Campaign Finance, Corporate Personhood, and the Malleability of Precedent

Abstract: While recent Supreme Court decisions such as McCutcheon and Citizens United have ignited controversy over campaign finance procedures, the broader trend these decisions illuminate — that of extending constitutional protections to corporate entities — predates these decisions by centuries. When evaluated in the context of its history and origins, moreover, this trend (commonly called “corporate personhood”) seems to rest on largely tenuous foundations. As I hope to illustrate in this post, the dubious growth of such a judicial notion, as well as its continued resonance in modern court opinions, not only calls into question the legal underpinnings of these recent Supreme Court holdings, but also exposes the malleability of precedent and the chaotic nature of its growth.

Author: Peggy Xu is a second year in the college double majoring in Classical Studies and Law, Letters, and Society. 

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Navigating our Nation’s Amendment Process

Abstract: Since major decisions in Citizens United v. FEC in 2010 and McCutcheon v. FEC in 2014, campaign finance reform has become a particularly hot topic. Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico introduced Senate Joint Resolution 19 earlier this summer, proposing an Amendment to the Constitution that would provide Congress with the authority to regulate federal elections spending. While the resolution was destined to fail, it raises interesting questions about how the Amendment process works, and how States have the power to act when Congress is too dysfunctional to make a real impact.

Author: Frank Yan is a third-year in the College, majoring in Economics and Political Science.

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Making Sense of the Corporate Inversion Craze

Abstract: Tax Inversion is a recently rekindled offshore profit sheltering strategy that has come under attack by the United States government with accusations of tax evasion and lack of “economic patriotism.” While these cross-border M&A transactions are currently legal under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, the increase in companies being re-domiciled to lower tax-rate countries points to a bigger issue than tax revenue collection. This more fundamental question concerns whether or not an overhaul of America’s convoluted and loophole-riddled tax code is needed in order to prevent its businesses from leaving its shores. In this post, I attempt to illustrate the current tools being used to combat inversion deals in addition to how this issue may be resolved going forward. 

Author: Jacob Romeo is a third-year in the College, majoring in Economics.

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Money, Lobbying, and Campaign Finance Reform

This 113th Congress has been deemed the least productive Congress in history, and frustration is rampant. In recent years, the rhetoric around legislative dysfunction has centered upon the excess of money in politics, where big business and interest groups have disproportionate voices relative to American citizens. The impression is that corporations hire powerful lobbyists to attain political favors from Senators and Congressmen in exchange for campaign contributions, and that politicians have become too entrenched in the finances of the endless campaign to achieve any real progress for the American people. 

With the recent decisions in Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC, this impression has become further embedded. Since the Citizens United ruling in 2010, outside spending by political action committees (PACs), public advocacy groups, and other entities has skyrocketed. This year alone, outside spending in the 2014 midterm elections is projected to match spending levels of the 2012 presidential election. And while the McCutcheon ruling does not dramatically change the campaign finance landscape, it may encourage additional lawsuits that test campaign finance regulations.

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Kenyatta's Trial at the International Criminal Court

Nobody pays attention to the proceedings of the International Criminal Court. It tries very few cases and takes a puzzlingly long time to do even that. Thus it appears that Western media ignore the ICC both because it rarely produces developments to cover, and, when it does, because the developments are legalistic procedures that comprise agonizingly drawn-out judicial processes. But sometimes, just sometimes, the International Criminal Court is part of some controversy that really does warrant attention. Take the ICC’s current trial of Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta. It would seem, at first glance, that there is nothing remarkable here: after all, the ICC usually tries Africans, and the lugubriousness of the trial certainly fits with precedent. These facts miss the point, however, as trying such an individual makes history for both the ICC and for international law in general for two reasons: first, Uhuru Kenyatta is a sitting Head of State, and second, his state, Kenya, has withdrawn itself from the Rome Statute, which established the ICC. Is the accused immune considering these unique circumstances? No, though there is a highly theoretical argument that shows the opposite.

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