The Bush-Packed Supreme Court Thinks Corporations Are People Too

On January 22, the Supreme Court re-affirmed the case of Santa Clara vs. Santa Fe where the United States first developed the doctrine of corporations as persons.  As a result, corporations have the same political and civil rights as regular human beings.  “The Bush-Packed Supreme Court Thinks Corporations Are People Too” argues that with this ruling, corporations enjoy the privileges of personhood but fail to carry the burden of its responsibilities.  Scott Klinger, the author of this article, explains that humans must pause for sleep and rest, pay large sums of taxes, take care of organs of the body other than the brain, be accountable to society, and one day die.  Organizations are free to exist without these constraints on their progress and existence.

The idea of organizations as collective actors is crucial to the debate surrounding this ruling.  As a collective actor, organizations can speak as one body.  This comes into play with most debate with financing candidates for elections.  Normal people are given a $2400 guideline whereas organizations are able to stray from this limit.  In Klinger’s article, his biggest argument centers around the fact that organizations simply cannot be treated as one human being because there are too many differences between the two.  There are other concerns on a human’s mind besides advancing 24 hours a day.  Human beings and corporations are not equal.

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One Response

  1. This case certainly has the potential to be a sea change in politics and campaigns. One point is that the $2,400 limit to candidates is for individuals directly contributing. This case was about buying media time (speech) that can endorse a candidate or tear one down (as was the case here with a long video against Hilary Clinton). Org theory helps differentiate between which organization is making decisions (candidate campaign or third parties). With multiple organizations getting messages out, the complexity of strategic communications in campaigns will go up.

    I don’t know what the current law is about how much money corporations can give directly to candidates from their accounts. It may be that they still have to set up PACs, which are highly regulated. Maybe you can pursue this question down the road.

    Finally, I saw this relevant and amusing video. Let me see if I can put in a link. “Corporation as Candidate”

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