Welcome Jeff Clements (FreeSpeechForPeople) and Host, George Zornick (TheNation)

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

Corporations Are Not People: Why They Have More Rights Than You Do and What You Can Do About It

Money’s corrupting influence on our politics is evident behind so many news cycles: Mitt Romney’s recent victory in Florida, for example, was a dramatic turnaround from the South Carolina vote a week earlier, but one that may have had a lot more to do with the advertising carpet bombing by Romney-affiliated SuperPACS than a simple matter of old-fashioned politics. You may not care for Newt Gingrich, but his defeat in a race so badly distorted by outside money is an ominous indicator of things to come.

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Citizen’s United vs. the Federal Election Commission certainly didn’t create this problem, but it sure made it a lot worse. Consider: a shocking 72 percent of campaign spending in the 2010 midterms came from secretive groups that were prohibited from spending money in the previous midterm elections. In that election, for the first time in 20 years, outside groups spent more to influence the election than did actual political parties. And the percentage of total election spending from groups that don’t disclose donors has risen from 1 percent in 2006 to 47 percent in the most recent elections.

Citizen’s United is responsible for much of this damage, and it reinforced a poisonous line of thinking: that corporations are, for legal purposes, the same as people. That’s why the Court ruled they could spend in unlimited amounts on elections—since it reasoned that individual people could, why not corporations too? This was an argument rejected by a less-conservative Supreme Court only two years earlier, but Roberts and Alito led this new charge into the wild west of campaign finance.

In his book Corporations Are Not People: The Definitive Guide to Overturning Citizen’s United, Jeffrey Clements lays out a detailed and persuasive indictment of this problem, and offers some solutions, including a constitutional amendment to overturn that decision. The book details in stark terms what Citizen’s United is all about:

Citizen’s United is not merely a mistake easily corrected, nor is the case simply about campaign finance or money in politics. Citizen’s United is a corporate power case masquerading as a free speech case. In many ways, the decision was less a break from the recent past than a proclamation about the sad reality of corporate power in America. The Court’s declaration in Citizen’s United that corporations have the same rights as people might strike most Americans as bizarre. To the five justices in the majority and to the corporate legal movement out of which they have come, however, it was more like a victory lap or an end-zone dance for the three-decade-long campaign for corporate power and corporate rights.

Clements is co-founder of Free Speech for People, and did two stints as assistant attorney general in Massachusetts, fighting tobacco companies, enforcing fair trade, and leading many other battles for consumer and environmental protection. He’s here today to answer your questions, so let’s get rolling!

121 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Jeffrey Clements, Corporations Are Not People: Why They Have More Rights Than You Do and What You Can Do About It”

BevW February 4th, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Jeff, George, Welcome to the Lake.

George, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Thanks, Bev and George.

dakine01 February 4th, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Good afternoon Jeff and George and welcome to FDL this afternoon.

Jeff, forgive me if you answer this in the big but realistically, what are the chances of Congress actually passing a constitutional amendment banning “corporations as people” and then having the states ratify said amendment.

For all the crocodile tears from the pols complaining about the effects of CU, they really only seem to dislike it when the ads are aimed at them directly and are quite fine with the ads that attack their opponents

BevW February 4th, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Jeff, thanks for being here today.

Zornick George February 4th, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Thanks everyone for joining us—this is a crucially important topic that can’t be discussed enough. In fact the main argument in this book is that concerted citizen action is the most promising way to stem the tide of money in politics.

So, Jeff (if I may)—the crux of your book is that Citizen’s United is not a free speech case—quite contrary to Justice Kennedy’s written opinion—but rather a corporate power case. This seems crucial to understanding why it’s so radical. Can you expand a little bit on that? In other words, what about people who say they disagree with the effects of Citizens United but don’t feel the government can restrict corporations from spending money on elections?

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 2:05 pm
In response to George Zornick @ 5

Thanks for hosting, George, and for all of your great work. The key to understanding Citizens United is to remember what the Court actually struck down in the McCain-Feingold law: a modest and flawed corporate regulation. Congress had made a different rule for corporations in elections than for human beings, trying to keep corporate money from controlling our elections. That’s the law that the Court struck down. That law had nothing to do with the rights of the people to speak.
Those who think that corporations should be able to spend money in elections are free to take that argument to the Congress but whether that idea is a good one or not should be up to the we the people to decide in our elected branches of government. The Court says we can’t do that.

Zornick George February 4th, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Let’s get into the backstory a little here. Your book details the corporate response to the Earth Day movement in the earlier 1970s, and tags it as the beginning of this corporate revolution against citizen action and government response. Can you talk a little about that?

eCAHNomics February 4th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Weren’t the unions on the same side as corps? If I got that right, why?

eCAHNomics February 4th, 2012 at 2:10 pm

If I remember correctly, Zinn said that there have been many more cases brought by corps under the ‘persons’ clause of the 14th amendment than had been brought by, ya know, real people.

