January 20, 2012
Corporations are people!
Posted by Gordon Smith

No, this post is not about Mitt Romney. I am thinking about my friend Kent Greenfield, who wrote about Citizens United in a WaPo editorial:

The question in any given case is whether protecting the association, group or, yes, corporation serves to protect the rights of actual people. Read fairly, Citizens United merely says that banning certain kinds of corporate expenditures infringes the constitutional interests of human beings. The court may have gotten the answer wrong, but it asked the right question.

Another reason to protect corporate rights is to guard against the arbitrary and deleterious exercise of government power. If, for example, the Fifth Amendment’s ban on government “takings” did not extend to corporations, the nationalization of entire industries would be constitutionally possible. The Fourth Amendment prohibits the FBI from barging into the offices of Google without a warrant and seizing the Internet history of its users. A freedom of the press that protected only “natural persons” would allow the Pentagon to, say, order the New York Times and CNN to cease reporting civilian deaths in Afghanistan.

There are ways to address inordinate corporate power in politics that avoid razing the house to rid it of termites. Many ramifications of Citizens United can be addressed with more aggressive disclosure rules, limits on political involvement of companies receiving government contracts, or mandates that shareholders approve political expenditures.

As some of you know, Kent and I don't always agree, but he is on the right track here.

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