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Corporations and the Constitution

Our Constitution never uses the term “corporations,” referring instead to protections for “persons,” “the people,” and “citizens.” Yet in recent years, the Supreme Court has in several areas given corporations more protection than individuals, a trend CAC has tracked through its reports on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Roberts Court. If anything, it should be the opposite, and CAC shows through text and history how the Constitution demands more protection for people than corporations.

Think Tank

In the 225 years since the ratification of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has never held that secular, for-profit corporations are entitled to the Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion. As we explain more fully in this issue brief, it should not do so now.

On May 1, 2013, CAC published "Not So Risky Business: The Chamber of Commerce's Quiet Success Before the Roberts Court - An Early Report for 2012-2013." Since 2010, we have  been tracking the Chamber’s Supreme Court activities and releasing related reports each Term. This report is the latest in that series, chronicling the Chamber’s growing impact on the Court’s docket and its overall success before the Roberts Court, particularly in closely decided cases.

On January 20, 2012, CAC published Reversing Citizens United: Lessons from the Sixteenth Amendment. Released to coincide with the two-year anniversary of Citizens United, this Issue Brief tells the story of the how progressives in the early 20th Century amended the Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court’s 1895 decision in Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust, a 5-4 ruling that struck down a federal income tax law and, much like Citizens United, departed from first constitutional principles and a long line of precedents. In telling the story of how the people took the Constitution back from the Lochner-era Supreme Court, the Issue Brief offers critical lessons for modern progressives fighting to reverse Citizens United.

On March 10, 2010, CAC released the third narrative in its Text and History Narrative Series. Entitled A Capitalist Joker: The Strange Origins, Disturbing Past and Uncertain Future of Corporate Personhood in American Law, the narrative builds on the scholarly research discussed in CAC’s amicus curiae brief in the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. FEC. The narrative examines a key issue that the Court addressed in the case: whether corporations have the same rights as individuals, particularly when it comes to influencing electoral politics.