The strength of this country’s government is not that there are, in fact, three separate and equal branches (even though this is a very good thing), but that the people of the country actually do care and have a voice. Well, so far they do, right now. To keep it, we will have to use it loudly.
The Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision last year, if left to stand, will eventually ensure that living breathing humans lose that voice to the “personhood” of Corporations. No, corporations are not people (see my previous post in this topic here).
I do not think that decision will stand. It is just bad law and while the 5/4 decision was— surprisingly? — along party lines, this is not a liberal vs. conservative or right vs. left or democrat vs. republican issue: it is corporate elite vs. the people issue. The backlash is from both the right and the left, from red states and blue.
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The reaction that initially surprised me the most was from the state of Montana, one of the reddest there is. It surprised me until I read up on it (see this article). Almost exactly 100 years ago in what was called the “Guilded Age”, Montana was ruled by the so-called Copper Kings. The Montana state web site says this about the Kings:
Those who controlled the copper mines stood to make billions of dollars, the prize sought by three men who fought for Butte’s mineral wealth with greed and generosity, cruelty and compassion, cowardice and courage. In this astonishing battle, they used their fabulous wealth to buy courts, newspapers, politicians, banks, police, and anything and anyone that could help them or hinder their opponents. To get what they wanted, their money flowed like snowmelt throughout the mile-high city and eventually reached the nation’s capital.
All the while the miners toiled thousands of feet below ground in tunnels dug with blasting powder, picks, and shovels. And sometimes, backed by rival copper kings, they also battled, with fists and dynamite, either on the streets of Butte or far below the surface
In its ruling, the Montana Supreme Court restored the state’s century-old ban on direct spending by corporations on political candidates or committees.
Other actions are (See this web page for more information):
- In Colorado, the Jamestown Board of Trustees unanimously passed a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment establishing that only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights and that the First Amendment does not protect unlimited political spending as free speech. And voters in Boulder City passed a ballot measure calling for an amendment to the US Constitution that would state that corporations are not people and reject the legal status of money as free speech.
- In California, the city councils of Fort Bragg and Richmond passed resolutions this year supporting an amendment to ban “corporate personhood.”
- Missoula, Montana voters approved a local ballot referendum urging Congress to propose a constitutional amendment that clearly states that corporations are not people and do not have the same rights as citizens by a three to one margin.
- Residents of Monroe, Maine passed a Local Self-Governance Ordinance stating that “no corporation doing business within the Town of Monroe shall be recognized as a ‘natural person’ under the United States or Maine Constitutions or laws of the United States or Maine.”
Cenk Uygur, creator and host of an internet news and commentary network, The Young Turks” started Wolf PAC to help organize the fight against Citizen’s United. Visit the page here.
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If more proof is needed about the dangers of coorporations controlling government, read about the Copper Kings, read about the United Fruit Company, read Upton Sinclair, read generally about the Gilded Age, and read about Teddy Roosevelt’s fight to reduce the power of corprations in the country.
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But the most important thing for all of us to do is to get involved. Make noise, sign petitions, write letters. Tell out politicians we do not want them taking money from corporations. It is the people of this country they are supposed to represent. When corporations—many of which have significant foreign investors—are allowed to control politics, people lose.
We can thank our founders for the wisdom in the constitutional process. We do not need to change the powers of judges as Newt Gingrich suggests, we just need to use our voice as the country to get an amendment to the Constitution passed along the following lines:
Corporations are not people. They have none of the Constitutional rights of human beings. Corporations are not allowed to give money to any politician, directly or indirectly. No politician can raise over $100 from any person or entity. All elections must be publicly financed. (Wolf PAC’s version)
or, more formally:
Section 1. For all constitutional and legal purposes, entities created by operation of law are not persons, and do not have the rights of people.
Section 2. No entity not a person, and no people other than citizens, shall contribute to any political purpose. All contributions to political purpose shall be made public, with the name of the contributor and amount and nature of the contribution, and the name of the recipient.
Section 3. The Congress shall have power to enforce the provisions of this article by appropriate legislation (view on the WOlf PAC page referenced above).
This is something we can do. We are good at it. It is what makes us American. BUt we must do it while we still can.