition and rights of the corporation, which is simple statuatory law in the USA and the Commonwealth.

Such adjusments have been made in the past, (anti-trust, etc) and may be made again, without recourse to a constitutional reform. Of course, getting Congressional approval or, in Canada, provincial and federal approval, would be quite the trick.
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Re: Help draft a constitutional amendment (Court decisions)

Postby Buddha » Wed Mar 03, 2010 2:53 am UTC

Why don't you want corporations to have a voice? Is it so that they can't scream as you molest them? (Jon Stewart reference)

Any way, your ideas are ridiculous, businesses are just bodies of people seeking profit. They have rights.
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Re: Help draft a constitutional amendment (Court decisions)

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:12 am UTC

The amendment wrote:No past decision of any age that contradicts the constitution shall remain valid upon discovery and challenge.

Umm... who determines whether court rulings contradict the Constitution?
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Re: Help draft a constitutional amendment (Court decisions)

Postby Buddha » Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:54 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
The amendment wrote:No past decision of any age that contradicts the constitution shall remain valid upon discovery and challenge.

Umm... who determines whether court rulings contradict the Constitution?


The Supreme Court has absolute authority to interpret the constitution.
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Re: Help draft a constitutional amendment (Court decisions)

Postby dg61 » Wed Mar 03, 2010 5:07 am UTC

Masseffectgod wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
The amendment wrote:No past decision of any age that contradicts the constitution shall remain valid upon discovery and challenge.

Umm... who determines whether court rulings contradict the Constitution?


The Supreme Court has absolute authority to interpret the constitution.

And if they muck up they are allowed to overturn their old decison.

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Re: Help draft a constitutional amendment (Court decisions)

Postby Le1bn1z » Wed Mar 03, 2010 5:21 am UTC

Masseffectgod wrote:Why don't you want corporations to have a voice? Is it so that they can't scream as you molest them? (Jon Stewart reference)

Any way, your ideas are ridiculous, businesses are just bodies of people seeking profit. They have rights.


Sure, the people in the corporation do, but corporations themselves gain considerably more rights than do individual citizens, through artifices such as limited liability, which allow corporations to shield execs from the consequences of criminal acts.

Furthermore, there are legitimate concerns over corporate involvement in civic life to the extent permitted in the U.S.A. A corporation's exec's are liable by law to ensure the company acts in such a way that, within the bounds of the law, it maximizes profit for its shareholders. Acting contrary to their profitable interest is actually a crime in some cases.

So, we allow them to fund politicians on an unlimited basis. But it is actually a crime for an exec to donate money to a politician if they place the good of the country over that of their company.

So citizens are legally capable, as individuals, of participating in civic life as patriots. Corporations, not so much.
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Re: Help draft a constitutional amendment (Court decisions)

Postby Silas » Wed Mar 03, 2010 6:26 am UTC

Keybounce wrote:But whose money are they spending? It's not money sent in by people to forward that law change. It's money from people who buy the product of business X.

It's not their money anymore. Once you spend money, you don't have a say in what the seller does with it. That's the whole point of money.

The money a corporation is spending belongs- indirectly, of course- belongs to its shareholders. And if they, as a group, organized however they think appropriate, want to ask Congress to make a law that will benefit them, that's their right. You want to abridge the right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances by naming a specific way that you're not allowed to. Which I guess isn't unconstitutional, if we're talking about doing it with a constitutional amendment, but it's still a bad idea.
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Re: Help draft a constitutional amendment (Court decisions)

Postby MrGee » Wed Mar 03, 2010 6:45 am UTC

Keybounce:

While I agree that corporations commit a lot of actions that should be crimes, and that many of these crimes are institutional, I don't think corporate personhood is specifically the cause of any of them. I would rather see a reduction of monopoly power, or more government regulation, or people to finally realize that exorbitant executive pay is a financial insanity.

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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby Azrael » Wed Mar 03, 2010 12:54 pm UTC

Ok, thead has been rebooted. Since most of the responses thus far have focused on corporate donations, that's now the topic.

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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby Sharlos » Wed Mar 03, 2010 1:18 pm UTC

If they have the right to free speech as a legal person, wouldn't that logically lead to corporations entitled to all other rights reserved for a person?

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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby FlexGunship » Wed Mar 03, 2010 1:52 pm UTC

I've actually been curious about this for a while. Not the actual court ruling; that seems pretty clear. Rather, I'm curious as to why people think this is such a concern. It's not as if this will be the first time that corporations (or corporate persons) are able to influence the body politic. And even if it were, wouldn't this be a good thing?

I don't know who you work for, but I work for a corporation. My employer's success is integral to my own, and if my employer thinks that exercising it's right of legal personhood is beneficial, then I support that effort within the bounds of constitutional law.

The only valid concern I can see in the entire discussion is with publicly traded companies. Since, technically, those companies are owned by many individuals, I think that owners of voting shares should be able to vote on the matter of supporting a specific public figure.

Example: If I own shares of Exxon/Mobil then I want a voice in the matter of which political candidate they might support with my portion of the company. Fortunately, Exxon/Mobil usually funds both Democratic and Republican campaigns relatively evenly, so it's really a non-issue in this case.

Either way, if we are discussing taking away the rights of legal corporate personhood, then we should certainly be consistent. If a corporation is no longer allowed to supply political funding in the same manner as a "de facto" person then we should not be able to sue the corporation either. Remember, the supreme court ruling that allows someone to sue a company for its behavior or misconduct is based on the same legal language that grants corporations personhood.

You can't have it both ways.

[snip]

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Silas wrote:
Keybounce wrote:But whose money are they spending? It's not money sent in by people to forward that law change. It's money from people who buy the product of business X.

It's not their money anymore. Once you spend money, you don't have a say in what the seller does with it. That's the whole point of money.


And if you want to stop a corporation's actions, stop supporting it monetarily. It's simple in practice, really. Don't like Dow Chemical? Don't buy their products. They have competitors, I promise. In a capitalist society you get a vote on everything (which is why I looooove capitalism). Every dollar you make is a vote you can cast in the economy. Start thinking of it like that. Vote for companies you support.

Me? I support companies with the lowest cost and highest quality products. Incidentally, I really like Wal-Mart.

(EDIT: Clarification)

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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby Sharlos » Wed Mar 03, 2010 2:35 pm UTC

FlexGunship wrote:
Sharlos wrote:If they have the right to free speech as a legal person, wouldn't that logically lead to corporations entitled to all other rights reserved for a person?


If you're going to give your son one M&M, wouldn't that logically lead to you giving your son all other candies as well?

