Stetson University professor publishes book on rise, resistance of corporate power

By Rebecca Campbell | Sep 1, 2016

GULFPORT – A college law professor has written a book hoping to encourage people to reconsider which rights are appropriate for corporations after meeting people who were confused about what corporations are and how their role in a democracy has metamorphosed.

Stetson University College of Law Professor Ciara Torres-Spelliscy is the author of "Corporate Citizen: An Argument for the Separation of Corporation and State," which addresses the role of corporations in America’s democracy.

Speaking to the Florida Record, Torres-Spelliscy said that the Supreme Court, and other courts, have been granting corporations greater rights while at the same time excusing corporations from concomitant responsibilities.

“This imbalance has not gone unnoticed,” she said. “There has been significant push back from customers, investors, lawmakers and even from certain entrepreneurs, who have opted to form benefit corporations known as B-Corporations instead of traditional C-Corporations.”

In her book, Torres-Spelliscy provides an overview of how corporations have become larger and more powerful. She focuses on the various First Amendment rights that corporations have gained since the 1970s to the present day, including commercial speech rights, political speech rights and religious rights.

At the same time, she includes some of the most cutting-edge developments in the area like the advent of smartphone apps such as Buycott and Buypartisan, which allow customers to know more about the political activities of corporations behind the brands they buy.

Torres-Spelliscy believes that her book can deliver a quick overview since 2016 is an election year with American voters being bombarded with electoral ads. She said that these ads are nearly entirely privately funded and most political campaigns are privately funded. In the 2016 presidential primary, both on the left and right, voters raised their concerns about the pernicious role of money in politics, she said.

“This book can serve as a quick primer on privately funded elections and the role corporations play in our democratic process.”

While she states that she has no powers of prognostication, Torres-Spelliscy is hopeful that her book will encourage law students, lawyers and jurists to reconsider which rights are appropriate for corporations. She also expects that lay readers will learn more about the policy and legal choices that have empowered corporations over time.

“Citizens need to show up in between elections to ensure that policies are made to protect the public good,” she said. “If only corporate lobbyists are roaming the halls of Congress and state legislatures, we are likely to continue to see laws, rules, and policies that privilege corporations again and again.”

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