Steven Hayward at Powerline does a nice job of summarizing the teapot tempest:
Robert F. “Little Bobby” Kennedy Jr is trying to backtrack from his latest foam-flecked calls for jailing climate skeptics. He’s taken the pages of EcoWatch.com (what—was Salon.com out of pixels that day?) to affect a denialist pose (heh) of his own previous very clear words:
Hysterics at the right wing think tanks and their acolytes at The Washington Times, talk radio and the blogosphere, are foaming in apoplexy because I supposedly suggested that “all climate deniers should be jailed.” . . . Of course I never said that. I support the First Amendment which makes room for any citizen to, even knowingly, spew far more vile lies without legal consequence.
Nice try. But Little Bobby essentially doubles down on stupid right away:
I do, however, believe that corporations which deliberately, purposefully, maliciously and systematically sponsor climate lies should be given the death penalty. This can be accomplished through an existing legal proceeding known as “charter revocation.” State Attorneys General can invoke this remedy whenever corporations put their profit-making before the “public welfare.”
Not content with delivering lethal injections to corporations, he thinks the idea should extend to non-profit advocacy organizations, too:
An attorney general with particularly potent glands could revoke the charters not just oil industry surrogates like AEI and CEI. . .
What was that about the First Amendment again, Little Bobby? Also, I wonder how Little Bobby would react if a state attorney general turned the same doctrine on his anti-vaccine advocacy, which has immediate real world consequences for children whose stupid parents follow his advice.
Turns out Little Bobby is skilled at backtracking, because he has to do it so much. Just Google “RFK Jr backtracking,” and sit back and enjoy the results....
Let's focus on Bobby's proposal to kill corporations via "charter revocation." First, in almost all states, there is no procedure called "charter revocation."
In Model Business Corporation Act states, there are three ways in which a charter may be nullified. First, voluntary dissolution approved by the shareholders and the board of directors, which is obviously not relevant here.
Second, there is a process of administrative dissolution, which may be carried out by the secretary of state--not Bobby's attorney general--but only for a very limited set of reasons none of which remotely relate to climate denial:
§ 14.20 Grounds for Administrative Dissolution. The secretary of state may commence a proceeding under section 14.21 to administratively dissolve a corporation if:
(1) the corporation does not pay within 60 days after they are due any franchise taxes or penalties imposed by this Act or other law;
(2) the corporation does not deliver its annual report to the secretary of state within 60 days after it is due;
(3) the corporation is without a registered agent or registered office in this state for 60 days or more;
(4) the corporation does not notify the secretary of state within 60 days that its registered agent or registered office has been changed, that its registered agent has resigned, or that its registered office has been discontinued; or
(5) the corporation’s period of duration stated in its articles of incorporation expires.
Do you see anything in there about forced dissolution of corporations that "put their profit-making before the 'public welfare.'" Nope? Me neither.
Finally, there is a process by which the state attorney general can request judicial dissolution of a corporation, but only on very limited grounds:
§ 14.30 Grounds for Judicial Dissolution
(a) The [name or describe court or courts] may dissolve a corporation:
(1) in a proceeding by the attorney general if it is established that:
(i) the corporation obtained its articles of incorporation through fraud; or
(ii) the corporation has continued to exceed or abuse the authority conferred upon it by law ....
The first prong is obviously irrelevant. So for Bobby's proposal to execute corporations to have any legal validity, you have to believe that climate denial constitutes "exceed[ing] or abus[ing] the authority conferred upon it by law."
Bobby apparently believes that exercising free speech rights constitutes such an abuse, but despite his "support" for the First Amendment (for which I suppose we should all be grateful), presumably his education omitted much of the law of free speech under the First Amendment. If corporations have free speech rights (as they do), after all, speaking on issues of public policy must be covered and protected by the First Amendment.
Bobby also apparently believes that "profit-making before the 'public welfare,'" whatever the heck that welfare may be (apparently he gets to define what constitutes such welfare), constitutes "exceed[ing] or abus[ing] the authority conferred upon it by law." Wrong again.
What is the authority conferred upon a corporation by law? Very simply, to make money within the bounds of law:
A business corporation is organized and carried on primarily for the profit of the stockholders. The powers of the directors are to be employed for that end. The discretion of directors is to be exercised in the choice of means to attain that end, and does not extend to a change in the end itself, to the reduction of profits, or to the nondistribution of profits among stockholders in order to devote them to other purposes. ...
As we have pointed out, [...] it is not within the lawful powers of a board of directors to shape and conduct the affairs of a corporation for the merely incidental benefit of shareholders and for the primary purpose of benefiting others, and no one will contend that, if the avowed purpose of the defendant directors was to sacrifice the interests of shareholders, it would not be the duty of the courts to interfere.
In other words, Bobby has it exactly backwards. It would be an effort by "directors was to sacrifice the interests of shareholders" that truly would constitute "exceed[ing] or abus[ing] the authority conferred upon it by law ...."
Look, I'm not a climate denialist. Climate change is happening, albeit to debatable extents, and human activity is relevant. But stupid arguments against climate denialists don't help. And, once again, Bobby has been very, very stupid.
Update: Bobby opines in his article that:
New York, for example, prescribes corporate death whenever a company fails to “serve the common good” and “to cause no harm.”
I have searched the relevant New York statute and case databases on Westlaw for those phrases, as well as the secondary literature, and came up with nothing relevant. So I call BS. I think he made it up or got it from somebody who made it up.