If you can't spot your own fallacies, allow me to do it for you: appeal to probability, dicto simpliciter, fallacy of necessity, false dichotomy (maybe?), ignoratio elenchi, presupposing a negative outcome, and fallacy of single cause.

Which right are you specifically worried about a corporation having? Reproductive?

How is what I suggested incorrect? From what I understand they are allowed to donate as much as they want because otherwise would infringe their freedom of speech. And they have the freedom of speech because they are legally classified as a person. Being a person entitles you to more rights than just freedom of speech.

As for what I'm concerned about (beyond being able to buy laws now) is even with just the right to freedom of speech. Freedom of Speech gives people the right to lie* doesn't it?

This article I found outlines some of my issues with the ramifications of corporate personhood. http://www.nytimes.com/1988/04/09/opini ... wanted=all


* http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3106930.stm (a case where Nike claimed it's freedom of speech entitled it the right to lie.)

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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby FlexGunship » Wed Mar 03, 2010 2:54 pm UTC

Sharlos wrote:How is what I suggested incorrect? From what I understand they are allowed to donate as much as they want because otherwise would infringe their freedom of speech. And they have the freedom of speech because they are legally classified as a person. Being a person entitles you to more rights than just freedom of speech.

As for what I'm concerned about (beyond being able to buy laws now) is even with just the right to freedom of speech. Freedom of Speech gives people the right to lie* doesn't it?


Well, I take issue with the concept of "buying" laws. Only the legislative branch can create new laws. This would be the congress as composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate. If you believe that your congress is corrupt then that says nothing about corporations in the slightest. It simply says that your congress is corrupt. If that is what you believe, then we are in agreement. I happen to think we are currently dealing with one of the worst congressional arrangements ever experienced by the US.

As far as the issue of the "right to lie." I'm not sure I follow you. There are slander and libel/defamation laws. There are laws against misrepresentation of products and services. There are even laws against exaggeration (Starbucks v Wolfe Borough)! These laws apply both to people and to corporate persons (and rightly so).

However, if you are concerned that (a) the government will no longer allow you to lie to your wife regarding the size of her backside, or (b) that corporations might lie to your wife about the size of her backside, then I truly don't understand your concern in the slightest. There is a large -- cavernous, perhaps -- difference between legal slander and white lies. In actuality, it is your misuse of the word "lie" that confuses the argument. If you had chose more specific language to annunciate your concern then there would be no confusion.

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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby Azrael » Wed Mar 03, 2010 3:43 pm UTC

... and I'm already regretting my decision not to just boneyard this thread. Posts removed.

Increase the quality of the discourse, and quickly.

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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby Azrael » Wed Mar 03, 2010 3:47 pm UTC

FlexGunship wrote:
Sharlos wrote:As for what I'm concerned about (beyond being able to buy laws now) is even with just the right to freedom of speech. Freedom of Speech gives people the right to lie* doesn't it?
As far as the issue of the "right to lie." I'm not sure I follow you. There are slander and libel/defamation laws. There are laws against misrepresentation of products and services. There are even laws against exaggeration (Starbucks v Wolfe Borough)! These laws apply both to people and to corporate persons (and rightly so).
His concern is that various truth in reporting laws could be overturned if corporate speech was as protected as an individual's, and certain business-related statements were qualified as 'speech'. Personally, I don't see that being likely because I'm sure the Courts can differentiate between 'speech' and 'representation'. But I think it is at least a valid question until the SC rules properly on it

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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby Keybounce » Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:08 pm UTC

I will respond to more of this later today. But this little snippit
FlexGunship wrote:And if you want to stop a corporation's actions, stop supporting it monetarily. It's simple in practice, really. Don't like Dow Chemical? Don't buy their products. They have competitors, I promise. In a capitalist society you get a vote on everything (which is why I looooove capitalism). Every dollar you make is a vote you can cast in the economy. Start thinking of it like that. Vote for companies you support.

Me? I support companies with the lowest cost and highest quality products. Incidentally, I really like Wal-Mart.


So, you are saying that you believe in one dollar, one vote, instead of one person, one vote?

If the primary method of lobbying congress is through dollars spent in the marketplace, and more specifically, the profits earned by companies in the market place, you are OK with that?

If a company like Wal-Mart gets low prices by outsourcing jobs overseas (by selling primarily foreign-made products), you are OK with a national policy to reduce employment in the country?

I do not believe that national policy, nor access to government, should be based on financial access.
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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby FlexGunship » Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:19 pm UTC

So, you are saying that you believe in one dollar, one vote, instead of one person, one vote?


Hardly. In the marketplace of politics and ideas, we are each given one vote. I'm drawing a corollary to the marketplace of products and services. It's more intuitive than you give it credit for. People buy things they like as opposed to things they don't like. If everyone purchases an iPod, it is a good economic indicator that the iPod is a "good" product. If Apple made a habit of defecating in one out of every ten iPods, they would likely see a decline in sales (probably more than 10%). People would "vote" against the defecation feature in iPods by not purchasing them.

If the primary method of lobbying congress is through dollars spent in the marketplace, and more specifically, the profits earned by companies in the market place, you are OK with that?


You would do well to keep your economy and body politic separate. When you give economic mandate control to individual persons, the economy never benefits (sic. financial crisis of 2008).

If a company like Wal-Mart gets low prices by outsourcing jobs overseas (by selling primarily foreign-made products), you are OK with a national policy to reduce employment in the country?


Currently I have the option to shop at Wal-Mart or elsewhere. I have a process by which I select which purchases to make. Wal-Mart sells cheaper Bounty paper towels than Target. The fact that Wal-Mart supports developing countries by creating more jobs in them doesn't bother me enough to offset the $0.12 savings I get. Furthermore, I am not specifically opposed to the globalization of commerce and trade. In fact, globalization has been shown as a leading deterrent in military action. No one bombs the guy that makes their cars. Right?

His concern is that various truth in reporting laws could be overturned if corporate speech was as protected as an individual's, and certain business-related statements were qualified as 'speech'. Personally, I don't see that being likely because I'm sure the Courts can differentiate between 'speech' and 'representation'. But I think it is at least a valid question until the SC rules properly on it


"Properly"? I assume you mean proper as in "officially" or "finally." I agree entirely, it would certainly be a media spectacle if Ford Motor Company openly adopted the position that "Mr. Frank Jones' wife is ugly."

(EDIT: Interpretation.)

