Nader statement on Supreme Court decision and corporate domination

Ralph Nader ran for President of the United States with the Green Party, and more recently as an independent candidate. The following was posted at Nader.org on January 21, 2010:

Statement of Ralph Nader on Supreme Court Decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission shreds the fabric of our already weakened democracy by allowing corporations to more completely dominate our corrupted electoral process. It is outrageous that corporations already attempt to influence or bribe our political candidates through their political action committees (PACs), which solicit employees and shareholders for donations. With this decision, corporations can now also draw on their corporate treasuries and pour vast amounts of corporate money, through independent expenditures, into the electoral swamp already flooded with corporate campaign PAC contribution dollars.

This corporatist, anti-voter decision is so extreme that it should galvanize a grassroots effort to enact a Constitutional Amendment to once and for all end corporate personhood and curtail the corrosive impact of big money on politics. It is indeed time for a Constitutional amendment to prevent corporate campaign contributions from commercializing our elections and drowning out the civic and political voices and values of citizens and voters. It is way overdue to overthrow “King Corporation” and restore the sovereignty of “We the People”!

34 thoughts on “Nader statement on Supreme Court decision and corporate domination

  1. jason

    Right on! I’ve been arguing for a constitutional amendment forbidding corporate personhood for years. I wish somebody in Congress would start advocating this. Corporation != Human Being.

  2. Richard Winger

    Corporate personhood has nothing to do with the First Amendment. It only comes up in connection with the 14th Amendment. The First Amendment plainly protects group speech as well as the speech of individuals. Justice Stevens admitted as much in his dissent yesterday. If the First Amendment only protected individuals, it would be possible for the government to muzzle churches, parties, newspapers, and groups like the NAACP, Common Cause, the ACLU, ANSWER, and any group formed to promote a political cause.

  3. Mik Robertson

    Corporate personhood does reach to the first amendment, and the fourth and fifth as well as the commerce clause.

    When the first amendment talks about Congress making no law abridging the freedom of speech, that addresses the right to freedom of speech. Individuals have that right, corporations and other groups do not.

    The corporations and unions should have certain authority to act under their charters. If it is their purpose to influence elections, then there is some reason for them to speak in that case. They have no right to speak as an individual does, despite the wishes of the courts to grant that right.

    Just because there is no right to speak does not mean there is justification to curtail the speech. If the speech is impinging upon the rights of individuals to be heard by their elected officials, then that would appear to me to be sufficient justification.

    When government starts securing the rights of corporations and other groups, the ability of government to secure the rights of the individual will suffer.

  4. Richard Winger

    The First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.” It would even be unconstitutional for Congress to pass a law banning animals from speaking. That could come up in the world imagined by the movie series “Planet of the Apes.”

    Mik, if you post again, where do you draw the line between groups that can speak and groups that have no constitutional protection, and where in the First Amendment do you see the authority to draw such a line? The New York Times is a corporation.

  5. Gene Berkman

    What is the real meaning of Ralph Nader’s attack on freedom of speech?

    Mr Nader advocates policies intentionally designed to limit the ability of corporations to serve their customers and make profits. He would deny them the right to use political speech to defend their rights.

    To disable your victim, to take away their defense, before you attack them is the mark of a totalitarian mentality.

  6. The Last Conservative

    Ralph Nader is the one who caused this. He is the one who was truly in charge of the Bush administration; he got Bush elected and personally chose Alito and Roberts for the Supreme Court. His statements on this are just psychological mind manipulation/torture, to make people think that he is not a criminal mastermind.

  7. Darcy G Richardson

    Well, now that the Supreme Court has come down strongly for the rights of corporate personhood, I heard that Exxon-Mobil (I’m not sure if it’s a guy or a gal — it’s not sure either) will be declaring its candidacy for the Presidency this coming Monday.

    I also heard from writer Greg Palast that Haliburton, WalMart and a surprise Manchurian candidate — a Philippines company with a mailing address in Delaware — are on its short list of possible vice-presidential running mates.

    Ain’t politics fun in the post-Dubya era?

    It was bad enough that the Supreme Court gave us an illegitimate President nearly a decade ago, but did they have to destroy our democracy, too?

  8. Andy

    “Mr Nader advocates policies intentionally designed to limit the ability of corporations to serve their customers and make profits. He would deny them the right to use political speech to defend their rights.”

