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Millhiser writes: "A bill introduced by Montana state Rep. Steve Lavin would give corporations the right to vote in municipal elections .... The idea that 'corporations are people, my friend' as Mitt Romney put it, is sadly common among conservative lawmakers."

 (Illustration: Frank Oko)
(Illustration: Frank Oko)

Montana Bill Would Give Corporations the Right to Vote

By Ian Millhiser, ThinkProgress

23 February 13


bill introduced by Montana state Rep. Steve Lavin would give corporations the right to vote in municipal elections:

Provision for vote by corporate property owner. (1) Subject to subsection (2), if a firm, partnership, company, or corporation owns real property within the municipality, the president, vice president, secretary, or other designee of the entity is eligible to vote in a municipal election as provided in [section 1].

(2) The individual who is designated to vote by the entity is subject to the provisions of [section 1] and shall also provide to the election administrator documentation of the entity's registration with the secretary of state under 35-1-217 and proof of the individual's designation to vote on behalf of the entity.

The idea that "corporations are people, my friend" as Mitt Romney put it, is sadly common among conservative lawmakers. Most significantly of all, the five conservative justices voted in Citizens United v. FEC to permit corporations to spend unlimited money to influence elections. Actually giving corporations the right to vote, however, is quite a step beyond what even this Supreme Court has embraced.

The bill does contain some limits on these new corporate voting rights. Most significantly, corporations would not be entitled to vote in "school elections," and the bill only applies to municipal elections. So state and federal elections would remain beyond the reach of the new corporate voters.

In fairness to Lavin's fellow lawmakers, this bill was tabled shortly after it came before a legislative committee, so it is unlikely to become law. A phone call to Lavin was not returned as of this writing.

According to the Center for Media and Democracy, Lavin was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) now defunct Public Safety and Elections Task Force. Last year, pressure from progressive groups forced ALEC to disband this task force, which, among other things, pushed voter suppression laws. your social media marketing partner


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+62 # BobbyLip 2013-02-23 11:43
This guy Lavin, he writes for The Onion, right? I'm having a fever dream, right? Are Republicans mammals?
+110 # hobbesian 2013-02-23 12:42
Yes - they are marsupials; living in someone else's pocket.
+3 # Todd Williams 2013-02-25 08:07
How dare you sully the reputation of a fellow species! You'll be hearing from the Marsupial Anti Defamation League!
+33 # steve98052 2013-02-23 14:45
Until I got to the point in the article where it mentioned that Lavin was a member of ALEC's voter-suppressi on task force, I figured the bill was a sarcastic proposal by a liberal legislator mocking the judicial termination of Montana's Corrupt Practices Law.

As a sarcastic proposal (whether by a legislator mocking the "corporations are people too, my friend" meme, or by The Onion) it would have been pretty clever. But as a serious proposal for legislation, the only good news is that others in the legislation had the sense to table the bill promptly.
+10 # MainStreetMentor 2013-02-24 09:51
This “legislation” (and I use the term VERY “loosely”) is nothing more than a “test case” for other state legislatures to embrace. You can count on that. We all are aware of elected RepubTeacan, sycophant, “yes men” imbeciles in our own states’ legislative bodies – and it will be those individuals who introduce the continually ALEC modified “corps can vote” bills for consideration. This is a continuation of the Karl Rove type legislation (voter photo ID bills/laws) designed to further the greedy, avarice worshipping conservative RepubTeacans ambitions (financial and otherwise). The conservative SCOUS members need be legally replaced, and ALEC needs to be disbanded – or we’re going to get more of this type of “legislation”.
+4 # Texas Aggie 2013-02-24 23:23
I knew that the guy was a conservative, but I figured that he might still have been doing this to show how stupid it is to consider corporations to be people. Then, like you, I saw that he was connected with ALEC and my illusions vanished. What a jerk!
+13 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-02-23 15:25
When I was in the military some years ago, my unit's intelligence officer was a pretty interesting guy to talk to and listen to. He, by profession, was a secondary teacher. His take on humanity:"the human of the animal species is but merely a smooth surface (which can be temporary) on a rough stone." Still, the stone is quite rough. Inside the pure animal world, the stone will always be damned rough. In the animal kingdom, we essentially have plant eaters and flesh eaters. Some animals eat both flesh and plants, etc. Democrats, being the more mild creatures are essentially plant (OK, I love a good steak now and then-but I do not prey upon and bodily eat my fellow man) eaters. How do the Democrats, the more mild creatures, protect themselves from the flesh eaters? By creating honorable laws by honorable citizens and laws that are enforced by honorable citizens. When Jesus is reported to have said, (and I am not religious) "the meek shall inherit the earth," all I believe he was saying to the world, "for God's sake, defend yourself from the flesh eaters." If you do not, you get what you deserve. And who are the flesh eaters? Those who cannot eat us bodily, but try to eat us financially instead. The defense of the more mild creatures from the flesh eaters is usually inspired by a very strong fellow leader who he or she is by Nature a plant eater.
+6 # X Dane 2013-02-23 22:00
No they are scum bottom feeders.
+25 # wantrealdemocracy 2013-02-23 12:09
Surely this 'news' should be enough to convince you that our government is corrupt. It is not only that corporations may buy the votes of our 'representative s' under this law they get to vote directly. We must change our corrupt government. It is time to plan for a new Constitution to create a just and equitable government---ma ybe a democracy would be nice, allowing us the rights of life, liberty and to pursue happiness. Little privacy would be a nice touch.
+30 # Brian Flaherty 2013-02-23 12:33
Of course, this would preclude 'Mr Designated Voter" from voting ANYWHERE ELSE, right? And, the Corporation would also be "restricted" in the same manner. . .

Or, would the Corporation be able to vote ANYWHERE ELSE (via its "desgnee")???

Thus, enabling a Corporation to vote all over the country in a myriad of elections by merely naming Designee Voters for EACH and EVERY election, wherever it chose??!!

With this sort of legislation, the old joke about "Vote early; and Vote often" becomes a reality!!!

PS. . .I just thought of how the Corporations will "market" this idea: It's a Job Creator! And, they can hire any number of "Designated Voters!" And, colleges can create a curriculum leading to a degree in Designated Voting. . .hiring staff, etc. . .
+47 # smilodon1 2013-02-23 12:37
So, this would allow a corporate officer to vote for the corporation and then vote for himself? This reminds me of Animal Farm where, "ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS."
+48 # Dumbledorf 2013-02-23 12:37
One has to wonder where this insanity is leading to and when this is going stop!

How can anyone contend that a "corporation" is a legal person possessed of a personality, intellect and individual rights as with any real person?

Obviously, there has been a corporate takeover of our country and the evidence is everywhere to be found.But how many people are aware of the fact that local, municipal governments have been restructured as for-profit, municipal corporations acting in behalf of their corporate interests -- interests whose profits are off of the backs of the people?

The question is: Does our government exist by for and of "we the people," or does it exist as a mere subsidiary of a corporate oligarchy?

The answer unfortunately is self-evident at this point.
+17 # Pancho 2013-02-23 14:03
If you think that corporations have any less intellect than Reps. Steve King, Steve Stockman, Louis Gohmert, Dana Rorabacher, Lyn Westmoreland and Michelle Bachmann, you're sadly mistaken.

We're talking "room temperature," there.
+17 # Pancho 2013-02-23 14:43
The Public Safety and Elections Committee is another name for the "Repeal the 13th Amendment and Renew the Slave Trade Committee."

Corrections Corporation of America has chaired the committee under its previous incarnations. A former CCA exec ran the American Bail Bond Coalition and continued to vote for CCA's policies. For-profit prison operator GEO Group rep sat on the committee as well.

These clowns have, in the interest of increased profits, help to pass laws to significantly expand the population of incarcerated individuals in the U.S., at the same time it has deliberately disenfranchised groups of legitimate voters who are not reliable Republicans. This includes minorities, the poor and union members in particular.

