Occupy America: Citizens United Against Corporate Personhood
Activists rally in Washington, D.C. in January of 2011 for an amendment overturning Citizens United. / Flickr, Public Citizen
Crossposted on Tikkun Daily.
by Rick Staggenborg
When Adbusters Magazine called for an occupation of Wall Street, it recommended that occupiers have a specific political goal in mind. Their short list of suggestions included calling for a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood, the Supreme Court doctrine that corporations are people with constitutional rights, among them the "right" to contribute unlimited sums to elect candidates of their choice.
The occupiers have been criticized from both the left and right for adopting an anarchical process that has led to no clear demands other than that all of the problems besetting 99 percent of Americans be addressed. The problem is that with members of Congress so beholden to corporate money to stay in office, none of the things that must be done to redress their grievances will occur when the interest of We the People conflict with those of the corporations that control the levers of power in the U.S. government.
It is not too late to adopt a strategy that embraces support a constitutional amendment as the central issue by which to advance the cause of economic and social justice for the 99 percent. The laborious decision making process of direct democracy as practiced by the occupiers will not lead to this outcome. It is up to each of us who support the movement to decide for ourselves whether we will choose to promote this idea in General Assemblies around the country and within other groups. This is a social justice issue that should concern all Americans.
Members of local party central committees, political activist groups, unions, churches and other organizations need to talk about the central importance of abolishing corporate personhood in protecting the American dream and ensuring liberty and justice for ourselves and our posterity. We can then take the discussion from our meeting places to the town hall meetings that are already beginning to take place across the country as the 2012 election season begins. If we show up and ask candidates to take a position on whether or not they would support a constitutional amendment abolishing corporate personhood, we will easily determine who is willing to put our interests over the corporate Puppetmasters of Congress.
We cannot be distracted by the usual half measures proposed to deal with excessive corporate power, such as proposed constitutional amendments introduced by Kurt Schrader, Donna Edwards, and Max Baucus. Each of these would if passed give Congress and state governments the power but not the duty to regulate corporate money in elections. While nice in theory, it is clear that given the conflict of interest between serving We the People and serving their corporate patrons, the majority of members of Congress are not going to willingly bite the hand that feeds them.
As an example, Peter DeFazio of Oregon has endorsed the Schrader amendment, lending credence to an idea so obviously mistaken that even well known corporate beneficiary Max Baucus is willing to promote it in a Senate version. At least two Democratic central committees in DeFazio's district have passed resolutions calling for an amendment to abolish corporate personhood and others around the state have passed or are considering similar resolutions.
The question is, even if every DCC in Oregon's District 4 endorses such resolutions, will Congressman DeFazio listen? A resolution to call on him and other members of the Oregon congressional delegation narrowly failed on procedural grounds at the last CD-4 convention. It appears certain that the resolution will be reintroduced and passed at the next convention.
This well-known liberal Democrat ignored resolutions calling on him to back HR 676, the single payer bill that was ignored by Baucus and others during the health care "reform" debacle that resulted in the "Affordable" Health Care Act. That Act has proven unaffordable and to not provide health care but a bailout for the medical insurance industry but was the bill Democratic leadership wanted. Had DeFazio and others listened to the local Democratic Party rank-and-file when they spoke loudly and clearly, the Democratic Party might not be suffering the well-deserved backlash from its blatant sellout to the corporate interests of the medical-industrial complex.
There is only one way to reclaim democracy and make our government one of, by and for the People. We must make support of a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood a campaign issue in 2012 and beyond. Candidates around the country are taking a pledge to amend. As they challenge incumbents and better-known challengers in the upcoming primaries, the issue will gain prominence in other races. Eventually it will become generally recognized that when faced with a choice between candidates willing to prove that they are seeking office in order to serve the interests of their constituents and not those of their corporate patrons and themselves, the choice will be obvious. As voters in more and more elections respond by electing candidates who have taken the pledge to amend it will become clear that the amendment will pass.