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 2:12 pm
In response to George Zornick @ 7

Yes, that’s where the road to Citizens United really began. 20 million Americans had come into the streets on that first Earth Day April 1970, when rivers were catching on fire, oil spills marred the Pacific coast, and our land, air and water were trashed from decades of corporate externalization of toxics. Within months and a few short years, Congress and a republican president (Nixon) enacted a wave of environmental reform that really worked (for a while). In response to that and other democratic reforms, Lewis Powell, a tobacco lawyer and Chamber of Commerce adviser, came up with the so-called Powell Memo, a secret call for corporations to organize money and resources over many years to take power away from the democratic process and to corporations, and to use “activist minded courts” to protect corporations.

eCAHNomics February 4th, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Corps are no longer U.S. They may be registered in Delaware, but they are multinational. Aren’t there laws against foreign finance of U.S. elections (not that turnabout wouldn’t be fair, since U.S. plays such a large role in other countries’ elections), and can the international aspect of corps biz be used against them in their financial influence on U.S. elections?

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 2:15 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 8

The McCain-Feingold restriction that was invalidated in Citizens United did apply to unions as well as corporations. It’s true that some unions, including the AFL-CIO, filed briefs in support of Citizens United. At the time though, not even Citizens United (the plaintiff) was arguing for the Court to do what it did (overthrow decades of precedent). Now the AFL-CIO president is calling for a Constitutional Amendment to reverse Citizens United, and many unions and business leaders are doing the same.

Zornick George February 4th, 2012 at 2:15 pm

No doubt the pernicious influence of the Koch Brothers in today’s politics shows that big polluters are still at the forefront of trying to buy off politicians.

But there are others — you spent some of your career battling big corporations, and in particular tobacco companies, as assistant attorney general in Massachusetts. Can you tell us how these battles, in particular against tobacco companies, helped form your current writing and activism?

dakine01 February 4th, 2012 at 2:16 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 10

Ah, good ol’ “activist judges”

We just didn’t understand at the time that whatever the right wing was complaining about loudest, they were probably doing more of behind the scenes than other folks could ever dream of doing

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 2:16 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 9

That’s true- Justice Black in a 1938 case called Connecticut Life Insurance has a great dissent addressing the abuse of the word “person” in the 14th Amendment by corporations, and showing how that amendment– meant to protect the equality and freedom of people, had been (mis)used much more often by corporations

eCAHNomics February 4th, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Other than a constitutional amendment, and didn’t the ERA prove that is no longer possible, what could be done?

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 2:22 pm
In response to George Zornick @ 13

The cigarette corporations are at the heart of the story. Lewis Powell had been a tobacco lawyer, and on the board and executive committee of Phillip Morris, Inc., the cigarette company. He began testing out the idea of “corporate speech rights” as a way to block government warnings and regulation of cigarette hazards. When Richard Nixon put him on the Supreme Court in 1971, he got his chance to put the idea straight into the First Amendment. Since then, the cigarette companies have succeed with Constitutional rights claims to strike down cigarette marketing buffer zone laws around school yards (needed because cigarette companies targeted children for addiction), laws for graphic warnings on cigarette packages, overturned jury awards of punitive damages and more.

eCAHNomics February 4th, 2012 at 2:24 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 17

Why have cig corps not been able to buy enough pols to prevent gigantic taxes levied on their product?

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 2:25 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 11

This is a very good point and one of the reasons I call Citizens United, if left unaddressed, “assisted national suicide.” It is illegal for foreign citizens to make election contributions but now, after Citizens United, transnational corporations can spend unlimited money in elections. News Corporation laundered at least $2 million in election spending through the Chamber and the Republican Governors Assoc. in the 2010 mid term elections. The number two shareholder in News Corp is the Kingdom Holding Company of Saudi Arabia, with $2 billion in shares. There are many other examples.

Zornick George February 4th, 2012 at 2:25 pm

It seems like most of the corporations heavily involved in election spending are inherently unpopular–if they were popular, or had broadly acceptable goals, they wouldn’t need to side-step democracy.

Despite this fact, how is it that the “stink” of corporate spending on elections has, to some extent anyway, been removed in recent years?

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 2:28 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 3

I do think a Constitutional amendment has a real chance or I and a few million other Americans would not be doing what we’re doing. Our chances of success are no worse than those who won amendments to overturn the Supreme Court’s holding that women had no right to vote, or the holding that we could not have a progressive income tax system, or that we need to elect Senators. All that and much more happened because of amendments against very difficult odds.

onitgoes February 4th, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Your book, which looks to be very worthwhile, may already address this point, but is there any *real* concerted and/or coordinated effort to “do something” about the Citizens United decision – whether an introduction of an Amend. to the Constitution (which, like eCAHN, I feel would fail) or something else? Thanks.

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 2:31 pm
In response to George Zornick @ 20

The “stink-removal” is one of the fundamental problem of the Supreme Court’s creation of Citizens United, “corporate speech” and the elimination of the ability of the people to regulate spending or have equality in our elections. Corporations now spend billions (with a b) of dollars on lobbying and elections, and now, what was (and is) scandalous, dirty, and ought to be disqualifying for any politician or corporation caught in the act, is deemed to be almost sacred– a right, “free speech,” a contribution to the “marketplace of ideas.”

eCAHNomics February 4th, 2012 at 2:34 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 19

How are SCOTUS members compensated by corps? Is it just the ideology of their being appointed, or the heady invitations from the cocktail weenie circuit, or their summer speaking fees, or all of the above plus others I haven’t thought of.

