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Forum Post: The Corporate Personhood Falacy

Posted 2 years ago on Jan. 15, 2012, 12:18 p.m. EST by aahpat (1407)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

They have no right to vote.

They have no right to run for political office.

But the courts give them the right to spend more money inordinately influencing elections and voters than voters can themselves afford to spend.



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[-] 15 points by buphiloman (840) 2 years ago

I'll believe corporations are people when one of them is killed by an I.E.D. in Afghanistan.

[-] 7 points by shadz66 (17824) 2 years ago

Please also see "THE CORPORATION" : What is a Corporation ? Things THEY don't want you to know & things you NEED to know ; http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4924385683686207744 . fiat lux.

[-] 4 points by buphiloman (840) 2 years ago

I second shadz66's recommendation. The Corporation is must see stuff (if admittedly a little on the dull side in terms of narration).


[-] 0 points by FivePercentForNothing (190) 2 years ago

I watched the entire video, at least part 1, it was interesting and presented a lot of valid points. The expoitation by Nike is despicable. The one I understoood least is the issue of corporate personhood.

The video states that corporations were granted rights under the 14th amendment that were intended for people. That is the basis of the "Corporate Personhood" argument. My question is, why would we not want to privide corporations due process of law?

Due Process is a fundamental, constitutional guarantee that all legal proceedings will be fair and that one will be given notice of the proceedings and an opportunity to be heard before the government acts to take away one's life, liberty, or property.

So if my partners and I start a cookie business and somone claims I put poison in my cookies do we not deserve due process?

[-] -3 points by aries (463) from Nutley, NJ 2 years ago

what is a union?


[-] -2 points by capella (199) 2 years ago

stupid statement

[+] -4 points by Rico (3027) 2 years ago

This is an understandable sentiment often voiced by folks who are applying the colloquial definition of 'person' when the issue revolves around the legal definition.

The issue at hand relates to the rights of people who choose to associate and exercise their individual right to speak with one voice. A corporation is only one association of people (the shareholders), and these legal principles apply equally to others such as unions and PACs as well as the NRA, NAACP, AARP, and Sierra Club.

I have spent a lot of time researching this topic, and my comment below at http://occupywallst.org/forum/the-corporate-personhood-falacy/#comment-590045 provides legal background as well as one legal approach to limit the political speech of corporations, unions, PACs, trade groups, etc. that may withstand legal challenge.

[-] 5 points by kareb (51) 2 years ago

Well Romney says they are people, sure they are, what fool would think otherwise. But he has a vested interest in them being people.

Do you think he would actually try to convince the 99% to give consent and approval to something that is only in the best interest of 1%?

No that would never happen. That's just more conspiracy theory crap. Yeah that's what it is. It’s just liars, villains and stupid people out to destroy America and its human corporations.

[-] 3 points by aahpat (1407) 2 years ago

The corporate personhood argument has done more to incite OWS into existence and inspire Americans to push back against Wall Street, for the first time in decades, than most anything else. This combined with Obama's 2008 lies and the tea party debt limit default extortion of Aug. 2011 are the most powerful rallying points against corporate greed that I have seen since the 1970's.

[-] 6 points by kareb (51) 2 years ago

The movement has really opened my eyes as to who the liars and opinion shapers are!

Things I was used to accepting as truth are starting to look more suspect all of the time.

[-] 0 points by aahpat (1407) 2 years ago

Newton's second law of thermodynamics seems to apply equally well to social change: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

[-] 2 points by kareb (51) 2 years ago

There does seem to be an opposing force to everything. I think that is what creates balance. When things lose their counter balance it causes an awakening and calls for change

[-] 2 points by nucleus (3291) 2 years ago

Those are laws of motion ...

[-] 2 points by aahpat (1407) 2 years ago

My oops.

[+] -5 points by Thrasymaque (-2138) 2 years ago

You need to review your physic notes. Rudolf Clausius formulated the second law of thermodynamics in 1850. Newton formulated the three laws of motion in 1687.

I assume you meant Newton's third law of motion: the mutual forces of action and reaction between two bodies are equal, opposite and collinear?

[-] -2 points by Rico (3027) 2 years ago

How about the AFL/CIO, the AARP, and the Sierra Club ? They have exactly the same rights as any other association of people choosing to exercise their individual rights in unison as a 'person.' My comment below at http://occupywallst.org/forum/the-corporate-personhood-falacy/#comment-590045 provides legal background as well as one legal approach to limit the political speech of corporations, unions, PACs, trade groups, etc. that may withstand legal challenge.

