Hearing prompts calls to curb corporate campaign influence
By Robert Higgs, cleveland.com
Hearing prompts calls to curb corporate campaign influence
By Robert Higgs, cleveland.com
The debate over the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the US Supreme Court has increased the opportunity for the rise of a more progressive populism promoting justice, peace and real self-determination/democracy. It’s a very positive development for those who’ve been in an uphill struggle for years, if not decades, to shed light on the growing political influence of the super wealthy and corporations. It marks yet another turning point in the growing awareness that our government has been increasingly hijacked by corporate interests and the super rich. It also has expanded growing public awareness that the problem extends beyond a certain politician, political party, law or regulation. The fundamental problem is the governing rules thanks to activist Supreme Court decisions anointing corporations greater never-intended constitutional rights and equating money as free speech.
Liberation from past oppressions of women and people of color have occurred when social movements have formed to force constitutional changes. Overcoming the political oppression that literally the 99% face today will only happen if we follow the same recipe — the formation of a broad based, multiracial, intergeneration and transpartisan movement to force constitutional change via an amendment abolishing corporate personhood and money as speech.
It’s not easy. Past movements weren’t either. Yet they ultimately prevailed. So shall we.
    
Democrats use Trump’s populism against him in fight over Gorsuch nomination
USA TODAY | April 5, 2017
We are pleased to present our January, 2017 updated edition.
To read the full report, go to: https://www.afsc.org/sites/afsc.civicactions.net/files/documents/DemocraticInfrastructure.pdf
From the Introduction…
From the local to the global, the ability of people to govern themselves is under assault, which will intensify over the next four years. Some of the major sources of this attack are:
• Business corporations looking to make huge profits by converting what once had been “public” to “private” (“privatization,“ though a more descriptive term would be “corporatization”), including traditional public assets like water and sewer systems, roads, police and fire protection, airports, hospitals, and schools.
• Individuals looking to increase their power, status, and/or privileges by concentrating decision-making from many hands (We the People and government) to few (their own).
• A culture that reinforces notions that public policies are too complicated for ordinary people to understand (thus leaving policy making to experts); that distracts public attention away from self-determination toward the trivial and inane; that worships “the market” as the route to financial and economic salvation which is not to be regulated or controlled; that define certain arenas (economic in particular) as outside the scope of public input; that continues to erase memory of any/all historical examples of citizen control and definition of their lives; that equates anything that is “public” as being inefficient, wasteful, decrepit, and dangerous and anything “private” as efficient, modern and safe; and that keeps people separated to learn from one another and organize to (re)assert meaningful changes.
• Continual legal and constitutional definitions that further “enclose” and redefine “public” arenas as other “p” words: “private,” “property,” “proprietary,” “privileged” — and thus beyond the reach of public planning, public shaping, and public evaluation.
• A national government that under the guise of “terrorism” has given itself permission to stifle dissent, intimidate dissenters, and interrupt efforts of self-determination.
But there is another side to this – a democratic/self-determination culture or “infrastructure.” Alternatives to corporations, corporate governance and elite control exist in our communities and across the state.
Scores of documents, policies, institutions, structures and groups reflecting inclusiveness are in place – examples where those who are affected by decisions and policies have a legitimate role in the shaping and making of those decisions… or could if we made the effort. They are where We the People have a voice… or could have a real voice if we merely flexed our self-determination muscles…
Contacts: Lois Romanoff, 216-231-2170, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Stocking, 440-376-8400, Christopher.Stocking@gmail.com
Diane Karpinski, 216-921-2474, email@example.com
Greg Coleridge, 216-255-2184, firstname.lastname@example.org
For immediate release, December 8, 2016
Cleveland City Council passes ordinance calling for U.S. Constitutional Amendment on corporate power and money in elections; creates biennial Democracy Day
[Cleveland, OH] Cleveland City Council Monday night passed an ordinance calling on Congress to enact a Constitutional Amendment ending constitutional rights for corporate entities and to money being defined as free speech. The ordinance also establishes an every-other-year “Democracy Day” public hearing that will address the impact on the City of political contributions by corporations, unions, Political Action Committees, and Super-PACS; the first to be held in May, 2017
The Cleveland Move to Amend (MTA) campaign, part of the national Move to Amend movement that is proposing the Constitutional Amendment, had submitted last summer more than 5000 valid signatures by volunteers required by the City Charter to place the initiative on the ballot.
