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Question of the day

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* The setup

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A judge has ruled that the campaign finance law banning corporations from making contributions to federal candidates is unconstitutional.

In a ruling issued late Thursday, U.S. District Judge James Cacheris tossed out part of the indictment against two men accused of illegally reimbursing donors toHillary Clinton’s Senate and presidential campaigns.

Cacheris says that under last year’s Citizens United Supreme Court case, corporations enjoy the same right as people to contribute to campaigns.

The ruling is the first of its kind. The Citizens United case had applied only to independent corporate expenditures, not to actual campaign contributions.

* The Question: Do you support the current federal ban on direct campaign contributions to federal candidates by corporations? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.

Online Surveys & Market Research

posted by Rich Miller
Friday, May 27, 11 @ 10:45 am


  1. No. I hate the concept of corporate personhood. If corporations are people, and thus have free speech rights, then they should also be subject to imprisonment for crimes.

    I read once where a Supreme Court clerk inserted that language into a Court ruling. Has the Court ever affirmed corporate personhood?

    Nonprofits can’t contribute because of tax provisions. Labor unions are membership organizations. There is nothing stopping investors from making contributions, but corporations are not people.

    This is a horrible ruling.

    Comment by 47th Ward Friday, May 27, 11 @ 11:04 am

  2. If a corporation can contribute the max amount to a candidate, what is there to prevent a person from setting up 10 or 100 corporations and getting around the $2300 individual cap? Maybe they could require any person that holds more than 5% or so of the shares and attribute those contributions, but it seems that would be tossed out as unconstitutional as well…

    Comment by Anon Friday, May 27, 11 @ 11:04 am

  3. Yes, I supported the ban (while it was still allowed). I don’t believe that corporations should have the same constitutional rights that we as citizens enjoy. Should foreign-based corporations also enjoy those rights? Do corporations register for selective service? Do corporations pledge allegiance to the flag?

    Corporations should of course have lots of rights and privileges, but not the same constitutionally protected ones that we as citizens have.

    Comment by siriusly Friday, May 27, 11 @ 11:05 am

  4. Er, looks like I misread the question. YES, I support the ban on corporate political contributions. Sorry for the confusion.

    Comment by 47th Ward Friday, May 27, 11 @ 11:05 am

  5. Yes, 47 and Siriusly said it about right for me. I’d also add that corporate “personhood” is a highly effective shield for corporate officers on both civil and criminal matters. They didn’t do it; the corporation did.

    Comment by wordslinger Friday, May 27, 11 @ 11:10 am

  6. 47th, reread your answer. I think you meant to say yes.

    I don’t support the ban. If a business owner, who has as much motive to not waste money as any other human, decides that a contribution to a political candidate is a good use of their money, then so be it.

    And to all the “but that is money spent on influencing politics” screamers out there, those same people will hire a lobbyist if they want to influence politics with that same money. Or they will contribute to their association PAC, or to some other entity. That money will find its way to its intended target.

    The founders made this debate really simple: let competing interests duke it out and the public decide. So, leave all the complexities of the bans, restrictions, and other stuff aside. Just mandate full disclosure of everything and let the voters decide.

    Comment by Tom B. Friday, May 27, 11 @ 11:15 am

  7. The creation of Corporate Individualism is a legal fiction that needs correction, perhaps with a constitutional amendment clarifying individual vs. corporate rights. It’s the great error of the 19th century and the negative consequences are growing ever more dangerous with the globalized economy.

    Comment by Louis Howe Friday, May 27, 11 @ 11:18 am

  8. Corporations are NOT people. They are amoral legal fictions that exist to shield real human beings from liability, give human beings favorable tax advantages and maximize profits for human beings.

    There is NO REASON to let corporations donate to candidates when the human beings who own or run or otherwise benefit from those corporations already can donate independent of those corporations based on their individual human being status.

    We don’t let individuals vote twice, once in their capacity as individual human beings and once in their capacity as owners/operators of a cooperation, so why would we let individuals contribute to political campaigns both as individuals and through their corporations?

    Comment by hisgirlfriday Friday, May 27, 11 @ 11:18 am

  9. Thanks Tom B., read first, type second, got it.

    And your comment is spoken like someone who makes a living on political campaigns, like I used to. I get why you don’t want a ban on any contribution, lol.