[-] 11 points by kareb (51) 2 years ago

How about the money these "people" spent on lobbyist from 98-2011 are you cool with that. Do you think we should allow them a better opportunity to mind fuck us?


US Chamber of Commerce


American Medical Assn


General Electric




Pharmaceutical Rsrch & Mfrs of America


American Hospital Assn


Blue Cross/Blue Shield


National Assn of Realtors


Northrop Grumman


Exxon Mobil


Verizon Communications


Edison Electric Institute


Business Roundtable


Boeing Co


Lockheed Martin


AT&T Inc


Southern Co


General Motors


PG&E Corp


Pfizer Inc


Feel free to distribute or cite this material, but please credit the Center for Responsive Politics. ---"Until SOPA becomes law"


[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 2 years ago

You are way behind the curve here. I have been here advocating we get the money out of politics since last October. This includes both direct political contributions such as those you're listing (and which I have listed in other comments as well) and the indirect expenditures which were the subject of the Citizens United case.

Direct contributions are limited by the McCain-Feingold act, and that has been upheld by the Supreme Court (including in the Citizens United case). Since Congress has the authority to limited these contributions, we need only elect congressional representatives who are willing to reduce those limits to zero.

Indirect spending on behalf of a candidate was the subject of the Citizen's United case, and the law surrounding them is very tricky. I believe we may be able to limit these expenditures using an argument regarding the "loudness" of their speech. See http://occupywallst.org/forum/the-corporate-personhood-falacy/#comment-590045 .

Everyone agrees we need to restore our Democracy by removing the money from politics. See my post at http://www.themultitude.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=47&p=4355&sid=69f24b166bf708957e77ea9c73a5086b#p4355 .

The issue is that few people understand the legal arguments surrounding the removal of money from politics. Direct contributions are easy; we need only elect enough Congressmen who agree with us to make the change. Indirect expenditures are much more difficult, so I've been working to find a constitutional approach that would survive challenge.

Try to keep up ! ;o)

[-] 0 points by JoeTheFarmer (2654) 2 years ago

But nobody beats the National Education Association (NEA)

National Education Assn $56,228,408 (in one election cycle)


[-] 2 points by jomojo (562) 2 years ago

..... and who gets the big money? (drum roll please)......media.

The roundtable I watched this Sunday morning included discussion about SOPA, and Citizens United. There was no mention that media wins big on both. The piracy issue takes consumers away from them. We all will be sick of the Pac ads.

The take away I got was that Bernie Sanders said that a Constitutional Amendment to take away corporate personhood, would require local involvement, and that alone might help break the logjam of congress. Cool.

Jack Abramoff (or what ever the felon lobbyist's name is), concluded about reform of government, from a lobbyist's viewpoint; reform efforts simply must focus on the possible, rather than the ideological. In other words if reform is to be meaningful it must happen, rather than just worked on.

The other thing I remember is that one menace, the safety of being silent, is being imposed on every player and that alone will prevent leaders from advocating reform.

Vote against candidates with the most pac ads. (you hate the ads anyway)

[+] -5 points by Rico (3027) 2 years ago

Absolutely. There are two barriers to limiting independent and unlimited spending on political speech by associations of people (corporations, unions, and trade groups as well as organizations such as the NRA, AARP, NAACP, and the Sierra Club):

  • Legal approach
  • Public backing.

Your comment here relates to the challenging of building public support to effect change; the media outlets are the beneficiaries of all this spending, and they will be very vocal in their opposition. I have no idea how to counter this except to employ the 'independent' media such as the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, etc to try and rally America to victory inspit of opposition by the mainstream media.

As for the legal problem, my comment below at http://occupywallst.org/forum/the-corporate-personhood-falacy/#comment-590045 provides some background and an approach that may withstand legal challenge.

[-] 2 points by jomojo (562) 2 years ago

Another barrier is that there are no limits on the price of media ads. They are not exempt from supply and demand. This website is refreshing, in that it isn't full of paid ads, but its contributors link people to websites that are.

Thanks for the legal background, I find that stuff so boring that I avoid it, in spite of their importance. Your summary reminds me of the immortal hook of Paul Harvey's "the rest of the story".

[-] 2 points by Rico (3027) 2 years ago

Thanks. Unfortunately, the folks who use 'bots' and multiple user accounts to automatically vote my inputs (as well as those of some others) down into oblivion have already managed to collapse my comment so nobody sees it.

[-] 1 points by jomojo (562) 2 years ago

No No No to bots voting. Un-American. I guess the softballs I throw are of no threat.

