Friday, October 22, 2010

Citizens United Completely Undermines Our Founders Efforts to Control Corruption.

Our Founding Fathers must be rolling over in their graves, considering the power corporations wield today. I'm fairly certain that at the time of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, tremors must've been felt, wherever our Founders were laid to rest. Why? The Framers of the Constitution viewed curbing corruption at the highest level, as chief amongst reasons for creating the Constitution. Corruption, in their eyes, presented the greatest threat to democracy and they worried most about the unchecked power of accumulations of capital. Thus, they saw the role of corporations as completely subordinate to representative government.

After all, the American Revolution was fought, in part, to free American colonists from English corporations. So, severe limits were placed on the powers of corporations. Most importantly, they were prohibited from attempting to influence elections, and public policy. This lasted 100 years. ignores this history, undermining the Constitution's efforts to curb corruption at the highest level.

"...corruption was discussed more often in the constitutional convention than factions, violence, or instability. It was a topic of concern on almost a quarter of the days that the members convened. Madison recorded the specific term corruption fifty-four times, and the vast majority of the corruption discussions were spearheaded by influential delegates Madison, Moris, Mason, and Wilson. The attendees were concerned about the corrupting influence of wealth, greed, and ambition." -- Zephyr Rain Teachout, Cornell Law Review, Vol. 94, No. 341, 2009
In 1790, lasting approximately 100 years,  the states imposed the following restrictions and limitations on corporations (Act of Incorporation):
  • Specified their capitalization limitations.
  • Limited their lifespan.
  • Dictated the boundaries of their operations and functions to fulfill their chartered purpose.
  • Prohibited corporations from owning stock in other corporations or from owning property if not relevant to their chartered purpose.
  • Immediately terminated corporate charters that broke the law, exceeded their authority or caused public harm.
  • Specifically spelled out how shareholder elections were to be conducted to choose directors.
  • Held corporate owners and executives fully accountable.
  • Banned corporations from making any political and/or charitable contributions as well as banned spending money to influence legislation in any way.
In other words, it was clearly understood, that the state granted the corporation legal protections and immunities with the expectation that - in addition to producing a profit - the corporation would also serve a public good.
When general incorporation acts are eventually adopted by states in the early nineteenth century, the states' intent is to level the playing field and disentangle themselves from the political power — and burden — of choosing among rival groups of charter-seekers. The intent of these laws is therefore the opposite of what the Court asserted in Citizens United. Free incorporation was meant to limit the power of corporations by democratizing the corporate form through dilution. It was supposed to be a giant leap in distinguishing between public and private spheres of activity. -- Brian Murphy
Today, the legal nature and structure of the corporation exempts both the corporation and its executives from accountability for almost all of the costs of their activities. The Citizens United decision grants them unlimited influence and power at a time when economic globalization increasingly, shifts power away from governments, toward a few very large publicly traded corporations, and small group of economic and political elite.  Corporations have one goal: short-term financial gain, in which they capture all of the benefits of their success and pass the seen and unseen costs to we, the people.

Source:  What the Founding Fathers Really thought about Corporations


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