"The Colbert Report last night featured one of the most subversive and brutally honest half-hours of television in recent memory. It's a sad commentary that it takes a comedy program to provide more news and information on one of the most critical subjects in American politics that anywhere else in our broken media and political landscape, but I'll take this argument wherever I can get it.
Colbert spent two full segments of his show focusing on the Citizens United Supreme Court case, which could - and probably will - lead to deregulating the entire campaign finance process, allowing corporations to give unlimited money to any candidate of their choosing. This severe step backwards with enormous implications has been barely discussed in any traditional media setting, but Colbert went after it vigorously, discussing the consequences and even the flawed legal rationale, a true third rail of American politics, corporate personhood.
Colbert explained that the 1886 case (Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad) that conferred 14th Amendment equal protection rights onto corporations wasn't even in the original ruling. But when the Chief Justice made an off-hand comment that the Court wouldn't hear an argument on whether the 14th Amendment applied to these corporations (saying, "We are all of the opinion that it does"), the court reporter wrote it into the ruling opinion, and the precedent has held ever since. And that reporter of the Supreme Court didn't only have ties to the railroad barons, he used to run one.
These are subjects you just never hear about in the American media, precisely because the American media is owned by giant multinational corporations, who benefit from the corporate personhood rule and would stand to benefit more from deregulating elections so they could use their "speech" to buy candidates and fund their own with unlimited resources. And despite being on a Viacom-owned network, Colbert says, skewering the immorality and psychopathology of the corporation, "Corporations are legally people... they do everything people do, except breathe, die, and go to jail for dumping 1.3 million pounds of PCBs into the Hudson River."
There's some backstory to that remark. Colbert actually worked with Robert Smigel on the "TV Funhouse" bits from Saturday Night Live (he's one-half of the Ambiguously Gay Duo), including the infamous episode from March 1998, Conspiracy Theory Rock. Here are some of the actual lyrics (remember this aired, albeit one time, on NBC, whose parent company is General Electric):
It's a media-opoly
The whole media is controlled by a few corporations
thanks to deregulation by the FCC.
You mean Disney, Fox, WestingHouse, and good ol GE?
They own networks from CBS to CNBC.
They can use them to say whatever they please,
and put down the opinions of any one who disagrees.
Or stuff about PCB's.
What are PCB's?
They come from power plants built by WestingHouse and GE.
They can give you lots of cancer that can hurt your body,
but on network TV, you rarely hear anything bad about the nuclear industry [...]
But the bigshots don't care.
They're all sitting pretty.
Thanks to corporate welfare.
What's that now?
They get billions in subsidies
from the government.
It's supposed to create jobs,
but that's not how it's spent.
They pulled this cartoon from the rerun broadcasts and it never aired again.
Colbert didn't just provide this lesson in corporate control of government in his "The Word" segment, but then had Jeffrey Toobin on to explain how the expected Supreme Court ruling would impact elections:
COLBERT: If this goes through, if they decide in favor of the corporations here, what's going to happen to elections?
TOOBIN: Well, they will be essentially deregulated. Corporations will be allowed to give money, corporations will be allowed to broadcast programs that are in favor of one side or another, it'll basically be no more rules about what corporations can do in political campaigns.
COLBERT: Now when I ran for President in 2008, as the Hail to the Cheese Doritos Stephen Colbert campaign for President, I was told that I actually couldn't do that, that I was breaking federal election law by being sponsored by that corporation. But if this goes through, if this court case, if they win, does that mean that I retroactively won the election?
TOOBIN: I don't think it means that.
COLBERT: But could you do that? Could I actually just wear a NASCAR suit and just have logos all over me and run for President as the sort of Gatorade Thirst for Justice campaign for President?
Simple answer: no.
Corporations are not persons. They cannot go to jail. They cannot vote. The have an economic utility but they are not a being with the inherent rights of individuals. By definition, the corporation is not an individual, but a body comprised of individuals. If they can have special rules for taxes, then they can have special rules for all things. They do not get to claim the right of free speech as if they are an entity under the law which and pick and choose which laws to observe or not under their special status. They are either a being under the same laws and restrictions as everyone else, or they are a creature of special status who's rights and powers can be defined by what produces the best utility.
Giving them the power to express free speech by use of their capital when, by definition, they are not a being with actual thoughts and they are mandated, by law, to produce maximum profits for their shareholders is an invitation to corruption. They would be breaking the law if they didn't attempt to corrupt the political process.
The Bush/Roberts supreme court is activist and stupid.
What is this 'mandated by law to produce maximum profits' crap? Where do you get this shit? Wherever the fuck you are picking it up it is 100% bullshit. Ive had over 15 corporations in my life, issued more shares of stock to myself than Ive ever purchased from anyone else or through my broker(well, that may not be true but Ive spent a decent bit of money printing fancy stock certificates for myself and partners), I currently work for 3, I know exactly what my state law and federal law says about incorporated business...fuck, I even have a lawyer who for sure would have told me if I had missed this 'mandate'...youre just plain wrong. That even sounds stupid...corporations have feduciary responsibilities to investors and their directors have to act in furtherance of the business' interest...but that doesnt mean they have to maximize profits, far from it.
