Jeff Carter is an independent speculator who writes for the reactionary (extreme right) website, Townhall Finance. Carter’s blog is called Points and Figures. He currently does commentary on markets for CNBC, Fox Business, Bloomberg Television, CNBC Asia, CNN International, Canadian News Network, Alhurra TV, Bloomberg Radio, WTTW, WBEZ-FM, WGN, CBS Chicago and CBS News, and he recently published a piece entitled “Are Corporations People?” This post is a response to that article.
Carter begins his angry rant with a few false assertions. He wrote:
“The left wing is all upset over last years Supreme Court case (Citizens United) that ruled corporations were seen as individuals under the eyes of the law. Of course, we have over a century of court precedent that affirms this. What the left is really trying to do is get an edge politically.”
First, it is not just the “left wing” that is upset about this Supreme Court case. Many principled conservatives and small business people are upset with this SCOTUS decision. Next, and this is critical to understand, this case did not rule that “corporations were seen as individuals under the eyes of the law.” The case did not rule on corporate personhood at all as we have stressed here previously. The Citizens United decision gave corporations, unions, individuals, etc. the freedom to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence the outcomes of elections without having to disclose their identities. In fact, no case has ever explicitly ruled corporations to be “individuals under the eyes of the law.” What corporations have been given, over the course of the last 123 years, is one or two of the Constitutional rights that the framers intended for natural persons, not artificial persons (corporations), per case. Finally, “the left” is not responding to Citizens United “to get an edge politically,” but rather to take the country back from corporatism and plutocracy. Because this is an election year, many are using this for political purposes; but that is because the left and all other concerned Americans want to have Congressional representatives in place who will vote for an amendment and not serve the interests of the corporations and the plutocrats.
Carter continues his deceptions as follows:
“Even though the left says they are for free speech, they aren’t. They hate the first amendment. What they want is “their speech”. As long as the soundbites fill the air with their mantra, they are okay. When it’s not their form of speech, look out. The name calling begins.”
These are absurd assertions. What those of us who oppose corporate personhood do not accept is that corporations (properties) have been granted the First Amendment right to speech in 1976. People who want this Republic to become democratic do not want the millions of dollars that corporations can bring to bear on public discourse to overwhelm the voice of people who do not have millions of dollars to spend and present an alternative perception. Recent Colbert Report guest, Mark Ruffalo, conveyed how unfair and dangerous this is with regard to the multi-million dollar budget that gas companies have set aside to support the hydrofracturing of underground shale for natural gas.
The left embraces the First Amendment, but it could be argued that the far right (represented by Glenn Beck) hypocritically disdains the First Amendment when speakers say things that they do not agree with. What name calling does the left “begin” with? Carter gives no examples. “Propagandists” would be an accurate name to call Beck, Carter and their ilk.
Instead of making any attempt whatsoever to answer his own question, “are corporations people,” Carter proceeds to “delve in data” as to what associations spend more, corporations or unions. He then makes yet another false assertion, “The political dialogue from the left assumes that they take all their profits and reinvest them in advertising.” Almost everyone knows that profits are used to reinvest in company growth, offer pay increases, especially for the elites at the top, and they get dispersed to stockholders.
Carter makes two, somewhat, accurate points in argument: 1) that when corporations give to political campaigns they do so to members (and superPAC) of both parties and 2) unions spent more on the 2010 elections than corporations did. The first point is true. Cal York, the vice-president of Abolish Corporate Personhood Now, offers this response: “Corporations are not stupid, they look at the political winds, and they play both sides of the fence; that way they always win. This cycle, they so far have been putting their money with the GOP, to get rid of the [occupant in the White House]. I think when this is over, you’ll see more money given to the Dems, simple because they will want to be on the winning side.”
So far as Carter’s second point, that may have been the case in 2010, but so far in 2012 it’s not even close. Only 9 of the top 50 donors are unions or public interest groups; the rest are corporations. Because of the Tillman Act of 1907, corporations were not supposed to contribute to elections, so his data is skewed by that law. When Carter wrote, “When looking at total money spent from 1989 to 2010, you see the same pattern over and over. Unions outspent corporations by a huge margin,” that is why!
Citizens United effectively overturned that legislation and usurped the power that the framers gave to Congress to regulate federal elections. Looking at data from a different angle (not perspective, it’s the same resource, i.e., Open Secrets dot org), business interests have outspent organized labor by a margin of 15 to 1! To make his point about corporate spending, Carter cherry picks the data and thereby deceives his readers, a typical ploy at Townhall Magazine.
Carter never attempts to answer the question as to whether corporations are people. For the purposes of entering contracts, breaking contracts, suing and being sued and being taxed, corporations have long been considered artificial persons. However, none of these allowed characteristics are rights, and this is not what corporate personhood is about. Corporations attained personhood when they were granted the rights of individuals as they were mostly put forth by the framers of our Constitution exclusively for “We the People.” Granting corporations rights makes them artificial persons (property) with rights. This is the doctrine that is opposed by groups around the country including Move to Amend and Free Speech for People.