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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
POCLAD at the Democracy Convention
by Greg Coleridge and David Cobb
“Universalizing Resistance, Democracy Power” was the theme of the third Democracy Convention in Minneapolis in early August. The Convention’s eight separate but overlapping conferences each focused on a different aspect of democracy. “Democratizing the Constitution” was the conference where our workshop, “How Judicial Review and Lifetime Appointments make the Supreme Court a Democratic Threat,” was housed. Our session was well attended and received.
The session was covered by WFAI, the local alternative radio station.
What follows are several observations from the Convention about POCLAD, the specifics of our workshop, the status of the growing democracy movement and where the movement needs to go based on current political, economic, social and environmental conditions to create real authentic self-determination.
POCLAD’s ideas have spread
A little over two decades ago POCLAD was one of a handful of groups anywhere that challenged the concept that corporations should be legally subordinate to people as they once were, should not possess constitutional rights, that corporate constitutional rights were a fundamental threat to authentic democracy and that even abolishing corporate constitutional rights would not usher in a democratic nirvana that honestly never originally existing.
POCLAD’s writings and “Rethinking Democracy, Rethinking the Corporation” retreats across the country helped plant seeds that have since spread far and wide. Corporate constitutional rights and our undemocratic Constitution is now much more widely understood and being organized against via Move to Amend, launched by several POCLAD Principals
POCLAD materials remain relevant
Virtually every piece of material (mostly back issues of By What Authority newsletters related to our workshop and the US Constitution) taken to the Convention for our information table was gone by the end. Unless picked up and pitched by janitors, we assume attendees were the picker-uppers. Many also signed up to receive these monthly emails. As POCLAD supporters are aware, our stuff isn’t flashy or boiled down to superficial “talking points.” It’s mostly dense with little white space. Nevertheless, many of our pieces are timeless in their observations and analysis.
Corporate rights are much more than simply First Amendment “free speech” rights
There is still much work to do to help democracy educators, advocates and organizers understand that the universe of corporate constitutional rights is broader than simply the 1st Amendment right to politically donate (or more accurately, invest) to candidate and issue campaigns. The corporate 1st Amendment constitutional right not to speak, 1st Amendment religious rights, 4th Amendment search and seizure rights, 5th Amendment takings rights, and 14th Amendment due process and equal protection rights, as well as the constitutional Contracts and Commerce clauses have all been perverted by corporations to defend their power and authority over the rights of workers, consumers, communities and the environment. Constitutional amendment proposals to end merely corporate first amendment rights to politically donate/invest will simply permit corporations to shift their strategies to other previously won constitutional rights as well as advocate through the courts for new ones.
It was a good sign that Why Abolish All Corporate Constitutional Rights at our table at the Convention was among the most popular articles taken.
Judicial review is the alleged authority of the unelected Supreme Court to declare acts of elected members of Congress and/or the elected President unconstitutional. There is no explicit reference to the concept in the Constitution. Article III of the Constitution provides that “judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and shall extend to all cases arising under this Constitution.”
The Court first exercised the power of judicial review in the 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison. The decision caused an uproar, leading Thomas Jefferson to express his deep reservations about the principle. He wrote:
“To consider judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions is a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and for privilege. But their power [is] the more dangerous, as they are in office for life, and not responsible to elective control.” Jefferson warned that judicial review would make the Constitution nothing but “a mere thing of wax in the hands of the Judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.”
Abraham Lincoln also spoke out against judicial review in response to the repugnant Dred Scott decision:
“The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges. It is a duty from which they may not shrink to decide cases properly brought before them, and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes.”
We appreciate that many folks are understandably nervous about what might happen to constitutional protections in the chaotic worlds of practical politics and everyday life.
But it is up to all of us—to “We the People”--to take responsibility for protecting our liberties. Guarding them is not (nor should it be) the exclusive preserve of judges. The Constitution belongs to us collectively, as we act in political dialogue with each other--whether in the street, in the voting booth, or in the course of our day –to-day activities. An engaged and active citizenry would be more effective at protecting civil liberties than the courts anyway.
Reforming the Supreme Court
Among the many changes needed to the US Constitution is a means to make justices more accountable to other branches of government, if not to the public. It’s important for the High Court to be relatively insulated from current times to prevent “tyranny of the majority” against a minority. The reverse is, however, also true. A totally isolated and unaccountable Supreme Court has time and again ruled in ways favoring the “tyranny of the minority” against the majority (e.g.. favoring corporate rights over human rights).
US justices serve for life and are virtually impossible to be removed for any reason. Constitutions of other nations, including many European countries and other representative democracies, contain provisions requiring justices at the highest level to retire at a certain age or serve a fixed term. Some constitutions require a more inclusive selection process (including in some cases public involvement) while others provide greater powers to other branches of government to check the judicial branch. See the above referenced article for details.
Growing support for amending the US Constitution
There’s a cultural shift taking place around the need to fundamentally amend the US Constitution, if not rewrite it. It should be noted that this shift is across the political spectrum. Just as POCLAD’s analysis evolved over time from merely the need to abolish “corporate personhood” to more fundamentally democratize the constitution, awareness and acceptance of change is increasing among people struggling for justice, peace, sustainability and democracy.
The growing feeling behind it is that it’s not enough, though still important, to change public officials and laws and regulations. There are currently vast differences among constitutional amendment advocates about the timing, process and content of such changes. This includes whether to work for amendments through the federal level or via a constitutional convention. There is great concern, of course, given the control of the levers of political power by the super wealthy and corporations, that any constitutional convention at this time could prove democratically disastrous.
Several POCLAD articles speak to the need for the need for and proposals to democratizing the US Constitution.
Overcoming oppression is a democracy issue
We can’t say it any better that the Democracy Convention conveners who issued this statement:
“Our purpose is to build a truly inclusive democracy movement, one that takes on oppression in order to finally overcome it, in order to build a truly democracy society.
Overcoming oppression involves building strong community and collective power. Community power begins with creating what Dr. King called the beloved community, something we are doing now with the Democracy Convention.
Inclusive democracy is anything but power-neutral. We include in order to democratize. Therefore, we also exclude. We exclude and confront white supremacy and racism, patriarchy and sexism, class rule and elitism, cisnormativity and homophobia, ableism, ageism, and anthropocentrism, and other structures and expressions of domination. Each oppression denies self-government, collective liberation, and full personhood. Each reinforces capitalism, a system that turns living and free beings into things for sale and consumption.
An inclusive democracy movement builds new institutions, cultures, and systems based on equity and direct resistance to oppressions, with the leadership and participation of those most directly affected by those oppressions.
The goal of the movement we are building is to overcome, not just regulate, oppression. We are outward oriented, globally aware, and always thinking about who is struggling for liberation. We seek social transformation and a democratic revolution.”
Current moment is one of multiple crises
Convention sessions and plenaries were stimulating and nurturing. Anyone paying even half way attention could not help but learn and feel part of something larger than oneself. There were, though, other sets of feelings equally pronounced – feelings of deep responsibility and urgency based on oppressive, destructive and unsustainable systems assaulting people, communities and the environment. The rise in this country of what can legitimately be called fascism; income inequality; perpetual wars and occupations; endless more economic growth on a finite planet; political disenfranchisement; overt racism, misogyny and homophobia; and eco system destruction are on their own frightening.
Any one of them, if unaddressed, reaching a tipping point will spark widespread social disruptions, which seemingly has now begun in response to Charlottesville. It’s a virtually certainly that the triggering of one reality will at some point dramatically worsen one or more of the others – the cumulative result being unpredictable forms and degrees of widespread societal collapse.
Educate, advocate and organize for power
We at POCLAD have always insisted that the fundamental premise of this government is that all legitimate political power resides with the people. We have stated the obvious—that a small ruling elite have literally stolen the social, political and economic institutions of our society, and use “the rule of law” to legitimize the theft. By allowing unelected and unaccountable judges to dictate what is constitutionally acceptable is to disenfranchise ordinary citizens and to utterly ignore the principles of self-government and political equality. "We the People" own our government. Properly understood, we are the government. We need to start acting like it.
So we invite you to work with us to help build a genuine democracy movement.
Contact Greg Coleridge at Greg@MoveToAmend.org in his capacity as Outreach Co-Director at Move To Amend to learn how you can get involved in the campaign for a constitutional amendment to abolish the concepts of corporate constitutional rights and money as political speech.
Contact David Cobb at DavidKCobb@gmail.com in his capacity as a Fellow at Liberty Tree Foundation for a Democratic Revolution to learn about his work in co-facilitating “Movement Schools for Revolutionaries.”
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POCLAD’s financial supporters made our trip to the Democracy Convention possible. Thanks to one and all!
Make a donation to POCLAD. Funds are needed for speaking, conferences, research, and minimal organizational maintenance. Contribute online at http://poclad.org/donate.html or by sending it to POCLAD, P.O. Box 18465, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118. For a tax deduction, send your check of $50 or more -- earmarked for "POCLAD"-- to the Jane Addams Peace Association, 777 United Nations Plaza, 6th Floor, New York City, NY, 10017. Thank you!