hearts and minds

February 1, 2010

Citizens United Incorporated v. Federal Elections Commission – the Supreme Court Strikes Out

The Citizens United Inc. v. Federal Elections Commission ruling in the first month of 2010 represents “Strike Three” called against the U.S. Supreme Court.

Strike One” was Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific RR Corp. [1886]. That case began the legal fiction that “a corporation is a person”, when a Gilded Age Supreme Court stupendously asserted that a corporation has all the rights that a living person has to due process and equal protection of the law, under the 14th Amendment, and flatly refused to hear any arguments to the contrary. That unjustifiable assertion in the headnotes, made without even recording a vote or publishing their legal reasoning on the subject in the deciding, concurring, or dissenting opinions, has become the cornerstone of corporate law in America, and the basis for the rise to dominance and supremacy of the multi-national corporation in national and world affairs. That assertion was unmistakeably contrary to the intent of Congress and the people when the 14th Amendment was ratified. The 14th Amendment was meant to overturn the notorious, slavery-affirming Dred Scott v. Sandford Supreme Court decision. It extended certain Constitutional rights to everyone (including persons who had previously been slaves) and prohibited the individual states of the United States from depriving “any person” of the rights of due process and equal protection of law. The Founders, Congress, those who wrote and ratified the 14th Amendment, and the people never intended those rights to belong to corporations.

Strike Two” was Buckley v. Valeo [1976], the legal fiction that “money equals speech”, when the Supreme Court startlingly ruled that the employment of huge sums of money, including money from undisclosed sources, to influence elections and the policies enacted by government officials, was protected under the Constitution as “free speech”, thus extending the ignoble principle of legalized bribery to governance in America.

Strikes One and Two have already inexorably rendered the everyday American citizen virtually without a voice that can be heard, and without effective access to what should be our government. They have made a mockery of the hard-won universal vote, refuted the hallowed principle of “one person, one vote”, dishonored the costly, bloody sacrifices made to win, implement, protect, and extend the Declaration of Independence, and negated the drive through history for democracy and constitutional government that represents and serves the people.

Strike Three” [CU Inc. v. FEC, in January 2010] rules that corporations have the unrestrained right to employ all the money and resources they wish, to establish, dominate and overwhelm the public discourse about anything they choose. It overturns a century of laws passed by our elected representatives, and legal precedents, and further defiles the Constitution, by ruling that corporations (including those owned by other corporations, or under foreign ownership and direction) and the super-rich, can employ their massive assets to consolidate their control of the two major parties, and the policies, laws, and judgments enacted by elected and appointed officials of all three branches of federal, state, and local government. Strike Three [CU Inc. v. FEC] threatens to conclusively end the American dream of a government that is of, by, and for the people, and establishes instead the profound legal travesty of government that is by and for the corporations, the super-rich, and the lobbyists.

These three Supreme Court strikes unjustifiably conferred the Constitutional rights that you and I legitimately have, on corporations, simply by declaring that a corporation is a “person”. A corporation could then grow to unlimited size and power, and live forever. In stark contrast to a “person”, a corporation has no natural needs, no conscience, and no soul. A corporation is without happiness, sorrows, or faith. A corporation has no allegiance to family, friends, or nation. A corporation is careless of elders, of children, or indeed, of any living things. Corporations are entities without love or morals. Corporations have not a thought or a care for ancestors or descendants. They are required by law to be motivated only by acquisitiveness and maximizing their own growth, assets, and income.

Huge trans-national corporations, which cannot bleed or be jailed for their crimes, now possess all the rights that were intended for living, breathing, mortal human beings – but without the responsibilities and liabilities and vulnerabilities that we humans have. The door has been thrown wide open for complete global corporate rule. This legalistic nonsense – this absurd and immoral definition of a “person” – is contrary to human rights, violates common sense, and dishonors and grotesquely distorts the intentions of the Founding Fathers, We the People, and those who represent us. Exxon-Mobil, AIG, GE, Toyota, et al, now claim the same precious rights as the Constitution guarantees to you and to me, to our families and neighbors, and to all human beings and the generations to follow. Magnifying corporate rights in this way shrivels and negates our human rights. It violates natural law and all that is sacred. It is dead wrong.

“Strike Three” means that it is now our turn to swing the bat. The five “Justices” (out of nine on the Court) who have thus consolidated and buttressed the already pervasive and wildly excessive control of government by huge corporations, should be impeached. The Constitution provides that only the Congress may impeach and remove a sitting Supreme Court Justice in the United States. Unfortunately, the Congress, and both major parties, are already deeply corrupted by the pervasive influence of corporate money, and corporations now control what should be our government. But in a democracy, and certainly in America, the people, alone, should control the government. We should demand impeachment of these five Justices now. But most importantly, as long as it takes, and no matter how difficult the struggle, we must obtain a full Constitutional reversal of the corrupted, indefensible, pronouncements of the Supreme Court in these “Three Strikes”.

