Boulder Should Vote on Corporate Personhood

August 14, 2011
Dan Gould, Judy Lubow and Carolyn Bninski

Large multinational corporations today wield enormous power. They determine whether our oceans are filled with oil, whether we get more floods, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes and other signs of an accelerating climate crisis, whether Americans have jobs or our jobs are outsourced to low-wage countries, whether our military budget keeps expanding, and whether our economy implodes, to name a few of the thousands of ways that mega corporations impact us on a daily basis.

The fundamental question here is, who is in charge of our country -- the big corporations or the people and their elected officials? Who should make the decisions about our well being, our future, our environment and our jobs?

As a result of decisions of appointed-for-life Supreme Court justices over the past 125 years, corporations have been given a broad range of Constitutional Rights, including many of those contained in the Bill of Rights. Large multinational corporations have benefited almost exclusively from these rights in courts of law. Local and small businesses, nonprofits and labor unions lose out to mega corporations from the granting of these rights because they cannot begin to compete in courts or with money spent in elections.

Here are some of the rights Supreme Courts have given to corporations:

1st Amendment Free Speech rights, which corporations use to influence elections through political contributions, and to advertise for guns, tobacco and other dangerous products;

4th Amendment Search and Seizure rights, which corporations have used to avoid subpoenas in investigations for illegal price fixing and to continue corporate pollution in spite of community opposition;

5th Amendment Takings and Due Process rights, whereby communities which have passed laws to protect themselves from corporate harm have had to pay corporations for lost property value; and

14th Amendment Due Process and Equal Protection Rights, passed to free slaves, which corporations have used to build chain stores and erect cell towers against community desires and to oppose public policies that protected local businesses.

In addition, large corporations have used the Commerce Clause and the Contract Clause of the Constitution at the expense of communities to further their goal of making larger profits. For more info on the Constitutional rights that corporations have been granted, see http://movetoamend.org and poclad.org.

The judicial distortion of finding "personhood" corporate rights in the Constitution, when never intended by our Founders for non-natural persons, has resulted in the destruction of communities, our economy, our politics, the natural world, and our democratic right to rule ourselves.

A national movement of citizens (movetoamend.org) is organizing to pass a constitutional amendment to abolish constitutional rights for corporations and the equating of money with speech. In Boulder, the Boulder Coalition for Democracy, spearheaded by the Boulder County Democratic Party, Boulder County Move to Amend, and the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, has asked the City Council to put a referendum on the Boulder ballot which would allow the people of Boulder to vote on these two propositions.

The ballot referendum would say:

"Shall the People of City of Boulder adopt the following resolution: RESOLVED, the People of City of Boulder CO call 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."

On Tuesday the Boulder City Council will hold a public hearing on this proposal at the Municipal Building at Broadway and Canyon at 6 p.m. Your presence is needed. You can just show up and support the resolution with your presence or you can sign up to speak. Please be part of this historic moment in restoring our democracy.

Dan Gould is Chair of the Boulder County Democratic Party, Judy Lubow is a member of Boulder County Move to Amend and Carolyn Bninski is a member of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center.