11 states pass resolutions denying corporate citizenship

A piece on the Orion blog by author and activist Jeff Clements shares some compelling stats about the concentration of money in politics, and highlights how widespread the call is to change that.

First the bad news: 

During the 2012 election, just one half of one percent of people made up 80 percent of the more than $6 billion in political spending. Worse, a mere 149 donors made up 75 percent of the estimated $1 billion in Super PAC money raised from individuals.

And the problem isn’t just in Washington: Chevron spent $1.2 million on city council races in Richmond, California, a city of 100,000 where it owns a refinery where an August explosion sent thousands to area hospitals for treatment.

But Clements also surprised me with the news that eleven states, including such radical outposts as Montana, have passed ballot initiatives calling for a 28th Amendment to the constitution to overturn aspects of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, and related rulings that have given corporations something like the status of humans, especially as related to free speech:

In Montana, for instance, 75 percent of voters endorsed a ballot initiative calling for a 28th Amendment to overturn Citizens United. The policy of Montana is now clear enough: (1) corporations do not have Constitutional rights; (2) unlimited spending in elections corrupts both elections and government and contradicts the political equality of all Americans; and (3) the voters of Montana instruct their elected representatives to work for passage and ratification of the 28th Amendment.

In addition, over 500 cities and towns have passed similar measures, and a decent chunk of the incoming Congress has this on their agenda (73 members of the House and 25 Senators).  

There’s still a long way to go, though: to formally propose a Constitutional Amendment, 2/3 of the state legislatures would be need to approve bills to convene a Constitutional Convention that would consider the change. Or, a proposed Amendment must pass both the House and Senate by a 2/3 supermajority. After either of these proposal routes, the Amendment must be ratified by simple majority in 38 states (three quarters of the states), either in state legislatures or state conventions.

Still, if Montana and Colorado (which passed a similar popular vote initiative this year) can agree on this, then there may be the makings of an unexpected bipartisan movement.  Polls show huge majorities of both Republicans and Democrats want to see corporate, union, and other outside spending on political campaigns limited.

One place to track, and participate in, the growing chorus is the FreeSpeechForPeople.org website (co-founded by Clements), where you can read the text of two proposals that are before the House of Representatives: the People’s Rights Amendment, introduced by Congressman Jim McGovern, which declares that “the words people, person, or citizen as used in this Constitution do not include corporations…”; and the Udall Amendment, proposed by Congressman Tom Udall, which gives both Congress and the States the Constitutional right to regulate campaign contributions

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Jim Cummings

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