More on the Montana Rebellion: Unanimous contempt for Citizens United

The Montana Supreme Court’s decision in Western Tradition Partnership v. Attorney General (Opinion 12-30-11) directly challenges the empty rhetoric and dangerous delusions about corporations in Citizens United v. FEC. Citing with painstaking detail a factual record of corrupt corporate domination of Montana that required the people of Montana to ban corporate spending in elections, the Montana Court exposes the Citizens United decision as little more than a pep rally for a particular laissez-faire policy preference of the majority.

What’s really striking about the Montana case, though, is the utter contempt with which both the majority and the dissent view Citizens United and the notion of “corporate rights.” The dissenters viewed the specific facts about corporate corruption in Montana as being insufficient to distinguish the case from Citizens United. That doesn’t mean they like it, though. This is what Justice Nelson, a dissenter in the Montana decision, thinks about the “corporate personhood” ideology behind Citizens United:

Lastly, I am compelled to say something about corporate “personhood.” While I recognize that this doctrine is firmly entrenched in the law, see Bellotti, 435 U.S. at 780n. 15, 98 S. Ct. at 1418 n. 15; but see 435 U.S. at 822, 98 S. Ct. at 1439-40 (Rehnquist, J., dissenting), I find the entire concept offensive. Corporations are artificial creatures of law. As such, they should enjoy only those powers—not constitutional rights, but legislatively-conferred powers—that are concomitant with their legitimate function, that being limited-liability investment vehicles for business. Corporations are not persons. Human beings are persons, and it is an affront to the inviolable dignity of our species that courts have created a legal fiction which forces people—human beings—to share fundamental, natural rights with soulless creations of government. Worse still, while corporations and human beings share many of the same rights under the law, they clearly are not bound equally to the same codes of good conduct, decency, and morality, and they are not held equally accountable for their sins. Indeed, it is truly ironic that the death penalty and hell are reserved only to natural persons.

Here’s the background on the case, and the Montana Supreme Court’s decision.

About Jeff Clements

Jeff Clements, an attorney and author, is the president and co-founder of Free Speech for People, a national, non-partisan campaign to challenge the creation of Constitutional rights for corporations, overturn Citizens United v. FEC, and strengthen American democracy and republican self-government. He is the author of the Corporations Are Not People (Berrett-Koehler, 2012). Mr. Clements, an attorney, has represented and advocated for people, businesses and the public interest since 1988. Mr. Clements served as Assistant Attorney General and Chief of the Public Protection & Advocacy Bureau in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office from early 2007 to 2009. As Bureau Chief, he led more than 100 attorneys and staff in law enforcement and litigation in the areas of civil rights, environmental protection, healthcare, insurance and financial services, antitrust and consumer protection. Mr. Clements also served as an Assistant Attorney General in Massachusetts from 1996 to 2000, where he worked on litigation against the tobacco industry and handled a wide range of other investigations and litigation to enforce unfair trade practice, consumer protection and antitrust laws. In private practice, Mr. Clements has been a partner in the Boston law firms of Clements & Clements, LLP and Mintz Levin. He also has practiced in Maine, where he has represented clients in a variety of appeals and litigation, and in investigations and prosecutions by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Maine Attorney General’s Office. In the 1990s, Mr. Clements was elected as a Trustee and President of the Board of Trustees of the Portland Water District, a public agency responsible for protecting and delivering safe drinking water and ensuring proper treatment of wastewater for 160,000 people in Portland and South Portland, Maine and several surrounding communities. He was a co-founder, officer, and director of Friends of Casco Bay, an environmental advocacy organization focused on protection and stewardship of Maine’s Casco Bay. He also has served as a Trustee and President of the Board of The Waldorf School in Lexington, Massachusetts. Mr. Clements graduated with distinction in History and Government from Colby College in 1984, and magna cum laude with a concentration in Public Law from the Cornell Law School in 1988. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts with his wife and three children.
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