Fresh from Ames, Iowa, my friend Adam Baum dropped in on his way to check out New Hampshire’s presidential campaign trail. The buzz in Iowa, he said, was all about Mitt Romney’s comment that “corporations are people.”
“One way you can tell Romney’s the front-runner,” Adam said, “is that within minutes all his Republican rival had released statements on the humanity of corporations.”
“I know that Justice Scalia has affirmed that corporations have the right to free speech,” I said, “but how far do their rights go? Should they have the right to vote?”
“Romney used to believe that corporations should only be able to vote after they turn 18, consistent with the 26th Amendment,” Adam responded. “But now that he’s competing for the conservative vote, he says they should be able to vote as soon as their corporate charters are adopted.”
“Maybe Delaware will get a new seat in Congress,” I offered.
“I suppose so,” Adam said. “And Rick Santorum believes they should have the right to vote from the moment of conception.”
“Not wanting to be left out,” he continued, “John Huntsman says the corporate vote should be based on the revenues reported on their most recent audited financial statements. He suggests one vote for every billion dollars in income.
“But Ron Paul says that’s unfair to small business owners, who should get one vote each,” Adam said. “Rick Perry, whose ties are more to oil interests than retail firms, says voting power should be based on assets, not income. “
“But does the constitution allow for this?” I protested.
“The Fourteenth Amendment says no person can have their rights denied, and since corporations are persons, that must include the right to vote,” Adam said, “or at least that’s what they say in Republican circles.
“What about Gingrich?” I asked.
“As usual, he’s the big idea man,” Adam said. “He says corporations shouldn’t just be able to vote, they should have their own house of Congress. It would be called the Chamber of Commerce, and it would have the same powers as the House and Senate.”
“So instead of making campaign contributions and hiring high paid lobbyists, the corporations would have their own representatives,” I said.
“Oh, it’s not one or the other” Adam replied. “But the Newtster says corporate persons should have a direct say in federal policy, not just an indirect one.”
“Have the Democrats spoken up?” I wondered.
“They say they are not opposed to a separate Chamber of Commerce in the Congress, but suggest it should be balanced by the House of Labor, which would have an advisory role,” Adam said.
“Sounds like the treatment Washington DC gets,” I said.
“Right,” said Adam, “or like Clinton’s NAFTA side agreements.”
“Where’s Michelle Bachman?”
“She says corporations are divinely inspired, made in God’s image.”
“Has Sara Palin weighed in?”
“She said she agrees with Romney, and pointed out that George Washington was the richest man in America at the time he became Father of Our Country.”
“That Sara has a head for history,” I said. “How about the President?”
“Reporters caught up to him in New York, where he was holding a fundraiser at Goldman Sachs,” Adam told me. “He says the status quo is just fine.”