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groovedaddy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 12:03 PM
Original message
The Rights of Corporations
The question at the heart of one of the biggest Supreme Court cases this year is simple: What constitutional rights should corporations have? To us, as well as many legal scholars, former justices and, indeed, drafters of the Constitution, the answer is that their rights should be quite limited far less than those of people.

This Supreme Court, the John Roberts court, seems to be having trouble with that. It has been on a campaign to increase corporations legal rights based on the conviction of some conservative justices that businesses are, at least legally, not much different than people.

Now the court is considering what should be a fairly narrow campaign finance case, involving whether Citizens United, a nonprofit corporation, had the right to air a slashing movie about Hillary Rodham Clinton during the Democratic primary season. There is a real danger that the case will expand corporations rights in ways that would undermine the election system.

The legal doctrine underlying this debate is known as corporate personhood.

The courts have long treated corporations as persons in limited ways for some legal purposes. They may own property and have limited rights to free speech. They can sue and be sued. They have the right to enter into contracts and advertise their products. But corporations cannot and should not be allowed to vote, run for office or bear arms. Since 1907, Congress has banned them from contributing to federal political campaigns a ban the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/22/opinion/22tue1.html?t...
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Nuclear Unicorn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 12:16 PM
Response to Original message
1. I'm not a constitutional attorney...
...but I play one on the innarwebz.

:bounce:

I think congress writes laws governing corporations and along the way they have to be balanced with 4th amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

That said: the congress giveth, the congress may taketh away...but let's not set a precedent that allows the next GWB v2.0 to suppress groups like MoveOn, MediaMatters or ACORN.
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rhett o rick Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 03:21 PM
Response to Reply #1
5. I would hope we could make laws that would be able to distinguish between Exxon and Moveon.org. nt
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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 12:34 PM
Response to Original message
2. Corporations are entirely fictional creations of the law, and they have no Constitutional rights,
only legal rights as given by the legislatures, which may also remove or modify such rights as they see fit.
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unblock Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 03:05 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. i'm not sure even i'd go that far.
i agree that they are creations of the government, but once in existence, they have real people as owners and actual assets and such.

does the government have the right, at the stroke of a pen, to immediately seize all assets from all corporations? i think the founders would have had a problem with that, even if they agreed that it was not the quite the same thing as seizing assets directly from an individual. if nothing else, it would be an indirect seizure on the individual owners.

when you go from assets to rights, that's where it gets murky, as rights have value too. but if the government were, say, to remove the limitation on owners' liability to the amount invested, that would seem to be a taking as well.
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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 05:54 PM
Response to Reply #4
11. Nobody asked you to go that far.
Real people have constitutional and human rights. Fictional legal entities do not. The property of the Corporation belongs to the owners of the corporation, and the usual legal protections belong to them, not to the corporation. Corporations are created and destroyed at the whim of the markets all the time, their charters might as well be tissue paper, and corporations can be created and destroyed at the whim of the legislature, or the courts, like I said.
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66 dmhlt Donating Member (935 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 04:07 PM
Response to Reply #2
7. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg correctly commented ...
During the rare session interrupting the Courts summer recess on the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (08-205):

"A corporation, after all, is not endowed by its creator with inalienable rights."


Source: http://www.scotusblog.com/wp/analysis-two-precedents-in... /
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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 05:49 PM
Response to Reply #7
10. Exactly. nt
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Festivito Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 03:03 PM
Response to Original message
3. Admit the error, correct it: drop corporate personhood. /nt
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rhett o rick Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 03:22 PM
Response to Reply #3
6. I think sir, you are speaking to John "Musolini" Roberts a major corporatist. nt
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Festivito Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 04:37 PM
Response to Reply #6
9. I wouldn't care if he were the reincarnation of Benito. Correct it!
May be painful. Correcting slavery was painful, how we decided to correct it was worse, but, it's what we do. We correct ourselves, we admit we are not perfect, instead we move to a more perfect union. Time to move.
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rhett o rick Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 10:26 PM
Response to Reply #9
12. My point is that tell John Roberts to correct this problem is a waste of time.
He is a corporatist. He not only won't correct it, he will make it worse. Congress must pass laws to limit corporation power that will hopefully not make it to the SCOTUS until after the Fascist court is over.
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Festivito Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 11:06 PM
Response to Reply #12
13. We need not worry about the most lackluster of the lackluster minds.
There are a few, albeit in the minority, good minds, and at times, even simply lackluster minds can awaken. Roberts? Ahhhhhm, .. might not wake that one. 9-0 is unnecessary. 5-4 in our favor will do.
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rhett o rick Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 11:30 PM
Response to Reply #13
15. Yes we can hope. nt
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AthenaAwakened Donating Member (2 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-23-09 01:14 AM
Response to Reply #3
17. Agreed
Baron Thurlow states, "They have no soul to save and they have no body to incarcerate."

Not to mention they can "live" on in perpetuity. That alone gives corporations more power than any individual.
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Terry in Austin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 04:16 PM
Response to Original message
8. Corporate personhood is deeply rooted
Edited on Tue Sep-22-09 04:21 PM by Terry in Austin
Ever since the 1886 Supreme Court Case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, this doctrine has been the legal foundation for our growing corporatist state. Because the case redefined "person," the "equal protection" clause in the 14th amendment has been invoked in defense of corporations far more often than for the civil rights of human citizens, for which the amendment was intended.

This weed is deeply rooted in our system, and will be devilishly hard to pull.

Great book by Thom Hartmann on the whole sorry story: Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights

You might also want to check Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD) for current developments on this front.

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elleng Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 11:36 PM
Response to Reply #8
16. Thanks for this, Terry.
Here are bits of reviews of Hartmann's book, providing insight into it.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/product-description/15...
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Terry in Austin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-23-09 11:31 AM
Response to Reply #16
19. ...
:fistbump:
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elleng Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 11:25 PM
Response to Original message
14. Thoughts: Do they agree, disagree, or other?
Edited on Tue Sep-22-09 11:30 PM by elleng
Chief Justice Roberts disagreed (with Kagan): A large corporation, just like an individual, has many diverse interests. Justice Antonin Scalia said most corporations are indistinguishable from the individual who owns them.

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BridgeTheGap Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-23-09 08:14 AM
Response to Original message
18. It will probably take a constitutional amendment to fix it, but it needs to be done.
Interesting that multi-national corps., who could give shit less about the U.S.A., have so much sway over our national policies. They are undermining democracy at every turn!
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