Adam Winkler


My objective here is to provide a little historical background on business corporations and their place in First Amendment law. In the course of that overview, I will also make a few observations that I believe can be helpful in thinking about corporate speech rights. First, I will argue that one aspect of the constitutional status of corporations-the notion of corporate personhood-has not played the central role in shaping corporate speech rights that some believe. Corporations have free speech rights, but they are more limited than those held by individuals. Second, I will argue that there is not a single right of corporate speech. Rather, there are at least four distinct free speech rights held by corporations. Each one is subject to its own set of rules and restrictions, and there are a number of inconsistencies in the reasoning of the relevant decisions, breeding a set of doctrines with little coherence. I will conclude with some thoughts on the effectiveness of limiting corporate speech in an age of "loose" corporate law.