In a convulsion of activisim, the Republican Supreme Court clan has handed an astonishing victory to big corporate America.  In a 5-4 decision, all Republican appointees to the Supreme Court came squarely down on the side of big business by sweeping away limits on campaign spending that makes the now-existing monetary chasm between corporate America and the average citizen a canyon of enormous proportions.

The Founding Fathers had a fear of corporate power having been under the thumb of corporate rule from England.  And American citizens also distrusted corporate entities – legislatures held tight control over corporations until the mid-1800s.

Corporate law at the time was focused on protection of the public interest, and not on the interests of corporate shareholders. Corporate charters were closely regulated by the states; forming a corporation usually required an act of legislature.  The penalty for abuse or misuse of the corporate charter was not a plea bargain and a fine, but dissolution of the corporation.

With the advent of the industrial age, corporate power grew with the shift from an agrarian society to a wage-earner based society.  Corporate owners amassed fortunes, using their powers to buy legislators who weakened laws that had previously limited corporate influence.  In Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 118 U.S. 394 (1886), the United States Supreme Court recognized the corporation as a ‘natural person’ under law – albeit in a statement of obiter dictum. The Court intimated in its statement that corporations were entitled to protection under the 14th amendment – an amendment originally passed to protect emancipated slaves in the hostile south.

Corporations are mere legal entities – fictions created by law.  They are not human beings – they cannot vote, they cannot drive a car, they cannot have families, and on and on.  They lack virtually every trait that human beings possess, yet somehow, somewhere along the path of advancing industrialization and power grabs by “robber barons”, corporations became “persons” for the purpose of the Constitution’s 14th amendment protections.

With flippant disregard for the realities of the true identity of corporations and the magnitude of corporate spending power, the Supreme Court Republican “Gang of Five” has fallen into bed with corporate powers.  The instigator in the case, Citizens United, touts on its website a laughable statement, “Dedicated to Restoring our Government to Citizen Control.”

Surely they jest!  Sweeping away limits on corporate contributions certainly does not in any sense return “government to citizen control.”  The decision simply creates even more power and control in corporate entities.  Some will argue that unions will benefit from this decision as well.  Unions will benefit; however, unions hold nowhere near the power and control that is exercised by corporations.

In 2009, the union membership rate for public sector workers (37.4 percent) was substantially higher than the rate for private industry workers (7.2 percent).   In total, union membership only reaches 44.6% of workers.  Simply allowing unions to contribute just as corporations do does not equalize the situation.   Corporate influence is now at 100% while union influence – public and private – is at only 44.6%.

The Court has masked its support of corporate power by relying on the old bugaboo of infringing on “free speech.”  Cutting its ties with previous decisions limiting the ability of corporations to influence elections by tossing out millions of dollars in campaign contributions, the Court has disregarded the Founding Fathers rationale behind free speech as crucial in a democracy.   In the marketplace of ideas, free speech is considered essential for voters to make informed selections during elections.

The Republican clique on the Supreme Court has continued the Bush administration’s catering and kowtowing to corporate powers – a trend that will leave American citizens with diminishing control over the election process while increasing corporate ability to buy elections.

If the Wall Street bailout was a disaster for American citizens then unfettered corporate access to buying elections may very well be the ruin of the election process as we know it.

Can a piece of paper equal citizen voting power?


About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
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  1. The American propensity to be enamored with corporations is fundamentally the same as what happens with pop-culture icons. We treat them special, allowing them to gain benefits without having to suffer the same responsibilities that most individuals would have to bear. Famous people are often treated more kindly when they break the law than the average citizen is, and the same can be said for corporations.

    As a culture, we have developed this habit of making icons out of famous people and corporations because it allows us to visualize what we aspire to have for ourselves. We claim to hate the fact that someone can get away with breaking the rules, but if we were all honest we’d have to admit that most of us would really like to enjoy those same prerogatives. We are not loathsome of them so much as we are envious of them.

