The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this week on a case that could dramatically expand “free speech rights” of business corporations. At stake are laws, one dating back 100 years, prohibiting contributions from corporate treasuries to elections.
Those calling to abolish these laws make the incredible claims that business corporations don’t have enough political speech and that their political voices aren’t heard loud enough. Corporations are “persons” they assert. Financial corporations driving their own government bailouts, insurance corporations steering health care reform proposals away from any changes that will reduce their profits, and hundreds of other examples where business corporations influence public policies through lobbying and political action committee (PAC) contributions are apparently to be ignored.
The case, Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, is not at root about expanding political speech to a new category of people or about regulating a certain type of speech. It’s rather at its core about regulating a certain type of legal organization – a business corporation.
Corporations are creations of the state. Since our nation’s founding, they have been regulated to serve the public interest. Corporations are not persons with First Amendment Bill of Rights protections.
Rights are reserved for living creatures. Anointing business corporations with greater rights and powers to mold public policies will only reduce what is left our our democracy.