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COLUMN: A corporation isn't an individual, can't run for Congress

Thursday, March 18, 2010 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:53 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Campaign video: “It’s our democracy. We bought it, we paid for it, and we are going to keep it!”

“Hey John. This November, when you vote for United States Congress in Maryland’s 8th CD, cast your vote for Murray Hill Inc.” I was excited.

My friend John was on the other end of the phone not saying a word. He is very politically active and the Executive Director of a Political Action Committee concerning regional transportation. His wife is a big wig in Maryland’s political system. It took a bit of time before I finally heard, “What?”

This started earlier this week as I was driving home listening to NPR’s “All Things Considered.” It was one of those filler pieces that are interesting as they are fun.

This story started with a United States Supreme Court decision that was ridiculed by the left, praised by the right and confused everyone in the middle. If you use a bell curve with two-standard deviations, that is about 90 percent of us.

January 2010: In Citizens United versus the United States Federal Election Commission, the United States Supreme Court decided that laws restricting the amount of money a corporation could spend to promote a candidate are unconstitutional. Their premise, corporations are considered “individuals” and such restrictions would violate their First Amendment right of freedom of speech. Hmmm.

You can read my own take in a blog post, “We the People” at InkandVoice.com.

The 2010 ruling was based on an 1886 ruling that concerned the Fourteenth Amendment and equal protection under the law. Confused? In the words of a former Alaskan governor, “You betcha.”

Murray Hill Inc.’s president is a smart guy. Eric Hensal saw an opportunity and is running with it. He’s offering franchises. Here is the logic.

Supreme Court dictated that corporations are protected under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and;

Murray Hill Inc. is a legal corporation within the state of Maryland, therefore;

Meeting all other criteria, Murray Hill Inc. should be allowed to vote and run for office in the state of Maryland.

I like it. Nerves. Brilliance. Satire. Murray Hill Inc. wants to take out the middleman and have money flow directly from corporate coffers to government. We don’t need no Representatives or Senators. We got corporations.

I am not the only one who thinks this is a wonderful idea. The Economist believes that it is a good thing for the American people, that Murray Hill Inc. “would become the first elected official truly available to constituents 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

The Inquisitr’s headline simply said “Awesome: Murray Hill Inc. runs for Congress.”

A reader of The Daily Campus, an “Independent News Source of the University of Connecticut” commented, “I like the thought that there would always be someone representing me and not someone who is flitting around the country on my dime.”

There are two problems with the candidacy. OK, maybe more, but here are the big ones.

First, you have to be a registered voter in Maryland before you can run for Congress and the Secretary of State has rejected Murray Hill's application. I see another court case here.

Second, Article 1, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution has an age restriction. A Representative must be at least the “age of twenty five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States.” Alas, Murray Hill is only two years old.

Bob Schieffer, host of CBS’s Face the Nation, was disappointed that a spirited debate “on when corporate life begins” may not happen. So am I. That could lead to the thorny question of the abortion of newly formed corporation.

More important than the obvious publicity stunt by a savvy PR firm is the question of who really runs our government, “We the People” or “Them, the corporations?” With more than 9,000 “fans” on Facebook, products for sale and the promise “to build the best democracy money can buy,” the ridicule through satire of the corporate American political system is growing faster than the Tea Party. Wanta join? I did.

I am thinking of buying a franchise for Ink and Voice. Ah, but my company is only 3 years of age. Darn.

David Rosman is a award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics.  You can read more of David’s commentaries at InkandVoice.com and the New York Journal of Books.


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Comments

Gregg Bush March 18, 2010 | 11:33 a.m.

David,
Anyone who looks up election data at the FEC website (www.fec.gov) knows that political campaigns are incorporated. Search for Dole/Kemp'96 Inc. or Gore/Lieberman, Inc. and you'll find the candidate's corporation. It's the structure through which campaign contributions are laundered...er, organized and disbursed.
Those corporation hadn't been around for 35 years, per the US Constitution. Of course, they didn't win either.
I think that Murray Hill, Inc. would have a case.

(Report Comment)
David Rosman March 19, 2010 | 7:29 p.m.

Gregg - I am sorry, but in the case of incorporating a political campaign, the corporation is not running for elected positoin, but the people are. The corporation is there to permit the legal structure for the campaign to report to either the FEC or the Missouri Ethics Commission. Murray Hill, Inc. is the entity actually running for the US Congressional seat. There is no "person."

By your logic, Bush/Chaney, Reagan/Bush. Nixon, Agnew, as political campaigns that were incorporated, also failed the Constitutional requirements. A shame.

Call the Ethics Commission and ask them to explain this procedure to you.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush March 21, 2010 | 6:27 p.m.

Dave - my post was meant to show that as a structure, corporations have domesticted humans. Virtually all of our interpersonal transactions are mediated by corporations - even our electoral interactions. What is a political candidate but the public face of a nexus of advisors, counselors, staffers and interns? Sounds like a corporate structure to me. In an Ionesco play, the candidate would have an Inc. or L.L.P. or L.L.C. after their name. There is a straight line of absurdity from Santa Clara to Citizens United to the future where our candidates are corporations-in-fact, as opposed to corporations-in-deed.
That is my only point.

Corporations are legal, fictional entities for organizing captial and maximizing return for shareholders.
Politicans run for office, build coalitions and make policy.

I was simply surprised when I started researching at the FEC website 8 years ago that candidates' campaigns were recorded as a corporate entity.

With respect to your list - only one set failed the Constitutional requirement. It led to 2 resignations.

(Report Comment)

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