If Corporations Can be Taxed, They Can Lobby

October 27th, 2011 at 2:20 pm | 120 Comments |

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As long as the private sector is subject to government regulation, see it will be involved in the political process. It is its constitutional right.

The Occupy Wall Street protestors disagree. Hoisting signs with slogans such as, viagra sale “I’ll believe a corporation is a person when Georgia executes one, click ” protesters rail against the right of corporations to promote their views in the marketplace of ideas. This begs the question: is the problem that corporations have too much influence in politics, or that politicians and politics have too much influence on corporations?

Corporations pay lobbyists and fund SpeechNow PACs because corporations are subject to government regulations and laws. These regulations and laws dictate how corporations run their businesses—from the price of wages to the proper weight of worktables. Moreover, when politicians and regulators took it upon themselves to regulate the economy and pick winners and losers, it became necessary for the private sector to engage in politics. Thus, corporations have no choice but to spend the money necessary to play in the game that the politicians created.

An example of this interference is the recent push by the campaign finance reform community to use corporate governance rules to create regulations regarding independent expenditures so burdensome that corporations will “voluntarily” surrender their First Amendment rights. These governance rules would require corporations to hold shareholder-wide votes every time management proposed an independent expenditure.

The reform community lauds such proposals as a way to give shareholders a say in where and how much money their company will spend on politics. In theory, independent expenditures create economic risk for corporations. Proponents of this regulation point to the hullabaloo surrounding Target’s donation to Rep. Tom Emmer, which created a media sensation and protests that could have damaged the company’s bottom line.

In reality, if corporations were required to hold shareholder-wide votes every time management proposed an independent expenditure, the cost of holding these votes is likely to exceed the value of the proposed expenditure at least several times over. Furthermore, contrary to the regulators’ concerns, the media sensation and protests surrounding Target’s expenditure did not impact the company’s value.

The Center for Competitive Politics studied the issues surrounding shareholder value and political activism and recently released a report that found the two are not correlated. Unfortunately, the Target protests continue to be used as a convenient excuse to trump up a non-existent problem and to use it as a reason to enact new regulations. The real goal of “shareholder protection” is to stifle corporations from expressing their opinions on any political issue—leaving corporations subject to the will of the government.

If Occupy Wall Street had its way, corporations would be forbidden from educating both politicians and voters about the enormous costs and few benefits that stem from these proposed regulations. Silencing one group may be politically beneficial in the short-term for certain groups. However, it ultimately leaves everyone worse off because it creates a knowledge vacuum. In our society, public and private sectors are hopelessly intertwined. It does everyone a disservice to hold only one group responsible.

The first step in taking corporate money out of politics is to take politics out of the private sector. Corporations make political expenditures because they are part of a system where, in order to survive, they must be heard. It’s no coincidence that the first major push to ban corporate involvement in politics came at the behest of so-called “progressives” who wanted to regulate big business at the end of the 19th century.

The First Amendment says that groups of peaceably assembled citizens have the right to express themselves politically. It’s fitting that a group calling themselves “Occupiers” are demanding that others be denied that fundamental right.

Recent Posts by Joe Trotter



120 Comments so far ↓

  • Elvis Elvisberg

    protesters rail against the right of corporations to promote their views in the marketplace of ideas.

    straw man

    • Watusie

      The whole premise is a big round bale.

      The issue isn’t whether corporations can be involved in the political process. The issue is their outsized influence over it, crowding out the common man.

      • paul_gs

        I don’t think corporations influence on the political process is outsized. Why do you?

    • dugfromthearth

      Well of course. They can’t actually argue the merits that 1% own so much, the only thing left is to invent strawmen and argue against them. Of course since the 1% also own the media, they can usually control the information people get and people believe their lies.

      • valkayec

        So how do ordinary combat “their lies”? Via protests like OWS, blogs, tumblr, twitter, letters to the editor…and anything else that serves to inform the public of the truth. Moreover, people have to demand their political candidates support a Constitutional amendment barring corporations and their lobbyists from donating to campaigns as well as an amendment stating unequivocally that corporations are not “persons.” That they do not have the same rights as natural persons. If the candidate will not pledge to support those kinds of amendments, people should vote against them.

        • paul_gs

          Corporations are persons. Granting personhood (but not the ability to vote) to corporations is one of the best legal advances of the last several centuries protecting the common person from being abused by businesses.

  • Xunzi Washington

    Joe -

    Instead of arguing for what you take to be the benefits of granting free speech rights to a corporation, why not present what you have not presented: an argument for why a corporation is a person (with rights) in the sense implied by the Constitution.

    The Constitution is not consequentialist doctrine. It doesn’t argue for rights because it thinks rights promote good states of affairs (though they might). The Constitution is a deontic document – it states that people have rights owing to their status as the types of entities they are.

    So skip the consequentialist mumbo jumbo and lets get to the deontic, shall we?

    • Demosthenes

      +1

    • paul_gs

      Corportate personhood does not give a corporation a vote so I think you possibly misunderstand what the concept of personhood for businesses entails.

    • Xunzi Washington

      Paul,

      You may want to re-read what I wrote, because I didn’t say that corporations had voting rights according to SCOTUS – I said they had free speech rights. Your argument was that they must, because the individuals composing them do. That’s ridiculous. I am made of molecules, but I’m not a molecule. A corporation is made of people, but that doesn’t make it a person. This, if that’s all it is, is 2nd grade logic error.

      • paul_gs

        A corporation is made of people, but that doesn’t make it a person.

        Yes it does Xunzi. We consider a corporation a single entity and grant it legal (artificial) personhood. This allows the great advancement so that if a corporation harms you, you don’t have to find the single individual in the company responsible but sue the corporation. And the whole corporation is rendered legally responsible for the actions of all the people within.

  • forgetn

    Joe:

    I suggest that you confuse two different things here. First, that corporation have certain rights to express view as to rules and regulation that concern them. To a certain extent I agree with this view. In fact, it is natural that those who are regulated by government should be able to discuss these rules (and changes) with the government.

    However, you seem to imply that the electoral process is the same thing as lobbying. It is not! Lobbying relates to a industry to government process, picking the winner for the election is something completely different.

    The reality of the SuperPAC and other structure is to ensure not only will laws meet your requirements, but that the legislator has a favorable bias towards you. The ability (proposed) of PACs to participate directly in the electoral process is a huge problem for America’s democracy because elector become largely inconsequential, the election is purchased by the corporation.

    If this is what you mean by American democracy — then we have a very different understanding of democracy (maybe that’s the problem). BTW I have the same problem with Union supporting a candidate or a party — same issue applies.

    The electoral process should be limited to those who have the right to vote

    • wileedog

      “The electoral process should be limited to those who have the right to vote”

      100%. The problem with corporations involved in the electorate is that a citizen’s fundamental duty is to participate in the process to make government and society better for the country (including regulating businesses, when necessary). A corporation’s fundamental duty by its own nature and charter to its shareholders is to make the government and society better for itself. It has no interest in anything else that doesn’t apply to selling more widgets at a higher profit, even to the detriment of society as a whole.

      Throw in that these self serving entities have way more influence in terms of campaign donations and lobbyists, and you have a recipe for, well, our current situation.

    • CautiousProgressive

      Well said Forgetn.

      The problem is not the presence of lobbysts in Washington representing bussiness – which has always been true. Rather, the problem lies in their ability to donate money to political campaign’s. And, lets be honest, raw cash is very closely connected to electoral performance.

      This creates the reality that a politician cannot go against his business-based campaign contributors, even if he or she, and his or her electorate, oppose that business’s political agenda.

    • paul_gs

      The electoral process should be limited to those who have the right to vote.

      Exactly. And since every single corporation small and large is composed of people who can vote, they too, speaking as part of a business, be able to participate in the electoral process.

      • forgetn

        Sorry buddy, not the same thing.

        A company is owned by investors, it has no other function than to do what it does as a company, it doesn’t confer rights to participate in the political process. A company cannot vote, it is therefore excluded from the political process.

        The right to vote is the right to participate. Companies have no more rights to participate in the political process than do foreigners!

  • D_Virginia

    > corporations are subject to government regulations and laws.

    And so are people. So what’s your point?

    > corporations have no choice but to spend the money necessary to play in the game that
    > the politicians created.

    Many of these regulations are in place precisely because of the abuses of corporations. Yes, some were/are politically motivated, but as most historians agree, laws are usually only created because someone screwed up.

    > If Occupy Wall Street had its way, corporations would be forbidden from educating
    >both politicians and voters about the enormous costs and few benefits that stem from
    > these proposed regulations.

    Now you’re just making stuff up. No one’s saying that.

    What they ARE saying is that corporations have DISPROPORTIONATE influence in politics, such that out political system is much more aligned with “one dollar, one vote” than it is with “one person, one vote”.

    Additionally, corporations want (and seem to get) all the rights of individuals, but they bear few of the responsibilities.

    Corporations are not executed, as the hyperbolic sign points out — more specifically, they are rarely stamped out of existence when they commit egregious crimes, or if they are, the PEOPLE behind those corporations are protected and just re-incorporate shortly thereafter.

    Corporations are not (sufficiently) even punished for their crimes. How many financial scandals are resolved with fines that are a small fraction of the total profits made by the scandal in the first place? Almost all of them — crime pays for corporations.

    And don’t even get me started on taxes.

    > The first step in taking corporate money out of politics is to take politics out of the
    > private sector.

    History has proven this to be a fallacy time and time again.

