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Employment and Civil Rights Attorney discusses the Citizens United Decision and Corporate Status

On Behalf of | Feb 4, 2013 | Blog, Uncategorized |

The dialogue in this country often mis-appreciates – sometimes broadly and badly – what the law actually says about something. That’s understandable, though regrettable and correctable. In the same way that most people completely fail to understand medicine the way doctors do and “get it wrong” far more often than they get it right, especially when they only have a little bit of information (just enough to be dangerous), lay people think they know what the law is going to say, what it’s all about, and they’re usually wrong, though no less distressed when they learn how wrong.

For example, most people think that corporations are one thing – a paper creation – and that flesh and blood human beings, with a circulatory system and a heart (and a conscience), are another. As a lay person, anyone should think this. Common sense, right? After all, a corporation really doesn’t even exist the way a person does, right? Sure, it has an office, and it might own property and such, but it’s still not real. It’s just a fictional construct written down on a piece of paper that a bunch of people agree to. A corporation can’t eat, speak, go to the bathroom, laugh, cry or feel. You can’t tickle it, tell it a joke, or have it rub for head when you’re sick. It can only “act” through human beings. Anytime a corporation “does something,” we need to remember that human beings are doing it for the corporation.

But there’s a strange, almost sociopathic disconnect between the humanity of the person when they act in their private and personal lives, on the one hand, and when they act for the purposes of the “corporation,” on the other. Do you think the people that did the evil at Enron, ATT and Tyco would’ve done all that if they were doing it themselves, for themselves, literally, stealing that money with their own hands? I doubt it for most of them.

Human beings that would never dare to be as dishonest, callous, cruel or selfish in their personal lives as they are when they serve corporate interests seem to feel perfectly comfortable displaying those horrid traits when they act for the corporation. But it’s not that they’re really all sociopaths, though some of them probably are. They do this because they’ve been taught – our entire culture has been taught – that there’s a “separateness” between the paper goals of a corporation on the one hand the human goals of a person on the other, and that personal accountability is different as between the two.

The corporation’s sole purpose in life is to make money. It doesn’t care for its soul, or its conscience, because it doesn’t have them. It depends on human beings to effectuate this goal and sadly, for the last several hundred years, it’s been the western tradition to allow human beings to do anything in service of these goals, as long as these people act behind the corporate wall, the “mask” which lets them get away with products that murder and maim, with theft, with the worst kinds of fraud. We protect those human beings wearing the corporate mask from the human consequences of those acts by giving them the protection of the “corporate shield,” which essentially absolves them of any moral, ethical and especially, legal, responsibility, for wrongdoing in service of the soulless corporation’s greedy aims.

Of course, this was a western phenomenon at first, and now it is a worldwide one. Congratulations to us all here in the west.

That’s why it’s so ironic that, at the same time that the neoconservatives and selfish “ultra capitalists” talk about this “separateness” when they’re trying to protect corporate wrongdoers, they then completely reverse themselves when they’re trying to get corporations to unduly and improperly influence the outcome of elections by spending insane amounts of money to support conservative candidates.

It is, clearly defined and bluntly stated, the worst kind of two-sided, double-talking cynicism; it’s positively Orwellian in its seductiveness. Regrettably, though, most people don’t even understand that it’s happening.

The same “super conservative” bloc of politicians and Supreme Court Justices that will talk till they’re blue in the face about the “corporate shield” and will try mightily to excuse any crime in service to the corporation’s money goals have now been screaming routinely about how corporations are “people, too.” Why say something so patently wrong? And stupid? And most importantly of all, why say something so dangerously opposite to their normal line of nonsense – that corporations absolve moral responsibility because they’re not people? Have they gone crazy? Well, crazier?

Hearken. They’re counting on your complacency and failure to understand the shape of what they’ve been trying to do for 35 years; to turn America into a corporate, fascist playground. The answer, of course, lies in the Citizens United decision, and abominable decision by the United States Supreme Court, from 2010.

In the Citizens United Case, the Court, in holding that corporations are essentially “people” and have the same free speech rights that people have, putatively relied on the decision in the case of New York Times v. Sullivan, from 1964.

Now, I want to point out something for a moment. “Free speech rights” aren’t just words. They’re part of the Bill of Rights, which is part of the Constitution, the first of its kind on the planet. People died to preserve the right of this Union to create a Constitution to benefit people. People have also died, by the hundreds of thousands, in wars since, to continue to protect and defend that right.

Do you think that all those people who died, and all the people who grieve them, think those deaths happened so that Walmart can donate millions of dollars to super conservative candidates and try to influence an election so that the candidate who wins the election will protect Walmart’s right to continue to abuse workers? Does that feel right to you?

It doesn’t because it isn’t.

The New York Times decision didn’t hold that corporations are people and the Citizens United Case shouldn’t have held that, either. But this is what I’ve come to expect from super conservative Justices who see their role on the Supreme Court as protecting the rights of corporations and the wealthy as their paramount mandate. They speak eloquently but cynically and dishonestly about what they do and how they do it, sneer as they brush away appropriate and very accurate criticism of their very clear agenda, and hold themselves generally aloof.

Corporations are not people, and money is not “speech.” It’s wrong to allow corporations to make donations to political candidates. It’s wrong to allow corporations to use human beings as fronts in making those donations. Corporations are not human beings; human beings are human beings. Human beings should be held accountable for what they do no matter in whose service they do it, the corporate shield should be absolved, the Citizens United decision should be Congressionally repealed and corporations need to be reigned in before it is too late.

The corporate culture in this country is out of control, and represents a giant sinkhole on the Journey to Justice.