The Hobby Lobby ruling has stoked liberal anger over the court’s expanding “corporate personhood” doctrine, which critics on the left argue threatens a host of environmental, civil rights and consumer safety laws. Now some Democrats on Capitol Hill are considering additional amendments that go beyond campaign financing to more explicitly spell out that corporations are not people.
On the day of the Hobby Lobby ruling, Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., announced that he would sign onto a joint resolution authored by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., that proposes a constitutional amendment stating the terms “people,” “person” or “citizen” as used in the Constitution do not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., is rounding up support for a House version of the measure.
“From Citizens United to Hobby Lobby, Supreme Court majorities continue to extend our basic Constitutional rights — the inalienable rights held by individuals — to corporations,” Markey said in a statement. “Corporations are not people, period.”
Markey and Tester are also co-sponsors of Democrats’ amendment to limit campaign spending, which is authored by Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Michael Bennet of Colorado and is slated for a vote this summer. Senate Democrats also plan a vote on the newly reintroduced campaign disclosure bill known as the DISCLOSE Act. Democrats say the various measures go hand in hand.
“It’s going to take a comprehensive approach to campaign finance reform to make sure that elections are in the hands of people and not corporate voices,” said Tester spokeswoman Marnee Banks.
The Hobby Lobby ruling hinges on religious freedom, not the First Amendment, but it has campaign finance implications, legal scholars say. The ruling challenges the traditional distinction between nonprofit and for-profit corporations, noted law professor Tamara Piety at the University of Tulsa. The administration had exempted religious nonprofit corporations from its contraception mandate, but not for-profit companies. The high court rejected that approach, saying tax-exempt and for-profit corporations must be treated the same.