Corporate Citizen? Election law expert Ciara Torres-Spelliscy writes new book on the rise and resistance of corporate power

“Corporate citizens are strange bedfellows to have in a democracy,” Professor Ciara Torres-Spelliscy writes in the June 14 American Constitution Society Blog.

Professor Ciara Torres-Spelliscy.

Professor Ciara Torres-Spelliscy.

Professor Torres-Spelliscy, author of the new book, Corporate Citizen? An Argument for the Separation of Corporation and State, asserts that throughout U.S. history, corporations have sought to expand their constitutional rights, and American courts have obliged.

Torres-Spelliscy posits that corporations have steadily gained more rights, including those previously only applied to human beings, like religious and political speech rights. Her new book examines how these rights are not balanced with responsibilities, illustrating a lack of corporate accountability in everything ranging from taking care of the environment and paying taxes to respecting human rights and playing fair in important elections.

“Protecting the ideal of one-person-one-vote requires mitigating the power of corporate money in politics,” Torres-Spelliscy writes in the ACSBlog. “In this election year, the topic of the appropriate bounds of corporate power continues to be raised by candidates and voters alike.”

The book addresses how investors, customers and lawmakers have resisted expanding corporate power.

“2016 may be the election where campaign finance reform finally becomes an issue for the average voter,” says Torres-Spelliscy. “Already, three presidential campaigns have made campaign finance reform a focus of their reforms that they would enact if they win the presidency. These reforms could take the form of trying to reverse the Citizens United decision, which is a 2010 decision from the Supreme Court; it could take the form of small donor public financing; or it could take the form of better disclosure so that we end the dark money problem that we have in our elections.”

Corporate Citizen? includes interviews from a range of voices including Demos president Heather McGhee, Campaign Legal Center director Trevor Potter, congressional candidate and professor Zephyr Teachout, Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen, Center for Media and Democracy executive director Lisa Graves, Sustainable Investments Institute executive director Heidi Welsh and former Greenpeace director Phil Radford.

“The ultimate hope articulated by Corporate Citizen? is that we are not so far gone that we cannot restore real citizens back to their proper place at the center of American democracy,” writes Torres-Spelliscy.