13 April 2011

Vermonters tackle corporations-as-citizens issue

According to a poll by ABC News, 76 per cent of Americans oppose their Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to grant corporations the same rights as individuals when it comes to political speech and can therefore freely use their profits to support or oppose electoral candidates. The opposition is unanimous with solid majorities of both liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans opposing the ruling and favouring congressional efforts to limit corporate and union spending.

While Democrats craft legislation to limit the impact of the court's decision, Vermont politicians, ever ready to stand up to corporate power, have presented an anti-corporate personhood resolution to the state legislature that proposes "an amendment to the United States Constitution ... which provides that corporations are not persons under the laws of the United States."

This echoes the words of Justice Paul Stevens, one of the four judges able to distinguish speech from money, who wrote for the dissent, "Corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their 'personhood' often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of 'We the People' by whom and for whom our Constitution was established."

Of course they aren't. And now the court's bizarre decision may make it necessary to amend the U.S. Constitution to re-establish common sense. Vermont, to its credit, is leading the way.

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