Anyways, I do not agree that corporations should be able to get their hands into elections in an unregulated fashion. So at least we can agree on that even if you say dumb shit in every post you make.
I spend all day fighting a corporation. One single fucking uber corporation. All day, every day ('cept weekends of course!). I've been doing that for the past 3 years. Before then I worked for said Corporation and I know all their dirty little secrets. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if Corporations had the same rights as a legal person then we'd be completely and utterly fucked.
About 4 minutes in, there's a segment about judicial decisions which have defined the a manager's fiduciary duty as placing "the financial interests of their owners above competing interests". Unfortunately I'm turning up a big fat zero when looking up the case law (it will likely have come from the Delaware courts), though one can see that the view of the corporation as serving a variety of interests has been redefined by Friedman and other proponents of managerial capitalism to be the pursuit of profits for those who own an interest. Shareholders have the power to sue if they feel the corporation is under performing due to a lack of commitment to their profits, though most of the time they can just kill the stock price by dump and short.
If anyone has more info, it's be appreciated. Corporate case law ain't my specialty.
Remember Jamie Leigh Jones, the Halliburton/KBR contractor who alleged she was gang raped by her co-workers in Iraq and then imprisoned in a shipping container after she reported the attack to the company? Well, it looks like she's finally get to sue the company, in a real courthouse, over her ordeal.
Her legal saga started after Halliburton failed to take any action against her alleged attackers, and the Justice Department and military also failed to prosecute. Jones then tried to sue the company for failing to protect her. But thanks to an employment contract created during the tenure of former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney, Jones was forced into mandatory binding arbitration, a private forum where Halliburton would hire the arbitrator, all the proceedings would be secret, and she'd have no right to appeal if she lost.
Data from the American Arbitration Association showed that Halliburton won more than 80 percent of its cases in arbitration, and when I looked at the data two years ago, it showed that out of 119 cases Halliburton arbitrated over a four-year period, only three resulted in the employee actually winning any money. The deck was clearly stacked against Jones from day one.
After 15 months in arbitration, Jones and her lawyer realized the same thing and went to court to fight the arbitration agreement in the hopes of bringing her case before a jury. Jones argued that the alleged gang rape was not related to her employment and thus, wasn't covered by the arbitration agreement. Finally, two years later, a federal court has sensibly agreed with her. Tuesday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2 to 1 ruling, found her alleged injuries were not, in fact, in any way related to her employment and thus, not covered by the contract.
One of the judges who ruled in her favor, Rhesa Hawkins Barksdale, is a West Point grad, Vietnam vet, and one of the court's most conservative members, a sign, perhaps, of just how bad the facts are in this case. It's a big victory, but a bitter one that shows just how insidious mandatory arbitration is. It's taken Jones three years of litigation just to get to the point where she can finally sue the people who allegedly wronged her. It will be many more years before she has a shot at any real justice.
In the meantime, her case may bolster pending legislation that would ban mandatory arbitration clauses in employment and other consumer contracts. Jones' victory comes as yet another body blow to a practice that has come under serious fire in recent months as heavily rigged against consumers. In July, the Minnesota attorney general sued one of the nation's biggest arbitration firms, the National Arbitration Forum, after discovering that it had financial ties to debt collection companies that used its services to collect credit card debts. Not surprisingly, the NAF ruled in favor of the credit card companies in virtually every case, and fired arbitrators who sided with consumers.
The lawsuit led to NAF's agreement to stop arbitrating consumer debt collection cases. Since then, Bank of America and other financial firms have said they will stop using arbitration clauses in their credit contracts. All that hasn't stopped the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from continuing to insist that forced arbitration is still "cheaper, faster, and fairer" than the civil courts, and from fighting the federal legislation. But with Jamie Leigh Jones as the poster child for the opposition, it's hard to see how the business group can continue with the pretense.
quote:Originally posted by Muffy There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if Corporations had the same rights as a legal person then we'd be completely and utterly fucked.
Guess what. It's done, when it comes to the right of free speech, and by free speech I mean money. Corporations are people.
Today’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC abolishes the previously settled distinction between corporate and individual expenditures in American elections and would appear to apply to state and local elections as well as Federal ones given that the Court recognizes such a First Amendment right. This is literally an earth shattering change in the lay of the land in campaign finance, and it will have ramifications in every way imaginable for the foreseeable future.
It'd like congratulate Exxon by shaking it's hand.
Can you now marry a corporation? Can it be a gay marriage?
quote:An outright ban on paid political advertising and the imposition of free time requirements on the media are radical measures, but nothing less is necessary if we are to prevent our government from continuing to be sold to the highest bidders. The argument against strict public regulation of money in politics is based on a false analogy between free spending and free speech protected under the First Amendment. The analogy is false, because limits on campaign finance do not address the content of speech -- only its volume, as it were. It is not an infringement on free speech to say that, in a large public auditorium, Douglas will not be allowed to use a microphone unless Lincoln can as well.