Business vs. Business...Corporate Personhood

banking imagesIn response to the Supreme Court’s terrible decision giving corporations First Amendment rights “dozens of current and former corporate executives” from corporations including Delta, Playboy Enterprises, Ben & Jerry’s, Seagram’s liquor company, toymaker Hasbro, Delta Airlines Men’s Wearhouse, and Crate & Barrel sent a letter to Congress asking it to immediately pass the Fair Elections Now Act, which would publicly finance all congressional campaigns out of a special fund created by a fee levied on TV broadcasters. They say they are tired of getting fundraising calls from lawmakers and now it will get worse.  Actually, these relatively smaller corporations really have nothing to worry about when it comes to getting more fundraising calls from members of Congress.  Their smaller contributions will be replaced by billions from Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Agriculture, Big Retailing, and Big Manufacture in China.  What they really have to worry about is that these huge corporations will use their new Supreme Court-granted political power to wipe them out altogether.  Robber Baron industries can now drop billions to lobby to simply make illegal smaller companies, or force them to sell to giant conglomerates.  Reagan and Clinton brought us "good buy small business" - our malls and downtowns are now totally almost totally national chains.  Now you can say "good bye" to medium sized businesses - and even big American corporations - as well, as transnational, German, Japanese, and Chinese corporations can legally buy our politicians and use the power of the state to put their competitors out of business.


Sharon Berg (not verified) 14 years 21 weeks ago

After 33 years of practicing law, I feel such shame at the pandering of our supreme court. The bliindfold has been torn away, the scale weighed down with corporate dollars, and the law which is to be our servant has become but a tool in the hands of the 'haves'.

Al K (not verified) 14 years 21 weeks ago

Are corporations really just groups of citizens and therefor worthy of free speech rights, as the supreme court has decided?

WHO CARES! It is NOT relevant!

Here is an analogy: The game is football and the long-bomb forward pass. There is a very logical way to defend against any forward pass. Simply tackle the receiver before he catches the ball! Why not? There is a rule against it because without that rule the game will not work! It’s cheating. Giving corporations the right to use their huge financial resources to express their opinions is giving each of them a 1000 Watt bull-horn and all the rest of us a muzzle! It does not matter if they SHOULD have free speech rights or not. There must be a rule against it because it’s cheating! This why I believe there must be a constitutional amendment that puts a halt to corporations using their money to promote their antisocial thinking.

Al K.

rewinn (not verified) 14 years 21 weeks ago

Remember the "Operation Pitchfolk" guy Thom interviewed last week?

He's written about his experience here and I think we should give him a shoutout ! While we will never agree 100%, that's o.k. because we have more in common than I ever thought.

It's almost as if our corporate masters had some sort of "Divide and Conquer" strategy going on ... let's not fall for it anymore.

I pledge to give up the "Teabagger" jokes; they were fun but it's time to stop and have a nice talk with conservatives who, like us, are getting SCREWED! (Thom: wouldn't that make a nice book title?)

rewinn (not verified) 14 years 21 weeks ago

Sharon, I totally agree. I was taught in law school to respect judges, and working with Bar Associations we labored long and hard to keep the profession of law respected, against some pretty serious barriers too.

But why bother, when out top court re-writes the Constitution on a whim? It was bad enough in the Bush v. Gore stay, when they re-wrote the law of the stay; and then in the decision itself 3 days later, when they invented an entirely new protected class - IIRC it was people who had had their votes counted (as opposed to people who had not). Gaaah!

Aaron (not verified) 14 years 21 weeks ago

I have been extremely upset by the supreme court decision but have just read Glenn Greenwald's blog on this topic ( and am now seeing the other side of this coin. I would like some rational discussion of the issues that Glenn raises regarding this supreme court decision. Glenn is very knowledgeable and has the liberal credentials to make me take his opinion seriously.

