Posters/petitions for Seattle residents against corporate personhood

Jeff sez, "Some graphic designers in Seattle anonymously created these cool "Corporations Aren't People" posters for the I103 initiative... they are editable PDFs so you can change the text as needed."

What is Initiative Measure 103? Measure 103 is a citizen's initiative in Seattle to elevate peoples' rights above corporate rights and put an end to corporate personhood and other legal privileges corporations use to overrule communities in our democracy. Read the initiative.

What does Measure 103 do? If enacted, the measure would prohibit corporations from making political contributions or lobbying, end corporate personhood and close the revolving door between elected officials and corporations impacted by their lawmaking. The measure would establish community rights to fair elections, clean government, self-government, citizen oversight of the police, rights for neighborhoods to approve zoning changes, Constitutional rights for workers, rights for nature to protect Puget Sound, our resident Orca pods and salmon runs and legislate status quo network neutrality.

i103 Downloads (Thanks, Jeff!)


      1. Finally, a cure for illegal immigration. Just marry the undocumented off to American corporations to earn citizenship!

    1. When a man and a company love each other very much, they share a special kind of hug …

  1. Why can’t a Corporation be a person? If the emergent behaviors of a complex system can be demonstrated to result in a sapient entity, then it’s a person whether it’s a human being or not. We have a golden opportunity here to develop a framework for dealing with nonhuman persons while they are still quite a bit less complex than we are… start with a goldfish before you get a puppy sort of thing.

    1. What’s sad is that there are flesh and blood human beings with fewer rights than these man-made corporate entities.

    2. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

      Whether you believe in God, Dog or the Flying Spaghetti Monster (May you be touched by his noodly appendage, praise be), the fact remains that corporations are a creation of mankind, not the same forces that created us, and therefore do not—SHOULD not—enjoy the same rights and considerations—much less so, in fact.

      I included that link so you can download a copy to whatever mobile device you may have, so that the Declaration may always be with you.

      1.  Leaving aside the issues of womens’ suffrage and slavery that the Declaration completely failed to address… are you REALLY advocating a definition of personhood that relies on the ancestry and origins of an entity?

        1. I believe what I meant to say was that a creation of man cannot be held to the same ideal or standard as man, and, therefore, cannot be allowed to enjoy the same rights or considerations as man.

          Man is fallible, therefore, anything he makes, with the exception of children, must lie further down the spectrum of perfection than he: ergo, corporations must be treated with the same suspicion and respect due any natural predator, not a fellow reasoning, rational being.

          Besides, advocating any definition of personhood for anything other than a person would be bad faith.

          1. Why are children the exception? An embryo is legally NOT a person (in most common law nations) but is most definitely human (biology trumps law). And why is man “fallible” while the random swirling of complex molecules is not? All I’m saying that an entity should be granted or denied personhood based on its behaviour and abilities and not on any other factors, frankly I’m a little shocked that it seems like such an outlandish idea to so many… people.

          2. Would it be better to treat corporations not like natural predators but perhaps like software, incl. malware? Because natural predators haven’t yet been created by humans but software is.

    3.  The time to establish such frameworks was centuries ago. Several such frameworks have been tried, and so far most of them have succumbed to the ability of corporate interests to agitate for increased corporate power.
      As it stands, corporations are already more complex than goldfish, puppies, or people. A corporation can be in more than one place at a time, it exists without eating, sleeping or breathing, it can contain other corporations or split off pieces of itself which act independently.
      If, as you claim below, “biology trumps law”, then that is a reason why corporations cannot be people. People are biological entities, corporations are legal ones.

  2. Corporations are really more like machines that are invented by people to fulfill certain needs and duties.  They’re supposed to be operated by people, but seem highly prone to gaining sentience that directs them to preserve themselves via almost any means necessary, even long after their usefulness has expired.  To treat them like people is to invite them to become our new robot overlords.

