There are many reasons why a principled conservative would want to have the Citizens United v FEC Supreme Court decision reversed by abolishing corporate personhood and ending the doctrine that money is a form of speech. Whereas an unprincipled conservative will put the interests of corporations (property) ahead of the interests of citizens no matter what the consequences, a principled conservative would be concerned about the common good of the Republic. Contributing to this article were Paul Westlake, proprietor of The Amendment Gazette, co-founder of the NYC affiliate of Move To Amend and author of the Human Rights Amendment, and David Cobb, Move to Amend executive committee member and field organizer, and author of the MTA amendment.
Conservative Reasons to Abolish Corporate Constitutional Rights
The American Revolution was explicitly anti-corporate, and the revolutionaries made sure that corporations were tightly controlled.
The word corporation does not occur in the Constitution. Corporations had to use unelected, unaccountable judges to give them rights.
According to Thomas Jefferson, judges, who grant corporations rights, are “playing God” because he claimed in the Declaration of Independence that men — not property — are “ordained by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”
Judge-made law is not democratic. We did not elect the Supreme Court justices, but they get to decide who does and does not count in our democratic order. Congress and the People should decide those issues.
This is not about opposing business or capitalism, and we recognize that corporations play an important role in society. However, we agree with the Founders that corporations do not have the inherent, inalienable constitutional rights of a human being. This is the fundamental principle at stake here. Human rights are for humans. A corporation is not a human being; it is property. Humans have property rights; properties do not have human rights. Corporations should have privileges, not rights.
The sole purpose of a corporation is to amass profit and consolidate wealth. They are legally required and structurally designed to make money at any cost. This makes them dangerous to people and democratic order.
The structure of a corporation separates humans from their actions. They destroy responsibility and hijack decision-making. They make humans do things collectively that they would never do as individuals: poison water, deny healthcare and destroy the planet. A person is a private entity with rights and sovereignty. A corporation is a public entity with obligations and responsibilities. The American people are sovereign over the government, not the other way around. We should also be sovereign over everything the government creates. All legal fictions are creations of government. If the creation is given power over the creator, then sovereignty is lost.
For the first seventy-five years after the Revolution, corporations could only exist if they served the public good. They were severely restricted in their activities: they had to be chartered by a vote of the state legislature, they could only exist for a certain number of years, they couldn’t own other corporations, they could be dissolved once they had earned a certain profit margin, they couldn’t donate to political or charitable causes, they had to operate in the state they were chartered in, their stockholders were local, they could only do the certain task they were chartered for, and they couldn’t own land that was not necessary for carrying out business.
A human being thinks, tries to make ethical decisions, and is motivated by obligations to family and community. A corporation is merely an artificial entity created to conduct business. As Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist observed in Pacific Gas & Electric Co. v. Public Utilities Commission  “To ascribe to corporate entities an ‘intellect’ or ‘mind’ for freedom of conscience purposes, is to confuse metaphor with reality.”
There is also the Rehnquist dissent in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti. That entire dissent is worth reading for everyone, but especially for conservatives as he was, in fact, a conservative.
“I would think that any particular form of organization upon which the State confers special privileges or immunities different from those of natural persons would be subject to like regulation, whether the organization is a labor union, a partnership, a trade association, or a corporation.
“The blessings of perpetual life and limited liability … so beneficial in the economic sphere, pose special dangers in the political sphere.”
There is also the issue of foreign entanglements in our Republic. Corporations have shareholders all over the world and some corporations have majority shareholders outside the United States, not to mention foreign corporations with American subsidiaries. No truly principled conservative can possibly think that allowing foreign powers to have ANY influence on our political process is acceptable.
Conservative Reasons to End the Doctrine that Money is Speech
In Buckley v Valeo (1976), the Court has ruled that money equals speech. The corollary is this: people, who have money can speak, and people who don’t, can’t. This is how a plutocracy is defined, not a democratic Republic.
Conservatives rightly abhor “judicial activism,” which happens when judges base their ruling on personal or political considerations rather than on existing law. The phrase is traced to Thomas Jefferson, who decried the “despotic behaviour” of federal judges who usurp the power of the elected branches of government, thus damaging the rule of law and and our Constitutional right to a Republican form of governemnt (Article IV).
Buckley is another example of “judge-made law,” or judicial activism. The purpose of the Supreme Court is to ensure that laws passed by Congress pass Constitutional muster if they are challenged by American citizens or groups. (Suing is not a Constitutional right, and corporations have had that ability for centuries.) Nowhere in the Constitution does it state that money is a form of speech. The assertion that money is speech is legislating from the bench, plain and simple.
Buckley usurped Congress’ power to regulate the manner of elections. The Constitution is very clear about this. Article I, Section IV states, “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Chusing Senators.” Both Buckley and Citizens United are fundamentally un-Constitutional decisions and represent a power-grab by the Supreme Court.
Citizens United v FEC
Citizens United is an activist decision by any definition of judicial activism. It is activist in its disregard of constitutional history, tradition, Supreme Court precedent, and the considered views of the President and Congress. It is precisely the kind of divisive and unnecessarily sweeping decision that Chief Justice John Roberts pledged to avoid in his confirmation hearings and after, when he said he would try to promote narrow, unanimous opinions, rather than deciding hotly contested questions by ideologically polarized, 5-4 votes. The most significant area where the Roberts Court has succeeded in achieving near unanimity is in cases affecting business interests, which tend to be decided in a pro-business direction. The broad rhetoric in Citizens United about the rights of corporations, combined with the apparent willingness of the 5-4 conservative majority on the Roberts Court to invalidate federal regulations that have broad bipartisan support, could lead to future confrontations between the Supreme Court and Congress on matters of economic fairness that citizens care intensely about. (George Washington Law Professor Jeff Rosen).
The Republic in Crisis
Corruption of moneyed influence in government is legal, and the role of money in politics has rendered our Republic corrupt. What principled conservative wants to have a government of the wealthy, by the wealthy and for the wealthy or worse: a government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations? The United States was intended to be a democratic Republic, but a long series of Supreme Court decisions have rendered the polity, our polity, a mere tool of the corporate elite. This is not just about getting corporate money out of elections.
The only real, lasting solution to this crisis of money in politics and Washington is a people’s movement to amend the Constitution and overturn the un-democratic decisions that have usurped Congress’ power and rendered our system of government a tool for powerful and wealthy corporate elites to abuse in order to further their narrow interest of maximizing profits. If this movement is to be successful, it must involve all concerned citizens, no matter what their ideology. Conservatives, those with principles they share with the Founding Fathers, will certainly be as much a part of the effort to end this crisis of plutocracy and corporatism as anyone else. In fact, they have already demonstrated as much with a vote of support for ending both corporate personhood and the doctrine that money is speech. Recently, Republican Party primary voters in West Allis approved by 70% a resolution calling for an amendment to the US Constitution that would overturn the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court. That proves that principled conservatives support this movement. Mostly reactionaries, about 20% of the American public, support corporate personhood (corporate Constitutional rights).
We have the people, including concerned, principled on our side now. That may change once the movement to amend the Constitution builds steam. That is when the corporatists will use their media outlets to smear the activists, fear-monger and falsely paint them as “un-American” in some manner. Hopefully, these various points will serve to expose their propaganda as what it is: corporate power speaking through corporate media attempting to con the people to support the corporate order. We must not let that happen. Share this URL with conservatives you know and help reverse the corruption that is now in place.