‘We the Corporations’ or ‘We the People?’

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http://www.heightsobserver.org/read/2016/09/30/we-the-corporations-or-we-the-people

On Sept. 14, State Representatives Kent Smith (District 8) and Nickie Antonio (District 13) announced their primary co-sponsorship in the Ohio House of Representatives of a resolution calling on “legislators at the state and federal level and other communities and jurisdictions to support an amendment to the United States Constitution that would abolish corporate personhood and the doctrine of money as speech.”

Also present at the Sept. 14 press announcement, held in South Euclid, were 30 Move to Amend supporters, and State Senator Michael Skindell (District 23) who introduced an identical resolution, SR 187, in the Ohio Senate in 2015. State Rep. Janine Boyd (District 9), who represents Cleveland Heights, University Heights and Shaker Heights, is one of 11 co-sponsors of the House resolution, which has not yet been assigned a number. The text of SR 187 is here: http://bit.ly/2d3ywoj.

Why this resolution, and why now?

Many Americans became aware that corporations claim the constitutional rights of actual persons—and that huge amounts of money, often from secret sources, rules our politics—only when the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision made it glaringly obvious. Since then, various constitutional amendments have been proposed to overturn Citizens United, but this is not enough.

Cleveland Heights resident Greg Coleridge of Ohio Move to Amend explained, “Simply reversing Citizens United, or even overturning the 1976 Supreme Court decision that first equated money with free speech rights, leaves in place other tools corporations have corrupted to assert their rights over those of actual people—namely the 4th, 5th and 14th Amendments and the Commerce Clause. Only by denying corporations legal personhood can We the People (re)gain the authentic right to decide what takes place in our communities, nation and world.”

Move to Amend’s “We the People” Amendment is the only proposed amendment that would end both constitutional rights for corporate entities (including unions) and the definition of money as “free speech.” It is gaining traction in local, state and national jurisdictions:

  • House Joint Resolution 48, introduced in the 114th U.S. Congress by Richard Nolan (Minn.), has attracted 22 co-sponsors from 15 states, including Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (Ohio District 9), who signed on after her constituents passed local resolutions and ballot initiatives. (https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-joint-resolution/48.)
  • Initiatives fundamentally identical to that passed in Cleveland Heights have been approved by voters in eight Ohio municipalities, including a 64 percent “yes” vote in Toledo in March 2016.
  • Registered voters have put initiatives on the November ballot in Shaker Heights (Issue 95), South Euclid (Issue 102) and Newark, Ohio.
  • A ballot initiative campaign is starting up in University Heights. (E-mail heightsdemocracy@gmail.com for information.)
  • Municipal councils in 12 Ohio communities have passed resolutions supporting the “We the People” Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
  • The Ohio Move to Amend network of grassroots activists is growing, with affiliates and partner groups in Athens, Brecksville, Chagrin Falls, Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, Columbus, Dayton, Fremont, Kent, Mentor, Oxford, Shaker Heights, South Euclid and Toledo.

SR 187 and the House companion resolution have been introduced in the 131st General Assembly due to the efforts of hundreds of Ohioans from around the state who spent thousands of hours promoting local resolutions and collecting the signatures of tens of thousands of registered voters to put the nonpartisan Move to Amend on their local ballots.

Whether the issue is charter schools, food safety, climate change, economics, trade, world peace or health care, corporations are using never-intended constitutional rights to control the outcomes. Passing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires a long view and hard work; it took 72 years for women to win the vote. Like women’s suffrage, Move to Amend poses a fundamental question: In a democratic republic, who rules?

Carla Rautenberg and Deborah Van Kleef

Carla Rautenberg is an activist and a lifelong Cleveland Heights resident. Deborah Van Kleef is a musician and writer, who grew up in Cleveland Heights and has lived here as an adult for over 30 years. Contact them at heightsdemocracy@gmail.com.

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