The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

National News

July 4, 2014

Corporations are people? It's a real legal concept

WASHINGTON (AP) — There may be more to that "we the people" notion than you thought.

These are boom times for the concept of "corporate personhood."

Corporations are people?

Mitt Romney got mocked during the 2012 presidential campaign for the very idea.

But it turns out the principle has been lurking in U.S. law for more than a century, and the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, gave it more oomph this week when it ruled that certain businesses are entitled to exercise religious rights, just as do people.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the court's majority, said protecting the religious rights of closely held corporations, which are often small, family-run businesses, "protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them."

In its ruling, the court said closely held corporations with religious objections cannot be forced to pay for their employees' insurance coverage for contraception, as required under President Barack Obama's health care law.

Four years earlier, the corporations-as-people idea got another big boost when the court voted 5-4 to expand the free speech rights of businesses and labor unions by striking down limits on their political spending. That unleashed a massive flood of private money into political campaigns.

The rulings have triggered renewed debate over the idea of corporations as people, which surfaces in legal cases stretching back to the 1880s.

There are wonky legal discussions about the differences between "artificial persons" (corporations) and "natural persons" (the kind with flesh and blood).

TV comics riff on the notion that fake people have more rights than real people.

There's a petition drive to amend the Constitution to ensure that "inalienable rights belong to human beings only."

------

All of this calls for a brief reality check: Corporations really aren't people.

Everyone knows this.

Even Romney, who was criticized for being out of touch when he famously told a protester that "corporations are people, my friend."

Text Only
National News
  • 20140727-AMX-GUNS271.jpg Beretta, other gun makers heading to friendlier states

    In moving south and taking 160 jobs with it, Beretta joins several other prominent gunmakers abandoning liberal states that passed tough gun laws after the Newtown shooting.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fast food comes to standstill in China

    The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country

    July 29, 2014

  • Medicare hospital fund to last 4 years longer

    Medicare's finances are looking brighter, the government said Monday. The program's giant hospital trust fund won't be exhausted until 2030 — four years later than last year's estimate.

    July 28, 2014

  • After 6 weeks, finally a deal on VA health care

    After more than six weeks of sometimes testy talks, House and Senate negotiators have agreed on a compromise plan to fix a veterans health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

    July 28, 2014

  • Brother sues W.Va. senator over business loan

    U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin III faces a $1.7 million civil suit filed by a brother over a lifeline to save a family carpet business.

    July 25, 2014

  • Official: Hospital gunman intended to kill others

    A psychiatric patient ranted about a hospital gun ban before opening fire at the suburban medical complex, killing his caseworker and grazing his psychiatrist before the doctor pulled out his own weapon and fired back, authorities said Friday.

    July 25, 2014

  • 10 things to know for today

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:

     

    July 25, 2014

  • Illinois woman, 47, dies rescuing boy in Wisc. lake ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (AP) — Friends and family are mourning the death of an Illinois woman who drowned while rescuing a 9-year-old boy in a Wisconsin lake.The (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald reports 47-year-old Karen Wessel of Arlington Heights d

    July 25, 2014

  • Taiwan plane crash photo Air travel a leap of faith for passengers WASHINGTON (AP) — Airline travel requires passengers to make a leap of faith, entrusting their lives to pilots, airlines, air traffic controllers and others who regulate air travel.Even after a week of multiple tragedies in worldwide aviation, “There

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona's prolonged lethal injection is fourth in U.S. this year

    Arizona's execution of double-murderer Joseph Wood marked the fourth time this year that a state failed to dispatch a convict efficiently, according to the Constitution Project, a bipartisan legal group.3

    July 24, 2014

AP Video
Facebook