Carpool Lane Guy

Challenging Corporate Personhood

What is "Corporate Personhood" and Why Does it Matter?

“Corporate Personhood” is a legal concept, also known as a “legal fiction” that, as a matter of interpretation of the word “person” in the 14th Amendment, has legally guaranteed certain, increasing constitutional protections for corporations since 1886.

The misguided argument behind corporate personhood is that, since corporations are organizations of people, people should not be deprived of their constitutional rights when they act collectively.

Under this legal rhetoric, in 1886 corporations were granted the ability to sue and be sued in court in the same manner that natural persons or unincorporated associations of persons can. Since then, over 125 years of oppressive, misguided case law has solidified the fabrication of corporate personhood and laid the path for the extension of corporate power over humans.

Over the past three decades, the fabrication of corporate rights have allowed corporations increased opportunity to legally strike down democratically-enacted laws in environmental, health care, consumer rights and civil rights sectors – specifically through the development of a set of legal rights under state and federal statues that have granted corporations protections under the First Amendment.  Before 1976, “commercial speech” was not protected under the First Amendment. Since then, commercial speech has gained a stranglehold on our nation's electoral processes.

On January 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission by a 5-4 decision, that restrictions on corporate expenditures in elections contained in the federal Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (known as BCRA or “McCain-Feingold”) violated the First Amendment protections of free speech .

This Supreme Court ruling gave corporations the right to spend unlimited funds in U.S. elections because their corporate personhood granted them the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech. This represents the largest expansion of corporate personhood to date.

The issue of corporate free speech and corporate personhood therefore became more prominent than ever before in human history during the 2012 U.S. election cycle, due to the unprecedented amounts of money corporations were allowed to spend on campaigns, candidates and committees. In response, last November over 100 communities across the nation passed ballot initiatives to amend the U.S. Constitution and reverse the Supreme Court's 2011 Citizens United decision.

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