Tag Archive for corporate personhood

WTP: “…as slippery an organization as one finds in modern politics.”

Everything has a price - but should it?In a ruling on Friday, December 30th, the Montana Supreme Court issued a rebuke against Citizens United that leaves most “human persons” loudly cheering.  Citizens United refers to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2010  wherein the activist Roberts’ Court decreed corporations had constitutional rights to directly spend money on ‘independent expenditures’ in campaigns.  That ruling effectively codified a doctrine of “corporate personhood.”

The 80-page Montana ruling against a suit brought by Western Tradition Partnership attacked the thinking behind the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, the impact of big money in political culture, and the premise that corporations deserve the same political speech rights as citizens.

The Montana Court’s ruling asserted that the Citizens United decision did not remove all bans on corporate speech. “The Supreme Court held that laws that burden political speech are subject to strict scrutiny, which requires the government to prove that the law furthers a compelling state interest and is narrowly tailored to that interest,” the court said.  The ruling details the history of 1912 state law banning direct corporate spending on electoral campaigns and provides explanations of sufficiently compelling state interests to merit sustaining the century-old law.

“Organizations like WTP that act as a conduit for anonymously spending by others represent a threat to the political marketplace,” wrote Mike McGrath, Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court, for the majority. “Clearly the impact of unlimited corporate donations creates a dominating impact on the political process and inevitably minimizes the impact of individual citizens.”

Steven Rosenfeld, in reporting on the ruling, stated “the lead group that sued to overturn the Montana ban on direct corporate spending in campaigns followed a very deliberate course of clashing with virtually every aspect of Montana campaign finance law. The lawyers behind the litigation believe that they should face no limits or accountability for any political fund-raising or spending.”

The court noted that Western Tradition Partnership’s lawyers claimed that it should be allowed to spend freely because the group would have to disclose that activity under Montana law when the same group, using another name, actually had sued the state to overturn those very disclosure laws.  WTP is also involved in a third suit challenging the state’s campaign spending disclosure law.

Rosenfeld’s description of Western Tradition Partnership (now known as American Tradition Partnership) as a political organization that  is “as slippery an organization as one finds in modern politics” leaves no doubt about its ethics and modus operandi and is solidly supported by its history, practices and assertions.

Western Tradition Partnership sued to overturn the 1912 Montana Corrupt Practices Act, an irony not lost on those who have experienced the corrupt political practices of the organization up close and personal.  WTP first surfaced in Longmont, Colorado, when it frivolously sued the city over its Fair Campaign Practices Act, represented by Scott Gessler, now Colorado’s Secretary of State.  In Longmont’s 2009 election, WTP was responsible for abhorrent political practices that it had debuted in Montana and for which it was held responsible by the Montana Political Practices Commission.  WTP returned again in the 2011 election to once again elect council members who would advance their agenda.

The Montana Supreme Court’s ruling quoted a fund-raising brochure that said, “If you decide to support this program, no politician, no bureaucrat, and no radical environmentalist will ever know you made this program possible.”  A visit to its website will reveal the hatred for all things environmental (“Gang Green”) and the absolutism in the advancement of extraction industry property rights.  The organization’s Executive Director and website writer Donald aka Donny Ferguson has never met a lie he didn’t love.  If the only information you had available was that which is presented on www.americantradition.org, you would have perceptions that have no bearing whatsoever on reality.

“We take note that Western Tradition appears to be engaged in a multi-front attack on both contribution restrictions and the transparency that accompanies campaign disclosure requirements,” the Court said.  Its previous attorney of record, Gessler, is now engaged in a multi-front attack on contribution restrictions and transparency from his position as Colorado’s Secretary of State.

The court added in a footnote that the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices called the group a “sham” because it failed to register with the state, and refused to disclose the sources of its funds or its spending—as required by law.

Even the dissenting opinion lambasted the Citizens United ruling notwithstanding its contention that the Montana Court was bound by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling.

Justice James C. Nelson wrote, “And, to be absolutely clear, I do not agree with it [Citizens United]. For starters, the notion that corporations are disadvantaged in the political realm is unbelievable. Indeed, it has astounded most Americans. The truth is that corporations wield enormous power in Congress and in state legislatures. It is hard to tell where government ends and corporate America begins: the transition is seamless and overlapping.”

“In the real world of politics,” he wrote, “the “quid pro quo” of both direct contributions to candidates and independent expenditures on their behalf is loyalty. And, in practical effect, experience teaches us that money corrupts, and enough of it corrupts absolutely.”

In assaulting the very notion of corporate personhood, Nelson stated, “I find the concept entirely offensive. Corporations are artificial creatures of law. As such, they should enjoy only those powers—not constitutional rights, but legislatively-conferred powers—that are concomitant with their legitimate function, that being limited liability investment vehicles for business. Corporations are not persons. Human beings are persons, and it is an affront to the inviolable dignity of our species that courts have created a legal fiction which forces people—human beings—to share fundamental natural rights with soulless creations of government. Worse still, while corporations and human beings share many of the same rights under the law, they clearly are not bound equally to the same codes of good conduct, decency, and morality, and they are not held equally accountable for their sins. Indeed, it is truly ironic that the death penalty and hell are reserved only to natural persons.”

