Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said Thursday that corporations could be elected president according to the rationale of the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
"I remain troubled today that the Supreme Court extended to corporations the same First Amendment rights in the political process that are guaranteed by the Constitution to individual Americans," he said at a hearing on the DISCLOSE Act of 2012. "Corporations are not the same as individual Americans. Corporations do not have the same rights, the same morals or the same interests. Corporations cannot vote in our democracy."
According to the Supreme Court's logic, we should elect corporations to public office, Leahy said.
"This country has elected General Eisenhower as president, shouldn't we elected General Electric as president? We know we like to elect a lot of yahoos as vice president, why not elect Yahoo as a corporation as vice president. "
"Vermonters and Americans across the country have long understood that corporations are not people in this political process," he continued. "Unfortunately, a very narrow majority on the Supreme Court apparently did not."
The controversial Citizens United ruling struck down key provisions of the federal McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law and gave rise to super PACS, which have caused campaign spending by outside groups to skyrocket. Super PACs have also exploited a loophole that allows them to postpone the disclosure of their donors until after the elections they participate in.
The DISCLOSE Act of 2012 would require any organization that spends 10,000 or more during an election cycle to file a report with the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours. It would also require the head of any organization that puts out a political ad on TV or radio to state that he or she approves the message, similar to what candidates must do now.
The DISCLOSE Act of 2010 was blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate.