Greens: Citizens United ruling will make Dem & Repub parties subsidiaries of top corporations; amendment needed to deny corporate ‘personhood’


For Immediate Release:
Monday, January 25, 2010

Scott McLarty, Media Coordinator, 202-518-5624, cell 202-904-7614,
Starlene Rankin, Media Coordinator, 916-995-3805,

Greens: The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling will make the
Democratic and Republican parties into subsidiaries of top

• Greens urge a new constitutional amendment affirming that ‘We the
People’ means humans, not corporations

• Green Party Speakers Bureau: Greens available to speak on democracy,
electoral reforms, and corporate power: /

WASHINGTON, DC — The Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United v. FEC
ruling will turn national, state, and local elections into a corporate
power game, said Green Party leaders in reaction to the decision
handed down on Thursday.

Greens predict that the decision, which strikes down laws limiting the
use of corporate money for campaign advertising, will have extremely
damaging consequences for democratic elections and for the existence
of the US as a republic. The Green Party accepts no corporate funding
and advocates clean elections, free of the money and influence of

Many Greens are supporting Move To Amend (,
which, like the Green Party, asserts that human beings, not
corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights; that
money is not speech; and that the right to vote and have one’s vote
counted must be guaranteed. Move To Amend demands a constitutional
amendment enacting these principles.

Quotes by Green Party leaders:

• Jody Grage, treasurer of the Green Party of the United States: “The
decision will cement the Democratic and Republican parties’ status as
subsidiaries of Wall Street, oil companies, defense contractors,
insurance firms, media conglomerates, and other top corporations. It
cancels the idea that candidates run for public office to serve the
public interest. The ruling will help block government measures to
curb global warming, regulation of financial firms, health care
reform, consumer rights, and all other protections for ‘We the People’
against corporate power.”

• Sanda Everette, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States:
“Thanks to the Court’s ruling, we’ll see a flood of election season
ads promoting corporate-sponsored candidates, overwhelming those who
would serve the interests of the public instead of the demands of
lobbyists. The ruling also frees unions from campaign advertising
restrictions, but unions don’t have the economic resources and clout
of major corporations. The ruling especially hurts the ability of
parties that don’t accept corporate contributions, like the Green
Party, to compete.” (Ms. Everette is working with other democracy
activists to pass the California Fair Elections Act
(; such efforts are threatened by the
Citizens United ruling.)

• Rich Whitney, 2010 Green candidate for Governor of Illinois
( “In a transparently political
decision, a majority of the US Supreme Court overturned its own recent
precedent and paid tribute to the giant corporate interests that
already wield tremendous power over our political process and
political speech. Drawing upon a much older precedent — the legal
fiction of corporate ‘personhood’ that it created in 1886 – the Court
determined that these contrived ‘rights’ trump the public interest in
having genuinely representative government…. In the face of this
devastating threat to what remains of democratic process in our
country, I, along with my fellow Green Party candidates, now present
an even clearer choice to voters. We remain the Party that stands on
principle, the Party that does not accept, and whose candidates do not
accept, corporate money. We are the Party that is serious about
establishing government of, by and for the people.” (“How We Can
Trump the Supreme Court and End Corporate Domination of Government,”

• Farheen Hakeem, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States:
“This is a civil rights issue. The legal idea of ‘personhood’ for
corporations was introduced after the Civil War and passage of the
14th Amendment, which was intended to protect freed slaves. But
around the same time that Jim Crow laws were enacted, the protections
of the 14th Amendment were in effect transferred from Black Americans
to corporations in a series of landmark Supreme Court decisions
beginning with Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad in
1886. These decisions helped set off the Robber Baron Era of
unrestrained corporate power, until campaign financing laws and other
restraints on corporate power were passed. The Citizens United ruling
strikes down those restrictions and puts America in danger of a new
Robber Baron Era. Restoring democracy and the idea that
constitutional rights should only apply to humans will now require a
citizens’ effort as strong as the Civil Rights Movement.”

• David Cobb, 2004 Green Party nominee for President and a member of
Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County ( “We
need publicly financed elections, we need laws requiring a majority of
shareholders to approve corporate political contributions. But even
if every one of those laws passed, it would not be enough. The Court
relied on the illegitimate legal doctrine of ‘corporate personhood’ in
order to justify this profoundly undemocratic decision. The Court has
literally legalized corporate bribery of our elected officials. It’s
time to amend the US Constitution to make it clear that only human
beings can claim to be ‘persons’ with constitutional rights.”

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, in his dissent to Citizens
United, wrote “[C]orporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no
feelings, no thoughts, no desires…. [T]hey are not themselves
members of ‘We the People’ by whom and for whom our Constitution was
established.” (


Green Party of the United States
202-319-7191, 866-41GREEN
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• Green Party ballot access page
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the United States
Fall 2009 issue now online

18 thoughts on “Greens: Citizens United ruling will make Dem & Repub parties subsidiaries of top corporations; amendment needed to deny corporate ‘personhood’

  1. d.eris

    The Green Party is a little behind the ball here. They say, this ruling “WILL MAKE the Democratic and Republican parties INTO SUBSIDIARIES of top corporations.”

