Citizens United gets the Story of Stuff treatment

With her 20 minute “Story of Stuff” web-video, Annie Leonard explained some of the downside of consumerism to a lot of Americans. Now with her “Story of Citizens United” video, she explains why she and many others believe the corporate personhood extended by the 2010 Citizens United vs FEC Supreme Court decision threatens the U.S. democratic system of government. She calls on Americans to pass a Constitutional Amendment clarifying that the First Amendment granting the right to free expression is not meant to include corporations.

The film may gain special traction in swing-state Colorado, where residents endured a record-breaking nearly universally acknowledged disgusting blitz of corporate-funded over-the-top political advertising last year.

As Brad Friedman points out, the video underlines the misguided nature of attempts on the part of elected officials to convince corporations and their largest lobbying group the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to act in ways that benefit America. In fact, the law doesn’t make it possible for corporations to prioritize “benefiting America” or anything else beside maximizing profits. It makes a speech like the one President Obama gave to the Chamber of Commerce earlier this year seem ridiculous.

We need to make America the best place on Earth to do business.

And this is a job for all of us. As a government, we will help lay the foundation for you to grow and innovate and succeed. We will upgrade our transportation and communication networks so you can move goods and information more quickly and more cheaply. We’ll invest in education so that you can hire the most skilled, talented workers in the world. And we’ll work to knock down barriers that make it harder for you to compete, from the tax code to the regulatory system.

But I want to be clear: Even as we make America the best place on Earth to do business, businesses also have a responsibility to America.


[A]s we work with you to make America a better place to do business, I’m hoping that all of you are thinking what you can do for America. Ask yourselves what you can do to hire more American workers, what you can do to support the American economy and invest in this nation. That’s what I want to talk about today –- the responsibilities we all have — the mutual responsibilities we have — to secure the future that we all share.

As a business expenditure, corporate political expression, like all other expenses, is legally required above all else to ultimately generate profits.

Corporations have been granted the right to free political expression but they remain exempted from most of the responsibilities citizens weigh when making electoral decisions. No individual citizen is subject to that same kind of narrow legal pressure (ie, All action must increase profits) in deciding which candidates to support. Yet no individual citizen can compete with the resources available to corporate America.

The film points viewers to campaign to help pass a Constitutional Amendment.

UPDATE: Conservative commentator and attorney Lee Doren posted a video response to Leonard’s Citizen’s United film, as he did earlier to her Story of Stuff. Doren’s critique includes more on the actual court case and ruling. He better underlines the thorny Constitutional and public interest questions the ruling raised and the advantages for individual Americans that came of establishing corporate legal categories that bestow collective rights in the first place. Doren, however, never seems to address head on the larger concern Leonard raises that many will find compelling– the point about the disproportionate power of corporations (any kind of corporation), especially given that they are dedicated by law to a single purpose that can demonstrably be shown in glaring instances to go against the interests of the people.

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