“We thank Cleveland City Council for taking a position on this important national issue,” said Lois Romanoff, co-chair of Cleveland Move to Amend. “We feel local public officials need to oppose the growing corrupting influence power corporate entities in our society and big money in our elections. It’s clear from the recent election that voters believe government has been captured by interests who don’t represent people without money or power.”
“We urged City Council to place the citizen initiative on the ballot for voter consideration rather than simply enact the initiative, said Chris Stocking, co-chair of Cleveland Move to Amend. “We feel these issues are important enough to have not only Cleveland public officials take a position, but Cleveland citizens. A ballot measure would have given us the opportunity to broadly discuss with the community the many problems connected with corporate power and large campaign contributions from the super wealthy.”
“While we had hoped Cleveland City Council would have permitted our initiative to go to the ballot, we look forward to working with them to hold the first biennial Democracy Day public hearing next May,” said Diane Karpinski, member of Cleveland MTA. The hearing will be an ongoing arena to shed light on the problems of and alternatives to corporate constitutional rights and the rights of unlimited money being spent in elections.”
“Hundreds of communities across the nation have already enacted municipal resolutions and/or ballot measures in support of this Constitutional Amendment,” said Greg Coleridge, Move to Amend Ohio coordinator and Director of the NE Ohio American Friends Service Committee. “Twenty two communities in Ohio have, to date, taken a stand — 12 via municipal resolution and 10 by the ballot, including this past November with 82% of Shaker Heights voters and 77% of South Euclid voters.”
Citizens in Brecksville, Chagrin Falls, Cleveland Heights, Defiance, Kent, Mentor, Newburgh Heights, and Toledo previously passed a similar ballot initiative while the communities of Athens, Barberton, Bedford Heights, Canton, Dayton, Fremont, Lakewood, Lorain, Oakwood Village, Oberlin, Oxford, and South Euclid passed city council resolutions supporting the Move to Amend-backed Constitutional Amendment.
Move to Amend support the We the People Amendment, HJR 48. It’s co-sponsored by 22 U.S. Representatives.
# 30 #
Twenty years ago today, on October 20, 1996, twenty-five Ohioans came together at the Procter House (former summer estate of William Procter of Procter and Gamble Corporation fame) between Columbus and Cincinnati to participate in a workshop titled “Rethinking the Corporation, Rethinking Democracy.” Sponsored by the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD) and led by POCLAD co-founder Richard Grossman and corporate anthropologist Jane Anne Morris, the workshop was one of scores organized over several years all over the country by the group.
The environmental, labor, peace, and justice activists in Ohio were drawn to the gathering because each was struggling against or concerned about repeated corporate assaults upon their communities in particular, and upon democracy in general. I was fortunate enough to be one of those participants representing the NE Ohio AFSC, thanks to an invitation from former Toledo City Councilperson Mike Ferner.
We learned at the retreat that since revolutionary days people were well aware that property owners could use the corporate form, equipped with special privileges to operate as private governments, causing sustained harms to people, places, liberty and democracy. So people at the state level used their constitution, corporate charters and state corporation codes to define corporations as subordinate, and to restrain legislators from favoring property over people.
But as land, railroad, banking, insurance and other corporations began to acquire wealth, they crafted a different agenda. Investing some of their huge profits from the Civil War, they lobbied for legal doctrines and laws that privileged private over public interests, and favored property rights over human rights. As they increased their influence over local, state, and federal governments, they kept rewriting state constitutions and corporation laws shaping the culture to legitimize corporate dominance.
By the end of the World War II, giant corporations routinely called upon our governments to deny people’s rights — for example, by declaring that workers have no free speech or assembly rights on corporate property, or that regulated industrial corporate poisons are legalized industrial corporate poisons.
At the same time, people’s protests and political activism were increasingly channeled into administrative and regulatory agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, the Environmental Protection Agency, and scores more. In fact, corporations helped design many of these agencies, starting with the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887, so that the most which We the People can accomplish via such agencies is to get corporate property owners to cause a little less harm.