    1. Corporations are really more like groups of shareholders who pool their resources to contribute to a common cause.  Namely, development of a product or service and then selling that product or service for a profit.  If groups of shareholders are not groups of people, then it follows that shareholders are not people.  I’m a shareholder, I guess I am not a person.

      1. That doesn’t follow. Even if the members of a group are people, that doesn’t make the group itself a person. The citizens of California are human beings, but the state of California is not a human being. 

          1.  Exactly.  “Corporations are made of people -> people have rights -> therefore corporations should have those same rights” makes about as much logical sense as “People are made of atoms -> atoms are invisible to the naked eye -> therefore, humans are invisible to the naked eye.”

        1. Fine.  If your premise is true, then corporations have never, and will never contribute to speech because they are etherial concepts or inanimate objects like states of the union or atoms.  A corporation cannot contribute to political speech because they don’t have minds or mouths or fingers to type with,  therefore there is nothing to worry about.  If a corporation violates the campaign finance law, what do you do? Do you put the building in  jail brick by brick?

        2. The reason corporations are not human beings is not that  they aren’t human. They are human (at least on this planet). They are not human beings because they are not beings. Corporations don’t actually exist.

          What that means is that any confiscation of the property of a corporation is confiscation of that property from the beings composing it. Those beings have rights.

      2. The real problem is simply that CEOs (and IIRC shareholders) have limited accountability, as per the whole point of incorporating. This naturally lends to a system of abuse, and makes it insulting to be told that corporations are people, implying equality. Also as AvramGrumer mentions, people imply individuals, and corporations are group constructs.

      3. Tony, even if they are groups of people – they aren’t always American people … the problem becomes when we transfer constitutional rights to groups of people who are actually investors in foreign countries and then they sue American communities to overturn our laws

      4. “Corporations are really more like groups of shareholders who pool their resources to contribute to a common cause.”

        So, basically corporatism is a form of collectivism? I really wish that more libertarians who froth about the “evils of collectivism” would realize this when they turn around and defend the sanctity of corporations.

          1. The only true Libertarian is a hermit that lives out in the woods without electricity, running water or sanitation.  What a hero.

      5. Wait, if a corporation is *A* person, then the shareholders thereby waiving their rights as a full human, and thereby are only x% of a human based on x% of the shares they own. if you thought being considered 3/5 of a man was bad, at least that was a majority share!

      6. I’m a shareholder, I guess I am not a person.

        You already get to influence government as an individual. Now you’re asking to have expanded political influence because you have more financial influence.

      7.  Limited liability is one major difference.  If I do something I’m held personally accountable, if the company does you are not.

        1.  ‘You can’t handcuff a corporation’.

          Brought to you by the same folks who gave us, ‘You wouldn’t download a car’.

      8. I’m a shareholder, I guess I am not a person.

        So…  when the corporation with personhood breaks the law, should you and all the other shareholder people go to prison like normal people do when they break laws?

        1. I hate being in prison. That’s why I incorporated a long time ago. It was the only way to seize individual rights and protect myself from the hardships of personal responsibility for my actions. It’s not completely clear what exactly we do around here at MB44 Corps but, by god, nobody bothers us while we (I) do it. 

          MB44 Corps, Because Fuck You, That’s Why.

        2. You were always hired. Now you are promoted to VicePresidentDirectorChairmanPresidentDivisionSupervisor of the Logo Art Division. We have crafted a golden parachute for you out of the souls of the people that you had to crush to get here. 

    2. The People’s Rights Amendment is UNFAIR TO ROBOTS! (ObSF: Valentina by Joseph H. Delaney and Marc Stiegler)

  3. (c) “Corporations,” for purposes of this ordinance, shall include any corporation, limited partnership, limited liability partnership, business trust, or limited liability company organized under the laws of any state of the United States or under the laws of any country, and any other business entity that possesses State-conferred limited liability attributes for its owners, directors, and/or officers.