Zornick George February 4th, 2012 at 2:35 pm

You mentioned News Corp earlier — corporate media conglomerates are yet another way that big money can amplify its voice.

What kind of implications does that have for a vibrant public discussion of overturning Citizen’s United?

eCAHNomics February 4th, 2012 at 2:36 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 21

Heh. Wimmin (senior one myself) have no right to vote.

If god had wanted voting to matter, he would have given us candidates.

Much impressed by Paul Street’s work on Obama, that he was signed, sealed & delivered long before voters got any chance to weigh in .

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 2:36 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 22

Yes, check out http://www.freespeechforpeople.org, http://www.corporationsarenotpeople.com or any of the groups at wwwunited4thepeople.org The amendment campaign has made tremendous progress in a matter of months. Cities and towns are passing resolutions every week; state resolutions are moving in New Mexico, Massachusetts, Washington, and more; judges from Montana to the federal circuits are filing dissents or opinions taking the Supreme Court to school and citing the amendment campaign.
The thing to understand is that if we push for the amendment, we will win either by getting the amendment or forcing the Court to reverse itself eventually (perhaps with new judges someday, educated by the amendment campaign. In many, many ways, the ERA did not fail. Those who pushed and fought for it changed the world. By insisting on a proposition that women are equal, the ERA transformed our law and culture. We can do that with the People’s Rights Amendment.

spocko February 4th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

George:

So glad you are hear. I’d like you thoughts about a few ways that people can actively call out corporate power in the lead up to a constitutional amendment.

I’ve aware of one group, http://www.confrontcorporatepower.org. that is going to go to shareholders meeting. But where are some other specific actions that people can do?

eCAHNomics February 4th, 2012 at 2:39 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 27

Local elections & outcomes are much cheaper to co-opt than national ones. Once the state/local momentum gets a head of steam, won’t corps shift to buying local pols?

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 2:40 pm
In response to George Zornick @ 25

Certainly that will be a challenge. One of the biggest beneficiaries of the billions of dollars in political spending is big media. At the same time, we have many alternatives (thanks FDL!) and can reach and connect with most Americans if we keep at it. Among the good reasons to frame up ballots and resolution votes on the amendment and to force debates and votes in legislatures, city councils, and other public bodies is that even the mainstream media will pay have to attention.

Jane Hamsher February 4th, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Thanks so much for writing this book Jeff, and thanks for hosting George.

Can either of you tell me about the Montana case to limit Citizens United to non-public corporations? Do you think it will have an impact?

Zornick George February 4th, 2012 at 2:43 pm
In response to spocko @ 28

I assume you meant to address Jeff and I’d second his comment at #27: there’s a ton of great groups, including his, leading a charge. http://www.freespeechforpeople.org, http://www.corporationsarenotpeople.com or any of the groups at wwwunited4thepeople.org.

Also, as he mentioned, city and state legislatures across the country are passing resolutions in protest of CU. If yours hasn’t, that might be a great opportunity for you to at least get people talking.

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 2:44 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 16

See my comment below regarding the ERA. In addition to the Amendment(s), in my view we need comprehensive lobbying reform, publicly funded elections, limits on election spending, transparency requirements, and corporate law reform. I do think these reforms and others will be much more likely if we drive the People’s Rights Amendment campaign forward.

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 2:46 pm
In response to Jane Hamsher @ 31

Thank you, Jane. I filed a brief in the Montana case on behalf of Free Speech for People, the American Sustainable Business Council, the American Independent Business Alliance and two Montana businesses. The Montana Supreme Court issued a fantastic decision, now headed to the Supreme Court in a challenge to CItizens United. There’s more on my blog here, http://corporationsarenotpeople.com/2011/12/31/more-on-the-montana-rebellion-unanimous-contempt-for-citizens-united/

spocko February 4th, 2012 at 2:47 pm

One technique that I have used under the current structure of corporations is
putting their CEOs and CFOs in a box when it comes to their activities that are counter to their “maximize share holder value!” mantra.

So during a financial conference call I suggest to analysts and press to ask them how various activities are “good for the quarterly bottom line”
Activities such as dumping a bunch of money into buying politicians, or keeping right wing entertainers on the pay roll when they aren’t making money. (See my call into Rupert Murdoch regarding subsidizing Glen Beck)

I would like to find out the name of corporations that have hidden money by donating to SuperPACS and then feed it to the analysts who can ask them at the next quarterly meeting, “Why did you spend 40 million on Newt in the Crossroads GPS instead of sending that money to the bottom line for cash this quarter?” My current problem? I don’t know who is donation that money.

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 2:48 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 29

Yes, this really is one of the grave dangers of Citizens United. It applies to every election from President to local school board. And it applies to state election of judges (many states have judicial elections).

Zornick George February 4th, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Jeff, do you think the Obama administration has been strong on money-in-politics stuff and overturning Citizen’s United? I was happy that Obama called the decision out that the SOTU but there’s been some debate about how agressive they’ve been on real substantive action.

Particularly, I wonder if you think the administration might be willing to strongly consider a possible position on CU in selecting any future Supreme Court cases — this seems crucial particularly in light of the Montana case Jane mentioned.

