Citizens United: Corporate Speech, Political Ads and the Law

Nichols Bibliography by Maura Stephens

Biography Articles by Nichols Video featuring Nichols Articles by others:
  • Graves, Lisa,  "About ALEC Exposed," The Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch, July 13, 2011.
    Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy and former deputy assistant attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice and chief counsel for nominations for the chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, discusses how she and her staff made public (with the help of a whistleblower) hundreds of documents showing how corporations in cahoots with politicians wrote and passed numerous state laws to benefit the corporations. “Corporations vote as equals with elected politicians on these bills. These task forces target legal rules that reach into almost every area of American life: worker and consumer rights, education, the rights of Americans injured or killed by corporations, taxes, health care, immigration, and the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink. The Center obtained copies of more than 800 model bills approved by companies through ALEC meetings, after one of the thousands of people with access shared them, and a whistleblower provided a copy to the Center. Those bills, which the Center has analyzed and marked-up, are now available at ALEC Exposed.”
  • French, Kimberly, “Taking on the System: Ward Morehouse and Union Carbide,” UU World, May/June 2003.
    A compelling profile of (then) 74-year-old author-activist Ward Morehouse, who has worked on many issues including consumer protection, safe energy, the environment, labor, human rights, peace, and women's rights. He is perhaps best known for his fight against Union Carbide, which in 1984, through gross negligence and indifference to human life, poisoned the people of Bhopal, India, killing 15,000. This well-written portrait shows how Morehouse, cofounder with historian Richard Grossman of the Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy, changed his focus from working on a single issue at a time to the biggest issue: “the enormous power of corporations to do as they liked with no effective accountability, and corporate dominance over human rights.”
  • Margil, Mari, “Can Communities Reclaim the Right to Say 'No' [to Corporations]?” Yes! Magazine, August 24, 2011.
    Margil is the associate director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit public-interest law firm helping communities fight corporate usurpation of their rights. She and others from CELDF write frequently against corporate intrusions and for empowerment of people to protect environment, economies, property, and way of life.
  • Mayer, Carl J. “Personalizing the Impersonal: Corporations and the Bill of Rights.” Hastings Law Journal 41.3 (1990) : 577-667. This is a 70-page legal analysis of how corporations took power from the people in the modern political economy. Retreived from:
  • powell, john a., and Watt, Catilin. “Corporate Prerogative, Race, and Identity Under the Fourteenth Amendment.” Cardozo Law Review 32.3 (2011) : 885-904. (pdf)
  • Ripken, Susanna Kim, Corporate First Amendment Rights after Citizens United: An Analysis of the Popular Movement to End the Constitutional Personhood of Corporations, Chapman University Law Research Paper No. 10-37, November 3, 2010. Available at SSRN: (67-page PDF).
    The Supreme Court 5:4 decision on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (Citizens United) “invalidated strict federal campaign finance laws and upheld the First Amendment right of corporations to spend unlimited sums of corporate money to support or oppose candidates in political elections.” Criticism of Citizens United has been fierce and broad, and it strengthened the existing grassroots movement to amend the constitution and reverse the legal doctrine of artificial corporate “personhood,” which gives corporations the same legal rights as real persons. Its author says this article uses the doctrine of corporate personhood and the constitutional amendment campaign to analyze the “relationships between social movements, constitutional legal reform, and the expressive function of the law.”
Must-read Background Essays Books & Reports:
  • Allen, David S. Democracy, Inc.: The Press and Law in the Corporate Rationalization of the Public Sphere. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005.
  • Greider, William. Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
    Although it’s nearly two decades old, written just after “Persian Gulf War I” and the end of the “cold war,” this book is still relevant. It’s a readable and anecdote-filled account of the decline of democracy in the USA and the culprits, whom Greider argues are: both major political parties, the media, big business, and the U.S. public.
  • Hartmann, ThomUnequal Protection: How Corporations Became “People”--and You Can Fight Back. 2nd ed., rev. and expanded. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler, 2010. Print. A BK Currents Book.
    Hartmann, the smart and popular progressive radio show host, gives a very readable historic background to the First and Fourteenth Amendments, through the abuse of which corporations have increased their power and stranglehold on the U.S. political and economic systems. Hartmann, whose show is aired on commercial stations and who schills for some of the advertisers, is careful to say that he is not anticorporate, but he makes convincing arguments for removing the “rights” they have and returning them to the status they first enjoyed when corporate charters were first issued in the early years of the United States of America.
  • Korten, David, et al., How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule: A report from the New Economy Working Group (second edition, July 2011).
    From the website: This is a report from the New Economy Working Group in collaboration with the New Economy Network [of some dozen groups and Yes! Magazine]; it was built around conversations with the participants on making a policy agenda for “building a money/banking/finance system of local financial institutions that are transparent, accountable, rooted in community and dedicated to funding activities that build community wealth and meet community needs. The proposed system will look quite similar to the one that existed in the United States before the wave of financial deregulation that began in the 1960s.” The website lists numerous resources and tools for organizing such a major overhaul. There’s not much talk about corporations per se, but as they are so intrinsic to U.S. and other economies and societies, this is a must-read with valuable action recommendations.
Organizations and Resources:
  • Alliance for Democracy (chapters in many states)
    PO Box 540115, Waltham, MA 02454
Phone: 781-894-1179
    The mission of the Alliance for Democracy is to free all people from corporate domination of politics, economics, the environment, culture and information; to establish true democracy; and to create a just society with a sustainable, equitable economy. Founded in 1995.
  • Center for Media and Democracy
    CMD is a non-profit investigative reporting group. Our reporting and analysis focus on exposing corporate spin and government propaganda. We publish PRWatch, SourceWatch, and BanksterUSA. Our newest major investigation is available at
  • Community Environmental Defense Council, Inc.
    PO Box 898, Ithaca, NY 14851

