Getting Money out of Politics and Beyond: A Call for a We the People Amendment

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http://publici.ucimc.org/2018/12/getting-money-out-of-politics-and-beyond-a-call-for-a-we-the-people-amendment/

by Greg Coleridge

The midterm elections are over. Candidates have been elected and unelected. Ballot issues have been passed and rejected.

What hasn’t changed one iota, however, are the catastrophic harms to people, communities, the natural world and our republican form of self-government caused by the assertion of constitutional rights for corporations, and by political campaign money being defined as First Amendment-protected free speech.

Many believe these problems began with the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United v FEC decision. It’s true that Citizens United further opened the monetary floodgates onto political elections. The Court asserted that the First Amendment’s free speech clause prohibits government restrictions of  “independent expenditures” for political communications by for-profit corporations, nonprofit corporations, labor unions and other groups.

Since the Supreme Court had previously ruled that corporations were “persons” with free speech rights, corporate funds could now be raised in unlimited sums for “independent” communication (i.e. candidate advertisements by entities that are not coordinated with the candidate). A separate federal court decision based on Citizens United lifted the same legal restrictions on individuals.

The result has frequently been stomach-turning attack ads from across the ideological spectrum that distort the truth about candidates and issues. In addition, when money determines who has access to the podiums, microphones and loudspeakers in an arena, the voices of people and groups without money are relegated to the hallways, basements and back alleys.

The $200 million-plus spent on the Illinois governor’s race, much of it from the wealthy candidates themselves, typifies further movement away from a republican form of self-government and towards a plutocracy (i.e. rule of, by and for the wealthy). Corporate spending on election advertising in Illinois and elsewhere, much of it untraceable “dark money,” represents a second parallel threat—corptocracy (i.e. rule of, by and for corporations).

More than reversing Citizens United is needed to create fair and democratic elections and more than fair and democratic elections are needed to create a legitimate republican form of self-government in which We the People rule.

Our government is broken because the system is fixed—as in rigged to benefit the super-wealthy and corporations. The core problems are the constitutional “rights” anointed by the Supreme Court on corporations and on money spent in elections—both of which predate Citizens United.

Corporations weren’t intended by this nation’s founders to become the governing institution in our country and world. Corporations are creations of government, originally chartered one at a time by legislative acts, which listed specific legal protections and privileges to create useful goods and services, but not with inalienable constitutional rights. Corporate charters were democratic instruments. Corporations that violated their charter provisions regularly had those charters revoked by state legislatures or state courts. We the People were sovereign, corporate creations of the state were subordinate.

No corporation was immune, even the most powerful ones. A Republican state Attorney General sought to revoke Standard Oil Corporation’s charter in 1892 for disregarding its provisions.

The Ohio Supreme Court, in a 1900 ruling to dissolve a dairy company, stated: “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.”

Corporations worked strategically to shift democratic control over to the corporate form in three ways: from the state to the federal level, from the legislative arena to regulatory agencies, and from the legislative arena to the courts. All three strategies sought to move corporate definition beyond the reach of the public and, thus, undermine our republican form of self-government.

The most effective approach was to shield corporate actions by the Supreme Court. Despite the Constitution not mentioning corporations and the Bill of Rights meant to solely apply to human beings, corporate attorneys argued that constitutional rights applied to their clients. Activist Supreme Courts agreed and concocted for over a century corporate constitutional rights out of thin air.

Corporate constitutional rights now include First Amendment free speech and religion, Fourth Amendment freedom from search and seizure, Fifth Amendment freedom from takings, Fourteenth Amendment due process and equal protection, and Commerce and Contracts Clause “rights.”

These never-intended rights have allowed corporations to hijack our republican form of self-government well beyond influencing elections through their “right” to make political donations. These include the rights:

  • to advertise dangerous products (i.e. cigarettes and fracking) over the objections of communities and to avoid labeling genetically modified foods;
  • to avoid subpoenas that would compel testimony about unlawful trade and price fixing, and the right to prevent citizens, communities and regulatory agencies from stopping pollution and other assaults on people or communities;
  • to receive compensation when regulations are established to protect homeowners or communities, including the right to be compensated for all possible future profits they may have made without such regulations;
  • to build chain stores and erect cell towers against the will of communities, oppose tax and other public policies favoring local businesses over multinational corporations and resist democratic efforts to prevent corporate mergers and revoke corporate charters through citizen initiatives; and
  • to ship toxic waste between states over the “health, safety, and welfare” objections of communities – claiming the waste isn’t actually “waste” but “commerce.”