    The underlying false assumption here is that the Democratic and Republican Parties are not already wholly owned subsidiaries of top corporations.

  2. Richard Winger

    Richard Whitney, Farheen Hakeem, and David Cobb, all say that the decision depends on the idea that corporations are persons. They are wrong. Justice Stevens himself said in his dissent that corporations have First Amendment rights. The Freedom of Speech part of the First Amendment has always protected groups along with individuals. The idea of corporate personhood only relates to the 14th amendment.

    Furthermore, 26 states, holding 60% of the population, have no laws making it illegal for corporations to speak about candidates for state office. If it’s such a disaster to let corporations speak about federal candidates, why haven’t we seen a disaster in the 26 states that let corporations speak about state candidates?

  3. Ralph

    My understanding is that corporate personhood goes back to Greco-Roman Law and is a foundation of natural law, what was later called the corporation sole. Group corporations are a derivation of that fact, their rights deriving from the owners. It’s strange that some Greens are simultaneously calling for corporate personhood to protect endangered species.

    Among the corporations they would silence are unions, non-profits, fraternities, family small corporations, personal corporations, newspapers and radio that are corporations, and eventually more grief for political parties (the USLP/LNC is a corporation). It’s a matter of time that such restrictions would be extended to co-ops and partnerships, not to mention consumer groups. It’s good the Supremes acted as the law was indeed drifting into silencing anyone on elections. There is also the chilling effect the Supremes cited. I handled BCRA for the Florida State Libertarians and it was a nightmare. People were worried about doing or saying something that would get them in trouble from some obscure regulation.

    The Greens have some good points on corporate governance and the need for a campaign funding scheme. But that’s a different issue set. Why not e.g. make all taxes voluntary with a check-off for your favorite programs, such as campaign funding ?

  4. Mik Robertson

    @3 “The idea of corporate personhood only relates to the 14th amendment.”

    That’s where it started in the latter part of the 19th century. Since then corporations have also claimed rights as persons under the first, fourth and fifth amendments.

    The civil rights legislation of the 1960 was used by corporations to sue municipal governments for violations of their ‘rights’ if the government tried to regulate to secure the rights of the citizens.

    It is true the ruling does not address corporate personhood directly, but to affirm there is right to freedom of speech by corporation certainly supports that idea. While Congress may make no law restricting the freedom of speech, this ruling also affects a number of state laws, if I am not mistaken.

  5. Darcy G. Richardson

    Richard Winger (#3) asks, “If it’s such a disaster to let corporations speak about federal candidates, why haven’t we seen a disaster in the 26 states that let corporations speak about state candidates?

    Well, you need to look a little closer, Richard. According to a recent Pew Center study, six of the seven states leading the list of states on the verge of fiscal calamity are among the 26 states that currently do not ban or restrict corporate spending on state candidates. While California is in the worst shape — a disastrous predicament by any estimation — it is followed closely by New Jersey, which faces a long-term debt of more than $44 billion, and Florida, with an unemployment rate of 11.8%, tens of thousands of mortgage foreclosures and a projected budget deficit for FY 2010-11 of between $4.5 billion and $5.5 billion. Florida, which pays one of the lowest unemployment benefits in the country, is currently borrowing $400 million every month from the federal government just to pay its unemployment claims.

    Illinois, Oregon and Nevada — all states that allow corporate spending on elections — aren’t too far behind.

    By all means, let’s have more corporate influence in American politics.

  6. Richard Winger

    I assert that there is no connection between California’s budget woes and California’s not having any ban on corporations speaking about candidates for state office. Furthermore, New York’s budget woes are even worse than California’s, and New York does have such a ban.

    I have lived in California all my life and I have never seen an ad by a big for-profit corporation attacking or supporting any candidate for state office. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it occurs. Big for-profit corporations don’t want to alienate customers, or potential customers, by running such ads.

  7. Darcy G. Richardson

    Well, that’s interesting Richard (#7) because Common Cause, in a report issued last autumn, claims that independent spending (both corporate and union) has soared in California, reaching $23.5 million on state legislative races alone during the 2006 election cycle. According to the citizen watchdog group, much of that was corporate spending.

    In its report, Common Cause even cited the example of one company spending $1 million to independently promote the candidacy of Tony Strickland, the Republican candidate for State Comptroller.

    We’re never going to see eye-to-eye on this, but it’s rather foolish to argue that corporate spending doesn’t occur in state legislative races.

  8. Richard Winger

    My comment #7 referenced “big for-profit corporations.” I suspect most of the California corporate spending is from non-profit corporations, specifically corporations formed just to engage in politics, not corporations like General Motors, Standard Oil, Southern Pacific, Apple Computer, etc.

