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  1. tracyar@hawaiiantel.net

    Response to editorial in the Amendment Gazette
    By Ms.Tracy Ryan

    The arguments presented in “Taking on amendment critics, part X: Tracy Ryan “ do not rebut the points made in my original editorial. The general theme of this piece is to present the reader with a list of arguments indicating that corporations are not natural people and therefore not entitled to the same rights as natural people. It further demonstrates by examples areas in which corporations where “granted” rights by the courts; a process that author seems unhappy with as he is obviously unhappy with the majority opinion of the Supreme Court in Citizens United v FEC. As far as the statement that my arguments ignore “history” I am comfortable in replying that five of the best legal minds in the country, as evidenced by that decision, agree with my conclusions.
    A further look at the language used in this editorial indicates the author believes the courts have “granted” corporations first amendment rights. The courts recognize rights that exist under the constitution. Their rulings are meant to prevent government from abusing them. They do not grant rights. The Constitution itself recognizes (not grants) rights that the framers felt needed special protection.
    As for the “natural persons” argument every decision to spend corporate monies, every word spoken on behalf of a corporation, and every decision to lend corporate support to an issue or a candidate was made by a human being. If criminal charges are levied based on corporate activities it is the individuals involved in these crimes who may go to jail. If I choose to give my money to someone and trust that they will spend it on my behalf and in so doing they spend it to advocate a candidate or issue the action is clearly covered by the legal rights of me and the second party. Putting a corporation in between us does nothing to change the essential nature of such money being used to support candidates or issues. This is the point the court properly recognized. Stating that the court decision improperly protects the speech of “properties” begs the question how exactly does property speak separate from a human being.
    I am no happier with the state of American politics than many who are complaining about this decision. Yet throwing in comments about how money is bad for democracy, and that the judges who decided this case are “corrupt” as the writer of this piece has, do not constitute arguments against the first amendment rights of people who choose to exercise them through corporations.

    • pewestlake pewestlake

      Ms. Ryan, I want to thank you for taking the time to stop by and read Victor’s piece, as well as apologize on both our behalves for getting your gender wrong in the initial post. I have not yet had time to read this exchange over fully but I will certainly add my two cents as soon as possible. In the meantime, I have updated the copy of this post to reflect your proper salutation. Thanks again for your willingness to engage in this debate and I hope you’ll take the time to read over our rebuttals when we get a chance to add them here.

      Paul Westlake
      Proprietor

    • Victor Tiffany

      Ms. Ryan, like Paul, I also apologize for getting your gender wrong.

      Most people understand that there is too much money in political elections, and that corporations have too much say in them and in our elections. Like all things libertarian, you are way out of the mainstream with your views about this topic. You also do not grasp the fact that in elections, money is speech.

      I briefly reviewed the history of corporate personhood precisely to explain what you still do not understand. Yes, the Court has granted Constitutional rights to property. That is what corporate charters are: property. These properties were not subject to rights when the nation was founded. They sought and obtained those protections only after a loophole in the 14th Amendment allowed them to. Even then, they were not successful at obtaining those rights for more than a decade after the Amendment was ratified. That is the ONLY reason corporations have rights, and yes, those judges were corrupt, in particular Justice Field.

      I quoted Lessig to provide an understanding of the word corrupt. I’m not describing some kind of quid pro quo corruption. I’m describing Court Justices doing their upmost to undermine the democratic nature of our Republic. That is what the Roberts 5, who are not even close to “the best legal minds in the country.” That decision should be proof enough of that, but your biased assimilation of that pro-corporate, pro-plutocracy decision does not give you the ability to understand just how much one person, one vote was undermined by opening the doors to the super PACs now in place.

      Your claim that “Putting a corporation in between us does nothing to change the essential nature of such money being used to support candidates or issues” is factually inaccurate. It increases the size of the megaphone used and therefore helps down out the voice of the people who do not have a corporation to fund our speech.