    In a sense, it’s very similar to the lottery system. Suppose one million people each contribute a dollar to the fund. Then, one of them is picked at random to win the entire pot. The winner is then held up as a symbol for others to aspire to, an example of how a person can win big without going through the normal channels of having to work hard. Although the majority will necessarily be losers, their cost is so small as to allow them to minimize it. All one million people can then tell themselves that for a price that is negligible, they have an opportunity to possibly become “The One.”

    And this is exactly how it works with celebrities and corporations. It is the reason we pay unreasonable fees to watch crappy movies, and it is the reason we pay a higher price for a name brand item that is no better than it’s generic equivalent. And it happens because we desperately need to have people holding the positions of icon (both culturally and economically) , even if they are not worthy, simply so that we have a visual reminder of what we might become if we are lucky.

    I suspect that our modern day phenomenon is closely related to the ritual sacrifices of the Mayans and the public executions of Gladiators in ancient Rome. By allowing such institutions to exist, every member of those societies was taking a small risk that they might eventually become the one who was killed. But the odds of this happening to any individual were small compared to receiving the protection of the Gods or whatever other benefits they perceived as coming to them from this.

  2. As far as the law on campaign contributions is concerned, there is simply no way to allow corporate donations while still maintaining that the laws against foreign influence on elections are respected. To prove this point, suppose that I was a Chinese businessman who wanted to contribute money directly to a candidate for a U.S. election. Strictly speaking, this would be prohibited by law. But what’s to stop that Chinese businessman from picking an existing U.S. corporation or even erecting a shell corporation of his own here for the sole purpose of channeling his money to the candidate.

    In reality, allowing donations from anything other than individual U.S. citizens means that there are no laws against foreign contributions to our elections. It doesn’t matter either whether the corporation is Microsoft or the AFL-CIO, a corporation exist for the sole purpose of allowing it to do things that the individual is prohibited from doing.

  3. foundersten says:

    “Corporate influence is now at 100% while union influence – public and private – is at only 44.6%.”

    This statement is incredibly weak. It doesn’t make enough sense to argue. How does a corporation have any more influence than a union? I could use your same logic and suggest that Wal-mart, with 2m employees or only maybe 2% of the the total US workforce, is seriously disadvantaged to the union’s 44% share. C’mon…

    I am not sure what the fuss is over the Supreme Court decision. When a decision “levels the playing field”, but happens to benefit corporations suddenly its un-American. In every aspect of taxation a corporation is treated as an individual entity- why shouldn’t they be allowed to represent themselves?

  4. foundersten says:

    One more thing, I looked at your link regarding the Founding Fathers. It won’t load, but the URL is intriguing. What is it with the left’s obsession with the concept of democracy in this nation? We are a democratic republic. We have no shortage of democracy. We are exceedingly short on representation.

  5. Foundersten:

    I am talking about corporate power cumulatively – not just one single corporation. You compared apples to oranges. Only 44.6% of the workers are unionized. Union numbers no way stack up to the influence of the WalMarts of the world.

    The decision didn’t level the playing field. If you research the history of corporate existence in this country, you will find that our Founding Fathers and Americans were distrustful of corporations. Corporations are not human beings and should not be treated as such. This happened because the Supreme Court over a century ago decided that corporations should be treated as persons. Come on, they aren’t persons, and it is ridiculous to treat them as such.

    As to taxation, of course they are treated as individual entities, but that doesn’t mean they are people.

  6. foundersten says:


    Your argument still doesn’t work. My apples and oranges are the same as yours…uh, in a manner of speaking of course. Your argument relies on the assumption that all corporations have the same agenda. It also relies on the assumption that 100% of workers are employed by corporations. I don’t know what the stats are, but I’d bet that the total number of people employed by “corporations” is roughly equivalent to the number of people unionized- especially considering the ungodly number of people employed by some level of government.

    I don’t understand the decision to make corporations a class of individual either, but the perks should come with the tax liability. If this is wrong, and I could entertain that idea, then the problem isn’t that corporations can lobby- that’s only fair. The problem is in how they are legally recognized. Then again, what difference does it make? If the laws are changed to recognize corporate entities the same as any other business, don’t they continue to have the right to lobby?

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