CCA and GEO took a lot of heat when writer Beau Hodai exposed their roles in the Arizona "Breathing while Brown" SB 1070 legislation, so dropped their public involvement in ALEC. However, they still appeared to be closely connected and active, even though they let their memberships lapse.

This is also a Koch brothers initiative, the for-profit imprisonment, the voter disenfranchisem ent, the deliberate repression of minorities.
+15 # Pancho 2013-02-23 14:48
Racist-for-hire Kris Kobach ran around the country writing disenfranchisem ent legislation before being elected Kansas Secretary of State. He got a law passed that required voters to show proof of citizenship. It is now almost impossible for anyone without a birth certificate to vote in Kansas state or federal elections.

ALEC has pushed that legislation in other states, such as Alabama.

So there has only one case of prosecuted voter fraud in decades in Kansas. Kobach's new rule disenfranchised almost 600 frequent voters in Kansas this past November. I wonder how he feels about corporations voting though? Do they have to supply US citizenship documentation?
+16 # wwway 2013-02-23 12:43
Another example of legislating for corporations, not people. This is a waste of legislative effortto kill time and pretend he's working while receiving a salary and unlimited connections.
+37 # jpap100 2013-02-23 12:44
Will that individual who casts the vote for his/her corporation be the same individual who will be held responsible for the company's misdeeds?
+9 # revolutionnotprotest 2013-02-23 13:11
anyone notice, or care that there are no people of african descent in these are people picture? are they people???
+14 # 2013-02-23 13:25
Have these people gone completely insane? If they say one more time that they are Americans and patriotic, I'll scream.
+14 # Paul Larudee 2013-02-23 13:41
FINALLY corporations are beginning to get their rights! Such discrimination. This is a good start, but if I want to marry a corporation, where is the state that will allow me to do that? Where, I ask you?
+10 # Nominae 2013-02-23 17:20
Quoting Paul Larudee:
....... but if I want to marry a corporation, where is the state that will allow me to do that? Where, I ask you?

Why would you want to marry a corporation ?
Are you tired of all the f#@king being so ONE-WAY ?
+10 # DerHermanator 2013-02-23 14:01
With legislatures in which the Violence Against Women Act is controversial and the Defense of Marriage Act is considered constitutional plus this nasty, albeit 'tabled', makes this one wonder, excuse me Mr Churchill, if we actually do have the best form of government in the galaxy. Scandinavian responders welcomed.
+15 # Diane 2013-02-23 15:06
You don't need a Scandinavian to comment. I'm American-born and absolutely fed up with the gross stupidity that seems to have swept over this country. When we spend so much time adoring those who are best able to amass wealth at the expense of the rest of us, then we have lost our soul, our heart, our ability to think.

Corporations, as they exist right now, need to go the way of the dodo - extinction! Otherwise, it will likely be the rest of us who will become extinct. I have been reading a lot lately about cooperatives - in various forms. The latest issue of YES! magazine is full of articles on the movement as it is happening in the USA. There is hope here, since the emphasis is put on the rights of people to live decent life by having a powerful stake in the economy. Personal wealth generation is not the goal. Community wealth is.

It occurred to me the other day as I read an article in the OREGONIAN newspaper that the tax incentives we offer companies to create jobs in our state may be nothing more than another way of allowing corporate executives to keep their more-than-hefty compensation packages. If a company cannot come up with the funds to build its own business in a community - well, that is just too bad. It can go dump its corporate crap on some other community willing to tolerate tax incentives.

Check out cooperatives in your area. Buying from them, belonging to them, may be the best peaceful way we have of regaining control of our economy.
+1 # X Dane 2013-02-23 22:31
As a former Scandinavian... ..HELL NO WE DON'T
+17 # robroy 2013-02-23 14:01
By extension then the board of a corporation that breaks the law, is subject to jail time, or even execution if it is a capital crime. Does the board of directors surrender its immunity if the corp. is treated as an entity?
+4 # cafetomo 2013-02-23 14:09
For someone who is no longer working for them, Montana state Rep. Steve Lavin is certainly doing what ALEC would want, were he still. But ALEC disbanded like the rest of the shadow government.

