The People's Rights Amendment

End Corporate Personhood

 

In homage to one of the "winter soldiers" that Thomas Paine memorialized, my old colleague Richard Grossman, who died too soon this November 22, 2011, I offer this plea for sanity. 

Richard attended Columbia University, graduating in 1965, and then served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines. In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War. In the 1970s, while living in the Washington, DC area, Grossman founded Environmentalists for Full Employment (EFFE), a group that sought to unite environmental activists and unions years before the critical importance of this alliance was clear to grassroots activists of all stripes. 

In the 1980s, he worked at the Highlander Research and Education Center, a social justice organization in Tennessee, and was executive director of Greenpeace USA. 

Richard Grossman was the co-director of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD). He was co-author of Taking Care of Business: Citizenship and the Charter of Incorporation and lectured widely on issues of corporate power, law and democracy. He was also one of the teachers for the Daniel Pennock Democracy School, which worked to help people understand how and why corporations have more rights than human beings. 

The group came together in the early nineties when a dozen activists who had spent much of their lives working on issues of peace, labor, women's rights, and the environment decided that something more had to be done. "It's time," he said, "that people took back control over corporations." 

I first met Richard in DC back in 1978, when I was an organizer for the Clamshell Alliance and he was directing EFFE. I last worked with him in 2004 when I organized the first county Kucinich for President campaign in New Hampshire. 

In the month before his untimely death, Richard was working on "An Act To Criminalize Chartered, Incorporated Business Entities", which stated: 

As of 12:01 a.m. on July 4, 2012, no incorporated business shall exist or operate within the United States and its territories, or within any State or municipality. 

As of 12:01 a.m. on July 4, 2012, all existing business corporation charters granted by the United States, and by all States, shall be null and void. 

Neither the United States nor any State shall issue new charters for incorporated businesses. Any chartered, incorporated business entity – domestic, foreign, alien – existing and operating after the above date shall be deemed a violent, criminal, and terrorist conspiracy. Its directors and executive officers must be charged with ecocide, criminal conspiracy and crimes against humanity.

 

corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility. - Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary 

criminal, n. A person with predatory instincts who has not sufficient capital to form a corporation. - Howard Scott, first Research Director for the IWW

 

It would be a fitting tribute to Richard Grossman's life work if, on that Independence Day 2012, the #OWS National General Assembly scheduled to meet in Philadelphia would stand behind a Constitutional Amendment to outlaw Corporate Personhood. 

There is the beginning of a nationwide campaign to introduce, through state legislatures, a resolution to enact a 28th amendment to the US Constitution. Before an amendment can take effect, it must be proposed to the states by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress or by a convention called by two-thirds of the states, and ratified by three-fourths of the states. It is a difficult and laborious process, as it should be, but two of its proponents – Ben & Jerry – believe that, with the momentum provided by #OWS, it's now possible. 

 

"Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person." - David Korten, When Corporations Rule the World, former Professor of the Harvard University Graduate School of Business

 

This evening, November 29, 2011, I was part of an overflow crowd at a church in Montpelier VT which assembled to hear a presentation on responses to the Citizens United decision, which affirmed corporate personhood for the purposes of the 1st Amendment and re-affirmed the Court's 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision which equated money with speech. At the head table, were the founders of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, two women professors from VT Law School, and David Cobb, the 2004 Green Party candidate for president of the United States and now leading Move to Amend (http://movetoamend.org/) and is a Fellow with the Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution.

 

"The Tree of Liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of Tyrants and Patriots both." 

- Thomas Jefferson

 

This is the simple lesson that Cobb provided: 

 

The US Constitution is based on just two categories: We the People (the first three words of the document), and the Government which we "do ordain and establish". It is clear from the document that We the People are primary and the Government secondary. 

We the People are free and sovereign, meaning we alone have the authority to rule our lives, and the Government that we established is subordinate and accountable to us. We the People have rights that precede government – natural or inalienable rights. The Government has only duties. We the People live within a private sphere of civil liberties, while we interact within a public sphere of communitarian responsibilities. 

The Government has no sovereignty beyond what limited authority we grant it, and we retain the right to amend or revoke that authority at any time. Since Government has overstepped its legitimate authority, and the Courts have unconstitutionally granted human rights to the legal entities we call corporations, it is time to amend that original charter once again to revoke those grants and to restrain Government.


Free Speech for People (http://freespeechforpeople.org/) conducted a professional survey of public opinion late 2010. They found that the overwhelming majority of Americans don't care for corporate behavior, think our political system is tilted heavily toward corporations, and support a constitutional amendment to ban corporate personhood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The People's Rights Amendment

Section 1.  We the people who ordain and establish this Constitution intend the rights protected by this Constitution to be the rights of natural persons. 

