The Extension of Corporate Personhood

By: Laura Pioch, Journal Staff Member


In 2010, the Supreme Court passed Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310, in which the Court established that corporations have the right to spend unlimited money towards political elections. Those against the decision already believed corporations were essentially given the ability to control political elections. But how far can this concept that “corporations are people” actually go?

Corporations have already had some influencing power over political elections without being directly involved. For instance, corporations such as Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, and Northrop Grumman were able to get time in with government chief executives by using corporate money to pay for the many expenses that resulted from the National Governors Association’s (NGA) annual meeting. Even if corporations chose not to spend quite so much, the annual meeting was not open to the general public, but was open to the NGA’s Corporate Fellows Program members.

Other instances have occurred that aim to give corporations a more direct influence in political elections. In 2013, Montana State Representative Steve Lavin introduced a bill that would give corporations the right to vote in municipal elections. The provision even extended the popular topic of voter ID requirements to corporations, requiring a designated individual from the entity to provide documentation of the entity’s registration with the secretary of state and proof of his or her designation by the entity.

Citizens United established that corporations, through their “personhood,” may assert their First Amendment right to engage in political speech through actions such as campaign financing. May other rights tied to citizenship and “personhood” be extended to corporations, such as voting in government elections or running for office? For more insight on the extent of citizenship and “personhood” in corporations, look out for Joel Graczyk’s article Could a Corporation Serve in Congress? Corporations as Citizens Under the Constitution, which is set to be published in Volume 16, Issue 1 of the Michigan State University College of Law Journal of Business and Securities Law.

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