Chuck Kottke (not verified) 14 years 20 weeks ago

Great program Thom, but if there is a silver lining to the decision, it highlights how corrupt our corporatist-controlled government has become, and the outrage will surely galvanize more citizens into taking action. But dancing around the root of the problem will not solve the central issue - getting honest citizens elected to office to represent us, and set things right again - It will take massive efforts to collect numerous small contributions & inform the citizenry to start launching honest citizen representation, exclude big donors from being part of the 'carrot', putting people-power ahead of corporate control. When we get a critical mass of real people into office, introducing amendments to the constitution guaranteeing our rights to fair elections and fair contests for office can take place.
Secondly, any politician running for office needs to be held up to high standards of scrutiny for their list of donors, and taking large contributions from moneyed interests should be highlighted, and shame in the media put on those who take this "bribe" money. Honest candidates in like kind need to be praised and lauded for their higher ethical standards.
Thirdly, public marches to highlight the problem and push for an amendment would tip public opinion, and gain an even greater groundswell of support.
Once we get enough true representation in Congress and other Congress members see that going against the issue will cost them dearly in the next election cycle, we can begin the process of including the rights of Fair Elections and Fair Contests for Office in the U.S. Constitution. Essential as the right to vote, the right to fair contests for office is a right by which all other rights are protected. Additionally, the public broadcast spectrum is a natural commons for all humans, and if we are to give up the use of that commons to private concerns, in return all broadcasters owe the citizenry equal access to the airwaves for 5% of the time during an election year, without charge, when the majority of citizens are watching or listening, and on an equal basis to all qualifying candidates for office. For the right to be heard on an equal basis, regardless of money, is essential to safeguard the Right to Fair Elections and Fair Contests for Office. And no other paid political promotional ads allowed - columnists can write what they want, pundits can discuss all they want, news programs can argue the points, but to use cash to buy more promotional time is essentially allowing the moneyed few to have greater influence in matters of public opinion regarding office seekers than the general citizenry, and that's unacceptable in a Republic with Democratic institutions.
The Right to Vote, the Right to Fair Elections, and the Right to Fair Contests for Office must come before paid political speech and press, for without the former, our general rights as citizens will not be protected in any sense, save for a few quiet whispers in a tavern, or some casual talk on the street.

Chuck Kottke (not verified) 14 years 20 weeks ago

I would just like to add that our rights are based on Natural Human Rights; those innate or apparent to all without the aid of a special supreme court microscope. The Ninth amendment to the U.S. Constitution states "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." - apparently the 5 Supreme Court justices who decided to allow the unlimited big money spending on ads via their decision couldn't perceive that our natural right to a fair elections process, including a fair contest for office seekers, isn't a natural right in a Democracy! Maybe they need some greater illumination of text to get them to comprehend the ninth amendment, and thinking more about what is seriously wrong with their decision in terms of how it affects all the other rights we posses. Apparently, we need to spell it out to them, for their have such limited powers of natural imagination about the rights of citizens.

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From Unequal Protection, 2nd Edition:
"If you wonder why and when giant corporations got the power to reign supreme over us, here’s the story."
Jim Hightower, national radio commentator and author of Swim Against the Current
From Screwed:
"I think many of us recognize that for all but the wealthiest, life in America is getting increasingly hard. Screwed explores why, showing how this is no accidental process, but rather the product of conscious political choices, choices we can change with enough courage and commitment. Like all of Thom’s great work, it helps show us the way forward."
Paul Loeb, author of Soul of a Citizen and The Impossible Will Take a Little While
From Cracking the Code:
"No one communicates more thoughtfully or effectively on the radio airwaves than Thom Hartmann. He gets inside the arguments and helps people to think them through—to understand how to respond when they’re talking about public issues with coworkers, neighbors, and friends. This book explores some of the key perspectives behind his approach, teaching us not just how to find the facts, but to talk about what they mean in a way that people will hear."
Paul Loeb, author of Soul of a Citizen