So far as you need be concerned.

That the bill was tabled, indicates another experiment in how to slip the tresses of marginally consensual legal restraints. With great big cojones while backs are turned, or by waiting until dark, when the watchdogs are asleep. From such behavior, I imagine brass balls have worked often enough. But perhaps being more Liberal in throwing meat over the fence, turns the trick.

Far from being stupid enough to hang itself with enough rope, this non-entity abdicates addressing such petty nuisance for another time. Perhaps once proper assurances have been made that it will not eat children. While brief and amorphous, the nose poked under the tent is clearly more than just an elephant. I expect it will be back, in one non-form or another.
+6 # steve98052 2013-02-23 16:17
Actually, ALEC still exists. What disbanded was its voter-disenfran chisement task force. My guess is that -- rather than shut down voter-disenfran chisement work altogether -- ALEC has scattered disenfranchisem ent projects to various other task forces, to diffuse the bad publicity that comes from having a specific group dedicated to that particular brand of unethical behavior.
+12 # Nominae 2013-02-23 17:38
Quoting cafetomo:
But ALEC disbanded like the rest of the shadow government.

So far as you need be concerned.

Far from being stupid enough to hang itself with enough rope,
........ I expect it will be back, in one non-form or another.

You can count on it. "Extinguishing" these efforts is like standing in front of a boiling cauldron trying to push down all the bubbles ! These attempts are like Chinese Water Torture. Drip, .......drip ..... drip........ and they have a DEFINITE purpose. The first "flyer", like this legislation that was tabled has no intended purpose other than to "break the ice". To ABSORB the shock value of such outrageous behavior. This is a public "training session". The content of this bill was UNHEARD OF.
That is no longer the case, is it ? Now, the NEXT time we hear it, it comes back with that much less shock value, but is still repugnant to the people. It will once again not succeed. However, by the THIRD time, the FOURTH time, the however-many-ti mes-it-takes-to -succeed time, the public is "burned out" on it, suffering "outrage fatigue, and the damned thing is passed, like the NDAA under Obama, at around midnight on New Year's Eve.

For the best current example of this strategy note the number of times this "Sequestration" stuff will be kicked down the road until the public finally wearies of the fight, and just accepts it as if it were inevitable. It IS a manufactured CRISIS to BEGIN WITH. Drip ...... drip...... drip
+8 # RCW 2013-02-23 14:17
To Hobbesian: That is a brilliant, if painfully funny, reply. Thanks.
+6 # 2013-02-23 14:21
Robroy. I think if we made all employees liable, we could end this BS. Prosecute everyone and jail them all. No one would work for them, and, if they did, they would be subject to the same laws that govern us as individuals. You cannot imprison bylaws!!!
+9 # Ritchings 2013-02-23 14:31
The best answer to the corruption of our politics by money and the hijacking of our government by those with the wherewithal to buy the obedience and loyalty of public officials is a constitutional amendment ending corporate personhood. Such an amendment once it's ratified cannot be overturned by a right wing Supreme Court or nullified by an act of Congress no matter which party is in control. Such an amendment, plus an end to the hundreds of billions in corporate welfare that is the unacknowledged real socialism in America, would go a very long way to returning power to the people.

If we want it...
+5 # JT00 2013-02-23 14:38
This is only a step in the process, it's not surprising at all to me. Allowing corporations to vote doesn't accomplish much in of itself, but it gives them legitimacy to help advance their larger agenda. Ever since corporations were declared legal people, I predicted it would only be a matter time before they started running for political office. Eventually there will be a Senator GM, Congressman AIG, Representative Disney, etc. And everyone here knows Americans are stupid enough to vote for them. All McDonalds has to do is target poor states and give out free french fries or cheeseburgers to celebrate if they win, and people will vote for them just because of the novelty, and using the rationalization "they can't be any worse than congress now, and besides, Fox news says its a good idea." The people graduating elite business schools think big and in terms of political opportunities 50 years down the road. It would be a mistake to underestimate their ambition.
+7 # papabob 2013-02-23 14:43
Does this mean that corporations will be incarcerated just like everyone else? Or does it give them a "get free and collect $200 card"?

