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Green Party Calls for End to Legal Doctrine of Corporate Personhood

Posted by libhom Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In case you are new to this weird aspect of our legal system, here's a very brief introduction to what corporate personhood is from ReclaimDemocracy.org. (Skip to what Green Party is doing.)

Our Bill of Rights was the result of tremendous efforts to institutionalize and protect the rights of human beings. It strengthened the premise of our Constitution: that the people are the root of all power and authority for government. This vision has made our Constitution and government a model emulated in many nations.

But corporate lawyers (acting as both attorneys and judges) subverted our Bill of Rights in the late 1800's by establishing the doctrine of "corporate personhood" -- the claim that corporations were intended to fully enjoy the legal status and protections created for human beings.

We believe that corporations are not persons and possess only the privileges we willfully grant them. Granting corporations the status of legal "persons" effectively rewrites the Constitution to serve corporate interests as though they were human interests. Ultimately, the doctrine of granting constitutional rights to corporations gives a thing illegitimate privilege and power that undermines our freedom and authority as citizens. While corporations are setting the agenda on issues in our Congress and courts, We the People are not; for we can never speak as loudly with our own voices as corporations can with the unlimited amplification of money.

If "corporate personhood" sounds crazy to you, you are absolutely correct. Making corporations into the legal equivalents of people has no factual or constitutional basis and is completely unreasonable.

There are two other points I would like to add:

1) The Supreme Court ruling in the latter part of the 19th Century that enshrined corporate personhood was part of a broader pattern of corruption at that time, which included Plessy v. Ferguson and a ruling that said that anti trust legislation didn't apply to corporations, but instead to unions.

2) Corporations allow investors and speculators to avoid one of the biggest responsibilities of personhood, full civil liability for the actions of the enterprise, yet the Supreme Court granted those very corporations all the rights of people.

The Democrats have complained about Citizens United, a case where the fraudulent doctrine of "corporate personhood" has given the Republicans and foreign business interests a huge advantage in our political system. Those complaints have been reasonable as far as they go, but very few Democrats have called for an end to the sham of "corporate personhood." The Greens have done just that. (From Green Change 10/18/10)
110 Green Party candidates nationwide are calling for a “Green New Deal” to end the legal doctrine of corporate personhood, which grants corporations constitutional rights that had previously been reserved for people.

In addition, in August the U.S. Green Party endorsed “stripping [corporations] of artificial ‘personhood’ and constitutional protections,” along with “revoking the charters of corporations that routinely violate safety, health, environmental protection or other laws.”

In contrast, neither the Democratic nor the Republican parties support ending corporate personhood, or revoking the corporate charters of lawless corporations.

“Democrats and Republicans together have installed the judges who have brought corporate rule to America,” said Gary Ruskin, co-founder of Green Change, a national political organization. “If you want to fix the economy, clean up corruption in Washington, and save the environment, then vote Green to abolish corporate personhood.”

The Green New Deal has some other excellent ideas in it too. Here are the ten planks of it.
· Cut military spending at least 70%
· Create millions of green union jobs through massive public investment in renewable energy, mass transit and conservation
· Set ambitious, science-based greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, and enact a revenue-neutral carbon tax to meet them
· Establish single-payer "Medicare for all" health care
· Provide tuition-free public higher education
· Change trade agreements to improve labor, environmental, consumer, health and safety standards
· End counterproductive prohibition policies and legalize marijuana
· Enact tough limits on credit interest and lending rates, progressive tax reform and strict financial regulation
· Amend the U.S. Constitution to abolish corporate personhood
· Pass sweeping electoral, campaign finance and anti-corruption reforms

I don't think that a constitutional amendment would even be necessary to get rid of "corporate personhood." All that would be needed would be a court challenge of it in front of a Supreme Court where the majority of the Justices were honest.



  1. Obama turned me Green.

  2. Tengrain Says:
  3. I turned Green at the Invasion of Iraq, I always credit Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt for it.

    The original court case that established corporate personhood was Southern Pacific vs. Santa Clara happened less than a mile away from me. It's a strange case, the history of the personhood is very much disputed. It's a throw away line that the court reporter might have injected into the procedings. But it is NOT a law and it is NOT on the books anywhere. It is an assumption, and it really would be easy to change because of that.





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