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
February 27, 2024

RELEASE: At Oral Argument, Justices Recognize Profound Effect of Banking Case on State Efforts to Protect Consumers

WASHINGTON, DC – Following oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court this morning in Cantero...
By: Smita Ghosh
Corporate Accountability
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

National Association of Private Fund Managers v. Securities and Exchange Commission

In National Association of Private Fund Managers v. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Fifth Circuit is determining whether Congress granted the SEC the authority to regulate private fund advisers.
Corporate Accountability
U.S. Supreme Court

Cantero v. Bank of America

In Cantero v. Bank of America, the Supreme Court is considering whether a state law protecting New York homeowners is preempted by the federal National Banking Act.
Corporate Accountability
December 5, 2023

RELEASE: Supreme Court Oral Argument Shows Conservative Attempt to Limit Congress’s Taxing Power is Misguided

WASHINGTON, DC – Following oral argument at the Supreme Court this morning in Moore v....
By: Brian R. Frazelle
Corporate Accountability
U.S. Supreme Court

Moore v. United States

In Moore v. United States, the Supreme Court is considering a challenge to Congress’s power to tax income under the Sixteenth Amendment.
Corporate Accountability
U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey

Bristol Myers Squibb v. Becerra and Janssen v. Becerra

In Bristol Myers Squibb v. Becerra and Janssen v. Becerra, the District of New Jersey is considering whether the Inflation Reduction Act’s Medicare drug price negotiation program amounts to an unconstitutional taking of their property.