Curing the cancer of the body politic

WTP Amendment

OpEdNews Op Eds, February 6, 2019
https://www.opednews.com/articles/Curing-the-cancer-of-the-b-by-Greg-Coleridge-Activist_Anti-democratic_Awareness_Cancer-190206-98.html

Monday was World Cancer Day. Its aim is to unite people around the world to raise awareness and education about the disease and to pressure individuals and governments to take action.

We all know individuals who have or have had cancer – loves ones, friends, maybe ourselves. A friend of mine died from cancer over the weekend. My father died 30 years ago from brain cancer, contracted from who knows where. Maybe it was from inhaling toxic chemicals when he worked at the BF Goodrich Company in Akron – which may have also resulted in my birth defect. Goodrich used many toxic chemicals in the manufacture of rubber products and was one of the first corporations to develop vinyl chloride, a known cancer-causing chemical.

The rapid growth of abnormal cells that lead to malignant cancerous tumors triggered by exposure to chemicals, radiation or viruses can be devastating, Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy are among the treatments, which have become more effective over time. Early detection is critical, especially to address tumors that spread, or metastasize, throughout the body, which are fatal.

Elimination of an entire malignant tumor is the ultimate quest of any treatment. No legitimate doctor would only, for example, remove some cancer cells when others could just as easily be cut out since remaining cells will simply divide and spread. Of course, sometimes if the cancer has spread too widely and deeply with no chance of its removal without causing great harm to the body, treatments are simply to extend life for a short period.

In no way to minimize the bodily effects of cancer – physically, mentally and emotionally – but cancer exists in other forms in our society, and is just as deadly if not aggressively treated.

The increasing power of corporations which is causing ever-greater harms to every aspect in our nation is among the destructive forms of cancer to our body politic – to the people of our country who collectively constitute the ultimate rulers – at least on paper as reflected by the first three words of the our Constitution’s Preamble: We the People.

This increasing power or rule by corporations over people, policies and the fate of a livable planet itself originates from court decisions by activist Supreme Court Justices who decreed over that last two centuries that corporations should be anointed with the same unalienable constitutional rights as human beings. Rights intended exclusively for human persons under the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment (which was written to guarantee equal protection for freed black slaves) have been hijacked by corporations to apply to them. The Constitution’s Contracts and Commerce Clauses have been perverted too – abused and misused to escape prior abilities of people and our elected representatives to protect our own and the health, safety and welfare of our communities.

Human rights have been trumped by corporate rights. The cancer this has caused to our society has not been limited to one part of the body politic, but rather has metastasized throughout our society. Corporate rule in politics, economics and culture extends to media, music and money; to elections, education and employment; to transportation, trade and telecommunications; to food, fashion and faith, to wellness, work and water; to information, incarceration and immigration; and, among many other arenas, to climate, campaigns and, yes, even to cancer.

Corporate constitutional rights is destroying healthy, human, self-governing individual and community cells. Our democratic republic is on life support.

Just as World Cancer Day raises awareness of cancer – its early symptoms, its impact and its treatment – and advocates for individual and governmental action, the same applies to the political cancer of corporate constitutional rights.

We must be aware of its forms and the harms they cause to the body politic. It’s not enough to simply point out the anti-democratic corporate perversion of First Amendment free speech rights and the resulting harmful influences from the subsequent flood of corporate money into elections. We must be aware of all of the perversions and subsequent harms, many of which were were pointed out long ago in Why Abolish All Corporate Constitutional Rights by the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD).

Relatedly, it’s not enough to simply take action seeking treatment to a sliver of the corporate constitutional rights tumor that is threatening what remains of our democratic republic (to the extent “democracy for all” ever existed in the first place).

Ending corporate constitutional rights must be complete. The grassroots movement Move to Amendis organizing for a constitutional amendment to end all never intended constitutional rights. Its We the People Amendmentwill soon be reintroduced in the new session of the U.S House of Representatives. Hundreds of organization support this effort and hundreds of communities have enacted municipal resolutions or ordinances following citizen-driven ballot initiative campaigns.

