Opinion | Do Corporations Feel Empathy?

An Open Letter to our California Senators

The Hon. Dianne Feinstein
The Hon. Kamala Harris

Dear Senators, Feinstein and Harris:

I’m writing to urge you to join a rapidly growing movement in our State and Federal Legislatures to remedy the unconscionable and inequitable results of the U.S, Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission 558 U.S. 310 (2010)

Though the Court has long proclaimed that it is sensitive to and respectful of “legislative intent,” in decisions of recent years it seems to have not only abandoned that sensitivity but, occasionally, to have taken the basic purview of the legislative bodies upon itself.  The Citizens United case is an example of such judicial legislating that cannot be left to become controlling law in our country. The upshot of Citizens United is to reaffirm that public corporations are persons and, by extension, to declare that limiting their ability to contribute any desired amount of money to political causes is tantamount to interfering with their free speech.

The legal fiction of corporate personhood, first raised in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, 118 US 394 (1886) and the subsequent chain of cases and decisions culminating in Citizens United have pushed the logic of that legal fiction from plausible to laughable. A corporation has no heart, no patriotic fervor, no empathy for fellow citizens. When it supports any party, candidate or measure it is for one purpose only—to increase its own coffers.

Our citizens are becoming more and more aware of how un-level the political playing field has become in our country. This awareness is the source of some of the cynicism and apathy evident in the electorate. Amending the U.S. Constitution to nullify the concept of corporate personhood, and to specify that money is not equivalent to free speech, would do much to alleviate that cynicism and apathy.

The U.S. House of Representatives is currently entertaining House Joint Resolution 48   which already has 51 co-sponsors and is gaining momentum. I urge you as my U.S. Senators to introduce a Senate companion bill to HJR 48. When the 28th Amendment to the Constitution is finally ratified by the States, we will all enjoy a more democratic and egalitarian America — and your participation will not be forgotten.

Yours very truly,

Vernon Miles Kerr
Modesto, California