Citizens United & Corporate Personhood

June 2, 2016
Virg Boehland

This is an update about where things stand with Citizens United at the local, state, and national level. Our local Duluth MTA now has over 350 FB members. Our state now has over 10,600 members, starting from just a few hundred three years ago, while our national movement now has over 400,000 members. Move to Amend is now working in coordination wth dozens of  other like-minded organizations. Thanks for taking the time to consider this. This is original and has not appear in any other publication.  I would hope this, or a version of this can be used this coming week, or the following week.

Important Notice: David Cobb and Ruthi Englke to be in Duluth
 
On June 12th, David Cobb and Ruthi Englke, national representatives of Move to Amend, and MTA Board Members, will be in Duluth. You can join them at the Teatro Zuccone, 222 East Superior Street, starting at 7:00 p.m., ending by 9:00 p.m., for the screening of the movie: “Legalize Democracy” and view: “Citizens United vs. F.E.C.” followed by a panel discussion. There is much that we, here in Duluth, can do to help in this effort.
 
What is Citizens United?
 
“Citizens United” refers to the 2010 Supreme Court, “Citizens United vs. F.E.C.” decision that granted multinational corporations, even foreign corporations. the constitutional right to spend as much money as they want on our elections. They can spend as much as they want to convince the people who to vote for and to spend as much money as they want to pass the legislation that they want to see become the laws of our land. This single Supreme Court decision was the frosting on the corporate cake that now sees our elections being bought by the highest bidder, our laws being sold to those who want to manipulate our laws for their highest profit. “Citizens United” is truly a misnomer, an Orwellian term. It should, more appropriately be termed “Corporations United Against Citizens”.
 
What has the impact of  “Citizens United” been in the United States?
 
The Floodgates of money have been opened. . . millions and billions of dollars are now required to run congressional and presidential races and that trend is filtering right down to state, local, and city elections.  Almost immediately, in 2010, 300 million dollars were spent through the PACs, Super PACs, Dark Money, 527’s, and lobbyists of multinational corporations. That was more money than the total they had been spent for every midterm election going back to 1990. Since that time the spending has mushroomed even more. In 2014 the total amount of money spent on congressional races exceeded 3.8 billion dollars. As the voice of multinational corporations gets louder and louder, the voice of the people gets softer and softer, diminishing to a. . . whisper.  
 
What do American’s think about this?
 
Eighty-five percent of Americans believe they have lost their voice in our democracy, a constitutional republic.  Across the board, people who identify with any political organization, or those who identify with no political affiliation, overwhelmingly feel they are not being represented. A super majority of Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Green Party members, and Libertarians have voted on this issue of “corporate personhood,” of money being equated to our speech, and in every one of those 650+ votes, the people have voted to undo Citizens United. Sixteen states have voted to do so at the state level, and it will be on the ballots in California, and Washington this fall thanks to over 400,000 petition signers, and the legitimacy of such a vote being taken all the way to the California Supreme Court. These states include more liberal states, such as Vermont and Oregon, but also include conservative states such as Montana and Utah.  This issue has been placed before Wisconsin voters thirteen times within the past two years, and it has passed with overwhelming support every time, including in Governor Scott Walker’s home district.  Most Americans believe that money is property, not speech.
 
What do the presidential candidates, the politicians, think about this?
 
A good case could be made that each of the candidates remaining has tapped into this frustration on the part of a super majority of Americans. Hillary Clinton has pledged that any Supreme Court nominee will be a person who will reject the Citizens Untied decision. Hillary Clinton was part of the Citizens United decision back in 2010.  Much of Bernie Sanders support was, in part, due to his not accepting money from all of the outside forces in our country.  Many of those who support Donald Trump, do so, in spite Donald’s wealth, strictly because they are tired of what our elections have become with all of the outside money from multinational corporations and special interests.  When Donald Trump first started his campaign he did so without getting outside monetary help and that was very appealing. He has since realized the futility in that type of campaign, given the costs of running a national campaign, and he is needing, and seeking, that outside money. Many congressmen feel that the campaign is now out of their control. During the last congressional race between Congressman Nolan and Stewart Mills $16,941,507 was spent on the election alone. What impact do individual donations of $10, $25, $100, even $1,000 have on that kind of campaign? The United States Congress has bi-partisan legislation, HJR-48, that has been introduced, has many co-authors, along with our Congressman Nolan. Our Minnesota House and Senate had legislation, HF-3650 & SF-2404, that mirrored the Nolan legislation but too many of our representatives prevented this legislation from even going to a vote of the larger Senate and House body.    
 
What can individuals do to speed this process of eliminating Citizens United along?
 
Many like-minded organizations have banded together to work on this issue. None of the people’s most important issues can be addressed as long as forces outside of the people’s control are pulling the strings. The new focus of our government to only enhance the profits of the very, very few will stymie the efforts of the people to work on any real change. Name your issue. It is likely that little progress will take place unless, and until, Citizens United, corporate personhood, money as speech, is overturned. One such group is “Money Out of Politics” http://fieldguidetodemocracy.org/, a collaboration of 36 independent organizations. The Duluth Area Move to Amend is an affiliate of the larger Move to Amend organization that is working with this collaboration. On June 12th, David Cobb and Ruthi Englke, national representatives of Move to Amend, and MTA Board Members, will be in Duluth. You can join them at the Teatro Zuccone, 222 East Superior Street, starting at 7:00 p.m. for the screening of the movie: “Legalize Democracy and view: “Citizens United vs. F.E.C.” followed by a panel discussion. There is a lot that we, here in Duluth, can do to help in this effort. 

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