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Interview Transcript: Thom Hartmann on Corporate Personhood and How the Supreme Court Justices Have Become Kings

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Rob Kall       (Page 3 of 17 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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To the Corporate Personhood issue, starting in 1815, in the Darmouth case,  the Supreme Court recognize that a corporation could have standing before the Supreme Court and established an idea that rather than the individuals who own the corporation coming before the court because they're persons, that the corporation itself could come before the court. That was the beginning of the precedent although that was very small. 

Then in 1886, everybody points to this case, Santa Clara County Vs. Southern Pacific Railroad, five tax cases that went up before the Supreme Court from the 9 th circuit. Of course, Stephen Field was the Supreme Court Justice. Field was bought off by the railroads; they were promising him that they'd support him for president in the election of 1888 or 1892, if he would go their way. He was one of several actually on that Supreme Court who were being bribed by the railroads. The railroads tax cases basically said, "If we're paying tax A, five cents a mile in Santa Ana County and six cents a mile in Santa Clara County, that that's the same thing as saying that there is different rules for black people and white people under the 14 amendment of the Constitution, "All person are equal under the law, equal should -- equal protection under the law," and that's unequal protection and so we should have the rights." Of course, the 14 th Amendment starts right out by saying, "Persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens thereof." So it's obviously talking about people and no person should be denied equal protection under the law. You just read the 14 th Amendment, there's no way any rational person could think it had to do with corporations. 


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In fact, in 1886 that's how the Court ruled; they ruled the corporations don't have personage rights. Or they failed to rule but they did. What they did is they ruled that the corporation, the railroad corporation lost because the California law trumped their argument and it didn't even need to address the constitutional issues. But the Clerk of the Court, John Chandler of An CrossDavis who was a former president of the Newberg and New York Railroad and was in on this scheme, he wrote a headnote which has no legal standing; it's a cleft note version of what the case it about, it's a summary, just for people to do quick and easy, you know, "I'm looking for a case about so and so," so you look through the headnotes. He wrote a headnote for the case that said that the case had decided that corporations are persons under the law and equal to 14 th Amendment protections. 


So then 10, 15 years later, the Court started quoting that headnote and right up to the case of Boston Vs. Vallejo in the 1880s, the Court was quoting that headnote in the 1886 case, not the case itself because the case itself did not say that. So there's been a lot of us who for a lot of years have been saying, "This is a doctrine that was never genuinely established as a result of a debate before the Supreme Court but has taken on a life of its own."

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Then in the 1970s a case called Buckley Vs. Vallejo, the court ruled that money is speech; this case it was individual money. Then in the 1980s the court rule that corporations couldn't be restrained from participating in politics.  In Massachusetts there was a law that said that if a corporation was participating in political campaigning, they could only do it if it affected their business. The First National Bank arguable could have run ads saying, "There's a valid measure that says that we can't charge more thank 9 percent interest, please vote against it." They could have done that but they couldn't run an ad saying, "Let's make abortion illegal," because that's got nothing to do with banking. In fact, the First National Bank was funding some rather regular initiatives that had nothing to do with banking. So Mr. Vallejo or actually Mr. Buckley, who was the attorney general of  Massachusetts, sued them. It went to the Supreme Court, Buckley -- excuse me, First National Bank Vs Bellotti; his name is Bellotti. 


      Rob: How do you spell that?


Thom: I think it's B-E-L-L-O-T-T-I. Don't hold me to it. Close to it. I'm pretty sure -- my recollection is it was Frank Bellotti but it's been 12 years since I wrote the book so. The First National Bank Vs Bellotti, and that case, if you're look up that case, Rob, I strongly recommend that you read Rehnquist dissent. Rehnquist was actually opposed to that. In that case the court rule that a corporate can participate in the political arena even on things that don't affect the corporation. In other words, they're a player. So those two cases, Buckley Vs. Vallejo in the 70s, First National Bank Vs Bellotti in the 1980s, set the stage for Citizens United in 2010 and in the dissent, Rehnquist says,  he thought corporation should have that kind of  power and that dissent, of course he's been replaced by John Roberts who's a corporate lawyer, and who brought us Citizens United. But in the dissent in First National Bank, Rehnquist, this doctrine of personhood and this isn't a quote this is a paraphrase but this doctrine of Corporate Personhood came before the Santa Clara County Vs. South Pacific Railroad and was decided in the affirmative, decided on behalf of the corporations without benefit of public debate or dissent and in my opinion, was wrongly decided. 

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Well the fact was never decided by the Supreme Court. So the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court was mistaken as is pretty much everybody else, these text books and everything. No law and you could just go back and read the case which is what I did. I was trying to the entire book from original source material which is how I discovered that everybody had it wrong. So anyhow, that's where we're at now. What the court has ruled now is that corporations are people and that money equals speech and because the court has ruled this, because of these twin doctrines that are some of the other evils of Judicial Review and Judicial Supremacy, of course the court has ruled this, it supersedes the law of the land. 


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Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect, connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media. He's given talks and workshops to Fortune 500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and Story. He hosts some of the world's smartest, most interesting and powerful people on his Bottom Up Radio Show, and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and opinion sites, OpEdNews.com

more detailed bio: 

Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

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