Section 2.  People, person, or persons as used in this Constitution does not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state, and such corporate entities are subject to such regulation as the people, through their elected state and federal representatives, deem reasonable and are otherwise consistent with the powers of Congress and the States under this Constitution.
 
Section 3.  Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people's rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, and such other rights of the people, which rights are inalienable.

 

State Resolutions have been introduced in support of amending the Constitution in California,

Hawaii, Idaho, Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Washington in 2010; and in Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Washington in 2011. A number of towns in Massachusetts have passed similar resolutions and there will be a campaign to pass resolutions in town meetings in Vermont in 2012. 

 

Move to Amend has issued a Call to Action for January 20, 2012 to occupy the courts.

 http://movetoamend.org/occupythecourts

Inspired by our friends at Occupy Wall Street, and Dr. Cornel West, Move To Amend is planning bold action to mark the second anniversary of the infamous Citizens United v. FEC decision! Occupy the Courts will be a one day occupation of Federal courthouses across the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday January 20, 2012. Move to Amend volunteers across the USA will lead the charge on the judiciary which created – and continues to expand – corporate personhood rights. Americans across the country are on the march, and they are marching OUR way. They carry signs that say, “Corporations are NOT people! Money is NOT Speech!” And they are chanting those truths at the top of their lungs! The time has come to make these truths evident to the courts. Join us Friday, January 20, 2012 at a Federal Court building near you!


 

Views: 172

Comment by Robert Riversong on November 30, 2011 at 8:44pm

Comment by Robert Riversong on November 30, 2011 at 9:22pm

It Takes People Power to Make Clear That Corporations Are NOT People

In the Nov. 8 elections, the national media gave extensive coverage to a proposed "personhood amendment" to Mississippi's state constitution. This was an extremist anti-abortion ballot initiative to declare that a person's life begins not at birth, but at the very instant that a sperm meets the egg. However, extending full personhood to two-cell zygotes was too far out even for many of Mississippi's zealous antagonists against woman's right to control her own fertility, so the proposition was voted down.

Meanwhile, the national media paid practically zero attention to another "personhood" vote that took place on that same day over a thousand miles from Mississippi. This was a referendum in Missoula, Mont., on a concept even more bizarre than declaring zygotes to be persons with full citizenship rights.

It was a vote on overturning last year's democracy-killing decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the now-infamous Citizens United case. A narrow five-man majority had decreed that — abracadabra! — lifeless, soulless corporations are henceforth persons with human political rights. Moreover, said the five, these tongueless artificial entities must be allowed to "speak" by dumping unlimited sums of their corporate cash into our election campaigns, thus giving them a far bigger voice than us real-life persons.

Missoulians, of course, cannot single-handedly overrule the Supremes. But they can be in the forefront of a grassroots movement for a constitutional amendment reversing the Court's perverse ruling. And that's just what the people there did, with a whopping 75 percent of voters calling on Congress to send such an amendment to the states for prompt ratification.

We can all be Missoula! Get your city, county and state to join the call.

Boulder, Colo., has recently done so by a 74 percent to 26 percent vote. Madison, Wisc., did it, too, with 84 percent of voters there supporting the call in an April referendum. The movement is literally on the move from California to Vermont.

But will Congress move? Not of its own volition. Congress is a beast — to make it move, you have to whack it with a big stick.

(continued)

Comment by Robert Riversong on November 30, 2011 at 9:23pm

Our biggest stick is a riled-up citizenry, and it's growing bigger and "rilier" every day, particularly on issues of corporate arrogance and avarice. We've seen plenty of evidence this year that the American grassroots are catching fire — January's surprise protest by more than 2,000 people at the Koch brothers' secret billionaire's retreat in the California desert; Wisconsin's mass rebellion against Gov. Scott Walker's venomous anti-worker legislation; November's resounding 63 percent vote in Ohio to repeal Gov. John Kasich's union-busting law; and, of course, the ongoing Occupy Wall Street revolt.

This citizens' uprising is clearly not going away. To the contrary, 76 percent of the people polled by Hart Research support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's edict that corporations can make unlimited secret donations in any and all American elections. The same big majority supports an amendment to make clear that corporations do not have the same rights as people.

Congress is sensing these political tremblers — and beginning to move. In the past few weeks, three bills have been introduced in the House and one in the Senate to undo the Supreme Court's damage to our people's democratic rights, including Rep. Jim McGovern's bill (H.J. Res. 88) that specifically rejects the fiction that a corporation is a person. As he puts it, "People govern corporations, not the other way around."

To get information and action kits on how you can be a part of the big stick of people power, contact the We the People Campaign: www.wethepeoplecampaign.org.

 

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