January 21, 2011 marks the first anniversary of the infamous US Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in which the Court ruled that corporations had First Amendment rights concerning freedom of speech and that limitations on their ability to spend during elections constituted an infringement of those rights. Consequently, corporations can spend as much as they want on third party campaigns, including foreign corporations that have an American subsidiary.
Of course, this means that corporations will make contributions to organizations like the American Chamber of Commerce, which will in turn invest millions in political advertising supporting the positions taken be their preferred candidates. So much for democracy.
At the moment, I happen to be reading a must read, Thom Hartmann’s Unequal Protection: How Corporations Became “People” – And How You Can Fight Back. In his book, Hartmann chronicles the abuses of power that result from granting what are essentially human rights to non-human legal fictions. (In case you are wondering, in Canada corporations are not granted Charter rights). For example, corporations are protected by the privacy rights of the Fourth Amendment and do not have to reveal information against their desire not to disclose. As a result, when it comes to knowing what is the composition of the toxic concoction used in the fracking process to extract shale gas, the public is left in the dark. Moreover, corporations shielded by the Fifth Amendment can lie to the public as was the case of Nike that lied about its production methods used for the fabrication of its products.
But what really blows my mind is the whole notion of corportate personhood is founded of a big fat whopping lie. The US Supreme Court never granted natural person status to corporations in any decision rendered by the Court. The notion that a corporation is a natural person and is subject to the equal protection requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment is found in the headnote added to the decision by the then court reporter when the decision of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railway was published after the death of the sitting chief justice of the Court. Importantly, the headnote has no legal status, but was used to establish precedent in a subsequent decision by the subsequent chief justice and then became part of the case law. Talk about a miscarriage of justice.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I try as best I can to flush out the cultural myths that lead us to live within the lie. It strikes me that if average Americans would like to do something to improve their lot, they should do something to address the huge lie that has been perpetrated at their expense and end this outrageous affront to democracy.