Published: May 22, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: May 21, 2012 03:19 PM
On May 24, at a City Council Work Session (1 p.m.), the Occupy Durham Committee To End Corporate Personhood will urge the Durham City Council to adopt a resolution in support of a U.S. Constitutional Amendment to limit the “personhood” rights of corporations, with a special focus on limiting the now unlimited corporate election campaign contributions unleashed by the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United decision.
Several prominent Durham organizations are co-signing the letter, including the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People; the Durham People’s Alliance; the NAACP-Durham Chapter; DemocracyNC; and Durham Democratic Women.
If the City Council passes the resolution it will join the municipal governments of Asheville, Franklin, Highlands, Bryson City, Carrboro and Chapel Hill – as well as 140 others around the U.S. Hundreds more are now deliberating on the measure. Recently, Vermont became the first state to call for “A Constitutional Amendment to End Corporate Personhood and the Doctrine of Money as Speech.”
The resolution the Council will be asked to sign, asserts, among other clauses:
“…the current campaign finance system creates an unequal playing field and allows unlimited corporate spending to unduly influence elections, candidate selection, and policy decisions and also forces elected officials to divert their attention from The Peoples’ concerns, and even vote against the interest of their human constituents, in order to ensure competitive campaign funds for their own re-election;”
The resolution concludes with the assertion:
(1) Only human beings, not corporations, are endowed with constitutional rights, and
(2) Money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech
The resolution has achieved support across traditional party and political lines. A recent nationwide survey of small businesses found that “America’s entrepreneurs feel corporations have an outsized role and say in politics to the detriment of the small business community.” Two-thirds of small business owners across the nation stated that they believed the Citizens United decision gives big corporations an unfair advantage.
Since the Citizens United ruling – and the creation of SuperPACs – is so new, there has not yet been time to fully document its impacts. However, in New York, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s office examined campaign finance records from the 2010 election cycle, the first election since the court’s ruling, and found that, even at that early date, Citizens United spending represented 15 percent of total political spending. Later in 2011, the Center for Responsive Politics found that corporate treasury money accounted for about $15.5 million of the cash donated to so-called “super PACs,” representing more than 17 percent of these new groups’ funds.
The resolution contends that the creation of corporate personhood rights in areas other than campaign finance has had detrimental impacts on true democracy. To take only one example, through various court cases, corporations have been deemed to have the personhood rights of the 14th Amendment (which states: “(no) State shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”. Because of this personhood right, many U.S. communities have been unable to limit the siting of a Walmart within the community, despite overwhelming opposition among residents.
Submitted by Harriet Whitehead for the Occupy Durham Committee to End Corporate Personhood.