Since my days as an undergraduate, I’ve heard that corporations are legally considered to be persons under the Constitution and, as such, are guaranteed the same rights as U.S. citizens. I have been told that this is a “legal fiction,” and see this as an illogical if not outrageous principle.
There was a time when corporate charters were granted by Congress, and that, periodically, corporations had to show that they continued to serve the public good or their charter could be terminated. Further, the managers of the corporations could be held legally liable for the decisions that were made by that organization.
Then in 1886, with Santa Clara vs. Southern Pacific Railroad, corporations were granted the same constitutional rights that you and I possess. And since they were deemed to be persons, the managers and directors were considered to be employees doing what they were told and could not be held liable for corporate decisions. This theory was never adjudicated but decided by a clerk of the Supreme Court in a backroom deal.
For 136 years, this has never been challenged for its legality or lack of due process. Since that time, corporations have been allowed to ride on the coattails of the hard-won constitutional victories of former slaves, immigrants, American Indians, the poor and the list goes on and on.
Now, through the recent Citizens United decision, corporations as “persons” can give unlimited funds to elect their toadies to do their bidding for them in the state houses, Congress, and, yes, even the White House.
I urge every citizen who is as outraged as I am to join organizations working for no less than a constitutional amendment declaring that corporations are not persons and that money is not speech. Further, this amendment will nullify the recent Citizens United decision that grants unlimited funding of political campaigns.
As citizens who value our democracy, we must say “Enough!” to corporate rule and return to the time when corporations served the public weal and were accountable to the people.