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Should Corporations Have Free Speech?

Corporation Free Speech (Citizens United), Are You For or Against?

In January 2010, the Supreme Court had a landmark ruling stating that Corporations should be protected under the First Amendment’s right of Free Speech. This means that a corporation is considered a “living and breathing person”. Anyone can create a corporation, fund the corporate bank accounts and then have the rights of Free Speech in which to hide behind the corporate curtain.

Let us first define, what is a corporation? According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, a corporation is “ a body formed and authorized by law to act as a single person although constituted by one or more persons and legally endowed with various rights and duties including the capacity of succession.” This term was first used over 600 years ago, and I am not sure whether our founding fathers thought that a corporation should be treated equally as a person in all aspects.

So a corporation is a group of people that either create products or services for the best interests of the shareholders. Are the corporate products such as machines protected under First Amendment right of Free Speech? What is next giving Corporations the right to Vote?

I believe corporations are seen as a legal entity for the purposes of taxation and responsibility to the citizens, but not as an equivalent of a human being.

Here are a couple examples:
A corporation has 100 employees and each employee has 1% vote. 51 of the shareholders want to use their funds to “Support” an issue, and the other 49 shareholders want to “Oppose” the same issue. By a normal vote, the “Support” would carry, but were the 49 shareholders protected under the First Amendment to their rights of Free Speech?
Same company 100 shareholders, except one shareholder owns 51% of the stock and the other 99 shareholders own 49% of the stock. The one shareholder that owns 51% wants to “Support” an issue, and the other 99 shareholders want to “Oppose” the same issue. Who is being able able to demonstrate their right of Free Speech?

Here is my common sense solution to this issue. If a corporation wants to use their funds in order to promote an issue or a candidate, then the corporation should vote on paying a dividend to each shareholder and let each shareholder decide how to use those funds. If the shareholders indeed want to use their funds for political free speech, so be it.

What do you think?

Jim Hickey
Twitter: @hickeyUSA

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