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Book Review: Corporations Are Not People by Cody Paul 11.14.17

Corporations Are Not People written by Jeffrey D. Clements is a book that examines the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case ruling, which gave corporations the same rights as American citizens. Clements does a fantastic job of explaining how the ruling came to exist, and how the ruling undermines our rights as Americans. The book conveys the critically important message that the Citizens United ruling needs to be overturned to preserve the rights and livelihoods of the American people.
Clements started the book explaining the events of the Citizens United case themselves. In 2010, a nonprofit corporation called Citizens United wanted to use its money to make an advertisement that spoke against the campaign of Hillary Clinton. They took the Federal Election Commission to court challenging a federal election law that prevented corporate money from dominating the outcomes of elections. Citizens United claimed that the law was infringing on their first amendment right to free speech. The Supreme Court sided with Citizens United, which deemed the federal election law as unconstitutional, and ultimately gave corporations the same rights that people have. This is significant because it’s made corporate money extremely influential in the decisions that are being made on Capitol Hill to benefit corporate profits and not the interests of the American people.
While corporations determining the outcomes of elections is a very serious issue in contemporary times, a corporatist agenda has been pushed forward in the Supreme Court since the early 1970s. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell was appointed in 1971, but only a few years prior, he was a director of more than a dozen international corporations. Most notably, he was the director of the Phillip-Morris tobacco company during the time when the negative health effects of smoking started to surface. The tobacco companies did their best to suppress these discoveries. In a memo to the chamber of commerce, Justice Powell emphasized the idea of having a, “. . .sustained, multiyear corporate campaign to use an activist-minded Supreme Court to shape social, economic and political change.” The most unfortunate part is that the memo was hidden from the public until well after Powell was appointed Supreme Court Justice. This illustrates the type of person that was instilled in our federal justice system, and how a corporatist agenda has been established in the Supreme Court. Lewis Powell’s ideas set the precedent for how corporations are favored in the Supreme Court today.
The Citizens United ruling gave corporations the same rights that people have, which has given them the power to decide elections with money. This undermines the interests of the American people. The founding fathers didn’t intend for the Bill of Rights to apply to corporations. They made the Bill of Rights to assure the people that they have guaranteed rights in this country that won’t be infringed upon by the government. According to Cornell Law School, the legal definition of a corporation is, “A legal entity created through the laws of its state of incorporation.” Also, according to Cornell Law School, the legal definition of a person is, “In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress . . . shall include every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.” After reviewing these two definitions, it’s easy to see the difference between a corporation and a person, and it induces the question of how legislation regarding corporations being treated as people could be instilled.
Clements gives a few ideas at the end of the book on how we could overturn the Citizen’s United ruling. The first idea is forming an amendment that clearly states that corporations are not people, and the rights protected in the Constitution do not apply to corporations. The second idea is to reform the corporation. The idea that incorporating is a privilege granted by the government should be instilled. Since the people are ultimately self-governed in this country, it should be seen that the people will decide how corporations are governed, not the other way around.
Overall, Clements’ book gives great insight on the effects that the Citizen’s United ruling has had on corporations’ abilities to decide elections that will benefit their profits rather than the American People’s interests. Unfortunately, corporations only care about maximizing profit rather than serving the people, and the people need to act to overturn this ruling.
Cody Paul is a current student at Nevada State College and intern at Anthony Paglia Injury Lawyer LTD.  Cody is expected to gain employment here at the firm after his internship.