Citizens United Is a Radical Rewriting of the Constitution by Pro-Corporate Supreme Court

Five Republican appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court just struck down critically important laws regulating corporations' influence on election and public policy. The Center for Media and Democracy strongly opposes this radical decision by a bare majority of the Supreme Court to rewrite the First Amendment and give corporations even greater influence in elections and public policy. With this decision, huge corporations like Goldman Sachs and AIG will be able to use their enormous wealth to run campaigns against the president or any person who might oppose their agenda.

In our view, this decision is terrible for our democracy. The corruption of policy development we have already seen by the big insurance companies in the health care debate, by the big banks opposing regulations to protect our economy, and the big oil companies slowing efforts to address global warming, even under the current rules that the Court just struck down, show this decision will make things worse. We cannot sit on the sidelines and let this radical decision stand.

Americans Before CorporationsYou can help us stand up to the Court by casting your vote against this judicial activist decision and sending a strong rebuke. Please sign our petition and help put Americans before corporations. Please tell your friends, family and colleagues about this important issue and urge them to sign the petition. We also have a new "Corporate Rights portal" we are launching in SourceWatch to help educate the general public about these issues and provide a gateway for getting more involved. You can bookmark this link to the Corporate Rights portal to stay up-to-date on the latest news about this issue.

We are also lending our voice to nationwide coalition efforts to fight this decision. In particular, CMD has joined the steering committee of Move to Amend to support a broad-based effort to amend the Constitution to restore individual rights. We are also supportive of another coalition focusing on changing federal election law. But it's clear to me that we need to pursue the broadest effort to restore individual rights, so I hope you will join us and the Campaign to Legalize Democracy in these efforts to reassert the primacy of the individual in our democracy.

When I worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee reviewing President Bush's judicial nominees and their agendas, I feared this day would come. That's why I tried to help keep John Roberts off the appellate court, and then was so saddened the day he was appointed and when I saw President Bush promote him to become Chief Justice after I had left the government. In reading the biographies, writings, and speeches of right-wing nominees, it became clear to me that a revolution in the law was being fomented to undermine the power of ordinary people to regulate corporations in their communities. Today's decision is a huge gift to corporations from a Supreme Court that has been radicalized by right-wing ideology, whose political agenda was made obvious in the Bush v. Gore case and whose very political decision today only makes things worse.

We cannot just wring our hands, in my view, and let this stand. There is a great deal of work to be done. The Center for Media and Democracy, which has been documenting corporate spin, lies, and disinformation for over a decade through our PR Watch efforts, is ready to help. We've been spearheading a specialized encyclopedia of the people, corporations and money behind the headlines and policy, in SourceWatch, and we recently invested in a major upgrade of that Website to make it more useful for the millions of people who visit it each year. I'll be keeping you posted on developments in what will be a long-term effort to reverse the Supreme Court's radical decision.

If you care about fighting spin and you are concerned about the health of American democracy, I hope you will join me in saying the Supreme Court really got it wrong today, and this must be fixed. You can help put Americans -- and people -- before corporations by signing here today. It'll only take a moment to say NO to the Supreme Court's arrogant effort to elevate corporations "rights" and undermine the power of the people in our democracy.

Lisa Graves is the Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy based in Madison, Wisconsin.

Lisa Graves

Lisa Graves is President of the Board of the Center for Media and Democracy and President of True North Research. She is a well-known researcher, writer, and public speaker. Her research and analysis have been cited by every major paper in the country and featured in critically acclaimed books and documentaries, including Ava Du Vernay’s award-winning film, “The 13th,” Bill Moyers’s “United States of ALEC,” and Showtime’s “Years of Living Dangerously.”



I feel strongly about many of the issues you raise -- this one in particular -- and would appreciate social media link to share these stories quickly and easily.

Please. You don't think the Supremes could be so corrupt as to not want a "one person one vote" system to reign in this peace-loving nation. Did they wash their hands in Blackwater or something?

I signed your petition to amend the Constitution so that "No corporation shall be considered to be a person who is permitted to raise or spend money on federal, state, or local elections of any kind." But I'm totally skeptical that this is anything but empty grandstanding on your part. First, to get an amendment passed you need 2/3 votes from both houses of Congress. With a few honorable exceptions, our Congress represents these self-same corporations. I agree with Nader that we've got a corporate party with 2 heads. How the hell do you think this amendment could get past the Senator from Aetna and the Congressman from Exxon? I doubt you do. Second, what a wishy-washy half-baked amendment anyway. Why not 2 amendments, one saying that money is not equal to speech, the other ending the obscene precedent that corporations are persons before the law?

Dear Mr. Fairley: I really do appreciate your signing the petition and I would like to assure you that it is not grandstanding. We have to start somewhere. The court's decision and its implications are daunting. And, you are right 2/3 of Congress seems remote; that's why I think we have to start with referenda in the states and get some momentum. With some victories in state and local referenda we can show a groundswell of opposition to this illegitimate decision by the court and create some real pressure. I cannot accept the alternative to this uphill battle, which is to just give in. On the language of my proposal it is intended to help begin the conversation about what the rules out to be. I support both of the ideas you suggest and I am hoping that having specific, understandable language will spur improvements and help broaden the parameters of what we can and should do. Thank you for your comments! Lisa

Yes, in some regards it's definitely obscene that corporations are viewed as persons under the law. However, as is pointed out on the petition page "Corporations can't go to jail when they hurt or kill someone." Well, obviously the entire corporation can't. I do think there needs to be more accountability for some of their harmful practices and in that sense treat them more like "persons." A fine that's a drop in the bucket compared to their profits isn't much of a deterent, and in fact most of them would rather pay a fine than improve their product, as the latter does much more to cut into their obscene profits.

funny thing is that there are individuals with the level of money that corporations have that do the same thing...are those people to be silenced also? Is it just a money thing? Corporations will send lobbyists to washington no matter who is in office and achieve the same desired effect. Be careful how you look at the first amendment because as soon as you start restricting someone else's free speech, yours is just around the corner.

Two points: 1. Restricting corporations is not the same as restricting people. The corporations that were responsible for the [w:Bhopal_disaster|Bhopal industrial disaster) (that killed thousands of people and resulted in 20,000 deaths with an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 survivors with permanent injuries) was never held to account for its culpability and nor have any of the successor corporations that replaced Union Carbide. So when it is advantageous, a corporation is a person and when it isn't then it isn't. Corporations serve to allow the rich to behave with impunity and suffer no consequences. Corporations should not be allowed to act as a cloak for gangster capitalists. 2. Wealth should not be allowed to drown the voice of the poor who are in fact the majority. If one person with $Billions in personal wealth can afford to bury the truth in a sea of self-serving persuasiveness, <i>that</i> is the limitation to free speech we are concerned with here. Limiting the say of the rich to allow all individuals the same amount of airtime is optimizing freedom of speech

is that, like five Supreme Court justices, you don't seem able to grasp the difference between speech and the bullhorn it's blasted out over. Speech is speech but a bullhorn can drown out the speech of others -- yours too, if you happen to be on the wrong end of it. <blockquote>" soon as you start restricting someone else's free speech, yours is just around the corner."</blockquote> Another funny thing is that those word's "someone else's" show you've internalized the idea that a corporation is an actual <i>person</i> rather than, as Wendell Berry put it, "a pile of money to which a number of persons have sold their moral allegiance." No one seriously suggests restricting the free speech of that "number of persons" as individuals. That's just a red herring.

I don't agree that these justices are all bad they have made some good decisions. However, this one I think is a little far reaching. They have a point that government was making too much decisions and descretions on the law. I believe the solution is to have only debates toward the end of an election and no TV ads. This won't happen I don't believe because both Democrat and Republicas like their power too much. However, this would save money and keep the decisions based on debates and arguments rather than advertising. I agree that there may be Republican influence here. However, to blame conservatives is wrong. I am conservative and I don't agree with this move. I believe good debating like in this forum is a good thing. Let's not lump people into groups unless it is justified. I belong to a social network that is conservative at and we don't go after power but really try to support others. Plus, it invites healthy debate

Dear Chris: Thank you very much for taking the time to write in about this. I often consider myself a conservative in the sense of wanting to preserve the Bill of Rights for people as with my work on the Fourth Amendment with my conservative and libertarian friends like Congressman Bob Barr. At the same time, having tracked these justices for many years I can only say that there is a strong ideology of the so-called Federalist Society (and actually whose view are mostly the opposite of the actual historical federalists) that has taken root among the Republican appointees to the federal courts. During President Bush's first term more than half of all of his appellate nominees were active in the Federalist Society, which purports to be a debating society and in fact is much more than that--laying down the architecture for a far-reaching "legal" revolution that is embraced as a policy matter by their political counter-parts. This legal revolution has found its "greatest" expression in this radical decision of the Supreme Court. As a devoted student of the writings of the Founders, I am certain most of them would shocked, appalled and fearful of what these guys have wrought. I am certainly hoping that conservatives like will joint progressives and libertarians and others in saying no to this judicial activism and restore the power of individuals in our democracy. This ideology of corporate rights has unfortunately found its home among Rs appointed to the bench. While there are most certainly Ds who have been elected who are too beholden to corporate donations, as with many Rs, within the federal judiciary those who are pushing this agenda are appointees of Reagan, Bush, and Bush almost exclusively. Certainly that is the case on the Supreme Court with all of the justices hand-picked by these presidents, all of whom have been active in the Federalist Society, issuing one of the most radical decision in U.S. history. And, while the idea of limiting ads in the months before an election may have some appeal, it will not fix the underlying problems with this edict or addressing the far-reaching implications of the court's analytical framework granting corporations inherent "rights." I agree--it's not conservative. Those who are truly conservative will be outraged by such activism by unelected judges displacing the people's will with their own narrow agenda.