At the Constitutional Accountability Center (CAC), we are marking Constitution & Citizenship Day this year by focusing on who the Constitution serves and protects: We the People. This month, the Supreme Court is in the midst of an historic deliberation over whether the rights We enshrined in our Constitution should be extended to protect corporations. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (widely known as the “Hillary: The Movie case”) has been billed as a case about free speech in elections. In reality, however, it is a case raising a challenge to more than a century of campaign finance law – and more than two centuries of constitutional text and history – that have preserved the principle that corporations and people should be treated differently when it comes to regulating the financing of elections. (Click here to read the “friend of the court” brief filed in Citizens United by CAC and The League of Women Voters, explaining how efforts to remove this distinction run contrary to the text and history of our Constitution.)
The significance of this attack on such a fundamental principle of American democracy — that the constitutionally-guaranteed individual rights were intended to protect We the People — has been the subject of both humorous and serious attention this week. On Tuesday night’s show, Stephen Colbert dedicated The Colbert Report’s “The Wørd” to the “rights” of corporations, in a six-minute segment (featured here) extolling the fact that “corporations are people too!” Taking a more serious tone this morning, The Wall Street Journal discussed the history of “corporate rights,” noting how newly-seated Justice Sonia Sotomayor impressed many during the Citizens United argument last week when she openly questioned the validity of corporations’ legal status as “persons.” This most recent media attention follows several weeks of increasing concern and curiosity among mainstream media about the consequences of this monumental case.
It is alarming, on Constitution & Citizenship day, to consider that a conservative majority on the Supreme Court may be poised to unleash corporate money in elections, and heartening to see increasing media attention being paid to this disturbing possibility. For decades, conservatives have attempted to lay claim to the Constitution, yet today they are turning their back on the document’s text and history and threatening to equate the rights of corporations with constitutional rights of American citizens. We hope that today, progressives will reflect on the meaning and importance of our Constitution’s text and history, and on why now, more than ever, we must fight to preserve the integrity of the Constitution as a document of the People, by the People, and (most important) for the People.
Originally posted at Text & History. Hannah McCrea is proud to work for the Constitutional Accountability Center (CAC), a law firm and think tank dedicated to demonstrating how the text and history of the Constitution uphold progressive outcomes.