    One problem is that almost all of the corporations are in bed with the state. Government entities (local, state, and federal) own a large percentage of stock in almost all of the big corporations. Yes, that’s right, the government OWNS large stakes in most of the big corporations. Check out the Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports of government entities, see http://www.CAFR1.com . for more details on how much of corporate America is owned by big government.

    Considering that the government owns much of the stock in the big corporations, who do you think these big corporations are going to spend their campaign contributions on? BIG GOVERNMENT POLITICIANS!

    Then take into consideration that there are many big corporations who derive large amounts of income from government contracting. Also take into consideration that many of these big corporations recieve all kinds of hands outs from politicians such as land given to them through eminent domain as well as other forms of corporate welfare.

    It should come as no suprise when the big corporations line up behind big government Democrats and Republicans because they are partners in crime.

  9. Darcy G Richardson

    Andy’s exactly right. As a result of Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling, we’ll now have a situation in which major corporations receiving federal largesse in the form of TARP money, contracts and other subsidies (not to mention Federal Reserve cash infusions, loans and loan guarantees), will be spending hundreds of millions of dollars, possibly billions, more than they currently do to influence the election of the very people — members of Congress — responsible for providing those federal outlays.

    This is worse than a nightmare.

    Representative democracy as we know it died on January 21. Minor parties are damned.

  10. Darcy G Richardson

    The Democrats aren’t much better off, but with the exception of congressmen like Dennis Kucinich, Alan Grayson and a few other intrepid souls, most of them will eventually march in lock-step with their corporate masters.

  11. Darcy G Richardson

    Not that it matters, but I heard through the grapevine that one of the first acts of the 112th Congress will be to change the lyrics of the famous Katharine Lee Bates song to, “Amerika, the Subservient.”

  12. Thomas L. Knapp

    Hey, at least this ruling will reduce the prison population.

    I bet Duke Cunningham renames his yacht from “The Duke Stir” to “It Was Free Speech, Up Yours” when he gets it back.

  13. Darcy G Richardson

    Speaking of Duke Cunningham and incarceration, the prisons in this country are vastly overcrowded. When I ran for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania a lifetime or two ago, my biggest bloc of support, oddly enough, came from the families of those incarcerated.

    Prisoners, especially the lifers, at Graterford Prison — by far the roughest prison in Pennsylvania — regularly read my letters and columns in the Philadelphia newspapers and corresponded with me regularly. I think the inmate population kept the Philadelphia Daily News in business. In any case, I believed strongly in opening the prison gates and giving almost everyone a second chance at life.

    I didn’t tell them at the time that once they were released, I was going to unleash them on the corporate establishment…those who have been robbing the American public blind since God knows when. Of course, with the TARP bailout and all of the federal subsidies it’s much worse today.

  14. Darcy G Richardson

    I guess I’m a radical, some might even call me a left-wing extremist, but I’ve always believed that our nation’s prisons are the key to our country’s freedom, especially given the passivity and inability of ordinary Americans — the meek go-along to get-along majority — to rise up in anger.

    Set most of our nation’s prisoners free and with it liberty will once again ring loudly in America.

    The vast majority of those currently incarcerated in U.S. prisons were never given a fair chance in life. For various socio-economic reasons, that’s a fact. Many of them were doomed from birth.

    Imagine the threat of some of our nation’s prisoners being released on Wall Street today or tomorrow….calling the Harvard-educated privileged executives of our nation’s most powerful financial firms to account for their misdeeds — wrongdoings that led to the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression and one from which most of us and our families may never recover, certainly not in our own lifetimes.

    The mere presence of America’s ex-cons on Wall Street would scare the hell out of those pampered kids, those given every advantage in life, for the mess the country currently finds itself in. The former inmates — those confined in the country’s ugliest and most dehumanizing prisons — would be considered heroes and heroines by millions of ordinary U.S. taxpayers.

    The U.S. could use some real heroes, not those honored by slaughtering civilian citizens in Iraq or innocent children in Afghanistan.

    I’m not calling for a Second American Revolution…but freedom isn’t only for the privileged and the few. It also applies to the destitute kids raised in the ghetto or in low-income, single-parent households in working-class neighborhoods.

    It’s their country, too.

