An Alaskan journalist's perspective on local and national issues

It isn’t often that serendipity gives one an opportunity to see something that is really worthwhile.  Tonight was one such opportunity.  There was a debate with the UAA Debate Team about a subject that is very pressing – corporate personhood.

Now, this debate involved three parties.  There was the side that was for a theoretical amendment to ban corporate personhood, the side that is opposed to such an amendment, and there was a panel of faculty, taken from various fields, each with their own insight into this concept.

The floor opened up to Matt Orstinder.  He will be called Matt O. from here on because he is one of two with the same name.  He stated that corporations have accumulated unimaginable amounts of wealth.  They have also overreached.  While people should be protected by rights, corporations should be regulated.  He believes they are no longer held accountable in a significant way.  He also points out that their justification for personhood is the 14th Amendment.  There is also the point that since corporations have massive amounts of wealth, they can spend more than the other groups who want to change policies and affect political elections.

After he spoke, a member of the opposition, Wiley Cason.  His first point was saying that corporations aren’t people in the traditional sense, obviously.  However, while they are not people, corporate personhood is useful.  He then goes on to say that corporations are made up of people, and with personhood, one can protect the rights of all of them.  It would also keep them accountable (in his view.  The lack of justice in the BP Gulf spill or the collapse of Wall Stree would contest that).

In a rather interesting argument, Cason believes that this would also threaten democracy.  Because corporations are involved with government, he contested that because corporations had so much influence in government, and they supposedly represent the interests of the collective of people, that would make it smarter to have them investing more money in government.  He closed saying that if we take away corporate personhood, companies will take their business to China or India.

This brings us to the other debator on the side of aboliting corporate personhood, Brittany Bennett.  She immediately countered with the fact that companies are already shipping their business to other countries.  That hasn’t changed.  A very good way to begin.  Bennett was easily the most passionate of the debators there.  She spoke eloquently, and with conviction.

Money is power.

That was a quote she made, and quite true.  She pointed out that different companies have different interests.  And since these companies don’t represent the interests of all their workers, or even all their shareholders, but rather the interests of one or a group of people (CEO and Board of Directors).  Therefore, Bennett argued that all corporat donations to campaigns should be denied.  It is pointed out that there is a significant power despairity between the heads of the company, and those underneath.  To give companies equal rights is a slippery slope to the abuse of said power.  She, like Matt O., Wiley, and Matt S. brought up the case of Citizens United.  It was quite clear in that case that money does not equal speech.  Wiley stated that it does.

Bennett went on to point out that corporate money can effect legislation and elections, and that since corporations have far more money than normal people, the unlimited donations that they can give can more, and basically buy more clout with political candidiates and politicians.

The last speaker from the debate team was Matt Stintson.  He was arguing against the proposed amendment.  Now, he was definitely the most arrogant of them.  He said in on statement, “I’ve pretty much won the argument.”  Not exactly the most professional.  His statement was that personhood is necessary.  The argument went that if they didn’t have the rights of people, then a group like the New York Times could be censored (clearly he hasn’t be following the Occupy movement).  Stintson and Cason both said that the Citizens United case was a red herring argument against corporate personhood.

In the interest of keeping this from being incredibly long, the part with the panel discussion and the audience questions will be feature in a post tomorrow.  Stay tuned, it was quite informative.

Peace out,

Lefty

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