8 Chapters
Medium 9781609941055

4 Corporations Don’t Vote; They Don’t Have To

Clements, Jeffrey D. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The strength of America is in the boardrooms, country clubs and Lear jets of America’s great corporations. We’re saying to Wal-Mart, AIG and Pfizer, if not you, who? If not now, when?

—Murray Hill Inc., Candidate for United States Congress1

Not long after the Citizens United decision, a corporation chartered under Maryland law announced its campaign for Congress. Leading with the slogan “Corporations Are People Too,” Murray Hill Inc.’s statement explained: “Corporate America has been driving Congress for years,” and now “it’s time for us to get behind the wheel ourselves.” Proposing to “eliminate the middleman,” the corporation promised “an aggressive, historic campaign that puts people second, or even third.” The corporation explained that it would use Astroturf lobbying, avatars, and robocalls to reach voters, concluding, “It’s our democracy. We bought it, we paid for it, and we’re going to keep it.”2

The satirical Murray Hill congressional campaign was the inspiration of a real person, the company’s president, Eric Hensal. As with all good satire, the jest works because it hits so close to the truth.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781609941055

1 American Democracy Works, and Corporations Fight Back

Clements, Jeffrey D. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

In 1838, a quarter-century before he became the nation’s sixteenth president, a twenty-nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln stepped up to speak at the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield, Illinois. He spoke about what was to become the cause of his life: the preservation of that great American contribution to the human story, government of, for, and by the people. He insisted that the success or failure of the American experiment was up to us. “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”1

Lincoln’s generation of Americans, and every generation since, has faced daunting questions of whether “destruction be our lot,” and we certainly have our share today. Most people can point to a host of complex and related reasons for rising anxiety about our future. Global and national environmental crises seem relentless and increasingly related to energy, economic, military, and food crises. Our unsustainable debt and budgets—national, state, local, family, personal—seem beyond control, reflecting an economy that has not generated significant wage growth in a generation. We have been locked in faraway wars for more than a decade, at war in one form or another for a half-century. Despite our victory over totalitarian communism, we spend more on our military than all other countries combined. We, the descendants of republicans with great suspicion about standing armies, now maintain a costly military empire across more than one hundred countries. On top of all of this and more, too many people now doubt that we are, in fact, a government of the people, and they no longer believe in their hearts that democracy works or that our government responds to what the people want.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781609941055

2 Corporations Are Not People—and They Make Lousy Parents

Clements, Jeffrey D. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

If the tobacco companies really stopped marketing to children, the tobacco companies would be out of business in 25 to 30 years because they will not have enough customers to stay in business.

—Bennett Lebow, cigarette corporation CEO1

“F#*k you.” That (except without the sanitizing symbols) is what Bad Frog Brewery, Inc., a corporation chartered under Michigan law, demanded the Constitutional right to say on its labels. In the mid-1990s, the corporation wanted to market its beer to the young and rebellious with a foul-mouthed frog who, as the label said, “just don’t care.” The corporation offered a mascot on the label, a large cartoon frog elevating its middle finger. Because New York law prohibits alcohol labels that are “obscene or indecent” and “obnoxious or offensive to the commonly and generally accepted standard,” the state liquor authority refused to approve the label for sale in New York. The corporation balked at complying with the law and filed a lawsuit against the New York State Liquor Authority and the people who served on it.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781609941055

Contents

Clements, Jeffrey D. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub
Medium 9781609941055

5 Did Corporate Power Destroy the Working American Economy?

Clements, Jeffrey D. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Crony capitalism is usually thought of as a system in which those close to the political authorities who make and enforce policies receive favors that have large economic value….

[In such a system] the intermingling of economic and political elites means that it is extremely difficult to break the implicit contract between government and the privileged asset holders.

—Stephen Haber, “The Political Economy
of Crony Capitalism”1

Since the Citizens United decision in 2010, hundreds of business leaders have condemned the decision and have joined the work for a constitutional amendment to overturn expanded corporate rights. These include entrepreneurs such as Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia; Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, founders of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream; Amy Domini, founder of Domini Social Investments; Gary Hirschberg, founder of Stonyfield Farm; Nell Newman, founder of Newman’s Own Organics; Wayne Silby, founder of Calvert Social Investment Fund, and many more.2 These business leaders are doing this because they believe that democracy, freedom, and a sustainable world depend on a bill of rights for people, not corporations. They know that Citizens United and corporate domination of government are terrible for American innovation and business.

See All Chapters

See All Chapters