    While the government is by no means a panacea, we have seen over and over in the history of even remotely democratic nations that private entities will always abuse their influence if left unchecked by some larger force — and unfortunately the government is frequently the only thing larger than most corporations.

    From sweat shops and company towns to implicit and explicit mass financial fraud, the private sector has always committed abuses unless prevented from doing so by the government. Even Alan Greenspan, formerly devout believer in totally-free markets, has admitted that he was wrong in thinking that private industries could regulate themselves.

    The government is certainly not the wisest steward of our money or our freedoms, but it is a hell of a lot better than Goldman Sachs.

    • jamesj

      “The government is certainly not the wisest steward of our money or our freedoms, but it is a hell of a lot better than Goldman Sachs.”

      Well said.

      It is wise to have a healthy mistrust of all large institutions (government, business, social, etc.). I used to get that healthy mistrust of all institutions from the Republican Party of 30 years ago. Now I get absolute hatred of government and unquestioning support for business. This is not a healthy outlook on the world. The imbalance is causing real problems in this country.

    • NRA Liberal

      Conservatives like to peddle a story in which eggheaded public sector bureaucrats, hand in glove with the parasitic underclass, promulgate regulations that hinder free enterprise.

      The real story of regulation and the growth of government is far more complicated.

      The big expansion of regulation in the Progressive Era for example was largely driven by big firms with close social and financial ties to government officials. In the meat packing, steel, banking, and railroad industries, businesses lobbied for regulation and government oversight and then used it to squash competition.

    • paul_gs

      What they ARE saying is that corporations have DISPROPORTIONATE influence in politics.

      Well, many of us disagree. We see the attempt to stifle the ability of businesses to communicate as an unfair infringement on the people who own those businesses rights.

  • ottovbvs

    “it will be involved in the political process. It is its constitutional right.”

    Of course they can but that’s not the issue is it? The issue is whether corporations because of the immense economic resources at their disposal relative to other individuals or groups that constitute our polity exercise a disproportionate influence on the process. And whether, given this reality, govt which is the only other institution in the country wielding remotely similar resources should act to level the playing field. Since a first year political science student knows this I assume Trotter does also and he’s essentially conducting a propagandizing mission. No doubt some of the OWS crowd are over reaching but the pendulum of influence has shifted so far in the direction of corporate power they can perhaps be forgiven. I’ll make a suggestion to Mr Trotter that will settle this question once and for all. Yes corporations can participate fully in the political process but in future the electoral process is entirely publicly funded thus removing the over large leverage exercised by the corporate world when they make donations. Any problems with this Mr Trotter?

  • valkayec

    Since Mr. Trotter works for the Center for Competitive Politics, I thought it might be helpful to know where he’s (monitarily as well as politically) coming from. Here is a portion of what Source Watch states:

    “The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) is a conservative group that promotes the deregulation of U.S. elections, being against the McCain-Feingold act, the Disclose Act, the Fairness Doctrine, and being in favor of the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission which allows unlimited corporate money in elections. It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit which states on its website that its mission is “to educate the public on the actual effects of money in politics, and the results of a more free and competitive electoral process.” The Center was founded in 2005 by Bradley A. Smith, former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission, and Stephen Hoersting, formerly Smith’s Legal Counsel at the Election Commission.[1] [2] [3] [4]

    (Smith was a Republican appointed to the FEC by President Clinton in 2000 as part of the statutory requirement no more than three of the FEC’s six commissioners come from any one political party. His nomination was promoted by Republican Senators, but was opposed by Vice President Al Gore and others because Smith opposed campaign finance regulations and thus they considered him “unfit” to regulate those campaign finance practices.[5] He was confirmed as part of a package deal to secure the confirmation of other nominees. In 2004, Smith was elected Chairman of the FEC. (Unlike most federal agencies, the FEC Chairman is not designated by the President. Rather, by law each year the FEC Commissioners elect one of the six Commissioners to serve as Chairman for a one year term. By custom, the Chairmanship of the Agency rotates between Republicans and Democrats; by law, the Chairman and Vice-Chairman must be from different parties.))

    In August 2008, Jeanne Cummings of Politico wrote, ‘Encouraged by the U.S. Supreme Court, conservatives are launching a wholesale legal assault on campaign finance laws. And among the leaders is a man once charged with enforcing those laws: former Federal Election Commission Chairman Bradley Smith. His goals are big. He doesn’t want to just scale back the laws; he wants to pretty much wipe them out.’

    Bradley Smith ‘opened the Center for Competitive Politics to build a case against the regulatory system that limits individual donations to candidates, reins in the role of outside groups, and bans union and corporate contributions to political parties. With financial support that came largely from individuals he declines to name, Smith opened the Center for Competitive Politics a year later to begin challenging the current campaign finance system in both federal court and the court of public opinion. “What the Center for Competitive Politics can do and is trying to do is to bring the right kind of cases before the court,” Hasen said, so Chief Justice John Roberts and his new coalition of conservatives can “knock them out of the park.”‘[6]”

    Mr Trotter, as much as you dislike the idea of average voters having the same influence in politics as corporations or wealthy individuals, you’ve chosen a losing cause historically. Voters have no problem with corporations or wealthy people lobbying Congress or Legislatures. They have a problem with money corrupting Congress and Legislatures.

    You, on the other hand, don’t appear to have a problem with the corruption that occurs when lobbyists, corporations, and the wealthy can buy legislation, including tax policy. I, however, as an average voter without a great deal of money cannot buy legislation that favors my desired policies or helps me directly. I have a hard time even getting to see my legislators, let alone get them to read my mail, emails, or respond to my calls, because I don’t have piles of money and influence to wield.

    So, please no more propaganda. We’re not all as dumb as some would have us be.

    • ottovbvs

      Ah… so Trotter (what a serendipitous name) is an ambassador or one sent abroad to lie for his country (or in Trotter’s case his corporate contributors)

      • valkayec

        Further down, and awaiting moderation (’cause of 3 links), I posted the following quotes from a NPR article written by Constitutional Law Professor Jamie Raskin:

        “Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in the Dartmouth College case that, ‘A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law. Being the mere creature of law, it possesses only those properties which the charter of creation confers upon it, either expressly, or as incidental to its very existence.

        In our time, Justice Byron White pointed out that we endow private corporations with all kinds of legal benefits — ‘limited liability, perpetual life and the accumulation, distribution and taxation of assets” — in order to “strengthen the economy generally.’ But he emphasized that a corporation has no right to convert its economic resources into political power. As he put it, ‘The state need not permit its own creation to consume it.’ Chief Justice William Rehnquist agreed.”

        The 5 members of the current SCOTUS in Citizens United vs FEC perverted two centuries of legal thinking on the Constitution, going all the way back to the founding of the country. The Founders, including Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, did not believe corporations had 1st Amendment rights, let alone would have thought they had 4th, 5th or 14th Amendment rights.

        Read a progressive history of corporate legal rights on the pdf attached: http://www.freespeechforpeople.org/acsbrief#attachments

        Mr Trotter’s employer would gladly hand over our democracy to corporations, perhaps because he doesn’t really believe in democracy or “one person, one vote.”

        If I remember correctly, about 20 or so years ago a retired Republican judge decided that corporations should be given more power in politics. With like-minded friends, they created a manifesto with which to attack the regulations that kept corporations in check. Citizens United was just a first decision among the many the court has since handed down giving corporations more and more power in politics, in legal decisions, and in legislatures which ordinary people do not have.

        As Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1816: “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance the laws of our country.”

  • jamesj

    In a “free” market, men would be subject to the full potential downside and upside of their endeavors. Obviously corporations are an affront to a “free” market. I hope this goes without saying. This idea should seem obvious once you think about it for the first time.

    Incorporation unlocks benefits for the corporate shareholder that do not come with drawbacks in equal proportion. I run my own S-Corp and I firmly believe that I am exploiting a “cheat” in the system of modern civilization. I get protection from massive downside and I get the opportunity to reap virtually unlimited potential rewards. My corporation gives me cover from liability and allows me to take advantage of write-offs in the tax code that normal folks don’t even know exist. I also exploit the labor of others and perform various “rent seeking” activities that bring me gains in disproportion to the amount of productive benefit they bring the world.

    I’m not saying that the idea and mechanism of incorporation should not exist or that it is bad for the world. It brings the world many benefits. But I AM saying that corporations should be subject to regulations to counterbalance the incredible protection from liability that is not available to individual citizens. And I am absolutely shocked when people say corporations should get all the free-market-warping advantages they already do with even less checks and balances and even less restrictions on how they can wield their oversized influence.

    It just doesn’t make sense. I’d rather see my country grow stronger and foster a healthy middle class again. I’d rather see limitation of the large cash influence in our politics.

    All this complaining about restrictions on Corporations… but you never hear a peep about the fact that you don’t have to incorporate. Go ahead and start a business as an individual. Take full responsibility and avoid extra regulations and double taxation. But no one’s rushing to do it. Because incorporation brings you massive benefits with few drawbacks. Us corporate owners don’t need further charity.

    • Banty

      Yep. Corporations are a way to create an enterprise, usually a business enterprise, such that individuals in it aren’t liable for the risks of that enterprise. If the enterprise fails, creditors can’t come after your kids’ breakfast.

