Romney’s appearance at the fair’s soapbox grew unusually testy when a few angry people heckled the Republican presidential candidate over his declaration not to raise taxes. They urged the campaign front-runner to increase taxes on the wealthy to help fund such entitlement programs as Social Security and Medicare.Romney explained that one way to fulfill promises on entitlement programs is to “raise taxes on people,” but before he could articulate his position on not raising taxes, someone interrupted.“Corporations!” a protester shouted, apparently urging Romney to raise taxes on corporations that have benefited from loopholes in the tax code. “Corporations!”“Corporations are people, my friend,” Romney said.Some people in the front of the audience shouted, “No, they’re not!”“Of course they are,” Romney said. “Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people. Where do you think it goes?”
Before we get too excited, says Greg Sargent at The Washington Post, consider "the larger context" of Romney's words. He clearly meant that "corporations are made up of people, and that when you tax corporations, you also end up taxing the people who comprise them." Well, this is "probably not the way he wanted that to come out," says John Marshall at Talking Points Memo. "Oops." (From Mitt Romney's 'corporations are people' gaffe, The Week, Aug. 11, 2011).
In the United States over the last several decades, shifting majorities have, from time to time, more or less strongly embraced the first two views--the corporation as institution and the corporation as property. In the field of public (and principally constitutional) law, the result can produce contradiction.
These fundamental differences in conception were neither accidental nor evidence of confusion. They are ancient and well considered positions on the nature of the corporation that are, to some extent are both irreconcilable and give rise to substantially different constitutional and regulatory consequences. The differences, in modern form, were first well-exposed in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765 (1978), and contested in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, 494 U. S. 652 (1990). Citizens United has effectively recast them anew. The effect of Citizens United is thus not merely confined to issues touching on the constitutional protections of speech rights, and the form of legitimate of constitutional jurisprudence. Rather, it will have potentially significant effects on approaches to the regulation of corporations far beyond the constitutional framework in which the case was decided.(From Larry Catá Backer, What is a Corporation? : The Regulatory Effects of Different Conceptions of Corporate Personality in American Constitutional Law in Citizens United v. FEC, Law at the End of the Day, Jan. 24, 2010).