States' Rights Against Corporate Rights

Buccola, Vincent S.J.

Most of the many critics who denounce Citizens United v. FEC and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., ground their complaint in consequentialist terms, at least in part. They see these decisions as entrenching corporate power, by constitutional or quasi-constitutional means, against what ought to be a supervening public will. This Article argues for a different view. Far from entrenching corporate power, the rights cases effectively delegate choices about corporate activities to a politically sensitive, if surprising, instrument:ordinary state legislation. In particular, this Article advances two claims about the nature of states’ rights against corporate rights: first, under existing law, the states can subvert the federal rights of their own corporations; second, and more speculatively, the states can also frustrate the federal rights of foreign corporations that do local business. The analysis suggests that reformers would do well to look to the state capitols rather than the halls of Washington. It also yields implications for the theory of interstate corporate regulation more generally.

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Columbia Business Law Review

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November 19, 2019