Every other group addressing this concern are only taking a scalpel to a sliver of the corporate constitutional rights tumor. Doctors who cut out, irradiate or treat in other ways only a portion of a malignant cancerous tumor only guarantees its later reappearance, which can be more widespread. “Doctors of democracy” can’t afford to make this fatal constitutional amendment mistake.

Ending some corporate constitutional rights (i.e. First Amendment “free speech”) as proposed by other amendment solutions such as HJR2, seems on the surface to be easier, but to do anything less than complete abolition — as Move to Amend is working for — will result in an ultimately terminal patient. That’s where our democratic republic is rapidly headed unless we extend our awareness and action of cancer from the physical form to the political.

The 2019 theme of World Cancer Day is “I am an advocate and I will speak up.” This should apply to ending all corporate constitutional rights.

Be an advocate.

Speak up.

And act up with Move to Amend.

Greg Coleridge is Outreach Director of Move to Amend. He previously worked for more than three decades with the American Friends Service Committee in Ohio where he educated, advocated and organized on a range of justice, peace, environmental and democracy issues — including helping coordinate Move to Amend activities in the Buckeye state. 

He is the author of Citizens over Corporations: A Brief History of Democracy in Ohio and Challenges to Freedom in the Future (2003), writer of the documentary CorpOrNation: The Story of Citizens and Corporations in Ohio (2003), and contributed several articles to the anthology Defying Corporations, Defining Democracy – A Book of History and Strategy (2001). He currently maintains and distributes via email a weekly REAL Democracy History Calendar and Monetary History Calendar. 

Greg is a Principal with the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD) and Advisor to the American Monetary Institute (AMI). He previously served an elected term on the national governing board of Common Cause.

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Happy Birthday to “money equals speech!”

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Today is the 39th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court Buckley v Valeo decision, decided on January 30, 1976.

Of course, 1976 was the year of the 200th anniversary of the American Revolution from Great Britain. That independence was supposed to provide liberation for people from a single all-powerful source – the King of England and his military arm (i.e. Red Coats) and economic/political arm (i.e. “Crown” corporations, such as the Massachusetts Bay Company, Carolina Company, Virginia Company, etc.). It was a very imperfect independence, to say the least, with only white, male property owners possessing inalienable constitutional rights. Nevertheless, the Revolution shifted sovereignty from a King to We the People. Leadership was no longer determined by God or by birth.

The Buckley decision contributed to the shifting back from self-governance by the many (at least on paper) to the few – namely to the very wealthy. The decision anointed that money was not property, but speech — as in free speech, as in having the right to donate or invest in political campaigns.

There could be no limits on how much of one’s own money could be spent on elections, no limits on how much money could be spent in election campaigns (and, by extension, efforts to limit campaign seasons), and no limits on so-called “independent expenditures” by so-called “outside groups” (corporations, unions, etc.), which often in reality coordinate their strategies with candidates.
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The decision left on the books limits on individual contributions to candidate campaigns, Political Action Committee (PAC) contributions to candidate campaigns and political party contributions to candidate campaigns. Corporate contributions made directly to candidate campaigns remained prohibited. But the “money = speech” mantra and doctrine was a pivotal win. It has served as a beacon for the power elite to continue to challenge limitations of money being spent in any way – what dwindling limits remain. And it has opened the floodgates to money into political campaigns by the wealthiest 1% and mega corporations.

Kings and Queens from their graves tipped their crowns to the Supreme Court for Buckley — as it is a means to ensure that those who own the country rule it.

Move to Amend believes We the People are the real sovereigns – and should possess the power and rights to rule. That’s why it’s working to not only overturn the Citizens United decision of 5 years ago, the Buckley vs Valeo decision of 39 years ago, and numerous corporate constitutional rights spanning more than 100 years ago – since the power elite have also used never-intended corporate constitutional rights to rule.

Make this day one to commit or recommit to ending all forms of corporate rule and the power of the 1%. Become involved or more active in Move to Amend.

