Want Real Democracy? Abolish Corporate Personhood.

by Greg Coleridge
OHIO NOW TIMES
Published Yearly by Ohio National Organization for Women
FALL 2010 ISSUE / Editor: Diane Dodge

Disenchantment of public officials spans the political spectrum. More people are frustrated that public officials, from their city councilperson to the President of the United States, don’t do what they promise and don’t represent them. If this is true, then who do public officials represent? The very wealthy? Absolutely. But also business corporations.

Corporations were created historically by the government via a license or charter to provide goods or services. As a creation of the state, they had no rights, only privileges. The State can revoke a corporate charter if it doesn’t follow its terms. They were not equal to persons, but subordinate to them. They were not supposed to rule people. But, that’s not how it is.

For the last 124 years, corporations have possessed constitutional rights that have empowered them to rule.

The US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 earlier this year to expand first amendment constitutional rights to business corporations. The Court decided in Citizens United vs Federal Elections Commission that business corporations didn’t possess sufficient political influence, that the political “voices” of corporations weren’t loud enough and that corporations need to have greater political power. Citizens United permits business corporations to take money directly from their treasuries and spend it on “independent” political educational campaigns to elect or unelect candidates.

Corporations are not human and possess no human traits. They have no inalienable rights. They shouldn’t have constitutional rights.

The bizarre notion that corporations, nothing more than a pile of legal documents, should possess the same constitutional rights, including the Bill of Rights protections, as people began in 1886 in Santa Clara vs. Southern Pacific Railroad when corporations were bestowed with 14th amendment equal protection rights.

This was the same constitutional amendment passed in 1868 to provide freed black slaves constitutional rights. Curiously, in 1874 when women argued before the Supreme Court in Minor v. Happersett that their right to vote could not be denied based on the 14th amendment, the Court rejected the argument stating the amendment only applied to black males.

“We the People” are supposed to be free, or sovereign. We’re supposed to be in control of the government. Governments are not supposed to do anything without the people’s consent. As corporations have gained the legal status of persons, they’ve accumulated rights and become rulers. They increasingly tell the government and We the People what to do.

It wasn’t meant to be this way. A national and state movement has been launched to amend the constitution and abolish corporate personhood. MovetoAmend.org has collected over 80,000 signatures of people who are ready to join the modern day movement for self-governance by We the People.

What could change if corporate personhood was abolished? The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILFP) in a flyer “What Would it Mean to End Corporate Rule” lists: 1) Prohibit all political activity by corporations 2) Prevent corporate mergers and prohibit corporations from owning stock in other corporations 3) Inspect for environmental or health violations without a warrant or prior notice. 4) Revoke corporate charters by popular referendum. 5) Prohibit the erection of cell phone towers and chain stores from doing business in your town, county, and state. 6) Require labeling of genetically modified foods.

Constitutional amendments aren’t easy. Ohio women throughout history know this. Women were pivotal in the abolitionist movement in helping runaway slaves escape to Canadian freedom through the more than 700 safe houses and “depots” across the state – thus paving the way for the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. The National Women’s Christian Temperance Union, founded in Cleveland in November 1874, eventually led to the 18th amendment prohibition of alcohol. The second National Women’s Rights convention in Akron in 1851 helped pave the way for the 19th amendment and the right for women to vote.

Corporate Personhood is a disaster for democracy, people, communities and the planet as it has relegated human beings to subordinate status to the power and rights of corporations. We the People have not only the right but duty to abolish Corporate Personhood.

For information on or to become involved in the Ohio Move to Amend effort, email gcoleridge@afsc.org

Citizens United comes to Ohio

Thanks to the 5 members of the appointed for life US Supreme Court who voted for the Citizens United case back in January, we now have this…

Shackles taken off corporate political donations in Ohio
Spending on ‘express advocacy’ now is unfettered; direct giving not OK
Thursday, September 16, 2010 02:54 AM
By Darrel Rowland
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
http://www.dispatchpolitics.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2010/09/16/copy/shackles-off-political-donations.html?adsec=politics&sid=101

Unlimited corporate cash can now flow freely in Ohio political campaigns because of a federal court agreement yesterday.

“This is a game-changer for Ohio,” said Mike Gonidakis, executive director of the Ohio Right to Life Society, which brought the lawsuit against a state ban on corporate involvement in the elections process.

“Prior to (yesterday’s ruling), we couldn’t use the resources we had at our disposal,” he said. “Now, it allows us to hopefully impact the election this fall.”

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said “it’s turning into the Wild West out there” because of legislative inaction to regulate corporate cash in politics.

A consent decree signed by U.S. District Judge George C. Smith allows corporations to engage in “express advocacy” for or against a candidate, as long as it’s independent of the candidate’s campaign. Direct contributions to a candidate or party are still not allowed.

Yesterday’s agreement specifically brings Ohio races under the umbrella of the Citizens United case decided by a 5-4 vote of the U.S. Supreme Court in January. The high court declared that a federal ban on corporate spending violated the First Amendment.

The Ohio Elections Commission and secretary of state, who were defendants in the lawsuit, were part of yesterday’s agreement.

