Corporations are not people

April 9, 2011 | By | 4 Replies More

Free Speech for People is another concerted effort to overturn Citizen’s United.   Here’s the problem:

A sharply divided Supreme Court decided that the American people are powerless to stop corporations from using corporate funds to influence state and federal elections. The 5-4 decision ruled that the restrictions on corporate expenditures in elections contained in the federal Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (known as BCRA or “McCain-Feingold”) violated the First Amendment protections of free speech.

The solution:

The Free Speech for People Amendment will overrule the Citizens United v. FEC case and return the First Amendment to its longstanding purpose as a guarantee of the fullest rights of a free people and the press. The Free Speech for People Amendment will overrule the fabrication by activist judges of a “corporate rights doctrine” to defeat democratically enacted laws, and will restore the First Amendment to its meaning and intent for two centuries.  The Amendment will ensure that all people have the most robust freedom of conscience, speech and debate and that a vibrant, diverse press remains free and unfettered, thus strengthening, rather than weakening, democracy.

The Free Speech for People Amendment Campaign will work with others to develop specific language for the Free Speech for People Amendment. Here is one example of language for the Free Speech for People Amendment:

Amendment XXVIII

Section 1.  The sovereign right of the people to govern being essential to a free democracy, the First Amendment shall not be construed to limit the authority of Congress and the States to define, regulate, and restrict the spending and other activity of any corporation, limited liability entity, or other corporate entity created by state or federal law or the law of another nation.

Section 2.  Nothing contained in this Article shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.

[Addendum April 11, 2011]

I have added a short speech by John Bonifaz, co-founder of Free Speech for People. He warns that Citizens United should not simply be seen as a campaign finance decision, but as announcing a radical new doctrine establishing corporate rights. Corporations should not be seen to have the same rights as people. Because of their powers to aggregate wealth, they should be carefully restrained. Unchecked corporate power is subverting our democracy. The BP disaster and the unrestrained consolidation of the media are examples. The solution is to amend the U.S. Constitution with the 28th Amendment. Bonifaz indicates that seven of the existing Amendments remedied egregious injustices.

This effort will take immense energy and organizing, but the wholesomeness of the idea is on our side. Polling shows that 87% of Democrats, 85% of Independents and 68% of Republicans support the idea that corporations should not have the rights of people.



Category: Corruption, Politics

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (4)

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  1. Brian says:

    "Nothing contained in this Article shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press."

    As the First Amendment probably mentions and safeguards the press as a means of expression and not as a fourth estate with powers above those of others, I wonder what the legal effect would be of an Amendment that implicitly misinterprets another Amendment.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Here's another proposed Constitutional Amendment, this one out of Wisconsin:

    "'RESOLVED, the City of Madison, Wisconsin, calls for reclaiming democracy from the corrupting effects of undue corporate influence by amending the United States Constitution to establish that:

    1. Only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights, and

    2. Money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.'

    84% of voters in Madison, Wisconsin have approved the above measure that would strip corporations of any claim to the protection of rights enumerated in the U.S. Constitution. Voters elsewhere in Wisconsin have also approved the measure in their particular counties. The proposal comes in the wake of Wisconsin Republicans successful efforts to strip from state unions the right to collectively bargain. The battle over that bill galvanized many in America, and has spurred progressives and others on the left to reassert workers’ rights."

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    I believe the game the Right Wing is playing goes something like this. STEP ONE: the Right Wing Supreme Court legislates from the bench to declare that corporations have rights under the First Amendment. One of the arguments in defense of the ruling is that it applies not just to corporations, but to all organizations that wish to contribute to political candidates; i.e., to labor unions that might wish to support Left Wing candidates. This argument attempts to make the ruling appear unbiased. STEP TWO: the Right Wing then exterminates labor unions. Not being content with the fact that many unions are already barred from making political contributions (because they are non-profit organizations), the Right Wing can effectively make corporations the *only* entities that benefit from Citizens United simply by legislating the remaining unions out of existence — just as they are trying to do to state worker unions in Wisconsin and other states. It's an attempt at a bloodless coup, the goal of which is to give Republican candidates huge financial advantages over their challengers.

  4. Adam Herman says:

    Geez, this is like whack-a-mole. If you create an amendment stating that corporations don’t have rights, then you’ve pretty much stripped constitutional protections away from every decent-sized organization in the country, from the Democratic Party to the UAW, to the NAACP, to the ACLU. All of those organizations are incorporated.

    I see that other proposed amendments apply to for-profit businesses. Yet still preserve freedom of the press, which is kinda weird, because if corporations don’t have rights, where did they get freedom of the press? Since freedom of the press is the right to electioneer, you’ve got a self-nullifying amendment on your hands.

    Here’s a hint: if you have to hair-split to get an amendment written, you’re wasting your time. Either grant the government broad censorship powers over all corporate communications, or don’t. Carving out all sorts of exceptions is arbitrary and undermines the whole point of the exercise. YOu can’t say on one hand that corporations have no rights because they aren’t people, but oh wait, these other corporations over here, we like them, so they are people with constitutional rights.

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