Presentation in Iowa City, Iowa, December 2, 2018
Presentation in Iowa City, Iowa, December 2, 2018
Conducted in Des Moines, Iowa on December 6.
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:
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 email@example.com.
Greg Coleridge is Outreach Director at Move to Amend. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Round 2 of tax cuts for the super wealthy and corporations passed the House. Call your Senators. People power must counter the power of corporations and super wealthy via their political campaign “donations” — which are more like political investments — and damn profitable ones. This will continue and we’ll be on the defensive — responding, reacting and resisting — forever and ever so long as corporations possess inalienable constitutional rights of persons AND as long as money spent in elections is protected as First Amendment free speech. Did I say forever and ever? Yup. Forever and ever. That is until we end it via the We the People Amendment abolishing corporate constitutional rights and money as free speech. So what are we waiting for?
Several conservative websites are abuzz over the charge that there were protesters at the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination hearings this week. Several individuals claim they saw individuals who had been arrested for speaking out inside the hearings being handed cash outside the hearing on the street.
One of the eyewitnesses claimed that he spoke to one of the protest organizers who confirmed giving money to those arrested to pay court fines. It could also have been to compensate the individuals for taking off work. Either way, the conclusion was that the Kavanaugh protests weren’t legitimate.
Opposition to Kavanaugh, of course, is quite legitimate by many people for any reasons. A recent ABC/Washington Post poll shows Kavanaugh having the third-lowest support of any nominee to the Supreme Court in the poll’s history.
There are also legitimate questions about how legitimately objective if confirmed Kavanaugh would be if Donald Trump is indicted on any number of possible charges under the Mueller investigation. Kavanaugh was, after all, Trump’s choice. Though not atop the list of candidates recommended by the Federalist Society, he just so happened to be the only candidate with a solid record of opposing Presidents being prosecuted while in office. Just a coincidence no doubt.
It’s not a stretch to conclude that those who support Kavanaugh are the most upset about the “paid protesters” at the hearings.
But there’s a huge double standard here.
Kavanaugh’s record is clear in questioning the constitutionality of political candidate contribution limits, limitations affirmed in the Buckley v Valeo 1976 Supreme Court decision. Kavanaugh also is a big fan of the 2010 Citizens United v FEC Supreme Court case. Both cases legitimize political campaign spending as being equivalent to political free speech (i.e. money equals speech).
Kavanaugh has also expressed openness to foreign “dark money” political spending. In a 2011 case, Blumen vs FEC, he wrote an opinion upholding a ban on foreign political spending to candidates and campaigns. His opinion, however, excludes foreign spending on “issue ads” (i.e. political ads designed to influence an election without explicitly supporting or opposing any candidate), which can originate from corporations, wealthy individuals and even foreign governments. The sanctioning of foreign-funding of such ads is extremely troubling at a time when U.S. intelligence agencies and others claim Russians were involved in influencing the 2016 elections.
What’s the point of all of this, especially as it relates to paid political protesters?
Simple. As in simple math. Call it “free speech math.”
If “money equals speech” (A = B), then “speech equals money” (B = A).
Translation: protesters who speak out should be paid.
If corporations and the super wealthy can bankroll political attack ads (many of which are done without knowing the sources of the funding, thus the moniker “dark money”), then why the heck can’t protesters be paid for, well, exercising their free speech? During the Kavanaugh hearing. During city council meetings. When protesting on the street. The list is endless. Makes just as much sense as money being defined not as property but as political free speech!
The same people who are outraged about paying people to protest at the Kavanaugh hearing (who all show their faces and will reveal their identities when paying fines) should be much more outraged about the flood of money in our political system which has has been constitutionally shielded by previous Supreme Courts as protected “free speech.” These huge amounts of political cash amount to legalized bribery and results in the drowning out of the voices of the vast majority of people who aren’t investing in political campaigns. The magnitude of the two different forms of “paid speech” isn’t remotely close.
Those who proclaim that paying protesters isn’t legitimately democratic should not only more loudly assert but take action against the ever-growing tsunami of political money from corporate entities and the super duper wealthy flooding our political system as a massive threat to whatever is left of our democratic republic.
Which it is.
Which is why the solution in the short run is to oppose Brett Kavanaugh.
Move to Amend (MTA) supports a constitutional amendment to end political money defined as free speech and corporations in all their forms being anointed with constitutional rights (what many call “corporate personhood.”)
MTA has sent an Open Letter to every member of the Senate stating its objections to his confirmation. MTA has also prepared a questionnaire for US Senators to ask focused on his beliefs about corporate constitutional rights. Forward it to your Senators and request they ask Kavanaugh for his responses.
Please do all you can to oppose the Brett Kavanaugh nomination…whether you’re paid to do it or not.
The New York Times asked readers to submit suggestions for amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Those printed were on July 7 at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/07/opinion/constitution-amendments.html
My submission below was not among them….
To the Editor,
Corporations and the wealthy have hijacked the Revolution’s goal of replacing King George with We the People as the sovereign power.
Move to Amend’s “We the People Amendment,” H.J.R 48 with 58 Congressional cosponsors, declares our independence from corporate rule and the wealthy by establishing that only human beings possess inalienable constitutional rights and money isn’t free speech and can be regulated in elections.
Corporations were originally subordinate to people through state charters. Activist courts came to the rescue by anointing them with never-intended constitutional 1st, 4th, 5th and 14th Amendment rights, as well as protections under the Commerce and Contracts clauses. Money in elections has also been largely shielded from democratic regulation. The impact has been the buying of elections and the overturning of democratically enacted laws protecting communities, workers, consumers, family farms and the environment.
A legitimate democratic republic is impossible when corporations and money possess constitutional rights.
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Outreach Director, Move to Amend
The lowdown on a group that is often confused with Move to Amend, but shouldn’t be. They’re a PAC that collects millions of dollars and often supports candidates who accept corporate PAC money as this article shows. MTA is a low-budget, grassroots group dedicated to enacting a constitutional amendment ending corporate constitutional rights and money is speech. Giving cash to End Citizens United does not help Move to Amend.