End Corporate Personhood: LA Joins National Movement to Repeal Citizens United

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We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and other related cases, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.

Sign the petition – CLICK HERE. And on May 21, LA should vote YES on Measure C.

corporations are people

This May 10, on the 127th “birthday” of corporate persons, Move to Amend activists display freeway banners all over the nation. In Los Angeles, a march will take place at City Hall at 10:30 am.

Prop C: “If We Don’t Get This Done, We’re Finished!”

By Michele Sutter, Published in City Watch LA

On May 21st, in addition to electing a new mayor, five new city council members, a city attorney, a city controller and choosing from among three dueling medical marijuana propositions, the people of Los Angeles will be asked to weigh in on the issue that will ultimately determine our collective future, not only as a city, but as a country and ultimately as a species.

This is not hyperbole.

Here’s the language for Proposition C:

“Shall the voters adopt a resolution that there should be limits on political campaign spending and that corporations should not have the constitutional rights of human beings and instruct Los Angeles elected officials and area legislative representatives to promote that policy through amendments to the United States Constitution?”

The entwined issues of money in politics and the granting to corporations the rights intended for individuals under the US Constitution is the two-headed snake that is poisoning our discourse and constricting our processes to a point beyond dysfunction, and beyond dysfunction can lie despair.

Despair was in the air this week after the US Senate failed to pass even the weak offering to reform our nonsensical gun policies. It was widely reported that 90% of the American people supported this legislation. How in a democracy can 90% of the people support the passage of a law and that law not pass? In this instance we know the answer. The National Rifle Association has more power to impact policy than the people of the United States of America.

“. . . corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their ‘personhood’ often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of “We the People” by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.”

             ~Supreme Court Justice Stevens, January 2010

Supreme Court protest

The American people have the right to protections for our health and our environment, to ensure our families have access to clean water, healthy food, and breathable air. This is why grassroots organizations through the Move to Amend Coalition are calling for a constitutional amendment to eliminate corporate personhood. Photo By Suzanne Merkelson.

The NRA has money to spend on political candidates and in exchange for those “donations” they expect those candidates, once elected, to repay them with votes, and they grade the politicians on their performance.

In 2010 the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) gave the NRA and all other entities and individuals license to spend unlimited amounts of cash to affect their desired political outcomes. A majority of the SCOTUS inscrutably opined that this would neither corrupt nor appear to corrupt the political process.

Maine recently became the thirteenth state to urge Congress to develop an amendment to address the money-in-politics crisis, joining West Virginia, Colorado, Montana, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, Maryland, Vermont, New Mexico and Hawaii in calling for an amendment. Washington, DC, has also backed the drive.

Unlike the SCOTUS, we know the corrosive and corrupting effects of money in politics and we see the results writ larger every day whether it’s in our inability to regulate guns or ammonium nitrate storage facilities (according to a report in the LA Times, facilities like the one in Texas are common in California’s Central Valley) or the oil and gas industry or agribusiness or financial institutions.


A PSA by James Platinum-Diamond on democracy, corporations, and LA’s Prop C, on the ballot for Los Angelenos on May 21, 2013. Be sure to vote YES.

But it’s not only the money. Let’s imagine that we were able to pass a binding measure mandating publically financed municipal elections in Los Angeles. Let’s imagine, too, that it was well thought out, popular, and Constitutional as interpreted by our City Attorney.

The day after the vote the City of Los Angeles would be sued and enjoined from implementing the new law on the grounds that we were violating the First Amendment Constitutional right of the plaintiff to speak. In today’s SCOTUS corporations can and do claim a first amendment right to speak and, thanks to a previous SCOTUS ruling, Buckley v. Valeo, 1976, money equals free speech.

Sounds impossible, doesn’t it, counter-intuitive, through the looking glass, Mad Hatter’s tea sort of stuff?

Well, it’s not.

The ballot-measure approach was put into action in November 2012, when voters in Montana, Colorado and 175 cities, including Chicago, San Francisco, and more than half the cities in Massachusetts, passed measures instructing Congress to support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

A few Saturdays ago, on April 6th, a group of Proposition C supporters, myself included, attended a Los Angeles Alliance of Neighborhoods Councils (LAANC) meeting seeking their endorsement for Prop. C. We were nearly the last item on the agenda. The greatest portion of the meeting was devoted to the consideration of the electronic billboards that have been sprouting in our city and are owned by Clear Channel, a company without a poker face.

When I joined the meeting a representative from Clear Channel was making the case that the electronic billboards were contributing to public safety and he supported this claim with a slide from the Christopher Dorner episode showing Mr. Dorner’s photograph and the details of his vehicle on an electronic billboard.

In the 2012 election year, fossil fuel groups have spent more than $153 million on campaign ads to promote pro-fossil fuel candidates. One corporation, Chevron, contributed $2.5 million to a super PAC to elect House Republicans. In exchange for the support, Republicans voted consistently to protect the $2.4 billion in taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil. Meanwhile everyone else pays a hefty price. The True Cost of Chevron is a 64 page report highlighting some of Chevron’s most outrageous crimes against humanity and nature.  — Heather Buckner & Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap

Citizens United, Los AngelesThe LAANC members were skeptical and enquired about the percentage of billboard time that could reasonably be said to be contributing to public safety. The LAANC members were also concerned about the placement of the billboards in residential neighborhoods with lights that were cast all night, every night, in LA residents’ “bedroom windows.” The city might want to make some changes.

The Clear Channel representative was not responsive to the idea that Los Angeles might decide to impose some additional regulations on electronic billboards and he flexed his SCOTUS granted Constitutional muscle stating that such actions by the city would be challenged in court and further asserted that in similar cases the courts have been finding in favor of the free speech rights of corporations!

Wow!

When the Proposition C endorsement came up for a vote it was approved by a 75% majority. One LAANC member said to me after the meeting: “This is the issue. If we don’t get this done, we’re finished.” Proposition C is a non-binding resolution, but it has the potential to be a clarion call to our elected representatives at all levels that We the People are instructing them to fix this SCOTUS driven perversion of the Constitution through the amendment process.

Angelenos, go to the polls. There are widespread predictions that the May 21st turnout will be dismal. Let’s defy these predictions. The more people who participate, the greater the numbers, the more weight our voices will have in City Hall, in Sacramento and in Washington DC to demand action and change.Climate Change rally, February 17

Move To Amend has called for a National Day of Action on Friday May 10th to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s May 10th 1886 decision in Santa Clara v. The Southern Pacific Railroad, widely noted as the first assertion that corporations were entitled to the Constitutional rights intended for individuals.

Here in Los Angeles, The MOVI Coalition and its partners will join with Move To Amend to lead a march beginning at 10:30 am on Friday May 10th:

  • Meeting at City Hall (200 N. Spring St) and marching to the Los Angeles Times Building

The Los Angeles Times and KTLA are both owned by The Tribune Company, which is reportedly considering selling its newspaper holdings to the Koch brothers. Our message on May 10th is threefold:

  1. YES on Proposition C,
  2. Corporations are NOT People, Money is NOT Speech
  3. Say NO To Koch.

MOVI Los AngelesMichele Sutter is a volunteer organizer with The Money Out Voters In Coalition and lives in Venice. For more information on the LA marches, email <[email protected]> or call Michele @ 310 633 3421 or Cyndy @ 213 479 8147.

See the Event Flyer: Citizens United Protest – May 10 – MOVI

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