“Corporations v. Persons : The Struggle that Will Define the 21st Century”
Actually, the struggle is even more serious than that.
It is corporations v. life as we have come to know it on Planet Earth.
It is corporate rule v. democracy and a bright future.
The central objective of “Move to Amend” is to amend the U.S. Constitution to establish that:
(1) Corporations do not have Constitutional rights – a corporation is not a person in the meaning of the U.S. Constitution; and
(2) Bribery will no longer be legalized in the USA – Money used to influence government policy, actions, officials, and elections is not protected as “free speech” and can be regulated.
Certain groups and individuals have attached to this Movement of the People, while simultaneously diluting and compromising it by instead asserting that the objective is to “defeat citizens united” and to “get money out of politics”. They seek to return to the status quo and restore certain inadequate “campaign finance reforms” that existed prior to 2010. That objective can do no more than return America to the corruption, the legalized bribery, and the corporate control of government that already prevailed then, and had long been frustrating our best efforts. Reversing an admittedly appalling supreme Court ruling that was issued in 2010 can only squander the energy of the growing Movement of the People for needed change, and is a target that is unworthy of the struggle that will be necessary to ratify a Constitutional Amendment. They are aiming way too low, misinforming the people, and compromising our Movement.
That particular supreme Court ruling in 2010 was only the latest in a series of illegitimate supreme Court rulings that had the dual objective of (a) undermining and weakening Constitutional protection of the rights and the sovereignty of the People, and (b) establishing and consolidating corporate control of all three branches of both federal and state governments. Those corrupt rulings have been built upon the rotten foundation of an unjustified and invalid precedent that was first asserted in 1886 when the supreme Court case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company was decided.
That assertion (that a corporation has the Constitutional rights of a person) was simply stated in the headnotes to that case – headnotes authored by a Court clerk with a major corporate ax to grind. The Court was presented testimony regarding whether corporations did or did not possess Constitutional rights, but the Court explicitly did not consider or decide the case on those potentially momentous grounds. The Court deliberately, and properly, did not rule on any Constitutional matters when it decided that case. No legal rationale, no justification for that headnote assertion, was presented in the “Opinion of the Court”, authored by Justice Harlan, for a unanimous decision, that was officially published for that case. In fact, the “Opinion of the Court” explicitly stated that no Constitutional questions were considered in deciding and ruling in this case. And a headnote does not and can not legitimately establish a legal precedent. Only the official “opinions” of the Court can do that. That’s why I say that this “precedent” was completely and literally unjustified. Unfortunately for us, and for many generations that preceded us, that unjustified “precedent” became the cornerstone of modern corporate law, because it was illegitimately used since then to place corporations above the people they are supposed to serve, and above the body of law that has created them.
Now hear this: That 1886 precedent was not only unjustified, it was and is also absolutely unjustifiable. And consider this: The most likely explanation for the precedent being unjustified by the published Court ruling and official record in 1886, is simply that … it was not justifiable! Otherwise, doesn’t it make common sense that the Court, either then or at some – any! – other time, would have published their deliberations and findings, and issued a ruling in this extremely important matter? But neither the Court in 1886, nor any subsequent supreme Court, has ever officially, and for the public record, examined and ruled on that Constitutional question! Subsequent Courts that have applied the unjustifiable legal theory that a corporation has any of the Constitutional rights of a person have merely cited that case as the precedent for their ruling. So it’s about time that somebody examines the evidence and the Constitution itself, and points a steady, accusing finger at the supreme Court, and exposes the false and naked precedent for what it is.
My 2-part 2011 essay examines the question, Does a Corporation Have Constitutional Rights? The meaning and intent of the U.S. Constitution in this matter, is revealed, clearly and without ambiguity by the text of the document itself. And there can be no question that a corporation does NOT legitimately possess the Constitutional rights of a person. Read it and see for yourself.
Targeting the 2010 supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, Inc. v the Federal Elections Commission is not only a short-sighted and inadequate target. It is also a target behind which is our own damn foot. That 2010 case involved a shell corporation that was devised by corporate think-tank strategists specifically to challenge laws that were intended to limit corruption and undue influence on the political process in the USA. And the name “Citizens United, Incorporated” was intentionally selected for that shell corporation by those strategists specifically to give them a “PR” advantage. After all, once they got the courts to adopt the abbreviated name for their corporation, who in their right mind could be against citizens united? We need to think carefully. Should we adopt and use, for our own slogan and goal, the very name that those corporate think tank strategists carefully selected to confuse and distract the people? A local grassroots group recently initiated a petition drive in their area with an invitation for public participation. The title of their published and broadcast invitation was:
“YOUR STEP TO A BETTER DEMOCRACY – DEFEAT CITIZENS UNITED”
How’s that for shooting yourself in the foot!?!
That framing works fine for the relatively few people who already know exactly what you are talking about, and who already agree with everything you say without thinking about it. However, it will backfire with the very many people who do not want corporations to control our lives, our government and our future, but who do not know exactly what you mean when you say – usually with little or no explanation – that you are ‘against citizens united’.
“What’s wrong with citizens united, anyway?”, everyday, preoccupied working people wonder. “We’d be a lot better off if there were a lot less partisan bickering. Nothing’s getting done that needs doing. I’m in favor of American citizens being united. These people want a Constitutional Amendment to defeat citizens united! On top of that, they want to restrict freedom of speech?! And these lying protesters say they’re out to ‘save democracy’?! Count me out.”
