Movement Seeks Amendment to Curb Corporate Political Power

July 13, 2011
Glenn Wojciak

Corporations are not people. Vanessa Fields (left), Carolyn Boyes and Gene Kraus prepare for a presentation on the Move to Amend movement at the Medina Library.

So say members of a growing grass roots organization called the Move to Amend campaign which has set the ambitious goal of amending the U.S. Constitution in order to curb corporate influence over politics.

A local chapter of the organization attracted about 20 people to a meeting at the Medina Library last week to find out what the movement is all about. The meeting organizers included Montville resident Carolyn Boyce, Medina minister Gene Krause and Brunswick Hills resident Vanessa Fields.

Move to Amend has been stirred to action primarily by the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the so-called Citizens United case. The controversial decision in that case overturned existing campaign financing laws and opened the way for unlimited political campaign contributions by corporations.

Justice John Stevens wrote in a dissent of the court's majority opinion that the decision was " ...a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt."

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion, however:

"If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech," he said.

Greg Coleridge tells people attending a meeting of the Move to Amend organization why corporate influence over politics needs to be curbed. Greg Coleridge of the American Friends Service Committee is a regional coordinator of the Move to Amend campaign who spoke at the Medina meeting. He said although the Citizens United decision has galvanized opposition to corporate power in politics, concern over the influence of corporations over our government goes back much further.

Coleridge said the tendency to bestow civil rights on corporations is misguided and produced a declaration of independence from corporate rule which contains three principles:

* Corporations are not persons and have no inherent inalienable human rights under the Constitution.

* Money is not speech. Money is concentrated capital and it cannot speak.

* Communities have the right to protect our land, our environment, our homes, our health, and all of our citizens - children, elders, workers, the sick and the poor - against actions to overturn democratically enacted laws. Corporations cannot use our democratically enacted laws against us.

The basic concern of the Move to Amend organization and others is that corporations can use their vast financial resources to drown out opponents and sway public opinion and elected officials to support their special interests.

Move to Amend organizers call for others to take action to support their cause. Those who share the concern over corporate influence in politics can sign the Motion to Amend at movetoamend.org/tell-world.

The motion states that those who sign it reject the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United and move to amend our Constitution to establish that money is not speech and human beings, not corporations are entitled to constitutional rights. It also calls for protection against illegitimate "preemption" actions by global, national and state governments.

Boyce also encourages people to donate to the cause, join the movement on Facebook, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, spread the word on talk radio and to call or e-mail your elected officials.

If you'd like to contact local organizers you can e-mail Boyce at freespeechmedina@gmail.com or Coleridge at gcoleridge@afsc.org.