[-] 1 points by debndan (1145) 2 years ago

Hey Aahpat, don't be so quick to eliminate corporate personhood

Because if they remain as persons, maybe we can have Romney prosecuted for murder


[-] 0 points by aahpat (1407) 2 years ago

Corp. Personhood = Slavery

You can buy a corporation. Does corporate personhood then extend to being able to buy human beings?





[-] -1 points by Rico (3027) 2 years ago

I'd like to provide some legal background and a proposal that may allow us to limit political speech by corporations, unions, etc in a fashion that would survive legal challenge.

An association of individuals is a 'person' that inherits the rights of the people choosing to speak and act in unison. This is simply a practical matter as an association of people cannot do anything that could not be done via informal rather than formal association. Millions of retired people who agree on certain political positions can select an individual to speak on their behalf, donate their pooled funds to campaigns, etc. without any formal association. Alternatively, the very same people can create a formal association called the "AARP" that has a "right" to do the same. It makes no difference, so the law makes no distinction.

The association of people behind a union are workers. The association of people behind a corporation are the shareholders. The association of people behind the Sierra Club are environmentalists. In all cases, the association inherits the rights of the individual members, and these rights include speech and equal protection.

The recent Citizens United case did not declare corporations to be 'persons.' Neither did it declare spending on political ads as 'speech.' Both of these legal precepts were defined long ago. Furthermore, Citizens United did not change the amount of money that an association of people, whether unions, environment groups, or corporations can spend on independent political ads. Finally, Citizens United did not modify, and in fact it upheld, the limitations on direct contributions to campaigns by associations of people.

Citizens United was a narrow ruling regarding the constitutionality of banning associations of people from running political ads in the period of time immediately preceding an election event. The form of political ads in question are defined as political speech according to long-standing precedent, and the court raised the question rather government can or should be able to place time limits on when our Constitutional right to speech can be exercised. The court also raised the issue of equal protection (14th amendment) insofar as we do let corporations like FOX, MSNBC, etc. speak for and against candidates even as the polls remain open. The citizens ruling was neither controversial or unreasonable.

Folks here who know me know that my number one agenda is getting the money out of politics. The ability to limit direct contributions per McCain-Feingold was upheld by Citizens United. What remains is the more delicate issue of speech and the ability of people working in association to spend unlimited sums promoting their views. Based on the logic of the Citizen's United ruling, I do not think we can selectively allow some to speak (Fox, MSNBC) while banning others due to the 14th amendments guarantee of equal protection. We may be able to ban all speech near the time of an election, but we would still be inundated with speech outside the proscribed period, and it's not clear whether limiting speech on a temporal basis is constitutional in any case.

Anytime a person, whether he be an individual or an association of individuals, spends money on political ads, he seeks to amplify his voice above all others. I find this practice harmful and have been trying to think of a way to limit it for quite some time now. I think I may have found a way.

The political 'commons' is the forum in which we all speak. This is shared public space open to all. People who spend money (or invest in) on political speech are attempting to use media to amplify their voice in the commons. This is tantamount to someone erecting 10,000 Watt speaker towers in the town park to amplify their voice far above that of all others, and it infringes on the rights of those debating in the political commons. I believe if I were to call a political party in a public park intended to facilitate discussion between individuals that I could ban the use of amplifiers and that this ban would be upheld in the face of a challenge on the basis of free speech. It would not be limiting speech; It would only be limiting the volume of speech in order to prevent infringement on the speech of others, and I can think of no Constitutional argument that would limit my right to do so.

In summary, 'personhood' is a logical and practical construct that recognizes the inherent right of individuals to act and speak in unison, and this principle was established long before the Citizen's case. Given this, associations of people enjoy rights of speech and equal protection, and this was the basis of the Citizen's decision that we cannot ban one association from speaking while allowing another to speak freely. The issue at hand, however, is not speech, but the volume of speech; technology that did not exist at the time the Constitution was framed allows select individuals to amplify their voice high above that of the general population. The amplitude and frequency of speech funded by associations of people drowns out all other discourse and leaves no quiet space for contemplation. Based on these principles, I believe it may be possible to limit spending on political ads during a quiet time preceding an election event. This limit would be imposed on all people including mass media's own commentators whose time speaking would be monetized with the same value as purchased ads.

[-] -1 points by JoeTheFarmer (2654) 2 years ago

Great post.

One of the few that seems to understand the complexity of this issue.