Corporate constitutional rights are just one head of our anti-democratic hydra. The other is the constitutional protection of political money defined as free speech. This dates to the 1976 Buckley v Valeo decision. If money is political speech, as the Supreme Court stated, then those with the most money have the most speech. This is not an ingredient for anything approaching a republican form of self-government, more likely for a plutocracy.

No presidential decree, legislative statute or regulation can end corporate constitutional rights and money defined as free speech. The only solution is a constitutional amendment.

Move to Amend is a national non-partisan coalition of hundreds of organizations and over 450,000 individuals committed to social and economic justice, ending corporate rule and building a vibrant democracy that is genuinely accountable to the people, not corporate interests.

It calls for the We the People Amendment (H.J.R. 48) to the Constitution, declaring that inalienable rights belong to human beings only, not to mere legal entities, and that money is not a form of protected speech under the First Amendment and can be regulated in political campaigns. Sixty-five U.S. House Representatives have endorsed H.J.R. 48. It will soon be introduced in the U.S. Senate. More than 750 communities have passed either local or state resolutions or ballot measures calling for such an Amendment.

Building an authentically multicultural, intergenerational and transpartisan grassroots democracy movement is the only realistic route toward this end. This currently seems pie-in-the-sky. Yet we’re now facing profound political, economic, social and environmental crises. None of this is sustainable. Limits are rapidly being reached. What seems impossible at the moment can quickly become inevitable. Our visions have been repressed by our dominant culture about what is doable, realistic and inevitable – not to mention what is just, democratic and sustainable.

A Move to Amend-sponsored public program recently took place in Champaign-Urbana. There’s interest in exploring what can be done locally to join this growing national movement. If interested in joining this exploration, contact Doug Jones at djones42@gmail.com.

Greg Coleridge is Outreach Director at Move to Amend. He can be contacted at greg@movetoamend.org.

 

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American Bar Association speaks out on FBI investigation but silent on corporate power

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The letter to Senators from the American Bar Association calling for an FBI investigation on Kavanaugh stated there were too many questions from the unprecedented, hasty process followed by the Judiciary Committee. The railroading was just too much for even them to stomach. Of course the ABA has been silent on the guy’s unwavering support for granting corporations greater power, gutting regulations protecting consumers, workers, communities and the environment, and being A-OK with Citizens United.

To make it to the 4th second

Powerful. To make it to the 4th second and beyond requires changing ourselves (values, attitudes, behaviors) AND societal institutions (including mega corporations which are designed to maximize profits regardless of the impact to people and the planet). It’s more than planting or saving trees. It’s planting the seeds to be more compassionate toward all other living creatures and to create an authentic democracy movement that will create institutions to truly serve and sustain. p.s. Wish the title would have been “human” instead of “man.”

 

 

 

It’s Up To Us To End The Corporate Monarchy

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https://movetoamend.org/its-us-end-corporate-monarchy

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!

Thank you,
Greg Coleridge
Outreach Director, Move to Amend

Legalized price gouging

It’s bad enough we have a system of legalized bribery (huge political “donations” — more like investments from the super wealthy and corporations) in this country backed up by the courts (led by the Supremes), but this decision affirms legalized price gouging of consumers. Nice going Ohio Supreme Court in giving the A-OK to First Energy Corporation — responsible for the 20013 Northeast United States blackout — for overcharging ratepayers for the purchase of electricity generated by renewable technologies. And from where did some of First Energy Corporation’s overly expensive (which were passed on to consumers) electricity purchases come from? Why, of course, from one of its own affiliates — First Energy Solutions corporation. It’s all legal of course — legitimized now by the Ohio Supreme Court.

http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2018/01/43_million_in_firstenergy_over.html#incart_target2box_default_#incart_target2box_targeted_

The Deep Industry Ties of Trump’s Deregulation Teams

More capturing of government by corporate interests. It happened before under Repub and Dem administrations, but more intense and blatant under the “drain the swamp” advocate in the White House. And it will continue forever and ever and ever until we abolish the constitutional ground rules empowering corporate entities with constitutional rights…

“Some appointees are reviewing rules their previous employers sought to weaken or kill, and at least two may be positioned to profit if certain regulations are undone.

The appointees include lawyers who have represented businesses in cases against government regulators, staff members of political dark money groups, employees of industry-funded organizations opposed to environmental rules and at least three people who were registered to lobby the agencies they now work for.”