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Rise and Resistance of Corporate Power


Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, author and Stetson College of Law professor

Stetson University College of Law professor Ciara 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 applied only to human beings, like religious and political speech rights.

Her 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 about the book in a blog for the American Constitution Society. “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? contains interviews from a range of voices, including Heather McGhee, Demos president; Trevor Potter, Campaign Legal Center director; Zephyr Teachout, congressional candidate and professor; Ben Cohen, Ben & Jerry’s cofounder; Lisa Graves, Center for Media and Democracy executive director; Heidi Welsh, Sustainable Investments Institute executive director; Phil Radford, former Greenpeace director.

“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.

-Brandi Palmer