    Ithaca-area public-interest legal firm working to protect communities in partnership with community groups, planners, task forces, scientists, students, and municipalities from the many dangers of fracking by fossil-fuel industries. 
  • Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
    P.O. Box 360, Mercersburg, PA  17236
    Phone: (717) 498-0054
    This was one of the first groups formed to fight corporate destruction of environments, health, properties, communities, and people’s way of life. Its principals have written scores, maybe hundreds, of books and articles on the subject. This is where historian Richard Grossman and attorney Thomas Linzey hatched the idea of Democracy School to teach people the history of corporations and their rise to “personhood” through legislative and judicial means. Find much info on Home Rule, Corporate Rights, Community Organizing, Rights of Nature, Democracy School (teaches citizens and activists how to reframe exhausting and often discouraging single issue work, such as opposing toxic dumps, quarries, factory farms, fracking, etc., in a way that we can confront corporate control on a powerful single front: people’s constitutional rights), drafting Local Laws (many in PA but also NY, MD, others)
  • Corporation Watch
    P.O. Box 29198, San Francisco, CA 94129 USA
    Phone: +1-415-800-4004
    CorpWatch is a powerful research tool designed for scholars, journalists, and others interested in the role corporations play in social, political, economic and environmental issues in the US and around the world; founded by Joshua Karliner (author of The Corporate Planet: Ecology and Politics in an Age of Globalization, which documents worldwide corporate crimes against the planet and its inhabitants) and tells of communities fighting corporate colonialism through grassroots activism. (Such activism will not succeed for any length of time without major overhaul of U.S. and other corporate-state structures. —comment by Maura Stephens). The research, on corporations in a wide variety of industries, is broken down into 13 subject areas including “Corruption,” “Environment,” “Executive Compensation,” “Health,” “Human Rights,” “Labor,” “Money and Politics,” and “Privatization.”
  • CounterCorp
    CounterCorp seeks to spotlight, curtail, and ultimately prevent the corrosive political,
economic, and social effects that large for-profit corporations have around the world. It runs the CounterCorp Anti-Corporate Film Festival, an annual three-day series of screenings, discussions, and related events held in May in San Francisco.
  • Free Speech for People
    1/10 kickoff video at
    Free Speech For People was founded post-Citizens United as “a national non-partisan campaign working to restore democracy to the people and to return corporations to their place as economic rather than political entities. We are joined by tens of thousands of people across the United States.” FSP was cofounded by attorneys John Bonifaz, director of FSP and the legal director of Voter Action (organizational partner of FSP) and founder of the National Voting Rights Institute, and Jeff Clements, general counsel of FSP and former Massachusetts assistant attorney general and chief of the Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau. The organization enables people to sign its resolution to enact the People’s Rights Amendment to the constitution “that puts people ahead of corporations.”

    The People's Rights Amendment
    Section 1.  We the people who ordain and establish this Constitution intend the rights protected by this Constitution to be the rights of natural persons.

Section 2.  People, person, or persons as used in this Constitution does not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state, and such corporate entities are subject to such regulation as the people, through their elected state and federal representatives, deem reasonable and are otherwise consistent with the powers of Congress and the States under this Constitution.

    Section 3.  Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people's rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, and such other rights of the people, which rights are inalienable.

