THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT RELEVANT LEGAL ISSUES Protection of Corporate Political Speech Over the past decade, a number of groups and individuals


Protection of Corporate Political Speech Over the past decade, a number of groups and individuals have argued against many of the legal protections that corporations receive. These critics argue that problems such as those associated with Enron, Tyco, and WorldCom would not have been as severe if corporations did not have legal protection for their political speech, which limits their accountability to the people. What these critics miss, however, is that going back as far as 1889, in Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad Co. v. Beckwith, 129 U.S. 26, the Supreme Court has found corporations to be persons. This finding of personhood means that corporations are properly granted the same protections for their political speech as are enjoyed by other individuals. The First Amendment grants individuals the right to free speech. When the right to free speech is combined with the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, corporations are also provided protection for their political speech. The framers of our Constitution intended for all parties to have the right to free speech, and the critics who want to strip corporations of this right are acting in an unconstitutional and unpatriotic manner. After all, one of the principles underlying the American Revolution was the belief in “no taxation without representation,” and corporations are taxpayers. Another reason corporations deserve protections for their political speech is that, although corporations are treated as artificial persons, they are not capable of voting. Instead, the only means corporations have available to influence laws and the political culture is through their political speech. To limit corporations’ political speech would be similar to barring corporations from having any fair say in the political process. Individuals are allowed to engage in political speech and vote; if corporations are not given a similar right, they are at a disadvantage in putting forward their point of view. The fair thing to do in this situation is to continue to grant corporations protections for their political speech. Corporations may not be able to directly have equal say and equal representation in government, but continuing to grant them their political speech protections is an important step toward equality in the political realm. Finally, allowing corporations to engage in political speech is not the same as saying that the general population will agree with the corporations’ political speech. Rather, corporate political speech allows corporations to express their opinions openly and then allows the people to agree or disagree with these opinions. Accordingly, there is no threat to the political speech of others to have corporations have greater access to corporate political speech. Also, in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765 (1978), the Supreme Court held that corporate political speech cannot be limited to try to grant others more speech. Hence, any such attempts should be prohibited.

1.How would you frame the issue and conclusion of this essay?

2.What are the relevant rules of law used to justify the argument in this essay?

3.Does the argument contain significant ambiguity in the reasoning? Clue: What word(s) or phrase(s) could have multiple meanings that would change the meaning of the reason entirely?

4.Write an essay that someone who holds an opinion opposite to that of the essay author might write. Clue: What other ethical norms could influence an opinion about this issue?

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