    So…good-bye 501(c)(4)s? Like, say, MoveOn? And no more 501(c)3s? Like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting? What about your local food co-op? That’s a  creature of statute as well. I do not think they have thought their cunning plan all the way through.I’m an opponent of corporate personhood, but the golems just look at stuff like this, laugh, and continue bashing about the landscape.

    1. This wouldn’t dissolve all corporations if I’m understanding it correctly, just limit their political power.

    2. Ian, we’re just creating a level playing field… corporations will lobby out in the open (not in private).

  4. Hmm. While I think that corporations aren’t and shouldn’t be treated as people, I don’t get the paranoia regarding legal persons. Sometimes some opponents strike me as as crazy as birthers or black helicopter types.

    It’s a legal fiction, like treating animals the same way as inanimate things – in all cases where special laws do not appy.

    Come to think of it, it’s awfully similar. The “the law makes no distinction between animals and things” is pretty kooky, too.

    1. Actually, with the Supreme Court ruling of  Buckley vs. Valeo, spending money became synonymous with free speech. And, with the doctrine of corporations are people, they have the right to spend their “free speech” cash to elect officials with their best interests at heart. In effect, this gives them the right to buy themselves the best government they can. So, if you don’t want a corporate-picked Congress, then, yeah, it is kind of a problem.

    2. How would you feel if a native of Dubai contributed 100,000,000 DM to a German political party by virtue of owning controlling interest in a German corporation?

          1.  The Deutsche Mark ceased to be legal tender immediately upon the introduction of the euro. Mark coins and banknotes continued to be accepted as valid forms of payment in Germany until 28 February 2002.

      1. The corporation would have to make the donation and it would not be tax deductible, of course.

        And frankly, the neighbors of Dubai are trying to do this by building mosques. But you didn’t want to year that.

        Also, it wouldn’t really matter much. The shitstorm would force the party on question to forego the donation.

        Also, parties which manage to get elected get reimbursed

  5. Since there’s no way any such ordinance will survive a court challenge, this is nothing more than so much political masturbation.  If people want to do something useful, how about coming up with a means to make the corporate officers more accountable to the shareholders, and the shareholders more interested in what the officers are getting up to?  The idea of a board of directors elected by the shareholders keeping an eye on things doesn’t seem to be working, but what would be an alternative?

    1. It seems to be working quite well actually.  The board of directors is beholden to the shareholders who ultimately invested in said company because they want a profit.  The board then does everything in its power to produce said profit.

      The only thing the board/CEO/shareholders are keeping their eye on is the bottom line and profit margin.  Workers pay and benefits be damned, workers jobs be damned.  If we can make an extra %1 margin by closing up shop and moving out of the US then that’s a good idea.

      IMO shareholders should have less rights and demands.  I want to invest in a company that is a solid “citizen”, one that is looking toward the future, not the next quarter.

      1. That’s my point.  Shareholders don’t care.  How can they be encouraged to do so?  It’s complicated by the fact that many shareholders aren’t individuals either, but mutual funds and other corporations.  Corporations aren’t going away, they’re too useful.  One idea I’ve come up with is to establish the corporate equivalent of residency, by passing a State law requiring any corporation doing business in that State be chartered by that State. Also, the officers, directors and a majority of shareholders would have to be individuals residing in that State.  That way, they have to live near the messes they make.  This should be Constitutional, under the State’s Tenth Amendment Police Powers.

        1.  Good points Mr. Stephens,

          May I also add that in the current day corporations are essentially immortal and omnipotent within the limits of the law.  The original concept of a corporation was that it was formed to accomplish something for the common good such as trade with the new world or the building and operation of a canal.  It required a special act of the government–in the case of the U.S. an act of a state legislature or Congress.  Perhaps charters should restrict corporations to a specific task.

  6. Okay all my liberal America-haters if you continue to go down this communist road then corporations may feel that they do not owe any taxes if they do not receive representation.

