Cleveland Democracy Day Public Hearing Testimony

May 8, 2023

Question: What do the following realities have in common: protecting worker safety, outlawing loan sharking, preventing workplace discrimination, stopping pollution, controlling political corruption, ending fracking, regulating guns, raising the minimum wage, shutting down puppy mills, and even banning the use of plastic bags?

The answer is, of course, preemption. Preempting, usurping or, dare I say, trumping local laws passed by county or municipal councils, like Cleveland City Council, is becoming ever more rampant by state legislatures and federal courts.

What does this have to do with Move to Amend’s We the People Amendment? The Amendment calls for abolishing the twin bizarre constitutional doctrines that “money spent in elections is free speech” and “a corporation is a person.” 

Money as speech has meant that the super rich and corporations that haven’t been successful at stopping the local laws mentioning above – passed by elected local public officials who take an oath to protect the health, safety and welfare – can shift their focus to the state level where they invest money in the form of lobbying or political campaign contributions to corrupt state legislatures to overrule local democracy. It’s legalized bribery to be sure – thanks to political money defined as free speech.

About 500 such preemption laws are moving through state legislatures across the country now – with practically no public notice.

Meanwhile, corporate constitutional rights have allowed corporations to hijack Constitutional Amendments to claim, for example, that 4th Amendment search and seizure rights, 5th Amendment due process and takings rights and 14th Amendment equal protection rights – originally intended to apply solely to human beings – apply to corporate entities. Thus, local laws calling for public inspections, targeting certain businesses or protecting the environment violate a corporation’s privacy, are discriminatory or unfair – and are thrown out in federal court. 

Hundreds of such laws – with a focus of protecting workers, their workplaces and expanding economic justice  over the past century – have been overturned on the grounds of violating corporate constitutional rights.

We can overturn the Citizen United Supreme Court decision and the constitutional doctrine of “money equals speech” tomorrow, but corporate preemption in the courts would still exist. That’s why we must abolish ALL corporate constitutional rights. That’s what the We the People Amendment accomplishes.

We must remember that corporations have no inherent constitutional rights. Corporate entities are creations of the state. They only exist because they receive a charter, or license, from the state to do business. The charter was intended as a democratic instrument – to ensure that a business promoted the common good when providing a good or service. The charter bestowed upon them only privileges, not rights. When a corporate entity failed in their mission or unilaterally acted beyond their charter, the charter was often revoked by either the state legislature or state supreme court – just as a license issued to an individual professional person is revoked with the individual unable to conduct business if they failed to uphold the terms of their license.

In a 1900 ruling to dissolve a dairy company, the Ohio Supreme Court said,

The time has not yet arrived when the created is greater than the creator, and it still remains the duty of the courts to perform their office in the enforcement of the laws, no matter how ingenious the pretexts for their violation may be, nor the power of the violators in the commercial world.

This is the mindset and actions of self-governing democratic people – not to ask, pray, plead or negotiate with their legal creations – but rather to define, to authorize, to instruct. That’s what the We the People Amendment will, in part, accomplish. 

To achieve real democracy – for the very first time. 

Thank you.

Greg Coleridge (he/him)
National Co-Director, Move to Amend Coalition

The Corporate Weaponization of Government

“Abolishing corporate constitutional rights,” writes Coleridge, “shifts back from the judicial to the legislative arena the public ability to define corporate actions to ensure that the health, safety, and welfare of people, communities and the natural world are prioritized.” (Photo: Sean Gladwell / iStock via Getty Images)

Abolishing all corporate constitutional rights by enacting the We the People Amendment (HJR48), soon to be introduced again by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, is the only strategy to make corporations authentically democratically accountable.


Feb 15, 2023 Common Dreams

A subcommittee of the full House Judiciary Committee held a hearing last week on the “Weaponization of the Federal Government.” Two panels discussed the “politicization of the FBI and DOJ and attacks on American civil liberties.” It rehashed old grievances about how Trump and others were treated by the two agencies over the last few years.

If exposing and ending “weaponization of the government” is the target, then the Judiciary Committee should take aim at the single biggest culprit: corporations. This investigation would be enlightening since the corporate “weaponization” or hijacking of the government has been so blatant, widespread and persistent for more than a century.

Most corporations in the U.S. were originally chartered or licenced at the state level by legislatures one-at-a-time. Corporate charters stipulated specific conditions to ensure that corporations served the common good. Charters were routinely revoked when corporations acted “ultra vires,” that is. beyond their defined authority. None of those conditions included bestowing inherent rights to corporations to dominate virtually every aspect of society and government as they do today.

Corporations have amassed enormous political and economic power by escaping state legislative authority and public accountability by “weaponizing” four sectors of government.

1. Corporations “weaponize” states against one another.

Corporate agents moved corporate charters from states that limited corporate independence to states with corporate friendly laws, thanks to the corruption of state legislators. Originally that was New Jersey. Today it’s Delaware, where over 60 percent of Fortune 500 firms are incorporated.

2. Corporations “weaponize” legislatures.

Corporate agents sought federal laws to preempt state laws and state laws to preempt local laws limiting corporate powers. The federal Sherman Antitrust Act, for example, was a tepid federal response to strong laws enacted in over 20 states to prevent corporate monopolies and, in some cases, calls for public ownership. The pro-corporate Senator John Sherman warned that Congress “must heed [the public’s] appeal or be ready for the socialist, the communist, and the nihilist.” Sherman is still used to preempt state laws. Meanwhile, local laws protecting residents from gunsfrackingminimum wage and many other local concerns passed by municipal councils have been preempted by state laws.

3. Corporations “weaponize” regulatory agencies.

Corporations supported the creation of “regulatory agencies” as many states sought public ownership over several types of companies – including utilities and transportation. These agencies regulated vs prohibited harms and insulated companies from direct legislative oversight and public pressure and mobilization. Moreover, companies advocate for the appointment by executives (i.e. Presidents and Governors) of corporate-friendly regulators.

4. Corporations “weaponize” the courts.

The ultimate escape of public control over corporations was granting “constitutional rights” to corporations. Though there’s no mention of corporate entities in the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court proclaimed over the course of a century that a corporation is a person with First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment protections – rights that go well beyond corporate First Amendment free speech “rights” to contribute money in elections. This makes public accountability impossible over corporate entities. Corporate constitutional rights are the impenetrable shield against efforts to assert human rights and the right to a livable world over never-intended “corporate rights.”

Abolishing all corporate constitutional rights by enacting the We the People Amendment (HJR48), soon to be introduced again by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, is the only strategy to make corporations authentically democratically accountable.

This requires building a people’s movement. Abolishing corporate constitutional rights shifts back from the judicial to the legislative arena the public ability to define corporate actions to ensure that the health, safety and welfare of people, communities and the natural world are prioritized. Ending all the other ways corporations have “weaponized government” to consolidate political and economic power becomes much easier once corporations are disarmed of all constitutional rights.

If Congress isn’t going to expose the corporate “weaponization of government,” then it’s up to us to not only do so, but to end it.


Greg Coleridge is Co-Director of Move to Amend and former Director of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee.

Full Bio >

Reality Check

Reality check
Greg Coleridge

Our movement to abolish “corporate personhood” and “money as free speech” is difficult
Often frustrating
And frequently feels like we’re not making progress
Deemed as not relevant
Not immediate
Not urgent
Not newsworthy
Not to mention downright impossible

But take a moment
And a breath
Step back
Have perspective
Listen to your conscience
Put in context
Face reality

Our current problems, actually crises
As communities
As a nation
As a species
Become wider and deeper every day
With the pace speeding up like circling water as it nears the mouth of a drain
If we have the courage to truly acknowledge the signs that are all around us


Interconnected problems and crises that make us realize that
Electing better representatives, while important, isn’t enough
Passing better laws, while important, isn’t enough
Enacting better regulations, while important, isn’t enough

Afterall, elected representatives today can be unelected tomorrow
Passed laws today can be reversed tomorrow
Enacted regulations today can be unenacted tomorrow

Our responses must fully answer the questions
Our solutions must be in proportion to our crises, and
Our commitment to change must equal the scale of the energy of those creating injustice and reducing our power

What we envision must be part of the Constitution, where it becomes

Beyond the ability to easily change by simply
Removing good public officials
Reversing laws
Unenacting regulations

Our Eye on the Prize, despite all the barriers, must be constitutional change, after all history shows
What initially seems impossible becomes inevitable.
What once was a ceiling of possibility eventually becomes the floor of reality
What we can only now imagine becomes the obvious concrete step forward

If true, then answer this:
How many systematically altering ideas have been converted into actual policy proposals?
Have been introduced as legislation in Congress as an amendment to the United States Constitution?
Have attracted nearly 100 Congressional cosponsors?
Have over 700 national organizational endorsers?
Have over 700 communities (including 9 states) that have passed endorsing municipal resolutions and ballot initiatives?
Have nearly 500,000 individual supporters?
Have a skilled staff and board dedicated to movement building, diversity and inclusion?
Have a collectively/democratically run national organization with local groups and advocates that are politically and economically independent from the pressures by the power structure (government, political parties, big foundations, corporations, a handful of super rich individuals) to moderate, temper or water down what is ultimately needed?

The answer
Exactly. Precisely. None.

What Move to Amend is doing – you and us together – is Incredibly rare throughout history

We’re calling not to reform, but to transform our relationship between people and the institutions we’ve created
To make government accountable to us
To make all corporate entities subservient to us
To ensure that the ultimate right to decide is empowered to us

But it’s also fragile because of all the interrelated problems and crises
All the problems.
All the issues
Demanding immediate reaction
To say no
To stop the assaults and the harms
To people
To places
To the planet

But there’s an alternative to “No”
To simply opposing
It’s proposing
It’s promoting an alternative
It’s a “Yes”
To the We the People Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
For starters

A vision, call and plan that affirms that only a human being is a person with inalienable rights, not corporate entities.
And that political money in elections is not “free speech” which shall be democratically regulated

It’s definitive
It’s clear
It’s unequivocal
And a stepping stone to even further transformative change

It asserts that Congress “shall’ take action.
Not “may” as other amendments propose
Since “may” can also mean “possibly”
But can also be interpreted as “may not”
As in not here
Not there
Not now
Not ever

In the end, is it all worth it?
Worth organizing for systemic change, not just immediate relief?
Worth going on the offense and not always on the defense?
Worth not seeing immediate results vs sometimes seeing some immediate outcomes from taking immediate actions to address immediate problems?

It all depends
Not on politicians
Not on bureaucrats
Not on corporate executives
Not even on committed not profit “leaders”

But on us
That being you
Together with other yous
Who collectively at the grassroots have

And the courage to clearly see the current reality is incredibly dire for us all and all living beings if all that happens is less than transformational
Yet phenomenally encouraging if we become aware, have vision and take action for a new reality that’s in harmony within ourselves, with other human beings and all living things.

To create justice in all its forms
To ensure a livable world
To create real, authentic democracy where every single person has the dignity, respect, support and power they should have – for the very first time.

That’s more than Move to Amend’s immediate current strategy
But it’s grounded in our vision
It’s a basis for how we engage with our grassroots leaders and supporters, and
It’s a commitment when connecting with other organizations

Starting with affirming that human beings should have the power and right to determine their own collective future – of self-determination
Not limited by the so-called “rights” of corporate entities
Not trapped by the so-called “rights” of money

This is where we stand
To us, it’s all worth the time, energy and financial resources
As it has to so many like you in the past.
As we hope to you and so many more in the present and future.