+4 # cafetomo 2013-02-23 15:05
$200. You wish. More like, "collect underpants".

Guess whose.
+7 # reiverpacific 2013-02-23 14:55
So Corporations will then be able to be put to dearth by lethal injection and given life sentences for crimes against humanity, the planet and it's creatures for rape, murder, pillage, destruction and pollution, right?
+9 # The Saint 2013-02-23 15:18
Beyond the silly "corps are peeps" claim, since when is owning property a requisite for citizenship and hence the right to vote? There is also an assumption that corpses are not continuously "voting" by buying off the politicians and picking the slate.
+7 # Regina 2013-02-23 16:35
Property ownership was required in the original version of the Constitution. And of course, only males of the species could own property, or even have money for such a purchase. We seem to be headed back to the 1600s, or at least being dragged in that retro-direction . We'd better dig in our collective heels now, before we lose more traction.
+5 # Smokey 2013-02-23 18:15
[quote name="Regina"]P roperty ownership was required in the original version of the Constitution. And of course, only males of the species could own property, or even have money for such a purchase.

Well, actually, there was a problem in early America and into the early 1900s.
There WERE some wealthy women, who did own property. Mostly widows and the daughters of wealthy men. However, there were a few tradeswomen and authors and such who earned some money on their own.... They couldn't vote. And that caused a lot of resentment, even among the wealthy.

Result: By the late 1800s, there were some very prosperous women who were donating money to the "votes for women" campaigns.
+1 # Regina 2013-02-24 01:51
Yes, Smokey, the women's suffrage movement started in the late 1800's, but didn't get passed and ratified until 1920. Even then, the final single vote in favor of ratification was made by a man whose mother had begged him to vote for it. He did more than his mother a great favor! As for property ownership in the 1800s, some may have been inherited by widows or daughters in the absence of sons and brothers. They used their wealth well.
+4 # PGreen 2013-02-24 07:28
We are seeing another strategy by the GOP to compensate for their dwindling demographics. Gerrymandering is already in full swing (the democratic "minority" in the House has more votes behind them than the Republican "majority") and this is a particularly insidious proposal to hold onto power. There are other techniques to weed out undesirable voters besides property ownership (strict identification and residency requirements) that are already being used, so this one isn't too surprising-- just creepy.
+5 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-02-23 15:27
Give me some help here: is Lavin human?
+7 # fishmother 2013-02-23 15:28
So would a corporation pres. get to vote wherever they have a plant, store or other operation? I wonder how many states one T-party exec could fly to on any given election day to vote as a corporation...a nd then does he also get to vote as an actual person? sounds like a bad science fiction film, not the land of the free & the home of the brave.
+6 # SenorN 2013-02-23 15:51
All the shareholders of a corporation get to vote individually in public elections. Allowing the corp to have a vote as well would give those shareholders undue political power. Also, if an internal shareholder vote were taken to determine how to cast a corporate vote---the only way of ensuring that the corporation's vote reflects the shareholders' overall wishes---the corporation would inevitably still be voting against the wishes of some of its shareholders and thereby diluting the power of their individual votes.
+7 # luiscamnitzer 2013-02-23 16:43
Wouldn't be that bad. After that maybe, eventually, they will also qualify for the death penalty.
+2 # countmarc 2013-02-23 16:51
The next logical step would be a representative sampling where the number of corporate votes would be drawn from a like number of stockholders. That way a large corporation could actually take over small towns reminiscent of Ford, Standard Oil and Pullman in the beginning of the 20th century where the off duty conduct was governed by the whim of the administration of the company.
+5 # fredboy 2013-02-23 16:58
I think Montana already has a law allowing people to marry cattle.
+11 # Quickmatch 2013-02-23 17:27
If corporations are people, tell me:
How many corporations are serving jail time for fraud, tax evasion, the careless loss of life (known as manslaughter)? If we are to treat corporations as people, we should expose them to the same punishment as people.
+1 # X Dane 2013-02-23 22:03

Great comment
0 # Smokey 2013-02-23 18:08
Long ago, there used to be jokes in California politics about who certain politicians represented. "That senator represents Standard Oil, and that one represents PG&E, and that guy represents Henry Kaiser" etc.

