Archive for the ‘free speech’ Category

Independent business advocates condemn Supreme Court ruling allowing unlimited corporate money in US elections, join public interest groups in launching campaign to amend Constitution

February 17th, 2010 No comments

No, I didn’t write this press release (but I did add emphasis!). I note my related posts are here.

DATE: January 21, 2009


CONTACT: Jeff Milchen, American Independent Business Alliance



BOZEMAN, MT – A coalition of public interest organizations and
independent business advocates condemned today’s ruling by the US
Supreme Court allowing unlimited corporate money in US elections, and
announced that it is launching a campaign to amend the United States
Constitution to overturn the ruling.

The coalition
includes the public interests groups Voter Action, Public Citizen, and
the Center for Corporate Policy, as well as the American Independent
Business Alliance (AMIBA). They contend the Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC
poses a serious and direct threat to democracy and to fair market
competition. Immediately following the Court’s ruling, the groups
unveiled a new website – – devoted to this campaign.

The Supreme Court has leaped into unabashed activism on behalf of
corporate power,
” said Jeff Milchen, co-founder of the American
Independent Business Alliance. “Some reports have wrongly suggested the
Roberts Court is ‘pro-business,'” said Milchen, “but overturning these
precedents is radically anti-business when viewed from the perspective
of America’s six million or so independent businesses.

“Independent business owners often face a decidedly uneven playing
field when competing against major corporations due, in part, to tax loopholes, subsidies, federal handouts
and preferential treatment bestowed by politicians,” added Milchen.
“Opening electoral contests to direct corporate campaign spending
further undermines fair market competition and recklessly endangers

AMIBA is a
non-profit network of 70 communities across the U.S. that have formed
local Independent Business Alliances to help local independent
businesses compete successfully and prevent major chains from driving
out local businesses.

“Free speech rights are for people,
not corporations,” says John Bonifaz, Voter Action’s legal director.
“In wrongly assigning First Amendment protections to corporations, the
Supreme Court has now unleashed a torrent of corporate money in our
political process unmatched by any campaign expenditure totals in US
history. This campaign to amend the Constitution will seek to restore
the First Amendment to its original purpose.”

The public
interest groups say that, since the late 1970s, a divided Supreme Court
has transformed the First Amendment into a powerful tool for
corporations seeking to evade democratic control and sidestep sound
public welfare measures. For the first two centuries of the American
republic, the groups argue, corporations did not have First Amendment
to limit the reach of democratically-enacted regulations.

“Today’s ruling, reversing longstanding precedent which prohibits
corporate expenditures in elections, now requires a constitutional
amendment response to protect our democracy,” says Jeffrey Clements,
general counsel to Free Speech for People.

Jennifer Rockne, AMIBA’s director, added “Even before the banking meltdown, ninety percent
of Americans thought large corporations have been granted too much
power. It’s a remarkable moment for the Court to re-invent the
Constitution to expand corporations’ influence and a slap in the face
to America’s independent business owners.”

In support of
their new campaign, the groups point to prior amendments to the US
Constitution which were enacted to correct egregiously wrong decisions
of the US Supreme Court directly impacting the democratic process,

including the 15th Amendment prohibiting discrimination in voting based
on race and the 19th Amendment, prohibiting discrimination in voting
based on gender.

“The Court has invented the idea that
corporations have First Amendment rights to influence election outcomes
out of whole cloth,” says Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.
“There is surely no originalist interpretation to support this outcome,
since the Court created the rights only in recent decades. Nor can the
outcome be justified in light of the underlying purpose and spirit of
the First Amendment. Corporations are state-created entities, not real
people. Corporate spending on elections defeats rather than advances
the democratic thrust of the First Amendment.”

believes the effort will succeed, but makes no predications on a
timeline. “This will be a sustained campaign that will ultimately unite
the vast majority of Americans who recognize the Bill of Rights is for
human beings, not corporations,” said Milchen. “We have no illusions
about the size of the task we are undertaking, but five Justices have
effectively outlawed the republican form of government promised by our
Constitution. We will be as patient as necessary to succeed.”