      That in no way, and no how, creates something with its own voting and lobbying interests. No more than the Ladie’s Gardening Club has voting and lobbying interests that society must recognize that the continued existence and growth of the Ladie’s Gardening Club is vital. We can do without Ladie’s Gardening Club; we can have a Couple’s Gardening Club, we can do without ANY Gardening Clubs. Or Aunt Susie’s Thursday 10:00 coffee clatch. Incorporation is a gimme from society to begin with, a necessary one, to allow people to create enterprises. Other than that, it’s just a group of people doing stuff together, as far as our body politic should be concerned.

      We really need to put this in its place.

      • Steve D

        Do a little fact checking. U.S.C. 1.1.1 – the very first page of U.S. law – says “the words “person” and “whoever” include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals.” So the Ladies’ Garden Club is a “person” under Federal Law. So is the ACLU, the NAACP and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

        • valkayec

          No, Steve, those organizations are not “person’s,” they are artificial entities created and/or approved by the state or federal government. They are not natural persons. They exist in law as an artificial person for legal affairs: taxes, property, trademark and patent law, ability to sue or be sued, etc. But they are not persons as meant by the Founders or included originally in the Constitution.

        • Banty

          Right. The whole purpose of a corporation is to set aside property, resources, capital, liabilities, etc. etc., from individuals. It wouldn’t work if they could not be sued (they exist so as not be make individuals sue-able for affairs of the enterprise); it wouldn’t work if they could not be taxed (the individual isn’t liable for the tax), similar for trademarks and patents relating to the enterprise.

    • Banty

      Oh, and by the way:

      “… corporations should be subject to regulations to counterbalance the incredible protection from liability that is not available to individual citizens.”

      Bingo.

    • Steve D

      What we need is some of that protection from liability for private citizens. A criminal should not be permitted to sue his victim – ever. (Yes, I can see a potential for abuse. You prevent the abuse by not committing the crime.) You should be able to open your land to outside visitors without fearing lawsuits if they fall over an embankment or trip over a tree root. You should be able to let kids climb trees without risking your savings.

      • jamesj

        I can get behind what you’re saying. The slow deadly creep of unreasonable litigation is a negative force in our society. If I could implement my wish list, litigations and laws like the ones you mention would disappear over night.

        That doesn’t change the fact that incorporating unlocks benefits that are not available to the individual. And as a result there should be some counterbalancing give-back to society. When I incorporated my business I knew what I was doing. I knew full well the benefits I would receive and the responsibilities I’d have to take on. And I’ve never regretted the decision in the decade since.

    • paul_gs

      Go ahead and start a business as an individual. Take full responsibility and avoid extra regulations and double taxation. But no one’s rushing to do it. Because incorporation brings you massive benefits with few drawbacks.

      Corporations do take responsibility. Far more responsibility then individuals do. When was the last time an individual paid out $50 million for negligence causing death. Never. A corporation? Numerous times.

      Corporations do more to protect the rights of the individual consumer then any other set of laws out there. Dealing with an individual, I have a good chance of being ripped off. Dealing with a corporation, my protections, as a consumer, are vastly greater.

      • jamesj

        “When was the last time an individual paid out $50 million for negligence causing death.”

        1) Cite one case where a corporation paid $50 million for one death.

        2) Even if your claim were true, the majority of large-scale negative externalities committed in Western Civilization are of course committed under the protection of a corporate entity, correct? This weakens your point, correct?

        3) Even if your claim were true, it’d be due in large part to the fact that, on average, corporations and not individuals stockpile fortunes large enough to be involved in such lawsuits, correct? This weakens your point, correct?

        4) Even if your claim were true, it’d be due in large part to the fact that a corporation cannot suffer a proper punishment for murder (like jail time) while an individual can, correct? This weakens your point, correct?

        “Dealing with an individual, I have a good chance of being ripped off. Dealing with a corporation, my protections, as a consumer, are vastly greater.”

        How so? I’m a businessman. My colleagues and I work every day under the assumption that we get to benefit from our businesses and the personal benefits that funnel into our personal bank accounts each year and enrich our personal families will never be on the line if we’re negligent and harm a customer. This is great for me. And it is great for the country since it encourages me to take risks and start businesses I wouldn’t otherwise start. But surely some price must be paid for this grand advantage I’ve taken in comparison to individual consumers. I don’t work 30 times as hard as the average man, but I make 30 times the personal compensation.

        I won’t even get started on how many “rip off” artists I see on a day to day basis among my customers (many of whom are business owners) and colleagues (all of whom are business owners).

        People who defend corporate sanctity no matter what are fooling themselves. That is a utopian ideology. Like anything else in this world, it has some good and some bad to it. And the demands I see a majority of individual consumers making seem incredibly modest. They are simply asking that corporations endure the same types of regulations, taxation, and duty to country that they endured under Reagan, or under that Communist Eisenhower (God forbid).

        You can argue about whether this request would harm or hurt the country’s economic growth rate. You can argue about whether or not modern times compel us to allow corporate owners to escape their former responsibilities to their country since globalization has shattered those bonds of responsibility whether we like it or not. But it is really hard to paint these requests as extreme or outrageous. They are quite reasonable.

        Look at it another way. We Conservatives mistrust the pooling of too much power into the hands of any one specific group in society. We mistrust kings. We mistrust the common mob. We mistrust presidents and congressmen. We mistrust the institutions of science and higher learning. We mistrust the media. We mistrust unions. And all wisely so.

        Why in the world should we trust corporations and businesses, entities specifically set up to protect the actual human beings running them from full liability? It just makes no sense to exempt this one group from our overarching philosophy. Why give folks like me and my business a free pass? Mistrust us. We deserve your mistrust, especially when all empirical evidence shows that corporations and businesses are skimming a larger piece of the national prosperity from the top of the pond and only allowing scraps to drop to the bottom where the majority of the country barely sustains itself.

        When I survey the playing field of the modern world, I see two major problems… two areas where too much power has congregated.

        1) The pooling of wealth and power in the hands of Business Owners and Rent Seekers

        2) The pooling of wealth and power in the hands of Government Beaurocracy and due in part to Corruption in Government (which in most cases manifests itself in undo catering to business interests)

        • paul_gs

          An individual in a corporation, if they decided to commit murder, will be charged with murder the same as an individual. Where did you get the silly idea that it is otherwise?

          What a corporate structure does is to make companies far more accountable to the public and their consumers then any other legal structure. For one, corporations are far more accountable to the public then any level of government is.

  • D Furlano

    The Center for Competitive Politics is the type of organization that is destroying this country. They are mercenaries that for a few dollars will promote any agenda by any means.

    With money they influence and subvert policy and laws for their own ends. They create outright lies and obstruct any meaningful legislation.

    There used to be a time in this country when people could tell good from evil; a lair was ignored, a cheat shunned. But in today’s world they have a voice and go unregulated.

    • TerryF98

      Thank you.

      I thought the quality of the writers at Frum Forum was going up, then this pile of excrement comes along.

      Corporate shills on steroids.

      • paul_gs

        Here, here. I’m a corporate shill too. I don’t take steroids though, only a good multivitamin.

  • Steve D

    “This begs the question: is the problem that corporations have too much influence in politics, or that politicians and politics have too much influence on corporations.”

    High on the list of my favorite illiteracies, along with “steak with au jus.” Begging the question means avoiding or ducking it. You mean raise or inspire the question.

    Then we read “The problem is not the presence of lobbysts (sic) in Washington representing bussiness (sic) – which has always been true. Rather, the problem lies in their ability to donate money to political campaign’s (sic). And, lets be honest, raw cash is very closely connected to electoral performance.”

    Is our bloggers learning?

    • Banty

      Begging the question does not mean avoiding it or ducking it either.

      It means reasoning to a conclusion, from premises that already contained that conclusion.

  • larocquj

    The real goal of “shareholder protection” is to stifle corporations from expressing their opinions on any political issue—leaving corporations subject to the will of the government.

    You meant “leaving corporations subject to the will of the people,” right?

  • baw1064

    Why doesn’t Mr. Trotter just take things to their logical conclusion and advocate letting corporations vote? Then anyone with enough money could form 10,000 LLCs in their own name with which to stuff the ballot box.

  • LauraNo

    Let’s just unincorporate them, they can be responsible for their actions same as any other ‘person’. Including going to jail for not paying taxes and for paying bribes to politicians or for harming the populace. Alternatively, if an industry believes a prospective law will do them more harm than it is worth, let them advertise. I see the fracking monsters all over my tv telling us how safe it is, in very earnest, even sweet sounding voices.

  • rbottoms

    Frum posts about the overwhelming impression that the GOP only cares about the rich and the powerful. His post is followed quickly by a sympathy note for the poor put upon corporations who are being so viciously maligned by OWS.

    Man, what a relief, I thought Exxon was in danger of losing it’s influence in Washington all because of those dirty f****g hippies protesting.

    Way to go GOP, leasing the charge for the common man. Again.

  • balconesfault

    If Occupy Wall Street had its way, corporations would be forbidden from educating both politicians and voters about the enormous costs and few benefits that stem from these proposed regulations.

    Seriously?

    Is OWS proposing rules that prohibit industry from contribution to the API, the ACC, the Chamber of Commerce, the Heritage Foundation, the AEI, or any of the other many many MANY very well funded organizations out there educating voters about the “enormous costs and few benefits” of regulations?

    BTW … “few benefits”? Are you just trying to hang a sign on yourself that says “HACK”?

    • wileedog

      “BTW … “few benefits”? Are you just trying to hang a sign on yourself that says “HACK”?”

      In the GOP universe, governments pass regulations on businesses because its, like, fun ‘n stuff.

  • more5600

    What a load of crap this is, to put it bluntly. Just knowing there are people, like the author of this piece, who are pushing this outrageous propaganda makes me even more sympathetic to the OCCUPY movement.