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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby folkhero » Thu Mar 04, 2010 10:13 am UTC

Even if we deny corporations the right to free speech, the 1st amendment protects another right that is obviously not limited to individuals: freedom of the press. If the government gets to decide who is and who is not the press, and then limit and regulate those that they deem to be 'not the press,' then it's not really a free press at all.

Just so we're clear, the Citizen's United case wasn't about corporate donations to candidates, it was about corporations funding political ads near elections.
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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby Crius » Thu Mar 04, 2010 7:24 pm UTC

Le1bn1z wrote:Sure, the people in the corporation do, but corporations themselves gain considerably more rights than do individual citizens, through artifices such as limited liability, which allow corporations to shield execs from the consequences of criminal acts.


Artifical corporate personhood is a construct created for contract law, not criminal law. In terms of criminal law, corporations generally aren't treated differently from organizations of people - if a corporation breaks a law, the individuals who break the law will be prosecuted. Limited liability only extends to contract law - if the corporation breaks a contract the owners are not liable for it, only the corporation itself.

There are exceptions, like corporate manslaugter in the UK, but that's in addition to, not instead of, individual prosecution. In terms of US law (since we're talking about a SCOTUS decision), I'm not aware of any similar laws.

Furthermore, there are legitimate concerns over corporate involvement in civic life to the extent permitted in the U.S.A. A corporation's exec's are liable by law to ensure the company acts in such a way that, within the bounds of the law, it maximizes profit for its shareholders. Acting contrary to their profitable interest is actually a crime in some cases.


Again, I'm pretty sure this comes down to contract law, e.g., a CEO might have it in his contract to maximize profit, and can be fired and potientally sued for damages if he doesn't, but he won't be criminally prosecuted. So, yeah, [citation needed].


I don't see any reason why corporate personhood is required for a corporation to have the freedom of speech. A corporation is an organization of people, and people have the freedom of speech. Is the concept of labor union personhood required for labor unions to have the freedom of speech?

There is an argument that since corporations are essentially government created, the government can impose extra restrictions on them, but that doesn't have much to do with corporate personhood.

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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby Vaniver » Thu Mar 04, 2010 11:54 pm UTC

Quick comment. You don't need to believe in corporate personhood to agree with the decision of Citizens United vs. The FEC. You just need to agree that political speech, as it sounds a lot like "the press," is beyond Congress's jurisdiction.

And, if you think that Congress should be able to control "the press," well, that's not how the American Constitution is written, nor should it be.
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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby Keybounce » Sat Mar 06, 2010 6:48 am UTC

People have the right to give up some rights in exchange for other considerations. This is part of contracts. But that doesn't mean that they have to give up rights. Yet corporations will routinely say "You have to give up your rights to do business with us".

and the business can then say "we refuse to give up our rights we will find a competitor who will work with us"


Somewhere along the lines, this turned into:
* We will not sell you a copy of this software (excuse me, license you to use this software on one computer) unless you agree to give up your rights
* We will not lend you money unless you give up your rights
* We will not do business with you, in your state, unless you agree that the laws of our state apply, and the laws of your state are meaningless

Etc.

This -- This forcing people to accept non-negotiable contracts that create new, private law, that removes protections and rights of the federal government and the states -- should not be valid. Yet it is. Why?

Is it because corporations are considered people, and permitted to create contracts that alter the balance of rights?

Why should I, by buying your product, be able to help you hurt your competition?

If you don't want to support the companies lobbying then don't buy stuff and by doing such deprive them of funding.

and
So, you are saying that you believe in one dollar, one vote, instead of one person, one vote?

If everyone purchases an iPod, it is a good economic indicator that the iPod is a "good" product.


Lets start way, way back. I believe the worst offenders of this were the railroads of the 1800's. There was no requirement that a corporation act in a manner to benefit shareholders; the result was company owners that basically robbed the corporation, and took the money from shareholders for themselves.

The result of this? A requirement that, as I understand it, for publicly traded companies, the actions of the company must be designed to bring profit to the shareholders. (Someone who knows this area of corporate law better than me can probably give a better description than this.)

Now, consider two companies. Both make products. Both are good.

One company doesn't lobby for any law changes.
The other lobbies for a law change that helps them, and hurts their competition.

Corporation A has less expenses, and initially looks to have better return to shareholders. But corporation B gets the laws changed. Over time, B's profits increase, while the profits of B's competitors goes down.

Eventually, B is able to either buy out its competition, or put them out of business

The result? Corporations that lobby for law changes dominate the marketplace; corporations that do not become fewer and less successful.

This is just normal evolution. Instead of the selection of successful corporations by good products, it becomes the selection of successful corporations by good lobbying.

Corporations do not make their lobbying efforts public. Sometimes it is very hard to even determine which corporation actually owns which brand. The very idea that I should research my corporations before buying a product is crazy. Equally, the idea that the people who spend more money on products have a bigger voice, a bigger say in the political lobbying/advertising area is crazy.

The money a corporation is spending belongs to its shareholders. And if they, as a group, organized however they think appropriate, want to ask Congress to make a law that will benefit them, that's their right.

And the question is, who do the representatives represent?

Do house members represent people? Do senate members represent states? If so, does a corporation -- not a person -- have the right to lobby the house? Do corporations that are multi-state, or multi-national, have the right to lobby the senate?

I don't have answers for that. But apparently, the courts claim that political speech by corporations cannot be restricted; lobbying by corporations cannot be restricted; and now, spending by corporations on political matters cannot be restricted.

Do non-citizens have the same rights as citizens? Clearly back before the 14th, the answer seemed to be no. The 14th grants rights in state court to federal citizens, but corporations are not federal citizens -- they are neither "born" nor "naturalized".

What about non citizen, immagrant people? What about people in the country illegally? (Serious questions -- I don't know the answers)

Free speech of corporations

Why?

Do people have the right of free speech? Yes.
Can they come together in a group for that? Yes -- Republican party, Democratic party, MoveOn political action, etc.
Should those have any limits on what they spend for political events? No, because they are people acting as a group to perform political free speech.

The money of a corporation that produces product X is actually the money of the shareholders. What gives such a corporation any authority to do political lobbying? If they are allowed to, and required to maximize shareholder return, then they are required to; if they are only required to take action in the best interest of shareholders, then it's only a good idea, not a requirement.

Just so we're clear, the Citizen's United case wasn't about corporate donations to candidates, it was about corporations funding political ads near elections.

Az, in the edit of my OP wrote:OP's Opinion: This is bad, and the Supreme Court ruled in a manner counter to the Constitution.

Lets be clear here. How the court rules is just as important as what it rules.

