Candidates supporting corporate entities’ never-intended constitutional rights aren’t qualified

September 13, 2018
Dennis Verona and Gabby Mora

It’s fair to conclude that the Supreme Court will continue to rule in favor of corporations if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed as a justice, given his business-friendly decisions that have favored energy, communications and financial corporations over the public interest and environmental protection. See

The high court will likely continue to concoct corporate constitutional rights — what many call “corporate personhood” — out of thin air based on no legal precedent or rationale. The rights of consumers, workers, voters, residents, neighborhoods and communities — as well as protection of the ecosystem from further plunder and destruction — will suffer as corporations are anointed with additional inalienable constitutional rights.

Corporations aren’t mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. They’re artificial state creations, originally intended to be subordinate to We the People and defined by legislatures through charters. No citizen or legislature ever voted to grant corporations constitutional rights. Activist Supreme Court rulings for more than a century have placed corporations well beyond the reach of the people.

It is past time for all Supreme Court justice nominees to be given a democratic litmus test on their views on corporate constitutional rights during the confirmation process. Since our senators may not know relevant questions to ask, we respectfully offer Sen. Bob Casey and Sen. Pat Toomey the following list:

What are inalienable constitutional rights? Who should possess them?

Charters or licenses were democratic instruments once used by the public and state legislatures to define and limit corporate actions. Corporations, collections of capital and property, could not act beyond their charter provisions. Do you believe that these originally defined collections of capital and property should possess inalienable constitutional rights intended for human beings?

You’re considered a “strict constructionist” (i.e. to literally interpret the U.S. Constitution as written). Corporations are nowhere mentioned in our Constitution. How do “strict constructionists” justify anointing state-created corporations with Bill of Rights and other rights contained in the Constitution?

The 14th Amendment was one of the three post civil war amendments passed to ensure equal protection for former slaves. Two decades later, the Supreme Court declared that the 14th Amendment’s equal protection rights also applied to corporations. Do you believe that the 14th Amendment framers intended the amendment to apply to corporations?

Corporations won constitutional “search and seizure” rights to avoid subpoenas which may uncover corrupt financial and business practices, to avoid health and safety inspections, and to prevent citizens and communities from stopping corporate pollution. Do you agree that corporations “search and seizure” rights should exist, which preempt the public’s right to know should exist?

The 1978 First National Bank v. Bellotti ruling was the first Supreme Court case granting corporations the right to influence elections. In a dissenting opinion, Justice William Rehnquist stated: “It might reasonably be concluded that (corporations), so beneficial in the economic sphere, pose special dangers in the political sphere.” Do you believe that corporate money in elections poses “special dangers in the political sphere?”

Courts have found a constitutional right “not to speak” to avoid listing product ingredients, even when the public health, safety and welfare are threatened. Do you believe a corporation’s constitutional so-called “right not to speak” should preempt the public’s right to protect its own health, safety and welfare?

With an ever-increasing number of future Supreme Court likely to concern corporations should come an increase relevancy and urgency of knowing where Supreme Court justices stand on “corporate personhood.” Any candidate who supports never-intended constitutional rights for corporate entities is not qualified to serve on any federal court — including the U.S. Supreme Court — and should be opposed by the U.S. Senate.

Richboro in Northampton Township resident Dennis Verona is the Bucks County affiliate of Move to Amend; co-author Gabby Mora is the national communications coordinator for Move to Amend.

Groups audience: