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.

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

Greg Coleridge: Cultivating Peace with Justice in a Militarized World

May 20, 2022 Veteran activist Greg Coleridge speaks at Cleveland Peace Action’s 2022 Annual Meeting, on the challenges and opportunities for change in an interconnected world. A lively Q&A follows Greg’s talk, including ideas on Inspiring and sustaining our activist energies.

The Depth of Change

_________________________________________________________________

Order Now!

Selected articles, columns, editorials, letters, sermons, poems, talks and testimonies over four decades on economic, environmental and social justice; democracy; foreign policy/peace/nonviolence and systemic change/movements. Their analysis and calls to action are as timely today as ever.

Greg Coleridge is Co-Director of the national Move to Amend coalition, which works to enact a Constitutional Amendment to abolish corporate constitutional rights (“corporate personhood” for short) and political money defined as First Amendment-protected “free speech.” He previously worked for more than three decades for the Midwest Region of the American Friends Service Committee in Ohio where he educated, advocated and organized with diverse individuals and organizations at the local, state and national levels employing a range of strategies and tactics on issues of peace/anti-war, nonviolence, international trade, economic conversion, local and federal budget priorities, monetary reform, housing, privatization/corporatization of public services, hunger, jobs, poverty, local currencies, alternative media, toxic/radioactive pollution, campaign finance reform and corporate power/rule/rights.

301 pages. $14.95

Order HERE

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION 1

SELECTIONS

More defense dollars only worsen inflation (letter to editor) 4
North’s secrecy was objectionable (letter to editor) 5
KSU/May 4 and the need for action (letter to editor) 5
The Future of National Security and Economic Conversion (talk) 6
Agenda for the peace builders (editorial) 9

Spirituality, Nonviolence and Social Change (sabbatical report) 12
Nonviolent Revolution (sermon) 21
Bosnia: Military Intervention Is Not The Answer (letter to editor) 26
A few resolutions for public officials (letter to editor) 27
Gift-buying for the conscientious (column) 28

Visions of an alternative “Contract” for America’s cities (editorial) 31
Nuclear weapons still addictive (column) 34
Submarine floats as cities sink (column) 38
No need for bombs – Japan on verge of surrender (letter to editor) 41
U.S. must learn from the past (column) 42

Do we live to U.N. standards (column) 47
Put people power back on agenda (article) 50
GM strike localizes world woes (column) 55
The Costs of Technology (article) 59
U.S. takes easy way out on China (column) 63

Our Friend John (poem) 69
Has time for HOURS finally come? (column) 70
Apathy Funeral Service (talk) 73
Ethics and the Culture of Development: Building a Sustainable Economy (Cuba conference report) 75
Change in Relationship to Corporations Urged (talk) 78

Yes-Simple math: Less money, more democracy (editorial) 80
A Call for Help for Uniontown, Ohio (article) 82
Public Hearing sponsored by Robert Martin, U.S. EPA Ombudsman, on Industrial Excess Landfill (testimony) 84
Democracy, Corporations and the World Trade Organization (article) 88
Wrong Turn in Ohio: A wake up call for other states (article) 90

Rumors of USA Democracy Counterfeit (article) 92
Personal Reflections on 9/11 (letter) 99
Corporate Invading and Escaping (article) 103
Evolution and Social Change (article) 107
U.S. Hypocrisy and Immorality (talk) 108

The Invasion has Begun…But so has the Resistance (spoken word) 109
Citizens over Corporations: A Brief History of Democracy in Ohio and Challenges to Freedom in the Future (forward to booklet) 113
Mantra of US Mainstream Left (article) 117
A Fraction of Democracy (article) 117
Statement on Department of Defense Spying on AFSC 120

Request to Rep. Dennis Kucinich to Introduce Legislation Renaming Department of Defense to Department of War (letter) 122
Closing Remarks at U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW) National Conference 123
Ranting and Raking on Eminent Domain (article) 129
Keynote address at Martin Luther King Community Gathering 133
10 Democratic Reasons to Oppose Senate Bill (SB) 117 (article) 140

Electronic Voting Machines Undermine Democracy (testimony) 143
Auctioning the Magna Carta (article) 145
The U. S. Constitution: Pull the Curtain (article) 145
Reducing the Power of Juries (article) 155
The Spirit of Change (article/play script) 156

Municipalizing Democracy (article) 163
Democracy Taxed (article) 165
Local Economic Self-Determination (workshop presentation) 167
Six Ways Corporations Profit from War (article) 173
Pillars of Peace (sermon) 175

Opening Remarks at United National Action Conference – on Iraq and Afghanistan 179
Letter to Senator Sherrod Brown on BP Deepwater Horizon and IEL disasters 181
“One Nation” March Organizers Should Remember Coxey’s Army (editorial) 183
The Rigor of Research and Fundamental Monetary Change (talk) 186
Fracking issue tests citizen’ authority (letter) 192

Testimony on Ohio’ New “Plunder Law” – House Bill 193
Corporate Power: The Legacy of Santa Clara (talk) 196
Banking Political Influence (talk) 198
Lessons from Past Movements that Inform our Current Movement (talk) 202
Participation in our undemocratic democracy (article) 204

Organizing for the Right Rights (article) 204
Corporate Chameleons (article) 208
Four Problems with Billionaires Privatizing American Science (article) 209
The Wrath of Steinbeck: Corporate Personhood (article) 210
Supreme Authority: The Growing Power of the US Supreme Court and Democratic Alternatives (article) 212

Different problems. The same solution.(article) 220
Ronald McDonald is not a person (article) 223
Pope Heats Up Climate Change Debate (article) 224
Trans-Pacific Partnership would be assault on U.S. democracy (letter to editor) 225
Monetary History Calendar (intro) 226

Flint’s Water AND Democracy Crisis (article) 227
Testimony on Political Campaign Contribution Limits 228
3 lessons from organizing for justice during the RNC (editorial) 232
Trumped Up Democracy: 10 Reflections on the 2016 Elections and the Future (article) 234
Commit to seeking common ground (letter to editor) 240

This is What Democracy in Ohio Looks Like! Ohio’s Self-Determination “Infrastructure” (intro to directory) 241
Hacked Off by the Electoral College (article) 244
Democracy Convention (article) 249
With Democracy So Sick, Medicare for All Will Be Uphill Battle (editorial) 252
Winter Solstice (article) 256

Big Love Fest Mentors of Love (talk) 256
Don’t Let the Ability to Rein In Corporate Rule Slip Through Our Hands Like Water – Time to Amend the Constitution Now! (article) 258
Knowing history is key to saying no to corporate rights (article) 262
Remarks at Uniting Families Rally 265
Curing the cancer of the body politic (article) 267

Holy Toledo! (article) 270
How Wealth RULES the World (book review) 271
The Declaration of Independence, Then and Now (quiz) 272
Move to Amend poems 274
Simply reversing Citizens United will not stem the tide of corporate money polluting politics (editorial) 276

Ending the Monetary Pandemic (article) 278
Changed “Modes of Thinking” Needed to Create Real Justice and Livable World (editorial) 285
The U.S. Constitution is hopelessly outdated. It’s time to re-envision it (article) 288
Big Tech Shouldn’t Be the Arbiter of Our Free Speech Rights (editorial) 291
Thank you Darnella Frazier (article) 294

FirstEnergy should be put out of business (editorial) 295
Kent “Democracy Day” Public Hearing (testimony) 296
Holistic Solutions to Holistic Problems (talk) 298

APPENDIX 303

ADDITIONAL BIOGRAPHY 307

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.

Cleveland Heights’ Democracy Day presented powerful testimony

March 31, 2021

http://www.heightsobserver.org/read/2021/03/31/chs-democracy-day-presented-powerful-testimony

by Greg Coleridge

Cleveland Heights City Council members, speakers and virtual viewers called January’s 8th annual Democracy Day public hearing “inspiring,” “informative,” and “enlightening”—hardly the “waste of time” claimed by Robert Shwab in a letter published in the March issue of the Heights Observer.

Federal and state court decisions, and laws created by the president, governor, U.S. Congress, and state legislature directly impact our city government and residents. Those decisions and policies are increasingly influenced by, and disproportionately benefit, the super-rich and corporations.

Most Cleveland Heights residents understand we don’t live in a cocoon, which explains how 77% of voters in 2013 passed the local ballot measure calling on Congress to support a Constitutional Amendment ending corporate constitutional rights and political money in elections defined as free speech. That initiative also mandated, by ordinance, the annual public hearing in Cleveland Heights, where individuals can testify on the impact of big money in elections, and of corporate power on their lives and community.

Powerful testimony at this and previous CH Democracy Day hearings addressed the undemocratic influence of corporations on education, health care, energy, agriculture, transportation, employment, the environment and many other issues. One could add pandemic relief funds, which have gone disproportionately to large corporations, including Paycheck Protection Program funding intended for small business. Can anyone legitimately claim such policies and actions have no impact on Cleveland Heights and its residents?

It’s true the ACLU supports corporate constitutional rights—at least its leadership does. Many of its members do not. The We the People Amendment is hardly radical.

As more people understand how our society has been captured and corrupted by the outsized influence corporations have gained via never-intended inalienable constitutional rights, support for House Joint Resolution 48 grows. More than 700 communities and 600 organizations are part of a growing movement to build power and a democratic culture to pressure Congress. Cleveland Heights’ annual Democracy Day plays an important role in this movement.

Greg Coleridge

Greg Coleridge is outreach director of the Move to Amend Coalition and a Cleveland Heights resident.

Testimony at Chagrin Falls Democracy Day

CHAGRIN FALLS DEMOCRACY DAY PUBLIC HEARING

Testimony of Greg Coleridge, Outreach Director, Move to Amend

March 4, 2021

Happy Democracy Day!

There is a growing movement in this country to create authentic democracy — for the very first time. The U.S. Constitution prevented all but white, male, property-owners from having inalienable rights. Women, people of color, indentured servants and others organized themselves into groups and powerful movements to change laws and pass Constitutional Amendments to gain basic rights. Those efforts continue. 

At the same time, there’s been and continues to be a parallel track by the super rich and corporate entities to create and expand their power and rights. Their goal is not just to acquire rights to protect themselves, but to have fundamental power over the rest of us and our communities — to govern, to rule,

The super rich and corporate entities have hijacked Constitutional Amendments. Political money has been defined by the Supreme Court as First Amendment-protected free speech. Many of the Bill of Rights and 14th Amendment, intended to apply solely to human persons, have been expanded to apply to corporate entities

The results have been devastating to people, places, the planet…and to democracy. 

The public opposes tax breaks for the super rich, bank bailouts and subsidies for fossil fuel corporations while at same time supports reasonable gun control, sustainable energy, healthy food, affordable and comprehensive health care, better education, living wages and sweeping pandemic relief that helps people and provides Paycheck Protection Program funding exclusively to small businesses, not mega corporations. Yet, political influence by large corporations prevents these and many other popular programs from being enacted. The source of this corporate political influence was the Supreme Court invention of so-called First Amendment corporate free speech rights to spend or invest money in elections.

But the political influence of corporations transcends money in politics. 

Communities and states have sought unsuccessfully to demand that harmful ingredients or chemicals, like Monsanto’s glyphosate, be labeled on commercial packaging in the name of food safety. Courts have said such laws violate a corporation’s First Amendment right not to speak. 

States have created many regulations to protect workers, the environment and consumers requiring surprise inspection of businesses. Such inspections have been overturned in court as violations of a corporation’s Fourth Amendment search and seizure rights.

There’s a movement to protect the environment from cataclysmic climate destruction by leaving oil and coal in the ground. But the right to protect the planet if such laws were passed could be challenged, as similar efforts have in the past, in court as a violation of corporate Fifth Amendment taking rights — meaning corporations would have to be compensated for tens of trillions of dollars of lost corporate profits. 

Local communities, just like Chagrin Falls, that prides itself on small businesses are unable to provide special benefits that are not equally offered to out-of-town chain stores. To do so would be, as has been decided multiple times in court, unconstitutionally “discriminatory” against chain stores under the Fourteenth Amendment (which was enacted to protect freed slaves) — yet another amendment corporations have hijacked to expand their rights at the expense of the rights of people and communities.

Corporations don’t need constitutional rights to conduct business. Laws passed by legislative bodies created all the tools they need.

We will never, ever have authentic political democracy unless we end the twin constitutional doctrines of political money equaling free speech and corporate rights. Money is property, not speech. Only people are persons, not artificial legal entities like corporate entities. 

Chagrin Falls voters understood this when voting 2:1 in 2014 for a ballot initiative supporting these changes — one of 705 communities that have taken a stand nationally along with more than 600 organizations in support of Move to Amend’s We the People Amendment. 

Thanks to Chagrin Falls voters for being part of this broadening and deepening democracy movement. 

Thank you.

Testimony at Brecksville “Democracy Day” public hearing

BRECKSVILLE “DEMOCRACY DAY” TESTIMONY

February 23, 2021

Greg Coleridge | Outreach Director, National Move to Amend Coalition

Happy Democracy Day!

Democracy is founded on the premise that the People are the source of all power.

‘We the People’ created corporations as tools to serve us, not themselves. As sovereigns we can regulate and restrict corporations as we see fit. The Supreme Court’s invention of constitutional rights for corporations has turned this fundamental principle on its head.

For the first century-plus of our history, corporations were strictly controlled and had no constitutional rights. Corporations couldn’t even exist unless state legislation—called charters—created them.

Statutes created corporations to give them the powers needed to conduct business for the peoples’ benefit. Logic dictates that corporations have only those rights granted them by statute. Statutes cannot create constitutional rights.

Corporations do not need constitutional rights to conduct business. Logically, an entity created to serve people should not have the same constitutional rights as those people it is supposed to serve.

Corporations aren’t mentioned in the Constitution. So the framers didn’t think they should have constitutional rights. But, starting with the 1819 Dartmouth case, the Supreme Court inserted corporations into the Constitution and progressively invented rights for corporations, anointing them with many of the same constitutional rights as natural persons like you and me.

Logic, history or law does not support the corporate constitutional rights doctrine created by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has never explained why artificial entities like corporations should have the same constitutional rights as natural persons when corporations do not need constitutional rights to do business and have special advantages that individual persons do not have, e.g. perpetual life and limited liability.

This court-invented constitutional doctrine has allowed corporations to abuse and harm the human beings they are supposed to serve. In addition to using their so-called free speech rights under the First Amendment to buy politicians, corporations have used other constitutional rights such as the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to undemocratically impose pollution, water contamination, environmental destruction, harm to workers and other assaults on unwilling local communities and individuals.

Increasingly, state legislatures and even municipal governments – such as Mayors and City Councils – have seen their police powers to protect the health, safety and welfare of their residents erode as corporate entities have successfully overturned locally passed ordinances on any number of consumer, economic, worker or environmental concerns by preemption or by going to court claiming that those laws “discriminate” under the 14th Amendment or are an infringement of trade under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.

Hundreds of such laws have been invalidated across the country over decades, creating a chilling effect on local officials since increasingly corporate rights trump local rights. Given this trend, one might reasonably ask why local governments should even exist if their only purpose may at some point be limited to determine stop sign placements, floral arrangements in planters on main street or the date of next summer’s apple festival. Decisions of real importance are increasingly hijacked. Increasing corporate constitutional rights decreases the need and taxpayer expense for mayors, councilpersons and local governments everywhere – including in Brecksville. The authority of local public officials – not to mention we the People in general — are under fundamental assault.

This is why passage of a 28th Constitutional Amendment, the We the People Amendment (HJR 48), is so important, which will end all never-intended, inalienable constitutional rights for corporate entities (corporate personhood) and the equally bizarre constitutional doctrine that political money in elections is equal to free speech —both doctrines of which were expanded in the 2010 Citizens United decision

We wouldn’t be here this evening if not for the tireless efforts of Brecksville residents to place the issue of ending big money in politics and corporate rule on the ballot in 2012 and to create this annual public hearing — as well as for Brecksville voters to pass this initiative – one of 705 communities across the country that have take a stand.

Thank you Brecksville citizens for being part of this growing transparitsan democracy movement.