Look at Dred Scott: If the court had ruled,
What my 10th grade US History textbook said wrote:The federal constitution does not define citizen; it is therefore up to each state individually. Mr Scott was in a state where he was considered "Free", and choose to go back to a state where he was considered "Slave" and "Not citizen". We are therefore required to consider him "Not citizen", and deny this claim of being free in a slave state
, then it probably would not have become such a major trigger. But that wasn't what the court actually said.

Look at Santa Clara v. Union Pacific. Other than a single reference by the head judge that they whole court was biased on a concern that was not actually addressed, and a quote out of context by the court clerk that was not actually supported by the decision, this is a minor tax issue that would be an obscurity.

Had the ruling simply been "Freedom of the press is freedom of the press", then that's annoying, but good constitutional ruling. Had the ruling been "A group of people getting together for political purposes maintain the same rights as individuals, and as such, this political organization has the same rights of donation as people do", that would have been good.

Justice Steven's Dissent wrote:All that the parties dispute is whether Citizens United had a right to use the funds in its general treasury to pay for broadcasts during the 30-day period.
...
The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court’s disposition of this case.

In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant. Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters.
...
Before turning to the question whether to overrule Austin and part of McConnell , it is important to explain why the Court should not be deciding that question.
...
Essentially, five Justices were unhappy with the limited nature of the case before us, so they changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law..


The dissent is easy to read and understand. It basically says that the SCOTUS made too broad of a ruling, for wrong reasons, when it should have ruled narrowly. It raises questions about allowing people who are not members of our society trying to manipulate our society.

The 55 page ruling, however, was not -- I cannot understand it. From what I've understood from other people's comments, it remove all spending limits that corporations have on any form of political manipulation. It actually goes so far as to say that otherwise, YouTube and Mr. Smith Goes To Washinton would be illegal at election time, and I do not understand this claim.

As far as I can tell from the ruling -- and I may have this wrong -- the first amendment
Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press
is being taken as an almost absolute -- anything and everything that anyone or anything wants to say for political reasons is valid, but you may have to disclose who you are. This is not extended to non-political issues. There are lots and lots of court cases that hold some limitations on this supposed freedom of the press.

Decision page 18 wrote:As a practical matter, however, given the complexity of the regulations and the deference courts show to administrative determinations, a speaker who wants to avoid threats of criminal liability and the heavy costs of defending against FEC enforcement must ask a governmental agency for prior permission to speak. See 2 U. S. C. §437f; 11 CFR §112.1. These onerous restrictions thus function as the equivalent of prior restraint by giving the FEC power analogous to licensing laws implemented in 16th- and 17th-century England, laws and governmental practices of the sort that the First Amendment was drawn to prohibit.


This is the single clearest point I found in the decision. The idea that you have to ask for permission to speak, and that the behavior is to act as a licensing law -- a license to speak -- that the first amendment is made to prevent.

Is that how the courts actually rule? Not as far as I (a non lawyer) can tell.
If these FEC rules and regulations are too excessive? If it's too hard to comply with them, or tell if you are even in compliance? Fine, strike them down.
===
According to this ruling, the FEC's restrictions on speech are so unfounded, so impossible, and just by their nature so abhorrent, that it must be completely removed. Lets change that from "FEC" to "FCC". Does the 7 words decision -- which was recently upheld, suddenly fall apart? About two years ago, someone challenged "Fear Factor" for being in the same category as the 7 words case. The trial court judge threw it out of court, claiming that the plantiff should just use their remote control and change the channel. The 7 words second case came after that, and the courts upheld the restriction on free speech. Never mind that these two cases are completely opposed -- there's no logical way within the constitution to uphold one and throw the other out without even considering it. And yet now we are throwing out another set of restrictions that actually have meaning and purpose, without actually preventing speech or opinion. Nothing in the rules being overturned prohibited people from saying what they wanted to say, even a corporation -- it merely put some restrictions on spending during the time right before an election. Do we now say "Election canvassing at a polling station is unrestricted"? Can people be shoving voting cards in you hands as you walk to the polling place?

Decision, page 23 wrote:Laws that burden political speech are “subject to strict scrutiny,” which requires the Government to prove that the restriction “furthers a compelling interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.” WRTL, 551 U. S., at 464 (opinion of ROBERTS, C. J.).

And according to this, the protection of free speech and freedom of the press is not an absolute. Are you allowed to print blatant lies? Are you allowed to slander? If your goal is to make sure that the voices of people are heard, and that the opinions of corporate interests do not dominate the political operations, can you say that "Hearing what people want to say is compelling, given that people run this country"?

If the government gets to decide who is and who is not the press, and then limit and regulate those that they deem to be 'not the press,' then it's not really a free press at all.

But we already have restrictions on the press.
Not only stuff like "7 words", but I've seen people forced to take down web pages in the early days of the internet. A while ago, there was a book that spelled out, in detail, how to kill someone -- and apparently it was banned by the courts. Something along the lines of "Freedom of speech does not include step by step how to break the law". And yet we've got these step by step "how to break into computer systems" programs, that are used by competent system admins to test their own systems for problems that need fixing. Of course, if you do that at work, you risk getting three felony convictions against you (2 counts of breaking into the system that he was hired to administer, and 1 count of copying a password file to another machine. Apparently, testing for weak passwords or system holes was improper for a system admin. Apparently, a program that shows you how to break into a system -- so you can plug holes is valid, but a book on how to kill someone -- so you can plug security holes is not legal.) Some shows are so horrendous that they must be prohibited, others are "Just change the channel".

Now, while this court case is the "flash point" for me, the real issue for me is the abusive nature of supreme court rulings, that go beyond the authority granted it in the constitution. Since the reboot, that will require a different thread to continue discussion in.
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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby Vaniver » Sat Mar 06, 2010 4:53 pm UTC

Keybounce wrote:But we already have restrictions on the press.
Yes, but restrictions like "if you print lies we will fine you" and "you can't print obscene material" are very different from restrictions like "you can't print anything critical of government officials within 60 days of an election," or, as the lawyer for the FEC argued, that the FEC would be able to ban a 500 page book if it contained a single line of advocacy for a candidate.
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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sat Mar 06, 2010 5:31 pm UTC

Keybounce wrote:"Hearing what people want to say is compelling, given that people run this country"

And how does corporate political advocacy prevent people from being heard? The Citizens United decision actually addresses this argument, citing Buckley v. Valeo:

Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S., at 48-49 wrote:[T]he concept that government may restrict the speech of some elements of our society in order to enhance the relative voice of others is wholly foreign to the First Amendment

Pull up Part III, section B of the Citizens United decision for the part where the Supreme Court rejects the government's rationale in restricting advocacy.