Give corporations the right to vote? They've already got almost everything else. May as well give 'em the vote.
+5 # hoodwinkednomore 2013-02-23 19:12
Yes, Revolution, to clarify, to acknowledge, there were NO people of color in 'the people picture.'

And as far as Steve Lavin goes, the Koch brothers, and ALEC, kiss my ever-lovin' grits!!
+9 # noitall 2013-02-23 19:47
Seems unpatriotic at least and verging on treason. Is this "corporations are people" thing the back door for foreigners to vote in our elections? (in addition to how it currently is: foreigners influencing our elections with their money). Is the Supreme Court too big to sue?
+4 # Penelope Jencks 2013-02-23 21:21
If a person lives in a municipality, he/she normally gets to vote, right? If that person is voting on behalf of the Corporation do they get to vote 2 times?
+1 # cmp 2013-02-23 22:04
1- What happens when the Corporations address and the Officers residential address is the same? Do they still vote twice?

2- Many citizens own more than one property. None, have ever been legally capable of having more than one Registered voting address. What do we do for all of them?

3- How many household residents are offered Corporate tax incentives, tax exemptions and tax loopholes as incentive's to reside in their Community? What do we do for all of them?

4- What happens when the Corporation owns a brown lot and makes no other contributions to the Community other than an eye sore?

5- What happens when the Corporation's Officer is a Foreign Citizen and not an American Citizen?

6- How about businesses that own property but have a DBA? Are they denied Voting Rights?

7- If a Corporation has Voting Rights then why shouldn't a Church or any other non-profit property owner?

8- How will the Corporation be selected for Jury Duty?

9- If a Property Owner and a Corporate Officer is allowed to vote twice then what is fair with Selective Service Registrations?

10- Wouldn't this artificially skew the urban Municipality over the rural Municipality within the State?

We can go on & on...
+2 # DRPJJ 2013-02-23 23:18
We can be as sarcastic or sardonic as we want, but it is just one of an ungoing method of stripping us of our rights. Just as sequestration has been devised as a means of manipulating to get what they want. -In this case the XL pipeline has been put "on the table" to blackmail Obama into signing what the gop proposes. We are but pawns in the duplicitus posturing of the 1% and those that believe they too could become uber rich if they just play the gop game.
+2 # Vermont Grandma 2013-02-23 23:39
As presented this bill is a violation of constitutional mandates for equal protection because it gives MORE rights to the class of "person" (firms, partnerships, companies, and corporations which own real property within the municipality) that real, live people which own real property but reside elsewhere. If Rep Lavin wants to open up municipal elections to non-residents, he'd need to open them up to all non-resident persons, including live ones. Also the Supreme Court's ruling related to corporations, not partnerships which are business entities of human beings, or "firms" which could mean a C sole proprietorship owned and operated by an individual. Interesting that Rep. Lavin is so interested in extending rights of business entities rather than protecting those who elected him from non-resident business entities. Or does this mean that Rep. Lavin was really elected as a result of the financial support he received from business?
+1 # Interested Observer 2013-02-24 09:01
Why would these corporations or ALEC bother with this outrageous proposal when the influence they now wield more quietly via money is worth so much more than a mere vote? A tactic? Hubris?
+1 # Corvette-Bob 2013-02-24 14:21
I agree with the idea of why they should bother with voting since voters have very little power. It is much easier to just buy the legislatures and to just sit down and write the laws that you want.

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