I would say that it is clear that we should not be limiting speech on a temporal basis. Even though my impulse is to want to, I feel limiting speech based on time is dangerous, especially when you have the judicial branch in effect expanding law based on interpritation.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 2 years ago

Thanks ! Unfortunately, I see it has zero points, so few seem to agree. ;o(

I don't like limiting speech in any way, and we wouldn't have to if these groups were responsible. Unfortunately, these 'independent' groups abuse the system. The idea of imposing 'quite time' near an election doesn't bother me; we already say there's no campaigning near the poling place, and that's a recognition that people need some time free of persuasion.

[-] -1 points by JoeTheFarmer (2654) 2 years ago

According to the Federal Election Committee

The maximum an individual can give is $2,500. The maximum an organization can give is $5,000.


The problem is there are many ways to get around these limits. Many of the Super PACs do not give the money to the campaign. Instead they advertise on their own. The first amendment protect my right to put up one or 5,000 billboards that say "Vote for Obama"

[-] 2 points by kareb (51) 2 years ago

Can you explain to me what a Super PAC is and where the money comes from that goes into it?

[-] 0 points by JoeTheFarmer (2654) 2 years ago

A super PAC is a Political Action Committee. They collect donations and use them to campaign for candidates they support without donating the that candidates campaign. the largest is ActBlue

ActBlue bills itself as “the online clearinghouse for Democratic action.” As a federally registered political action committee, it serves as a conduit for online contributions to Democratic candidates and committees. http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000021806

Other heavy hitters are:

  1. National Beer Wholesalers Assn
  2. National Assn of Realtors
  3. Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
  4. American Assn for Justice
[-] 2 points by kareb (51) 2 years ago

PACs are used by both party’s’. What was your first statement about 5,000 billboards that say “Vote for Obama”.

Are you trying to deceive people into believing that PACs are just available to Democrats?

Did you forget about the tea party and swift boaters and Karl Roves latest and greatest deception machine.

[-] 3 points by Rico (3027) 2 years ago

Money in politics is a problem in both parties from both the left and the right. See the list of top contributors between 1989 and 2012 and the party to which they gave at http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php and http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/index.php. As for PACs. see the list at http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/toppacs.php?cycle=2012&party=A and note how they spend on both parties.

[-] -1 points by kareb (51) 2 years ago

Yeah money in politics is a problem. But that really isn't news is it.

[-] 0 points by Rico (3027) 2 years ago

The fact that both parties are corrupted and that unions do the same as corporations under the same legal definition of a 'person' is news to most of the people in this forum.

[-] 1 points by kareb (51) 2 years ago

Unions do not do the same as corporations. You are either lying or don't know what you are talking about.

I suppose churchs, farmer associations, The Tea Party and the like are all the same as corporations in your mind

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 2 years ago

Per http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/01C1.txt :

1 USC Sec. 1 TITLE 1 - GENERAL PROVISIONS CHAPTER 1 - RULES OF CONSTRUCTION Sec. 1. Words denoting number, gender, and so forth

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise - ... the words "person" and "whoever" include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals; ...

Any association of individuals is a 'person' with all the rights of one including free speech, equal protection, etc. A union has precisely the same rights as a corporation.

You should understand law if you're going to speak up on legal matters.

[-] 1 points by JoeTheFarmer (2654) 2 years ago


Sorry if you thought I was implying that. I probably should have said "Vote for John Smith"

My intent was about the first amendment not about the candidate.

The Tea Party is not a PAC it was a movement created to protest the TARP program passed during the Bush administration. Yes the movement was hijacked by the GOP via the Tea Party Express.

Actually The LARGEST political campaign spender in America is not a PAC or a mega-corporation.

It isn’t an industry association, like the American Bankers Association.

It’s not even a labor federation, like the AFL-CIO.

If you COMBINE the campaign spending of ALL those entities it does not match the amount spent by the National Education Association

[-] 3 points by kareb (51) 2 years ago

The Tea Party has many PACs! Google it. Their money was instrumental in the 2010 election.

Personally I think the PACs aren’t a bad idea. As long as the donations are coming from a grass roots single person base donations

When the right Demonize union PACs they try to deceive people into believing that the money comes from “mandatory dues” (federal law prohibits that”) in reality every penny comes from a member that voluntarily donates it.

I don’t have a problem with the “Tea Party PACs”. If these people form an alliance for change and then donate money to it. I think that is democracy in action. No difference than any other lobbyist or special interest.

Where did you get your information about the National Education Association? I can’t find anything that remotely supports that statement. Maybe I just can find it.

This is what I did find.


