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Under the notion of corporate personhood, what prevents a corporation from running for or holding political office?

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  • Can a group of people run for or hold a political office collectively? May 2, 2017 at 22:43
  • @DrunkCynic: Worldwide, people have definitely attempted to job share, and there is a school of thought that it might help diversify politics: theguardian.com/politics/1999/apr/20/…, so the concept certainly isn't as crazy as you might think.
    – origimbo
    May 2, 2017 at 22:53
  • At least to me, it's hard to see why you would imagine that corporate personhood would allow a firm to run for office. Is there some background to this question? May 2, 2017 at 23:30
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    The background: I was writing a comic that was meant to be absurd about a rock band running for President. Then I started wondering how absurd this actually is. For example, could a group of people run for a single office? Then I imagined a group trying to justify this and reaching for "corporate personhood" as a justification... possibly leading to the demise of corporate personhood by forcing the issue. May 3, 2017 at 21:37

2 Answers 2

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Corporate personhood isn't exactly what it says on the tin. It doesn't grant a corporation all the rights of the person.

Historically, corporate personhood was created to allow corporations to enter into contracts (for example, to hire employees or purchase services).

The United States Supreme Court has extended other rights to corporations also, but none of them include running for office. I don't know of an official compendium of the rights of businesses, but Mother Jones summarizes some in this article:

  • The right to sue in federal court
  • Corporations are citizens for the purposes of court jurisdiction
  • Although not generally protected by the Constitution, corporations do enjoy equal protection under the law
  • Corporations are also protected from unreasonable search and seizure
  • Corporations are also protected from double jeopardy.

All of these cases have to do with legal process. However, two recent cases (since 2010) have changed the general notion of corporate personhood a bit:

  • Corporations enjoy a right to free speech (2010)
  • Corporations enjoy a right to freedom of religion (2014)

These are extensions of civil rights to corporations. However, nothing in them either explicitly or implicitly includes the ability to run for office. In fact, prior Supreme Court rulings include the determination that corporations do not generally enjoy Constitutional protections or privileges (such as the ability to run for certain offices).

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Requirements for different political offices are different. So you would need to look at the exact requirements for a political office to tell if it might theoretically be open to legal persons. For example, Article 2 of the US constitution says about the requirements of being the president:

No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President;

No matter how broad your definition of "person" or "citizen": A corporation is founded, not naturally born, so this already disqualifies a legal person from presidency.

However, a final judgment in this matter would be up to the US Supreme Court, just like they did in many other matters where it was questionable if a company enjoys the same constitutional rights as a natural person. For example, the SCOTUS ruled that the 1st amendment applies, but the 5th amendment does not. So if HyperMegaCorp Ltd. would insist that they as a company (as opposed to their current CEO as a person) can run for sheriff of Someplace County, a court would have to decide in that matter.

By the way, keep in mind that political parties are also legal persons. So if an office which is supposed to be personalized would be open to legal people, then a whole political party as a legal person could run for that office, too.

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