    However, with the rise of global corporations, what’s to stop Chinese investors from influencing elections through US corporations they control?

    Comment by 47th Ward Friday, May 27, 11 @ 11:20 am

  10. Sure, we can treat corporations like people. In fact, we should go the full monty.

    When a corporation violates the law, the CEO and all directors go to prison, no need to prove specific knowledge.

    And when a corporation is in debt, creditors get to go after the assets of all share holders.

    If corporations want the advantages of being a person, it’s time to end the advantages corporations have.

    The western economic and political system is already slanted in favor of capital and rich people and too much against workers, taxpayers and people frozen out of the economic system.

    Comment by Carl Nyberg Friday, May 27, 11 @ 11:22 am

  11. I do not support the ban. I believe such contributions increase accountability that corporations have in such matters. This is similar to union contributions. The current practice where others contribute on behalf of corporations will end with this ruling.

    It will also make it easier to figure out who is getting “corporate” donations instead of “individual” donations.

    The Federal Judge also appears to be a fellow Greek-American. How can I question his judgment? :-)

    Comment by Louis G. Atsaves Friday, May 27, 11 @ 11:29 am

  12. Unions too?

    Money is speech, and a corporation is a free association of individuals, as are unions, fraternal orders and many other groups. There should be no limits on any contribution, especially in amount. Immediate disclosure is the answer, all donations must be instantly identified. Do that and these issues go away.

    Comment by Cincinnatus Friday, May 27, 11 @ 11:36 am

  13. If this ruling stands, doesn’t it blow a hole in Illinois campaign finance laws?

    Comment by Yellow Dog Democrat Friday, May 27, 11 @ 11:36 am

  14. People, stick to the question, please.

    Comment by Rich Miller Friday, May 27, 11 @ 11:37 am

  15. No, I don’t support the federal ban. The public is looking for “easy fixes” for problems with our political system — there are no easy fixes — it requires citizens to follow the doings of their elected officials and vote accordingly. We cannot be afraid of corporations exercising their rights to influence politics. Corporations have valid viewpoints as well.

    Comment by Just Observing Friday, May 27, 11 @ 12:13 pm

  16. I think the federal campaign finance laws like our states laws are a necessary yet temporary fix.

    Ultimately, only public financing of elections will deliver the democracy we deserve.

    Comment by Yellow Dog Democrat Friday, May 27, 11 @ 1:15 pm

  17. === Corporations have valid viewpoints as well. ===

    Corporations are not voters, or even citizens, nor are they counted for apportionment purposes.

    They’ve no more “right” to express their political preference through campaign contributions than foreign nationals.

    Maybe banning contributions by non-citizens is the way to root out corporations?

    Or the non-living? That wouldn’t be discriminatory — we all agree that the dead shouldn’t vote…so banning the non-living from contributing to campaigns shouldn’t be a problem.

    Comment by Yellow Dog Democrat Friday, May 27, 11 @ 1:20 pm

  18. As soon as unions are held to the same restrictions, maybe. In Illinois contractors can’t donate, but unions that have contracts with the state can. Level the playing field, or stop with the partisan nonsense of saying only corporations can’t give, but unions can. We all know the true basis of that dog of an argument.

    Yes, we all know that corporation bashing is fun. But let’s face it, they are a part of our social fabric. And their existence has lead to many more positive aspects in society than negative.

    The Constitution grants the people the right to assemble, and to petition the government. It gives us the right to free speech. Regardless of the Supreme Court ruling that corporations are people, the fact is that corporations are composed of people. Publicly held corporations are inherently democratic, with boards answerable to shareholders. Corporations are born, they live, they die.

    Oh, and corporations happen employ millions of Americans. If poor public policy threatens that, shouldn’t we all be concerned?

    Comment by phocion Friday, May 27, 11 @ 1:32 pm

  19. ===Regardless of the Supreme Court ruling that corporations are people===

    I don’t think any court has ever said that. A clerk did. Furthermore, the activist Supreme Court decision in Citizens United granted free speech rights to corporations.

    Unions represent members, who are citizens. Corporations represent share holders, some of whom may or may not be citizens. While one can presumably get a list of union members, I suspect it would be nearly impossible to get a list of corporate share holders.

