Democracy Convention

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The Next Step toward Creating a Diverse Democracy Movement

by Greg Coleridge

https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/democracy-convention/

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Cleveland citizens decry impact of Citizens United case at first Democracy Day hearing

DemocracyDay

Hearing prompts calls to curb corporate campaign influence

By Robert Higgs, cleveland.com

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2017/05/cleveland_citizens_decry_impac.html#incart_river_home

Hacked off by the Electoral College

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Below is the January newsletter posting from the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD). It’s posted here because the POCLAD website, poclad.org, was hacked at the end of 2016 with content of the entire website erased. We were hoping to have the site restored before sending out this article. The website will, hopefully, be back online in the next few weeks. We feel POCLAD’s archives and occasional articles examining core democracy/self-governance issues are more relevant now than ever.

HACKED OFF BY THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE
Greg Coleridge

It happened again. For the fifth time in our nation’s history, we have a President of the United States who received fewer popular votes than his opponent.

As if we needed more political developments to question the legitimacy of our political system, we can now add to the growing list a President claiming a mandate to implement his agenda who lost the election by 2.86 million votes.

This issue for many is all about the individual persons who actually won and lost. It shouldn’t be. The larger, more fundamental issue is about democracy.  It’s about the credibility and legitimacy of our political system.

The fundamental question is very simple: should citizens in the United States have the right to have their individual votes count equally when electing their President? Yes or No?

While Congressional Committees are now investigating the threat posed to our elections by the Russians, including possible hacking of private emails, every citizen should be hacked off by the proven threat to democracy on full public display every four years by the built-in system for (s)electing the President: the Electoral College.

Never mind a possible single wall built between Mexico and the U.S. in the next four years, multiple walls were erected in our own original Constitution to keep We the People outside our own government and governance.1  Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Jay and other of our nation’s “founders,” fearing the potential political power of “the rabble,” had little interest in establishing anything approaching a real democracy.

History

The Electoral College is one of those walls. A relic of the immoral and heinous slavery era of our nation, the Electoral College was included in the Constitution to protect the political power of southern slave states when electing the President. Since slaves had zero rights, including the right to vote, an actual democratic national popular voting system would threaten the institution of slavery.

A nifty alternative was proposed by southern slave masters counting the “votes” of states over those of citizens, with each slave counted as 3/5ths of a real person when determining the number of proportional “electors” representing that state. This inflated the political power of slave states, protecting the barbaric institution.  Democracy, like many slaves who resisted their inhumane treatment, was tarred and featured. Little wonder that four of the nation’s first five Presidents were from slave-dense Virginia.

Adding to the dismay was the requirement that each state, regardless of population, would receive an additional two electors — representing the number of Senators of each state. The democratic distortion was in full display (or decay) before the ink dried on the parchment of the original Constitution.

The sordid link between the Electoral College and slavery transcends its birth. Rutherford B. Hayes was the second loser of the popular vote to become President.  Hayes lost the popular vote to Samuel Tilden in 1877. Twenty electoral votes were “unresolved.” The (s)election of Hayes as President was determined by a special commission, controlled by the CEO of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and made up of Supreme Court justices and members of Congress. A deal was struck, The Compromise of 1877: Hayes would receive the 20 electoral votes if he agreed to pull federal troops from the South. This put an end to Reconstruction and the launch of Jim Crow racist laws. Those same troops were shifted to put down the first national labor strike in 1877, resulting in the death of over 100 strikers. Other troops were sent to fight the “Indian Wars” in the West, which stole land and created a different form of enslavement – Indian Reservations.2  Thank you Electoral College!

Democratic disaster

A few years ago Donald Trump said: “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.”
Views can and do obviously change when the shoe is on the other foot – or in his case Tweets are coming from another smartphone.  It’s not surprising that Electoral College outrage is so partisan. It’s the same with gerrymandering. Those doing the line drawing to benefit their political party and marginalize the other party always think it’s fair, even if the drawing paints a democratically damning picture. The Electoral College is, however, a nonpartisan assault on real democracy.