  • New Economy Working Group(see report above, “How to Liberate America from Wall Street”)
    The mission of the New Economy Working Group (NEWGroup) is to contribute to reframing the economic policy debate to address the social and environmental imperatives and opportunities of the 21st Century. Our work is organized around nine action clusters.[Click here to read the Nine Action Clusters]
    The distinctive role of NEWGroup is to serve as a virtual policy think tank and communications resource for the growing number of civil society groups concerned with economic justice, environmental sustainability, and peace that are forming alliances and coalitions under a New Economy banner.
    EWGroup is an informal alliance of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) as an initial policy think tank partner, YES! magazine as an initial media partner, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) as an initial business network partner, and the PCDForum as an initial system design partner.
  • International Forum on Globalization (represents more than 50 organizations in 20 countries concerned about the emerging global economy)
    1009 General Kennedy Avenue #2, San Francisco, CA 94129 USA
    Phone: 1-415-561-7650
    IFG “promotes equitable, democratic, and ecologically sustainable economies. We were formed in response to widespread concerns over economic globalization, a process dominated by international institutions and agreements unaccountable to democratic processes or national governments. . . . Today, the institutions of globalization are undergoing a crisis of legitimacy. Corporate scandals such as Enron and Worldcom, the failures of IMF and World Bank policies and programs, the recent breakdown of WTO negotiations, and other events reveal that the benefits of globalization that were promised by its advocates have not come to fruition.” IFG hosts various programs including one on “Plutonomy” and one called “Opening Silos,” to stimulate an international, intergenerational, and interdisciplinary leadership movement.
    Fledgling coalition of groups working in partnership to “End corporate rule. Legalize Democracy.”
    “We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to:
    •    Firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.
    •    Guarantee the right to vote and to participate, and to have our vote and participation count.
    •    Protect local communities, their economies, and democracies against illegitimate "preemption" actions by global, national, and state governments.
    “A number of different versions of democracy amendments dealing with corporate personhood, votings rights, and local democracy are currently under discussion. We deliberately have not chosen specific language at this time because we believe that the drafting process must involve many diverse individuals and organizations. Yes, lawyers and law professors are among our steering committee and our wider circle of counselors; however, their opinions are not the only ones that we will taken into account in offering model language for the democracy amendments.”
    Link to videos of a talk by MoveToAmend cofounder David Cobbs: Part 1 (of 4) ; Part 2 (of 4)
    222 S. Black Ave, Bozeman, MT 59715
    406-582-1224’s mission is to restore citizen authority over corporations. It “works to create a representative democracy with an actively participating public, where citizens don’t merely choose from a menu of options determined by elites, but play an active role in guiding the country and its political agenda.” Works to build a grassroots democracy movement and build positive alternatives. Created the American Independent Business Alliance to advance local organizing. One of the MoveToAmend groups.
  • Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UU)
    Oppose Citizens United—Support Free Speech for People statement
    Interim administrator: Nancy Banks


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Constitution Day 2011

Ithaca College marked Constitution Day with a presentation by JOHN NICHOLS, author, commentator, cofounder of FreePress, and Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine. He discussed the significance of the Supreme Court’s endorsement of corporate personhood in the Citizens United v. Federal Electoral Commission case, and its impact on U.S. media, electoral politics, economic relationships and grassroots resistance.

The event was co-sponsored by: The Office of Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, The Park School of Communications, The Department of Politics and Sociology, the Legal Studies Program, L.I.P.S (Labor Initiative in Promoting Solidarity), and The Park Center for Independent Media.

The bibliography highlighting independent media resources was compiled by Maura Stephens, Assistant Director of the Park Center for Independent Media.  In collaboration, Cathy Michael and John Henderson, Reference Librarians at Ithaca College Library, added links to databases, books, and videos available at the library.  We hope you examine the organizations listed and consider getting involved.

Find out more about Constitution Day which is annually celebrated on September 17th:

The Ithacan: Corporate Rule leads America

Zivalich, Chris. 2011. “Corporate Rule Leads America.” The Ithacan, August 31, sec. Opinion.
Chris Zivalich, an Ithaca College alumnus (class of 2012), wrote this column in the Opinion section of the first issue of the Ithacan this fall semester.  It begins with a quote from candidate Mitch Romney in Iowa this summer when Romney stated, "Corporations are people, my friend." Zivalch writes, "If we legally permit corporations to fund political campaigns, it isn’t really the people who elect leaders."

Get Involved!  Chris is a member of the Labor Initiative in Promoting Solidarity (L.I.P.S.) which is co-sponsoring the Constitution Day event.  Here is their Facebook page.

The Federal News Service file in LexisNexis (library database, sign in with Netpass) offers a transcript of the speech:
Romney, Mitt. 2011. Remarks by Mitt Romney, Former Massachusetts Governor, Republican Presidential Candidate, at the Des Moines Register Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair Subject: 2012 Presidential Political Issues Location: Iowa State Fairgrounds Time: 11:40 a.m. EDT Date: Thursday, August 11, 2011 August 11, Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Books & videos by Nichols in the library

To further explore Nichols works, take a look at the following media items that can be checked out at I.C. Library:

Legal cases, codes and regulations

Definitions & Explanations


Library Databases: Other resources:

Films on Political Communication

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