Our Swiss Cheese Democracy

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Any person who is remotely aware of the state of our political system knows we’re in deep trouble.  One doesn’t need a PhD in political science to believe that the “representatives” part of our “representative democracy” increasingly do the bidding for the wealthiest 1% of the wealthiest 1%, as well as for corporate entities that flood elected official’s offices with lobbyists, political campaigns with cash, and our sensibilities with insulting negative political ads that are paid for but, in many cases, don’t have to be disclosed.

A majority of the 99% are political PhDs in their own right – well schooled and experienced in having their political voices drowned out by the political voices of those with money who use the first amendment’s “free speech” provisions as a constitutional titanium shield.

If money is speech, then those with the most money have the most speech. This isn’t just a slick saying, but devastatingly documented recently by formal PhDs from Princeton and Northwestern. Their report “Testing Theories of American Politics” concludes the U.S. is more an oligarchy than a democracy. “[T]he preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy,” the authors conclude after examining the public’s role in 1779 issues from 1981-2002. This was eight years before the Citizens United vs FEC Supreme Court decision, which expanded the ability of the wealthy and corporate entities to contribute to political causes.

The lack of authentic democracy, representative or otherwise, precedes Citizens United and even 1981. It goes back to day one of this nation – to the undemocratic U.S. Constitution and the many laws since passed insulating a political and economic power elite.  For evidence, see this, this and this.

Further proof of our undemocratic political system is unmistakable – at least in terms of elections — when comparing it to that of Switzerland.
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The Swiss are going to the polls next week.The election is next Sunday, as in a weekend when more people are off work. Not so in the U.S. when elections are always on Tuesdays.

Swiss voting procedures are much more convenient and democratic than in the “Land of the Free. “Every Swiss voter can cast a ballot if (s)he prefers by mail, which is done by a majority. There are no voting machines. All votes, whether in person or by mail, are counted by hand by citizens who are randomly chosen by each municipality.

The real democratic difference, however, concerns the voting subject matter. This is where our so-called “democracy” is Swiss cheese with holes galore comparatively.

Nation-wide voting in the US is strictly for officials – President, Senators and Representatives. Check that. Technically, we don’t directly elect the President. Only members of the “Electoral College” choose the President.

Swiss voters elect people to represent them at different levels, but they also vote on issues. Many issues. Several times a year. Since 1848, in fact, they’ve voted on more than 550 issues. Since 1798, there have been roughly three times as many referendum elections (voting on issues) as there have been Parliamentary elections (voting for people and parties).

That’s direct democracy!

The issues are of two types:
–    Legislative referendums – to overturn a law passed by their legislature.
–    Constitutional referendums – to modify or amend their constitution.

Initiating a national legislative referendum to repeal a law requires the collection of 50,000 signatures of Swiss voters within 100 days after the law becomes official. That would be the equivalent of 2 million signatures in the U.S. For a constitutional modification, 100,000 valid signatures are needed – the equivalent of about 4 million signatures here.

If a simple majority of voters support the legislative referendum, it passes. A constitutional referendum requires both majority support from all voters and a majority of voters from a majority of the 26 Swiss “cantons” (the equivalent of our states).

Imagine if such a system existed in the U.S. Amending the Constitution to end corporate “personhood” and money as speech would be infinitely easier. Rather than circulating a symbolic organizing petition or working to pass local and/or state council resolutions or ballot initiatives as vehicles to pressure 2/3rds of both Houses of Congress to pass a constitutional amendment, which if passed, would still have to be ratified by ¾ of state legislatures, We the People could completely eliminate “the middle man” – Congress and state legislatures – and solicit signatures directly from fellow citizens.

Additionally, national policy questions like climate change or the proposed trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership could be put up for a national vote.

We could do democracy directly.

That may be exactly why our constitution is not like Switzerland’s. It wasn’t designed to empower people. All three branches of government were meant in their own way to shield the power elite directly from the populace.

Referendums are, of course, insufficient by themselves to achieving a real democracy – even if our own Constitution permitted them.  The power and/or rights of elected officials, of the Supreme Court, of zillionaires, of corporate behemoths and of our constitutional rigged ground rules are major democratic hurdles.

