Locals organize to end corporate use of individual rights

February 1, 2013
Stephen Hanley

Cleveland Heights citizens are joining others across the country in a non-partisan attempt to overturn the controversial 2010 Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. Equating money with speech, the judicial majority ruled that limits on corporate and union campaign contributions were a denial of First Amendment rights, opening the floodgates regarding election spending.

Move To Amend (MTA) is a national movement seeking to challenge and abolish corporate constitutional rights and regulate political contributions and influence from corporations and wealthy individuals in elections and government.

Taking a grassroots approach, MTA is building support and awareness as citizens of cities and states nationwide pass measures calling on Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution.

The proposed amendment declares “only human beings, not corporations, are legal persons with Constitutional rights,” and “money is not equivalent to speech, and therefore, regulating political contributions and spending does not equate to limiting political speech.”

The amendment would end not only corporate misuse of free speech, but other constitutional rights as well— including the misuse of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection rights, a tactic used by mega-corporations against municipalities that have tried to protect local businesses.

The Citizens United decision was preceded by a long erosion of Constitutional rights for individuals, since corporations began to claim due process and equal protection rights in the 1870s. These 14th Amendment rights, intended for newly freed slaves, were gradually extended to corporations by the courts.

"Corporations have usurped due process and equal protection rights to the detriment of local communities," said Carla Rautenberg, Cleveland Heights MTA supporter. "Constructing big-box stores despite community opposition and public policies that favor multinational corporations over local businesses are just two examples."

This movement is a rare nonpartisan initiative, enjoying support from across the political spectrum. Recently, President Obama called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, and at Oxford University, Republican Sen. John McCain called Citizens United the Supreme Court’s “worst decision ever.”

The Reid Blog quotes Tea Party.org founder Dale Robertson: “Our Founding Fathers never wanted them [corporations]. . .these behemoth organizations that never die. . .It puts the people at a tremendous disadvantage.”

Hundreds of business leaders have condemned Citizens United and a Pew Research poll from January 2012 indicated that 72 percent believed that unregulated political spending would have a negative effect on upcoming elections.

Indeed, spending in the last election cycle hit a record $6 billion, giving the impression that average citizens are priced out of the process.

Last June, Cleveland Heights City Council passed a resolution calling for the reversal of Citizens United. However, council declined to place an initiative on the ballot explicitly confronting the issues of corporations as “legal persons” and money as speech. Members of Cleveland Heights MTA think this broader approach is critically important, and citizens should have the chance to vote on it.

Newburgh Heights, Brecksville and many other localities across the state and country have already passed similar measures at the ballot box. Members of Cleveland Heights MTA have started petitioning Heights voters to put the issue on the November 2013 ballot. However, much work remains to be done to raise awareness and collect the thousands of signatures needed.

No matter what your political persuasion, Cleveland Heights MTA invites newcomers to join the group. The next meeting will be Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Ensemble Theatre, 2843 Washington Blvd. (the former Coventry School). Anyone interested in helping can contact Sally Hanley at yrpalsal [at] copper.net or Carla Rautenberg at rcarla [at] aol.com. Read the full text of the ballot initiative at https://movetoamend.org/cleveland-hts-initiative-petition-wording.


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