The Supreme Court: Acting as our King & Inventing corporate "rights" (Part 6)

Paul Cienfuegos’ November 17, 2015 Commentary on KBOO Evening News


(His weekly commentaries are broadcast every Tuesday evening. You can view or listen to them all at,, or subscribe via ITunes. Listen to this one HERE.)


Greetings! You are listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos.


Today is the sixth and final week in my series of commentaries that unveils the fascinating story and chronology of how the Supreme Court – over the past 196 years – beginning in 1819 – has transformed the business corporation from an institution that was legally subordinate to The People, beginning after the American Revolution, into something having more constitutionally protected so-called “rights” than do you or I. Shall we proceed?


In 1996, in the case, International Dairy Foods Association v. Amestoy, the Supreme Court overturned a Vermont law that had required the labeling of all products containing bovine growth hormone (rBGH). They ruled that dairy corporations have the right “not to speak”, both in the political and commercial arenas, and extends to statements of fact as well as statements of opinion. Thus, a corporation’s right not to speak means they don’t have to print certain product information on their labels. This is the court ruling that also prevents laws from being passed that would require the labeling of products containing GMO’s or genetically modified organisms.


In 2003, in the case Nike v. Kasky, lawyers from the Nike Corporation made the extraordinary claim, in their argument before the Supreme Court, that purposeful lies in advertising should be considered protected political speech under the 1st Amendment. The court chose to not rule on this case, and sent it back to a California court where it was settled in Kasky’s favor, finding that California state laws requiring truth in advertising had indeed been violated. The question of whether the 1st Amendment gives a corporation the right to lie remains unsettled.


In 2010, in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court overturned most provisions of the McCain-Feingold law, also known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which had been passed by Congress in 2002 as a significant reform of campaign finance laws. The 2002 law had placed some restrictions on corporate money in federal elections. The Citizens United decision reversed a 100-year precedent of Congressional authority to regulate federal elections. The court stated that the previous restrictions on corporate funding of elections had led to a “chilling of political speech” that is central to the 1st Amendment.


From Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, to CBS, PBS, and Fox News, the media all make the claim that the Citizens United decision was the opening of the floodgates to corporate money in our elections, but this claim is simply not true. Anyone who has witnessed American political campaigns before Citizens United knows all too well that corporate money has been drowning our elections already for many decades– in fact beginning in 1976 with the Buckley v. Valeo case that is generally known as the money equals speech decision. I like to refer to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision as the candle on the icing on the cake of corporate 1st Amendment free speech rights. You think it can’t get any worse than it already is? Think again! The corporate lawyers have more candles ready for the cake, and will continue to add them until We the People start paying a lot more attention to corporate constitutional so-called “rights”.


In 2011, in the case Wal-Mart v. Dukes, the Supreme Court ruled that employees may only bring class action lawsuits if there is proof that the company has an actual policy of paying less to women or minorities. Statistics showing that a company’s female workers earn far less and get fewer promotions than men will no longer suffice. So much for class action lawsuits against corporations!


In 2014, in the case McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the court overturned most of the remaining limits on federal campaign contributions. Justice Thomas had wanted to go even further and abolish all campaign contribution limits. Greenpeace called this decision a “legalized system of corruption through money in politics”.


And finally, in the Summer of 2014, in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, the Supreme Court, in its ever-so-supreme wisdom and authority, decided that a national chain of 500 big box stores that sells hobby supplies deserves to have its 1st Amendment religious freedoms protected. No, I’m not referring to the constitutionally protected religious freedom of the evangelical Christian couple who privately own this corporate chain. The court ruled that the corporation itself – the legal fiction itself – deserved to have its religious beliefs protected. You can’t make this stuff up! The owners of the chain store had argued that the company should not be required to comply with the ObamaCare mandate to include contraception coverage in its health plan for its female employees.


And this coming March, the Supreme Court will hear a case where a non-profit corporation will be claiming constitutionally-protected religious freedom as well, once again arguing that ObamaCare violates the corporate legal fiction’s religious beliefs. Stay tuned!


For the past six weeks, I’ve been sharing with you the fascinating chronology of how the US Supreme Court – over the past 196 years – has transformed the business corporation from an institution that was legally subordinate to The People, beginning after the American Revolution, into something having more constitutionally protected so-called “rights” than do you or I. We’re now up to date. The $64,000 question is this: What are We the People going to do to remedy this disastrous situation?


You’ve been listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos. You can hear future commentaries every Tuesday on the KBOO Evening News in Portland, Oregon, and on a growing number of other radio stations. I welcome your feedback.


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