Cities, states pass resolutions against corporate personhood

Several cities and states are passing resolutions against corporate personhood. The resolutions are the result of Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission which gave corporations the same first amendment rights as individuals and thereby opening the floodgates for money in politics in the US. Cities and states with rules governing political contributions on the books and even some without are hoping that these resolutions will curb the impact of that decision or provide momentum to overturn it completely.

Los Angeles, Oakland, Albany and Boulder have all passed city council resolutions invalidating the concept of corporate personhood. New York City voted this afternoon to join them, with a resolution creating clear dividing lines between the rights of corporations and citizens in Manhattan. The New York decision is notable for both the size of Manhattan but also the size of its business community and the potential impact of such a resolution. Cities across the country are looking at similar resolutions in attempt to restore order in their localities as Super Political Action Committees (PACs) make unprecedented forays into local elections.

On Friday, Montana’s Supreme Court restored a 100-year old provision banning corporate spending in local politics. According to the court, even though the Supreme Court ruling strikes federal spending limits, it does not specifically prohibit state spending laws. The court held that the state’s Corrupt Practices Act, thus complies with the U.S. Supreme Court’s January 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.

Vermont introduced a measure in the state legislature last week that calls on Congress to create a constitutional amendment separating the rights of individuals from those of corporations. California is expected to be the next state to take up a state-level resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision.

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Mark Dixon

We need to spread the work on this…I was appalled when the Supreme Court made its decision, but they were just following “precedent” in legal terms.

Unfortunately, the precedent is in error…as Thom Hartman explains in his book, “Unequal Protection: How Corporations became People“.

Essentially, it all started in 1886 when the Supreme Court Justice Morrison Waite pronounced judgment in a case of the Southern Pacific Railroad versus Santa Clara County (CA), about some county tax on the railroad. The lawyers claimed that the railroad was entitled to the same rights as a “person”. The court reporter (not the written opinion of the judge himself) noted in the written record of the case that, “The defendant corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This written record was in error and not the explicit intention of Justice Waite. Nonetheless, this record began to serve as a precedent to set the tone and served to legitimize all subsequent claims to corporate personhood for the rest of history until the present day.

So, time to get fired up on this one, people…take back our rights and restrict those of corporations, especially when it comes to politics and PACs.