Monday, October 18, 2010

Authors reflect on corporate personhood (UPDATE)

Posted By on Mon, Oct 18, 2010 at 12:15 PM

UPDATE: District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of Helena today tossed out the 1912 Corrupt Practices Act that prohibits corporations from making independent political expenditures. The judge deemed it unconstitutional. Let the appeals process begin.

This week, a Helena judge is expected to decide on a challenge to Montana’s nearly century-old ban on corporate spending in support or opposition to political parties and candidates. The plaintiffs brought the challenge in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, which overturned a federal ban on corporate spending in political campaigns, essentially granting corporations personhood.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court's January decision, many states concluded that their own restrictions on electioneering were doomed as well. But not Montana.

And that resistance makes many a Montanan proud. Count local authors Bill Kittredge and David James Duncan among them.

On Sunday, during a panel discussion at the Society of Environmental Journalists' conference in Missoula, Kittredge and Duncan, along with Oregon-based author Kathleen Dean Moore, discussed the "insanity" of the Citizens United decision.

The end of the hour-and-a-half-long talk went like this:

David James Duncan: "Everybody’s common sense is being offended everyday by the idea of corporate personhood. A corporation does not have a pulse. It doesn’t have a navel. It is not alive. Its standards are extremely deadly and extremely limited…Paul Hawken’s book Blessed Unrest says there’s something like three million NGOs and nonprofits in the world. I think every single one of them [should] put on their front page, ‘We need to remove corporate personhood.’ The playing field is so not level. Really, until that happens, we live in a totally absurd world. Everybody knows a corporation is not alive, and they can buy whatever the fuck they want in terms of the American mind. I just think it’s a really serious issue that everyone needs to put in the forefront.”

Bill Kittredge: “I want to echo that and say that a corporation, any of them, is the only person in America who’s legally required to be as selfish as possible. That’s true. It’s against the law for them not to be as selfish as possible.”

Kathleen Dean More: “And if the definition of insanity is the absence of the ability to distinguish right from wrong, then corporations are psychopathic.”

"And on that blithe note...," said panel moderator and UM writing professor Bryan Di Salvatore, wrapping up the session.

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock's stance on the issue—he told the Wall Street Journal that in Montana "we have a record that shows those expenditures did corrupt and do corrupt"—sets the stage for appeals that could reach the Supreme Court.

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