Corporations are not merely exercising political power today -- they have become de facto ruling institutions. Ultra-wealthy individuals and unelected, unaccountable corporate CEOs make the fundamental public policy decisions in this country. They decide the levels of toxins and poisons that will be in our air and water, what work we do and how much we get paid to do it, what kind of health care we get, and what our country's energy policy will be. "We the People" get to decide between Coke or Pepsi and paper or plastic at the grocery store. Citizens are treated as consumers or workers but rarely as sovereign human beings with the right to decide how our society will be organized.
Indeed, a peer-reviewed scientific study conducted by Princeton Professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Professor Benjamin Page concludes that the United States operates more like an oligarchy than a democratic republic. "The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence." (Perspectives on Politics, Fall 2014).
Two lynchpins for understanding how this happened are a pair of illegitimate, court-created legal doctrines. The first is corporate constitutional rights and the second is money equals political speech.
Corporate Personhood is shorthand for the notion that a corporation must be treated as if it were a person with inherent unalienable rights. This means that corporate lawyers can argue to overturn any law that attempts to control corporate harm and abuse on the basis that the law somehow violates a corporation's "constitutional rights."
That means laws designed to protect the environment, worker safety, public health and welfare, or regulate campaign finance -- literally any democratically enacted law -- can be challenged and overturned. To see the depressingly long list, check out the amazing "Corporate Personhood Timeline" created by Jan Edwards of the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom.
Money equals political speech is the equally odious court-created doctrine that holds that making a political contribution or spending money to influence an election is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment. This doctrine has been used to gut even the flimsiest campaign finance laws and has allowed the wealthy to control the electoral process of this country.
The recent egregious Supreme Court decision of Citizens United vs. FEC combined these two doctrines. In essence, the Supreme Court has legalized bribery, and allowed a ruling elite to steal our sacred right to self-government. Even worse, they have used the legal system to legitimize the theft.
Happily, there is a growing grassroots movement in this country that says loudly and clearly "YA BASTA! Enough already!"
Move To Amend is a coalition of groups and individuals that has exploded on the political landscape calling for a constitutional amendment to abolish both of these doctrines.
Despite being virtually ignored by the mainstream corporate media, in its short life Move to Amend has:
- Grown to nearly 400,000 supporters
- Assisted in passing over 600 city/county Resolutions in support of an Amendment
- Helped 16 state legislatures pass Resolutions in support of an Amendment
- Created almost local affiliates working locally on passing the Amendment
- Passed referendums in support of the Amendment at the ballot box in over 300 jurisdictions
(NOTE: many of these are in politically and culturally conservative areas).
Of particular note is that the leadership of Move To Amend looks a lot like the United States. The National Leadership Team is gender balanced and has strong representation across racial and ethnic lines. The members are also spread out across every region of this country with folks in urban, rural and suburban communities.
Move To Amend leaders (both national and local) studied successful movements of the past -- abolitionists, women's suffrage, trade unionists, and civil rights. Like many Americans, they have come to the conclusion that real movements are not birthed -- or even led by -- politicians or leaders of non-profits but by committed individuals participating in mass social movements.
The leadership of Move To Amend understands that it will require a massive social movement to amend the Constitution to make the U.S. the democratic Republic that the creation myth of this country promises. They are absolutely committed to building a movement that is broad and deep, based in local communities, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and intergenerational.
Oh, and if you want to see the wording of the actual amendment, here it is.
David Cobb is a lawyer, political activist, and an engaged citizen. He has dedicated his adult life and legal practice to making the promise of a democratic republic a reality in the United States. In 2004, he ran for President of the United States on the Green Party ticket. He initiated a recount in Ohio that helped to spark a growing movement to end the use electronic voting machines (often called "black box" voting systems). He is currently a national spokesperson for Move To Amend, a national coalition calling for a constitutional amendment to abolish "Corporate Personhood," which is the legal doctrine that allows corporations to overturn democratically enacted laws seeking to protect citizens from corporate harm and abuse.