Corporate Personhood: Women's Rights and Voter Rights

July 6, 2014 by Jenni Siri

Citizens United activists. Voter’s rights activists. Women’s rights activists.

What do these three groups have in common? Corporate Personhood. Thanks to a couple of rulings by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

Shown above are the 5 Supreme Court Justices that ruled in favor of Citizens United and Hobby Lobby. These are the same Justices who gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder on June 25, 2013

What does corporate personhood have to do with voting and voter rights?

In January of 2010 the Supreme Court ruled on Citizens United vs. FEC in favor of Citizens United with a 5-4 split. This gave corporations the same free speech rights as living, breathing human beings. It allows corporations to contribute unlimited and undisclosed amounts of money to influence the outcomes of elections. We have seen the effects of this countless times. One small example is how the Koch brothers contributed outrageous amounts of money to ensure that their favorite candidates get elected.

Author Paul Blumenthal writes:

“In total, the Koch political empire marshaled $400 million in the 2012 election cycle toward groups and efforts that spent money directly in the electoral arena. Not every group that received money from the empire reported spending on elections, but the vast majority of that money went to groups that spent tens of millions on electoral ads — which must be reported to the Federal Election Commission — and even more on issue ads that targeted candidates but didn’t advocate their electoral victory or defeat — which is not reported. Koch players included Americans for Prosperity, the American Future Fund and 60 Plus Association.”
The Citizens United decision has allowed corporations to have a far greater influence in our elections than individual human beings. Many believe that this is turning our Democracy into a Plutocracy or an Oligarchy.

Move to Amend and Free Speech for People have been determined and active leaders in the effort of proposing a Constitutional Amendment addressing corporate personhood.

A few of the proposed Amendments are:

From Free Speech for People:
S.J.Res. 18, introduced in the Senate by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), and the identical H.J.Res. 21, by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), also known as the People’s Rights Amendment, make it clear that corporations do not have constitutional rights, as if they were people.  H.J.Res. 21 has bi-partisan support in the House from Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), along with many other co-sponsors. The text of these bills is below. 
There are some that do not feel that S.J.Res. 19 and H.J.Res 20 go far enough and prefer H.J.R. 29

Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News writes:
"Congress should take its lead from the people, who have already made it very clear in both red and blue states that a constitutional amendment is needed, and that campaign finance reform is only scratching the surface. Such an amendment has already been introduced in Congress by Representative Rick Nolan (DFL-Minn.) in February of 2013. Udall and his co-sponsors should take their cues from HJR-29, or the “We the People Amendment,” if they’re serious about representing the people’s interests. Anything else is an election-year bone not to be taken seriously."
What does corporate personhood have to do with women’s issues?

On June 30th, 2014 in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, five male Justices ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby in yet another 5-4 split. Family owned businesses, even if they are huge corporations, are now allowed to pick and choose which birth control options their female employees will have access to via their company health insurance plans. This is an issue of corporate personhood because SCOTUS bestowed upon corporations the same religious liberties that have always been reserved for people. Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, corporations now have the religious right to deny contraceptive care to their employees. Corporations do not pray or sit in pews so why should they have freedom of religion rights?

John Bonifaz, President of Free Speech for People, put out this statement following the Hobby Lobby ruling:

“As we argued in our amicus brief we submitted before the Supreme Court in January, corporations are not people and should not have the right to impose the religious beliefs of their owners on their employees. We have no doubt that this is only the beginning of a slew of future cases where corporations challenge other public interest laws using the Hobby Lobby ruling as their precedent.”
Indeed, it is already starting to happen. As Rachel Maddow pointed out in her July 2nd segment, Hobby Lobby case already opening floodgates to discrimination:
“There's another surprise still coming from the Supreme Court ruling on Monday. Since the ruling, religious groups have already started petitioning the government to say that [if] your boss's religious beliefs can excuse him from following the law when it comes to health insurance regulations and Obamacare, IF that's settled by the court - well then these groups want their religious beliefs to excuse them from having to follow the law on ... not just contraception, not just health law rules, but on non discrimination. They now, because of this ruling, want a religious exemption from laws that say you can't fire someone for being gay.”

Further reading: Will Hobby Lobby open the religious exemption floodgates?

The Corporate Veil and Corporate Personhood

In the Hobby Lobby case the Supreme Court gave corporations freedom of religion rights.

In the Citizens United case they gave corporations freedom of speech rights.

The reality is that corporations are NOT individual human beings. They don’t breath, reproduce or vote. In fact, businesses generally incorporate in order to protect the personal assets of their owners and shareholders. The corporate veil shields the individuals who form the corporation from any potential financially liabilities incurred by the nonliving corporation.

According to a corporate veil is:

“A legal concept that separates the personality of a corporation from the personalities of its shareholders, and protects them from being personally liable for the company's debts and other obligations.”
How are corporations not people when it comes to liability, but they suddenly become people when it has to do with freedom of religion rights and free speech rights? Both the 1st Amendment and The Religious Freedom Restoration Act were meant to protect individual people, not incorporated businesses.

One would expect the five men on the court to understand that they have created an oxymoron.

Corporations Are NOT People

Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass will be signing onto the joint resolution: S.J.Res.18 which was authored by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. It proposes a Constitutional Amendment “ … to clarify the authority of Congress and the States to regulate corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state.”

In a statement Sen. Markey said:

“From Citizens United to Hobby Lobby, Supreme Court majorities continue to extend our basic Constitutional rights — the inalienable rights held by individuals — to corporations. Corporations are not people, period.”
Further Reading: