BRECKSVILLE “DEMOCRACY DAY” TESTIMONY
February 23, 2021
Greg Coleridge | Outreach Director, National Move to Amend Coalition
Happy Democracy Day!
Democracy is founded on the premise that the People are the source of all power.
‘We the People’ created corporations as tools to serve us, not themselves. As sovereigns we can regulate and restrict corporations as we see fit. The Supreme Court’s invention of constitutional rights for corporations has turned this fundamental principle on its head.
For the first century-plus of our history, corporations were strictly controlled and had no constitutional rights. Corporations couldn’t even exist unless state legislation—called charters—created them.
Statutes created corporations to give them the powers needed to conduct business for the peoples’ benefit. Logic dictates that corporations have only those rights granted them by statute. Statutes cannot create constitutional rights.
Corporations do not need constitutional rights to conduct business. Logically, an entity created to serve people should not have the same constitutional rights as those people it is supposed to serve.
Corporations aren’t mentioned in the Constitution. So the framers didn’t think they should have constitutional rights. But, starting with the 1819 Dartmouth case, the Supreme Court inserted corporations into the Constitution and progressively invented rights for corporations, anointing them with many of the same constitutional rights as natural persons like you and me.
Logic, history or law does not support the corporate constitutional rights doctrine created by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has never explained why artificial entities like corporations should have the same constitutional rights as natural persons when corporations do not need constitutional rights to do business and have special advantages that individual persons do not have, e.g. perpetual life and limited liability.
This court-invented constitutional doctrine has allowed corporations to abuse and harm the human beings they are supposed to serve. In addition to using their so-called free speech rights under the First Amendment to buy politicians, corporations have used other constitutional rights such as the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to undemocratically impose pollution, water contamination, environmental destruction, harm to workers and other assaults on unwilling local communities and individuals.
Increasingly, state legislatures and even municipal governments – such as Mayors and City Councils – have seen their police powers to protect the health, safety and welfare of their residents erode as corporate entities have successfully overturned locally passed ordinances on any number of consumer, economic, worker or environmental concerns by preemption or by going to court claiming that those laws “discriminate” under the 14th Amendment or are an infringement of trade under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.
Hundreds of such laws have been invalidated across the country over decades, creating a chilling effect on local officials since increasingly corporate rights trump local rights. Given this trend, one might reasonably ask why local governments should even exist if their only purpose may at some point be limited to determine stop sign placements, floral arrangements in planters on main street or the date of next summer’s apple festival. Decisions of real importance are increasingly hijacked. Increasing corporate constitutional rights decreases the need and taxpayer expense for mayors, councilpersons and local governments everywhere – including in Brecksville. The authority of local public officials – not to mention we the People in general — are under fundamental assault.
This is why passage of a 28th Constitutional Amendment, the We the People Amendment (HJR 48), is so important, which will end all never-intended, inalienable constitutional rights for corporate entities (corporate personhood) and the equally bizarre constitutional doctrine that political money in elections is equal to free speech —both doctrines of which were expanded in the 2010 Citizens United decision
We wouldn’t be here this evening if not for the tireless efforts of Brecksville residents to place the issue of ending big money in politics and corporate rule on the ballot in 2012 and to create this annual public hearing — as well as for Brecksville voters to pass this initiative – one of 705 communities across the country that have take a stand.
Thank you Brecksville citizens for being part of this growing transparitsan democracy movement.