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Posted by on Jan 24, 2010 in Economy, Media, Politics, Society | 81 comments

Corporations Are A Legal Fiction, And Now So Is Political Speech

Fiction. As in, not real. Which is pretty much what the United States Supreme Court has made of our fundamental right to freedom of speech when political speech is involved.  As in, made it not real but just a fiction of a concept.

From SCOTUSblog on this point of corporations being only legal fiction:

Justice Stevens, writing for the dissenters, turned Chief Justice John Marshall’s celebrated comment in the Dartmouth College case — in a ruling that actually favored the corporate form — into a belittling comment: “A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law.  Being the mere creature of law, it possesses only those properties which the charter of its creation confers upon it.” [emphasis added]

Besides politicians, you know who will make a lot of money off of Citizens United? The first law school textbook publisher who comes out with the corporations law textbook needed for law schools, since they will have to change their corporate law curriculum to explain the Sybil-like personalities of the previously all-fiction personhood of corporations.

Some reading to do for more on this SCOTUS decision:

Ellen Miller (Sunlight Foundation): How the Citizens United Case Affects Money & Politics and Tranparency as We Know It

Micah Sifry (techPresident): Can the Internet Counter the Coming Gusher of Money in Politics?

Jill Filipovic, who is a lawyer: Democracy, It was fun while it lasted

Lawrence Lessig of Change Congress and Creative Commons: Institutional Integrity: Citizens United and the Path to a Better Democracy

On Angry Black Woman: There goes America’s democracy: I never thought I would be living in a dystopian cyberpunk novel!

From Open Secrets: Whose been giving corporate money within the previous confines

Three must-read posts from

Be sure to keep up with the Sunlight Foundation, one of the premier organizations that focuses on transparency.  They have posts related to Citizens United organized under a tag.

And be prepared to learn how to use every tool that exists to track contributions, and be prepared to boycott the corporate “people” giving in ways you don’t like.  I still can’t wrap my head around how we’ll deal with foreign corporations.

Last but not least, this LTR from the NYT yesterday puts it best:

To the Editor:

Why is everyone up in arms about the recent Supreme Court decision allowing corporations unfettered monetary access to the American election process? To me this is a golden opportunity, as now our elected officials can sell corporate naming rights to their seats.

The junior senator from North Carolina? He or she is now the Bank of America senator. The senior senator from Alaska could be the Exxon senator.

The politicians may never have to fund-raise again! Think of all the time that will save to actually legislate.

Randy Levinson
New York, Jan. 22, 2010

Cross-posted from Writes Like She Talks.