Corporations Don't Bleed

“Corporations Don’t Bleed” is the slogan adopted by Free Speech for People, one of several organizations working to put electoral power into the hands of everyday Americans by reducing the undue influence on political decision-making giant multi-national corporations currently wield. Electioneering by corporations using their dollars to sway politicians has always been a part of the American political landscape, but recent events have blown the lid off attempts to limit and/or disclose the amount of money that corporations contribute to campaigns. The January 2010 Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court allows unlimited and secret contributions by corporations both foreign and domestic into the coffers of politicians seeking public office, removing limits imposed by the McCain-Feingold Act of 1971. The Citizens United decision hinges on the idea that corporations are persons and entitled to the same rights. But as the phrase “corporations don’t bleed” aptly points out, a legal entity is not a human being, and the rights spelled out in the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution were never intended to apply to corporations.

Any laws passed to try to reinstate campaign finance reform would be immediately challenged by corporate lawyers and just as instantly struck down by five right-wing judicial activists posing as Supreme Court justices; therefore, we have no choice but to undertake serious, long-term grassroots action. Only a Constitutional amendment will carry sufficient legal weight to overrule the Court’s decision. Despite the often cited failure of the Equal Rights Amendment, this has been done before: both the 11th and the 24th amendments overturned Supreme Court decisions.

It is important to keep in mind that this effort is not about Democrat vs. Republican or liberal vs. conservative. Democracy means one person, one vote; not one dollar, one vote. This value is shared by a vast majority of Americans, from Democratic Socialists to the Tea Party, so don’t be afraid to talk up this issue with your libertarian friends. Just make sure they are aware that you are not anti-business. Remind them that small businesses will benefit if the giant corporate behemoths who are trying to squeeze them out of existence have less influence on local, state and national politics.

Activists across the nation are working to pass a 28th Amendment to abolish corporate personhood. Meanwhile, a coalition of advocacy groups has been meeting in and around South King County to discuss goals, strategy and tactics for the massive outreach efforts, public education, and legislative action that are needed to move this project forward. About 40 people from various organizations (MoveOn, Move To Amend, Olympia, Backbone Campaign, Free Speech for People, Washington Public Campaigns, 65th St. Change Gang, Involved Democracy, Democratic Socialists of America, UU Voices for Justice) attended a meeting on July 28th in Des Moines. There was consensus achieved on the goal of working to urge the Washington State Legislature to pass HJM 4005 or SJM 8007 in the 2012 legislative session in Olympia. (These joint memorials call for a 28th Amendment to revoke corporate personhood and were proposed but did not make it out of committee in 2011. In the opinion of this writer, they do not go far enough since they do not contain a provision to establish that money is not speech, an essential ingredient to undoing the damage inflicted by Citizens United and establishing true democracy.)

While pursuing statewide action is laudable, I cannot emphasize enough the need to continue to work locally. Along those lines, efforts continue to pass city charter amendments calling for an end to corporate personhood in both Olympia and Spokane. Efforts are also underway to pass resolutions calling for a 28th Amendment in each and every legislative district and county in the state, and your help is needed to make this happen. This is exactly the sort of local action recommended by the national leadership of such groups as Move To Amend. What are you doing in your city?

If you are interested in setting up or joining a delegation to visit your state representative or senator or working to pass a local resolution, please send your contact information, along with your legislative district to me at involveddemocracy@gmail.com.