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The Case Against Corporate Speech

  Corporate Governance  -   POSTED: 2010/02/10 16:54

Last month, by a vote of 5 to 4, the U.S. Supreme Court gave carte blanche to the world's largest corporations to spend unlimited sums of money to support or oppose candidates for elected office. Big Business domination of Washington and state capitals will now intensify.

The case of Citizens United portends dire consequences for the nation's constitutional premise of "we the people," not we the corporations. Our constitution, at its origins and through all of its amendments, makes no mention of corporate entities, only human beings and their government.

For 120 years, it was not Congress but the Supreme Court that expanded the definition of "persons" to include for-profit corporations for the purposes of applying constitutional protections. For 30 years, the court has granted First Amendment speech protections to corporations as "artificial persons."

But not until last month has the court declared that the First Amendment gives corporations the right to spend unlimited money to influence elections. The court majority, self-styled believers in precedent and judicial restraint, overturned two major Supreme Court decisions and reversed decades of campaign-finance laws aimed at preventing corporations from having undo influence over local, state and national elections.

Granted, existing campaign-finance rules have been inadequate. Regular news reports document how corporate spending debases elections and elected officials. But that doesn't mean things can't get worse. The court has challenged whatever social mores are left that view no-holds-barred corporate cash register politics as unseemly.


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