And remember: corporations are made of people.
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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby Keybounce » Sat Mar 06, 2010 7:18 pm UTC

The claim by the lawyer that a 500 page book could be banned for one line of support of a candidate is absurd. That's an absolute sign that this regulatory agency has gone too far.

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
Keybounce wrote:"Hearing what people want to say is compelling, given that people run this country"

And how does corporate political advocacy prevent people from being heard? The Citizens United decision actually addresses this argument, citing Buckley v. Valeo:

Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S., at 48-49 wrote:[T]he concept that government may restrict the speech of some elements of our society in order to enhance the relative voice of others is wholly foreign to the First Amendment

Pull up Part III, section B of the Citizens United decision for the part where the Supreme Court rejects the government's rationale in restricting advocacy.

And remember: corporations are made of people.


To which I answer this, from the dissension:
The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court’s disposition of this case.

In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant. Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters.


Corporations are made of people. That doesn't mean that they are people.

One good thing to come out of this discussion: While I'm still not understanding all of the ruling (55 pages that an english teacher would give a C-, at best, to), I do understand enough to know that the headlines that came out of the ruling ("Corporations have more rights than people") were not accurate. There's plenty of good in here -- a bad decision from the past being re-examined, and overturned, for example.

My complaint isn't the decision "This group had the right to air this ad before the election". Heck, even Steven seems to agree with that in his dissent. The issue is the manner of the decision. This is what turns an issue of tax trivial (are fences a taxable improvement to land) into "Corporations are legally people!".

EDIT: Fix quote tags
Last edited by Keybounce on Sat Mar 06, 2010 7:34 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sat Mar 06, 2010 7:21 pm UTC

OK, so your problem is with corporate personhood? Why don't you first show where the decision treats corporations as persons?
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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby Le1bn1z » Sun Mar 07, 2010 12:43 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:OK, so your problem is with corporate personhood? Why don't you first show where the decision treats corporations as persons?


How about the recent SCOTUS decision saying that limits on corporate donations were unconstitutional because corporations are people, and under the USA constitution, people are granted the right to free speech? I mean, that's sort of what the whole previous post was about, more or less.
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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby Keybounce » Sun Mar 07, 2010 1:24 am UTC

If I understand the decision (about a 35% chance), then:

On page 20, section 3, paragraph 2:
The law before us is an outright ban, backed by criminal sanctions. Section 441b makes it a felony for all corporations—including nonprofit advocacy corporations—either to expressly advocate the election or defeat of candidates or to broadcast electioneering communications within 30 days of a primary election and 60 days of a general election.


So here is sufficient grounds for overturning 441b as excessive, going beyond regulation and into prohibition. Overturn it, and require that the FEC re-write it to be regulation instead of prohibition.

There are several examples given: a gun ownership lobby trying to support gun ownership; a nature preservation group speaking against a candidate that wants to do logging, and a civil rights group arguing in favor of a candidate that supports free speech. Fine.

These are corporations founded for these political activities, with money given to them for these causes. This is not a case of a general corporation, out to make money for shareholders, using shareholder funds to alter the laws. So if I had to clarify my issue here, it's that a corporation that wants to make a profit for shareholders by altering laws instead of producing a product or service.

On page 21, first paragraph:
Section 441b is a ban on corporate speech notwithstanding the fact that a PAC created by a corporation can still speak. See McConnell, 540 U. S., at 330–333 (opinion of KENNEDY, J.). A PAC is a separate association from the corporation. So the PAC exemption from §441b’s expenditure ban, §441b(b)(2), does not allow corporations to speak.


Here we have what appears to be outright invalid wordplay.

PAC's exist to permit a corporation to spend money for political purposes, including altering laws and lobbying congress. PAC's are, by definition, the manner in which a corporation can engage in such speech. By necessity of how corporations manage funds, this has to be a technically separate legal entity, and therefore, a system designed to let corporations have speech does not let corporations have speech.

This is the "bad part" of this ruling, in a nutshell.

The next two pages go into problems with PACs. They are serious problems, amounting to an almost outright ban on PACs -- they are the exception, not the norm. They fail to adequately permit the regulated but present corporate speech.

As such, the regulations and restrictions on PACs need to be overturned, and made to be re-written.

So, overturning 441b is good. Overturning the restrictions on PACs is good. Saying that a PAC does not actually permit what a PAC is supposed to permit? That seems bogus.

Then comes the last paragraph of page 22:

Section 441b’s prohibition on corporate independent expenditures is thus a ban on speech. As a “restriction on the amount of money a person or group can spend on political communication during a campaign,” that statute “necessarily reduces the quantity of expression by restricting the number of issues discussed, the depth of their exploration, and the size of the audience reached.” Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1, 19 (1976) (per curiam).


The first sentence is good -- 441b is overreaching and is "poof" 'd. Gone. But the rest--

“restriction on the amount of money a person or group can spend on political communication during a campaign,”

Does it restrict what a person can spend? No.
Does it restrict what a group of people, coming together as a group for this purpose, can spend? Yes -- the examples of the NRA, the ACLU, etc.

Does it follow that restricting the expenditure of money must reduce the quantity of expression? Maybe. But a decision from 1976, before the internet, before deregulated long distance communication? The cost of communication has gone way, way down; it isn't clear that this decision would still hold.

Page 23, paragraph 1 then continues with why speech is important.
And, it states clearly (?) that being informed, and exposed to a variety of views, is critical.
“Discussion of public issues and debate on the qualifications of candidates are integral to the operation of the system of government established by our Constitution”

But this doesn't mean "Unlimited spending by one group", this means "A wide variety of views from a wide variety of groups". As soon as spending power is unregulated, people who do not have large sums of money cannot compete in the marketplace of spreading ideas. Suddenly, the poor cannot have their voice.

Next paragraph:
Laws that burden political speech are “subject to strict scrutiny,” which requires the Government to prove that the restriction “furthers a compelling interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.”

The compelling interest: Being able to hear a wide variety of views, from people who do not have large sums of money.
According to this ruling, that has been wiped out.

THAT is the problem.

Do I have a problem with corporate personhood? Yes.
Is that the issue here? No.

The SCOTUS has said, "Corporations are now given a mouth". Before, they could speak through their intermediary -- the PAC's. Between a bad 441b, and PACs being too cumbersome to be workable, this failed. So rather than fix 441b and pacs, corporations are now given a direct mouth. Unrestricted. Resulting in the loss of the voice of the poor -- fewer voices, rather than more voices.

