MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As the anniversary of the infamous Citizens United decision nears (January 21), you can count on Jim Hightower to stick it to the Supreme Court (5-4 corporate majority): "If a corporation is a person, where's its navel?"
Although Citizens United is generally considered the most recent apogee of the expanding legal concept of corporate personhood, it was - on a more focused level - a case about campaign financing. What the ruling did was nullify a section of the McCain-Feingold election financing reform law. In overturning a District of Columbia federal court ruling, the Supreme Court opened the floodgates of corporate, union and Super PAC expenditures in elections as "third parties."
Indeed, Justice Stevens wrote in his dissent from the Citizens United ruling:
At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.
The Citizens United decision was really representative of just one part of the growing influence of corporations and big money on our government. However, the danger of corporate personhood as a legally enshrined precedent is hydra-headed.
"I'll believe in corporate personhood when one of them is executed in Texas." That's a quip that caromed around the Internet a few weeks back.
BuzzFlash at Truthout doesn't support capital punishment, but it would be nice to see a few corporate CEO's hauled into court and held accountable as persons for corporate misdeeds.
The best place to start is with Wall Street. If advocates for democracy can get arrested and sentenced for protesting, it's time to put the persons running predatory big business on trial for laws that they have broken.
That would begin to make the people behind corporate personhood no longer placed above the law.
Meanwhile, if we are going to stop corporations and big money from continuing to buy our government, campaign finance reform remains of the highest priority.