Santa Monica Opposes Corporate Personhood

March 28, 2012
Jason Islas

March 28, 2012 -- The Santa Monica City Council decided unanimously to voice its disapproval of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that vests corporations with the rights of individuals.

 The resolution, revised after it was originally voted down 4 to 2 in January, called for the council to support a constitutional amendment – among other measures – that “protects the democratic process and our individual rights against the threats posed by the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.”

But the resolution was adopted only after an amendment that struck mention of the national Move to Amend campaign from the first section after Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis pointed out that she wasn't comfortable committing to the organization's platform.

“The nub of the issue is we're trying to say we don't want people or corporations with unlimited amounts of money to have undue influence,” Davis said.

Davis said that the principle of corporate personhood isn't always a bad thing, citing a court ruling the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) did not have to give over lists of its members because the non-profit corporation was entitled to the same privacy rights as individuals.

Council member Kevin McKeown supported the resolution from the beginning, saying that Santa Monica should take a stand to reduce the influence of corporations in politics.

However, when asked by Council member Bob Holbrook how the resolution would affect Santa Monica's local elections, City Attorney Marsha Moutrie responded: “It won't affect them at all legally,” she said.

“So, it won't affect Santa Monica,” Holbrook added. He pointed out that restricting corporate rights could affect individuals who have incorporated in order to protect their assets and therefore could have unintended consequences for local businesses.

Holbrook voted along with the rest of the council after Moutrie explained that the resolution, since it is not an ordinance, would not have any legal impact on Santa Monica.

Council member Pam O'Connor was absent from Tuesday's meeting.


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