A couple of pages later, after first saying that in some really restricted areas, restrictions on free speech are upheld, the ruling then says that first amendment protections extend to corporations, citing a number of relatively recent court rulings. Page 26 then seems to be the next big issue page. I do not know what is meant by "Explicit holdings" -- "This protection has been extended by explicit holdings to the context of political speech." --, and we have the claim that, "Under the rationale of these precedents, political speech does not lose First Amendment protection “simply because its source is a corporation.”". However, look at what the court has done here. It has taken it upon itself to examine and overturn one precedent, while not examining and just taking as a given another, equally relevant precedent. Note carefully that this isn't the majority decision of this case. The court is upholding a plurality opinion, without hearing any arguments as to why that opinion might not be relevant, or might be outright wrong.. It is saying that corporations add to the discussions of ideas, and therefore protected by the first amendment.

Continuing:
Page 28 and 29 discuss a spending ban, with several court cases involving unions; in each, a minority wanted to examine the constitutional issue, and the majority ruled on other factors. However, the issue of constitutionality was valid.

Then comes discussion of Buckley:
The Buckley Court recognized a “sufficiently important” governmental interest in “the prevention of corruption and the appearance of corruption.” Id., at 25; see id., at 26. This followed from the Court’s concern that large contributions could be given “to secure a political quid pro quo.” Ibid.
The Buckley Court explained that the potential for quid pro quo corruption distinguished direct contributions to candidates from independent expenditures.


So, unless there is something I'm not understanding, Buckley agrees with me that unregulated, large spending of money by corporations on direct contributions and spending can give the appearance of corruption.

Yet there seems to be something that I am not understanding -- the next two pages say how Buckley would have invalidated other limits, and was upheld again by the court in Bellotti.

The claim of this court about Bellotti:
In our view, however, that restriction would have been unconstitutional under Bellotti’s central principle: that the First Amendment does not allow political speech restrictions based on a speaker’s corporate identity.


The quoted statement from Bellotti:
for the proposition that speech that otherwise would be within the protection of the First Amendment loses that protection simply because its source is a corporation that cannot prove, to the satisfaction of a court, a material effect on its business or property.


These two claims are NOT identical.

1. The court has misquoted, and misused, a previous court ruling.

2. Steven's dissension makes it clear that if the court had followed proper procedure, then there would be discussion by both sides, as well as briefs submitted by others, to give the court full knowledge about the issues; instead, they ruled on their own, without proper input from other people.

3. The court is not acknowledging the concern of corruption, or the appearance of corruption.

4. It is upholding decisions not by previous majorities. NB: It is not reviewing, and deciding "Yes, this is still good" -- it is merely saying "Yup, regardless of constitutional merit, we're upholding a previous decision of the court without really taking a good look at it or hearing any discussion about it". It is placing previous court decisions as more important than the constitution.

5. The court is deciding, on it's own, to re-examine and overturn some precedents and not others, even though all of them are relevant.

6. It fails to uphold a compelling interest in making sure that all voices, even the poor, are heard, by allowing sufficiently rich voices to remove opportunities for the poor.

7. It only looks at the issue of corporate speech from one viewpoint (Bellotti: simply because its source is a corporation that cannot prove, to the satisfaction of a court, a material effect on its business or property.), rather than other viewpoints (the inherent conflict of interest, and appearance of corruption, found in a for profit-of-shareholders corporation as opposed to a not-for-profit organization specifically made for lobbying purposes).

8. It takes the opportunity to rule narrowly -- that the two mechanisms (441b and PACs) designed to permit regulated but present speech by corporations are broken and need to be fixed -- and throws that out.

9. As far as I can tell, the SCOTUS takes the view that it can do anything it wants, and is not subject to the limitations placed on it by the department of justice or laws of congress.

The court system of this country consists of one supreme court, and any lessor courts created by law.
The supreme court is giving itself the authority to act as "The 9 popes in rome", and declare that no one else can possibly understand the law and issues, and that its decrees are supreme and not subject to any review.
In particular, it seems as far as I can tell, to assume that it doesn't have to follow any rulings or guidance issued by the DoJ or Congress. It doesn't have to actually take evidence or arguments on an issue before ruling on that issue. It doesn't have to actually consider different points of view. It can issue rulings that have the effect of laws, rather than merely overturning bad laws.
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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby Silas » Sun Mar 07, 2010 4:54 am UTC

Keybounce wrote:9. As far as I can tell, the SCOTUS takes the view that it can do anything it wants, and is not subject to the limitations placed on it by the department of justice or laws of congress.

The court system of this country consists of one supreme court, and any lessor courts created by law.
The supreme court is giving itself the authority to act as "The 9 popes in rome", and declare that no one else can possibly understand the law and issues, and that its decrees are supreme and not subject to any review.
In particular, it seems as far as I can tell, to assume that it doesn't have to follow any rulings or guidance issued by the DoJ or Congress.

You're not upset about Citizens United, you're upset about Marbury v. Madison. Marshall is dead, and you're two hundred years too late. The DoJ and Congress don't have any authority to give guidance or ruling to SCOTUS, especially on constitutional issues.
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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby Keybounce » Sun Mar 07, 2010 5:30 am UTC

Marbury v. Madison? Wasn't that the one where the SCOTUS gave itself the authority to review actions and decisions of the other branches of government, and review them for compliance with the constitution?

I'm not upset about that. Someone has to be able to tell congress "Hey, that violates the constitution".

The question is, can Congress/DoJ give any "Here are the rules you will follow / the procedure you will use" rules. Not to take away any authority to say "This violates the constitution", but more to impose "You must determine X, Y, and Z before you can do that".

For example, require that the rulings be narrow unless such-and-such conditions are true; in which case, the SCOTUS would have had to stop at "441b is invalid; the rules on PACs are invalid; there may be more, but that will wait until later".
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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sun Mar 07, 2010 5:58 am UTC

Wow, I think I just sniped a lot of quotes. I think most of what I've said is relevant, but Keybounce's post gets redundant and things get messy. I'll try to summarize below.

Spoiler:
Le1bn1z wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:OK, so your problem is with corporate personhood? Why don't you first show where the decision treats corporations as persons?


How about the recent SCOTUS decision saying that limits on corporate donations were unconstitutional because corporations are people, and under the USA constitution, people are granted the right to free speech? I mean, that's sort of what the whole previous post was about, more or less.

...I am well aware. And I am asking where, precisely, that opinion says that corporations are people.

