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

Political
Social
Economic
Ecological
Ethical

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

Rather
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
Rooted
Embedded
Anchored

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?
and
Have been introduced as legislation in Congress as an amendment to the United States Constitution?
and
Have attracted nearly 100 Congressional cosponsors?
and
Have over 700 national organizational endorsers?
and
Have over 700 communities (including 9 states) that have passed endorsing municipal resolutions and ballot initiatives?
and
Have nearly 500,000 individual supporters?
and
Have a skilled staff and board dedicated to movement building, diversity and inclusion?
and
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.
Zero.
Nada.
Nil.
Zilch.

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
Response
Resistance
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”
Perhaps
Perchance
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
Faith
Trust
Commitment

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

GREG COLERIDGE

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

KENT DEMOCRACY DAY TESTIMONY

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 https://www.movetoamend.org/pass-local-resolution
  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 greg@movetoamend.org 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.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/may-29th-2022-show/id1615298248?i=1000564411534

War Is (Still) A Racket: Corporate Power and the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

A Raytheon facility is seen on June 10, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. The Raytheon Co. and United Technologies Corp. have announced a merger, creating a new defense and aerospace company called Raytheon Technologies Corp. (Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

GREG COLERIDGE | March 9, 2022

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2022/03/09/war-still-racket-corporate-power-and-russian-invasion-ukraine

Localizing Monetary Reform

Alliance for Just Money | June 16, 2021

https://www.monetaryalliance.org/localizing-monetary-reform/

By Greg Coleridge and Steven Norris

Organizing for any solution to a national problem presents multiple challenges, among them is to make the proposed solution relevant locally to people’s lives.

Bigger problems require proportionally bigger solutions, but those solutions can be difficult for individuals to relate to unless there are tangible ways presented to both understand the problem and solution and to take actions to bring change. 

Educating on our destructive monetary system and proposing ways to democratize it to benefit people, places and the planet certainly falls into this category of a big problem needing a big solution. But how to localize it? 

There are multiple strategies available to monetary reformers. One strategy is to study an approach of Move to Amend (MTA), a national group addressing the problems of big money corrupting elections and corporations increasingly dominating our lives by organizing to pass a Constitutional Amendment that would abolish the legal doctrines of “political money equals free speech” and corporate constitutional rights (i.e. “corporate personhood” for shorthand). 

Like authentic monetary reform, ending “money as speech” and corporate rule via a Constitutional Amendment is a massive national solution. It’s a challenge to connect the proposal to local individuals and public officials. It’s also tough to find local educational and organizing “hooks” to get people to not only think and talk about it, but to take meaningful action. 

Local ballot initiatives

MTA organizers in Ohio came up with the idea of organizing legal initiative petition campaigns to place on local ballots. Voters were asked whether they support Congress passing the proposed Amendment affirming that corporations do not have constitutional rights and money is not free speech, in the spirit of the national MTA We the People Amendment.

Anyone who’s ever been involved in local initiative petition campaigns knows that they are terrific ways to educate, organize and develop local leadership. Gathering signatures involved training petitioners, who were grounded in talking points and in how to approach individuals.  Soliciting signatures educated potential voters. Once the campaigns were successful in gaining ballot access, the campaign flips to educate the entire community to vote in favor of the initiative — which, in many cases, gained media attention and invitations to speak at voter education forums. 

While people-driven initiative campaigns at the local level on all kinds of issues are common, an additional feature of the Move to Amend initiatives was very unique in the 12 Ohio communities where the initiatives were enacted and became law.

That feature was the legal mandate that the local government (i.e. city or village) sponsor, publicize and have representatives at an annual or biennial public hearing where residents and, in some instances, others could testify on the impact of money in politics and corporate rule on their lives, community, state, nation or world. While details varied on several features, all 12 communities have been holding these public hearings — some since 2012. 

The public hearings have been significant in keeping the problems of money in elections and corporate rule, as well as the We the People Amendment, alive beyond the original local ballot campaign in several ways:

First, the public hearings provide an opportunity for local MTA organizers to recruit representatives from other groups working on solutions to problems that are thwarted by money spent in elections by special interests and corporate constitutional rights. This helps those representatives, whether physically in person or virtually together at the hearing, see the connections between their concerns and the need to pass the We the People Amendment.