    • pewestlake pewestlake

      Ms. Ryan,

      First off, “five of the best legal minds in the country” is not how most people describe the Roberts 5 anymore. Appointing Justices to the Supreme Court is a political process that has resulted in the appointment of political actors. If Citizens United isn’t proof enough, Bush v. Gore should do the trick — the only decision in the history of the Court in which the majority specifically stated that its opinion shall NOT be construed as precedent in future cases. Not only does this stand juriprudence on its head, it proves the clearly partisan nature of the decision itself. So you go ahead and feel comfortable siding with those five men — one of which has never even bothered to open his mouth during oral argument — but it is swampy terrain indeed.

      Your argument about whether or not the Court “grants rights” is structural, not historic. And any activist fighting to overturn Roe v. Wade would disagree with you quite heartily. More importantly, if the court is merely recognizing unalienable rights that are enshrined in the Constitution or granted by Executive Order or enacted by an act of Congress, you should be able to cite such an instance where those rights were deliberately extended to legal fictions. And good luck with that.

      So what that human beings run corporations? Those human beings are indemnified from the consequences of their own actions by the limited liability granted to corporations. Yes, sometimes — very rarely — people go to jail for actions committed under the auspices of a legal fiction, but those are instances where the crime far exceeds the scope of the limited liability granted by the charter. More often, the sanction is imposed on the legal fiction and the individual faces no penalty whatsoever. Perhaps you would prefer to eliminate limited liability altogether and allow individuals to be sued and face personal sanction for the actions of the legal fiction. I know plenty of people who would fully agree with that position.

      Your statement, “putting a corporation in between us does nothing to change the essential nature of such money being used to support candidates or issues,” is the best sophistry in this entire exchange. So when I buy a Pepsi or shop at Walmart, what I’m really doing is endorsing the political contributions my dollars enable? That’s the whole point of the purchase, not because I want a soda or need a widget, but because I want to send a political message? Most cable TV utilities have been granted monopolies over the areas they serve. Do you think it’s right, or even natural or constitutional, that my choices should be limited to watching cable TV by actively endorsing the political expenditures my dollars afford or simply not having cable TV? Does that sound like the “free market” or more like a “coercive market” to you?

      And your last bit of sophistry is a circular argument that’s cuts yourself off at the knees. The whole point of this exercise is to abolish the spending of money AS an expression of speech. Nobody is suggesting that the human beings running the corporations shouldn’t be able to speak. But is Jamie Lee Curtis the “speaker” just because she’s the one in the Activia commercials? Or is it the CEO, or the shareholders who are doing the speaking? The answer is none of the above, because the money to pay for the commercial comes from the general treasury of the corporation. The originator of the money — and therefore the speech — is the legal fiction that is Dannon Yogurt, not any of the individuals behind the creation of the product or the commercial used to sell it. Jamie Lee would not have the ability to reach so many listeners without the funding provided by the legal fiction. And no CEO would want to waive limited liability to become the acknowledged originator of the speech by funding the commercial out of pocket.

      Lastly, neither for-profit corporations nor even labor unions are organized for the purpose of exercising a right to free speech. Corporations are organized for the purpose of making a profit and unions for the purpose of collective bargaining with management. Some legal fictions are organized for the purpose of amplifying the collective speech of the membership, like the NRA or NAACP. But so was the KKK and the Muslim Brotherhood. Should we have no recourse but to allow a terrorist organization free reign in our politics and culture just because they went to Legal Zoom and made it official? Is that seriously the libertarian position? I think not.

      You seem to be confusing the individual rights of the CEO with the collective rights of the shareholders. If you’re truly an anti-socialism libertarian, you should be viewing this as an issue of the individual versus the collective, which a corporation, a union or an advocacy group represents. And since you’re far-right-of-center, I can only assume that you believe the collective rights of unions flies in the face of individual liberty, so why not the collective rights of corporations? Why is the authoritarian structure of the corporation seen as sacrosanct while the quasi-democratic structure of the union is seen as anathema? How do you reconcile those contradictory positions?

      Again, thanks for stopping by and being willing to engage in this debate, but honestly, you need to bring a better game if you’re going to be a champion for some collective rights but not others. 😉

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