    You don’t think there is a difference between the two?

    Comment by 47th Ward Friday, May 27, 11 @ 1:44 pm

  20. Don’t these laws typically apply equally to business and labor unions?+

    The FECA law becomes more complex over time.

    Yes I support a ban on such hard money contributions. While there are loopholes I hope it helps limit the influence of money on politics.

    Comment by Mark Friday, May 27, 11 @ 2:23 pm

  21. In abstract, corporate contributions WITH full disclosure could be defensible, as some posters have noted.

    However, right now I feel people who hold this intellectual position (including Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy) are being played for suckers … barriers to corporate involvement in spending keep going down, but the quality of disclosure currently keeps getting worse and worse.

    Intellectually I could think about supporting this argument. Politically, until we face the truth about our current system and fix the fact that “disclosure” is increasingly becoming an optional thing of the past (For A Better Chicago, anyone?), let’s not go any further down this road. I would say no. More corporate / union spending without real, adequate disclosure safeguards is another Watergate waiting to happen.

    Comment by ZC Friday, May 27, 11 @ 2:23 pm

  22. I’m for any legislation that makes (in a quantifiable way) elections more legitimate and less subject to influence by moneyed parties, such as by blitzing the media.

    Comment by perplexed & perterbed Friday, May 27, 11 @ 3:06 pm

  23. 47th, please. Corporate personhood as a legal concept dates back to the 1700’s. The “clerk did it” theory is pretty weak. Check out

    Happy Memorial Day to all!

    Comment by Phocion Friday, May 27, 11 @ 3:12 pm

  24. Phocion, did you even open the link you posted? This is the 2nd paragraph:

    “In the United States, corporations were recognized as having rights to contract, and to have those contracts honored the same as contracts entered into by natural persons, in Dartmouth College v. Woodward, decided in 1819. In the 1886 case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 118 U.S. 394, the Supreme Court recognized that corporations were recognized as persons for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment.[1][2] Some critics of corporate personhood, however, most notably author Thom Hartmann in his book “Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights,” claim that this was an intentional misinterpretation of the case inserted into the Court record by reporter J.C. Bancroft Davis.[3] Bancroft Davis had previously served as president of Newburgh and New York Railway Co.”

    Contract rights is one thing, full rights as people is another concept entirely. That’s why Wiki (your source) refers to this as a “controversy.” It is not settled law.

    Comment by 47th Ward Friday, May 27, 11 @ 3:40 pm

  25. For more, here’s the Straight Dope:

    As Cecil says, “Fighting ignorance since 1973 (it’s taking longer than we thought).”

    Comment by 47th Ward Friday, May 27, 11 @ 3:53 pm

  26. It’s not HBO it’s Showtime (apologies to William Macy).

    Comment by Marcus Agrippa Friday, May 27, 11 @ 4:14 pm

  27. @Cincy: “a corporation is a free association of individuals, as are unions, fraternal orders and many other groups.”

    No that’s not right. Corporations are not the same thing as unions, associations or fraternal orders. First of all, gathering in a corporation is not “free.” You have to pay filing fees to incorporate with a STATE. And thus, corporations are and always have been creations of the STATE and would not exist except for permission to exist by the STATE.

    But with regard to campaign contributions, I am perfectly fine with a ban on direct union contributions (as we have now), and bans on corporate contributions and even bans on PAC contributions so that the only folks who can donate are individual human beings. I think that reflects the intent of the Framers a lot more with respect to campaigns and speech and is a lot more fair to REAL citizens of America who in our existing campaign finance structure are at a disadvantage to get their viewpoints heard and the attention of their representatives in comparison to legal fiction-created citizens like corporations.

    Comment by hisgirlfriday Friday, May 27, 11 @ 4:37 pm

  28. 47. I’ll buy you a beer sometime and explain why you’re wrong. And hisgirl, we are all REAL citizens.

    Comment by Phocion Friday, May 27, 11 @ 7:16 pm

  29. Phocion, I’m wrong about a lot of things, so I’m not sure one beer will cover it. Corporations are not people, and are not entitled to the same rights. The government creates corporations. The rights of people come from our Creator, not from governments.

    But a beer summit sounds good.

    Comment by 47th Ward Friday, May 27, 11 @ 7:21 pm

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