“Hillary: the Movie” — The end of citizen control

The case trying the issue the power of government to limit corporate campaign spending for “Hillary: the movie” warns us that the High (don’t I wish) Court may overturn a century of legislation regarding these laws. If these laws are declared unconstitutional, the already overwhelming advantage of big money over politics will likely become a monopoly resulting in virtually no voter control of government.

Beginning early in the last century, Congress and many states realized that unlimited campaign spending by corporations would distort the election process because they are able to quickly gather funds and spend them to sway public opinion.

Individual voters, and even groups of voters cannot match this ability and the result is to skew elections toward what corporations want.

The underpinning of the challenge to such campaign finance restrictions is the claim that it transgresses the right of free speech of the corporations. But do or even should corporations have First Amendment rights?

Not until late in the 19th century were corporations recognized in the law as “persons”. Until then they had, correctly in my opinion, been deemed artificial entities and not entitled to rights as such, but only the individual owners had rights as citizens. With this Supreme Court decision, which came as a backdoor and unexamined point, the legal landscape of America has been changed dramatically.

There is no logic to granting corporations rights as citizens. They are a creation of government, not a person. There is no need to grant them separate rights from those of the owners. And there is much harm in doing so.

We are in a descending crisis of citizen control of government today. Monied interests dominate Congress through their extravagant lobbying. To allow them an unfettered ability to also flood campaigns with money will deprive private citizens of what little impact and control of the political process we have left.

The Court should deny the claims presented by “Citizens United”, the group challenging the laws, and reaffirm the right of government to curtail and limit corporate spending on campaigns. The real need is to further limit spending on public affairs and extend lobbying limits. Ultimately, what we need is public campaign financing and even stricter campaign financing laws.

If the Court overturns these laws as it seems poised to do, it is time for a Constitutional Amendment stripping corporations of citizenship and returning government to the people.


  1. Carl Nemo

    Superb, spot-on commentary Phil Hoskins…: )

    Unfortunately I feel the high court will rule in favor of indemnifying corporations as being individuals into perpetuity. Surely the whole intent of launching the corporate concept along with the the benefits of the “veil of the corporation” having given supreme advantages over the past 100 years cannot be mere happenstance.

    We have moved into a new age of government; ie., of, for, and by the corporations, this being NWO sponsored corporatism…! : |

    Carl Nemo **==

  2. Carl Nemo

    Thanks for the apology, but I understand. If anything we both agree to disagree…no?! : )

    Carl Nemo **==

  3. gazelle1929

    Mr. Hoskins:

    You stated that:

    “There is no logic to granting corporations rights as citizens. They are a creation of government, not a person. There is no need to grant them separate rights from those of the owners. And there is much harm in doing so.”

    I submit that you are incorrect.

    The case that led to this ruling was SANTA CLARA COUNTY v. SOUTHERN PAC. R. CO., 118 U.S. 394 (1886). Basically it was a lawsuit to collect from several railroad companies taxes allegedly owed by said corporations.


    At issue was the new 14th Amendment, specifically Section 1, which states in its entirety:

    “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

    Apparently the plaintiffs were getting ready to argue that due process did not apply to corporations, which, if true, meant they would have no legal standing to defend themselves in court. The Justices made a ruling prior to the start of argument that they would not entertain any argument that the state could ignore the 14th Amendment with regard to the due process clause simply because the entity being sued was a corporation.

    This is from the official court transcript:

    “The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of opinion that it does.

    “The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteen Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.”

    They simply stated that a corporation could sue and be sued. Imagine the chaos that would prevail if there were no due process for corporations. No one would enter into a contract with a corporation because there would be no basis for enforcement, and no one would invest in corporations because there would be no way to go into court to enforce its contracts.

    That is the sum total of the declaration of a corporation as a legal person.

    I’ve never understood what all the folderol is about.

  4. almandine

    The logic of the 14th amendment presented, i.e., corporations need the due process afforded individual citizens so as to be able to represent its stockholders legally, can be well taken. Property and tort laws must apply.

    However, it does not address the issue at hand, which is the access and responsibility of individual citizens to the electoral process.

    I suppose one might argue, axiomatically, that the law could be construed to allow a corporation the right to vote. However, it would seem patently absurd that a corporation would have the power and/or be allowed to grant its individual proxy to any single individual capable of casting that vote. Axiomatically, as well, the granting of a proxy must be seen as something that a corporate entity could not express to begin with, secondary human interlocutors armed with the “voice” of the corporation notwithstanding. The same can be said of corporate ideation and discourse.

    Thus, in the context of this thread, corporations have no individual right to a voice in the eleectoral process. By extension, they have no right to political “speech” by which to affect the electoral outcome. Stockholders are another matter, and they have their individual rights without question.

    Should the SCOTUS find otherwise, all thinking Americans should demand a Constitutional Amendment.

  5. Procrustes

    By law, corporations are legal organisms. They they are born, grow up, “reproduce” perhaps by spawning subsidiary corporations, and almost inevitably die.

    For good or ill, these organisms try to maintain their existence, as do all naturally living creatures. One of the ways they do this is by manipulating their environment. That’s the reason they’ve entered into the political process. They see that they can perpetuate themselves by getting enacted laws favorable to themselves and at the expense of other such “creatures.”

