Wisconsin writer Clyde Winter finds in a fascinating analysis of the language of the US Constitution that the US Supreme Court wrongly interpreted the word "person" in the Citizens United case to allow a torrent of corporate dollars into conservative political campaigns.
Winter has produced a long essay for his blog, but the read is well worth the time. Hat's off to a layman willing delve into such complexity:
Have you ever wondered what possessed members of the Supreme Court to determine that a corporation is a “person.”,according to the Constitution?
Which passages in the U.S. Constitution (including Amendments) could certain Supreme Court Justices have construed to support their determination (in contrast to common understanding and general usage) that a corporation possesses the rights that are explicitly defined for a “person” in the Constitution?
Having researched and written about the consequences of this determination several times over the last decade, I became interested and finally compelled to get to this root of the problem. And so I once again studied the Constitution and its Amendments. But this time, I searched in particular for an answer to the question of how in the world anyone can conclude that a corporation possesses the specific Constitutional rights that are described there as belonging to a “person."
I began by locating and highlighting certain words in the text (such as “corporation”, “company”, “person[s]”, “citizen[s]”, and “people”). Then I studied the context in which those words appear. My search was productive, with results that were startling, informative, and actually simple to comprehend and to share with you.
The word “Person[s]” appears exactly 49 times in the Constitution with Amendments. The fact that the words “corporation” (or “company”) do not appear even once, is not, by itself, deciding evidence, pro or con, regarding the constitutional theory of corporate personhood. But the omission of any mention of “Corporation” or “Company” in the Constitution is at least noteworthy and telling.
And also noteworthy is the complete absence of any indication, implicit or explicit, that the word “Person[s]” (as used in the Constitution) might mean anything other than simply a living, breathing human being, as the word was commonly and universally understood, both now and then. All 49 times that the word “Person[s]” is used in the Constitution are helpful to understanding how those who framed and ratified it understood and employed that word, and how it has been subsequently understood and applied.
However, I will focus this essay on just two places that the word “Person” appears that are of critical and deciding importance to this question.
I will quote these sentences and refer you to the location in the Constitution where they appear. Considering the key role of this matter in the clear and present danger to representative democracy and to the idea that government should be of, by, and for the people, which we are presently facing in the United States, I urge you to get your copy of the Constitution in hand, so that you can see for yourself the context in which these few sentences appear, and evaluate the argument I will make...
Summarizing – under the Constitution with Amendments , and in particular, Article IV section 2, and the 14th Amendment, sections 1, 2, and 3, clearly:
• A “person” is a living breathing human being, and as such, exclusively possesses all Constitutional rights explicitly described for a “person” or “persons”.
• A “person” working for a corporation has rights, a “person” who owns stock in corporations has rights, and a “person” who is a corporate director has rights. These Constitutional rights are exactly the same rights that any “person” possesses, regardless of corporate affiliation.
• Corporations are legal entities that possess rights that were spelled out in the Constitution for a “Party”. But a corporation (as well as a planet, a foreign government, a forest, etc.) is not a “person”, and certainly does not legitimately possess Constitutional rights guaranteed to a “person”.