A subcommittee of the full House Judiciary Committee held a hearing last week on the "Weaponization of the Federal Government." Two panels discussed the "politicization of the FBI and DOJ and attacks on American civil liberties." It rehashed old grievances about how Trump and others were treated by the two agencies over the last few years.
If exposing and ending "weaponization of the government" is the target, then the Judiciary Committee should take aim at the single biggest culprit: corporations. This investigation would be enlightening since the corporate "weaponization" or hijacking of the government has been so blatant, widespread and persistent for more than a century.
Most corporations in the U.S. were originally chartered or licenced at the state level by legislatures one-at-a-time. Corporate charters stipulated specific conditions to ensure that corporations served the common good. Charters were routinely revoked when corporations acted "ultra vires," that is. beyond their defined authority. None of those conditions included bestowing inherent rights to corporations to dominate virtually every aspect of society and government as they do today.
Corporations have amassed enormous political and economic power by escaping state legislative authority and public accountability by "weaponizing" four sectors of government.
1. Corporations "weaponize" states against one another.
Corporate agents moved corporate charters from states that limited corporate independence to states with corporate friendly laws, thanks to the corruption of state legislators. Originally that was New Jersey. Today it's Delaware, where over 60 percent of Fortune 500 firms are incorporated.
2. Corporations "weaponize" legislatures.
Corporate agents sought federal laws to preempt state laws and state laws to preempt local laws limiting corporate powers. The federal Sherman Antitrust Act, for example, was a tepid federal response to strong laws enacted in over 20 states to prevent corporate monopolies and, in some cases, calls for public ownership. The pro-corporate Senator John Sherman warned that Congress "must heed [the public's] appeal or be ready for the socialist, the communist, and the nihilist." Sherman is still used to preempt state laws. Meanwhile, local laws protecting residents from guns, fracking, minimum wage and many other local concerns passed by municipal councils have been preempted by state laws.
3. Corporations "weaponize" regulatory agencies.
Corporations supported the creation of "regulatory agencies" as many states sought public ownership over several types of companies – including utilities and transportation. These agencies regulated vs prohibited harms and insulated companies from direct legislative oversight and public pressure and mobilization. Moreover, companies advocate for the appointment by executives (i.e. Presidents and Governors) of corporate-friendly regulators.
4. Corporations "weaponize" the courts.
The ultimate escape of public control over corporations was granting "constitutional rights" to corporations. Though there's no mention of corporate entities in the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court proclaimed over the course of a century that a corporation is a person with First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment protections – rights that go well beyond corporate First Amendment free speech "rights" to contribute money in elections. This makes public accountability impossible over corporate entities. Corporate constitutional rights are the impenetrable shield against efforts to assert human rights and the right to a livable world over never-intended "corporate rights."
Abolishing all corporate constitutional rights by enacting the We the People Amendment (HJR48), soon to be introduced again by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, is the only strategy to make corporations authentically democratically accountable.
This requires building a people's movement. Abolishing corporate constitutional rights shifts back from the judicial to the legislative arena the public ability to define corporate actions to ensure that the health, safety and welfare of people, communities and the natural world are prioritized. Ending all the other ways corporations have "weaponized government" to consolidate political and economic power becomes much easier once corporations are disarmed of all constitutional rights.
If Congress isn't going to expose the corporate "weaponization of government," then it's up to us to not only do so, but to end it.