Citizens United - Occupy the Courts
It will be two years since the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission. I started to write that it is the second anniversary of this decision, but that sounds too celebratory to me.
I realized that while I understood the key concept of this decision, I wasn't clear on the details. Reading a summary from Cornell Law School reminded me that Citizens United was a non-profit group wanting to use funds from its general treasury to cablecast a movie about Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primaries.
Other reading I did identified Citizens United, not surprisingly, as a conservative group. What a reminder that how we name organizations and concepts is so important, because on first glance, who would think that Citizens United would be more supportive of corporations than actual citizens.
The most illuminating source I checked was the website of the Citizens United organization. This organization has a video posted on its website one year after the decision. The focus is on free speech, promoting how the CU vs. FEC decision promotes unlimited free speech. I highly recommend that you watch this video that includes clips from Newt Gingrich and decide what you think about it.
Given that I don't think corporations should have all the rights that human beings do, I'm more inclined to agree with the viewpoints expressed by organizations that oppose the Citizens United decision and are working to change it.
The best overall explanation is also the most entertaining. If you liked Annie Leonard's The Story of Stuff, you will probably enjoy her Story of Citizens United vs. FEC. She explores the history of corporations in the United States and how the fact that these companies are legally obligated to make profits for shareholders above all other considerations affects much of how corporate interests act. She shares resources for taking action including the Move to Amend site that has opportunities for action and information about the decision.
Many "Occupy" groups will be occupying federal courts on January 20, 2012. You can find more information about those demonstrations at the MovetoAmmend site.
Lastly, I muddled my way through bits of the actual Supreme Court decision.
One sentence particularly grabbed me. Not surprisingly it was in the dissenting opinion written by Justice Stevens. He said " The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court's disposition of this case."
What do you think?