Rights & Democracy (RAD) and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) host a community forum with guest speaker Greg Coleridge, Outreach Director of the Move to Amend campaign.
Testimony of Greg Coleridge
Democracy Day Public Hearing, January 17, 2019, Cleveland Heights City Hall
Think of the U.S. Constitution as a box. It symbolizes our democratic space, rights and responsibilities, and limits. It’s a space that allows our public officials and citizens to determine the kind of society – politically, economically, environmentally, socially – that we want. Its size has expanded with each of the 27 Constitutional Amendments, as were passed following democratic people’s movements. The box has also enlarged due to various interpretations of the Constitution by the Supreme Court.
But other Supreme Court interpretations have vastly decreased that democratic space – the box that we call our democracy. Many of those interpretations involved activist Supreme Court decisions that granted corporations with never-intended unalienable constitutional rights – rights that trumped people’s rights. Following each decision by the court, our democratic space contracted – the box became smaller.
1819 – Corporate perversion of the Contract Clause
Dartmouth College v. Woodward. A corporate charter is ruled to be a contract and can’t be altered by government. States had less flexibility to use corporate charters as tools to define corporate actions.
1875 – Corporate perversion of the Commerce Clause
Welton v. State of Missouri, 91 U.S. 275. The Supreme Court begins a century long effort to frame every corporations action as a form of “interstate commerce” – which overrules the police power of cities and states to uphold their duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their communities.
1886 – Corporate perversion of the 14th Amendment
Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad
Corporations are in effect granted equal protection rights under the 14th Amendment.
Louis K. Liggett Co. v. Lee (288 U.S. 517, 1933)
Florida voter passed a law that levied higher taxes on chain stores than on locally owned stores. The Supreme Court overturned the law citing the due process and equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and the Interstate Commerce clause.
1906 – Corporate perversion of the 4th Amendment
Hale v. Henkel – Corporations get 4th Amendment “search and seizure” protection. The public no longer has the ability to publicly inspect corporate books and records to ensure accountability.
A 1978 decision prohibited OSHA inspectors from doing surprise inspections.
1922 – Corporate perversion of the 5th Amendment
Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon A regulation is deemed a taking. A corporation subject to certain regulations has to be compensated for lost future profits.
1974 – Corporate perversion of the 1st Amendment –
Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo, 418 U.S. 241 – Corporations granted the right NOT to speak
They don’t have to reveal information, even if that information is important for public safety (i.e. toxins in food).
1980 – Corporate perversion of the 1st Amendment – Commercial speech
Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp., v. Public Utilities Comm’n, 447 U.S. 557
Corporate “commercial speech” rights (to increase profits_ preempted the state’s right to protect the welfare of its residents.
1976 – Money equals free speech
Buckley v Valeo. Political money in elections is a form of constitutionally protected First Amendment “free speech.”
1978 – Corporate perversion of the 1st Amendment – political free speech
First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765. U.S. constitutional law case defines the free speech right of corporations for the first time – the right to spend on issue campaigns.
2010 – Citizens United vs FEC
The ability to influence elections via money from wealthy individuals and corporations is expanded.
Our democratic “box” or space isn’t very large. So many people believe that what’s needed is simply to reverse Citizens United, end corporate political free speech and/or end “money is speech.” As you can see, however, our democratic space or box wasn’t nearly as large as it once was and needs to be before these Supreme Court rulings were made. It’s not enough to get big money out of elections before reversing the fact that our ability to self-rule has been inhibited by numerous court decisions.
That’s why Move to Amend calls for not only ending the constitutional doctrine that “political money is equivalent to 1st Amendment-protected “free speech,” but also calls for ending ALL forms of never -intended and at one time never-existing constitutional rights. Only a 28th Amendment that does both will enable government by We the People.
Presentation in Iowa City, Iowa, December 2, 2018
Conducted in Des Moines, Iowa on December 6.
Letter to the editor: September 8, Akron Beacon Journal
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman has said that Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh “interprets the law and the Constitution based on their words and original meaning and doesn’t try to influence public policy by imposing his own point of view.” This falls in line with Kavanaugh’s self-assessment that he’s simply an umpire who follows the letter of the law and Constitution.
If actually true, that’s terrific news for the increasing number of people in our country who’ve been victimized by corporations that have been shielded by never-intended constitutional rights — what some call “corporate personhood.”
The Constitution doesn’t mention corporations. That hasn’t prevented activist Supreme Courts for more than a century from overturning hundreds of local, state and federal laws protecting workers, consumers, residents and communities, as well as the environment, based on the illegitimate premise that corporations should have inalienable constitutional rights that were intended solely for human beings.
No public official ever voted to create or expand constitutional corporate personhood. No social movement ever organized for more corporate constitutional rights vested with the authority to preempt democratically enacted laws. It has only been unaccountable and extremist judges who’ve expanded corporate rights, leading to reduced human rights.
Since more corporate-related cases will come before the high court in the future, knowing nominees’ views on corporate personhood is legitimate.
As the original Constitution affirms no rights to corporations, “umpire” Kavanaugh should be crystal clear that he believes that the Bill of Rights, 14th Amendment and other constitutional protections should apply only to human beings. If he cannot, he should be opposed.
Outreach director, Move to Amend Coalition
I had the opportunity to participate on the panel on “Why We Need to Democratize the U.S. Constitution” at the recent Move to Amend national Leadership Summit in Washington, DC.
The fascination of the 29 million people in the United States who watched the British Royal Wedding over the weekend transcended the pageantry of the event and star power of the celebrity guests. In part, the interest was also due to trying to understand the current role of the monarchy in British society.
British Kings and Queens no longer possess unlimited authority. Dictating and defining virtually every action within the far-reaching British Empire is history — British royalty today are mere figureheads, soap opera-like curiosities to many to distract attention from the day-to-day problems of life.
While people in the US are no longer “subjects” to British Kings and Queens following the colonial revolution, it would be a mistake to conclude We the People have authentically assumed ultimate or “sovereign” power to self-rule.
It’s never been true and much less true today as corporations, which at one time possessed only those powers and privileges granted by We the People through corporate charters, have fought in the courts to win constitutional rights.
Corporations increasingly act like monarchs.
These never-intended rights have allowed corporations to capture our government and elected officials. The continual and far-reaching wedding of corporations and politicians takes many forms — most of which don’t make television and aren’t of the feel-good, Camelot variety. Their nuptial offspring have been laws that harm people, communities and the planet — adversely affecting health care, education, jobs, housing, trade, budgets, food, transportation, energy, the environment, taxes, finance, and more.
If We the People are to be real rulers, then we have to end corporate rule.
Move to Amend is the only organization that not only takes on the undemocratic, unjust and unsustainable role of corporate personhood, we do something about it — specifically working for a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate constitutional rights.
That’s what our We the People Amendment with its 56 co-sponsors in the House of Represenatives, and hundreds of nationwide resolutions and ballot initiatives, and hundreds of other organizational endorsements are all about.
We seek to end corporate monarchy.
To be legitimately politically independent beyond the reach of corporations, government or big foundations, Move to Amend must be economically independent. We must rely for the vast majority of our funding from people like you — dedicated to ending corporate rule and creating authentic democracy.
Support Move to Amend. We are still $80,000 short, and we need everyone to pitch in — now! Even better than a one time donation is a pledge to invest in the movement to amend by making your donation monthly.
Royal weddings may be fascinating. But it will take many more than the 100,000 people in the streets who gawked at the royal union to royally volunteer your time, energy and resources to divorce corporations from government and governance.
That’s a disunion worth not only watching, but being a part of! Join us!
Outreach Director, Move to Amend