We the People must demand appropriate accountability over FirstEnergy Corp scandal


NOVEMBER 23, 2022 

President Abraham Lincoln warned about the growing power of corporate entities in 1864 when he prophetically stated:

“…I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

Though the election results were disappointing in hoping that a newly-composed state legislature might seek appropriate accountability of FirstEnergy Corporation over the bribery scandal to pass House Bill (HB) 6, there are other tracks that can and must be pursued. 

It’s been more than two years since FirstEnergy’s scheme was exposed of spending more than $60 million to bribe former House Speaker Larry Householder and other top government officials to pass energy legislation potentially worth $1.3 billion to the corporation —  described as “likely the largest bribery, money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio” by U.S. Attorney David M. DeVillers, who charged Householder and four others with racketeering. Householder and former Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges have pleaded not guilty.

Despite FirstEnergy’s admission of guilt that it — the corporation — was responsible for funneling the $60 million in bribes, the company has, to date, not been held accountable proportionately for its magnitude of democratic damage. The will of the people for clean energy to ensure a livable earth, for their voices to be heard by public officials not corrupted by bribes and to overturn HB6 via a citizen-driven referendum were all squashed by the admitted bribery of FirstEnergy Corporation. 

The announced federal fine of $230 million last year to the company is a joke. While it may sound impressive to the average person, the fine is less than the $334 million in FirstEnergy earnings in the third quarter of 2022 alone. 

An appropriate response to the scale of the harm to Ohioans, our communities and to democracy itself is nothing short of dissolving the company — a fairly common action by the Ohio legislature and courts in the past.

In one decision, The State ex rel v. The C.N.O. & T.P Ry. Co [1890], to dissolve a company, the Ohio Supreme Court stated:

The corporation has received vitality from the state; it continues during its existence to be the creature of the state; must live subservient to its laws, and has such powers and franchises as those laws have bestowed upon it, and none others. As the state was not bound to create it in the first place, it is not bound to maintain it after having done so, if it violates the laws or public policy of the state, or misuses its franchises to oppress the citizens thereof.

This is the language of self-governing people who understand that we possess the ultimate power and authority over our legal creations that transcend mere fines or other weak measures. 

Attorney General David Yost filed suit in September 2020 in Franklin County against FirstEnergy, several of its top executives and other entities under the Ohio Corrupt Practices Act. It calls for “each Defendant business entity and nonprofit entity to be dissolved…”

The state suit has been on hold since late last year, due to the concern that the depositions of some individual defendants might adversely affect federal case against these same individuals. 

Waiting and stalling are common tactics among the power elite to avoid accountability in the political and judicial arenas. The further away from the actual unjust, violent or illegal action when the public is paying attention and/or mobilized to call for accountability, the easier it is to strike a deal for minimal penalties. 

That can’t happen in this case. FirstEnergy’s actions have been too extreme, destructive and undemocratic not to demand appropriate accountability — dissolution of the corporate entity.

Two options are called for.

1. Attorney General Yost needs to refile the lawsuit, separating the dissolving of FirstEnergy and other defendant business entities from the civil actions against the named individual defendants. This separation will allow the proceeding against FirstEnergy to move ahead.

2. If Yost is unwilling to take such action, then there needs to be a separate suit by one or more individuals who have standing (i.e. FirstEnergy customers). 

If the first option is pursued, the filing by Yost will by definition have to eliminate all references to other options listed to hold FirstEnergy accountable. This includes not only to dissolve the company, but the inadequate option that the company be “reorganized such that no agent, officer or representative found to have engaged in actions in furtherance of retains a position within the defendant business or nonprofit entity,” among other sections addressing individual defendants as opposed to the corporate entity itself. 

Corporate executives and attorneys have for more than a century hijacked several Constitutional Amendments intended to apply solely to human beings claiming never-intended corporate “constitutional rights” — that is, that the corporate entity is a separate legal “person” apart from individuals connecting to it. 

