Corporations are People, Too, You Know

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 07:56 PM

The good old NY Times editorial page on Monday was as grim a spectacle as you could ask for. Spin pieces by Geraldine Ferraro and Bill Kristol, and a H U G E ad by the Washington Legal Foundation. Let's talk about the WLF first (but I hope to get around to Ms Ferraro and Mr. Kristol).

The WLF--it sounds like one of the many wrestling "federations" and I'm not sure the similarity ends with the acronym--ad promotes that group as serving the clients "Freedom. Justice. Free Enterprise." According to its own ad, the WLF provides "continuous advocacy for economic and individual rights," and is an "Advocate for Freedom and Justice." Yessirree, WLF is happy to tell the world that it is "setting the precedent for free enterprise public interest law."

Just based on its own puffery of its own wonderfulness, how much do you suppose they care about individual freedom as opposed to commercial freedom? In other words, when your freedom bumps up against the freedom of the tobacco industry, who do you think the WLF is going to "advocate" for?

That's right. As usual. In fact, according to CorporatePolicy.Org:

Over the past decade, the Washington Legal Foundation has filed amicus briefs and distributed legal backgrounders advocating for the expansion and protection of commercial constitutional rights in a variety of ways:
  • Opposing FDA trans fat labeling requirements.
  • Opposing EPA enforcement actions against pesticides.
  • Opposing EPA's attempt to regulate secondhand smoke as a known human carcinogen.
  • Filing several lawsuits challenging the FDA's ban on promoting drugs for unapproved (off-label) uses.
  • Standing up for Nike's right to commercial speech in the Kasky case.
  • Supporting breast implant manufacturers' and asbestos makers' rights to advertise while they are involved in a lawsuit, a practice that plaintiff attorneys describe as an attempt to taint prospective jury members.
  • Arguing that proposed restrictions on "point of sale" advertising, packaging, warning labels and disclosures sought by the federal government against tobacco violate the industry's First Amendment rights.
  • Arguing that the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 encroaches on the fundamental First Amendment rights of free speech and association.
  • Opposing legislation, regulations and lawsuits that seek to compel the FDA to label foods that contain genetically modified food ingredients.
  • Opposing global restrictions on advertising, particularly those that follow standards set in European countries, which are much more restrictive than the U.S.
  • Opposing FCC regulations on horizontal ownership by cable operators and vertical relationships with their program suppliers.
  • Opposing a California law that restricts misleading claims about environmentally friendly products.
  • Opposing city ordinances banning tobacco and alcohol advertising.
  • Opposing congressional attempts to eliminate tax deductions for advertising expenses associated with liquor and tobacco.
  • Opposing state and federal attempts to tax tobacco and use the proceeds to fund anti-tobacco TV ads.
  • Opposing the regulation of product placement in movies.
  • Filing comments on behalf of professional race car drivers against the FDA's proposed rules on tobacco promotion to minors.
  • Opposing court orders in Ohio and elsewhere that required executives convicted of violating environmental laws to join the Sierra Club as part of their sentence.
  • Opposing an effort by Congress to bar Supporting the right of malt liquor makers from using to use the name "Crazy Horse" after BATF restricted its use.
  • Opposing attempts to ban the use of cartoon figures such as "Joe Camel" to market dangerous products.
  • Supporting direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs.
  • Supporting the right of telephone carriers to use their customers' business records without first obtaining the customers' prior affirmative consent.
  • Opposing EPA's proposed warning label regulations for products containing CFCs as an infringement upon the First Amendment rights of producers and consumers.
  • Opposing the National Park Service's adoption of a regulation that allows the Superintendent of the Rock Creek National Park discretion to ban certain sponsorship and product advertising at events in the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center. (WLF argued that the proposal ran counter to the First Amendment's protection of truthful, non-misleading commercial free speech.
  • Opposing Massachusetts' attempt to regulate cigarette advertisements on billboards within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds and churches. ("We protect the free speech of Nazis and white supremacists, but we restrict what people can say about their lawful products," WLF's Richard Samp commented, "Somehow, that just doesn't seem right.")
  • Supporting a petition by Pfizer to the FDA by calling upon the FDA to respect the drug industry's right to "respond on an equal footing with its critics" by not subjecting such responses to its drug labeling and advertising requirements.
  • Filing a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate stock losses cased by manipulative and abusive class action litigation practices designed to drive down the price of the stock and unfairly force the target company to settle a case.
  • Opposing the Justice Department's lawsuit against the tobacco industry, arguing that it would undermine the tort system and that the proposal to restrict tobacco advertising would be "the single largest suspension of commercial speech liberties in history."
  • "Working in tandem" with then-FTC Chairman Daniel Oliver (1988) and others in government who agree with WLF's view that it is wrong to regulate speech concerning lawful products such as tobacco. "At the request of the Tobacco Institute" WLF also presented arguments to HHS on the issue of tobacco and U.S. trade policy.
  • Forcing FDA to withdraw its proposed regulations of heart valves by filing suit on behalf of two patients in need of surgery.
Yes, you see, it's all about freedom, by God, because, hey, corporations are people, too. Literally. Under Supreme Court decision. These purely artifical "creatures of statute" have had "human rights" bestowed upon them. Thanks to advocates such as the WLF (I don't know if the WLF was actually involved in that decision; that's not the point). But any huckster or "huckster-like" creature loves that semantic game. Parsing words and interpreting statements while standing on one leg and looking upward at a ceiling full of mirrors reflecting each other is like breathing and eating to real people.

So they say they advocate for individual freedom and people smile, pat them on the back, hand them a flag lapel pin. In fact, if they advocate for individual rights and you oppose them,, you must--absolutely must--stand for individual oppression. It just stands to reason. At least reason as practiced by these defenders of liberty.

Explain that by "individual," you mean such humble folks as Phillip Morris, Pfizer, and their friends and...well, it just doesn't give one that same super warm and extra fuzzy feeling now, does it?

Hucksterism. It's the new nobility.

WLF. We're Like, F***ed.