We must have a Constitutional Amendment that declares:

(1) A corporation is not a person.
(2) Money is not speech.
(3) Only living human beings who are citizens have a right to influence government policy and elections.
(4) Every American citizen has the right to vote, and for that vote to be counted.

http://www.wisdc.org/wdc_petition.php (Sign this Wisconsin Democracy Campaign petition)
http://www.moneyedpoliticians.com/ (Get this book)
https://clydewinter.wordpress.com/category/constitutional-law/ (Read some plain talk, solid useful information, and common sense for a change)
http://democracyisforpeople.org (Help Public Citizen establish that “Democracy is for People“).
http://movetoamend.org (A corporation is not a person. Money is not speech. Amend the Constitution!)


  1. Excellent briefing, Clyde. What is unfortunately understandable is that our politicians are relieved, not outraged. They’ve just had their money market expanded, making it even more likely that they’ll not be challenged by an underfunded candidate. It’s no wonder they rank just below used car salesmen.

    Comment by MoneyedPoliticians — February 1, 2010 @ 10:05 am | Reply

  2. Yes, the devil is in the details. One minor detail is that in Strike One, the deliberation of the case didn’t give corporations the right as persons. That ‘right’ was bestowed by a clerk, writing up the notes on the case, and those notes have never been really challenged or disputed formally. It wasn’t a decision of the court, but a decision written by one person. (re: “Unequal Protection” by Thom Hartmann)

    We no longer have a democracy. As Dmitri Orlov puts it, and I wholeheartedly agree, is that we have a hokey-pokey-ocracy, where we put our right bums in, and pull the right bums out, then we put the left bums in and shake them all about.

    There is no point to our government except to administer the choices of the people, and those choices overwhelmingly cry for cheap food, cheap junk, and shiny noisy crap from China. Those voices go along with Strike Two in a way: that money equals speech, and BOY does it! Just look around and see how much yelling is going on at Miller Park, or a gas station, or the shopping malls. THAT’s where people are expressing their political opinions. They pull those opinions out of their ass and hand them to the first clerk they can see. Sometimes they even give those opinions to God on Sunday, but mostly, their ‘opinions’ (dollars) are already spoken for by corporations that enslave them to automobiles and jobs and the government which is enslaved to corporations and jobs. Mostly they are jobs that don’t do much at all for the future of the people performing the jobs.

    We can call for political action, but if we want to ‘take back’ our government, we have to hold our money (speech) in our hands and in our communities, and even better, to stop playing Their game of competition for wages. Any large group of people can form their own community, grow food, barter, and meet each others needs. That is what They are afraid we will figure out and start doing. Sooner or later, we’ll be doing it anyway, so why do we keep crying about what the fools in Washington and Wall Street are doing when we are helping them to do it?

    Comment by Dan C — February 3, 2010 @ 5:55 pm | Reply

    • You combine good sense and good humor, Dan. I love it.

      Your point about how the 1886 Supreme Court sneaked this incredible, earthshaking, “corporations are persons” precedent into the books is right on. In an article I wrote about this corporate control of government problem a year and a half ago, I made this history explicit. There was not room to do it again in this article. But the hyperlink to the case that I included in the text contains an outline of this history from another source, with a good summary and links to the text of the decision, etc.

      Jack sent me this link to an article insisting on the need for a Constitutional Amendment. The article is a well and strongly stated call for action, but does not give more than a hint of what the author thinks should be in the Amendment. The concluding paragraph of my article above gives my brief and explicit suggestions, although my language is not in acceptable legalese.

      Comment by clydewinter — February 3, 2010 @ 9:18 pm | Reply

  3. Yes, but how do you get an amendment through a CONgress that is already owned by the interests which like the status quo?
    The Democrats have a majority, yet no substantial moves toward integrity (total disclosure, open investigations of corporate influence) are forthcoming from them. Just as in 1776, leadership that has money, influence, and intelligence has to be willing to give up that wealth and prestige and risk life and limb in exchange for new government.
    The poor are the answer. They are the only ones with nothing to lose. The government and corporations are hell-bent on making them even poorer and angrier. 3 meals to a revolution.
    Cows have more votes than people because they are more valuable and more productive.

    Comment by Dan C — February 4, 2010 @ 8:17 am | Reply

    • There are two ways to propose and amend the U.S. Constitution, Dan. One way (the Constitutional Convention) does not involve the Congress. Check it out in Article V.

      Besides that, an important part of any struggle, as you know, is the effort to attain the goal. Standing on the mountain top is not all of what climbing is about. Arriving at the takeout is not all of what running rapids is about. Getting a diploma, or credentials, is not all of what learning is about. Grasping the possibilities inherent in the political issues we are facing is important for people to do, if you believe in democracy and government that is of, by, and for the people. And working, educating, and organizing to amend the Constitution informs many more people who do not already clearly know, of the dilemma we are confronting. The truth may not set you free (without a struggle), but it’s plenty hard to win freedom unless you are armed with the truth.

      If any segment of our society is isolated and shoulders the entire burden for all of us, they don’t stand a chance. The poor alone will be crushed, and the middle class, alone, won’t get off the ground. Slave rebellions are the most desperate, and are also the most cruelly suppressed. So we all are the answer. It is not up to the poor, alone, to rescue American democracy.

      Comment by clydewinter — February 4, 2010 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

  4. I love your article, Clyde. For some time I’ve been aware of the early designation that a corporation was given the status of person but didn’t recall the citation. Thanks so much for the history of this travesty. I hope your article gets wide circulation.

    Comment by Dorothy B — February 4, 2010 @ 6:03 pm | Reply

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