The social movement in Ohio and across the nation to enact a constitutional amendment declaringthat only human beings possess inalienable constitutional rights and that political money is not free speech continues to grows on the 4thanniversary ofthe Citizens United vs Federal Elections Commission Supreme Court decision.
The controversial 5-4 decision on January 21, 2010 permitted corporate entities to direct unlimited sums of money from their general treasuries to make “independent expenditures” for electioneering communication or for speech advocating the election or defeat of a candidate. The decision expanded the concept that corporate entities possess constitutionally protected “free speech.”
The decision sparked mass education and organizing across the nation, including the launch of Move to Amend – a national coalition of organizations focused on not simply reversing Citizens United, but abolishing all never-intended constitutional rights of corporations dating back more than a century as well as reversing the 1976 Buckley vs Valeo constitutional decision equating money as freespeech.
Citizens United resulted in the creation of “Super PACs” and other secretive “dark money” legal entities where hundreds of millions of dollars were deposited by corporate entities and wealthy individuals to evade detection. “Independent” expenditures increased 426% from the 2008-2012 elections ($202.8 million in 2008 to $1.067 billion in 2012). These funds were used mainly to flood the airwaves with attack ads, drowning out the political voices of those without money and added to the negativity and cynicism of our political system.
More money in the political system from corporations and wealthy individuals has not yielded more democracy. The disconnect between what policies citizens want on issue after issue and what policies elected officials enact has widened. Fearful that they will be thetargets of attack ads, elected officials increasingly cater to the interests of corporations and super wealthy political contributors.
Reversing Citizens United, however, is by itself insufficient. The political influence of corporate entities and wealthy individuals via lobbying and political contributions through conventional Political Action Committees was enormous prior to the decision. Massive taxbreaks for the wealthy, bailouts of financial corporations which caused theGreat Recession, health care reforms favorable to health insurance corporations and minor fines against corporations responsible for the Gulf oil spill are but a few examples. There was no democratic nirvana prior to Citizens United.
The Move to Amend proposed constitutional amendment goes beyond Citizens United and even elections as sources of power and authority of corporations and the wealthy few. Move to Amend seeks an end to all inalienable constitutional rights, the exercise of which has for more than a century perverted citizens’ self governance.
- 4th Amendment Search and Seizure rights. Corporations have used these rights to avoid subpoenas for unlawful trade and price fixing, and to prevent citizens, communities and regulatory agencies from stopping corporate pollution and other assaults on people or the commons.
- 5th Amendment Takings, Double Jeopardy and Due Process corporate rights. Corporations must be compensated for property value lost (e.g. future profits) when regulations are established to protect homeowners or communities. Corporations cannot be retried after a judgment of acquittal in court. The granting of property to a corporation by a public official cannot be unilaterally revoked by a subsequent public official or Act of Congress.
- 14th Amendment Due Process and Equal Protection corporate rights. These rights, originally enacted to free slaves from oppression, were gradually extended to corporations by the courts. Corporations have used these rights to build chain stores and erect cell towers against the will of communities; oppose tax and other public policies favoring local businesses over multinational corporations; and resist democratic efforts to prevent corporate mergers and revoke corporate charters through citizen initiatives.
- Commerce Clause-related corporate rights. Corporations have used this section of the Constitution (Art 1, Sec 8), for example, to ship toxic waste from one state to another over the “health, safety, and welfare” objections of communities – claiming the waste isn’t actually “waste” but “commerce.”
There are 16 Move to Amend partner or affiliate groups in Ohio, coordinated by the Move to AmendOhio Network. Many of these groups have passed resolutions or citizen initiatives calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment. Communities that have passed resolutions include Athens, Oberlin, Fremont, Akron and Barberton. Communities that have passed citizen initiatives include Brecksville, Newburgh Heights, Defiance and Cleveland Heights. Newark, Mentor, Lakewood and Toledo are organizing for ballot initiatives in 2014. Other communities are considering initiatives or resolutions this year.
More than 500 communities nationally have passed either resolutions or ballot initiatives.