  • Banty

    How about this:

    The nation is made up of people. The people, subject to some simple requirements (age, not being a felon), vote for representatives.

    Corporations are not people (controversial, yeah I know…) – corporations are enterprises that people participate in. To the extent that the people that participate in them are American people of voting age and who are not felons, they *already have* a vote. To the extent that they are made up of non-American people, they do not have a vote. It’s generally considered to be good that American people vote for American matters, and similarly for other countries.

    Corporations may have shareholders. Those shareholders vote their shares for directors of the corporation. They can influence the corporation as to what it does, working in an environment that has been determined in some part by that corporation operating in a nation where there is a public, and that public has exerted its will through votes. To the extent that the shareholders are also American citizens of voting age and not felons, they *already have* a vote in matters of American government.

    There is nothing in this, and nothing in the cosmos, that says that, because entities called corporations may be affected by the votes of the people in the country that they operate in, they are therefore “forced to” or “compelled to” or “have a right to” in and of themselves pressure the representatives that the people have voted for. They exist. They exist in an environment. One determined by the people in a democracy that they operate in. Period.

  • Southern Populist

    The larger problem here is that the wealthy will always exert disproportionate influence over the process unless something is done to stop it. Even if corporations were completely banned from using their money to influence politics, wealthy individuals and non-corporate interest groups would just step into that vacuum.

    One solution might be to finance all elections using public money only. Society could, for example, give each presidential nominee a billion dollars in public money to spend how they please. But beyond this, there would no private funding of any kind allowed, not for the candidates or their various proxy organizations.

    This solution would remove private funding from the equation, and the office holders would then have no reason to listen to anyone except the voters who control their fate.

    • valkayec

      Public funding of elections was Professor Lessig’s original idea. Politicians have to receive a verifiable total amount of less than $100 donations up to a grand total dollar amount. At that point, the candidate would receive public funds. No other donations via PACs, lobbyists, or personal funds are allowed. Any donations in excess of the grand total amount presumably would go into a general fund for future elections.

      Given Citizens United and the number of subsequent SCOTUS judgements favoring corporations over citizens, the most reasonable and appropriate response for the American people is a Constitutional Amendment – or two – barring money in politics as well as barring corporations, unions, non-profits, etc., from being designated as “persons” under the Constitution’s 1st, 4th, 5th and 14th Amendments.

      Professor Lessig now wants a Constitutional Convention to settle these issues. However, I fear that a Convention would open up a whole can of worms on other issues that should be left alone, given the current number of radical red state legislatures.

      There are several organizations who are pushing their own version of an Amendment. Any one or two will do the job. What is important is demanding that every elected or prospective elected official pledge to voters to sign legislation that will create these Constitutional Amendments. Otherwise no votes.

      • zephae

        Professor Lessig now wants a Constitutional Convention to settle these issues. However, I fear that a Convention would open up a whole can of worms on other issues that should be left alone, given the current number of radical red state legislatures.

        I actually think that’s a ploy to make the idea of an amendment realistic. If enough people sign on to the idea of a Constitutional Convention, legislators will start to get nervous and they’ll be looking for a solution to prevent the inevitable messiness of that process.

  • Diomedes

    “If Corporations Can be Taxed, They Can Lobby”

    I’m sorry, but this makes no sense.

    As someone who works for a corporation, what influence do I have over what sort of lobbying the individuals that run my corporation assert? A corporation is a conglomerate of individuals, but only a select few of those individuals actually control things. With that being said, how can the corporation be treated as some collective entity if only a few of the people (those at the top) control how or what should be lobbied?

    In the end, the top dogs at the company can use the company’s influence and monetary wealth to further their own agenda. So are you saying that if the CEO of my corporation is pro-life, that he represents the views and ideals of EVERYONE in the corporation? Should he be allowed to use the corporations dollars to push his own personal views?

    • paul_gs

      Should he be allowed to use the corporations dollars to push his own personal views?

      Why not? If he owns the corporation 100% it is his money to spend as he sees fit. And who elses views other then his own would you expect him to push??

      • zephae

        Why not? If he owns the corporation 100% it is his money to spend as he sees fit. And who elses views other then his own would you expect him to push?

        Once he separates himself financially from his business in order to limit liability he has forfeited that right. If he wants to spend the money as he sees fit for political purposes he should’ve kept it as a sole proprietorship. And when you have a corporation with a ton of shareholders it becomes even more problematic – since the shareholders collectively own the entire company, and the political interest of the company is often at odds with the political interest of its owners, it should at least be required to obtain the expressed written consent before engaging in any political activity outside of mere lobbying. I would go so far as to say it (actually all business – non-corps can simply take the money out themselves) should be barred from non-lobbying political activity.

        • paul_gs

          Why has he forfeited the right? Some rights are fundamental. Free speech would seem to be one of them.

  • Houndentenor

    Easily the most idiotic decision in SCOTUS history was declaring corporations to be people. It’s time for the court to revere itself and end this idiocy. Large companies could set up some sort of limited liability partnership set up like other countries have without this overreaching.

    Now, can someone explain to me how giving millions to a party or a candidate or spending on their behalf is anything but a bribe?

    • paul_gs

      All countries in the Western world consider corporations to be legal persons. The decision in the US was late to the game in that all other advanced economies of the time already embraced the concept of artificial personhood.

  • hisgirlfriday

    “If Corporations Can be Taxed, They Can Lobby”

    Can a house hire a lobbyist to reduce property taxes?

    Can a purchase at the mall hire a lobbyist to reduce sales taxes?

    NO. Yet these are still taxed without representation. Why?

    A house is not a person. A purchase is not a person. A CORPORATION IS NOT A PERSON.

    Corporations are creations of THE GOVERNMENT. If you want to do business with other people you can form a general partnership. But if you want the perks of no personal liability, then you have to get the state to let you do business as a corporation and agree to pay corporate taxes. That’s the trade off.

    Corporations have already gotten a huge break from the state with the personal liability shield this legal structure provides. THE LEAST WE CAN DO IS TAX THEM when corporations clog up our courts with business disputes, require enforcement of intellectual property, pollute the environment and distort the markets requiring regulatory intervention and lobby our legislators to wage war and deploy troops around the globe just to make markets safe for the corporations to do business there.

    If we are truly ONE NATION UNDER GOD, then why are Republicans so intent on extending natural rights endowed upon us by our Creator such as free speech to corporations that are created by the government? Why should corporations created by man get more rights than human beings created by God?

    • valkayec

      ^1+ Bravo!

    • paul_gs

      Oh brother, where to start? So much nonsense, so little time. :P

      ==”Can a house hire a lobbyist to reduce property taxes?
      Can a purchase at the mall hire a lobbyist to reduce sales taxes?
      NO. Yet these are still taxed without representation. Why?”==

      Have you ever seen a house paying taxes? I hope you videotaped it if you did.

      A house is a property of a person. It is the person who owns a property who pays the taxes, silly woman.

      ==”A house is not a person. A purchase is not a person. A CORPORATION IS NOT A PERSON.”==

      And an apple is not an orange. We get it, we get it.

      A house is owned by a person, a purchase is made by a person, and every single corporations in existence is composed of a person or persons. Personhood links them all.

      ==”Corporations are creations of THE GOVERNMENT.”==

      Yeah, yeah. But what is a government? A government is an artificial entity created by people and (surprise! surprise!) governments ALWAYS grant themselves limited liability! Fancy that!

      How about we strip limited liability away from governments too? ;)

  • huronsailor

    The bottom line is that business is about people. No matter how you twist the definition, corporations are not people. The interests of corporations should never trump the interests of people so regulation by people is a natural consequence of allowing corporations to exist. If you can’t accept the rules don’t play the game.

    • paul_gs

      Corporations meet the needs of the people who voluntarily purchase their goods or services. Unlike government, corporations can not draft you to fight a war nor break into your house in the middle of the night.

      Corporations give us cool things like iPhones and LCD TVs.

  • zephae

    If Occupy Wall Street had its way, corporations would be forbidden from educating both politicians and voters about the enormous costs and few benefits that stem from these proposed regulations. Silencing one group may be politically beneficial in the short-term for certain groups.

    Great straw man you set up for this viewpoint, but the complaint isn’t simply about companies paying lobbyists to provide valuable information to legislators, its that corporations can use massive amounts of other people’s money to promote their views and buy direct access to politicians when they already have considerable influence. Corporations already enjoy many advantages over the voting public – they are not limited in the amount of time they can advocate on an issue; they are always completely aware of attentive to every relevant committee hearing and vote (impossible for a private citizen); and they are ready to enter the debate full boar at the drop of a hat because their communications (lobbying) apparatus is always active. Further, they enjoy significant influence merely for what they are – they drive the economy, they employ a ton of people, and they often include some of the best-trained experts in their field. Why do they need to top it off with money that the common citizen, who is also affected by regulation, couldn’t hope to match?

  • Oldskool

    Why should any entity granted limited rights by the government, which can’t even vote, have the right to a voice of influence thousands of times louder than any one voter.

  • sparse

    i first read this article this afternoon, and after i stopped laughing at joe trotter’s stupidity, i found myself feeling kind of disgusted with how dirty the whole thing is. tonight i came back to read the comments, and feel better. joe trotter has no reason to feel better– he got his ass handed to him by a bunch of amateurs. but this forum has some very smart, perceptive people. thanks, guys. i feel better.

  • TJ Parker

    Swallow, Kochsucker.

