By Margaret Stock
August 25, 2016
Since the inception of our democracy, Americans have been concerned about the undue influence of powerful corporations. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I hope we shall take warning from the example and crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and to bid defiance to the laws of their country.”
This warning was cast aside by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 when, by a 5-4 vote, it ruled in the Citizens United case that corporations enjoyed the same First Amendment rights as people. This unprecedented decision ignored the artificial legal status of corporations, disregarded the corrosive effect of unlimited corporate political spending and dismissed the significance of a century of regulation of corporate political activity.
Corporations are not living, breathing people. Corporations have a specific, narrow purpose — to make money for their shareholders. They are not charged with considering the broader public good.