[+] -4 points by Rico (3027) 2 years ago

Right. The issue is how we limit these "independent" expenditures, and it's tricky. I propose one idea that might survive legal challenges in my comment above at http://occupywallst.org/forum/the-corporate-personhood-falacy/#comment-590045 .

[-] 1 points by JoeTheFarmer (2654) 2 years ago

No that was my point.

The first amendment prevents us from limiting indirect spending on political speech...as it should.

If I want to get together with 100,000 of my friends and start a political movement or occupation I have the right to do so and I would never want the government to take that right away.

[-] -3 points by Rico (3027) 2 years ago

You obviously haven't actually read my comment.

Please do so rather than assume you know what it says.

[-] 1 points by JoeTheFarmer (2654) 2 years ago

I Did Not Reply To That Post...

Did you edit it?

[-] -2 points by Rico (3027) 2 years ago

LOL ! This is the problem with forums.

I said "Right, independent expenditures are the issue," then note it's a tricky legal problem and link to a comment I made elsewhere under this same post.

You responded with a defense of political speech and the right to associate with others and speak with a common voice.

My comment at http://occupywallst.org/forum/the-corporate-personhood-falacy/#comment-590045 defines the legal basis behind associations of people being treaded as a 'person' with a right to speak (in agreement with your own statement) then goes on to describe how such speech may in fact be defended (in opposition to your position).

Do you see the confusion ?

In any case, you seem to understand the legal basis behind 'personhood ,' so I'd be very interested in your response to my comment at http://occupywallst.org/forum/the-corporate-personhood-falacy/#comment-589754

[-] -2 points by ZenDog (20538) from South Burlington, VT 2 years ago


Everything you have posted here is true. And it exemplifies a big part of what the Movement is about.

You are an insidious fuck - I'm surprised you haven't been arrested yet.

I'm also surprised your post has neither been deleted nor edited, I'm sure you know the one I mean . . .

the President's name is Barack. Not Bark. The President is not a dog, to be put down.

He will get reelected.

And we will bring an end to the principle of corporate personhood.


[-] 1 points by aahpat (1407) 2 years ago

Your obsession with a typo is hilarious.

[-] 0 points by ZenDog (20538) from South Burlington, VT 2 years ago

IT isn't the typo itself I find so . . . insidiously subversive

it is rather the sum of the linguistic construct within which that typo appears. It is a very subtle suggestion to assassinate the President as if he were nothing more than a dog, rather than the highest elected official in the nation.

Were I possessed of resources I would begin with a bounty on your ISP - and with it I would begin a very careful analysis:

one intended to determine precisely how many times and in what circumstances you have engaged in just this kind of linguistic charade, and to what end.

And then I would begin to very carefully, and using some of the very same techniques, to take your life apart . . .

brick by brick

until in the end you were left with nothing, nothing but your own flesh, and the raging wind howling around your ears . . . .

[-] 1 points by aahpat (1407) 2 years ago


[-] 0 points by kareb (51) 2 years ago

Aren't you overreacting a little? I am kidding.

I have read many for your great post, but I have never seen you, let's just say, want to fuck over somebody so hard LOL (I am sure you have good reason)

Mellow out take a few deep breathes and continue with those great post that many of us look forward to.

[-] 0 points by ZenDog (20538) from South Burlington, VT 2 years ago

Aren't you overreacting

Am I?

yet you do not question the basis for this . . . overreaching . . . instead you suggest I just forget whatever has occasioned it, and go back to posting "those great post that many of us look forward to"

I would say that places the probability that you and asshat share the same ISP at something over 50% -

while I could be wrong I am absolutely certain that there are those, who do have resources, who are checking that possibility even now.

Should it prove to be a correct assumption, then my conclusion must be completely self evident:

  • you are so fucked.
[-] 2 points by debndan (1145) 2 years ago

wow, and I do use wow in the subversive way wow

Zen, I think you took a tic tac instead of your normal meds this time

though you are normally `lucidly humorous, I think you've

definately left the reservation this time. It's ok.... aaphat and kareb were just trying to help....it'll be all ok....

Remember, we hashed out that there were no ISP clones.......

...no government conspiracy to surround you electronicly......

Take off the pie pan and take the meds dude......it'll be ok...

[-] -3 points by kareb (51) 2 years ago

Hey dude you got it all wrong. (In my case) again I was just joking with you. I don't know shit about your issues with aahpat.

I was trying to be on your side,

No response desired

[+] -6 points by smartcapitalist (143) 2 years ago

Dumbasses...err Geniuses please refer to Section 3(i) of the Companies Act of 1956