Zornick George February 4th, 2012 at 2:51 pm
In response to George Zornick @ 37

sorry, I mean in selecting future Supreme Court *justices

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 2:51 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 29

I realize that I should address the point about local pols, assuming you meant that such influence will make it harder to win our resolutions. Again, the danger is real but the beauty of forcing the vote is that it enables us to know where the pols stand on the amendment proposition itself. Some may indeed vote against the People’s Rights Amendment, and claim that corporations have the same rights as people. The resolutions smoke out those who believe that (or are rewarded for saying it) and the people then know where they stand. I doubt many politicians want to be on that side of such a vote.

hpschd February 4th, 2012 at 2:52 pm

The US constitution is contains a clause that says Congress can place restrictions on what matters the SCOTUS may address.
Has this power ever been used. Can it be used in this case of election contributions.

CTuttle February 4th, 2012 at 2:53 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 30

Aloha, Jeff and Zornick, welcome to the Lake…!

Any thoughts on using Article 5 of the Constitution and holding a federal Con-Con to remedy much of what ails us…?

spocko February 4th, 2012 at 2:55 pm
In response to spocko @ 35

I suppose I didn’t really make this a question. My point is that I like to figure out ways to use Corporations assumptions against them. So if they tell the shareholders, “We only care about making more money every quarter” let those shareholders know that they are spending money on things that will not increase the bottom line THIS QUARTER. And do it on a quarterly financial conference call where they are supposed to justify why they are spending money in this fashion.

Of course they could say, “The ROI on buying politicians is HUGE!” but that would get them in trouble because that is just bribery.

I’d like to do some thing similar to that with the issue of corporate person hood with a corporation in a city where the new laws against corporation personhood has passed. Has anyone done that yet?

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
In response to George Zornick @ 37

President Obama clearly understands the problem and I hope he does more to address it. In addition to the State of the Union confrontation, he labeled the decision a “strike at the heart of democracy” almost as soon as Citizens United came out. I have wished that he would be more aggressive since then. He should sign the executive order that has been ready for eight months that would require any corporation that gets a government contract to disclose their political spending (would be nice to know how much a billion dollar Pentagon contractor spent to help elect the appropriations committee members. I also hope that he will join Senators, Representatives, Attorneys General and many others who have joined the call for the Constitutional amendment to reverse the decision. And yes, I hope the Administration pushes back in the Courts, from the Montana case to others where corporations claim immunity from law based on fabricated constitutional rights.

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 2:58 pm
In response to George Zornick @ 38

And yes, any prospective justice or federal judge who believes that corporations have the same rights as people under our Constitution ought to be disqualified. It is a question that we should insist be asked of any nominee (and answered publicly).

DWBartoo February 4th, 2012 at 2:58 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 39

Ah, encourage the political class to reveal their true positions?

Accountability reigns.

DW

spocko February 4th, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Any thought about “Benefit Corporations?” Like Patagonia just became?

HelenaHandbasket February 4th, 2012 at 2:59 pm

If TPTB are content with corporate personhood, can this be used against them? By making them subject to the AMT & payroll taxes, prohibit their involvement in politics until they achieve the age of majority, be subject to mandatory prison sentences, three-strike penalties, capital punishment, etc.

DWBartoo February 4th, 2012 at 2:59 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 44

Absolutely!!!

DW

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 3:01 pm
In response to spocko @ 42

Good ideas. Figuring out what corporations are spending the money is a problem because there is no disclosure requirement. SuperPacs file reports and the NY TImes and others had some good coverage the other day of some of the corporations funneling money into the SuperPacs (including Alpha Natural Resources, the coal company that now owns Massey Energy. Other corporations launder the spending through front corporations or other groups to disguise the source.

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 3:03 pm
In response to spocko @ 46

Yes- great idea. I talk about them in the book, as part of the third piece of the solution (Amendment; election and lobby reform; corporate law reform). Benefit Corporation laws have been passed in at least seven states, and create a new kind of corporation that is accountable not only to shareholders but also to employees, the community, the environment, for example. We need to get to the point where “socially responsible corporations” are the only kind we permit under our laws.

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 3:06 pm
In response to hpschd @ 40

That’s true and the most similar use of that provision that I can think of is when FDR pushed back against a corporate dominated Supreme Court to make the New Deal possible. He didn’t succeed with passing his Court packing plan but it send a message that at least one judge took to heart, and the balance on the Court shifted to the proper perspective of leaving economic policy to the elected branches, not the Court.

Zornick George February 4th, 2012 at 3:06 pm

There are a lot of candidates who are against the explosion of money in politics, but stop short of asking SuperPACs not to advertise on their behalf. There’s obvious concerns about unilaterally disarming, and they face a prisoner’s dilemma when running against powerfully funded opponents.

Any thoughts about how politicians should balance real opposition to this problem, and self-preservation?

DWBartoo February 4th, 2012 at 3:07 pm
In response to spocko @ 46

Thanks for that link, spocko, The Delaware Code, which insists that corporations must maximize profits, or face law suits from shareholders, needs to be challenged.

