An Alaskan journalist's perspective on local and national issues

Posts tagged ‘Corporate Personhood’

UAA Debate: Corporate Personhood vs. Abolition Thereof (Part 2)

Well, if you have read the first part, good.  That will make you much more prepared for this one.  Let’s get right into it.

The first panel speaker was Clayton Trotter.  He opened by saying that the taking of corporate personhood could negatively affect the Constitution significantly.  He also believed that to get your message out required money, so the idea that one could seperate money from political voice was impossible.  Trotter also believes that these companies pool their money, in order to give all the people inside of the corporation a voice.  That’s interesting, since most people who run companies could care less about those who work for them.

The next speaker was Jason Brandeis.  He was of the same mind as Trotter, believing that this was a First Amendment issue.  While saying that he had stuggled with the issue, he came to the conclusion that in this debate, the corporations are the underdogs.  Ironic position, given how much power they have these days.  After that point, he subsequently pointed out that amending the Constitution is a very long and tedious process, so making something like this come into effect would be difficult.  Brandeis closed by saying that not all corporations are bad, so we should have a much broader focus.

The third panelist was Steve Haycox.  He was from the History department.  His view seemed to be much like how Thomas Paine viewed things, by taking both sides of an issue and meeting in the middle.  He opened with a rather interesting quote –

To paint with too large a brush is misleading.

He then moved on to the idea that corporations are given extensive amounts of power, asking how much do we actually need to give them?  There were a couple of quotes from Theodore Roosevelt on this subject.  One said that corporations shouldn’t be allowed unlimited donations to political campaigns.  There was another quote which was very appropriate for this topic.

These corporate donors are the greatest icons of the criminal class.

That was pretty compelling way to view things.

Finally, there was Forrest Nabor.  His thoughts were kind of different.  He focused first on the fact that there have been different political regimes throughout history, and their effect has to be measured.  In the late 1800’s, most people were wage workers.  He posed challenges to both liberals and conservatives.  For the conservatives, he offered the sentiments of James Madison – the liberty and property should be equally protected.  It was clear that he was coming from a rather Libertarian stance.  To the liberals, he posed that corporations are all groups of people with similar interests, along with the interest of making money.  Nabor also took the position that the problems with corporations comes from government (ironic).  And he also took the side that it is hard to seperate money from politics, so we shouldn’t.

There were a lot of questions from the audience, so this will focus on some of the highlights.  One audience member commented that the British House of Commons elections were in a six week period, which didn’t leave enough time for big campaign donors to mobilize, saying that America should reflect that (good idea).  Several question and commentators held similar sentiments of keeping the money out of politics, and limiting campaign donations.  There was also talk about corporat accountability, or lack thereof, like with the BP Gulf spill (not calling it Deepwater Horizon.  That’s a way of placing the blame somewhere else.  If the spill up here was Exxon Valdez, then this is BP Gulf).

In a rather interesting reply to a question, Haycox said that the Citizen’s United case absolutely undid campaign reform.  That is an good point to make, when one is debating this.  All in all, it was a good debate.  This is a very timely issue, and one that does need a lot of scrutiny.  While no answers were reached in that room, it got the ball rolling on thinking about the future.  That is a priceless asset.

Stay tuned for another post about the debate next Tuesday.  For any who are interested, you can check the debate out at the Social Sciences Building at UAA.  It will start at 7:00 pm.  Hope to see you there!

Peace out,


UAA Debates: Corporate Personhood vs. Abolition Thereof

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,


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