The Climate of Corporate Personhood

January 11, 2011
James and Tomilea Allison

Corporations have no rights under the Constitution or its amendments.  However, their constitutional rights as granted by the Supreme Court have multiplied like rabbits since the Santa Clara decision in 1886, and the end is not in sight.

The Supreme Court “. . . avoided meeting the constitutional question [of corporate personhood] in the [Santa Clara] decision.”  (Morrison Waite, Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court, to his Court Reporter, 1886.)  Nevertheless, the Court has repeatedly misused this decision as precedent for bestowing constitutional rights on corporations. 

How the fiction of corporate personhood arose in the 1880s, perhaps based on a deliberate lie about the intent of those who drafted the Fourteenth Amendment.  How a Supreme Court  adjudicated railroad cases while being showered with major gifts from railroads.  How the Court played fast and loose with Court records.  How a Court Reporter’s notes passed as official Supreme Court opinion.  How the Court declared a precedent that wasn’t, as the media slept through it all.  How the story played out against a background of unregulated speculation, the ensuing Panic of 1873, and fervent class conflict.  How the present Court used the very same fiction to renew the subversion of democratic government at the hands of wealthy corporate CEOs.  How to put things right.