The major pillar of the Electoral College defense is the argument that it provides balance in ensuring political voice and power to rural and unpopulated communities and states. The point was made, for example, that the entire 2.86 million popular vote advantage of Clinton came from just California and New York and, thus, a popular voting system would in effect be determined by wishes, wills and whims of these two coastal states.3

Numbers can be parsed, of course, in ways to make exactly the opposite point. Texas, with its 38 electoral votes, can be claimed to have determined the national election. Given that Trump received 74 more electoral votes than Clinton, it can be asserted that it was the wishes, wills and whims of the Lone Star State alone that determined the final outcome.

There’s a reason that no other nation on the planet self-identifying as a “democracy” or “democratic republic” has anything like an Electoral College. Why? Because it violates the basic democratic principle of “one person, one vote.” Every vote should count and be weighted identically. Under the Electoral College, voters in small states have greater power per person than in more populous states due to every state, regardless of population, automatically receiving two electoral votes. It’s simple math.

Smaller states also have disproportionate power in the U.S. Senate. Gerrymandered congressional districts result in one political party (Republicans at the moment) having far better representation in the House of Representatives than their number of registered party members would warrant in state after state. If you add in the rights of minorities from majorities (be they individuals or institutions) inherently protected by the U.S. Supreme Court, a solid argument can be made that the constitutional scale is tipped well away from the right or power of popular, majority rule.

The fundamental democratic “unit” in our country is the human person (or in the case of elections, voters), not “the state” or “substate” like such as individual states, counties, cities, wards, or precincts. It should be irrelevant, therefore, how many states, counties, cities, wards or precincts presidential candidates won, but only how many eligible human votes they received. That’s how winning candidates are determined for Senate, House of Representatives, state elected office, county elected office, mayor, councilperson, even ward precinct committee person. Governors in all 50 states are elected by popular vote. Should not the same be true for the governor of all states – the President?

It’s only the Electoral College that permits losers to be winners.

If this were as fair as its promoters suggest in choosing a President, it would be a relative breeze to develop an equivalent Electoral College-friendly system at the state level to elect, say, U.S. Senators. Compared to the months it takes for state officials every decade to create gerrymandered congressional and state senate and representative districts, designing such a system would be a relative cakewalk. Winning the greatest number of counties in their a state with rural counties weighted more heavily would elect U.S. Senators regardless of the state’s overall popular vote. Why hasn’t it happened? Because no politician or “Blue Ribbon Commission” could sell it to the public.

Winning when losing broadens and deepens the ever-growing legitimacy crisis of the Presidency in particular and U.S. political system in general.

The hallmark of one person, one vote as the mechanism to determine outcomes transcends politics to include virtually every civil society organization. Even “Dancing with the Stars” honors one person, one vote in their annual faux electronic elections. You can’t get any more culturally legit!

Taking action

There are very few moments when fundamental flaws in governing institutions are so blatantly revealed. This is one of them.

The challenge will be to address fundamental democratic constitutional flaws amidst responding to scores of anticipated horrific public policy proposals from the Trump Administration.4  It’s what the Move to Amend (www.movetoamend.org) campaign to abolish corporate constitutional rights and money defined as constitutionally-protected free speech faces in the coming years.

It’s the same old story for people of conscience: deciding where to strategically place their strategic time, energy and resources. Should we focus on electing or unelecting public officials? Should we advocate for better laws and regulations? Should we organize for long-term structural and institutional change?

The answer is, of course, some of each. They’re all needed. They all, if understood as a package, reinforce one another.

Despite the in-our-faces contradiction between the myth of one person, one vote that we’re raised to believe our nation upholds compared with the reality the Electoral College presents, little activist energy exists for a constitutional amendment campaign to abolish this antidemocratic arrangement, despite an Amendment being introduced in late 2016 by former Senator Barbara Boxer.

Abolishing the Electoral College is more likely to occur as part of a larger package of constitutional “Democracy Amendments” in the future. This will require that citizens continue organizing a larger “democracy movement” which undergirds many current social, economic, political and environmental efforts.  As a reaction to the evaporating myth of democracy in our country, there is growing dedication to a democracy movement capable of successfully pushing a package of “Democracy Amendments.”  It could be a reality much sooner than we think.

In the meantime, there is an alternative strategy that would neutralize the Electoral College and its democratic distortions. Ten states and the District of Columbia have already passed legislation awarding their respective Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote. These states and DC account for 165 electors.  If additional states with a cumulative total of 105 electors take the same action, the Electoral College would, in effect, be trumped with one person, one vote becoming the means for deciding the next President.

Being hacked off about the Electoral College is wholly legitimate.  Our task is to convert that anger into positive vision, engagement and common action on behalf of an electoral system with democratic integrity.

Notes

1 A list of undemocratic Constitutional provisions has been itemized in an earlier POCLAD article, A U.S. Constitution with DEMOCRACY IN MIND, http://poclad.org/BWA/2007/BWA_2007_MAR.html#3
2 Human Rights for Human Beings, Not Corporations,
http://poclad.org/BWA/2001/BWA_2001_MAR.html
3 The word “coast” is constantly used in this and other contexts not as a geographic descriptor but as a form of derision. “The coast” infers being on the edge or fringe, compared to being mainstream, or the center. The Midwest is authentic or real because it lies in the “heartland.” Interesting how those who use the word “coast” with such derision never use it when describing, say, Texas, with considerable coastline on the southern edge or fringe of the nation.
4 There would have been many horrific policies, though in some cases of a different set, deserving of immediate reaction and resistance if Clinton had been elected.

Cleveland City Council passes ordinance on corporate power and money in elections

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NEWS RELEASE

Contacts: Lois Romanoff, 216-231-2170, loisromanoff@gmail.com
Chris Stocking, 440-376-8400, Christopher.Stocking@gmail.com
Diane Karpinski, 216-921-2474, ms.diane.karpinski@gmail.com
Greg Coleridge, 216-255-2184, gcoleridge@afsc.org

For immediate release, December 8, 2016

Cleveland City Council passes ordinance calling for U.S. Constitutional Amendment on corporate power and money in elections; creates biennial Democracy Day

[Cleveland, OH]  Cleveland City Council Monday night passed an ordinance calling on Congress to enact a Constitutional Amendment ending constitutional rights for corporate entities and to money being defined as free speech. The ordinance also establishes an every-other-year “Democracy Day” public hearing that will address the impact on the City of political contributions by corporations, unions, Political Action Committees, and Super-PACS; the first to be held in May, 2017

The Cleveland Move to Amend (MTA) campaign, part of the national Move to Amend movement that is proposing the Constitutional Amendment, had submitted last summer more than 5000 valid signatures by volunteers required by the City Charter to place the initiative on the ballot.

“We thank Cleveland City Council for taking a position on this important national issue,” said Lois Romanoff, co-chair of Cleveland Move to Amend. “We feel local public officials need to oppose the growing corrupting influence power corporate entities in our society and big money in our elections. It’s clear from the recent election that voters believe government has been captured by interests who don’t represent people without money or power.”

“We urged City Council to place the citizen initiative on the ballot for voter consideration rather than simply enact the initiative, said Chris Stocking, co-chair of Cleveland Move to Amend. “We feel these issues are important enough to have not only Cleveland public officials take a position, but Cleveland citizens. A ballot measure would have given us the opportunity to broadly discuss with the community the many problems connected with corporate power and large campaign contributions from the super wealthy.”

“While we had hoped Cleveland City Council would have permitted our initiative to go to the ballot, we look forward to working with them to hold the first biennial Democracy Day public hearing next May,” said Diane Karpinski, member of Cleveland MTA. The hearing will be an ongoing arena to shed light on the problems of and alternatives to corporate constitutional rights and the rights of unlimited money being spent in elections.”

“Hundreds of communities across the nation have already enacted municipal resolutions and/or ballot measures in support of this Constitutional Amendment,” said Greg Coleridge, Move to Amend Ohio coordinator and Director of the NE Ohio American Friends Service Committee. “Twenty two communities in Ohio have, to date, taken a stand — 12 via municipal resolution and 10 by the ballot, including this past November with 82% of Shaker Heights voters and 77% of South Euclid voters.”

Citizens in Brecksville, Chagrin Falls, Cleveland Heights, Defiance, Kent, Mentor, Newburgh Heights, and Toledo previously passed a similar ballot initiative while the communities of Athens, Barberton, Bedford Heights, Canton, Dayton, Fremont, Lakewood, Lorain, Oakwood Village, Oberlin, Oxford, and South Euclid passed city council resolutions supporting the Move to Amend-backed Constitutional Amendment.

Move to Amend support the We the People Amendment, HJR 48. It’s co-sponsored by 22 U.S. Representatives.

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Trumped Up Democracy: 10 Reflections on the 2016 Elections and the Future

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Trump up: “to devise deceitfully or dishonestly, as an accusation; fabricate.”
-dictionary.com

The 2016 election was one massive and long trumped up affair – full of deceit, dishonesty and fabrications. The perpetrators were both major Presidential candidates and their campaigns, although it more often than not seemed the very phrase was coined upon hearing and seeing Donald Trump on the campaign trail over the last 18 months.

It’s critical to understand the social, economic and political context of the election; the lessons learned from his campaign; the inherent economic and political flaws of our system that led to his rise; and the implications for people dedicated to peace, justice, democracy, nonviolence and sustainability over the next few years.

What follows are 10 reflections based on the above.

1. There’s always a context for any event that should be identified for better comprehension. In the case of the 2016 election, there were a number of significant economic, political and social realities.

Economic context: Large sections of our nation, particularly the Midwest, haven’t recovered from the deindustrialization following the movement of manufacturing abroad, especially to Mexico and Asia. Large sectors of the economy have seen massive technological changes with machines replacing workers. A cause and result of these changes have been the gradual “financialization” of the economy since the 1970’s (and most rapidly since the late 1980’s) with money from the financial industry shifted from the “real” economy where companies produced goods and services toward financial “products” and short-term speculation in anything yielding greater returns. There was no significant recovery from the Great Recession in many parts of the nation despite what many politicians and media pundits kept repeating. Economic anxiety, job loss, wage stagnation (despite increased worker productivity), decline of benefits, rapid increase in the rich-poor gap of wealth and income, expansion of welfare payments, increase of the national debt, and overall inability to have a voice in the economic direction of lives and communities are just a few of the impacts.

Political context: The combination over many years of the inability to be heard by elected representatives of both major political parties, government bureaucrats, and regulatory officials on the one hand and growing visible political corruption – evidenced by the relevant Clinton Foundation pay-to-play emails — shifted in the minds of many of a perception that the political system is fixed to benefit “the establishment” to a reality. Huge investments of campaign contributions to established political candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, by the super rich and “special interests,” beginning in the primaries, worsened by the Citizens United vs. FEC 2010 Supreme Court decision, added to the sense of outrage. The belief of many Trump supporters that turned out to be false was the charge that there was massive voter fraud by the Democratic Party that funneled legions of undocumented immigrants to the polls and organized the same individuals (mostly inner city African Americans) to vote multiple times. What was fact was voter suppression where multiple states erected barriers for certain groups of individuals (i.e. people of color, low income, students) from voting and purging individuals from voter rolls.

Social context: The public re-emergence of xenophobia against Mexicans (who were supposedly stealing domestic jobs from US citizens) and Muslims at home and abroad, racism against African Americans (including President Obama), sexism against women (including Hillary Clinton) and homophobia against the LGBTQ community were fueled by Trump and the right-wing media in response to widely felt cultural “political correctness” (but what others called simple anti-prejudice) throughout large segments of the white community. Many whites saw the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality and for basic human dignity as a threat to the police and to law & order. Many from rural areas and “fly over” parts of the country felt the bi-coastal “liberal establishment” ignored or mocked them. US national “pride” was seriously tarnished by Russia’s Putin, ISIS, China, and Syria’s Assad who crossed the US imposed “line in the sand” without consequences. Working people and whites were angry, frustrated and desperate.

2. Donald Trump possessed just the right combination of skills and traits to connect with disaffected whites and working people. He was well known in cultural, economic and political circles, was comfortable in communicating directly through the popular media, projected himself (the consummate business insider) as the political outsider, was exceedingly confident in his ability to accomplish anything and repeated ad nauseam about “winning”— boosting the hopes and morale of people who felt on the economic, political and social defensive over the last decade or more. Trump provided the unequivocal and confident voice these individuals didn’t have.

3. Several of Trump’s strategies and tactics were an assault on basic democracy principles.

  • Even when his statements were documented as false by the media or opponents, he continued to intentionally repeat them – following the adage of “if you just keep repeating something over and over, eventually people will believe it.” Facts simply didn’t matter. Voters didn’t seem to care. Emotions trumped the truth.
  • He comforted supporters by proclaiming, most forcefully during his acceptance speech at the RNC, that he and he alone would solve all problems. Citizens only needed to vote for him. No further engagement was necessary. Not to worry about holding him accountable. Don’t bother aligning with others in organizing to challenge people or institutions. He had it covered.
  • His racist, sexist and xenophobic remarks divided and thus weakened individuals and constituencies who shared much economically and politically in common and who could have effectively held him accountable.
  • While exceedingly long on promises, Trump may have provided the least specific plans on issues of any Presidential candidate in modern times. It was thus impossible for voters to judge his ideas and plans. Generalities abounded while specifics were absent. Perception became reality.
  • Trump co-opted humane populism. His rhetoric against Wall Street, the “rigged” political system, big media, trade agreements like NAFTA that exported jobs, and the “political establishment” connected with voters. His lack of specific solutions and linking his populist rhetoric to hatred and prejudice, however, undermined long-standing community-based and democracy groups who have made the same accusations minus the hatred of historically oppressed constituencies. Moreover, it tarnished the very legitimate need to expose and offer alternatives to our economic, political and media institutions controlled or captured by the wealthy few and corporate interests. Trump’s populism is very different that the bottom-up populism affirming the dignity and respect of all people.

4. The major corporate “mainstream” media is in partly responsible for Trump’s ascension. Media over exposure of Trump was 24/7. The corporate press, whether supportive or antagonistic, couldn’t help themselves. Trump and the corporate media needed one another. Major corporate “mainstream” network and cable TV and news dailies have seen viewers and readers plummet. His simple, stark, controversial and often-bizarre statements produced massive ratings and profits for the major corporate press, which is primarily in business after all to make a profit – whether that’s done by covering news objectively or sensationalizing statements or event. A Trump Presidency is a dream come true for the corporate press. While not per se “the press,” Facebook in particular also played a role in permitting unedited a flood of “fake news” stories to appear in their newsfeeds – a disproportionate share of which either supported Trump or attacked Clinton. As a side note but related, the corporate “mainstream” media almost completely ignored anything from the two major alternative parties and their candidates – Libertarian and Green.

5. Key promises made during his campaign will be impossible to deliver. There will be no Mexican wall with the Mexicans paying for it. The physical and financial implications of such a project are monumental. Manufacturing plants with hundreds of thousands of jobs will not return stateside. Those few that may will employ far fewer workers due to automation. Trump’s commitment to support working people in general, however, must be questioned given his history of unjust treatment of workers at his own companies. Hillary Clinton will not be locked up. ISIS or the next manifestation of extremists will continue to resist those opposing Western occupation of the Middle East. His suggested requirement that all Muslims in the US carry a special ID card noting their faith is flat out unconstitutional. Serious efforts, however, will be directed at implementing other promises. These include abolishing Obamacare, deporting immigrants who are not citizens and have remained beyond their legal duration, and gutting scores of laws and regulations protecting workers, consumers, communities and the environment.

6. When it becomes apparent that Trump can’t or has no interest in delivering on many of his promises, especially those to improve the economy, blaming “the other” will quickly surface as it did during the campaign, most definitely when the next economic bubble bursts sometime during his administration, with the impact far more severe than during the Great Recession. African Americans, the poor and immigrants will be “trumped up” as the most likely targets for blame. This will strongly resonate with that part of his most loyal base that saw his victory as legitimizing hatred, bigotry and misogyny. Divide and conquer is a time-tested technique to prevent solidarity against oppression. Expect it to used over and over again. Knowing that their tenure may be short, expect to see laws proposed and passed that seek to reduce civil rights and liberties, disenfranchise voters and make it more difficult to organize. Of course another time-tested technique by those in power to distract from economic difficulties at home is warfare – expect his administration to stoke the flames of conflict in many regions of the world.

7. The administration of the self-described political “outsider” will include many political and economic insiders. That’s what happened with Barack Obama as his campaign’s economic advisors were replaced with Wall Street insiders after his election but before he took office. Expect those with direct ties to Wall Street and the military industrial complex to assume key roles in his administration. Long time right wing Congresspersons and Senators with a demonstrated track record of promoting policies harmful to women, working people, and people of color will be prominent voices surrounding him.

8. It’s going to be a very difficult period for a majority of individuals in the US (and many abroad), but most brutal for women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and even working people – many of whom voted for Trump. We must build unity domestically and internationally around issues and constituencies. Those targeted, especially individuals from communities historically oppressed, must become the main voices that the rest of us listen to and legitimately work with. Much of our support work will need to focus on resisting proposed economic, social and political policy assaults. This means mass education, advocacy and organizing, including amassing power through mass lobbying, mass public demonstrations and strategic forms of civil disobedience.

9. Since the President, the House and Senate are now all in Republican hands and the Supreme Court likely to remain “conservative” following the appointment of the open seat by President Trump, those dedicated to justice, peace, democracy and sustainability can’t depend on government for protection.  We must resist the horrors to come by building truly independent, diverse and democratic mass movements. However, we must be extremely wary of being co-opted by the Democratic Party, which is where social movements historically have gone to die. The Democratic Party largely ignored or was sometimes even hostile toward mass movements when in power, be it Occupy, Black Lives Matter, many environmental campaigns and Move to Amend. Many who previously focused on the electoral arena will now gravitate toward movements now that they possess virtually no formal power. Social movements should be open to those from all parties (Democrats, but also Republican who voted against Trump in the primaries and many who may have voted for him in November who will come to oppose his policies), but only if they commit to principles of justice, peace, democracy, nonviolence and sustainability. Movements for change cannot be co-opted.

10. It will not be easy, but it’s imperative that people of conscience to not simply respond to harmful proposed laws and regulations. There must also be an intentional commitment to exposing the fundamental contradictions of our political and economic systems. Donald Trump lost the popular vote, yet will become President because of one of numerous profoundly undemocratic provisions of the U.S. Constitution – the Electoral College. Our political and economic systems are fundamental unsustainable. The environment is headed toward a profound collapse. Relations between blacks and whites and between men and women have further deteriorated. The Trump years will hasten these crises, forcing more than cosmetic changes to be considered. They will provide openings to examine and advocate for multiple avenues to democratize our society in all its forms – constitutionally, politically and economically – from the local to the global. They will widen the awareness of how corporate constitutional rights violates basic democratic self-governance. They will create the space to reveal how our banking-controlled, debt-based monetary system contributes to the plunder of the planet and climate change. They will further expose the entrenched racism and patriarchy in our culture and institutions. They will widen and deepen the local building of alternatives that individuals can control which meet basic needs without relying on large-scale institutions. And they will cause serious reexamination of the US military, economic and political role in the world. It will not be easy to counter the “trumping up” that will surely come in all its forms that seeks to distract, distort and discombobulate. Keeping our “eyes on the prize” to (a) resist the multiple assaults to come, (b) promote profound structural alternatives and (c) build local alternatives that meet immediate needs must become our direction as we lay the groundwork for a just and sustainable transformed society that comes next.

“Ah ha” Awareness Anniversary of Corporate Constitutional Rights

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Twenty years ago today, on October 20, 1996, twenty-five Ohioans came together at the Procter House (former summer estate of William Procter of Procter and Gamble Corporation fame) between Columbus and Cincinnati to participate imgresin a workshop titled “Rethinking the Corporation, Rethinking Democracy.” Sponsored by the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD) and led by POCLAD co-founder Richard Grossman and corporate anthropologist Jane Anne Morris, the workshop was one of scores organized over several years all over the country by the group.

hqdefault-1The environmental, labor, peace, and justice activists in Ohio were drawn to the gathering because each was struggling against or concerned about repeated corporate assaults upon their communities in particular, and upon democracy in general. I was fortunate enough to be one of those participants representing the NE Ohio AFSC, thanks to an invitation from former Toledo City Councilperson Mike Ferner.

We learned at the retreat that since revolutionary days people were well aware that property owners could use the corporate form, equipped with special privileges to operate as private governments, causing sustained harms to people, places, liberty and democracy. So people at the state level used their constitution, corporate charters and state corporation codes to define corporations as subordinate, and to restrain legislators from favoring property over people.

But as land, railroad, banking, insurance and other corporations began to acquire wealth, they crafted a different agenda. Investing some of their huge profits from the Civil War, they lobbied for legal doctrines and laws that privileged private over public interests, and favored property rights over human rights. As they increased their influence over local, state, and federal governments, they kept rewriting state constitutions and corporation laws shaping the culture to legitimize corporate dominance.

By the end of the World War II, giant corporations routinely called upon our governments to deny people’s rights — for example, by declaring that workers have no free speech or assembly rights on corporate property, or that regulated industrial corporate poisons are legalized industrial corporate poisons.

At the same time, people’s protests and political activism were increasingly channeled into administrative and regulatory agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, the Environmental Protection Agency, and scores more. In fact, corporations helped design many of these agencies, starting with the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887, so that the most which We the People can accomplish via such agencies is to get corporate property owners to cause a little less harm.

Stirred by these presentations about corporate histories and peoples’ struggles for democracy, we discussed at the Proctor House our own organizing experiences. We began to grapple with the idea that our efforts at opposing corporate violations of laws and harms one at a time, over and over again, had been tiring, erratic, and not particularly effective.

It struck us that we had a lot to learn about and from corporate history. Among other things, while we were educating on single issues, researching areas of science and technology, and organizing mostly around local, state and federal regulatory agencies, corporate officials were focusing in constitutional arenas. There, they lobbied for the property and civil rights of human persons.

While we were writing drafts of health, environmental, consumer and labor laws that would curb corporate behaviors, corporate attorneys were writing state corporation codes and amending state constitutions to define giant business corporations as private — essentially beyond the authority of We the People.

While we were bringing our causes to regulatory agencies (having been taught that state and federal regulators were our allies), corporations were too often using these same regulatory laws and agencies as barriers to justice.

And while we were considering creative ways to boycott corporate sweatshops; stop the next corporate toxic/radioactive factory/dump; persuade corporate executives to sign voluntary codes of conduct and act responsibly; and prevent factory closings or employee layoffs…corporate agents were getting state and federal courts to deny people basic constitutional rights while expanding their own rights.

The weekend was one of those “ah ha” moments for me that we all have at some point(s) in our lives if we’re lucky when understanding of the world takes a large leap rather than a small step forward. The information presented, discussed and analyzed was nothing that we had been exposed to in our schools, media, religious organizations, or even activist groups.

We were challenged just before departing to research our own legal, political and people’s history of corporate power and democracy movements in Ohio – since it was at the state level where most corporations were licensed or chartered with those charters considered democratic tools to define corporate actions.

The energcoccovery and commitment from the gathering led to the formation of the Ohio Committee on Corporations, Law & Democracy , which AFSC helped coordinate, and the subsequent publication of the bcorpornationcoverooklet Citizens over Corporations: A Brief History of Democracy in Ohio and Challenges to Freedom in the Future, the documentary CorpOrNation: the Story of Citizens and Corporation in Ohio, articles, debates, talks, workshops, forums, and testimony before the Ohio General Assembly against several proposed bills that would expand corporate power — including watering down the state corporate code to be more corporate-friendly.

All these activities occurred years before the Citizens United vs FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision of 2010. For many, Citizens United was an “ah ha” moment in which corporate constitutional rights (as well as the constitutional doctrine of money being defined as free speech) was first realized. It’s true Citizens United granted inalienable constitutional rights – specifically the right to contribute or invest in elections – to corporations as well as to individuals. Those rights, however, were not brand new rights, only expanded rights anointed to corporations and wealthy individuals. In the case of corporations, those never-intended original rights went back more than 100 years, as we learned at our retreat.

Twenty years later, corporations have even greater constitutional rights and authority than ever due to the Citizens United v FEC, Burwell v Hobby Lobby (granting corporations religious rights), McCutcheon v FEC (permitting even greater sums of money from wealthy individuals to be donated/invested in politics) and other High Court decisions.  Money continues to be defined constitutionally as free speech, as it has been since 1976.