Keybounce wrote:If I understand the decision (about a 35% chance), then:

I might as well interject that, with all the show you've made about not understanding the ruling, you do seem to know a lot about the details. Why not just talk about it instead of attacking Kennedy's writing?

Keybounce wrote:Saying that a PAC does not actually permit what a PAC is supposed to permit? That seems bogus.

Umm — you just said, yourself, that there are serious problems with the regulations on PACs. I don't see what's inconsistent with saying that PACs are not permitted to do the things for which they were established.

Keybounce wrote:Does it follow that restricting the expenditure of money must reduce the quantity of expression? Maybe. But a decision from 1976, before the internet, before deregulated long distance communication? The cost of communication has gone way, way down; it isn't clear that this decision would still hold.

Evidently it would hold with a Court that affirms it as precedent. And I don't see what bearing the Internet has on the cost of television communications, even accepting for the sake of argument that Internet publishing on a large scale is trivially inexpensive (or that it is nevertheless as rewarding as television as a publishing medium).

Keybounce wrote:But this doesn't mean "Unlimited spending by one group", this means "A wide variety of views from a wide variety of groups". As soon as spending power is unregulated, people who do not have large sums of money cannot compete in the marketplace of spreading ideas. Suddenly, the poor cannot have their voice.

Cherry-picking. The quote isn't the basis for the whole ruling, but only for the claim that the First Amendment is most closely related to political speech. And the claim that you make about the marketplace of ideas is covered in Part III, Section B, as I've mentioned before (at page 32). For some reason, your quotes here never make it to the parts of the decision that actually discuss your concerns.

Keybounce wrote:Do I have a problem with corporate personhood? Yes.
Is that the issue here? No.

Weird. Because your last post said just the opposite: you don't have a problem with the ruling, but you do have a problem with how it was ruled — namely, by establishing corporate personhood. Go ahead; read your post again (last paragraph). It is the exact opposite of what I've just quoted.

Keybounce wrote:So rather than fix 441b and pacs, corporations are now given a direct mouth. Unrestricted.

Well, this simply isn't true. Why do you think that Justice Stevens only dissented in part? Part IV of the decision still allows for various restrictions on corporate political advocacy. Justice Thomas is the only one on the Court advocating essentially unlimited speech.

Keybounce wrote:Note carefully that this isn't the majority decision of this case. The court is upholding a plurality opinion, without hearing any arguments as to why that opinion might not be relevant, or might be outright wrong.

I don't know why the decision refers to that as a plurality decision, but Bellotti was 5-4. If the Court has not revisited it, perhaps this is because you're the only guy asking them to.

Keybounce wrote:So, unless there is something I'm not understanding, Buckley agrees with me that unregulated, large spending of money by corporations on direct contributions and spending can give the appearance of corruption.

Yet there seems to be something that I am not understanding -- the next two pages say how Buckley would have invalidated other limits, and was upheld again by the court in Bellotti.

So, what is the problem here? Buckley struck down a ban on independent expenditures while allowing a ban on direct contributions. This is entirely consistent with both Bellotti and Citizens United. In other words, there is not a problem with this reasoning simply because you do not understand it.

Keybounce wrote:1. The court has misquoted, and misused, a previous court ruling.

Misquoted? The reprinted it in full, and with context. But they don't even claim to be quoting directly when they talk about the central principle of Bellotti, and it seems clear enough to me that, if a corporation cannot be banned from speech over its details, then it cannot be banned from speech simply for being a corporation.

Keybounce wrote:2. Steven's dissension makes it clear that if the court had followed proper procedure, then there would be discussion by both sides, as well as briefs submitted by others, to give the court full knowledge about the issues; instead, they ruled on their own, without proper input from other people.

I guess I don't know which part of the dissent you're talking about. Both sides of this case of course submitted briefs in addition to their oral arguments and any amicus briefs that probably were also filed. The Court refers to the Government's arguments frequently in its decision. It is simply not credible, far less trivial, to say that the Court was speaking from a position of ignorance.

Keybounce wrote:3. The court is not acknowledging the concern of corruption, or the appearance of corruption.

Bullshit. Page 40.

Keybounce wrote:4. It is upholding decisions not by previous majorities. NB: It is not reviewing, and deciding "Yes, this is still good" -- it is merely saying "Yup, regardless of constitutional merit, we're upholding a previous decision of the court without really taking a good look at it or hearing any discussion about it". It is placing previous court decisions as more important than the constitution.

As I've said, the Bellotti decision was indeed from a majority.

Now, for whatever reason, you want precedents to go away, but do you have any particular reason to suggest that Bellotti or anything else is invalid?

Keybounce wrote:5. The court is deciding, on it's own, to re-examine and overturn some precedents and not others, even though all of them are relevant.

Of course not all the precedents would be overturned, as they tend to contradict each other. On the other hand, the Court more or less has re-examined the cases it cites by discussing their constitutional underpinnings for 55 pages.

Keybounce wrote:6. It fails to uphold a compelling interest in making sure that all voices, even the poor, are heard, by allowing sufficiently rich voices to remove opportunities for the poor.

401(b) doesn't say anything about how rich anyone is. Corporations can be large or small, rich or poor. And their ability to silence others is quite independent of their own right to expression.

Keybounce wrote:7. It only looks at the issue of corporate speech from one viewpoint (Bellotti: simply because its source is a corporation that cannot prove, to the satisfaction of a court, a material effect on its business or property.), rather than other viewpoints (the inherent conflict of interest, and appearance of corruption, found in a for profit-of-shareholders corporation as opposed to a not-for-profit organization specifically made for lobbying purposes).

Again, page 40. Considering a viewpoint and rejecting it is by no means an error.

Keybounce wrote:8. It takes the opportunity to rule narrowly -- that the two mechanisms (441b and PACs) designed to permit regulated but present speech by corporations are broken and need to be fixed -- and throws that out.

How? It says that 441b is broken and therefore invalidates it. The ruling is as narrow as you ask for it to be here.

Keybounce wrote:9. As far as I can tell, the SCOTUS takes the view that it can do anything it wants, and is not subject to the limitations placed on it by the department of justice or laws of congress.

SCOTUS gets its power directly from the Constitution, so, yeah, it makes sense that it would not be limited by the other branches of government. This is not the same as saying that the Court can do whatever it wants, and I don't know what gives you that impression; you haven't provided any evidence of this previously, even though you now appear to be summarizing.


