Talking Back to the Supreme Court: Citizens vs. Citizens United

Four years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court made a decision that many Americans consider to be wrong, a decision that jeopardizes fair and equal access to the political process. In deciding Citizens United (CU), the Court struck down campaign finance regulations dating back to 1907 and affirmed that corporations are entitled to the same rights of political free speech as individuals.

In an effort to encourage public discussion on the consequences of this landmark decision to people and communities, A2Ethics and the Interfaith Partnership for Political Action (IPPA) are hosting two special presentations:

TUESDAY – APRIL 29 –  7– 8:30 p.m.
Malletts Creek Library (3090 E. Eisenhower Parkway, Ann Arbor)



How do Citizens United--and recent decisions on campaign contributions and expanded corporate rights--jeopardize the democratic principle of free and fair elections and the rights of individual citizens to participate? 

Join us for fascinating presentations by Robert A.G. Monks, author of Citizens DisUnited, and attorney Jeffrey Clements, author of Corporations Are Not People, as they discuss the impact of Citizens United and the unfettered flow of corporate dollars on national institutions and the political process. The authors will also discuss what citizens across the nation are doing to fight back—including an effort to pass a Constitutional amendment that recognizes the fundamental differences between corporations and human beings. Followed by a Q&A session. 

WEDNESDAY – APRIL 30 –  12 noon – 2 p.m.
Downtown Library (343 S. Fifth Avenue, Ann Arbor) 

Why Corporate Responsibility Is Not Enough

Why would it benefit individual citizens to give corporations expanded rights as Citizens United has—rights that enable them to be less open and accountable for actions that have clear human costs? And what approaches are currently being used to inform the public about the social, environmental and governance costs of corporate behaviors?

Today, citizens have increased expectations for corporate responsibility. Yet, corporate social responsibility and good citizenship are not enough. Certain corporate behaviors create downstream effects, impacting individuals and communities. “Externality” is the economic term used to describe the social impact of corporate actions, which, when harmful, can range from pollution and climate change to price increases and reduced property values. The corporation causes the harm, without adding the "externality" into accounting and audit reports. The taxpayers, however, pay the costs.

You’ll want to be on hand when panelists Robert A.G. Monks, Professor Emeritus Donald J. Munro, and physician Robert M. Oneal describe the ethical and human meaning of “externalities” using both national and local examples. They will also discuss current public, private and civic initiatives to establish sustainability reporting as well as public demands to integrate social indicators into corporate accounting systems. Followed by a Q&A session.

About the Speakers 

Robert A.G. Monks, author of nine books, most recently, Citizens United and Trusting Harvard, is a world-renowned expert on shareholder rights and responsibility, corporate governance, government capture, investor stewardship and corporate societal impact. He served in the Reagan administration and has held several government positions, among them chief administrator in the Office of Pension and Welfare Benefits Programs in the Department of Labor. Mr. Monks has also been a force in the business and legal worlds, founding three companies recognized as leaders or pioneers in their fields: GMI Ratings, Institutional Shareholder Services and Lens Governance Advisors. GMI Ratings provides global data-driven coverage of environmental, social, governance and accounting-related risks affecting the performance of public companies--research used to assess sustainability and other social standards of corporate citizenship. Mr. Monks makes regular posts to his blog at


Jeffrey Clements, an attorney and author of Corporations Are Not People is a nationally respected leader in the movement to challenge the broad and expansive Constitutional rights increasingly accorded by our nations' courts to corporations. As president and co-founder of Free Speech for People, Mr. Clements serves as spokesperson for a growing network of citizens committed to ensuring that legal practices and rulings serve the best interests of the public—rather than favoring corporations and other special interest groups.

Mr. Clements' legal practice encompasses the private and public sectors in both Massachusetts and Maine. Before founding his own firm, he was a partner in the Boston firm of Mintz Levin. In 1996, he joined the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, where he worked on litigation against the tobacco industry. From 2007 to 2009, as Assistant Attorney General and Chief of the Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau, he directed the 100+ attorneys charged with the enforcement of environmental, financial services, civil rights and consumer protection laws in the Commonwealth. 

Mr. Clements also served in the Maine Attorney General's Office and, subsequently, as president of the Board of Trustees for the Portland Water District. A longtime promoter of civic efforts to protect Maine waterways, he co-founded the prominent environmental advocacy organization, Friends of Casco Bay. 

Robert M. Oneal, M.D., established and maintained an active practice in plastic surgery for 40 years. During that time, he was also a clinical professor of plastic surgery at the University of Michigan Medical Center, where his legacy of “teaching leadership” has been honored with an endowed chair in his name. Today, he continues to teach residents on a volunteer basis. A Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and several medical specialty organizations, he is the author of numerous papers in scientific journals and has lectured widely in this country and abroad. Since retiring in 2006, he has been engaged in volunteer efforts for community service groups, including the St. Andrews Episcopal Church breakfast program. Dr. Oneal and his wife Zibby, a well known children’s book author, have lived in Ann Arbor for almost 60 years. Dr. Oneal is a founding member of the Interfaith Partnership for Political Action (IPPA)

Moderator Donald J. Munro is professor emeritus of philosophy and Chinese at the University of Michigan, where he taught for over 30 years. At the time of his retirement, he was chair of the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures. A former member of the National Research Council, his many professional honors include the U-M’s Excellence in Teaching Award, the Warner G. Rice Humanities Award and fellowships from the Ford and Guggenheim Foundations. Professor Munro is the author of seven books, among them works that have established him as a leading scholar of Chinese philosophy and in the field of Chinese Studies. In particular, he has been praised for his ability to connect “venerable philosophical traditions to modern scientific discoveries, always with a concern for the ethics of human action.”  He and his wife Ann, a former risk manager in the University health system, have lived in several countries. However, they always return to Ann Arbor and Leelanau County, where with help from friends, they have built a log cabin. Professor Munro is a founding member of the Interfaith Partnership for Political Action (IPPA). Three years ago, Professor Munro did a brilliant interview for A2Ethics' Atlas of Ethics podcast series: Confucius in the Cognitive Age    


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