Last year the Supreme Court decided in the Citizens United case that corporations are people who can contribute as much as they like to political campaigns without attribution. But yesterday, in a completely inconsistent decision with their lean towards unfettered corporate power, the Court decided that corporate personhood only goes so far, and doesn't include the ability to claim "personal privacy" and bar release of federal documents about corporate activities from Freedom of Information Act requests:
Corporations do not have a right to "personal privacy," the Supreme Court ruled unanimously, at least when it comes to the Freedom of Information Act and the release of documents held by the government.
Last year's ruling giving companies a free-speech right to spend money on campaign ads prompted liberal critics to say the court's conservatives were biased in favor of corporate rights.
While not alluding to the criticism, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. took a scalpel to a corporate-rights claim from AT&T Inc. that its "personal privacy" deserves to be protected. The ordinary meaning of "personal" does not refer to an impersonal company, he said.
"We do not usually speak of personal characteristics, personal effects, personal correspondence, personal influence or personal tragedy as referring to corporations or other artificial entities," he wrote. "In fact, we often use the word 'personal' to mean precisely the opposite of business-related: We speak of personal expenses and business expenses, personal life and work life, personal opinion and a company's view."
The decision means the Federal Communications Commission may release documents that were compiled during an investigation in 2004 over whether AT&T had overcharged schools and libraries for use of the Internet. The company paid a $500,000 settlement.
No right to privacy for corporations? Perhaps the Court thinks corporations are female.