Vermont Introduces Resolution to Amend US Constitution, Ban Corporate Personhood
It’s been one year since the US Supreme Court decided that corporations are people and money is free speech. The disastrous Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling destroyed over a century of restrictions on corporate influence of our nation’s electoral process, accelerating the already alarming corporate takeover of American politics.
The consequences of Citizens United were almost immediately felt in the form of a $290 million special interest spending orgy in the 2010 midterm elections. Much of this money represented foreign corporate interests, and it played a significant role in the conservative resurgence that saw Republicans re-gain control of the House of Representatives.
Justice John Paul Stevens’ stirring dissenting opinion argued that “the Court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the nation. It will undoubtedly cripple the ability of ordinary citizens, Congress, and the states to adopt even limited measures to protect against corporate domination of the electoral process.”
Stevens also wrote: “Corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their ‘personhood’ often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of ‘We the People’ by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.”
In that spirit, Vermont state senator Virginia Lyons has introduced an anti-corporate personhood resolution in the state legislature. JRS 11 is a “joint resolution urging the United States Congress to propose an amendment to the United States Constitution for the states’ consideration which provides that corporations are not persons under the laws of the United States or any of its jurisdictional subdivisions.” The resolution continues:
“Whereas, free and fair elections are essential to American democracy and effective self-governance, and
Whereas, individual persons are rightfully recognized as the human beings who actually vote in elections, and
Whereas, corporations are legal entities that governments create and can exist in perpetuity and simultaneously in many nations, and
Whereas, they do not vote in elections and should not be categorized as persons for purposes related to elections for public office, and
Whereas, corporations are not mentioned in the United States Constitution as adopted, nor have Congress and the states recognized corporations as legal persons in any subsequent federal constitutional amendment…
Whereas, the Court in Citizens United has created a new and unequal playing field between human beings and corporations with respect to campaign financing, negating over a century of precedent prohibiting corporate contributions to federal election campaigns dating to the Tillman Act of 1907, and
Whereas, the Citizens United decision has forced candidates for political office to divert attention from the interests and needs of their human constituents in order to raise sufficient campaign funds for election, and
Whereas, corporations are not and have never been human beings and therefore are rightfully subservient to human beings and the governments that are their creators, and
Whereas, the profits and institutional survival of large corporations are often in direct conflict with the essential needs and rights of human beings, and
Whereas, large corporations have used their so-called rights to successfully seek the judicial reversal of democratically enacted laws passed at the municipal, state, and federal levels aimed at curbing corporate abuse, and
Whereas, these judicial decisions have rendered democratically elected governments ineffective in protecting their citizens against corporate harm to the environment, health, workers, independent business, and local and regional economies, and
Whereas, large corporations own most of America’s mass media and employ those media to loudly express the corporate political agenda and to convince Americans that the primary role of human beings is that of consumers rather than sovereign citizens with democratic rights and responsibilities, and
Whereas, the only way to reverse this intolerable societal reality is to amend the United States Constitution to define persons as human beings and not corporations, now therefore be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives that the General Assembly urges Congress to propose an amendment to the United States Constitution for the states’ consideration which provides that corporations are not persons under the laws of the United States or any of its jurisdictional subdivisions…”
Constitutional lawyer and 2004 Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb helped draft the Vermont resolution. “This is the first state to introduce at the legislative level a statement of principles that corporations are not persons and do not have constitutional rights,” he told AlterNet. “This is how a movement gets started. It’s the beginning of a revolutionary action completely and totally within the legal framework.”
JRS 11 has a pretty decent chance of passing. Vermont is known for its progressive politics. The nation’s only openly socialist US Senator, Bernie Sanders, hails from here. The Green Mountain State was the first to abolish slavery, and the first to legalize same-sex marriage via legislation, not litigation. The Vermont state senate also voted to impeach George W. Bush and to shut down a nuclear power plant.
“We have a citizen legislature in the state,” newly-elected governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, told Democracy Now! “We are not beholden to the special interests. We fight for our constituents in their best interest.”
The citizens of Vermont certainly know that the Citizens United ruling is definitely not in their best interests. And instead of sitting around and just bitching about the corporate takeover of America, they’re actually doing something about it. By declaring war on corporate personhood, they’re setting a fine example for the rest of the nation. What is your state doing?
To get involved, or for more information, contact:
Move to Amend- http://movetoamend.org/
Free Speech for People- http://freespeechforpeople.org/
Fix Congress First- http://www.fixcongressfirst.org/
Tagged 2010 midterm elections, Bernie Sanders, Brett Wilkins, Citizens United, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, constitutional amendment, corporations are not people, David Cobb, Fix Congress First, foreign corporate interests, free and fair elections, Free Speech for People, Green Party, House of Representatives, John Paul Stevens Citizens United dissent, JRS 11, Move to Amend, Peter Shumlin, Republicans, special interests, United States Constitution, US Supreme Court, Vermont, Vermont anti-corporate personhood resolution, Vermont state senate, Virginia Lyons