Corporate dominance has increased in virtually every sector of our lives, including elections, mass media, education, health care, criminal justice, food, energy, environment and (you fill in the blank here). It profoundly threatens our right as people to decide what takes place in our neighborhoods, communities, nation, world and natural world.

Yet much of activism remains channeled largely, if not solely, into elections, regulatory agencies, or lobbying for laws addressing one single harm/issue/problem/concern. Meanwhile, corporate agents continue to focus on fundamental rule changes that fundamentally address and lock in power and rights.

The “ah ha” moments of corporate constitutional rights and its direct assault on self-governance are growing more numerous. The Move to Amend campaign and its quest to pass a We the People Constitutional Amendment abolishing all never-intended inalienable constitutional rights (and not just reverse Citizens United) and money defined as free speech is making more sense to more people in more communities. The growing “ah-ha” moments are coalescing into a movement involving people in hundreds of communities taking a stand.

It’s part of the arc of education and organizing that over the last 20 years the “Rethink” workshops helped launch and the Move to Amend campaign for a constitutional amendment will, hopefully, one day complete.

Move to Amend Reports on Progress and Actions From the National Conventions

August 11, 2016

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Move to Amend Reports connects you with activists and organizers working on the frontlines of the democracy movement, to bring you the lowdown on corporate rule, corporate personhood, and money as speech.

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While millions of people were tuned in for the political party conventions in Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Houston as the presidential Move to Amend was on the ground connecting and building relationships with activists and organizers from across the political spectrum. Join us for a special report on Move to Amend’s activities during the Conventions with Move to Amend Ohio coordinator Greg Coleridge, Imam Paul Hasan of the American Friends Services Committee, Move to Amend outreach & engagement director David Cobb, Move to Amend National Leadership members Daniel Lee and Egberto Willies (Move to Amend Reports co-host), who served as a Houston delegate to the DNC.

Greg Coleridge is Director of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee (AFSC, a Quaker social action organization), member of the national Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD) collective, author of Citizens over Corporation: A Brief History of Democracy in Ohio and Challenges to Freedom in the Future, writer of the documentary CorpOrNation: The Story of Citizens and Corporations in Ohio, lead researcher of two online calendars on democracy and monetary history, and former elected national board member of Common Cause. He also helps coordinate and expand the Move to Amend Ohio Network.

Imam Paul Hasan of Interfaith Ministries in Lorain, OH, has spent more than 20 years dedicated to building the community from the inside out while promoting peace and justice. Paul was a founding member of the nationally known International Council for Urban Peace, Justice and Empowerment. He founded the official Lorain County organizing committee for the Holy Day of Atonement in 1995. Paul is a Northeast Ohio AFSC Committee Member and long-time community activist in Northeast Ohio.

David Cobb is a Principal with the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy. He is a lawyer and political activist. David has sued corporate polluters, lobbied elected officials, run for political office himself, and has been arrested for non-violent civil disobedience. In 2002, David ran for Attorney General of Texas, pledging to use the office to revoke the charters of corporations that repeatedly violate health, safety and environmental laws. In 2004, he ran for President of the United States on the Green Party ticket and successfully campaigned for the Ohio recount. He is also National Projects Director for Democracy Unlimited.

Daniel Lee has been with Move to Amend since 2012. A veteran of the United States Air Force and Air National Guard, Daniel has been an active member of Occupy Los Angeles and InterOccupy who participated in Occupy encampments across the country, the Black Lives Matter Movement as well as done community organizing locally in Los Angeles with Community Coalition and other groups. He has also served locally on the Culver City Martin Luther King jr. Celebration Committee for the last 5 years and is the current chair and has been a volunteer with El Rincon Elementary, also in Culver City, for the last 10 years. Daniel is also the Move to Amend representative for the Global Climate Convergence and recently campaigned for a seat on the City Council in Culver City, a small city in West Los Angeles.

Egberto Willies is a political activist, author, political blogger, business owner, software developer, web designer, and mechanical engineer in Kingwood, TX. Egberto is a member of Move to Amend’s National Leadership Team, co-host of Move to Amend Reports, and Vice President on the Board of Directors for Coffee Party USA.