CLBR #298: “We The Corporations” Author Adam Winkler


“We The Corporations” Author Adam Winkler


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We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights (Liveright/W.W. Norton, 2018) sheds light on one of the most successful, yet least known civil rights movements in American history. Like minorities and women, corporations too have fought to win equal rights under the Constitution—and today they have nearly all the same rights as ordinary people. Uncovering the deep historical roots of Citizens United v. FEC, Adam Winkler shows how that controversial 2010 Supreme Court decision was the capstone of a 200-year battle over corporate personhood and constitutional protections for business. Bringing to resounding life the legendary lawyers and justices involved in the corporate rights movement—among them Daniel Webster, Roger Taney, Lewis Powell, and even Thurgood Marshall—Winkler’s tour de force exposes how the nation’s most powerful corporations gained our most fundamental rights and turned the Constitution into a bulwark against the regulation of big business.

Winkler’s book provides a masterful retrospective map at a time when people are feeling bewildered and enraged by growing corporate power. — New York Times Book Review

Winkler overlays the pursuit of corporate civil rights onto American history, from the English corporate colonies to the Bank Wars, from trust-busters and New Dealers to Ralph Nader, Robert Bork and Hobby Lobby. [A] meticulous, educational and thoroughly enjoyable retelling of our nation’s past. — Washington Post

An eye-opening account of how corporations became ‘persons’ entitled to constitutional rights and used those rights to impede efforts to regulate them in the interests of real people. — David Cole, author of Engines of Liberty: The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law

196Prof. Adam Winkler

UCLA Book Profile / UCLA Faculty Profile / @adamwinkler 

Professor Adam Winkler is a specialist in American constitutional law and history. He is the author of We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights (2018) and Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America (2011). His scholarship has been cited in landmark Supreme Court cases, including opinions on the Second Amendment and on corporate free speech rights and his popular writing has been featured in the New York TimesNew York Review of BooksWall Street JournalWashington PostLos Angeles TimesNew RepublicAtlanticSlateScotusblog, and Daily Beast. He is a frequent commentator about legal issues and has appeared on Face the NationCNNNBC Nightly NewsC-SPANNewshour, ABC NewsAll Things ConsideredMorning Edition, and Marketplace. He also served as co-editor of the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution (2d Edition).

The son of Academy Award-winning filmmaker Irwin Winkler, Adam was born and raised in Los Angeles. He is a graduate of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and New York University School of Law, which honored him with the Legal Teaching Award for outstanding alumni in legal academia. He also earned a master’s degree in political science (American Political Development) from UCLA under Professor Karen Orren. He clerked for David Thompson of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and practiced law at Katten Muchin in Los Angeles, where he was on a litigation team that represented the late Michael Jackson in a highly publicized child-molestation case. This was more than enough to convince him to return to the ivory tower.

Upcoming Appearances:

Saturday, April 21, 3:30 p.m.
Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

Monday, April 30, 12 p.m.
National Constitution Center
Independence Hall

Tuesday, May 15, 7:30 p.m.
San Francisco
The Battery


  • April 25: The Plight of Raid Badawi, The Blogger Jailed and Flogged by the Saudi Government with Brandon Silver, Director of Projects, Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (and a member of Badawi’s legal team)
  • May 2: The downside of Uber, Airbnb and the Sharing Economy with Prof. Katherine Reilly, Simon Fraser University
  • May 9: ADA Website Accessibility Compliance with Kathy Wahlbin, CEO & Founder Interactive Accessibility and Heather Antoine, Antoine Law Group
  • May 16: ICANN WhoIs and GDPR with Tyler Marandola Ballard Spahr


Upcoming Events


Jeffrey Greenbaum and I will be continuing our discussion on the FTC and Influencer Marketing in a Webinar for the California Lawyer’s Association IP Section.

Social Media Influencers and the FTC

Thursday, April 26, 2018, 12 noon – 1 p.m.

Presented by the Technology, Internet & Privacy Interest Group
1 hour participatory MCLE credit


The Federal Trade Commission is paying increased attention to social media influencer marketing. After a series of warnings, the FTC has begun enforcement actions against influencers and their advertisers. What do influencers need to do to avoid falling into the FTC’s crosshairs? Speakers: Jeffrey Greenbaum and Bennet Kelley.

In Memoriam

Barbara Bush (June 8, 1925 – April 17, 2018)

Former First Lady and First Mother

Carl Kassell (April 2, 1934 – April 17, 2018)

Host of NPR’s Morning Edition for its first thirty years

Harry Anderson (October 14, 1952 – April 16, 2018)

Judge Harry Stone on “Night Court”

On This Day and Shout Outs