DW

hpschd February 4th, 2012 at 3:08 pm
In response to hpschd @ 40

US Constitution Article 3, section 2
“In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.”

Has this ever been invoked?
Would it be safe to do so,
or would it be a dangerous precedent?

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 3:11 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 41

Article 5 is the Amendment provision in the Constitution. It provides two basic ways for the people to amend the Constitution (or to overrule a flawed Supreme Court interpretation of the Constitution). One is by a 2/3 vote of Congress, ratified by 3/4 of the States. The other is by the States calling a Constitutional convention, which then would convene and debate and decide upon any amendments proposed at the Convention.
All of our 27 amendments have been enacted with the first way (the vote of Congress and the states). We haven’t had a convention since the first one in 1787. I think its best to go for the first method because the Convention opens up the process to any kind of amendment or remaking of our Constitution and should only be pursued, in my view, if the more traditional approach is absolutely blocked by Congress. So far, we haven’t tested that.

spocko February 4th, 2012 at 3:13 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 49

I asked a guy who specialized in 501 c’s this question. “What can I do to figure this out?” The whole deal of front corporations and shell corporation is tricky, in addition to the whole hidden nature of it.

When Rove set up Crossroads as a 501 c 3 it was legal for corps to give him money, but they didn’t because they didn’t want people to know. It wasn’t until he set up the 501 c 4, Crossroads GPS, that he was able to offer them a way to hide their identity. Why hide? I understand consumer driven companies hiding, but what are the reasons for B to B companies? Or commodity companies like oil?

I think some companies want to hide from the shareholders their political spending.

Companies that are huge can hide all sorts of things behind their accounting rules. But smaller companies can’t. It is necessary to pierce a couple layers of secrecy to get to the data, and when we do there has to be a reason behind them hiding. When we find that reason, I suggest we give that info to the people who they are most worried about learning of their spending. Let the investors punish them. You know, “let the market decide”. (Live by the quarterly earnings, die by them.)

eCAHNomics February 4th, 2012 at 3:16 pm
In response to spocko @ 56

One would think corps would want to flaunt their political spending to shareholders, as it’s a measure of how much the shareholders can suck on the public teat.

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 3:16 pm
In response to George Zornick @ 52

Not to beat a horse but if nothing else, politicians who feel they have a dilemma should work for the Constitutional amendments and legislative reforms that eliminates the corruption of SuperPacs and the massive amounts of election money spent by a fraction (far less than 1%) of the people. in the meantime, it will be interesting to see how the “truce” in the Massachusetts Senate race between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown, who made some kind of agreement about limiting SuperPac spending. Of course, if candidates are not allowed to coordinate with SuperPacs (see Colbert) it’s hard to see how the candidates can stand down their friendly SuperPacs.

DWBartoo February 4th, 2012 at 3:17 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 50

It will take an enlightened and insistent citizenry, to equally “enlighten” all three branches of the federal government, Jeff, for your absolutely spot-on last sentence to become manifest.

DW

hpschd February 4th, 2012 at 3:18 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 50

FDR cited Article 3 section 1 which did not set the number of SOTUS justices, which was been established by statute by congress, and could be changed by congress.

Secion 2 is another matter altogether.

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 3:20 pm
In response to spocko @ 56

Interesting point. I think some of them do want to flaunt it. The Chamber fronts for the biggest corporations so it’s not an exact analogy, but it claims to be a “$200 million a year political and lobbying powerhouse” and its president, Tom Donohue, says “when we bite you in the butt, you bleed.” That sends a message to politicians to get in line. And as I said, the Alpha coal company (and Massey Coal) seem all to happy to make sure politicians know that they will throw a ton of money at their enemies (and reward their friends).

spocko February 4th, 2012 at 3:20 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 53

Of course the right wing will use that everytime a corporation doesn’t maximize profits when they give to a left wing charity. So I want to beat them to the punch. I want to nail corporations for giving to the rightwing infrastructure.

Me on a financial con call, “I can see that you gave 2.3 million to the Heritage foundation, . What is your expected ROI for that money and why didn’t that cash drop to the bottom line for this quarter?”

perris February 4th, 2012 at 3:22 pm

had a conversation with someone who actually fell for the argument;

“in the end it’s people who make the decisions in a corporation, corporations are made up of people”

I pointed out;

“I am made up of amoebas, I destroy amoebas to survive, I am not an amoeba I am the amoebas enemy”

I also pointed out;

“it’s not people who make corporate decisions it’s math”

they actually changed their position right there on the spot

DWBartoo February 4th, 2012 at 3:23 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 57

Would some exact ratio of “benefit” to “cost”, as regards “influencing policy” not be a capital boon to the global mega-corporations, eCAHN?

;~DW

Zornick George February 4th, 2012 at 3:24 pm

One strain of opposition to SuperPACs and outside spending has less to do with corporate influence per se, and more to do with the overwhelming negativity of many outside ads–they do the dirty work politicians don’t want to be directly associated with, and people hate that sort of gutter advertising. (The Warren/Brown truce seemed to be cast as more of an anti-negativity issue than anything else).

Is that a useful development? Or a misdirection from the real issue here?

CTuttle February 4th, 2012 at 3:25 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 55

…(the)remaking of our Constitution and should only be pursued, in my view, if the more traditional approach is absolutely blocked by Congress. So far, we haven’t tested that.

