TESTIMONY AT “DEMOCRACY DAY” PUBLIC HEARING
Greg Coleridge, Outreach Director | Kent, Ohio | October 2, 2019
Happy Democracy Day!
Congratulations to all those who circulated petitions.
Thanks to all those who voted for “Democracy 4 U and ME! Yes on Issue 43!”
And kudos to the organizers for somehow convincing the state of Ohio to support this initiative by coordinating state road signs with that exact number go right through the center of town!
Kent is one of more than 500 communities and more than a dozen states that have passed municipal resolution or citizen initiatives calling for ending corporate constitutional rights and money defined as First Amendment-protected free speech.
Over 460,000 individuals have signed our petition, hundreds of organizations have endorsed our initiative, and our We the People [constitutional] Amendment (HJR 48) has 65 cosponsors, including Rep. Tim Ryan.
This growing movement is a reflection of the growing disconnect between what people want on issue after issue and the policies that our elected representatives don’t pass – which is contributing to the growing movement for transformational change.
This movement is also a reflection of the growing awareness of the absurdity of money being defined as free speech and corporations having constitutional rights. Neither of which existed at the time of this country’s founding.
Many have said the greatest threat to democracy or a democratic republic is the mistaken belief that we actually have an authentic one. We the People have never been All the People.
People with property have always had more rights. Social/democracy movements driving women and people of color, among others, have partially changed that.
While white, male, property owners were certainly well shielded by the US Constitution, corporations weren’t. They, in fact, aren’t mentioned. Thus, corporations were defined as subordinate creations of the state, only able to provide goods and services as instructed in their charters or licenses, which was passed early on one-at-a-time by state legislatures.
Corporate entities only acquired “constitutional rights” because activist Supreme Court justices fictionally interpreted parts of the Constitution and Constitutional Amendments to apply to these artificial legal creations of government.
Corporate constitutional rights, or corporate personhood goes well beyond corporate political money spent in elections being defined as “first amendment free speech.” As harmful to people, places and the planet and to democracy as these are, there’s so much more.
Corporations have hijacked Constitutional Amendments and parts of the original Constitution — with impacts in many cases that limit the ability of local and state legislatures to protect the health, safety and welfare of their residents, citizens, communities and state.
-A state law mandating the labeling of certain ingredients in food has been overturned as violating a corporation’s right not to speak under the first amendment
-Employees of a corporation wanting to access contraception coverage were denied by the court as a violation of the business corporation’s first amendment religious rights (Hobby Lobby).
-A state regulation limiting the amount of fossil fuels that can be extracted from the ground has been overturned as violating a corporation’s “taking” rights under the 5th Amendment — which could have direct implications in trying to keep fossil fuels in the ground to save the climate.
-Laws giving preferential treatment to locally owned over big box stores has been overtured by corporations claiming the law discriminates under the 14th Amendment
-Numerous laws limiting the importation of toxic materials and other items in communities in the name of health, safety and welfare have been overturned under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause that places principle of commerce or trade over the principle of health, safety and welfare.
The list goes on to include the numerous instances of local laws across the country preempted or trumped by state laws or the courts to protect corporate interests over community concerns.
The point being: elections are not enough, laws are not enough, and regulations are not enough — not when the foundational rules and the interpretation of those rules are rigged to protect corporate rights over human rights and the rights to a livable world.
Amending the constitution to abolish not only political money in elections as first amendment protected free speech but also all forms of corporate personhood is essential. The We the People Amendment is that amendment. Only people are persons.
Victor Hugo once said, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”
Thank you Kent residents for contributing to this growing awareness and to shifting the culture — prerequisites to changing our foundational governing rules. This is an idea…and a proposal…whose time has come.