Editorial: Sham — Corporations aren’t people

Any sensible person knows that corporations are not “people” who hold religious faith (entitling them to deny birth control coverage to women employees) or have a right of “free speech” (letting them give money to politicians). Yet Republicans endlessly support these fictions.

The problem began back in 1976 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Buckley v. Valeo that giving money for campaign ads is a form of free speech, which cannot be limited. Therefore, the rich — who generally back Republicans — are entitled to pour their wealth into buying elections. Billionaires gained much more “free speech” than regular Americans. Most of their money goes for smear ads.

Next, in the 2010 Citizens United decision, the high court ruled that corporations are “persons” entitled to free speech, just like people. Therefore, corporations — whose executives generally back Republicans — may pour corporate funds into buying elections. Direct cash to politicians remains illegal, but corporations may funnel money to supposedly independent partisan committees called “super PACs.”

Next, President Obama’s historic health reform said medical insurance plans must provide free birth control to women who want it. But some firms headed by fundamentalist-minded owners claimed that their religious beliefs are violated by birth control. Now, national court cases are roiling over whether corporations can “have religion,” just like other “persons,” and whether they can impose their beliefs on women employees. The outcome is unknown, so far.

In the birth-control battle, Republican leaders attack the president for injuring “religious freedom.” They never say openly that women should be denied coverage if their bosses hold far-right church beliefs. According to the GOP, religious freedom is enjoyed only by firms, not by women workers.

Last year, the West Virginia Legislature joined others across America in an attempt to halt the sham that corporations are people. House and Senate resolutions asked Congress to draft a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

The House resolution said the ruling loosed wide-open political spending. “The use of so-called super PACs by wealthy individuals and special interests nationally has driven up the cost of elections to over $6 billion in the federal elections alone and reduced local voices in the democratic process.”

But last week, when Democrats in the U.S. Senate proposed a constitutional amendment to let states curb election spending, a Republican filibuster killed it. Fiery Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., protested:

“I am extremely disappointed that not one Republican voted today to stop billionaires from buying elections and undermining democracy … The Koch brothers should not be allowed to spend hundreds of millions of dollars electing candidates who represent the wealthy and powerful.”

Naturally, Republican voices are calling the Senate vote a victory for “free speech.” They don’t dare say it was a victory letting the rich and corporations purchase right-wing government.

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