Exactly…! Short of a real Revolution, how else can we actually change the whole corrupt process…?

hpschd February 4th, 2012 at 3:26 pm

There are two clear issues here:

Corporate personhood
and
Money is speech

Could a single amendment deal effectively with both?
What specific language could be used?

DWBartoo February 4th, 2012 at 3:27 pm
In response to spocko @ 62

Ah, you anticipate my question to eCANH, @64, spocko.

Indeed, it would be great to ask such questions. When you do so, please leave your mike “open”, that the rest of us might ROTFLOAO … at the “gyrations” which shall certainly defy gravitas.

DW

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 3:28 pm
In response to George Zornick @ 65

Yes, I wonder about that myself. Everyone claims to be appalled at the negative stuff but it continues to work and to be used with abandon. The SuperPacs seemed convenient as a way to disassociate the candidate but now that everyone seems to know that the disassociation is fiction, it still seems to work (see Romney v. Gingrich). The real problem is the source and volume of money that turns the vast majority of Americans into spectators or “consumers” rather than citizens.

Daniel Marks February 4th, 2012 at 3:28 pm

There has never been a national concon. A national concon is different.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtGOyznDDEM

BevW February 4th, 2012 at 3:30 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 66
hpschd February 4th, 2012 at 3:30 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 66

Thanks, I’ll read that one

Clearly the Supreme Court has already interfered directly with an election (2000), with stated reservation that the decision was not to establish precedent.

That certainly should have been questioned under section 5

DWBartoo February 4th, 2012 at 3:30 pm
In response to hpschd @ 68

Excellent question, hpschd, “bundling” the convenient “conventions”, which are akin to the convenient “conventions” that the earth was the center of the universe, as well as flat, which once well-served served an equally oppressive status quo …

DW

realitychecker February 4th, 2012 at 3:32 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 43

Thanks for the work you’re doing, this issue is a major concern of mine for a long time now, but I must say I think it is, shall I say, somewhat naive to express any hope that Obama will do ANYTHING to fight the effects of Citizens United. I think it fits right in with his true agenda, which I perceive to be totally corporatist in nature. It will take real and substantial action to ever convince me otherwise, the man is just too good at saying a few soft words, and leaving the “fight” at that.

HelenaHandbasket February 4th, 2012 at 3:32 pm
In response to hpschd @ 68

What specific language could be used?

Natural person in lieu of person.

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 3:32 pm
In response to hpschd @ 68

I agree those are the two essential issues that we need to address. It may be better to address them in two amendments (and there are amendment resolutions pending in Congress that do that) rather than pushing them together into one. They are related but different issues. I think of the Progressive era, when Americans ratified four amendments in a decade. Voting rights for women was a related but different issue than election of Senators, which was related but different that the federal income tax (we’ll leave prohibition out of this). So we should not be discouraged if we must push through two amendments. Here’s more on my blog on this: http://corporationsarenotpeople.com/2012/01/19/the-nation-constitutional-amendment-to-reverse-citizens-united-but-should-we-decide-which-one/

Zornick George February 4th, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I’m curious if you’re aware of any non-Supreme Court judges who are very strong on corporate personhood issues. Perhaps the Lewis Powell of our era, of our side.

spocko February 4th, 2012 at 3:33 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 61

And this is where I want to get some advice from both legal teams and financial teams. Corporations who flaunt their connections aren’t necessarily my first target. The ones you want to get are ones, like Apple, who say they care about other things that just profit.

However, I know that often corporations say different things to different audiences and there is rarely cross over. I want to help that cross over happen. So when a corp talks about how poor they are to the IRS and how rich they are to shareholders, I’d like the IRS to hear the “we are rich” side and the shareholders to hear the “we are poor” side. They brag about how they have politicians in their pockets to some shareholder and say to the FEC, “we aren’t lobbying!”

Part of this is HOW they give. As we have seen on the Stephen Colbert SuperPAC, lots of things are perfectly legal, but are unseemly when exposed.

I spoke to an FEC expert right before CU was passed because I had discovered a right wing radio station that was basically providing 30-50 minute infomercials for a Republican candidate. The other Republican candidate didn’t even get mentioned. I had a great case to show that this media company was eseentially making an in-kind donation of tens of thousands of dollars in free advertising to this one guy. Unfortunately, my FEC expert said to wait until CU was decided because after that it will be moot.

One group we NEVER hear complain about money in politics? TV stations, ad agencies and media buyers. They are making butt loads on money and they would stand to lose it.

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 3:33 pm
In response to Daniel Marks @ 71

Thanks, looking forward to checking this out.

john in sacramento February 4th, 2012 at 3:34 pm

I think your book hits on the most crucial subject of our time.

How much do you get into the history of corporate personhood and how it came about?

PS my eyes were first opened up by this article by William Rivers Pitt six and a half years ago

DWBartoo February 4th, 2012 at 3:35 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 70

The notion that citizens are “consumers” or “clients” is intentionally demeaning; cynically treating a manipulated and deliberately confused public as children or dullards who may be easily cajoled or misled into anything, including the next “endless” war, Jeff.