American Tradition Partnership says that it is a “no-compromise” organization.  And for once it has told the truth.  It is likely to appeal this ruling all the way back to the U.S. Supreme Court.  We can only hope that if that happens, the Supreme Court will have second thoughts about their disastrous ruling in Citizens United.

Boulder rejects corporate personhood

According to unofficial election results, the city of Boulder’s question on corporate personhood passed by a significant margin.

Results show that 73.72 percent of the votes counted were in favor of ballot measure 2H, while 26.28 percent were cast against the measure.

Measure 2H is a call for reclaiming democracy from the corrupting effects of corporate control. It’s a show of support for the Move to Amend initiative, which wants to change the U.S. Constitution so that it overrides the Supreme Courts Citizens United decision that essentially granted personhood to corporations.

Read the full article here.

Stand up for Democracy!

Update 9-23-2011 : Cliff Smedley and Judy Lubow on KGNU radio (mp3)

Our friends in the City of Boulder are standing up against the deplorable decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court that have equated money and speech and elevated corporations to the status of “personhood.” Boulder will be the second city in the nation to place this issue on its ballot. Other cities around the nation have passed resolutions declaring that corporations are not granted the protections or rights of natural persons and that expenditure of corporate money is not constitutionally protected free speech.

We applaud Boulder and only wish that we in Longmont had a city council majority with the same set of moral values. Restoring our governments to the will of the people should not even be an issue. We have traveled the slippery slope of corporate rule, by whatever name you chose, and it must be reversed.

Good luck, Boulder, with your ballot issue.


Disclosures: More not Less

In a New York Times / CBS poll 92% of Americans said it was important for the law to require campaigns and outside spending groups to disclose how much money they have raised, where it came from and how it was used. They understand the nexus between campaign money and corruption.

President Barack Obama has drafted an executive order that seeks campaign contribution disclosure by those who seek contracts with the United States Government.

Eight states, the Securities and Exchange Commission and several local jurisdictions currently restrict government contractors from making campaign contributions to those responsible for issuing government contracts. The president’s potential executive order does not prohibit contractor spending on campaigns; it would merely require disclosure.

“In order to increase transparency and accountability…every contracting department and agency shall require all entities submitting offers for federal contracts to disclose certain political contributions and expenditures that they have made within the two years prior to submission of their offer,” reads the draft order.

“This disclosure shall include:

(a) All contributions or expenditures to or on behalf of federal candidates, parties or party committees made by a bidding entity, its directors of officers, or any affiliates or subsidiaries within its control; and
(b) Any contributions made to third party entities with the intention or reasonable expectation that parties would use those contributions to make independent expenditures or electioneering communications

This disclosure shall be required whenever the aggregate amount of such contributions and expenditures made by the bidding entity, its officers and directors, and its affiliates and subsidiaries exceeds $5,000 to a given recipient during a given year.”

The disclosed date “shall be made publicly available in a centralized, searchable, sortable, downloadable and machine readable format on data.gov.”

The president’s order would be a welcome first step since the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010. It would go a long way towards eliminating the current Pay-to-Play system. Reporting on the draft executive order, president of Public Citizen Robert Weisman, states, “The pay-to-play system encourages fraud and abuses of power, prevents contracts from being awarded to businesses based on merit, wastes taxpayer dollars, and facilitates privatization and contracting out of services that otherwise could or should be provided by government agencies.”

The real solution, of course, is a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision that was made outside the issues before the Supreme Court in that case. In Citizens United, the Supreme Court established personhood for corporations in contradiction to constitutional rights intended for natural persons.

It will come as no surprise that conservative politicians and trade associations, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have howled about disclosure. Having achieved their first objective to allow companies to make massive expenditures from their general treasuries to influence election outcomes, including by funneling money through front groups, the focus has turned to manufacturing false premises to prohibit campaign spending disclosure.

It is not enough that corporatocracy virtually owns our various governments. It now becomes necessary to shield that ownership from public knowledge and scrutiny.

More information on efforts to amend the constitution to prohibit corporate personhood can be found at the following sites:

http://movetoamend.org/
http://freespeechforpeople.org/
http://democracyisforpeople.org/

Wisconsin referendums oppose corporate personhood

On April 5, 2011, voters in Madison, Wisconsin overwhelmingly approved, by an 84 percent majority, a city referendum calling for amending the U.S. Constitution to establish that “only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights.” In Dane County, Wisconsin, which includes the city of Madison, 78 percent voted for a similar county referendum, rejecting the rationale underlying the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which allows unlimited, and secret, corporate campaign spending.

These votes are the first referendums anywhere in the country against Citizens United, and calling for a constitutional amendment that would void the decision.

The text of the City of Madison referendum reads:

RESOLVED, the City of Madison, Wisconsin, calls for reclaiming democracy from the corrupting effects of undue corporate influence by amending the United States Constitution to establish that:
1. Only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights, and
2. Money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.