Backstory: The Corporation as a "Person"

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the case Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission has been criticized as granting corporations the same freedom of speech as human beings. We’ll explore the history of this idea with Doug Kendal of the Constitutional Accountability Center. We’ll also be joined by Richard Briffault, a professor at Columbia Law School, who will talk about the specifics of the Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission ruling and what it means for campaign finance law.


Richard Briffault and Doug Kendal

Comments [9]

kai from NJ-NYC

Corporations are constituted by individual citizens who each possess full Constitutional rights. I don't see how the Constitution overlays an ADDITIONAL set of full rights (unless in a limited and constrained manner) to the aggregation of these individuals in the form of the corporate entity. Anyone?

Feb. 04 2010 02:05 PM
tom from NJ

"We the corporations" ... ?

I did not know they voted on election day. That is a major difference

Feb. 04 2010 01:57 PM
James from the Bronx

Do all constitutional rights now apply to corporations? Legally what prevents them from voting? Running for office? Bearing arms?

Feb. 04 2010 01:51 PM
jen from manhattan

I wonder if the guests see the SEC proposing new rules to require annual disclosure by corporations of the political commercials they have sponsored

Feb. 04 2010 01:50 PM
Paul Naprstek from Morningside Heights

Please point out that the whole legal concept of "corporations as persons" is NOT based on a Supreme Court ruling but on a clerk's INTERPRETATION of a court ruling (the Santa Clara County case of the 1880s). So the whole principle is built on a dubious precedent. See Tom Friedmann's book, "Unequal Protection."

Feb. 04 2010 01:50 PM
KC from Manhattan

Does the majority opinion now require that if corporate speech is to be abridged, legislators must explicitly write that into the U.S. Constitution by amendment?

Feb. 04 2010 01:50 PM
superf88 from

also, can(t) it be argued that corporations now must pay individual tax rates, which are usually many times those of corporate ones? (corps don't even pay tax for their legal fees!)

and can individuals simply incorporate themselves to donate as much money as they'd like, and enjoy other benefits our society affords corporations but not people?

if so, what happens if such an incorporated individual is accused of a crime -- can he defend himself behind his "corporate" status rather than his status as an individual?

Feb. 04 2010 12:26 PM
super88 from

Just what do you suppose would be the penal consequence of a corporation causing the death of an individual, through illegal corporate policy?

i.e., who gets the chair? the ceo? legal counsel? the manager? all?

Feb. 04 2010 12:21 PM
Eric from B'klyn

When or in what legal case did the concept of corporate personhood first arise? Can this concept be challenged in the Courts?
My understanding is that it was asserted in context of the 14th Amendment in the Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, an 1886 Supreme Court case dealing with taxation of railroad properties.

Feb. 04 2010 12:13 PM

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