Brunner said the state law became unenforceable after the Supreme Court decision. Shortly after the ruling, she proposed changes to assure transparency and accountability, but they’ve been ignored.

Ohio’s ban on corporate cash, enacted more than a century ago, was designed “to prevent the corruption of elections and political parties by corporations.”

The elections commission agreed this month that independent corporate involvement in partisan politics could no longer be regarded as an elections-law violation in Ohio. The commission asked that corporations voluntarily disclose their campaign contributions, but there is no legal requirement.

“Such a filing would manifest the foundation of Ohio’s campaign-finance laws: public disclosure,” the commission said.

Philip Richter, executive director of the commission, said he’s not sure that dire predictions of corporate influence on elections will come true.

“I just don’t see it being this massive infusion of cash from corporations,” he said.

Ned Foley, former state solicitor and current director of the election law center at Ohio State University’s law school, also was skeptical.

“Whether that is a ‘game-changer’ depends on whether Citizens United is itself a ‘game-changer,'” he said. “It is certainly possible that it is, at least in the specific sense that it now permits corporations and labor unions to do what they couldn’t do before. On the other hand, whether as a practical matter it radically affects the dynamics of the campaign itself, that’s more open to question.”

But Gonidakis said there’s even more at stake; the Ohio statute contained a clause that if any of the law was deemed unconstitutional, all of it would be automatically repealed. That means provisions involving candidate disclosure and other key issues could now be off the books.

He said the federal court is scheduled to take up that matter in a few days.

While Right to Life has endorsed some Democrats in legislative races, it is backing a straight Republican ticket in statewide contests.

Dispatch reporter Mark Niquette contributed to this story.

drowland@dispatch.com

“One Nation” Organizers Should Remember Coxey’s Army

http://www.opednews.com/articles/2/One-Nation-March-Organiz-by-Greg-Coleridge-100906-651.html

Organizers and participants in the October 2 national ‘One Nation Coming Together’ jobs march are hoping for a historic turnout of participants demanding good jobs and other basic domestic needs.

The planned Washington DC rally and march couldn’t be timelier with 15 million people in the US officially unemployed and another 11 million who’ve stopped looking for work. Millions of others are underemployed. The resulting collective losses of homes, heath and hope have been devastating.

The financial implosion of 2008 worsened but didn’t spark the massive jobs losses. Free trade, tax and corporate policies were earlier factors encouraging the movement of companies abroad and the diversion of investments from real goods and services to “financial products.”

It’s a bit unclear what the labor unions like SEIU and AFL-CIO and community groups such as the NAACP who comprise the main organizers of the “One Nation” event are calling for to remedy the jobs crisis.

The Obama administration’s earlier economic stimulus wasn’t large enough and didn’t focus enough on hiring people. It also added to the debt and deficit.

This has led to charges by some that the event may be a front for the Democratic Party, which is scrambling to energize their base just before the mid-term elections.

A national massive public works program is urgently needed. Rather than robbing Peter to pay Paul by shifting funds from housing or transportation to pay for jobs, some of the more recent peace and anti-war co-sponsors of the event who comprise what’s called the “Peace Table” are calling for shifting funds from the bloated and archaic military/war budget. Ending tax breaks to the super rich would produce funds as well.

Connecting jobs to budget and tax policies makes good sense. Yet it ignores a giant arena that most people, including activists, never pay attention to — monetary policies, specifically government issued money to meet societal needs.

The first DC “jobs march” was led by Jacob Coxey in 1894. It was no simple stroll from one national monument to another one on the mall in DC but rather a long-distance trek from Coxey’s hometown, Massillon Ohio, to the nation’s capital in the month of March – not the best time of the year to weather the weather. Five hundred people participated in the march, what Coxey called a “petition in boots.” Inspired by “Coxey’s Army,” others marched to DC from other communities.

What made the march unique was not simply the long-distance or the numbers or the call for federal intervention – but the marcher’s primary demand. Coxey and his Army demanded that the government directly issue $500 million to employ 4 million people.

Not borrow $500 million from bankers — which has to be paid back with interest and enriching bankers in the process.

Not move $500 million from one part of the federal budget to another — robbing Peter to pay Paul.

But, rather, print $500 million in government money.

Coxey’s Army members were “Greenbackers” – advocates for re-establishing the policy of the Lincoln administration that financed the Civil War with $400 million of government issued money.

Coxey’s Army proposed two bills. The “Good Roads Bill” would help farmers through $500 million issued by the federal government in legal tender notes, or Greenbacks, to construct rural roads. The “Noninterest-Bearing Bonds Bill” would empower state and local governments to issue noninterest-bearing bonds to be used to borrow legal tender notes from the federal treasury. This money would be used for urban public projects such as building libraries, schools, utility plants and marketplaces.

Coxey’s Army understood money and monetary policy far better than most of us today. Monetary history and experiences have been obliterated from our textbooks and activist cultures for many decades.

