Citizens United may soon be embraced by the Left


This is an unpublished letter to the editor in response to the above titled Opinion piece by John O’Shea, a regular columnist and retired circuit court judge

I’ve given up any hope it will be printed.


To the Editor,

The bizarre 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision won’t “soon be embraced by the Left” anytime soon, as claimed by John Donald O’Shea, in his July 5th column “Citizens United may soon be embraced by the Left.”

His assertion that conservatives who feel unfairly silenced by Google, Facebook or Twitter may start their own search engine and social media platforms has little connection to Citizens United. Starting in the 1880s, long before Citizens United, the Supreme Court hijacked many parts of our constitution — including the First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments — to invent so-called corporate constitutional rights.

The Constitution doesn’t mention corporations. Therefore it gave them no rights. One of
the causes of the American Revolution was unfair treatment of colonists by the East
India Company, a British corporation, as well as many colonies, which were corporate entities (e.g. the Massachusetts Bay Company, Virginia Company, etc.) chartered by the KIng of England. Corporations following the Revolution were designed to be subordinate to We the People through their democratically-enacted charters. The Bill of Rights and other Amendments were intended to apply solely to human beings. The Supreme Court has never explained or justified why an artificial person like a corporation should have the same constitutional rights as natural persons.

Why media corporations have First Amendment rights is because of their function — the critical role that the press plays in American democracy — not the legal form that they are organized under. Corporate free speech rights weren’t why the court ruled in favor of the New York Times on the question of libel in New York Times v Sullivan or the Washington Post in the Pentagon Papers case.

Non media corporations don’t need First Amendment rights to counter messages in the media. If Boeing corporation doesn’t have First Amendment rights, their employees still have them. Its shareholders still have them. Individuals who work for companies that supply Boeing corporation everything from steel to copy paper still have them. All these human persons can express their First Amendment free speech rights on behalf of Boeing corporation. The truth is political campaign contributions/investments by the super rich and corporations shielded by the legal doctrines that political money is free speech and corporations are legal persons have drowned out the political voices of the vast majority of the public.

It’s true that Google, Facebook and Twitter corporations aren’t media corporations, yet they are crucial media platforms. Concerns, however, over whether their internal guidelines fairly include/exclude some voices but not others should be secondary to the concern that their decision-making process is private/corporate and not public/democratic.

Why shouldn’t Google be a public utility with democratically enacted public protections? After all, its ambitious creation was funded and coordinated by government research grants. If we believe Facebook and Twitter provide important public services and must treat all their users justly, why have we allowed them to operate with virtually zero public accountability?

We the People have increasingly ceded our public authority to define our own legal creations, which is dangerously anti-democratic.

If we believe the rights of people, communities and a livable world should take precedence over the rights of corporate entities, then we certainly need to work for the overturning of Citizens United. But that’s not enough. Also needed is a constitutional amendment ending all never-intended corporate constitutional rights, which is what the We the People Amendment, (H.J.R. 48) with its 74 Congressional co-sponsors promotes.

Greg Coleridge, Outreach Director, National Move to Amend Coalition

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