Stirred by these presentations about corporate histories and peoples’ struggles for democracy, we discussed at the Proctor House our own organizing experiences. We began to grapple with the idea that our efforts at opposing corporate violations of laws and harms one at a time, over and over again, had been tiring, erratic, and not particularly effective.
It struck us that we had a lot to learn about and from corporate history. Among other things, while we were educating on single issues, researching areas of science and technology, and organizing mostly around local, state and federal regulatory agencies, corporate officials were focusing in constitutional arenas. There, they lobbied for the property and civil rights of human persons.
While we were writing drafts of health, environmental, consumer and labor laws that would curb corporate behaviors, corporate attorneys were writing state corporation codes and amending state constitutions to define giant business corporations as private — essentially beyond the authority of We the People.
While we were bringing our causes to regulatory agencies (having been taught that state and federal regulators were our allies), corporations were too often using these same regulatory laws and agencies as barriers to justice.
And while we were considering creative ways to boycott corporate sweatshops; stop the next corporate toxic/radioactive factory/dump; persuade corporate executives to sign voluntary codes of conduct and act responsibly; and prevent factory closings or employee layoffs…corporate agents were getting state and federal courts to deny people basic constitutional rights while expanding their own rights.
The weekend was one of those “ah ha” moments for me that we all have at some point(s) in our lives if we’re lucky when understanding of the world takes a large leap rather than a small step forward. The information presented, discussed and analyzed was nothing that we had been exposed to in our schools, media, religious organizations, or even activist groups.
We were challenged just before departing to research our own legal, political and people’s history of corporate power and democracy movements in Ohio – since it was at the state level where most corporations were licensed or chartered with those charters considered democratic tools to define corporate actions.
The energy and commitment from the gathering led to the formation of the Ohio Committee on Corporations, Law & Democracy , which AFSC helped coordinate, and the subsequent publication of the booklet Citizens over Corporations: A Brief History of Democracy in Ohio and Challenges to Freedom in the Future, the documentary CorpOrNation: the Story of Citizens and Corporation in Ohio, articles, debates, talks, workshops, forums, and testimony before the Ohio General Assembly against several proposed bills that would expand corporate power — including watering down the state corporate code to be more corporate-friendly.
All these activities occurred years before the Citizens United vs FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision of 2010. For many, Citizens United was an “ah ha” moment in which corporate constitutional rights (as well as the constitutional doctrine of money being defined as free speech) was first realized. It’s true Citizens United granted inalienable constitutional rights – specifically the right to contribute or invest in elections – to corporations as well as to individuals. Those rights, however, were not brand new rights, only expanded rights anointed to corporations and wealthy individuals. In the case of corporations, those never-intended original rights went back more than 100 years, as we learned at our retreat.
Twenty years later, corporations have even greater constitutional rights and authority than ever due to the Citizens United v FEC, Burwell v Hobby Lobby (granting corporations religious rights), McCutcheon v FEC (permitting even greater sums of money from wealthy individuals to be donated/invested in politics) and other High Court decisions. Money continues to be defined constitutionally as free speech, as it has been since 1976.
Corporate dominance has increased in virtually every sector of our lives, including elections, mass media, education, health care, criminal justice, food, energy, environment and (you fill in the blank here). It profoundly threatens our right as people to decide what takes place in our neighborhoods, communities, nation, world and natural world.
Yet much of activism remains channeled largely, if not solely, into elections, regulatory agencies, or lobbying for laws addressing one single harm/issue/problem/concern. Meanwhile, corporate agents continue to focus on fundamental rule changes that fundamentally address and lock in power and rights.
The “ah ha” moments of corporate constitutional rights and its direct assault on self-governance are growing more numerous. The Move to Amend campaign and its quest to pass a We the People Constitutional Amendment abolishing all never-intended inalienable constitutional rights (and not just reverse Citizens United) and money defined as free speech is making more sense to more people in more communities. The growing “ah-ha” moments are coalescing into a movement involving people in hundreds of communities taking a stand.
It’s part of the arc of education and organizing that over the last 20 years the “Rethink” workshops helped launch and the Move to Amend campaign for a constitutional amendment will, hopefully, one day complete.
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:
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 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 email@example.com.