    1.  I can only assume you are trying to make a joke here.  I don’t think anyone can throw “liberal America-haters” into a sentence with “down this communist road” and then end with a punchline about corporations paying even less taxes then they already do, and still expect to be taken seriously.

      1. I checked him out on Facebook and he supports the RNC and dates Rush Limbaugh.

        He’s not kidding;  But, he still shouldn’t be taken seriously.  I’m just still trying to figure out how he drunkenly stumbled into Boing Boing from FOX “News”.

    2. Okay all my liberal America-haters if you continue to go down this communist road then corporations may feel that they do not owe any taxes if they do not receive representation.

      The only corporation who pays taxes is a poorly run one.

    3. no no.. he is serious.  and listen little troll dude whatever the differences is opinion of how we get the country better, I don’t think anyone here NOR in the tea party hate america, no one would be even having this conversation if that were the fact.  Corporations do skip out on paying a lot of taxes already, but that doesn’t bother me so much, just a perk of being rich whether as an individual or as a collective.  But corporations are running and ruining america.  Is Obama so bad on his own?  Or is he bad because he let his wall street corporate bankrupt the country, much more efficiently the the last batch of corporate masters.

  7. There are circumstances where corporations do require the legal status of personhood (mostly zoning laws, liability in banking matters, other legal financial practices designed to operate between people on their most fundamental level, etc.), but under no circumstances should this include political representation.  The argument should be that corporations can be people, but in no way are corporations citizens.  In fact, there are many many examples of corporations whose narrow, self-centered sociopathic behavior  in no way constitutes good citizenship, therefore they are unworthy of the benefits and legal standing of citizenship.

  8. This is silly.  You can’t pass this law because of a series of supreme court decisions.  Or at least, you can’t pass it and have it go into effect because of those decisions.  

    You can only upend those decisions by 1) electing Democratic presidents and congresspeople who will reshape the supreme court from it’s current 5-4 conservative split to a liberal majority, or 2) amend the US constitution, which is uh, not gonna happen.  

  9. Mr. Wood raises some excellent points.  I would like to add that news media corporations would be prohibited from reporting on public issues and candidates as this could “influence any election” and would also be an “attempt to communicate with elected officials, in any way”.  

    The proposed ordinance is much too inclusive touching on dozens of issues instead of just one.  Some of these are oddly framed.  For example, it states “Neighborhood majorities shall have the right to approve all zoning changes proposed for their neighborhood involving significant non-governmental commercial, industrial, or residential development.” but doesn’t define neighborhood or significant.  It also strangely doesn’t require neighborhood approval for government developments.

    I was unable to find the actual text of the ordinance anywhere on the website except as a last page of  PDF files with the text rotated 90 degrees.  I don’t think the organization is trying to prevent the WWW public from reading the actual text of the ordinance but it certainly makes reading it hard to do.

      1.  I think you mean the 1st amendment.  That amendment is the basis of the SC’s decision in Citizen’s United.  This ordinance states that those rights only apply to natural people–not corporations.  A publication would have freedom of the press only if it were published by a human instead of a corporation.

    1. I would like to add that news media corporations would be prohibited from reporting on public issues and candidates as this could “influence any election” and would also be an “attempt to communicate with elected officials, in any way”.

      Just like the press never reported on public issues or candidates until after Citizens United? How did US news survive all those years with nothing but racing results and society news?

  10. I live in Seattle, and this initiative would be worse than just ineffective – it has several other provisions that would do things like allow neighborhoods to completely halt any kind of growth – pushing all the new people moving here into low-density suburbs. The guy behind 103 is crazy. And they’ve already missed their deadline to go to the ballot, so a poster is pretty much useless.

    1. Ben, our deadline to turn in signatures is mid-September 2012 but you are correct we won’t appear on the ballot until next year.

  11. If this law passed, and if it had any teeth, it would be swatted like a fly by the Supreme Court – if it even made it that far.  The Montana decision made it clear that the Court really meant its decision in Citizens United, and is not interested in reconsidering.

