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.