After reading an article by Steven Rosenfeld on Salon.com, I think it is important to begin to address some of the criticisms of the movement to amend the Constitution to state that Corporations Are Not People and Money Is Not Speech.
Proposals from two leading grassroots groups, Move To Amend and Free Speech For People … would strip constitutional rights from all corporations, for-profit and non-profit. That provision, were it in effect during the Civil Rights movement, could have stopped the NAACP from operating. That very issue—did the NAACP, as a non-profit corporation, have First Amendment rights to assemble and speak for members—arose in the famous 1963 Supreme Court case and ruling, NAACP v. Button, a where they affirmed the NAACP’s First Amendment freedom to assemble and speak.
The NAACP case did say a corporation could assert constitutional rights, but only because those rights correspond to the rights of its members. The case goes on to argue that a Virginia law that made it an offense to solicit business for any attorney must be struck down not solely because it would have curbed the rights of associations such as the NAACP, but but because it infringed on the rights of individuals. I don’t see how the case would collapse under the MTA Amendment since we clearly state that artificial entities have privileges under law, but these privileges are not inherent or inalienable, much the same as the logic used by the Supreme Court in the NAACP v. Button case.
Rosenfeld also argues that President Truman’s attempt to seize the property of the steel mills in 1952 could have been allowed if corporations are not granted Fifth Amendment “due process” protections. This case has more to do with limits on executive powers than corporate rights, so it is a poor example, but nothing in the MTA Amendment language changes the distinction between private property and public (government-owned) property; however, it clarifies that corporations are property, not persons.
I also believe that public campaign financing is not something that our Amendment should stipulate, as Rosenfeld implies by his “too much, too little” critique. Nonetheless, public financing won’t be possible without limits on corporate electioneering spending, so he puts the proverbial cart before the horse, in my opinion.
I continue to support the language of the Amendment as proposed by Move To Amend.