Corporations Are Artificial Legal Entities, My Friend.

Corporations represent a real danger to our very fragile democracy. Contrary to the comments of Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential campaign, corporations are not ‘people’. A corporation is an artificial legal entity that, unlike “people”, has perpetual life, limited liability (no criminal liability) and no ability to vote. Additionally corporations have no morality, no loyalty to the United States and, outside the duty to make a profit, have no other purpose to exist. Furthermore, managers of these corporations have a fiduciary duty to maximize shareholder value. Therefore, if corporations are legally allowed to engage in political spending, as they were granted by the Supreme Court in 2010, then those corporate managers have a fiduciary duty to corrupt our government in order to maximize their profits irregardless of how many victims are subject to the collateral damage that are left in their wake.

For over 100 years in the United States, political spending by corporations was illegal.

In 2010 with two slams of the gavel from the Supreme Court, American corporations went from being denied from spending any money in elections, to being able to spend unlimited amounts. In summary, the court ruled that corporations are ‘people’, that ‘people’ are guaranteed the right of ‘free speech’ and that independent political expenditures are ‘speech’. Therefore, government laws denying corporate political spending were unconstitutional. The court upheld the laws denying corporations from making direct contributions to candidates or parties, but corporations could now provide unlimited funds to political action committees (Super PACs)

Since these newly legalized independent campaign expenditures from corporations are unlimited, they have become an even bigger factor in the powerful corporations and the wealthiest Americans gaining preferential access to elected officials. Additionally, these powerful groups gained unprecedented leverage over Representatives and Senators with the mere threat of the negative advertising power of their Super PACSs. The corporate Super PACs are not legally allowed to coordinate with campaigns,  but that doesn’t deny the corrupting influence these corporate Super PACs have over our elected officials.

In their ruling, the Supreme Court completely ignored the potential for outright corruption. The Court found that since corporations were disallowed from directly coordinating with campaigns, there wasn’t a chance for ‘quid pro quo’ corruption. The Supreme Court has completely ignored the concept of “the appearance of corruption” which is a fundamental danger in any democracy. When polled, the public overwhelmingly views corporate political expenditures as a method to gain unfair legislative access. This appearance of corruption in our electoral system is what led to Donald Trump’s ascension and why slogans such as “drain the swamp” were so effective. The mere appearance of corruption is toxic for any democracy.

In order to justify the potential for unlimited political spending by corporations, the Supreme Court argued that there is no such thing as “too much free speech.” However, since few private individuals can match the vast sums of money that corporations can amass, corporations have an unfair influence on the electoral  process. Corporations now have the ability to outspend all others, to push other voices out of prime broadcasting spots and to dominate the “market place of ideas.” The unlimited spending by corporations thus marginalizes other less than well-funded groups or individuals.

The Supreme Court has completely failed to recognize the inherent dangers of the existence of corporate power in our electoral process. The courts have so narrowly defined corruption to be that if you do not have ‘quid pro quo’ than you do not have corruption. Their opinion has completely ignored the corrupting influence of money. There is a difference between individual corruption where a politician takes a cash bribe for his/her own enrichment and the corruption of the process where wealthy people and industries are buying public policy through political expenditures. As a result of the recent Supreme Court decisions, we are living with the latter. 

Corporate spending in our electoral system must be made illegal again.


Popular Posts