Greenbackers were not confused by the many monetary falsehoods used to justify and perpetuate the corporate domination of money creation and circulation in our society today, namely that:
1. Money must be based on gold or some other “precious” commodity
2. Banks and bankers, not governments, can be trusted to control the money system.

The Greenback experience of Lincoln was still known to Coxey and his pro-jobs cohorts.

“Money exists,” as Aristotle said, “not by nature but by law.” What gives money value and credibility is it’s anointment by society – be it a piece of wood, metal, or paper. We the People should have the ultimate power to issue and circulate money, not banks or bankers. The issuance of money should be democratized.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works in the US. Money is privatized/corporatized. The private and misnamed Federal Reserve System and banks issue more than 95% of all money in our nation as credit or debt when loans, be they personal or federal, are issued. Money is created literally “out of thin air” by banks and bankers for their own interest – regardless of the needs of society. In fact, banks can loan out $10 for every $1 they actually have “in reserve.”

The starkest example of this was President Obama recently asking, if not pleading, with banks and bankers to provide more loans to help small businesses. Who exactly is in charge of our monetary policies?

The Great Depression was largely caused by the financial ruling class, encouraged by the private Federal Reserve System, making funds available for financial speculation in stocks instead of homes and business expansion. Once the stock market crashed, the same financial ruling class shut off the financial spigot, delaying recovery for years. The financiers have followed the same pattern during the current Great Recession – investing not in real goods and services but highly speculative hedge funds, derivatives and other bizarre financial “instruments.”

With corporate American and the Fed AWOL on the fiscal and monetary fronts, FDR got it right during the Depression to get America working by creating many government programs. He got it wrong, though, by going into debt to do it. He could have issued government money. There would have been no debt and no increased financial (and political) power of banks and bankers. History shows that when government issues funds to pay for vital economic and social needs, there’s little inflation.

Shifting federal budget and tax priorities away from the military and wealthy toward jobs and socio-economic needs of society are, indeed, part of what “One Nation” marchers should advocate both on October 2 and beyond. But their agenda is incomplete if shifting our monetary policies from the corporatization to the democratization of money creation and circulation is not included.

The “American Monetary Act,” proposed by the American Monetary Institute (AMI, http://www.monetary.org), calls for a three-step plan for just this democratization of money. It includes:
1. Moving the Federal Reserve under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Treasury.
2. Eliminating the 10:1 “fractional reserve system” of banks.
3. Issuing government money and spending it on vital social and economic needs.

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that $2.2 trillion is needed to address the nation’s physical infrastructure needs. Spending government money on physical and human needs would both improve the nation’s infrastructure and hire people without adding to the debt or deficit or increasing inflation (as opposed to spending money on not needed socio-economic needs like military warfare and economic casino speculation).

“When society loses control over its money system it loses whatever control it might have had over its destiny,” says AMI Director Stephen Zarlenga.

The US Green Party National Committee recently adopted a Monetary Plank in their 2010 Platform that would “green the dollar” as called for by the AMI.

Democratizing money. Greening money. Whatever the name, the most important feature is to shift money creation from corporations (banks) to We the People.

This should be included in the “One Nation Working Together” demands.

It would be consistent with the demand of the first Coxey Army national jobs march.

It would be a vital step to not only increasing jobs but also increasing self-governance.

It’s a mandatory step to controlling our own destiny.

Commemorate Constitution Day • Friday, September 17

Celebrate We the People • Condemn We the Corporations • Connect to Move to Amend

The US Constitution says “We the People,” not “We the Corporations.” Nowhere in the Constitution are corporations even mentioned let alone protected and anointed with human rights to do virtually what they want, where they want, whenever they want politically, economically, socially or environmentally.

Constitution Day, September 17, is a terrific opportunity to take this message to your school, your neighborhood, city or town, or your elected officials. Start now to do something: educate, advocate or organize on that date to say and proclaim that constitutional rights belong to human beings, not corporations.

Action suggestions at
https://app.e2ma.net/app/view:CampaignPublic/id:29568.6777068368/rid:a46bff2acee6bf46bec5b4f6f06c219e

March of the Monahan Brothers through Ohio

PROGRAM SCHEDULE

Cincinnati
Monday, September 13
6:30 to 8 p.m.
First Unitarian Church
536 Linton St. at Reading Road
Cincinnati, Ohio 45219
Contact: Dick Bozian 513-521-2391, rcbozian@hotmail.com

Chillicothe
Thursday, September 16
7:30 PM
Old Vanmeter Church Street House
178 Church Street
Contact: Kezia Sproat 740-774-3510, keziabvs@gmail.com

Columbus
Sunday, September 19
7:00 PM
First Unitarian Universalist Church
93 West Weisheimer Road
Monday, September 20
Noon
Action at Statehouse (tentative)
Contact: Karen Hansen 614-280-3631, KLH.Ohio@gmail.com

Athens
Friday, September 24
6:30 PM
First Christian Church
24 West State Street
Contact: John Howell, 740-592-5789, howell@frognet.net

For more information on the Monahan Brothers and their coast-to-coast march calling for the abolition of corporate constitutional rights, go to http://movetoamend.org/march-of-the-monahan-brothers