  • Jose Chung

    Conservatives have always wanted dictators who were good at business (Pinochet’s ties with Friedman and Chicago School [Reaganomics/trickle-down/supply-side]).

    The suppression of voting has always favored the elite, no matter the circumstance. Whether by king or corporation. Their goal has always been to keep the status quo. That’s why we need death taxes so there aren’t corporate monarchies in the US. Jefferson would be rolling in his grave, especially with these conservative dynasties of the elite preserved.

    Occupy Wall Street has it right.

  • Jose Chung

    Conservatives are never about the working people, they have always been about the ruling class and their loyalists (working class people who vote against their interests).

  • paul_gs

    If we are going to take corporations out of the political process, we will have to stop the New York Times from ever commenting on politics. Same with the Huffington Post. Ditto for MSNBC. And NPR? That corporation will have to cease injecting itself into the nation’s politics too.

    • hisgirlfriday

      The First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press explicitly.

      There is no such thing as the freedom of the corporation anywhere in the Constitution.

      • paul_gs

        Freedom of the press is simply freedom of speech. If giant corporate media companies are allowed freedom of expression regarding political matters there is no logic denying this fundamental freedom to all other corporate entities.

        • LauraNo

          If they are the same, why do they get their own mention?

        • Xunzi Washington

          ABC news doesn’t have free speech rights. The reporters working at ABC News have free speech rights.

        • paul_gs

          Freedom of the press or freedom of the media means that anyone can use whatever tools they like to communicate, whether it is through a newspaper, a TV show or on an internet forum. This freedom is open to all, not exclusively for for-profit media empires.

    • Houndentenor

      The problem is that we have a court that can’t distinguish between free speech and bribery.

    • valkayec

      Nonsense.

      A Constitutional amendment that eliminates money in politics and removes corporate personhood no way changes free speech or effects the media’s ability to distribute news and opinions, regardless of being owned by a corporation. That is such an idiotic argument, put out as a scare tactic by guys like the one who wrote this article.

    • tommybones

      “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.” – Thomas Jefferson

  • MurrayAbraham

    OWS doesn’t want to deny freedom of speech to anyone, but they are of the opinion that democracy is “one man one vote”, not “one dollar one vote”.

  • dante

    Wow, you’re desperate to try to find any way possible to refute the protesters demands, aren’t you? Corporations are taking my money (invested in various mutual and index funds, who invest in those companies) and using it to bribe politicians whose views I disagree with, and the best argument you can come up with is that it would be too costly for the company to get my approval before engaging in said bribery?

    Seriously?

    I’m sure you’ll desperately come up with some excuse as to why all of these donations should be private as well, since we can’t have any negative consequences for when people see what corporations are doing (with our money) and get pissed.

    The corporatists are ruining this country, and people are getting fed up. What you call “playing in the regulatory field” I call “bribery” You have corporations literally bribing politicians for things like immunity from lawsuits (drug companies), favorable trade status (importers) and government subsidies (agriculture). We’re sick and tired of it, and if the GOP is going to hang it’s hat on the side of the corporatists, they’d better be ready for a rude, rude awakening come November 2012…

  • Ogemaniac

    A new federal law should be implemented immediately called “Right to Invest”. How would it work? Just like “Right to Work” laws, of course. The RoI law would prohibit corporations from using money for lobbying or political advertising except for money that was ACTIVELY VOLUNTEERED by its shareholders, and subtracted from their dividends.

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, even when it it is a free-rider problem, eh? There is no reason to “force” investors to pay for advertising and lobbying they personally disagree with, right?

  • tommybones

    “This begs the question: is the problem that corporations have too much influence in politics, or that politicians and politics have too much influence on corporations?”

    This only begs that particular question if you are an imbecile.

  • TJ Parker

    You don’t answer the question posed by the poster in the photo accompanying your essay: Could Koch Industries, for example, be accused of murder? Could it be “jailed” or “executed”?

    • paul_gs

      If a person within Koch Industries was found to have committed murder, they could be jailed and executed. Happy now?

      • drdredel

        actually, that’s not true. If a corporation is guilty of murder, there’s a very high degree of probability that no one is going to jail, and as far as I know no corporate executive has ever been executed for the murder that their corporation committed. Of course, I’m using the word murder very loosely. It generally gets painted as “willful negligence” which doesn’t sound anywhere near as evil… but of course, it’s exactly the same thing. If you know for certain that some % of the population will die as a direct result of using your product and you don’t warn them and do nothing about it, you are in fact a murderer.

        • paul_gs

          {blockquote]Of course, I’m using the word murder very loosely. [/blockquote]

          Of course, you have to use the word very loosely because otherwise your argument completely falls apart. You use the word so loosely that it does not contstitute murder.

          If you know for certain that some % of the population will die as a direct result of using your product and you don’t warn them and do nothing about it, you are in fact a murderer.

          So who is the murderer? Where is this happening?

        • drdredel

          don’t be obtuse. The murderer is the person that, as I clearly stated, knows that the product will cause death and chooses not to make that information loudly and clearly public. Has such a person ever been executed? Or do you think that as long as you don’t actually stick a knife in someone you’re not guilty of murdering them? I can give you examples, obviously, but I have seen your other posts, so, honestly, I can’t be bothered.

        • paul_gs

          You’re conflating possible negligence with willful murder when they are apples and oranges to each other. But, when it comes to corporations, intentionally misleading exaggerations seem to be the order of the day.

      • Traveler

        What does an executive’s personal actions have to do with corporate actions? I assume you meant something like say, Bhopal? In that case, nobody got sentenced for any crime, let executed.

  • Houndentenor

    Americans rightly distrust too much power in the hands of too few people whether it is government or corporations. Power corrupts. We have checks and balances in our government that prevent one person or branch from having too much power. The checks and balances in corporate America (having a board of directors, etc) have failed due to cronyism and near monopolies. Too big to fail means too big period. Nothing was done about that and in ten years we will have an even bigger problem with even more unpleasant solutions and an even more outraged public (left, right and center).

  • Rob_654

    I don’t think many people would disagree that companies shouldn’t have a voice in the process – sure there are few signs that disagree but then again on the Right we saw plenty of extreme stuff from the Tea Party.

    The problem that many people and an increasing number see is that its not that corporations should not have a voice it is simply that they are buying the system, controlling the voice through political money and not just having a voice – but having the “only” voice on many issues with many politicians.

    So you are from the Far Right the same b.s. view as those from the Far Left hold that every extreme sign in any movement represents the entire movement and the most extreme views are the only views.

    I would propose that you get together with the Far Left folks, put on your tin foil hats and hide in a bunker because surely “they” are out to get you…

  • Fastball

    “The first step in taking corporate money out of politics is to take politics out of the private sector.”

    Whoa there, cowboy, if a company injects harmful combustion byproducts into the atmosphere and into people’s lungs without their consent, people are supposed to just get sick, shut up, and not tell their elected representatives to do something about it? Is that what “taking politics out of the private sector” means?

    Corporations are perfectly within their rights to make their views known. And their fellow citizens are perfectly within their rights to demand that their elected representatives force corporations to take responsibility for their actions and any harms they cause if corporations try to shirk that responsibility.

  • drdredel

    not to step all over herman here, but you’re mixing apples and oranges. Corporations have always had the right to say whatever they want. They can take ads out in the paper or on TV and say stuff to their heart’s content. However, when you equate handing money to politicians to “speech” you’ve perverted the notion of speech so badly that there’s no room left for a baseline at which to have a conversation. When I’m handing money to someone, I’m not “speaking” to them, I’m “purchasing” something from them. In the case of politicians, that’s what is known as bribery. Calling it anything other than bribery is simply misleading.

  • sparse

    The real goal … is to stifle corporations from expressing their opinions on any political issue…”

    corporations are made of paper. they have no brains. therefore, they have no opinions. the people who run them have brains, and therefore can hold opinions.

    this little confusion, if cleared up, would go a long way to undoing the absurd position the author work himself into.

  • angeleno

    We must all acknowledge that are system is not working. Then we must all agree on why. Then we must all agree on how. And then we have to wait ten years for it all to kick in.

    We are so very far away from fixing America that it almost makes more sense to leave.

  • Xunzi Washington

    I’d still like someone to explain to me why a corporation is a person. I have yet to see a positive argument for it that makes sense in terms of the Constitution. Instead, I’ve heard why…

    1. …other entities seem like persons, so why not corporations?
    2. …it would lead to a good outcome if a corporation was a person, so a corporation is a person.

    (1) is not a positive argument for a corporation being a person, it’s a desire for consistency (which assumes that other institutions are persons in the first place and I have yet to see any convincing examples).
    (2) is not how the Constitution works. The Constitution does not grant rights in terms of outcomes. It grants rights in terms of something about the status of the entity in question. In the Constitution (thankfully) outcomes are irrelevant as far as rights-conferring is concerned.

    • paul_gs

      I’ll make an attempt at answering your question Xunzi. Be patient as I’m not always good at expressing ideas.

      Much law in the United States is based on English common law. In common law, only a person can be sued. Suing only a person worked well before the Industrial Revolution but not so well when businesses began to get much larger.

      As an example, look at the Exxon Valdez oil spill. If Exxon was not considered an (artificial) legal person, the only persons who could have been sued for the oil spill would have been the third mate guiding the ship and the maintenance personnel who had not properly maintained the radar. So a total of 5 to 10 people could have been sued for whatever assets they owned which never would have been sufficient to fund the oil cleanup.