For more information on the constitutional amendment campaign, see .


Related articles and websites:

Brenda Wright, Director of Demos and co-author of the amicus brief we submitted for this case, on the decision

Not all business sided with the Court ruling:

Breaking News! "Let’s Franchise Corporate Democracy!" In wake of #CorpSpeak decision, MD company running for Congress signs first franchisee, in Va

February 16th, 2010 No comments

I reported two weeks ago that a PR firm, Murray Hill, Inc., had embraced the recent decision by the conservative, non-activist majority of the Supreme Court which resoundingly affirmed that the Founding Fathers had granted First Amendment rights to corporate “persons” by embarking on a campaign to be elected to Congress in Maryland.

It has been heart-warming to hear that Murray Hill has been finding much interest, not only from the public and press, but from other companies as well, and so  on February 15 – George Washington’s Birthday – Murray Hill announced its first agreement to franchise this portion of its business model to another company, which has decided to run for a Congressional seat in Virginia.

According to Murray Hill’s press release (emphasis added), speaking through designated human, Eric
and Campaign Manager William Klein:

Combating prejudice and bias against corporate persons is one of the
primary motivations
behind Murray Hill Inc.’s run for office.

bigotry has no place in our great democracy,” Murray Hill Inc. says.
“Our forefathers lived and died for the inalienable rights of every
person, human and corporate, to pursue life (or its corporate
equivalent), liberty and the pursuit of happiness (or profit).”

first corporation to enter into a franchise agreement with Murray Hill
Inc. is Computer Umbrella Inc. of Sterling Virginia,  which my sleuthing shows is partnered with Microsoft, Dell, HP and Netgear Powershift. Jonathan StewartJonathan Stewart, a US Army veteran who founded Computer Umbrella, is Designated Human for the firm and is charting its run for U.S. Congress in Virginia’s 10th District. Says Stewart,

are proud to embrace the Murray Hill Inc. Brand. From
steel to silicon, it’s America’s entrepreneurs who find and exploit the
new markets. The democracy market in Washington DC today looks like
Silicon Valley 30 years ago. CUI wants to position itself as early
leader in this emerging market along with Murray Hill Inc.”

I was alerted to this breaking news by becoming a fan of Murray Hill’s Facebook page, Murray Hill Inc. for Congress. The Facebook page briefly describes Murray Hill’s purpose as follows:

Until now, corporations influenced politics with high-paid lobbyists
and backroom deals. But today, thanks the supreme court, corporations
have all the rights the founding fathers meant for us.

That’s why Murray Hill Inc. is running for congress.

Here is more background on Murray Hill’s objectives, from their initial press release (emphasis added):

“Until now,” Murray Hill Inc. said in a statement, “corporate
interests had to rely on campaign contributions and influence peddling
to achieve their goals in Washington. But thanks to an enlightened
Supreme Court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and run for office

Murray Hill Inc. is believed to be
the first “corporate person” to exercise its constitutional right to
run for office. As Supreme Court observer Lyle Denniston wrote in his SCOTUSblog, “If anything, the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
conferred new dignity on corporate “persons,” treating them — under the
First Amendment free-speech clause — as the equal of human beings.”

Hill Inc. agrees. “The strength of America,” Murray Hill Inc. says, “is
in the boardrooms, country clubs and Lear jets of America’s great
corporations. We’re saying to Wal-Mart, AIG and Pfizer, if not you,
who? If not now, when?”

Murray Hill Inc. plans
on spending “top dollar” to protect its investment. “It’s our
democracy,” Murray Hill Inc. says, “We bought it, we paid for it, and
we’re going to keep it.”

Murray Hill Inc., a
diversifying corporation in the Washington, D.C. area, has long held an
interest in politics and sees corporate candidacy as an emerging new

The campaign’s designated human, Eric
Hensal, will help the corporation conform to antiquated “human only”
and sign the necessary voter registration and candidacy
paperwork. Hensal is excited by this new opportunity. “We want to get
in on the ground floor of the democracy market before the whole store
is bought by China.”