DW

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 3:36 pm
In response to George Zornick @ 78

Check out Justice Nelson in dissent in the Montana case I mentioned:
Lastly, I am compelled to say something about corporate “personhood.” While I recognize that this doctrine is firmly entrenched in the law, see Bellotti, 435 U.S. at 780n. 15, 98 S. Ct. at 1418 n. 15; but see 435 U.S. at 822, 98 S. Ct. at 1439-40 (Rehnquist, J., dissenting), I find the entire concept offensive. Corporations are artificial creatures of law. As such, they should enjoy only those powers—not constitutional rights, but legislatively-conferred powers—that are concomitant with their legitimate function, that being limited-liability investment vehicles for business. Corporations are not persons. Human beings are persons, and it is an affront to the inviolable dignity of our species that courts have created a legal fiction which forces people—human beings—to share fundamental, natural rights with soulless creations of government. Worse still, while corporations and human beings share many of the same rights under the law, they clearly are not bound equally to the same codes of good conduct, decency, and morality, and they are not held equally accountable for their sins. Indeed, it is truly ironic that the death penalty and hell are reserved only to natural persons.

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 3:37 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 82

I quite agree. Disabling, really.

DWBartoo February 4th, 2012 at 3:38 pm
In response to realitychecker @ 75

Well and truly said, rc. It would be nice, wonderful, in fact, to be surprised, but I consider that you have called it aright.

;~DW

Zornick George February 4th, 2012 at 3:39 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 83

that’s incredible, thanks. I like the literal/legal and also moral connotations to his use of “soulless.”

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Thanks for the link. Looking forward to reading it. My book does get into how we got here, and how the metaphor of corporate person that can be useful under state incorporation law (that’s subject to democratic will) got twisted into Constitutional personhood, where the rights of a person are not subject to democratic will (we’re born with those rights). For great takes on the history of corporate personhood, see Thom Hartmann’s Unequal Protection and Ted Nace’s Gangs of America. I found both to be terrific.

DWBartoo February 4th, 2012 at 3:40 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 83

Superb, Jeff. Thank you, Justice Nelson!!!

DW

Daniel Marks February 4th, 2012 at 3:41 pm

This is a recent development in our Inter Occupy Article V group. It was a breakthrough of sorts. We are able to acknowledge the Congressional records instead of posing the question of whether we should call a convention which is not in our power to do. Now our action is to declare victory with supported data and get the rest of Occupy to acknowledge this as fact as well. Please consider this as a REAL method to implement the solutions we evaluate.

http://my.firedoglake.com/danielmarks/2012/02/02/inter-occupy-article-5-work-group-action/

spocko February 4th, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Maybe we could get Carol King to record a song to go with it.
“You make me feel like a natural person…”

DWBartoo February 4th, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I consider that the story of how corporate “personhood” came about needs major exposure, a judge’s clerk, and all that … John.

Too many American citizens have never heard the sordid tale.

DW

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 3:43 pm
In response to realitychecker @ 75

I think we face issues that require all of us to get the work done. I don’t think we can rely on the President or any politician to do this for us. That’s the huge challenge but also the historic opportunity created by the overreach of Citizens United and corporate power right now.

Phoenix Woman February 4th, 2012 at 3:43 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 19

That reminds me: FOX News exists because Rupert Murdoch gave Newt Gingrich a $4.5 million book deal in exchange for his promise to, when he became Speaker, push for repeal of the legislation that forbade foreign nationals from owning American media such as TV networks. (Remember that one of the things Newt used to topple then-Speaker Jim Wright was Wright’s own $50,000 book deal.)

spocko February 4th, 2012 at 3:43 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 87

I first heard of this from Tom Hartman. Then I read the story of the clerk who inserted the note in the document. That clerk’s note changed history.
It was kind of funny who he ended up working for. I forget who…

hpschd February 4th, 2012 at 3:46 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 77

The progressive era after WWI was certainly a remarkable time and the Kellog-Briand pact of that period (making war illegal) was remarkable.

I am trying to understand the nature and temperament of that time and how we might generate such feeling again.

Being a harpsichordist, I am very interested in temperaments. :)

spocko February 4th, 2012 at 3:46 pm
In response to spocko @ 94

I see we are sharing the same set of thoughts one minute apart. Maybe it’s because I’m on the west coast. Did we mind meld at some time in the past?

Zornick George February 4th, 2012 at 3:47 pm

There are hints that Newt Gingrich may drop out of the primary race tonight (http://nationaljournal.com/2012-presidential-campaign/gingrich-to-hold-post-caucus-press-conference-20120204).

I don’t think Newt is a particularly strong candidate, but he’s certainly also been steamrolled by outside ads. Romney spent over $15 million on Florida ads alone, compared to Gingrich’s $3 million-plus. Scary stuff.

Phoenix Woman February 4th, 2012 at 3:47 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 57

That’s where their own constant support of anti-government propaganda comes back to bite them in the ass. One of the more effective knocks against Newt has been that he worked for Freddie Mac.

DWBartoo February 4th, 2012 at 3:47 pm
In response to hpschd @ 95

You certainly have “pluck”, hpschd.