Second, the public hearings are a means to continually educate local MTA supporters and expose the larger community to both the problems and the solution promoted by MTA. The exposure is all the more effective if the hearings are publicized in the media beforehand and/or reported on afterwards.

Third, the hearings are a chance to directly educate local public officials who attend the hearings, who are both testified to and invited to testify themselves. After all, the public policy influence of money in elections and the preemption of local laws by corporate entities legislatively and in the courts are increasing realities to local elected officials. Besides, it’s a fact that some local public officials become state officials and some of those state officials become our U.S. Senators and Representatives — building a relationship with them now increases the chances they’ll become champions to our cause later. 

One more provision of the dozen MTA-driven ballot initiatives is worth noting. Following each public hearing, the municipality is required to summarize the testimony, send it to the appropriate federal and state elected officials and remind them that voters in their communities want the We the People Amendment to be passed. Sometimes, the summary is coupled with written copies of all the testimony presented. When the municipality hasn’t included the written testimony, local MTA organizers have sent it themselves to the relevant public officials. 

At a recent Cleveland Move to Amend public hearing, AFJM members John Howell, Steve Norris and Greg Coleridge (who’s also National Outreach Director for Move to Amend) spoke. You can view the public hearing held on Zoom this year here with the AFJM members speaking at 12:01, 50:41 and 62:59 respectively.

This is certainly not the only strategy to make a national call for monetary reform locally relevant. But it is one way to educate the community and public officials, outreach to local groups, develop local leadership grounded in the issue, recruit new supporters and attract media attention. Oh, and by the way, it also sends a recurring message to elected officials that the people of the community en masse support authentic fundamental change.

Connecting monetary reform to corporate constitutional rights

There’s a vicious symbiotic relationship between current laws on monetary policies and money in politics and corporate power. Economic power almost always translates into political power. 

Monetary policies that continue to enrich banking corporations that perpetually profit from the creation of money as debt and through subsidies and, when needed, bailouts, allow these financial entities to flex their political muscle through political campaign contributions (i.e. what some call “legalized bribery”).

Senator Dick Durbin stated in a moment of candor in 2009: “And the banks — hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.” The Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) remains “far and away the largest source of campaign contributions to federal candidates and parties”. This condition is a reflection of corporations both hijacking First Amendment “free speech” rights, which were intended exclusively for human beings, and the constitutional doctrine that “political money is free speech,” instead of what money actually is — property. 

The power of the financial industry is also a function in what they can shield — namely their internal financial affairs — from public scrutiny. Like many business corporations, their defense from being transparent hinges on the corporate hijacking of Fourth Amendment Constitutional privacy rights, which again were rights originally intended solely for human beings. This has emboldened in the case of banking entities to claim without independent verification the need for greater financial subsidies and other support lest these increasingly “too big to fail” institutions, in fact, fail and risk pulling the entire economy into an abyss. Yet another instance of their increased power to influence public policies.

It should be noted that original public charters creating banks in many states mandated that the bank’s books be open to periodic public inspection. This ensured that banking corporations remained publicly accountable and subordinate in power to the public. 

These current realities have created an outsized economic and political influence of financial corporations. In such a legal and political environment in which the fundamental constitutional ground rules are rigged to benefit the very rich and business corporations, there’s little chance of passage of monetary reform or, frankly, any solution that addresses fundamental change and/or reduces corporate power. 

It also, quite frankly, makes it enormously difficult to pass the We the People Amendment. That’s why it’s essential that AFJM continues to work on passing one or more laws creating authentic monetary change and other organizations working on their respective agendas to change laws or regulations creating more justice in all their forms. Yet, it’s critical to understand the limitation of working exclusively to improve any condition legally if constitutionally the rules are stacked against us, rules that can and have time and again preempted democratically passed laws benefiting workers, consumers, the environment and the natural world. 

It’s why AFJM and other groups need to devote some energy to changing the constitutional ground rules — to create a level political playing field where We the People can actually mean all the people working to pass authentic monetary change and create other laws and regulations to the benefit of all people and all living things.