    I haven’t seen one radio or TV or newspaper ad, or any internet ad, promoting Tony Strickland for Controller. If some corporation has already spent $1,000,000 promoting him, they certainly don’t seem to have spent their money wisely.

  9. Darcy G Richardson

    Richard, please read my comment again — I was referencing the 2006 election cycle in California. That’s the last statewide election in California for which there’s available data on corporate spending in state legislative and statewide races.

    According to Common Cause, the company was Intuit, a for-profit software corporation — makers of Quicken and QuickBooks — which spent $1 million to influence the State Comptroller race in 2006. Intuit produced “Turbo Tax” and opposed the creation of a free on-line tax preparation program for California residents known as Ready Return, which was supported by Strickland’s Democratic opponent.

  10. Richard Winger

    Thanks, Darcy. That’s interesting.

    Did the Intuit independent spending give any reason why voters should vote for Strickland? Since Intuit’s ads would have had to identify Intuit as the speaker (a disclosure requirement the US Supreme Court upheld last week, for federal corporate spending), I wish I could remember its ads for Strickland. I can’t believe they said, “Vote for Strickland; he will end the state practice of doing your state income tax for free so that we can sell more of our product!”

    An ad like that would hurt Strickland, not helped him. I see he got 40.2% of the vote in November 2006. The Republican nominees for Governor and Insurance Cmsr were simultaneously getting re-elected, and the Republican candidates for Secretary of State and Lieutenant Governor each got slightly over 45%.

  11. Darcy G Richardson

    Common Cause didn’t specify in its report precisely what the ads on Strickland’s behalf looked like, or exactly how they spent the million dollars, but I agree it would be interesting to find out.

  12. Mik Robertson

    @7 “Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it occurs.”

    This is true, and the converse is also true, just because something is illegal does not mean it does not occur. There are serious flaws in the electoral system, and this ruling will not help, in fact it will make the flaws more pronounced.

    There is no question there were serious problems with BCRA. Attempts at reforming campaign finance so far have been anything but.

    Even in Pennsylvania, with restrictions on corporate funding of election campaigns, come bonus time. I have heard plenty of stories where people were ‘encouraged’ to give certain amounts to certain campaigns. Having you voter registration with the ‘wrong’ political party could cost you your job.

    Not long ago I had one of our county LP members tell me he was sorry, but he took a job with a Commonwealth department and had to change his voter registration. Now, no one said “Change your voter registration or you can’t work here.” but the message was clear. Sadly, his was only one of many stories I have heard like that.

    The undue influence in the electoral process is so pervasive that there will be no easy way to address it. The game is rigged, and this ruling will do nothing to change that, in fact it will make the voices of the people more remote. Perhaps not to a great degree, but any movement in the direction of adding to the cacophony in the frenzy of what passes for election campaigns anymore is not going in the right direction.

  13. Mik Robertson

    @10 “”I suspect most of the California corporate spending is from non-profit corporations, specifically corporations formed just to engage in politics, not corporations like General Motors, Standard Oil, Southern Pacific, Apple Computer, etc.”

    It is funny you should mention Southern Pacific. The whole corporate personhood issue started in the hearing of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, 118 U.S. 394 (1886).

    In a previous case, also involving Southern Pacific, Roscoe Conkling, attorney for the railroad, suggested that the word ‘person’ in the 14th amendment was meant to include corporations. The point was never argued in court and tat case was settled.

    In the 1886 case, Chief Justice Morrison Waite accepted Conkling’s assertion, again without argument, stating that the court did not want to hear arguments as to whether the equal protection clause applies to corporations because “[w]e are all of the opinion that it does”.

    That was not the case in the US prior to that ruling. Corporations were chartered for a specific purpose and for a limited amount of time.

    If corporations are not chartered to engage in electoral politics, then any interference from them in the electoral process should result in revocation of the charter. Just my thought.

  14. Brian Holtz

    Mik, are you saying that associations of individuals should have to seek government permission to engage in electoral speech? Why should voluntary associations of individuals need a government “charter” to do anything?

    I for one oppose special limits on liability for corporations. As far as I can tell, a corporation is fundamentally just a scaled-up limited partnership that has no general partners. The crucial question is: would capital formation be threatened by a requirement for each corporation to have at least one liable general partner? I suspect that it wouldn’t. If corporations are equivalent to scaled-up limited partnerships, then the traditional leftist argument against limited shareholder liability evaporates — unless they are against limited liability for limited partners. I don’t see how they could be, since that in turn seems equivalent to a transferable contract that pays a share of firm income and is a particular sort of claim against the firm’s assets upon liquidation. There’s nothing wrong with that.

  15. Brian Holtz

    Here in italics is some new Platform language I unsuccessfully advocated that the PlatCom recommend in St. Louis:

    “We defend the right of individuals to form corporations, cooperatives and other types of companies based on voluntary association, as long as ultimate responsibility for each non-contractual liability of the firm is accepted by at least one of the individuals in it.

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