One may understand why there are those who find the debate regarding Citizens United troublesome regardless of whether one supports or does not support the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court allowing corporations to contribute to political campaigns. One question that arises is whether corporations are to be permitted virtually unrestricted and unfettered rights of political participation? Do corporations impose upon the constitutional right to privacy, as an essential attribute of intangible property and a life-sustaining characteristic upon which individuals depend, when they participate in elections?
Corporations do not possess a quality, property or characteristic as the sense of privacy that goes to innate, subconscious, free and unencumbered human thought and choice. Self-governance and self-sustainability, in behest of self-governance, are the founding requisites of a democratic republic. This right and privilege of every individual is founded upon the existence of personal integrity and privacy. If corporations are equal yet not so dependent upon a guarantee of this form of privacy, may American citizens maintain their privacy and freedom to participate without imposition? The state chartered corporation is a creature of statute that lacks the intuitive sense of whether its thoughts and actions challenge its very survival and existence. Corporations exist absent the psyche. And, if corporations argue that business entities possess rights of property and privacy, American commercial law has long protected commercial confidentiality and intangible property interests through securities regulation, patent and copyright law, contract law among many.
Historically, tradition provides the premise and understanding that modern corporations do not vote. So it difficult to justify and to establish the right of corporations to offer publicly disclosed campaign contributions similar in public influence and public suasion to a vote, if not to the election count. More essentially, around the globe, in history the ancient family and the ancient corporation were similarly governed as one corporeal entity, patriarchically, without the recognition of individual form. The Corporation sole was the pater, aggregated one with others. Corporations and families have generational existence, in perpetuity, yet individuals do not, both historically and in the modern era. Says Sir Henry Sumner Maine: “Corporations never die, and accordingly primitive law considers the entities with which it deals, i. e. the patriarchal or family groups, as perpetual and inextinguishable. “ (Maine’s Ancient Laws, Chap. V. Disintegration of the Family).
In discussing the historical transition, Maine states:
“Nor is it difficult to see what is the tie between man and man which replaces by degrees those forms of reciprocity in rights and duties which have their origin in the Family. It is contract. Starting as from one terminus of history from a condition of society in which all the relations of Persons are summed up in the relation of the Family, we seem to have steadily moved towards a phase of social order in which all these relations arise from the free agreement of Individuals.”(Maine’s Ancient Laws, Chap. V. Disintegration of the Family). For Maine, the Family and the Corporation were both Groups, led patriarchically. There have come to be replaced by the Social Contract of one individual to another.
One must observe the analogy of Maine with the Syllabus of the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United, 556 U.S. 310, quoting Syllabus at 2(a):
“(a) Although the First Amendment provides that ‘Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech,’ §441b’s prohibition on corporate independent expenditures is an outright ban on speech, backed by criminal sanctions. It is a ban notwithstanding the fact that a PAC created by a corporation can still speak, for a PAC is a separate association from the corporation. Because speech is an essential mechanism of democracy—it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people—political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it by design or inadvertence. Laws burdening such speech are subject to strict scrutiny, which requires the Government to prove that the restriction ‘furthers a compelling interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.’ WRTL, 551 U. S., at 464.” Yet, is the Corporate contribution or Corporate PAC too great a legal fiction in the modern era to compete with human life forms in the expression of political opinion?
For, the Corporate PAC is twice removed from the individual shareholder or corporate employee relative to the individuals of the Corporation sole comprising the Corporation aggregate. In Maine’s lengthy language:
“English lawyers classify corporations as Corporations aggregate and Corporations sole. A Corporation aggregate is a true corporation, but a Corporation sole is an individual, being a member of a series of individuals, who is invested by a fiction with the qualities of a Corporation. I need hardly cite the King or the Parson of a Parish as instances of Corporations sole. The capacity or office is here considered apart from the particular person who from time to time may occupy it, and, this capacity being perpetual, the series of individuals who fill it are clothed with the leading attribute of Corporations—Perpetuity Now in the older theory of Roman Law the individual bore to the family precisely the same relation which in the rationale of English jurisprudence a Corporation sole bears to a Corporation aggregate. The derivation and association of ideas are exactly the same. In fact, if we say to ourselves that for purposes of Roman Testamentary Jurisprudence each individual citizen was a Corporation sole, we shall not only realize the full conception of an inheritance, but have constantly at command the clue to the assumption in which it originated. It is an axiom with us that the King never dies, being a Corporation sole.” (Maine, Ancient Laws, Chap. VII Corporations Sole).
As the purpose of the public recognition of and grant of existence to corporations is premised upon public interest principles of encouraging specialization and expertise in corporate productivity that transcends generations and is duly and ever more increasingly regulated and reviewed by both government and the public, what is the rationale or public interest in permitting corporations to exercise a constitutional right it cannot do via human means in its acknowledged name and form? If the concern is that traditional corporate subterfuge would encourage greater underhandedness than publicly communicated opinion as currently permitted by Citizens United and governmentally regulated Lobbyists, then, there may be no recourse than time. In the future, the development of regulation that would permit corporations to achieve ends now sought through political expression would end competition with voters and still permit voter review of corporate conduct through representative government.
Lori Gayle Nuckolls, Esq.