I'm still not sure what bone you're trying to pick here. Even though you started a thread about Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and you are still posting in it, you seem to care more about SCOTUS itself. I don't think this is the right thread for that, but insofar as the nature of the Court applies to this case: this is a case where SCOTUS listened to both sides (as it does in every case), considered various viewpoints (although it rejected some), and struck down a law rather than writing a new one. You are wrong in accusing the Court on all of those counts. You are correct to some extent in saying that the Court does not have to follow the decisions of other branches of government, but only to the extent that the Court may strike down those policies which violate the Constitution. The Court very frequently does defer to both legislative and executive policies; those deferences constitute every single case in which the Court did not strike down a law.

For ninjas: Seriously, striking down 441b is exactly what the Court did. There is no need for Congress or the Department of Justice to interfere in its decisions, even if they had the constitutional justification to do so.
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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby Le1bn1z » Sun Mar 07, 2010 2:16 pm UTC

Grammar Bolshevik,

In an historical context, corporate personhood was enacted in the U.K. (long pre 1776) for three reasons:

1.) To allow corporations standing in civil and criminal actions; thus, a corporation could sue someone who did it wrong, including its own executives, rather than having shareholders individually seek redress.

2.) To afford corporations legal protections and rights beyond the courtroom: the right to make contracts with others; the right to declare bankruptcy etc.

3.) The shield executives and shareholders from the ill actions of their corporation, which is the logic behind a Limited Liablity corporation. For example, if Omnicorp accidentally demolishes your house and kills your whole family, you can't up and sue shareholder Molly Sue from Cinninatti for everything she owns. Your suit can only lay claim to the assets of the corporation; not its officers or shareholders.

This, as you might imagine, is where some of the more nefarious abuses take place, even if it is a sensible protection. Some exec's use corporations to shield them from the effects of "mildly illegal" actions, or gross negligence. For example, if a corporation were to unlawfully steal from its employees, the corporation, not the execs who ordered the illegal actions, would be liable in a civil action.

That's all that is meant by corporate personhood. It does not allow for duplication of, say, voting rights. It does, however, guarentee corporate identities equal rights to free speech as are afforded to citizens, but this only the the United States of America and some less-developed nations with less of a democratic infastructure (in the former case, because of ideology, in the latter, inability to enforce limitations.)
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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sun Mar 07, 2010 2:30 pm UTC

OK. Still, why are you telling me this? It doesn't add anything to the discussion that we didn't already know.
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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby drunken » Sun Mar 07, 2010 9:26 pm UTC

Here is a question discussions about coroprate rights usually stop short of:

What would happen if we simply abolish the coporate charter altogether? I don't mean this in the sense of what effects would it have on our current entrenched system, which would obviously be devastating. I mean the question in a more general theoretical sense, what kind of system would we have if there were no coporations? Are groups with seperate rights and priviledges really neccessary or can we get by with only individual rights?

Edit: Just becuase I am a stickler for well defined terms in discussion A corporation is an institution that is granted a charter recognizing it as a separate legal entity having its own privileges, and liabilities distinct from those of its members.(Wikipedia)
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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby Vaniver » Sun Mar 07, 2010 9:41 pm UTC

drunken wrote:Here is a question discussions about coroprate rights usually stop short of:

What would happen if we simply abolish the coporate charter altogether? I don't mean this in the sense of what effects would it have on our current entrenched system, which would obviously be devastating. I mean the question in a more general theoretical sense, what kind of system would we have if there were no coporations? Are groups with seperate rights and priviledges really neccessary or can we get by with only individual rights?

Edit: Just becuase I am a stickler for well defined terms in discussion A corporation is an institution that is granted a charter recognizing it as a separate legal entity having its own privileges, and liabilities distinct from those of its members.(Wikipedia)
Are corporations necessary? Well, nothing is necessary. But having them is certainly better than not having them. It is useful to have institutions that are distinct from the individuals that compose them in some way.

I mean, take limited liability as an example. Is there a way to duplicate its positive effects at less costs than the current method of creating corporations?
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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby Silas » Mon Mar 08, 2010 4:45 am UTC

drunken wrote:Here is a question discussions about coroprate rights usually stop short of:

What would happen if we simply abolish the corporate charter altogether?...I mean the question in a more general theoretical sense, what kind of system would we have if there were no coporations? Are groups with separate rights and privileges really neccessary or can we get by with only individual rights?

The thing that makes corporations so useful, as a means of organizing society, is the limited liability that attaches to their shareholders: they can only lose their equity stake, not their other assets. That effect is absolutely essential.

Without that, investors can't combine their resources to fund large ventures. If they do, and the venture turns south, every one of them is obliged to keep paying the debts until he's bankrupt, even if that goes beyond his share of them.

Suppose you enter into a partnership with ninety-nine other people to build a billion-dollar factory, and the venture bottoms out leaving the partnership with debts of three hundred million. If your partners are solvent, they- and you- each pay three million dollars to settle the debt. But now you discover that half your partners are practically broke. They're declaring bankruptcy, and only a few dollars of their assets will go toward retiring the debt. Now you and your remaining partners owe $280 million between the fifty of you- that's $5.6M each, right? No! faced with this new debt, even more of your partners realize they can't foot the bill, and they go into bankruptcy, too. When the cycle ends, there's only one guy left, looking at a bill for twenty-five times the amount he invested in the first place. (hint: he's going bankrupt, too)

No one smart enough to have money to invest is going to do so on those terms. And if he does, he won't be around to do it, next year. So you're faced with less investment, favoring smaller firms, with more effort (read: money) spent by owners checking up on one another's finances, and a worse outcome for pretty much everybody.

Now, that's the limited liability side of corporations. It's really indispensable. But corporate personhood may not be necessary for that- I suspect that it is, but I can't articulate why, just now. The gist of it, in my mind, is that there's no good way for the courts to address issues of debt and liability, unless the corporation itself can be named as the defendant in a court action, and it doesn't make sense to have an entity that can only be sued, but never sue someone else (besides, what would happen when someone refused to pay a bill to the corporation? Who could take him to court?).

Edit: fixed arithmetic mistake.
Last edited by Silas on Mon Mar 08, 2010 7:17 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Coporate Rights & the US Constitution

Postby BlackSails » Mon Mar 08, 2010 4:54 am UTC

Le1bn1z wrote:
This, as you might imagine, is where some of the more nefarious abuses take place, even if it is a sensible protection. Some exec's use corporations to shield them from the effects of "mildly illegal" actions, or gross negligence. For example, if a corporation were to unlawfully steal from its employees, the corporation, not the execs who ordered the illegal actions, would be liable in a civil action.


The courts have the ability to "pierce the corporate veil." In a case like the one you described, the executives almost certainly would be found criminally liable, and probably also subject to lawsuits by the corporation itself.


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