      But, because Exxon is considered an artificial legal person, the irresponsible actions of a few employees or management is considerd the responsiblity of ALL of Exxon (because it is considered an single entity under the law) and all of Exxon had to carry the massive financial burder related to the cleanup.

      Another example would be a janitor at WalMart who leaves too much water on the floor causing a person to slip and break their hip. Without legal personhood, you could only sue the janitor and financial compensation could be very limited. Again though, because WalMart is given the distinction of being an artificial person under the law (and it is only a person who can be sued in common law) the whole of WalMart, because it is now considerd a person, can be sued if the actions of even one employee cause harm.

      The idea of artificial legal personhood involves giving only some of the rights that an actual human being has, which is why a corporation or a non-profit can not vote. But mostly, the concept of artificial personhood was largely developed so that we have someone to sue if negligence occurred when dealing with a large organization.

      • Xunzi Washington

        Paul –

        There’s a difference between a legal entity, treated in such a way because it is expedient, simple, or simply procedurally beneficial, and a _person_. These are clearly different types of categories, and unless there’s a Constitutional reason (given that ‘person’ is a protected status in the Constitution), law may not conflate the two. If you wish to come up with some other term, like “shmerson” then feel free, because “shmersons” unlike “persons” have no protected status in the Constitution. Unfortunately, “shmersons” will not have free speech rights because FS rights are the protected properties of persons.

        Given that “persons” have protected status, we need to be clear on what basis the Constitution recognizes such entities. The Constitution treats “person” as a special category, one that has a given ontological status that is _recognized_ by the document, not _granted_ or _conferred_ by the document. “Person,” in the sense of the Constitution, is not an artificial construct. As a matter of fact, it is something (explained in that document) about the natural status of the person that demands respect, and the rights recognized by the document are recognized in terms of that natural status.

        Your explanation above turns rights (like free speech) not into a recognized property of a specific kind of natural entity with a pre-given form, but rather into something that is conferred on an artificial entity because it is believed that such an approach will lead to good outcomes. This is what I called the (2) approach above, and (2) is not (as I just explained above) the way in which the Constitution discusses rights and persons.

        Essentially, the entire theoretical basis for your explanation is entirely in conflict with the language of “personhood” and “right” as understood in the Constitution (and many other such documents).

        • paul_gs

          We are talking about artificial personhood Xunzi which is why companies don’t get to marry or vote or obtain a driver’s license to drive a car.

          The creation of artificial personhood, which is common in all of the Western world, is a means for allowing citizens to sue a company that harms them. Common law, which as I stated, only allows persons to be sued. So the legal construct of artificial personhood allows us to sue a corporation.

          I can understand the debate over what set of limited rights should be granted to corporations but I can not fathom the belief that personhood should be removed from corporations.

          Even the United States is an aritificial person in the legal sense, as are all sovereign nations. You can sue the United States government if they harm you. Without legal personhood, who would you sue in government or business?

        • Xunzi Washington

          Paul,

          I understand that it is “artificial” – and that’s the point. There are no “artificial persons”. There are entities and constructs, such as companies, formed for convenience and for legal efficiency and simplicity. Which is all well and good, I have no problem with that.

          However, creating an artificial construct for the purpose of suing it or levying tax from it is not the same thing as bestowing a Constitutional right upon it, specifically a right that only comes into existence — as per the Constitution — when you have a non-artificial basis and a status that must be respected. Simply put: the law cannot bestow what cannot be bestowed – it has no power to create rights, as per its own logic. It only has the power to recognize them when they already exist, and then to institutionalize that recognition through various institutions (the legal system). However, that begins with _recognition_ of the right, not bestowal of it.

          Simply put: corporations aren’t people in the sense that is required, as per the Constitution, for a thing to have a free speech right. Simple as that.

          Perhaps it might be helpful to draw a distinction: there are legal rights that actually *do* come into existence with legal frameworks, and there are natural rights. As per the Constitution, free speech is a natural right that is recognized and protected by American law. The right to sue a company is not a natural right, it is a legal right that comes into existence with a social framework. In this case, creating an entity to serve as the proxy through which I can sue is one thing; granting that proxy a natural right, when it is not a natural entity, is quite another thing.

        • Steve D

          I don’t even know where to begin with this last post by Xunzi Washington.

          **”There’s a difference between a legal entity, treated in such a way because it is expedient, simple, or simply procedurally beneficial, and a _person_. These are clearly different types of categories, and unless there’s a Constitutional reason (given that ‘person’ is a protected status in the Constitution), law may not conflate the two.”

          There’s no language in the Constitution that defines “person” as a “protected status.” And there’s nothing in the Constitution saying that “law may not conflate the two.” Actually, a number of States refused to ratify the Constitution until they had assurance that a Bill of Rights would be added. In the original body of the Constitution, there were no enumerated rights at all.

          ***”Given that “persons” have protected status, we need to be clear on what basis the Constitution recognizes such entities. The Constitution treats “person” as a special category, one that has a given ontological status that is _recognized_ by the document, not _granted_ or _conferred_ by the document.”

          Cite the specific passages. There is no such language in the Constitution.

          ***“Person,” in the sense of the Constitution, is not an artificial construct. As a matter of fact, it is something (explained in that document) about the natural status of the person that demands respect, and the rights recognized by the document are recognized in terms of that natural status.

          Are you sure you’re not confusing the Constitution with the Declaration of Independence? Because that’s where “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are found. Also, for the freedom-from-religion crowd, those rights exist (according to the D of I) only because they’re endowed on people by their Creator.

          Don’t forget that the Constitution once defined slaves as three fifths of a real person and that women did not have the right to vote until the Nineteenth Amendment was passed. There’s nothing “natural” about their status in the Constitution as originally written.

        • Xunzi Washington

          Steve –

          The entire document is deeply steeped in natural law thinking, thinking that was very common for the time and which could be found in philosophy of the time and in documents in other countries setting out to display similar beliefs.

          No, there is no sentence in the Constitution that says “a person is a…” or “rights are taken from…” but that’s (1) because if you lived in 1787 the background context of natural law would have made all of that obvious (it is clearly more stated in the Declaration, but that was to assure that the King understood that Divine Right did not take precedence over natural right) and because (2) there was no need (as in the Declaration) to make such points clear given the audience. There are more ways to interpret the Constitution than to read specific lines of it. It wasn’t produced in a vacuum, historically.

          It is very clear that the rights in the Bill of Rights, say, are not based on a belief that such rights are conferred. They are instead recognized as already legitimate by the document, and then protected by law.

          This entire way of thinking makes claims that such rights can be conferred on unnatural entities suspect, to say the least.

  • josebrwn

    so can they go to jail? can they vote?

    • paul_gs

      No, because they are a legal construct, (artificial) personhood for corporations grants only limited rights to a corporation. But let’s remember, even the United States government is a legal person. It can not vote or go to jail, but you can sue the government, thanks to the concept of legal personhood.

  • drdredel

    @paul_gs

    You’re conflating possible negligence with willful murder when they are apples and oranges to each other. But, when it comes to corporations, intentionally misleading exaggerations seem to be the order of the day.

    I’m not conflating anything, and as for “misleading” that is precisely what you’re doing with your (unwarranted) inclusion of the term “possible”.

    So… let me be perfectly clear. I’m not interested in arguing semantics. As far as I’m concerned when person A is directly responsible for the death of person B that is murder. The particulars are not relevant. It doesn’t matter if it was an accident, or negligence, or a bullet to the head because the result is the same.. person A did something and person B is dead.
    As to the penalties we have a legal system that protects those that murder accidentally from being as punished as those that murder intentionally, and corporations manage to be deemed accidental murderers in almost all circumstances. It is nigh impossible to prove that corporate insiders knew about the flaws in their products that would lead to people dying. There are many examples of corporations knowingly misleading the public, and people dying as a result. Those people ARE murderers. There is no exaggeration or hyperbole here. It doesn’t matter that they didn’t know who exactly they were going to kill (why would that make it any better or worse?)… they knew someone would die as a direct result of their actions and they didn’t do anything to prevent that reality, nor provide adequate warning to the victims. They don’t get executed, right? For that matter, they generally never even go to jail. Their corporations have to pay out some penalties (sometimes massive ones) but such a penalty payment program is never offered to someone that simply sticks a knife into someone else… why not? Where do you see the moral difference in the actions?

    Let me give you an absurd analogy, just to simplify it for you. Let’s say I have a clown business and as part of my act I decide that it would be fun for kids to see what would happen if I tossed a pipe bomb into a crowd.

    It’s a business decision… I’m trying to make more money, and it’s not my intention to kill anyone… I’m just tossing a pipe bomb into a crowded area to provide amusement. I’m sure someone might die (probably will in fact) but I’m not OUT to kill anyone! And I’m a small business! What should my penalty be for such behavior? I know you’re going to say that it’s a retarded analogy and of course it is, but it is exactly the same as BP ignoring all sorts of warnings about how their oil drilling platform is about to explode and allowing it to happen. I don’t see anyone heading off to the chair for that little fiasco.

    • paul_gs

      If you throw a pipe bomb into a crowd knowing it might kill someone, that is willful intent and grounds for being charged with murder.

      And which corporate people are murderers? Name a few and I’ll consider whether they match up to your claims.

      Not sure what you’re going on about BP and their oil platform. In no manner does it appear they “allowed” the catastrophe it to happen, though you seem to be implying that. I mean, why would they? A oil spill is hugely costly to clean up. BP would want good safety practises so that they don’t need to waste money on cleanup and damages.