While we’re on the subject of language, it’s appropriate to point out a very important difference. When we talk with people, whether alone or in groups or in public, and when we wave posters for cameras and in people’s faces, we should NOT be saying: “Corporations are not people.” A whole lot of people don’t know just what you mean, and they misunderstand your intention. Many everyday working people (who otherwise would listen and agree with you) are stopped and a bit confused by that phrase, and most working Americans are employed by corporations. Many of us feel disrespected when you or a waving poster declares that, “Corporations are not People”. Instead, simply always use the phrase: “A CORPORATION IS NOT A PERSON!“ Nobody is confused, offended or put off by that phrase. The difference appears small but it is important.
The result of continually saying, and putting on posters, and writing, over and over, the same foolish words that are unconsciously tripping us up, is that we will move backwards from the 85-90% majority support that encouraged over-confidence and complacency a few years ago. Instead of community and state referendums being approved by even better majorities of 90% or more, we will find ourselves unreflectively celebrating “victories” of less than 80 percent … and then progressively lower. Consider this a warning to tighten up our message, not compromise it. We need to build our momentum and our margin of victory, not placidly watch it evaporate.
Perhaps the biggest strategic blunder we need to avoid is allowing this Movement to become reduced to an issue that is fought over for political advantage by the two major parties. The two major parties will certainly do that. But we must not allow our Movement to be distracted by their internecine struggle for temporary dominance and the favor of large “donors”. We must take courageous, self-confident steps that are necessary to avoid capture by, or identification of our Movement with, either one or the other of the two major political parties. We must prevent our Movement to Amend from becoming nothing more than their football. In other words, this Movement of the People is neither a partisan nor a bi-partisan Movement. Either of those stances will reject and turn off those many millions who proclaim their independence of the two parties, and also those many millions of working class people who are so alienated from the political process that they don’t even vote. We are a NON-partisan, a trans-partisan Movement to establish government that is of, by, and for the people – rather than government that is by and for the corporations and the super-rich.
The take-home lessons?
One – Don’t use the very words that were put in your mouth by your enemy.
Stop publicly (and, frankly, stupidly) repeating that our goal is to ‘defeat citizens united’.
If you can’t stop yourself from constantly using those two words as a pejorative, then get in the habit of always using the FULL name of that corporation whenever you refer to it – Citizens United Incorporated.
Change your learned habit and say, from now on, “A Corporation is NOT a Person”, rather than “Corporations aren’t People”.
Remember that our goal is to make goals, not just yards. We intend to win hearts and minds, and we intend to win this struggle – not just play with each other.
Our purpose is to enact an Amendment that will prevent the supreme Court from ever again saying that a corporation possesses the sovereign rights that the Constitution clearly says belong to a person, and one that will also end legalized bribery and corporate control of government in the USA.
The goal to ‘get money out of politics’ is, at once, too broad, too non-specific, and self-contradictory. Asserting that goal evokes ridicule for being wildly naive. And that reaction is understandable. After all, politics, even in a perfect world, is largely about material resources, who gets taxed what and who gets what. Politics is, in large measure, concerned with money. “Get money out of politics”?! That only sounds rational when heard in the very specific way that “we” have in mind when we say it. So a lot of everyday working people think that someone who declares with a straight face that we need to “get money out of politics” is simply loony. A better, more specific, more universally understood and accepted way to say that is, “Stop legalized bribery”.
Two – Never say or do things, or make explicit alliances, which would allow anyone to justifiably identify our Movement as being a front or a haven for one of the two major political parties. Two things happen to any issue when it becomes identified as a partisan issue. One is that the needs and demands of the people become diluted, compromised, and disappeared. The other is that the “voting public” becomes divided, as if by magic, right down the middle, fifty-fifty. We will never get the Amendment we need if we are reduced to a 50-50 disputed partisan issue. Although the two permitted parties are different in certain important respects, never forget that until our Movement succeeds, both parties are controlled by corporations and the super-rich.
Our Movement that a corporation does not have the Constitutional rights of a person cannot lose. Corporations have never legitimately had the Constitutional rights that belong to a person. But we need a Constitutional Amendment in order to correct a prolonged and corrupted supreme Court mistake, and a corporate usurpation, that got the illegitimate precedent it lusted after in 1886. We the People also need the Amendment to correct another corrupted supreme Court mistake, as well as a slight defect in the Bill of Rights, and establish that money is not speech in the meaning of the 1st Amendment (and therefore can be regulated to prevent corruption of government), and that people, not corporations, possess the inalienable right of freedom of speech, and that NO ONE – least of all corporations – may infringe on that inherent right.
There is no valid reason for our Movement to fracture and to choose to focus only on “campaign finance reform”, and to pretend that it is “unrealistic”, or simply ignore and abandon the deep and underlying need for an Amendment that explicitly states that:
a corporation does not possess Constitutional rights, period.
The struggle of the 21st Century will define a line that distinguishes a person from a corporation, and will establish that in a true democracy, the people are sovereign.
On the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg (the Battle and the Address) … and forever after, we say:
We the people must and will have, government that is of, by, and for the people –
rather than government that is by and for the corporations and the super-rich.
A Corporation is NOT a Person! Money is NOT Speech!
This Planet is Your Planet. This Planet is Our Planet.
This Planet Belongs to You and Me and all Living Beings.