Text and History Narratives

A Capitalist Joker: The Strange Origins, Disturbing Past and Uncertain Future of Corporate Personhood in American Law

A Capitalist Joker builds on the scholarly research discussed in CAC’s amicus curiae brief in the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. FEC. The narrative examines a key issue that the Court addressed in the case: whether corporations have the same rights as individuals, particularly when it comes to influencing electoral politics.

Summary

On March 10, 2010, CAC released the third narrative in its Text and History Narrative Series at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. FEC. Entitled A Capitalist Joker: The Strange Origins, Disturbing Past and Uncertain Future of Corporate Personhood in American Law, the narrative builds on the scholarly research discussed in CAC’s amicus curiae brief in Citizens United v. FEC. The narrative examines a key issue that the Court addressed in the case: whether corporations have the same rights as individuals, particularly when it comes to influencing electoral politics.

As the Joker explains, the text of our Constitution never mentions corporations. The framers wrote and the American people ratified the original Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the three Civil War amendments — the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth — to secure the inalienable rights of “We the People” — living human beings. Governments create corporations and give them special privileges to fuel economic growth, but with these special privileges come greater government oversight. The new narrative traces the Supreme Court’s treatment of corporations from the Founding era Supreme Court under John Marshall, through the Lochner era, the New Deal, and up through the Roberts Court today.  It shows that while corporations have long enjoyed some protections under certain constitutional provisions, they have only been granted equal constitutional rights once – in a series of opinions in the infamous Lochner era.  Today, those opinions have been repudiated by liberals and conservatives alike and have been dismissed by the Supreme Court as a “relic of a bygone era.”

More from Corporate Accountability

Corporate Accountability
October 5, 2018

OP-ED: Why the Roberts Court Might Actually Rule for Workers for a Change This Term

Slate
The Supreme Court has not been a good place in recent years for those seeking...
By: Brianne J. Gorod, Brian R. Frazelle
Corporate Accountability
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. All American Check Cashing, Inc.

In Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. All American Check Cashing, Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is considering a constitutional challenge to the leadership structure of the Consumer Financial Protection...
Corporate Accountability
U.S. Supreme Court

Obduskey v. McCarthy & Holthus LLP

In Obduskey v. McCarthy & Holthus LLP, the Supreme Court is considering whether non-judicial foreclosure qualifies as debt collection under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
Corporate Accountability
July 17, 2018

A Banner Year for Business as the Supreme Court’s Conservative Majority Is Restored

Chief Justice Roberts and his conservative colleagues may see themselves as umpires, but their calls...
By: Brian R. Frazelle
Corporate Accountability
April 24, 2018

RELEASE: In Latest Ruling, Conservative Justices Push Supreme Court’s Pro-Corporate Tilt Even Further

David Gans: “Today’s ruling is further proof that the Roberts Court is the most pro-corporate...
Corporate Accountability
April 12, 2018

The Head Of A Consumer Watchdog Agency Is Pushing To Strip Its Power. Judges Are Weighing If He Can Even Be There.

BuzzFeed
Trump appointed Mick Mulvaney, who supported getting rid of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau when...