;~DW

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 3:48 pm
In response to hpschd @ 95

I agree! David Swanson has an excellent book out on the Kellogg-Briand pact to end war. On the temperament, I do sense similarities between the response of Americans to the earlier Gilded Age of 1% and corporate control and our own. That they did it gives me hope.

spocko February 4th, 2012 at 3:51 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 93

Ah yes, and then it turned out that he was using that deal to by TV stations but not paying taxes in the US. He was still paying Aussie taxes on News Corp.

How did he get around that? He went to some congressperson and gave him 50,000 to not make a big deal about it. He didn’t have to pay back taxes, he didn’t have to pay penalties. Then he did the how “I’m really a global company and shifted the money around to the “News Corp” is global company. I think the Cayman’s Island News Corp bureau hired exactly 5 employees around that time. Because, you know, lots of news in the Cayman’s.

CTuttle February 4th, 2012 at 3:51 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 100

*heh* David was just here for that Book Salon, Jeff…! It was a great Salon…! ;-)

dakine01 February 4th, 2012 at 3:51 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 100
Zornick George February 4th, 2012 at 3:52 pm
In response to George Zornick @ 97

or I should say, outside groups affiliated with Romney and Gingrich spent that much respectively. The distinction is so vaporous I occasionally slip in my phrasing, sorry.

Jeff, any thoughts on how big outside money might affect the general elections in November?

BevW February 4th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon discussion,

Jeff, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and fighting the Citizen’s United decision.

George, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Jeff’s website (FreeSpeechForPeople) and book

George’s website (TheNation)

Thanks all, Have a great weekend.

Tomorrow – Ellen E. Schultz / Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers; Hosted by Dean Baker

If you want to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

CTuttle February 4th, 2012 at 3:54 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 103

*heh* You Dakine, Bra…! ;-)

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 3:54 pm
In response to BevW @ 72

Thanks!

DWBartoo February 4th, 2012 at 3:54 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 100

I would suggest that it will require a bit more pain before the level of “sophistication”, today, will reach what it was in past, Jeff, we are not quite “there” yet, but we’re gainin’ on it …

It took three years before the people stopped blaming themselves for the Great Depression, afterall.

DW

Zornick George February 4th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Thanks everyone! This was a terrific discussion.

You can also follow Jeff on twitter at @ClementsJeff. (I’m @gzornick).

Have a great weekend!

DWBartoo February 4th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Thank you, Jeff and George, a most-excellent Book Salon.

Thank you, Bev, as well.

Much appreciation to the mods, also.

DW

Jeff Clements February 4th, 2012 at 3:56 pm
In response to BevW @ 105

Thank you, Bev, George, and everyone participating. I hope that we can work together on all of this. — Jeff

CTuttle February 4th, 2012 at 3:56 pm
In response to BevW @ 105

Mahalo Nui Loa, Jeff, George, and Bev…! Another great Salon…! *g*

mzchief February 4th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

{ Food-for-thought … “EXCLUSIVE: Major Romney Bundler Is Agent Of Foreign Government” | ThinkProgress.Org by Josh Israel on Feb 2, 2012 at 4:30 pm }

hpschd February 4th, 2012 at 3:59 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 100

“When The World Outlawed War” David Swanson
A previous Book Salon and a good read

Corporate Personhood Cannot Withstand Organized Persons By David Swanson is relevant here too.

He quotes several proposed amendments (on TruthOut)

spocko February 4th, 2012 at 3:59 pm

(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman Lyrics
Artist(Band):Carole King
Review The Song (0)
Print the Lyrics

“(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Person”

Looking out on the corporate news
I used to feel so uninspired
And when I knew I had to face another day
Lord, it made me feel so tired.
Before the day I met you, life was so unkind
Your the key to my peace of mind

‘Cause you make me feel, you make me feel, you make me feel like
A natural person (person)

DWBartoo February 4th, 2012 at 4:01 pm
In response to spocko @ 115

Bravo, spocko!!!

;~DW

hpschd February 4th, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Thank you Jeff and I’ll certainly read your book.

Thanks George and Bev and all
great salon!

spocko February 4th, 2012 at 4:05 pm

When they sold my speech to make a dime
You came along to claim it
I didn’t know just was wrong with them
‘Till your law helped me change it
Now I’m no longer doubtful of what I’m working for
‘Cause if I take away their personhood I don’t need to do more

‘Cause you make me feel, you make me feel, you make me feel like a natural person. (person)

realitychecker February 4th, 2012 at 4:23 pm
In response to Jeff Clements @ 92

I take your point, but all I’m saying is, don’t expect any help from Obama the corporate tool.

Daniel Marks February 4th, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Corporations have more rights than we do. I am limited to $2000 per candidate each year but corporation can give $5000. If my contributions to a candidate exceed $200 I would also have to disclose who my employer was to the recipient of the donation. Corporations do not. If I commit a crime, I go to jail. A corporation can only be fined or dissolved. The board member become less and less liable for the actions of the company. A company can reform and take on a new name and identity much easier than a person. I can not break off a part of myself to act independently of my own action.

The strange thing is if they are people, why are we allowed to own, buy or sell them. The NYSE would be a modern day slave trader with that logic. Of course courts have little to do with truth.

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