    I’m not saying I like the idea that corporations do this, because I do not. Just trying to point out why this is going on.

    I have my own ideas of what to do about the intrusion of corporations into the political sphere, but I am curious as to what you would put into a Constitutional Amendment that would eliminate this problem.

  6. Phil Hoskins

    As for an Amendment, one idea would be:
    “For purposes of the First Amendment, only individual human beings shall have rights thereunder.”

    Probably many defects with that, but it might be a starting point for discussion.

    Phil Hoskins

  7. gazelle1929

    Probably way too generic. That would give the Government the right to prohibit a corporation, partnership, etc., from advertising its wares.

    I believe Congress already has the authority under the Commerce Clause to prevent corporations from expending money in pursuit of political objectives, particularly so since the holding in Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, 469 U.S. 528 (1985). In its decision, issued February 19, 1985, the Court ruled by a vote of five to four that the concept of “traditional governmental functions” was analytically unsound and that Congress had the power under the Commerce Clause to apply the FLSA to employees of state and local governments.

    By extension of this principle, Congress certainly should have the authority to prevent corporations, most but not all of which are chartered by State law, from lobbying or donating to political parties.

  8. Phil Hoskins

    Congress already has the power under the Commerce clause to regulate and even prohibit commercial speech.

    And this SCOTUS appears ready to scrap the rest of your argument.

    But thinking more about the amendment:

    “For purposes of the First Amendment, only individuals and not for profit associations may claim rights thereunder.”
    Phil Hoskins

  9. AustinRanter

    Phil, (sorry for the redundancy – also posted in RR)

    Personally, I’d rather not allow First Amendment rights to any type of corporation (AKA -“Legal Person”). I think that would be opening a door of opportunity for other forms of corporations to beg the question, “Why them and not us?” in a Supreme Court hearing. In other words, I don’t want to see our Supreme Court to even begin to see Legal Persons in a way that would give them the full rights of a Natural Person. If they do succeed in that endeavor…I believe that we’ll soon see a Corpocracy form of government takeover (even though the Republic form seems to have currently evolved to such) and major revisions of our Constitution.

    For tax law reasons, Corporations were allowed to be considered as a “Legal Person or Juridical Person”.

    In my opinion, the right to exercise the First Amendment is, and should remain, exclusively for the use of “Natural Persons”, not “Legal Persons”.

    Definition: A legal person, also called juridical person or juristic person, is a legal entity through which the law allows a group of natural persons to act as if they were a single composite individual for certain purposes, or in some jurisdictions, for a single person to have a separate legal personality other than their own.

    This “Legal Fiction” does not mean these entities are human beings, but rather means that the law allows them to act as persons for certain limited purposes—most commonly lawsuits, property ownership, and contracts. This concept is separate from and should not be confused with limited liability or the joint stock principle.

    Also note that basic rights (like the rights to free speech and due process of law) do not necessarily follow from legal personhood. A legal person is sometimes called an artificial person or legal entity (although the latter is sometimes understood to include natural persons as well). Although the concept of a legal person is more central to Western law in both common law and civil law countries, it is also found in virtually every legal system.

    Limitations of a “Legal Person”:

    There are limitations to the legal recognition of legal persons. Legal entities cannot marry, they usually cannot vote or hold public office and in most jurisdictions there are certain positions which they cannot occupy. The extent to which a legal entity can commit a crime varies from country to country. Certain countries prohibit a legal entity from holding human rights; other countries permit artificial persons to enjoy certain protections from the state that are traditionally described as human rights.

    Special rules related to legal persons in relation to the law of defamation. Defamation is the area of law in which a person’s reputation has been unlawfully damaged. This is considered an ill in itself in regard to natural person, but a legal person is required to show actual or likely monetary loss before a suit for defamation will succeed.

    Definition: Legal fictions are facts or situations assumed or created by courts which are then used to resolve matters before them. Legal fictions are mostly encountered under common law systems. Another way of understanding a legal fiction is to say that it is a technique somebody uses in order to benefit from a legal rule which was not necessarily designed to be used in that way. The term “legal fiction” is not usually used in a pejorative way in spite of the negative connotation of the phrase, and has been likened to scaffolding around a building under construction.

    It would be worth examining the definition of “Corporate Personality” which is a term connected to “Legal Fiction”. As far as the “Corporate Personality” goes…well it would be a definition to look up as it can get a bit detailed. But, it deals with the issues of “Personhood and the Corporation”.

    I believe that this can of worms be left alone…for the sake of the citizens. Restructuring the “Corporate Personhood” would be a serious as the health care issue ever thought about being. Actually I think even more so. I think that it might undermine the founders goals for the future prosperity of Republic and the concept of the United States of America.

    NOTE: Definitions are from Wikipedia. Maybe not the best legal resource…but mostly people friendly.

    Thanks, Phil…

  10. almandine

    Nice synopsis.

    The term Natural Person would indeed, operationally defined if necessary, suffice to deny corporations – mere administrative entities – political speech, voting rights, or any other activity that living, breathing, humans would enjoy.

    The issue is not to language the rights of corporations in human terms, but to draw distinctions that make the idea of corporate “personhood” relevant in only the most constrained of legal circumstances.

    The question has to be, if a corporation can “pull the lever” unassisted, what’s next – robots that vote?

    Gimme a break.