    And what better time to use their skills and talents than now? It’s time to scare the hell out of the folks who have taken this country for all it’s worth for foolish and erratic mistakes of their own making. Six trillion dollars and counting…the joke is on us.

    Let freedom ring.

  15. Richard Winger

    The same sort of “Judicial activism” that motivated the Citizens United v FEC decision, may yet result in another “judicial activism” court ruling that says the Voting Rights Act does protect ex-felons and felons. We saw this on January 5 in the 9th circuit decision Farrakhan v Gregoire, which said because the evidence shows that Washington state’s criminal justice system discriminates against racial minorities, it is illegal for Washington state to prevent felons from voting. When the US Supreme Court takes the rights in the Constitution seriously, we all benefit. That’s why I am happy about the Citizens United decision.

  16. jason

    Because I’m sure his free-market loving self would rather have a constitutional amendment saying that corporations are people. Sorry, I’m anarcho-communist, not anarcho-capitalist.

  17. Darcy G Richardson

    Richard @ 17. I’m glad that the Citizens United v FEC decision by the Supreme Court may possibly result in a favorable court ruling for convicts and ex-felons, but I’d much rather see most of our nation’s prisoners on the street — Wall Street, in particular — where we may need them the most.

    It’s much later than most people think.

    The American people should vigorously protest the recent Supreme Court ruling rather than pretend nothing happened this past Thursday. It’s way too late for baby steps at this point in our Republic’s history…the GOP-appointed Supremes — the same fools who put a mindless, third-class idiot in the White House almost ten years ago — have no right, no precedent, to change the electoral rules at this point in our nation’s history, essentially handing over our country to the corporate powers-that-be.

    I still consider you a dear friend, but I’m surprised — stunned, actually — that you are “happy about the Citizens United decision,” a verdict that essentially spells the death of representative democracy as we know it.

  18. Darcy G Richardson

    Just think, after the fabricated 8-year Bush presidency, an administration made out of whole cloth — the kind of fabric Supreme Court Justices laid their hands on when swearing in a fraud like the inept George W. Bush — and a year into Barack Obama’s administration, the Republicans, thanks to last week’s mind-boggling U.S. Supreme Court ruling, can once again can have it all.

    “Having it all,” of course, includes a $1.4 trillion pile of dirt, a staggering pile of debt that the Bush Republicans created through their own negligence.

    Welcome back!

  19. paulie

    Because I’m sure his free-market loving self would rather have a constitutional amendment saying that corporations are people. Sorry, I’m anarcho-communist, not anarcho-capitalist.

    Why do you say that? I’m for free markets and against corporate personhood.

    Corporate personhood comes from government since corporations are not natural persons.

    An anarcho-anything should thus be against corporate personhood.

  20. Richard Winger

    The New York Times today has a map showing which states have state laws that make it illegal for corporations to speak about candidates for state office. 26 states, which encompass 60% of the U.S. population, have no laws against corporations speaking about candidates for state office. The states with no ban on such behavior include a majority of states in the west. The western states, generally, are probably less corrupt than states in the east, where most states do have such laws.

    This tells me this hysteria about the decision is not well-founded. If most states have got along all these years without bans on corporate comments about candidates for state office, what’s the big deal?

  21. The Last Conservative

    Darcy, the Wall Street executives would pay some of the prisoners to turn against the other prisoners.

  22. Gene Berkman

    I have no doubt that many corporations do business with government, and that government entities hold stock in many corporations. That is what Ayn Rand calls the “Mixed Economy.”

    I would have no problem with restricting the use of taxpayer money used to subsidize corporations, or to restrict the rights of corporations that do more than 50% of their business as government contractors.

    But many corporations operate as businesses that serve their customers in order to make profits. Many cooperatives are incorporated. Mr Nader wants to regulate corporations “in the public interest” but wants to deny corporations the free speech rights needed to defend themselves.

    On the other hand, prohibiting corporate contributions to campaigns would give CEOs a defense when politicians come to them looking for money.

  23. Gene Berkman

    “Corporate personhood” is not limited to corporations. Governments, universities etc have corporate personhood.

    Personhood in this sense just means an entity can own property and enter contracts, and face liability in court.

    If you abolish corporate personhood, then your insurance policy would be void, because it is a contract between you and a business entity, and any other contract or business dealing with any entity other than an individual would be impossible.