While individual FirstEnergy defendants have claimed their innocence, the corporate entity has admitted its guilt, no doubt expecting that a small fine and housecleaning of a few executives and board members will be sufficient “punishment.” 

Individuals connected to the historic FirstEnergy bribery scandal absolutely must be held accountable. So does the self-described corporate “person.” The appropriate response to affirm the power, authority and right of We the People to define and hold accountable our legal creations is the dissolution of the corporation.

Testimony at Kent Democracy Day Public Hearing


Greg Coleridge, Co-Director, Move to Amend 

October 5, 2022

I’m Greg Coleridge, Co-Director of the national Move to Amend campaign.

There is a Chinese proverb that says, “Unless we change direction, we are likely to end up where we are going.”

If we’re honest with ourselves about the direction of what little democracy we have, which truthfully was never as much as it should have been from day one in our country, then where we’re headed is a monocracy, plutocracy and corpocracy – not to mention an autocracy – all rolled into one. 

There is no single cause for this, but major factors are the more than century-long series of bizarre Supreme Court decisions anoinging corporations with constitutional rights – corporate personhood some call it – and decades-long series of bizarre Supreme Court decisions anointing money in elections as equal to First Amendment-protected “free speech.” 

Abolishing corporate constitutional rights and money as speech are the two central components of HJR48, the We the People Amendment – now supported by 95 U.S. Representatives – including Tim Ryan – more than 650 organizations and over 700 communities that enacted either a municipal resolution or passed, like Kent, a citizen-driven ballot initiative. 

The leadership of this national effort has come from the bottom-up – from people like Bill Wilen, Lee Brooker and others in Kent who educated, advocated and organized for passing the initiative calling on Congress to pass HJR48.

But people like you, elected officials – both individually and collectively – have an extremely important role – if you so choose – to complement this effort. 

Here are six actions you can take to move this movement forward:

  1. Publicly call out any “pay-to-play” instances – in which developers or others who want something in Kent donate (or, more accurately, invest) to political campaigns of one or more councilpersons just before or after they receive what they want. 
  2. Don’t be intimidated to pass ordinances that protect the health, safety or welfare of Kent residents by corporate threats that they will preempt the law by going to the state legislature or to court claiming their corporate constitutional so-called “rights” have been violated. 
  3. Encourage council colleagues you know in Ravenna and/or any other communities in Portage County and beyond to join the hundreds of other communities that have passed resolutions calling for abolishing money as free speech and corporate constitutional rights. Sample resolutions in support of the We the People Amendment are at
  4. Introduce a resolution supporting passage of HJR48 to your County political party. 
  5. If Tim Ryan wins his race, pass a resolution encouraging him to introduce HJR48 in the U.S. Senate – since he already cosponsored the measure in the House.
  6. Finally, personally, don’t accept large individual contributions and corporate PAC funds for your political campaigns. I realize that under the current political reality, it takes an increasing amount of money to run and the threat of so-called “independent” funding from Super PACs and dark money groups is real, but commit to working at collecting smaller donations from more individuals as much as you can – while at the same time calling for passing HJR48.

It’s time to abolish the corrupting influence of big money in elections – which is legalized bribery – and corporate rule. It’s a major way to change direction before we end up where we are headed. 

Feel free to contact me at for any questions or ways I can assist any of you individually or Kent City Council collectively.

Thank you. 

Ohio Advocate Podcast

May 29th, 2022 Show

The Ohio Advocate

Matt and Justin give an update on the redistricting battle in Ohio, and discuss Starbucks unionization efforts, police surveillance networks, the fight to get marijuana legalization on the ballot this year, and issues with Youngstown’s water meters.

Kathleen Caffrey interviews Greg Coleridge from Move to Amend Ohio about their efforts to reduce the effect of money in politics, and their current fight to revoke FirstEnergy’s corporate charter.