Senate Joint Memorial 8007 requests Congress to pass an amendment declaring that corporations are not persons so that their speech can be restricted.The reason, according to the Memorialists, is that corporations cannot vote and therefore should not be protected by the First Amendment. But disenfranchised convicts, resident aliens, and minors cannot vote either. Do the Memorialists believe that, under a correct interpretation of the First Amendment, the government can pass laws making it a crime for an ex-convict to give a speech or write a book? Sorry, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, and William S. Burroughs, you’re all under arrest—again.
Of course, the goal here is to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, but under a plain meaning of such an amendment, Congress and state and local governments could also deprive organizations like the Sierra Club and the American Civil Liberties Union from the protections of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments, as well as the First Amendment. Thus, if passed, the government could quarter soldiers in the headquarters of Common Cause and search the offices of MoveOn.org without a warrant.
The details of the proposed amendment are ultimately irrelevant, as repealing the First Amendment is unlikely in the near future and this is little more than a time-consuming bit of political theater paid for by
On his website, Senator Adam Kline, the chief sponsor of the Memorial, closes his biography by saying, “Political action is good for you.” He forgets to add, “unless you incorporate.” Then Senator Kline thinks political action ought to land you in prison.