Corporations 1, People 0

The Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom deplores the just-released Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Weighing whether free speech protections under the First Amendment prevent Congress from restricting corporate political campaign expenditures, the 5 to 4 decision overturned federal campaign regulations for corporations that were first enacted in 1907, and overruled Supreme Court cases decided in 1990 and 2003 that agreed restrictions on corporate money in politics do not violate the Constitution.

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (www.wilpf.org) is among five organizations long involved in educational and related efforts to combat undue and undemocratic corporate influence in politics and self-government. The others are the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (www.poclad.org), Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County (www.duhc.org), Shays2: The Western Massachusetts Committee on Corporations & Democracy (www.shays2.org), and the Clements Foundation. The brief was drafted and filed by Jeff Clements and Clements Law Office, LLC (www.clementsllc.com) who represented the organizations in the matter.

“The notion that corporations have the same speech rights as people under our Bill of Rights is contrary to the words, history, spirit and intent of our Constitution,” said Clements. “The organizations that joined to bring these arguments to the Court have worked effectively for many years to empower democratic self-government. They remind us that corporations do not vote, speak, or act as people do, but are products of government policy to achieve economic and charitable ends. As such, they need not be allowed to influence our elections if Congress and the State governments judge that such influence is detrimental to democracy.”

Corporate anthropologist Jane Anne Morris asks:  “Must we limit speech in order to have free and fair elections?  Or must we accept corporation-dominated political debate in order to preserve free speech?”

She contends that “This false dilemma disappears if we reject corporate personhood – the idea that corporations have constitutional rights.  Limiting corporate ‘speech’ is not a constitutional infringement if corporations are not ‘persons’ under the Constitution.

“Corporate personhood encourages people to forget that every corporation is literally created by legislatures.  Corporations of all kinds receive grants of power and privilege from the state; that’s why they incorporate...[T]he Clements brief asks ‘if the people’s elected representatives create legal structures for economic, charitable or other purposes, are they barred from preventing misuse of those structures for non-permitted purposes, such as political activity?’ ”

WILPF joins its colleague organizations to say NO, and will continue to educate and organize in the name of democracy:  rule by flesh and blood persons!

For information on WILPF’s study guide and other materials, see www.wilpf.org, Committee on Corporations v Democracy.

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