Corporate Personhood in Endicott

Gerald Wickham

The Press and Sun Bulletin has issued two press releases, one concerning IBM’s chemical spill and the other, Huron Real Estate’s reassessment of former IBM property in Endicott.

One release reported: “Thursday’s decisions come more than three decades after thousands of gallons of TCE and other contaminants were allegedly discovered in the groundwater beneath Endicott in 1980 during testing that was triggered by a 4,100 gallon spill at the IBM facility the previous year. Two were in favor of the plaintiffs; three went in favor of IBM.”

The other stated: “Huron Real Estate asked for a property tax reduction on more than 30 properties, most o of which lie in the Village of Endicott. Through the settlement with the Town of Union it will receive a new assessment on all of the parcels that make up the Huron Campus. The 2011 assessment was based on a ten year market value of the Huron campus of about $150 million, but now this year’s assessment is based on a current market value of the Huron Campus to be reduced by $15 million.”

“The Village of Endicott’s budget will be reduced by about $1,100,000 as a result of the assessment. This means the average tax payer owning a $75,000 house could have to pay an additional $375 in taxes.”

These reports are examples of the power of “corporate personhood.” Both of these court cases had a negative effect on the economy, the cost of living, and the quality of life of the citizens of Endicott.

In each instance, a company, as a person, can under the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution as for a legal review of its property rights. Companies have property rights, just as any person of flesh and blood. Under the 14th Amendment: “…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”

Some examples of 14th Amendment rights of corporations are:

In Citizens United the Supreme Court said – Corporations have free speech rights in political elections. That is – money equals free speech.

The Court in a California case said – A corporation didn’t have to include a consumer flyer at no cost to itself,  in its billing statements. The courts view rate payers as lesser persons than corporations.

The Court ruled – Pharmaceutical corporations can advertise drugs, rescinding a Virginia law banning the practice. Corporate rights trump states’ rights.

In Texas – Oprah Winfrey was sued by the ranchers association for $12 million, after she said that “Mad Cow Disease could make AIDS look like the common cold.” Oprah’s money won her case.

An example of the direct effect of corporate personhood on citizens is when the property rights of hog farmers make the lives of their neighbors unbearable with the stench and unsanitary affluent coming from their land. The neighbor’s recourse is the courts which is expensive and not a remedy because of the unending appeals process.

The Founding Fathers didn’t envision this situation. A chartered company was a creation of the government and its charter could be terminated at any time for any reason and no reason. It had no legal status under the Constitution. The Supreme Court decided in the 1880’s, after many review, that a chartered company was a person and hence had the same rights as you and I under the 14th Amendment. This conundrum is referred to as “corporate personhood” and it is a “black hole” in our governance.

This problem of corporate rights has been recognized by groups of citizens, one of which is “Move to Amend.” Their target is an amendment to the Constitution to strip personhood and 14th Amendments rights from corporations.





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