Really Simple: We Need to Get Rid of the Perverse Notion of "Corporate Personhood"

With the unbelievable right-wing judicial activism of the Roberts court, we are now on the brink of losing our Republic and seeing our political system devolve into something like Mussolini's definition of Fascism (Mussolini said: "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power"). Don't think this is an exaggeration.

People for the American Way (do I need to disclose that PFAW gave me a very modest fellowship 5 year ago?), is mounting a campaign to preserve our nominal democracy by passing a Constitutional amendment giving Congress the power to regulate corporate campaign money. It'll be an uphill battle -- the last Amendment to the Constitution, the 27th, was enacted 18 years ago; it had originally been submitted in 1789.

I don't know the specifics of their preferred amendment. But I'm pleased to see a piece of the progressive establishment take on this issue. Sign their petition here.

Update: a friend sends a link to Another good one --check it out.

What follows is a piece I wrote in July, 2006, after another Supreme Court decision struck down a different campaign finance law. I deleted the first few graphs discussing that case, and I think it stands up pretty well today.

Corporations Aren't People

The [2006] decision reveals yet again how deeply entrenched the role of big money is in the American political system. Over the last 150 years, bizarre legal doctrines have developed that have effectively codified the power of special interests. In addition to the idea in [Buckley v Valeo] that "money equals speech," we've been saddled with the Orwellian concept of "corporate personhood."

"Corporate personhood" gives corporations -- entirely artificial entities created by the state -- the same individual rights that the framers fought and died to secure for flesh-and-blood citizens (or at least for white male property holders, but you get the idea). The doctrine started in England reasonably enough; it was only by considering corporations "persons" that they could be taken to court and sued. But during the 19th century, the Robber Barons and a few corrupt jurists deep in their pockets took the concept to a whole new level. After the Civil War, while many of those same interests were fighting to keep African-Americans from being enfranchised, the doctrine took on new weight -- the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment was extended to corporations, and Thomas Jefferson slowly rolled over in his grave. The trend of granting more and more rights to corporations continues today.

As long as these ideas are embedded in our legal system, talk of cleaning up government -- of campaign finance and lobby reform -- are just that: talk. On these fundamental issues of democratic participation, incremental reform is a road leading nowhere.

Which is why we need bold, populist ideas for real structural reform. I say let's rip a page from Karl Rove's Scorched-Earth Politics for Dummies and offer a progressive constitutional amendment that would end this madness once and for all.


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