    • paul_gs

      As far as I’m concerned when person A is directly responsible for the death of person B that is murder. The particulars are not relevant.

      The particulars are of course relevant. Did the person die on the operating table during a risky operation? That isn’t murder. Did a person have a blowout in their car, crossing the center line killing a person in the oncoming car? That isn’t murder.

      This sounds like you’re winding up to bash pharmaceutical companies because of the fact that many drugs have side effects and in some cases very serious ones. Maybe you could explain your reasoning a little more.

      • drdredel

        I explained my reasoning with cristal clarity, but I’ll say it again.

        I don’t want to argue semantics. So… you don’t want to call it murder? Fine call it fizzle-fazzle, call it whatever you want, just agree that we’re talking about person A causing the death of person B.

        I then went on to say that our legal system differentiates between the circumstances of the death. We generally hold people to account for intentionally killing and then the penalties go downward from there, all the way to no penalty at all in the case of some entirely unforeseen or unpreventable accident. Note however, that for the relatives of the victim, the nature of how or why is largely immaterial. They are still in the exact same situation, namely missing and burying a loved one.

        So yes there are clearly two different kinds of corporate culpability. One where the corporation made all reasonable efforts to inform the consumer as to the risk of using their product (car companies come to mind) and the other where they KNOW that there is a defect, and work to cover that knowledge up. In the second scenario, those that are doing the covering up are exactly as guilty (as far as I’m concerned) as Joe Serial Killer. They aren’t “hoping” that maybe they’ll get lucky and no one will die. They know that some people will, and they disregard that in the interest of corporate profit. Please don’t ask me for examples of this sort of thing… I’m already beating myself up for wasting time trying to explain something so elementary and obvious.

        And you’re right, one would think that BP *should think it in its own best interest NOT to have its expensive oil rig blow up, costing them a ton of money AND killing people, and yet several investigations have now revealed that they were given clear and accurate assessments as to the near certainty that their unsafe practices would bring about exactly this outcome, and yet they did nothing about it. And I think that given that now they’re back to being more profitable than ever, they may have reasonably done a cost/benefit risk analysis and said… “maybe it won’t blow up, and if it does, then paying out the widows and the EPA and rebuilding will actually cost us less in the long run than making the modifications now, so… fuck it.” Would you agree that if they had such a conversation, they *should at the very least be facing life without possibility of parole sentences now (if not the death penalty which is what mass murders always get in States where the DP is on the books). Note, I’m not saying that they *wanted these people dead. I’m saying their desires are not the issue. All that matters is that their actions, which were *not unavoidable, and of which they were aware, led to people dying. The law would call that gross negligence, but I think that that is an unnecessary euphemism. They knew what they were doing, they did it, people are dead. That should be punished in the exact same way as the guy that kills neighborhood kids and stores their corpses in a shack. In fact, it’s worse because the kid killer is obviously deranged while these bastards are doing it out of sheer greed.

        • paul_gs

          For the record, BP as a corporation has an excellent safety reputation in the oil industry, one of the best. That faults were found in their safety procedures is hardly surprising because deep water drilling is a very complicated and hazardous business. Employees of BP want to continue working for the company because they know BP takes safety seriously.

          Your animus towards BP seems based solely on the fact that a horrible industrial accident occurred. There also seem to have a misguided expectation of perfection from BP in every situation. But this is the real world and accidents can still happen. That is not to excuse accidents but to realize they still do happen in the real world.

          Lastly, you bring up the tired old shibboleth called “greed”. Making a profit is why they can spend so much on safety and great salaries and why their safety record is so good.

        • drdredel

          I’m not sure where you get your data from. BP was cited repeatedly and rated as one of the worst offenders in neglecting safety practices. And I’m not talking about the inherent dangers of the deep water drilling. Even for that technique they were riding rough shod, taking a ton of unnecessary shortcuts and being told over and over that this will absolutely result in tragedy sooner or later. As to greed you should read the entire sentence again. I’m not saying there’s anything criminal about greed, and clearly it’s a pretty base human impulse (though I would argue a fairly unfortunate one). However, what I said was I think people who do things consciously and driven by greed that results in someone dying are no better (and possibly worse) than those driven simply by madness.
          I have nothing against large corporations. I’m not against BP because they’re BP, or because they produce oil or because they’re profitable or because they’re greedy. That’s all fine with me, it’s how our economic system works, for better or worse. What I’m railing about is your original assertion that corporations are subject to the same legal penalties as private individuals, and specifically, that corporate executives who knowingly make decisions that result in peoples’ death, and withhold said information are not punished in the same way that private parties who do the same thing are.

          I have demonstrated this reality and explained in painful detail what I mean. If you have some constructive criticism of my analysis, please voice it, otherwise, I’d like to end this dialogue.

  • Steve D

    The influence that corporate campaign contributions have on elections is solely the fault of the voters. You don’t have to be swayed by attack ads. You can take the time to get informed.

    As for the fact that so many people think their interests align with corporations, that’s mostly the fault of the left. The left permanently alienated the working class in the Sixties. And today the message from progressives is that if you want economic liberalism, you have to buy social liberalism as well. Good luck with that.

    So what can progressives do? Stop protecting sociopaths. Support efforts to link social benefits to responsible behavior. Want benefits? Keep your kids in school and out of trouble, back the teachers in disciplinary matters, stay off drugs and alcohol, cooperate with the police. Stop pretending that criminals are victims instead of victimizers who prey on the poor worse than any Wall Street banker.

  • Brad Smith

    Wow, lots of stuff here in the comments that merits at least some address.

    Let’s start with corporate personhood. Is a corporation a person? Of course not. But what is it, then? Trees? Ducks? A building with a corporate name on the front? A bank account? Of course not. If a corporation is just an “artificial being,” how could it spend money to spend on politics, or pollute, or operate ships, or make a profit, pay taxes, or drill for oil? It must be something more.

    A corporation is an association of people (or in some cases just one person) joining together to acheive mutual ends. The corporation deals with persons – customers – on the basis of limited liability. That is to say, customers may sue the corporation, but may only recover the assets put at risk (invested in the enterprise) by the owners. For legal purposes, we call it a “person,” though what we really mean is a group of people with fluctuating membership. Treating it as a single person for legal purposes has many, many benefits. It allows the corporation to be sued, for example, rather than an aggreived person having to name all the shareholders individually as defendants, with the burdens of notice, service, joinder, jurisdiction, and venue that would entail. Similarly, it allows the members to sue as one entity. It allows the corporation – the group – to buy and sell property, or enter transactions, without having to change the title every time someone sells out of or buys into the corporation. It provides for an efficient means for the shareholders to manage their affairs, or often even better, to have their affairs and investments managed for them. As such, it greatly enriches the economy. Absent the corporate structure, it would be very difficult to aggregate the type of capital needed to undertake any major industrial enterprise – that is why corporations “go public.” People who are all upset about the idea of “corporations being people” don’t know what they are talking about. It makes no more sense to rail against corporate personhood – a legal concept that recognizes how people are organizing their affairs – than it does to rail against “team personhood,” as when we say that “the Nebraska Cornhuskers have scored 35 points today.” (How could that be? How can Nebraska score a touchdown? It’s a state. Can you execute Nebraska? If not, how can Nebraska carry a football over the goal line?)

    So a corporation is an association of people. It makes sense, therefore, for the association to defend and exercise some of the rights of its members/shareholders. Indeed, that’s why corporations are formed. Thus, a corporation can enter a contract, buy, hold, and sell property, etc. Indeed, it can do all the things that people can do in association with one another. You can speak. I can speak. John can speak. We can join together and speak as a group (chanting in unison, if you want to be literal about it, or pooling our financial resources to buy time for an advertisement on the radio, if you’ve got any imagination). We have a First Amendment right not only to speak individually, but to speak as a group. We don’t lose that right merely because we choose to organize ourselves as a corporation rather than a partnership or an unincorporated association.

    Imagine if corporations did not have rights. The government could seize all assets held in the name of the corporation, without due process and without just compensation, leaving the shareholders with worthless certificates of stock. If you are a student living in the dorm of a private college or university, the government could, in derogation of the Third Amendment, boot you summarily from your room in order to house soldiers there in time of peace. The government could search your workplace – at least if you work for a corporation – without a warrant and without probable cause.

    Corporate personhood does not mean corporations are literally considered persons. It simply means that corporations exercise all the rights that we can exercise in association with others. Thus, a corporation cannot vote – voting is an individual act, that you do singularly, not with another. They cannot hold office, just as Joe can’t act as Senator on weekdays and Jill as Senator on week-ends, holidays, and for one month during the summer. Either Joe or Jill has to be the Senator. Corporations cannot invoke the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, just as if you and I conspired to commit a crime together, I could not waive your Fifth Amendment right, or prohibit you from exercising it. But corporations can, as noted, contract, own property, commit torts, and yes, speak as a group. The Sierra Club does not lose its right to speak simply because it is incorporated. The ACLU exists as a means for members to utilize their constitutional rights in concert. It would make no sense to say that by acting in concert, as a corporation, they lose those rights.

    Inevitably at this point someone will say – as has been said in the comments above – that corporations give up their rights by incorporating and “accepting” limited liability. No. First, the benefits one gains by incorporating are irrelevent really. Generally, people point to two: unlimited life, and limited liability. Neither affects the ability of its members to speak, or counts as some grand gift from the state.

