Corporations are people too. (Sort of.)

Make Shadowy Campaign Money the Issue This Election.”  The White House is “stepp[ing] up attacks on what it describe[s] as a tidal wave of secret out­side money.” Corporations, freed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United deci­sion, are mak­ing large, unre­ported dona­tions to “char­i­ties” like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and Norm Coleman’s American Action Network. Public inter­est groups like the Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center are wring­ing their hands over the money pour­ing into the sys­tem, fear­ing that it will cor­rupt the process.

Now, I under­stand the rea­sons for con­cern. No rea­son­able per­son wants bribery or quid pro quos in the polit­i­cal process. But I’m here to stand for what is appar­ently a remark­able propo­si­tion: cor­po­ra­tions are peo­ple too. Or rather, cor­po­ra­tions are groups of peo­ple with jus­ti­fi­able inter­ests and deserve to be heard and to par­tic­i­pate in the polit­i­cal process.

Corporations are taxed, they are sub­ject to laws and reg­u­la­tions, and they are inde­pen­dently liable for their actions. In short, they are legal actors, just as much as you. And, like­wise, they are affected by the polit­i­cal process, just as much as you.

Remember, the injus­tice of “Taxation Without Representation” was a key moti­va­tion behind the American Revolution. If the abil­ity to suf­fer detri­ment with­out a say in the process jus­ti­fies rev­o­lu­tion, then shouldn’t cor­po­ra­tions get at least some say in the polit­i­cal process? If a coal com­pany is being tar­geted by energy leg­is­la­tion, shouldn’t it be able to raise its col­lec­tive head and sug­gest that maybe its interests—and its own­ers’, employ­ees’, and cus­tomers’ interersts—be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion? Or should we exclude the enti­ties with the most exper­tise from the polit­i­cal process, ensur­ing that we don’t under­stand what the leg­is­la­tion is going to do to the affected industry?

I’m not sug­gest­ing that cor­po­ra­tions have the right to vote or that they should be treated the same as nat­ural per­sons. I am not even sug­gest­ing that cor­po­ra­tions shouldn’t be treated dif­fer­ently from nat­ural cit­i­zens when it comes to cam­paign finance reg­u­la­tions. But the work­ing assump­tion among many com­men­ta­tors that cor­po­ra­tions have no legit­i­mate inter­est in the polit­i­cal process, and par­tic­u­larly not in the leg­is­la­tion that attempts to tar­get them. That’s remarkable.