While not permitted at the federal level, populists and progressives more than a century ago amended state constitutions to supply citizens with these direct democratic tools – as well as the recall to throw elected officials out of office before the end of their terms. They have permitted citizens to do an end run around corrupt elected officials and judges.

Like any tool, popular initiatives and referendums can be harmful rather than helpful in the quest for justice, peace and self-governance – depending on the cause.

Still, these few direct democratic tools at the state and local levels remain threats – despite their limited effectiveness in the face of an entire tool shed of the power elite. Efforts are periodically made to slice away these powers in various ways (i.e. raising signature requirements, reducing the time for signature gathering, restricting who can gather signatures, how petitions are to be certified, etc.).

These constant threats by the power elite indicate why they are so important to protect and expand. In the course of doing so, we should be obligated to plant the educational seeds for federal equivalents. A federal initiative and referendum are constitutional ground rules that would dramatically expand our democratic tool kit.

Corporations aren’t people

Letter to the Editor
 / Akron Beacon Journal / Wednesday, September 17, 2014

http://www.ohio.com/editorial/vop/letters-to-the-editor-sept-17-1.523257

The recent ruling by a federal judge striking down Ohio’s law on false campaign statements as unconstitutional reinforces yet again the absurd doctrine that corporations possess inalienable constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Black ruled that the state of Ohio couldn’t enforce its law seeking to prevent political false statements. This includes individuals as well as the Susan B. Anthony List, the 501(c)(4) corporation that challenged the law.

The decision treats corporations, which are artificial legal creations of government, and persons as identical. They are not.

Governments do not create human beings. They do create corporations, via charters, which were originally intended to define corporate actions. Without government, there are no corporations, which are legally distinct from a group of people informally coming  together to achieve a common purpose.

Aside from whether the “right to lie” by individuals is a form of constitutionally protected free speech (after all, some forms of individual speech are already limited, such as yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre), the question of permitting corporations free speech, or any other constitutional rights, is a political questions, not a constitutional one.

As was once the case in Ohio, vigorous discussions and debates in public political arenas are where decisions about the appropriate roles of corporations in our society should be made, not courts.

Corporations are not persons. Continuing to treat them as such by the courts places in peril what little remains of our democratic republic.

Greg Coleridge
                                                                                                         Director, Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee
, Cuyahoga Falls

Susan B. Anthony was a Person, the Susan B. Anthony List is a Corporation

susan-b-anthony-320x240       A person

images-1         A 501 c-4 corporation

The recent ruling by a federal judge striking down Ohio’s false statement campaign law as unconstitutional reinforces yet again the absurd constitutional doctrine that corporations possess inalienable constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Black ruled that the state of Ohio couldn’t enforce its law seeking to prevent political false statements. This includes individuals, as well as the Susan B. Anthony List, a 501 c-4 corporation that challenged the law.

The group challenged the Ohio law after it was accused of violating it by former Cincinnati congressman Steven Driehaus, who charged that Susan B. Anthony List knowingly lied about his support of taxpayer funded abortions when he voted for the Affordable Care Act. Since the ACA does not allow taxpyer-funded abortions, Driehaus asserted the group knowingly lied in its campaign messaging.

The court’s decision treats human persons and corporations, which are artificial legal creations of government, as identical. They are not.

Governments do not create human beings. They do create corporations via charters, which were originally intended to define corporate actions. Without government, there are no corporations, which are legally distinct from a group of people informally coming together to achieve a common purpose.

Aside from whether the “right to lie” by individual human beings is a form of constitutionally protected free speech (after all, some forms of individual speech are already limited, such as yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre, noise ordinances and time limits in speaking at public forums), the question of permitting corporations free speech or any other form of constitutional “rights” are political questions, not constitutional ones.

As was once the case in Ohio, vigorous discussions and debates in public political arenas are where decisions about the appropriate roles of corporations in our society should be made, not courts.

The court’s decision in this matter was not about individual free speech. It was about constitutional corporate rights. Susan B. Anthony was a person, a Quaker person at that. The Susan B. Anthony list, however, is a corporation.

Corporations are not persons. Continuing to treat them as such by the courts places in peril what little remains of our democratic republic.