    Limited liability does not limit the liability of the group – it limits the liability of the individuals to that which they have contributed to the group. A corporation can always be sued for all its assets. But how many people would buy shares of Microsoft or the Limited if doing so meant all their worldly posessions were at risk of loss if the corporation – the group – sold a defective product? So people found a simple way around this. When you deal with a corporation, you know it has limited liability – that you can’t go after the homes and cars and unrelated retirement accounts of the shareholders. For that, you get goods at much lower cost. From the standpoint of corporate speech, limited liability makes no difference – there is no point in investing money in a corporation simply so it can spend it all on political speech. Nothing is gained in doing so.

    Similarly, the unlimited lifespan of corporations is irrelevent to it right to speak. At any moment, it is speaking for the current members. We don’t restrict the rights of people to speak simply because they may decide to pass assets on to their children in the future, or give them to charity, perhaps in a trust that will far outlast them. If anything, the unlimited lifespan of a corporation gives it an incentive to take a long term perspective, which is lacking from politics.

    You don’t give up your right to speak when you receive other government benefits, such as social security, medicare, medicaid, unemployment compensation, workers’ compensation, or welfare. When the government admits you to a state university, you don’t give up your right to free speech, and it is well established that the government cannot condition admission on giving up such rights.

    Then we have the misquoting of Justice Marshall and Thomas Jefferson. When Marshall wrote in Dartmouth College that a corporation is “an artificial being” and a “creature of the state,” he was pointing out the absurdity of people questioning whether corporations had rights. What he was leading to was that corporations have rights because *people* have rights. Does Dartmouth College have rights? No, Marshall was saying, but the people who organized it and are responsible for it have rights, and it is their rights that are affected, not some amorphous entity known as Dartmouth. Dartmouth College is merely the name for a group of individuals. That is why Marshall went on to find, for the Court majority, that corporations *do* have rights, and that Dartmouth College (the corporation in question) could claim its rights (the rights of its members) against the state. The Dartmouth College case means the exact opposite of what commenters above would quote it for. Marshall was pointing out the silliness of saying things like “I’ll believe a corporation is a person when Georgia executes one,” not the profundity of such statements. For nearly 200 years, then, the Supreme Court has clearly recognized that corporations have rights under the Constitution.

    Jefferson, meanwhile, was, like most of the founders, against monopoly. In the late 18th century, governments typically denied the right to incorporate – a violation, one could say, of the rights of the people to organize their affairs. Rather, corporate charters were typically granted only to friends of the government, and they were then given monopolies. This is what Jefferson opposed and was speaking about when he discussed the “corporate aristocracy.” Jefferson had no problem with modern corporate statutes that allow anybody to incorporate in less time than it has taken you to read this post.

    Those who are hung up on “corporate personhood” are missing the forest for the trees. Corporate personhood is simply a metaphor, convenient legal terminology for a bundle of rights that we, as individuals, hold, and can exercise in consort with others, using a organizational structure that we call a “corporation.”

    Are corporations people? Of course not. Do we, as people, have rights? I hope you think we do. Do we lose them merely by associating with others? No, we do not. So does an association of people have rights? Of course it does. Even if they organize themselves as a corporation.

  • Brad Smith

    Here’s a second bit of goofiness rolling through this thread: spending money on politics is not speech, and therefore should not be protected.

    Contrary to what some think, the Supreme Court does not believe that “money is speech.” Money, after all, is money, paper or coins or whatever else people use for money. What the Supreme Court has recognized is that if the government prohibits you from spending money for the purpose of speaking (or the press), it violates the right to free speech (or press, or assembly). This is not controversial in legal circles. Since the Supreme Court first addressed the issue in Buckley v. Valeo, 20 men and women have sat on the Supreme Court. Nineteen of them (all except Stevens) have agreed that limits on spending money for political debate or contributing to candidates raise serious First Amendment issues. (Stevens waffled back and forth on the issue, but always agreed that spending money was entitled to some level of protection under the Constitution.)

    Imagine, for example, if the government said you could not spend any money to travel – would that limit your right to travel? Suppose the government said you could not contribute money to churches: would that limit your right to practice religion? Suppose the government said you could not spend money to buy property: would that restrict your right to acquire property? Surely the answer to all three questions is yes. Now suppose the government said the New York Times could only spend $120,000 a year to publish (a little more than the limit on total political contributions at the federal level): would that limit the Times’ First Amendment rights? Of course it would (the Times, if you don’t know, spends way more than $120K per year to publish).

    So the only real disagreement on the Court has been whether or not their are compelling enough reasons for the government to breach the constitutional protection to spend money for political speech.

    Is money speech? Of course not. Does spending money, or pooling it with the funds of others to spend, often enhance the reach and effectiveness of one’s speech? Of course it does. Is the First Amendment at issue when the government seeks to limit speech for political purposes? Of course it is.

  • Brad Smith

    Is public funding of political campaigns an “original idea of Larry Lessig”?

    No. Elihu Root proposed it in 1894, and I doubt it was original with him.

  • Brad Smith

    Should corporate shareholders get to vote on every political expenditure? This has some intuitive appeal for people, but mistakes the nature of the corporation.

    The primary advantage of using a corporate organizational structure is managerial efficiency. Most of us have no idea how to run an auto manufacturer, a computer software company, a trucking company, or a company that makes industrial refrigerators. We don’t want to manage the company, we don’t have time to try to manage the company, and we’re pretty sure we’d make a hash of things if we tried.

    The solution is the corporate form. This allows corporate decisions to be made by management, who have the requisite time and expertise, supervised by a Board of Directors. Shareholders unhappy with the direction of the company may easily sell their shares (another huge advantage of organizing as a corporation rather than a partnership) and move on, or they may try to vote out the Board of Directors. An informal check is market competition – where a company is mismanaged, there is always the possibility that an outside group will come in and offer to buy the stock of the beleaguered shareholders, giving those shareholders a bonus return because the “takeover” group belives that it can manage the company more efficiently and make more money.

    The purpose and efficiency of the corporate form is largely lost if management must submit actions to a vote of the shareholders. Shareholders then have to educate themselves on the subject matter, and there is considerable cost in conducting the vote (not only direct monetary costs of holding the vote, but the costs of delay, which are often much more substantial). Thus, management acts, and shareholders unhappy leave the corporation or attempt to oust the directors at the annual meeting.

    Political contributions and spending are no different. Management has a duty to attempt to maximize shareholder value. That may include political action, to defeat candidates who seek to impose large taxes on the corporation’s products, for example, or simple to elect candidates who, the management believes, are most likely to foster a tax, fiscal, regulatory, and economic climate in which the company will prosper.

    Corporate political contributions are actually quite rare. They are a small fraction of total political spending in the country (less than 10%) and an infintisimal fraction of corporate transactions. Corporations spend approximately ten times as much money lobbying, and approximately 100 times as much money on charitable contributions. Further, note that lobbying can be controversial. Indeed, even charitable giving is controversial. The Boy Scouts? They don’t allow gay scoutmasters. The Museum of Art? Perhaps they are showing a controversial exhibit, such as “Piss Christ.” Planned Parenthood? Hoo boy, you just waded into the abortion issue. The Sierra Club? No, they’re not controversial. No shareholder would disagree with that.

    In fact, even a company’s ad campaigns can be political. Here’s an ad that’s clearly aiming to sell a product, but essentially portrays environmentalists as little authoritarians. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wq58zS4_jvM. Might some Audi shareholders not like that message?

    In fact, shareholders might disagree with company marketing strategies, product design, cost cutting efforts, or almost anything left to management. But corporations do not require votes on all these decisions, even those that raise clear political overtones and potentially consequences. (If Vice President Biden urges a company to change the location of its new plant from Oregon to North Carolina, should all the shareholders now vote on it, since the question is whether to support the Administration?)

    There is no real reason to single out corporate political expenditures for special treatment. Corporate shareholders retain the right to leave by selling their shares, or to attempt to alter corporate policy at regular intervals, through Board election.

    It seems clear that those arguing for more shareholder democracy (limited to political spending) really just want to silence view that they think they are likely to disagree with.

  • Brad Smith

    Does “the press” have special rights under the First Amendment, as some comments above have suggested? No.

    The Supreme Court has regularly rejected the idea that the institutional press – ABC, Rush Limbaugh, MSNBC, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, etc. – have greater First Amendment rights than the rest of us. When the Constitution speaks of the “press,” it does not mean some group of people hanging out at the “Press Club” or walking around with press IDs about their necks. Rather, it means the activity of publishing. So we have the freedom of speech – to say what we want – and of the press – to publish what we want.

    If there were some group known as “the press” with special rights, it would require the government to identify that group – which would become a de facto form of government licensing of the press. If you are in the group recognized by the government – i.e., you have a license – you can spend all you want to speak, but if not, your speech can violate the law. The absurdity ought to be readily apparent.

    Think of how this would have impacted blogging and the development of internet sites. What credentials did Markos Moulitsas have as “press” when he started the Daily Kos? By what standards were the founders of “Red State” members of “the Press.” Why would Rupert Murdoch be allowed to say whatever he wanted, spending his money to do so, because he owned a “news network,” while George Soros would not be allowed to buy advertising time to counter that message, since his companies are not “press?”

    When the protestors at OWS raise signs, they are not speaking, are they (for all the literalists that seem to be populating this comments section)? Rather, they are using their right of “the press” — their right to print and publish their thoughts. This cannot be restricted simply because they are not accredited by the Miami Herald or are not members of the Printers’ Guild.

    The freedom of the press belongs to all Americans, and we’re all the better for it.