    On the plus side, if you abolish corporate personhood, you would not be able to sue corporations either.

  24. Andy

    “The western states, generally, are probably less corrupt than states in the east, where most states do have such laws.”

    All state governments are corrupt. There is no libertarian state.

  25. Andy

    “I would have no problem with restricting the use of taxpayer money used to subsidize corporations, or to restrict the rights of corporations that do more than 50% of their business as government contractors.”

    I would like to see a ban on campaign contributions from any company that is owned in part by any government agency, companies that do any government contracting, and any company that recieves any type of benifit from the government (eminent domain, corporate welfare, etc…). I’d also like to see a ban on contributions from government employee unions as well as any union that does any government contracting or recieves any benifit from the state. And of course no government agency should be able to donate any money to a political campaign.

    Why? Because all of these groups essentially pay out bribes to politicians in the form of campaign contributions so they can continue to recieve preferential treatment and get special handouts from the government. This is a clear conflict of interest. Bribery is actually listed as being a crime in the Constitution, and what they are doing with their “campaign contributions” is bribing politicians to violate the Constitution by granting them special priviledges and handouts from the tax payers.

  26. Andy

    “Bribery is actually listed as being a crime in the Constitution,”

    Actually, I should rephrase this by saying that bribery is listed as being an impeachable offense in the Constitution. I’d say that an impeachable offense is a crime.

  27. Andy

    “Darcy G Richardson // Jan 23, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Just think, after the fabricated 8-year Bush presidency, an administration made out of whole cloth — the kind of fabric Supreme Court Justices laid their hands on when swearing in a fraud like the inept George W. Bush — and a year into Barack Obama’s administration, the Republicans, thanks to last week’s mind-boggling U.S. Supreme Court ruling, can once again can have it all.

    “Having it all,” of course, includes a $1.4 trillion pile of dirt, a staggering pile of debt that the Bush Republicans created through their own negligence.”

    I agree with you about Bush and the Republicans, but Al Gore and the Democrats are not any better.

  28. Mik Robertson

    @4 “Mik, if you post again, where do you draw the line between groups that can speak and groups that have no constitutional protection, and where in the First Amendment do you see the authority to draw such a line? The New York Times is a corporation.”

    I would say it is fair to have the federal government secure the right to the freedom of speech. The problem is that a corporation does not have that right, and individuals do. This is a zero-sum game. For the government to secure that right for corporations, the ability of the government to secure that right for individuals is diminished.

    Denying this right to corporations does not mean they have no authority to speak. It is likely that somewhere in the corporate charter of the New York Times it says something about their purpose being to publish all the news that’s fit to print.

    Similarly, church non-profit charters probably say something about them proclaiming the words of the one true religion to the world. For the government to restrict the purpose of those charters would require a pretty compelling reason.

    Opinions can be news and public policy can have an impact on religious teachings, so to that extent mentions of things political in these settings would be reasonable. Something like Goldman-Sachs though, would seem to have a conflict of interest to influence an election, since they are regulated by and have so many former board members involved in the government.

    It is those who have the most to gain or lose by public policy who will be the loudest voices in the electoral process as we go forward. Now not only will those entities have the undue influence in the legislative process by having lobbyists who outnumber legislators, but they can now freely influence the electoral process as well.

    Corporations used to be chartered for a specific purpose and for a limited time. They were closely regulated and could not own property or stock in other corporations. It is an incongruity to have a corporation, a creature of the state, wield rights that can protect it from regulation by the state. That can only serve to diminish individual rights.

    Now we have these creatures that, if they get big enough, are for all intents and purposes immortal as the government will not let them fail, and which can own vast resources and throw around enormous wealth. Some corporations have annual revenues that exceed a large number of nations. The effect of unleashing this on the electoral process will mean the interests of the citizens are going to get pushed further back. This is what corporate personhood does, and this ruling only serves to support that claim to rights.

  29. Dan MacInnis

    Judicial activism at its absolute worst. Our elections are supposed to be about one person/one vote. The only explanation for this decision is that the Supreme Court (five members) are being paid off by corporations.

  30. sher fisher

    This does not come as a shock. Corporate America has been controlling our electoral process for years- except now they are out in the open. If you look a little deeper, you may find a few senators or if not more on the boards of this companies or their money is associated with them.

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