Monday, August 24, 2015

Legal Fictions

In law school I was taught about the theory of legal fictions.  For example, in business law and corporations I learned that, although it was fiction, corporations are treated in many respects like persons.  Unfortunately, our United States Supreme Court--supported by the rich and powerful--has created one step beyond the legal fiction.  Our Supreme Court has decided that money is speech and corporations are people. 

In examining what these legal fictions have brought us, the first and foremost detriment to our democratic way of life is the Citizens United decision which allows corporations and the wealthy to spend unlimited billions of dollars without voters even knowing the source of the funds.  

The thought that money cannot buy elections is truly naive.  If we, the citizens of this country, continue to tolerate what has happened without reacting with a constitutional amendment to set it right, we will deserve losing the freedom we have.  The average American is on the way to losing the power of his or her one vote.  The amount of money currently being spent on political activities is obscene.

 Interest groups have put together billions of dollars in so called super PACS which are basically unpoliced.  We are being told that even though super PACS amass untold wealth they cannot cooperate directly with the candidates and coordinate activity.  What a joke.  A great case in point is what is currently happening with our former governor, Rick Perry.

Perry’s old buddies did a great job of putting together $17 million in a PAC--or super PAC, as you may dub it.  It seems now that our ex-governor has run out of personal money, particularly since he can no longer travel around the country honing his conservative credentials at the expense of Texas taxpayers.  Now, he says he will continue to fight and is relying on his super PAC to allow him to continue his quest for president.  If you truly believe Rick Perry never speaks to the folks who put together the money concerning his future needs in order to stay viable as a presidential candidates, there are a couple of bridges around Jefferson County that I would like to sell you.  

Just as an example, one of the prime movers in fundraising for Perry’s super PAC is a former employee of Perry's with whom he co-owns property.  Do you really believe they do not share concerns about Perry’s future problems staying in the presidential race? (According to the Houston Chronicle, most came from about three large donors.) 

It seems, too, these 501 corporations--i.e., super PACS--are almost wholly without policing to see that they follow even the pitiful rules which currently exist concerning their activity.  Some folks at the IRS attempted to investigate whether or not the stated purposes of these organizations were in fact within the law, but these IRS investigators were attacked vigorously--particularly by conservatives claiming the IRS was being political and only doing so at the will of the current president.

The agency charged with the responsibility to monitor these organizations acknowledges little or no attempt at enforcement or investigation saying only they were overwhelmed and surprised by the number of such organizations created. 

The other consequence of the conservative attitude regarding corporations appears to be another legal fiction.  Corporations generally are business devices existing to insulate owners from having to take the full responsibility for the business activities engaged in via a corporate structure.  How then can or should a corporation be ruled to possess religious beliefs?  On the one hand, were a corporation to go bankrupt, business people would be appalled at the thought of requiring the owners of the stock--even were it to be only a single family--to pay the bills left by the bankruptcy.  However, our courts have ruled that the religious beliefs of the shareholders can be transferred to the corporation and the corporation can refuse to act in any way religiously offensive to the insulated owners of its stock.

While I certainly am a strong advocate for religious freedom, I have a hard time believing a corporation possesses religious beliefs.  They do not go to church.  They do not tithe.  They cannot be sent to prison for crimes committed in their name.  They do not have souls.

While a popular political statement contained in many political speeches today is, “Let’s take our nation back,” I believe the real way to take our nation back is by acting as stand-up citizens who rise up to do away with the ever-increasing power of money over our democratic system.

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