Transcript: Thom Hartmann: The Big Picture: The $1 Million Corporate Personhood Mystery. 5 August '11
Republican front-runner for President Willard Mitt Romney is swimming in money today.
In one of the biggest contributions yet of this political season - the company “W Spann LLC” - as in limited liability corporation - cut a check to Romney for one million dollars.
But exactly what does W Spann do? Who is behind W Spann? Nobody know's, it's a mystery.
Why? Because the company disappeared shortly after the donation.
In fact - it seems that the company only appeared in the first place just to give Mitt Romney a million bucks.
W Spann was incorporated in March - made the contribution in April - and then was dissolved by July.
The owner of the Manhattan address supposedly belonging to the company claims he has no records of that company ever setting up shop there.
Heck, it doesn't even have a website.
So essentially - Mitt Romney - a guy who is running for the highest office in the land - just got a million bucks out of thin air - that could have come from some billionaire hedge fund - could have come from some Chinese business tycoon - could have been a pile of money from a polygamous Mormon cult leader looking to stash his cash before he goes to jail - could have come from some Saudi Prince.
We have no idea - and that’s because the Supreme Court doesn’t think we have a right to know.
But secret political campaign contributions from corporations that can appear and disappear in total anonymity - is just one consequence of the perversion of our constitution by transnational , in some cases supranational corporations that paid off the Supreme Court of the United States to re-write OUR Bill of Rights into a charter for THEIR personhood.
This is the central theme of my book - "Unequal Protection".
After the 14th Amendment was added to the constitution in 1868 to guarantee constitutional rights to freed slaves after the Civil War - it was corporations - and not former slaves - that benefited the most and most frequently.
In fact - in the fifty years after 1868 - corporations turned to the Supreme Court seeking protection and personhood under that 14th Amendment - which had been passed to free the slaves right after the civil war - one hundred times more frequently than the actual people the amendment was supposed to protect.
And corporations have been very successful in claiming those rights in successive new cases before the High Court over the hundred and some odd years since then.
And when you give corporations personhood rights - as the Supreme Court has on numerous occasions since the 1880’s - then these corporation don’t become people like you and me - they become “super people”.
"People" who can’t die - "people" who don’t need food and water to survive - people who can’t be imprisoned - and people who way more money than you and I can dream of, and by the way, will never have to shell out part of it in inheritance tax.
The money part is especially important.
Since the Supreme Court ruled that money is a form of speech - and then ruled that corporations as people have first amendment rights to free speech - corporations now have a much louder voice than the rest of us - especially in politics.
With that free speech - corporations can now spend unlimited amounts of money on deceptive TV commercials to sway voters - and even more money lobbying - or what used to be called bribing - our elected lawmakers.
And with that power - corporations are making it rain.
Over the last decade - Healthcare corporations spent $2.2 billion lobbying Congress.
Oil and Gas corporations spent $1.1 billion.
And - Wall Street dropped $849 million - all to drown out the voices of you and me - “We the People” - and convince lawmakers to support corporate-friendly - instead of people-friendly - legislation.
But like any good corporation that’s trying to cut costs - and maximize profits - they figured out a way to spend less money on lobbying - but get the same political results.
It’s called the revolving door - why spend a few million bucks lobbying a Member of Congress - when you can just get yourself hired as that Member’s Chief of Staff or into a regulatory agency - and then get PAID to advance a pro-corporate agenda.
That’s exactly what we’re seeing today.
During the last Congress - back when Nancy Pelosi was speaker - 60 former lobbyists worked in high-level staff positions here on Capitol Hill.
But during THIS Congress - now that the Republicans are in control of the House of Representatives - that number has more than doubled - with 128 former lobbyists now top advisors to mostly Republican Members of Congress.
Which is why it makes a lot of sense that in the recent debt-limit deal - billion-dollar oil corporations got to keep their taxpayer subsidies - billionaire corporate jet owners got to keep their tax loopholes - and billionaire hedge fund managers got to keep their lowly 15% maximum income tax rate - while the rest of us who don't have lobbyists - we got screwed.
The consequences of this corporate takeover are clear.
Thanks to lobbying cash used to defeat regulations - we suffered from the BP oil spill last year.
And we were swamped by the Wall Street financial crisis in 2008.
And we drown in an endless stream of health insurance abuses year in and year out that have kicked more than 53 million Americans out of the US healthcare system.
Corporations now - with their Supreme Court-given powers of "personhood" - are frankly devouring our nation - and making mountains of money in the process.
Our Declaration of Independence instructs us that when an institution's behavior, to quote the Declaration, "becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it... as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
It's time to listen to Jefferson, the author of the Declaration, and abolish the institution of corporate personhood.
Tell your legislators - move to amend the Constitution now!
That's The Big Picture.