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Monday, March 28, 2011

The Absurdity of Corporate Personhood

The Citizens United ruling can be boiled down to one simple and crazy idea; that this...

Bank of America building virtually indistinguishable from this:

A baby

I'm guessing you don't really see the resemblance. Neither do I. In fact, Bank of America has more rights than Skeezix here, by virtue of being an adult. Apparently, corporations are born into full adulthood -- another obvious difference we're all supposed to ignore.


As a person, Bank of America enjoys all the legal protections that Skeezix does, with the added benefits of being able to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns -- something Skeezix isn't allowed to do at all -- and the fact that it's technically immortal. BoA can die -- and probably will eventually -- but it won't be old age that takes it down. Skeezix's life will max out somewhere in the neighborhood of a century, if he's really lucky. So Skeezix gets 100-18=82 years of whatever political influence a person can have. Bank of America could theoretically get centuries of influence. Unless we're looking at the next Abraham Lincoln here, Bank of America's influence on American politics will far, far outweigh this kid's.

In a nation whose foundational law begins with the words "We the People," the definition of the word "person" is of profound importance. Which is why there's a movement in America to define the word in a somewhat more realistic and less ridiculous manner. And, around here anyway, that movement gets started in earnest on April 5.

John Nichols, The Capital Times:

In Madison and Dane County, voters will... be able to signal their commitment to clean elections, open government and local control by voting "yes" and "yes" on a pair of advisory referendums that address the threat posed to democracy by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, which allows corporations to spend freely and without accountability to buy elections. The 2010 election results reflected that influence -- in Wisconsin and nationally.

These "advisory" referenda aren't binding, but they are a chance to get the people's voice on the record. While some may argue that lefty Madison and Dane County aren't representative of the nation, polling shows that -- no matter who you ask -- the people are against this nationwide. And in a big way.

Talking Points Memo (Feb. 2010):

New numbers from the ABC News/Washington Post poll reveal Americans of all political stripes are overwhelmingly upset with the Supreme Court's decision to allow more corporate money into electoral politics.

As the Post reports, the results from the poll are undeniably negative toward the decision. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they were "strongly opposed" to the ruling, with 72% saying they supported congressional action to reinstate the campaign fundraising limits the Supreme Court removed in the Citzens United case.

The negativity cuts equally across party lines, according to the poll.

Not the freshest numbers, but -- as far as I can tell -- they're the freshest available.

The idea here is to amend the US Constitution to strike down Citizens United. As ballot measure after ballot measure wins, the issue will be kept alive in the media -- and in voters' minds. Keeping the outrage from being overtaken by a "new normal" is always the challenge in a long-term effort. "Voters overwhelming oppose corporate personhood" headlines help keep that from happening.

We've got the ball rolling and, right now at least, the challenge is to keep it rolling.


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