Port Townsend council backs idea that corporations aren't people

March 6, 2012
Charlie Bermant

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council has voted unanimously to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would strike down the idea that corporations have the same rights as individual citizens.

“Corporations are not people and do not have the same rights,” said Jackie Aase during the comment period at Monday's council meeting.

“Your actions here will help the nation to get behind a well-written and effective constitutional amendment,” she said.

Steve Hamm said 1,200 signatures were gathered on a petition.

He hopes another 800 will be added before it is presented to the three Jefferson County commissioners sometime in April.

“This is a grass-roots effort that is active in thousands of communities across the country,” he said.

“We need to push this through here so Olympia gets the message.”

The resolution, directed to state legislators, urges them to support a proposed constitutional amendment “to abolish Corporate Personhood and return our democracy, our elections and our communities back to America's human persons and thus reclaim our sovereign rights to self-governance.”

The movement and the proposed amendment is in reaction to the 2010 Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Divided Supreme Court

The divided court ruled 5-4 that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.

In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said the majority committed a grave error in treating corporate speech the same as that of human beings, The New York Times said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduced a constitutional amendment proposal in the U.S. Senate in December that would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling.

“We are at a point where we can no longer ignore this,” said Councilman Mark Welch, who crafted one of two versions of the resolution.

“This is out of balance, and we need to bring it back into balance. The purpose of corporations is not to control the political system,” he added.

During discussion, Deputy Mayor Kris Nelson said she did not want the resolution to have a blanket anti-corporation slant and suggested an addendum: “Whereas, we do not object to the concept of the ability of corporations to engage in legal actions (e.g. enter into contracts, sue, be sued, etc.).”

Fifteen people attended the meeting to support the resolution, with four addressing the council.

Encourages participation

After the resolution was passed, Councilman Bob Gray encouraged more participation from residents in council decisions.

“I thank you for coming out here tonight, but we have meetings every Monday,” he said.

“The political process happens all the time.”

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