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Citizens United, the 2010 US Supreme Court ruling that enables corporations to spend unlimited amounts to support political candidates, is a watershed event in US legal history. Liberals believe the ruling represents a blatant conservative power grab. Conservatives hold that free speech should apply to corporations as it does to human beings. Lawyer and political activist Jeffrey D. Clements, a former Massachusetts assistant attorney general, founded Free Speech for People, a group seeking to invalidate Citizens United. Clements argues that this ruling, which allows corporations to lobby year-round and to buy unlimited election-year advertising, is antithetical to American democracy. Although the views expressed are those of the author alone, getAbstract regards Clements’s book as timely material for the citizens of the United States and Europe, where similar issues are under debate. It is sure to provoke discussion and, most likely, an equally passionate conservative defense.


Are Corporations People?

The obvious answer is no. Corporations are legal entities with permission to operate according to specific rules and regulations set by state legislatures. The rationale for incorporation is that these conglomerates further the public interest and function as tools of governmental policy. Delaware has corporate-friendly laws, so “most transnational corporations” incorporate there. But do these formal legal structures somehow embody “corporate personhood”? According to the US Supreme Court, the answer is yes.

As a result of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in 2010, corporate constitutional rights, including free speech, are now broader than ever. Corporations enjoy the same free speech rights as individual citizens. This means that in addition to lobbying, corporations can spend as much as they want to influence elections. Journalist and political commentator Bill Moyers predicts that Citizens United will prove as notorious as the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision, which decreed that western territories not yet designated as states could permit slavery, whether the ...

About the Author

Jeffrey D. Clements, the founder of Clements Law Office LL, is general counsel of Free Speech for People, an organization seeking to reverse Citizens United.

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