Monday, June 25, 2012

Corporations Still Aren't People

In light of today's Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) decision to not hear arguments in Western Tradition Partnership v Atty Gen of Montana, it's time to review, and reiterate why corporations are not people, and how SCOTUS erred in both Citizens United v FEC and the current case.

I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. This is my analysis and opinion. I'm exercising my right as citizen of the USA to criticize my government, and demand that they follow the US Constitution.

First, you may want to review my previous post Corporations Are Not People on this topic. In today's post, I'll strengthen the case by highlighting some key differences between people and corporations, including previous SCOTUS decisions that clearly indicate they are not entitled to the same protections as "natural persons".

Second, it's important to note that the SCOTUS decision in both cases was split 5-4, so it's clear that even among the justices, there are significant differences of opinion on these cases. Clearly, this matter is not settled.

Let us begin with a definition of "corporation":
"corporation n. an organization formed with state governmental approval to act as an artificial person ..."
Note the definition states "artificial" person.

Differences between corporations and people:
  • Corporations are artificial entities created by the sovereign state(s). People are not, they exist independently of the states.
  • Corporations can be owned, bought, and sold. People can not.
  • A corporation's owners are shielded from liability for the actions of the corporation, and the officers can be shielded from liability. A person is not shielded from liability for his actions, nor for those for whom he/she is legal guardian.
  • Corporations can not hold elected office. People can.
  • Corporations can not be imprisoned. People can.
  • Corporations can legally be killed, at the whim of the owner(s). This is not considered murder or homicide. Killing people is homicide. If it's without justifiable provocation, it's manslaughter or murder.
  • Corporations can live indefinitely. People die.

Legal basis:
Perhaps the strongest legal evidence that corporations are not people comes from the Supreme Court itself:
...the Supreme Court has held that the Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination extend only to "natural persons." The Court has also held that a corporation's custodian of records can be forced to produce corporate documents even if the act of production would incriminate him personally.
Thus, previous SCOTUS decisions make it clear that the protections of the US Constitution don't automatically apply to "artificial persons". From this, we can determine that either none of the protections of the US Constitution apply to corporations, or that only certain rights apply. If it's certain rights, then we must define which ones, something that should be defined by law, not by court precedent.

Corporations are created by the sovereign states, not the federal govt, therefore, the SCOTUS has no business telling Montana that state laws limiting corporate contributions are invalid. The corporation is created by the state, and it derives it's rights from the state. The Federal govt only has jurisdiction over corporations engaged in interstate commerce.

A state has no right to grant corporations any rights in national elections as this would create unfair power for states that grant such rights to corporations. A state has the power only to grant, or deny the corporations rights in state elections and rights and privileges under state law. Thus it's untenable to claim that corporations can make any contribution to federal election campaigns, much less "unlimited" contributions.

This isn't a new concept. Montana has limited their contributions since 1912, and even President Theodore Roosevelt knew it over 100 years ago:
Let individuals contribute as they desire; but let us prohibit in effective fashion all corporations from making contributions for any political purpose, directly or indirectly.
Corporations are protected by state laws governing their creation, liabilities, rights, and dissolution, not the rights guaranteed to people by the US Constitution, those rights come from a different creator. The Citizens United decision is wrong, and today's ruling is wrong. They're wrong under the US Constitution, they're inconsistent with previous SCOTUS rulings, they're inconsistent with common sense, and they're wrong ethically. It was wrong in 2010, and it's wrong today.

In light of the recent SCOTUS decision in Sebelius/Burwell vs Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Woods, where the court again mistakenly applied the 1st Amendment, specifically religious rights, to a corporation in a 5-4 split decision, I'm adding additional references and commentary, including the dissenting opinion of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (the actual dissent begins on page 60 of the above link to the SCOTUS decision, this link is just a few key points from the dissent).

Related Links:

1 comment: