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Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy
REAL Democracy History Calendar – sign up!
Move To Amend Campaign:
We are pleased to announce the creation of a new resource: the REAL Democracy History Calendar.
You are invited to sign up to this new free weekly email resource – to be sent out beginning January 1, 2016. To sign up, click here.
Corporate entities and individuals of extreme wealth have to a major extent captured our government and economic institutions. Basic political, economic and human rights are in decline. The result is a lack of real democracy — defined as the ability of those who are affected by decisions having an authentic voice in the shaping of those decisions.
However, people have always strived for basic rights, resisted oppression, created alternative structures, and sought to control the power and influence of corporate entities and extreme wealth in society through education, advocacy and social movement organizing.
To sign up, click here.
The REAL Democracy History Calendar will provide 1-2 listings per day sent by email every Monday morning of activities, events, quotes from prominent individuals and/or other occurrences (both past and recent) on the themes of democracy, human rights, corporate power and rule, and wealth in society (especially in elections).
The Calendar is a joint production of the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD) and the former Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Much of its base comes from our research and writings on these themes over the last two decades.
Our goal is to inform, intrigue and inspire — and to illuminate the reality that creating real democracy will not happen by changing any one politician, passing/repealing any one law or regulation, or reversing any single Supreme Court decision. It requires, rather, changing our political, economic and social culture - one byproduct of which will be to democratize our legal structures through genuinely inclusive, multi-issue, nonviolent social movements.
To sign up, click here.
Below are a listing of postings over the next several weeks – to provide a flavor of the Calendar’s contents that would be sent by email each week beginning January 1.
If you feel this would be valuable information to you, please sign up here. And please spread the word to others!
Thank you for your consideration.
REAL Democracy History Calendar
1799 – Death of George Washington, first President of the United States of America – need for coercive power
“We probably had too good an opinion of human nature in forming our confederation. Experience has taught us that men will not adopt and carry into execution measures the best calculated for their own good, without the intervention of a coercive power,” said George. According to historian Charles Beard in “An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States,” Washington was probably the richest man in the colonies at the time of the Revolution.
1896 – Covington & L. Turnpike Road Co. v. Sandford (164 U.S. 578) Supreme Court decision – corporations are persons
The Court declared, “it is now settled that corporations are persons, within the meaning of the constitutional provisions forbidding the deprivation of property without due process of law, as well as a denial of the equal protection of the laws.”
1791 – Ratification of the Bill of Rights
The first 10 Amendments to the Constitution were adopted to protect We the People from excesses of government and to affirm certain inalienable rights of human beings. At the time, however, We the People were only white males who owned property and were over 21 years old. Each state decided how much property must be owned to qualify to vote or run for office
1986 – Justice William Brennan delivered opinion of Supreme Court in Federal Election Committee v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Inc. (479 U.S. 238) – spending by corporations in elections may make them formidable power
“Direct corporate spending on political activity raised the prospect that resources amassed in the economic marketplace may be used to provide an unfair advantage in the political marketplace…The resources in the treasury of a business corporation…are not an indication of popular support for the corporation's political ideas. The availability of these resources may make a corporation a formidable political presence, even though the power of the corporation may be no reflection of the power of its ideas."
1773 – Colonists stage Boston Tea Party to protest British Tea Act
Parliament passed the Tea Act, which provided the East India Trading Company complete access to the colonies and exempted it from paying taxes to the colonies – increasing the profits to company stockholders, which included Parliament members and the King. This undercut colonial tea merchants who were required to pay taxes on tea.
Boston Tea Party participants saw themselves as anti-corporate protestors. Their call for “no taxation without representation” was not one against paying taxes, but rather an insistence that every entity – including the East India Company – should pay their fair share and that no entity should be taxed without governmental representation.
1964 – Death of Alexander Meiklejohn, Philosopher and Educator – on 1st Amendment and freedom threatened by dominant business enterprises
The 1st Amendment "does not intend to guarantee men freedom to say what some private interest pays them to say for its own advantage. It intends only to make men free to say what, as citizens, they think.”
“[I]nsofar as a society is dominated by the attitudes of competitive business enterprise, freedom in its proper American meaning cannot be known, and hence, cannot be taught. That is the basic reason why the schools and colleges, which are, presumably, commissioned to study and promote the ways of freedom are so weak, so confused, so ineffectual.”
1882 – Death of Henry James, Sr. – on democracy
"Democracy is not so much a new form of political life as a dissolution and disorganization of the old forms. It is simply a resolution of government into the hands of the people…”
2009 – Publication this month of article, “People as Property: Criminalizing Color, Dissent and Impoverishment through the Prison-Industrial Complex” by Karen Coulter, principal of the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD)
“Slavery and involuntary servitude were supposedly abolished by the 13th amendment to the Constitution. However, the amendment reads that slavery and involuntary servitude shall no longer exist in the U.S. ‘except as punishment for crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted’…Then there are the investors in the prison industry: American Express Corporation invested millions in private prison construction in Oklahoma; General Electric Corporation financed prison construction in Tennessee; Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Smith Barney, and other Wall Street investment firms made big profits by underwriting prison construction with the sale of tax-exempt bonds, a 2.3 billion dollar industry as of 1997. Some of the largest Wall Street investment corporations started buying bonds and securities from private prison corporations in the '90's and reselling them for profit to individual investors, mutual funds and others, literally speculating in the growth of locking up more and more people. The rise of the prison industrial complex can be accurately seen as part of a profound transformation restructuring U.S. economic development and its forms of social control. Philip Wood identifies corporate colonization of decision-making structures as a key element of the changes in U.S. public policy supporting the expansion and privatization of the prison industry.” http://www.poclad.org/BWA/2009/BWA_2009_DEC.html
REAL Democracy History Calendar
1885 – Corporate lawyers claim railroad corporation’s 14th Amendment rights violated
In San Mateo v. Southern Pacific R. Co., 13 F. 722 (C.C.D. Cal. 1882), corporate lawyers attacked a provision of the California Constitution that assessed higher property taxes against railroad corporations than against non-corporate properties. The attorneys charged that the state violated the railroad’s “rights” under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The parties settled the case before the Supreme Court announced a decision; however, the argument would be used one year later in what would become the very first time corporations were granted 14th Amendment “rights” by the Supreme Court in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, 118 US 394.
1970 – Birth of Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) – politicians are open to the highest bidder
“Lobbyists and career politicians today make up what I call the Washington Cartel. … [They] on a daily basis are conspiring against the American people. … [C]areer politicians’ ears and wallets are open to the highest bidder.”
1913 – Congress passes Federal Reserve Act – Creating Federal Reserve System
The Act created a largely corporate controlled national banking and currency system, passed in the House by 298-60 and in the Senate by 43-25 and signed by President Wilson on this day. It was a major coup for banking corporations through the establishment of a private central bank authorized to "monetize" government debt (i.e. to print their own money and exchange it for government securities or I.O.U.'s). The central banking system was composed of 12 regional private/corporate banks owned by participating commercial banks. All national banks were required to join the system. Banking corporations now controlled the issuance and distribution of our national currency. By controlling our national money faucet, they could create inflation and deflation. This corporate monopolization of our currency allowed for public regulation, but not control. It was now banking corporations, not the U.S. government, that controlled the national currency. Congress handed its Constitutional power under Article 1, Section 8 to create our money over to private banking corporations. It’s the ultimate form of “privatization” – more accurately “corporatization” – of what was meant to be, and should be a public function or service.
1962 – Birth of David Cobb, national Outreach Director for Move to Amend and principal of the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD)
Cobb debated James Bopp in September, 2014 at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN on “Citizens Divided: Corporate Money, Speech, and Politics.” Bopp is General Counsel for the James Madison Center for Free Speech and was lead attorney for Citizens United, the group that argued their corporate 1st Amendment “speech rights were violated when prevented to air a political program just prior to the election.”
The “debate” turned out to be one-sided – with Cobb presenting a much stronger case for why corporations should not be granted “personhood” rights and money should not be granting “free speech” rights than Bopp arguing the reverse.
Watch the debate at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijSsZdCatTM
2015 – Christmas – Jesus attacks “money changers”
Celebrated birth of Jesus Christ in Christian calendar.
In his only public act of violence, Jesus drove the “money changers” with a whip of chords out of the sacred Temple in Jerusalem, which he called “my Father’s house.”
Modern-day money changers are banking corporations – the most economically and politically dominant of all corporations. They have captured our most sacred democratic “house” – our government. They, too, along with all other corporations, need to be driven out of our government.
2015 – Boxing Day - corporate personhood, money equals free speech and U.S. Constitution “boxes” activists into small spaces of what is doable
“Boxing Day” is an annual holiday celebrated in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth nations. Traditionally, it was when servants or employees would receive gifts from their bosses or employers in “Christmas boxes.”
Many Supreme Court decisions anointing corporations as legal “persons” and money as “free speech,” as well as many limitations of the U.S. Constitution (i.e. no direct election of President, no national initiative provision, no definition of economic rights, among many others) have been anything but gifts to individuals striving for real democracy. They have, rather, “boxed” activists into ever-smaller spaces concerning what laws and regulations can be passed. Unable to limit the amount of money in elections from individuals and corporate entities and incapable of preventing corporations from asserting Bill of Rights protections, the super wealthy and corporate entities have captured greater portions of public policies and public spaces and, in turn, shrinking these public arenas for the vast majority of citizens.
For background on limitations of and possibilities for a more democratic Constitution, see http://poclad.org/BWA/2007/BWA_2007_DEC.html and http://poclad.org/BWA/2007/BWA_2007_MAR.html#3
1907 – Death of John Chandler Bancroft Davis – unilateral action yielded first Supreme Court corporate “personhood” decision
Davis played a historical role in the corporate personhood debate. As the court reporter in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (118 U.S. 394, 1886), his responsibility was to prepare ‘a summary-of-the-case commentary.’ He wrote in the headnote to the decision that Chief Justice Morrison Waite began his oral argument of the court’s opinion by stating, ‘The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does.”
Davis’ published reports and notes from 1885-1886 contained his views on the Santa Clara case: ‘The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Thom Hartman and other journalists and authors charged Davis with a conflict of interest as previous President of the Newburgh and New York Railway in his role in the Supreme Court ruling. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bancroft_Davis
REAL Democracy History Calendar
1856 – Birth of Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States of America – on the need for corporations and government to work together
“Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process.“ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/09/usa-sponsored-terrorism-mid-east-since-least-1948.html
1947 – Birth of Spencer Bachus, former Republican Chair of the US House Financial Services Committee – regulators serve banks
"In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks."
2014 – Big money breaks out: Top 100 donors give almost as much as 4.75 million small donors combined
“The 100 biggest campaign donors gave $323 million in 2014 — almost as much as the $356 million given by the estimated 4.75 million people who gave $200 or less,” a POLITICO analysis of campaign finance filings found.
‘When 100 big donors give as much almost 5 million small donors, with whom do we expect candidates to spend their time, and whose interests do we think they will represent?’ McKinnen asked. ‘That’s not democracy. That’s oligarchy.’”
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/top-political-donors-113833#ixzz3ta7ebjxE
2011 – Pittsburgh City Council passes resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood
The resolution also called for returning elections to the American people.
1945 – Birth of Harvey Wasserman – exposes fraudulent electronic voting machines
Wasserman is an anti-nuclear and safe energy activist, journalist and senior editor of the Columbus Free Press. He has co-authored numerous articles with Bob Fitrakis on election fraud of elections since 2000, with special emphasis on the 2000 and 2004 election results in Ohio.
Wasserman and Fritakis have recently written.
“The way our electoral process now stands, electronic voting machines guarantee a Republican victory in 2016…
“Source codes remain "proprietary," so the public has no control over the private machines on which our allegedly democratic elections are conducted. There is no usable paper trail, transparency or accountability.
“We are concerned that all voters get fair access to the polls, and all votes are fairly counted, no matter who the candidate. We have no doubt the Democratic Party would be just as willing to flip elections from Republicans as vice versa, and that both have, can and will do the same to the Green Party and other challengers.
“So we support universal hand-counted paper ballots, automatic universal voter registration, a four-day national holiday for voting, major restrictions on campaign spending and a wide range of additional reforms meant to guarantee some kind of democracy in the United States.”
Featured Poclad Article
“Are Not Corporations People, Too?” … Encounters with Corporate Liberals
by James Price
As advocates pursuing the passage of the Move to Amend “We the People” 28th Amendment, we are periodically confronted by various critics who appear uncomfortable about a number of consequences which they believe would result from its passage. Some see it as an unnecessary overreach, because, they assert, the First Amendment political speech problem caused by allowing unlimited corporate contributions for or against political candidates in Federal elections can be solved by simply overthrowing the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, (2010) decision. They see no additional measures being necessary to address other abuses of political speech by corporations or wealthy individuals or to limit other constitutional rights and powers bestowed on corporations by the Supreme Court for more than a century. Others feel that any effort to pass a constitutional amendment is unachievable on its face. Still others would like to see corporations have more constitutional rights, not be stripped of them.1
People taking such positions frequently appear to be more concerned about protecting the claimed constitutional “rights” of corporations than the rights of human beings. Some are self-described “liberals”. They might be better described as corporate liberals, and some are found in the Democratic Party establishment.
Corporate liberals have a hard time accepting the more progressive, small “d” democratic, populist approaches espoused by the Bernie Sanders campaign, the Green Party, Move to Amend, and POCLAD. They have long been focused on working closely with corporate lobbyists and wealthy elites on fundraising and maintaining their positions of control within the Democratic Party establishment. The result is that the national leadership of the Democratic Party has over time become ever more beholden to Wall Street, corporations, and extremely wealthy corporate liberals.
What follows are several of the more common arguments used by corporate liberals against the proposed “We the People” Amendment and suggested responses to them. It is hoped that this synopsis will be helpful to “We the People” Amendment advocates when encountering these critics. Examples of such arguments are described in the following paragraphs.
The goal of the “We the People” Amendment should only be to reverse the result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (2010).
The “We the People” Amendment calls for an end to the U.S. Supreme Court’s imposed doctrines espousing “corporate constitutional rights” (Santa Clara County v Southern Pacific RR, 1886) and “money equals speech” (Buckley v Valeo, 1976). This would not only result in the overthrow of the Citizens United decision, it would also eliminate the two earlier Supreme Court decisions on which the corporate form, along with its wealthy owners and managers, maintain their legal advantage over natural persons in governing and economic affairs of the United States.
The “We the People” Amendment is extremely unlikely to pass the onerous amendment process.
The Constitutional amendments leading to voting rights for males of all races, women’s suffrage, the direct election of U.S. Senators, voting rights for 18-year-olds, and elimination of the poll tax were initially described by some as “ill-conceived and extremely unlikely to pass the onerous amendment process”. With the election of Donald Trump and his ability to stack the U.S. Supreme Court, it is less likely that Citizens United will be overturned by the Court. A constitutional amendment that goes to the roots of our illegitimate corporate governance by denying corporations all constitutional rights and getting rid of the equivalency of money with speech now appears the best way to put We the People in charge.
The “We the People” Amendment would allow governments to regulate corporations without any constitutional restrictions.
The current problem is, in fact, just the reverse. Governments are always accountable to constitutional limitations in carrying out their regulatory responsibilities. The reality today is that corporations are more aggressively than ever claiming “corporate constitutional rights” to oppose efforts by governments to regulate their actions. A recent example is the case of the Hobby Lobby corporation claiming First Amendment freedom of religion rights in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, (2014).
The “We the People” Amendment would provide that spending money is not speech for purposes of First Amendment protections.
The proposed “We the People” Amendment actually states that, “The judiciary shall not construe that spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment”. Governments could still allow spending on elections and set limits to that spending, as defined by citizens directly via initiatives and indirectly via pressure on elected officials. This is based on the principle that the votes of the masses of people should not be overwhelmed by the votes in dollars by a small minority of extremely wealthy people or by their wealth-enhancing corporations. Since the Citizens United and McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission (2014) decisions, corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections, though still not directly to candidates, and individuals can spend enormous amounts as allowed within the higher ceilings established by the U.S. Supreme Court. Given the disparities in income and wealth that exist in the United States today, it is doubtful that Congressional legislation placing limits on corporate or individual campaign contributions would substantially change the current situation which strongly favors money over people.
State governments could seize corporate assets without compensation and without worrying about the “takings” clause of the Constitution.
Let us look at the current situation in the United States. Local governments are always accountable to the Constitution in carrying out their regulatory responsibilities. The reality is that governments have become timid in exercising their regulatory authority because of corporations’ aggressive use of the “takings” clause of the 5th Amendment. This apprehension to enact regulations protecting the health and safety of workers, the public, and the natural environment has been enhanced through the aggressive use of lawsuits in which corporations claim “takings” damages for the loss of future profits. These corporate lawsuits are supported by decision making structures and powers given to corporations through such “trade” deals as the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). They intimidate governments by threatening the extraction of high payouts, even potential bankruptcy. Moreover, individual owners and investors of corporations would still retain their individual constitutional rights to prevent governmental seizure of corporate assets without compensation.
Corporations should be granted more constitutional rights, not have them stripped away via the Move to Amend “We the People” 28th Amendment.
This argument has been made by certain law professors who believe that the problems with corporate constitutional rights can be corrected by assuring more of them rather than stripping corporations of them. This thesis is based on the idea that withdrawing corporate constitutional rights will result in more abuses of power by governments. The reality is that corporations are increasingly using their wealth and power coupled with claims of corporate constitutional rights to expand their governance of our society and control of the United States economy. Rather than expanding corporate constitutional rights, state legislatures can actively use their corporate chartering processes to establish the parameters within which corporations may operate and to set the limits to those privileges.
Legislatively defined privileges or statutory rights are different from constitutional rights which are inalienable and intended for all living, breathing, natural persons in the United States. Natural persons are also distinct from artificial, humanly defined and created, legal entities, called corporations. Legislatures can grant statutory rights to corporations in order that they may carry out the duties of their charter, rights that can also be withdrawn or reworked if found to not meet the needs of the corporation or the protection and authority of a governing citizenry. With that said, corporations should not be entitled to exercise the constitutional rights of human beings.
t has also been asserted that increasing corporate constitutional rights is essential for furthering a growing capitalist economy. Remember that the United States economy was sustained for a century before the concept of corporate constitutional rights was imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Santa Clara case. It is also unacceptable at this time in our history that we persist in an exponentially growing capitalist economy characterized by the competitive production of endless more and corporations claiming ever more constitutional rights. This is not a sustainable or desirable framework from either an ecological or an economic standpoint.
It is hoped that the readers of this article find this information helpful in addressing criticisms from corporate liberals as they arise when discussing the Move to Amend “We the People” 28th Amendment that would abolish Supreme Court imposed doctrines of “corporate personhood” and “money is speech”.
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