If Corporations Are People Can They Run For Political Office?

In 2002, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (also known as the McCain-Feingold Act) was passed by Congress.  The bill prohibited corporations and unions from contributing towards any media broadcast that mentioned a specific candidate.  These prohibitions would be effective thirty days prior to a primary election and sixty days prior to a general election.

In 2004, Citizens United, a non-profit organization, wanted to run a film that was critical of Hillary Clinton but the McCain-Feingold Act prohibited them from doing so within the restricted time frame.  However, advertisements for Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 film, which was very critical of George W Bush’s administration’s handling of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, were being aired during the restricted period.

Citizens United file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold Act, claiming that it violated the First Amendment rights of free speech and right to redress grievances.  The lawsuit made it all the way to the US Supreme Court who ruled that certain portions of the Act were unconstitutional.  One of the pieces of the Court’s ruling basically said that corporations and unions are people and therefore have the right to fund campaign advertisements just like any other person or political group could.

This has now raised the question if a corporation or union is defined as people or a person by the Supreme Court, can they run for political office as an individual person can?

An extremely liberal farming organization in California is about to find out.  Farmscape has announced plans to run for mayor of Los Angeles and they cite the 2010 Supreme Court – Citizens United ruling to defend their right as a corporation to run for office.  Manager of Farmscape’s marketing and media efforts said,

“If corporations are people, perhaps an urban farming company is the best choice for LA mayor.”

“We are very serious about running and exploring the limits of corporate personhood.”

You may think this sounds like some ridiculous environmental media grabbing scheme and it may be just that, but this could have major implications in local, state and national elections in the future.  Farmscape’s example could well lead to major industries and/or labor unions running for city, county and state offices.  Worse yet, major labor unions like the Teamsters could actually run for the US House of Representatives, US Senate and even for President of the United States.

If unions followed Farmscape’s example, it is conceivable that they could gain control of enough political offices that would allow them to pass nationwide laws forcing everyone to join a union in order to work.  Right-to-work laws would be overturned and we would all become slaves of union bosses.  I find this prospect scarier than seeing Obama win a second term.

Let’s hope that some judge somewhere along the way rules that a corporation or union cannot run for political office (they control too many politicians as it is), and that Farmscape’s mayoral bid dissipates away in the smog over the City of Angels.