Murray Hill Inc. plans on
filing to run in the Republican primary in Maryland’s 8th Congressional
District. Campaign Manager William Klein promises an aggressive,
historic campaign that “puts people second” or even third.

business of America is business, as we all know,” Klein says. “But now,
it’s the business of democracy too.” Klein plans to use automated
robo-calls, “Astroturf” lobbying and computer-generated avatars to get
out the vote.

I encourage all other supporters of the role of corporations in our great democracy to join me in supporting these exciting developments!

Those of you working in corporations might encourage your own firms to get in on the ground floor of the opportunity to cut out the middleman and to “own its own vote” (votes, if subsidiaries run in other districts) in Congress.

The rest of us can follow along with campaign developments here at the following social media sites, and by buying Murrray Hill Inc. for Congress goods:

YouTube Facebook Twitter

For those of you who might have missed it, here is Murray Hill’s kick-off video:


The crux of the Constitutional analysis of corporate "personhood" and "speech"

February 4th, 2010 No comments

Further to my four preceding posts, I copy below a further comment that I left on a thread at The Volokh Conspiracy, which I think summarizes the core Constitutional issue:

TokyoTom says:

John Dewey:
Sorry, Tom. You can disagree with me, but the majority on the U.S.
Supreme Court agrees with me. Justice Scalia made it very clear that
the First Amendment protects not speakers but rather speech:

“The Amendment is written in terms of “speech,” not speakers. Its text offers
no foothold for excluding any category of speaker, from single
individuals to partnerships of individuals, to unincorporated
associations of individuals, to incorporated associations of

John, I‘m quite aware of what the court has held, but they‘re
clearly missing a very obvious distinction: for Constitutional purposes
PEOPLE “speak”, not animals or other things. A corporation is certainly
an association of individuals, each of whom has his own right to speak.
But a corporation is a THING, legally distinct from its owners. Does a
corporation speak for itself, or for others — who bear no liability for
any false, tortious or criminal speech?

Further, corporations are creatures of the state, so the state has
the right to determine their powers. Just as the Rehnquist court held
that the government can gag doctors at clinics that accept federal aid,
and just as the government still gags churches and other groups that
want federal non-profit tax status, so can the state limit the right of
owners of corporations to speak through them.

This should be an easy issue, but the Court obfuscates by comparing
stated-created corporations, whose owners have received the special
privilege of not being liable for any acts of the corporation, with
“single individuals to partnerships of individuals, to unincorporated
associations of individuals”, none of which is an artificial,
statutorily-created entity with rights or obligations in excess of
those of their owners.

If the Court had held that corporations are things — not “persons —
and thus do no utter “speech” for purposes of the First Amendment, this
would not at all affect the ability of any class of real, live human
being associated with them to speak. Employees, managers and owners
could all speak individually, or form groups for doing so.

The Court‘s decision here is completely wrong-headed.

Categories: constitution, corporations, free speech Tags:

Delicious! Corporation seeks to test its civil rights wings by running for Congress in Maryland

February 3rd, 2010 No comments succinctly summarizes:

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are entitled to the same free speech and political rights as American citizens, Murray Hill, Inc., a public relations and advertising firm in Maryland has announced that it intends to run for Congress in Maryland’s 8th Congressional district. In an undated press release
posted on the company’s Web site, Murray Hill says, “Until now,
corporate interests had to rely on campaign contributions and
influence-peddling to achieve their goals in Washington. But thanks to
an enlightened Supreme Court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and
run for office ourselves.” Murray Hill states that it plans on spending
“top dollar” to protect its investment in government, adding, “We
bought it, we paid for it, and we’re going to keep it.” The company
plans to run as a Republican in the primary, and announced that it will
run an aggressive, historic campaign that “puts people second” or even
third. Murray Hill will be the first corporation to test the Supreme
Court’s new ruling conferring political free speech rights on
corporations. Murray Hill has designated a human to fill out the
necessary forms to apply for its run for office, and it’s political
slogan is “Corporations are people too!” It has started a Facebook page and says it plans on using automated robo-calls, “astroturf” lobbying, and computer-generated avatars to win over voters.

More here:






Twitter (with links to various TV, radio appearances)