    There are only two ways to undo this, and they’re both tactics the right is using against Roe v. Wade.  One is to pass another law and force a future Court to make another decision, thus giving them an opportunity to reverse Citizens United.  The other is to amend the constitution.

    1. And if corporations disappeared, other investments would be found.  Because capitalism.

  12. “One of the biggest lies in capitalism, is that companies like competition. They don’t. Nobody likes competition.”   ~Eliot Spitzer

    Sorta makes you wonder who they see as the competition, doesn’t it: Each other, or us?

  13. I’m not sure how successful a law like this would be.  It is a matter of constitutional law as I understand it.  The idea of corporate personhood was originally decided by the US Supreme Court.  If you really want to address this you need a constitutional amendment otherwise it can just be overturned.

    1.  You can find the decision here: .  I can’t find any mention of corporations being people in it.  The court builds on earlier decisions that corporations are protected by the first amendment.  The court distinguished between the rights of people and the rights of corporations under this amendment by letting stand laws prohibiting some political activities by corporations which are permitted to people such as donating money to a candidates official campaign.  It is my personal impression, from the tone of the decision, that the SC believes Congress can re-write some of the law which was overturned so that it is compliant with the first amendment.

  14. “Orwell’s vision of a horrible future which was a boot stomping on a human face forever is a utopian image because he assumes there would be resistance and human faces; both of which may turn out to be false.” -Rick Roderick

  15. if corporations aren’t people, you can’t sue them. if there is a grievance to be filed for wrongs or debts do you file against every shareholder? or is the CEO naturally personally responsible for all actions of the company? and if so what of companies without any one leader?
    the reason for the instantiation of corporate personhood was to have someone to sue for debts and grievances.

    1.  “the reason for the instantiation of corporate personhood was to have someone to sue for debts and grievances.”

      Hmm, interesting view.

      I just hope you aren’t experiencing the parallax effect there, bud.

      1.  mostly just going by what the wikipedia page on corporate personhood states:

        i really think they should be fighting against the right of corporate persons to provide campaign funds to politicians (citizen’s united v. federal election commission: provide a bill which states that corporations do NOT have first amendment rights (or that campaign donations are not protected by the first amendment, but since congress can’t say that only the supreme court can, and the supreme court has basically said it IS, the former is more likely)
        corporations not having first amendment rights will not impair their ability to go into contracts, to sue or be sued. i dont see any reason we need them to have that right.

  16. Quick question: If this legal personhood stuff is so bad, what should substitute it in cases where people sue, say, the Catholic Church or Penn State University?

    1. liability and (full) autonomy seem to be orthogonal concepts, excepting that you can be held liable for things you do, of course. i don’t see why you can’t have either one without the other.

  17. Bravo, corporate mind-fu#* machine, bravo. I would think like you if I listened to CSPAN/FOX/CNBC/BSCORPRTMDIA too.
    Dear Americans,
    Do try not to be Trogolodytes.

  18. If corporations aren’t people, why is the corporation represented by a human foot in the picture.

    Its funny even the graphic designers have to use a human person to claim a corp isn’t a human person. Maybe that tells us something….

  19. What about corporate personhood collectivizing and protecting individual members of a non-profit charity, when a mistake occurs and the corporate entity is liable?

    For example:
    “A driver for the local co-op chain crashes into a bus full of kids injuring them. Instead of the co-op being responsible, all individual stakeholders could be sued–including the very parents of kids in the bus.”

    I understand that corporate personhood creates a number of problems (especially the idea that corporate persons have “rights” like you or I–i.e. corporations should be restricted from fair elections via caps on campaign donations or outright bans)…

    … but that’s not to say that parts of the system protect non-profits, charities, and NGOs from all its members being sued.

  20. More evidence that people misunderstand common legal terms to the point of aggressive stupidity in this “end of the world” directed society we live in.

  21.  To state that “a corporation is not a person” is not the same as to state that “a corporation is not a container for liability”.

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