Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on August 18, 2013
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Formed in September 2009, Move to Amend is a coalition of hundreds of organizations and tens of thousands of individuals committed to social and economic justice, ending corporate rule, and building a vibrant democracy genuinely accountable to the people, rather than corporate interests.
As quixotic as this effort might seem at first look, Move to Amend is calling for an amendment to the US Constitution to unequivocally state that inalienable rights belong to human beings only, and that money is not a form of protected free speech under the First Amendment and can be regulated in political campaigns.
Specifically they propose an amendment, to wit:
Section 1 [Corporations are not people and can be regulated]
The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.
Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.
The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.
Section 2 [Money is not speech and can be regulated]
Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.
Federal, State and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.
Nothing contained in this amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.
A version of this amendment has already been introduced on the floor of the House of Representatives. We’re betting you didn’t hear a thing about it in your mainstream media.
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The Concept of “Corporate Personhood”
So what makes “corporate personhood” the evil seed from which the poison tree of corporate capture of government has sprung?
“Corporations” were originally created under a king’s charter, and their purpose, then as now, was the plunder of natural resources, the extraction of wealth, and the subjugation of native peoples. Since the Middle Ages, the doctrine has been refined. In the US, the Constitution does not even mention corporations. But in 1886 the Supreme Court started down a treacherous path (Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad) by viewing corporations as “people” with rights to equal protection under the 14th Amendment. Since that time the Court has granted “corporate persons” additional rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Amendments.
Thus”corporate personhood.” Rights originally meant to protect human beings from the potentially oppressive powers of our government now belong as well to the corporation, an artificial entity. Corporations claim these constitutional rights in Federal court as they attempt, often with success, to overturn, weaken, or get around a variety of laws, as we se in the news virtually every day.
It is important to note that these concepts have become force of law through the actions solely of the judiciary. No such law nor interpretation of law could ever been passed by a Congress, or any legislature, without those voting “aye” being obliged to subsequently face their constituents: a small army of peasants with pitchforks.
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Part of building a true grassroots movement and a groundswell of support is reaching people where they live. To that end, Move to Amend has conducted a series of speaking tours to make the case, spread the word, and engage interested people. It was in such a meeting recently in southeastern Virginia that we met David Cobb.
Cobb, a lawyer and political activist, has impeccable activist credentials. He has sued corporate polluters, lobbied elected officials, and has been arrested for non-violent civil disobedience. Born in Texas, Cobb graduated from the University of Houston Law School in 1993. After several years in private practice as an attorney, he became engaged in politics before devoting himself to full time activism. He has run for political office himself, including, in 2004, for President as the candidate of the Green Party of the United States.
David is now a spokesperson for and on the steering committee of Move to Amend, a national, grassroots coalition that works toward overcoming corporate power by calling for a constitutional amendment ending corporate personhood and declaring that money is not speech.
Enjoy the discussion.