Daily Archives: January 22, 2010

Corporate speech and democracy

My colleague David Yosifon has an excellent Op-ed piece in the SF Chronicle today making the point that in the wake of the Citizens United US Supreme Court decision that corporations enjoy free speech rights these corporations have increased responsibility to insure that their speech reflects democratic input from all of their constituencies, including employees and shareholders.

I like his analysis because it gets beyond the idea of many on the left that somehow it is just plain wrong to allow corporations, which include unions many of which are organized as non profit corporations, free speech rights. Of course corporate personality has long been well established in American law all the way back to a case from Santa Clara County, in fact, dealing with the umbrella of equal protection spreading to corporations as “legal persons.”

The bottom line is that we live in society not just as individuals but through institutions, including unions, corporations, political parties. The goal should be to democratize fully those institutions rather than curtailing their ability to speak for us in the name of a utopian “individualism.”

As the Court itself held: “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.”