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WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2010

Citizens United — Post #5

This week is a video blog post on the fundamental differences between people and corporations. Recorded yesterday, Bob said,

“America is a country for flesh and blood human beings with comparable life spans, comparable emotional systems, comparable needs and aspirations in contract to the energy of a corporation which is, necessarily, limited to profit maximization within the law. And this [Citizens United] changes the nature of the country. And it changes the nature of the country for the worse.”

What do you think? Please be in touch with your comments at [email protected]

More to come on Citizens United: in the coming weeks we’ll have more video, guest bloggers and more from Bob on how he plans to address the issue.

There is lots of reaction and action around this issue and there are a lot of online resources. Have you seen Free Speech for People? Lots of good information there. And, we want to hear from you if you are working on this issue or have a website with related content. [email protected]
POSTED BY STEPHANIE PHILBRICK
LABELS: CITIZENS UNITED, CORPORATE POWER, INFLUENCE, PERSONHOOD, SPEECH, SUPREME COURT
TUESDAY, MARCH 23, 2010

Citizens United – Question #4 What is Corporate Speech?

Welcome to the blog series on the impact of Citizens United. Bob has posed several questions regarding the case and he would like your thoughts. Email us at [email protected]

Post #4 What is Corporate Speech?
Bob writes,
Start by contrasting what informs individual speech and contrast that with the fact that corporate speech is informed by its legal obligation to make a profit. It should be apparent that corporate speech is materially different and inconsistent with human speech.

BEHAVIOR
CORPORATIONS
HUMANS
Mode of functioning
Power/Efficiency
Harmony/Justice

Competition
Cooperation

Hegemony
Pluralism
Ethical guide
Efficiency
Justice

Winner takes all
Substantial equality

Short term
Eternity

Material
Spiritual

Limited liability
Unlimited responsibility
Measure of accountability
Rule driven
Principle driven

Cost/benefit calculation
Holistic

Externalize costs
Internalize full impact of functioning

Resource depleting
Resource conserving
To whom accountable
The market place
Society as a whole

No personal accountability – no imprisonment
Personal accountability in tort and criminal

Shareholders/stakeholders
Citizens

What do you think? Tell us at [email protected]

Post #1 The Perplexing Case of Citizens United

Post #2 Judicial language

Post #3 Corporate Speech
POSTED BY STEPHANIE PHILBRICK
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 17, 2010

Citizens United – Question #3 Corporate Speech

Blog series on the impact of Citizens United Bob’s questions and thoughts about the Citizens United ruling. He invited you to write to us with your take on the issues. Post #3 Corporate Speech Justice Stevens raises the interesting question: how does a corporation speak? In his dissenting opinion he wrote,

“It is an interesting question ‘who’ is even speaking when a business corporation places an advertisement that endorses or attacks a particular candidate. Presumably it is not the customers or employees, who typically have no say in such matters. It cannot realistically be said to be the shareholders, who tend to be far removed from the day-to-day decisions of the firm and whose political references may be opaque to management. Perhaps the officers or directors of the corporation have the best claim to be the ones speaking, except their fiduciary duties generally prohibit them from using corporate funds for personal end. some individuals associated with the corporation must make the decision to place the ad, but the idea that these individuals are thereby fostering their self-expression or cultivating their critical faculties is fanciful. It is entirely possible that the corporation’s electoral message will conflict with their personal convictions. Take away the ability to use the general treasury funds for some of these ads, and no one’s autonomy, dignity, or political equality has been impinged upon in the least.” (dissenting opinion p. 77)

So much of the popular reaction to the case has centered around free speech and this, in my mind,raises three immediate questions:

Who is speaking when a corporations talks?
Can a corporation represent all of its shareholders and workers in political speech?
How will they decide who to represent?
What do you think? Let us know at [email protected] Post #1 The perplexing case of Citizens United Post #2 Judicial language
POSTED BY STEPHANIE PHILBRICK
THURSDAY, MARCH 11, 2010

Nell Minow testimony from Citizens United hearing

Nell Minow testified today before the House Financial Services Committee at a hearing on Corporate Governance After Citizens United. Along with Columbia University professor John C. Coffee, Ann Yerger of Council of Institutional Investors and others, Nell weighed in on how the Supreme Court ruling will affect governance issues and shareholder rights. In her prepared remarks, she wrote,

“The basic premise underlying the Court’s ruling is its iteration, and constant reiteration, of the proposition that the First Amendment bars regulatory distinctions based on a speaker’s identity, including its ‘identity’ as a corporation. While that glittering generality has rhetorical appeal, it is not a correct statement of the law. Nor does it tell us when a corporation may engage in electioneering that some of its shareholders oppose. It does not even resolve the specific question whether Citizens United may be required to finance some of its messages with money in its PAC. The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural person in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court’s disposition of this case.”
POSTED BY STEPHANIE PHILBRICK
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 10, 2010

Citizen United — Question #2

Blog series about the impact of Citizens United
Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting Bob’s comments and questions about the Citizens United ruling. He invites you to respond to these post or write uswith your thoughts on the issue.

Post #2: Judicial Language
The language of judicial supporters of corporate personhood mingles various kinds of association. In his lengthy Austin dissent, Justice Scalia referred to 1.) “that type of voluntary association known as a corporation;” 2.) “that form of association known as a for-profit corporation;” and 3.) “those private associations known as corporations.” (494 U.S. 652, 680, 686, 694-5)

In his Citizens United concurring opinion and in which Justice Alito concurred, Scalia refers to 1.) “associational speech;” 2.) “the right to speak in association with other individual persons;” and 3.) “the speech of many individual Americans who have associations in a common cause, giving the leadership of the party [Republican or Democrat] the right to speak on their behalf. The association of individuals in a business corporation is no different — or at least it cannot be denied the right to speak on the simplistic ground that it is not ‘and individual American.” (558 U.S., No. 08-205 (2010): 5, 7, 8)

A corporation is a creature of the state; it is not a natural being created by the Almighty and entitled to the rights of the flesh and blood human beings. Justice Marshall made this clear in the earliest days of the court in Dartmouth College v. Woodward (see Marshall opinion).

What do you think?
Let us know at [email protected]

See Post #1 of this series
POSTED BY STEPHANIE PHILBRICK