OMNI CORPORATE USA NEWSLETTER #2
Compiled by Dick Bennett, February 11, 2010 (Newsletter #1, August 7, 2008)
SENATOR LINCOLN (202) 224-4843 Fax: (202) 228-1371.
Fayetteville office: 251-1380
Senator Mark Pryor: Phone: (202) 224-2353 Fax: (202) 228-0908
CONGRESSMAN Boozman: Lowell office: 479-725-0400.
SUPREME COURT GIVES unlimited influence over our
Elections: Materials for Action
OMNI Action Feb. 15, 2010: OMNI Forum on Corporate Personhood
Background and Analysis from NYT
10 Ways to Stop Corporate Domination
Petitions: Simple Amendment, Move to Amend, Public Citizen
(Go to www.omnicenter.org for full newsletter)
Cindy Sheehan on History of Ruling
E. J. Dionne for Populist Revolt
Corporations and Chambers of Commerce
New Books and Films
OMNI’s 2008 Forum on Capitalism USA with reading list
OMNI Book Forum on US Capitalism
OMNI FORUM February
February 8, 2010
Contact: Dick Bennett 442-4600
Sponsor: OMNI Center for Peace, Justice, and Ecology
FORUM ON CORPORATE POWER AND THE US CORPORATE STATE
Monday, February 15 at 6:00 P.M. at the OMNI Center for Peace, Justice, and Ecology.
At OMNI’s new location: 3274 Lee Avenue
With the recent Supreme Court decision removing the limits of corporate sponsorship of political advertisement, our Nation plunged into a full-blown Corporate State in which our elected representatives are dominated by corporate money. The voice of the people is in danger of being drowned out by this flood of corporate money. Action is needed soon to reverse this damage...but what action? What can be done? We will be exploring our democratic possibilities during our discussion panel on February 15 at 6:00 P.M. at the OMNI Center for Peace, Justice, and Ecology. Coordinated by John Gray and Dick Bennett. We urge you to read or read about the book by Thom Hartmann, Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights.
Moderator: Claire Detels
John Gray, Mayor of Greenland
Jacob Holloway, Graduate Student UA
Abel Tomlinson, Graduate Student UA
Cliff Hughes, Teacher
OMNI has a new location: 3274 Lee Avenue east of N. College north of Hobby Lobby, south of Fed Ex/Kinko’s and Liquor World.
BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS
“SUPREME COURT: U.S. Government For Sale”
January 22, 2010 by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Zaid Jilani, Matt Duss, and Alex Seitz-Wald (forwarded b Sue S)
Yesterday, in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court held that "the constitutional guarantee of free speech means that corporations can spend unlimited sums to help elect favored candidates or defeat those they oppose." The activist 5-4 decision struck down a 63-year-old ban that ensured corporations may not use their enormous profits to support or oppose candidates. The ruling "declared unconstitutional a large portion of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act passed in 2002." Ian Millhiser of the Center for American Progress Action Fund observed, "Today's decision does far more than simply provide Fortune 500 companies with a massive megaphone to blast their political views to the masses; it also empowers them to drown out any voices that disagree with them." Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), who is already pushing legislation to rectify the Court's decision, warned, "The law itself will be bought and sold. It would be political bribery on the largest scale imaginable." "The Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century," the New York Times writes today.
THE BACKGROUND OF THE CASE: The case grew from attempts by the conservative organization Citizens United to promote its anti-Hillary Clinton film, "Hillary: The Movie," in 2008, which "takes viewers on a savaging journey through Clinton's scandals." Because the movie was partially financed with corporate funds, "it fell under restrictions in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002," also known as The McCain-Feingold Act. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) therefore heavily restricted Citizens United's ability to advertise the film. A March 2009 ruling upheld the FEC's decision, writing that the film was "susceptible of no other interpretation than to inform the electorate that Senator Clinton is unfit for office, that the United States would be a dangerous place in a President Hillary Clinton world, and that viewers should vote against her." The film "was the brainchild of Citizens United President David N. Bossie, a former congressional aid" and longtime Clinton critic. According to Nick Nyhart, president of Public Campaign, "The movie was created with the idea of establishing a vehicle to chip away at the decision. ... It was part of a very clear strategy to undo McCain-Feingold."
A RIGHT-WING ACTIVIST COURT: The Washington Post writes that the Court's majority made "a mockery of some justices' pretensions to judicial restraint." Although Chief Justice John Roberts represented himself as an impartial "umpire" during his 2005 confirmation hearings -- acknowledging that "it is a jolt to the legal system when you overrule a precedent on the bench" -- Roberts "has shown himself more willing than his mentor and predecessor, William H. Rehnquist, to question the court's past decisions." During his short tenure thus far, Roberts' "record is not that of a humble moderate but, rather, that of a doctrinaire conservative." Likewise, Samuel Alito's replacement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has tipped the court's balance from supportive of congressional efforts to reduce the influence of special interests to suspicious of how the restrictions curtail free speech. Since Roberts and Alito joined its ranks, the Court ignored longstanding precedents protecting women against paycheck discrimination and older workers against age discrimination. The Court overruled a very recent precedent protecting women's reproductive freedom, and Roberts even had the audacity to claim that the Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision forbids school boards from desegregating public schools. In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, "At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people. ... While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics."
FURTHER EMPOWERING BIG BUSINESS: In 2008, "the Obama and McCain campaigns combined to spend just over $1.1 billion, an enormous, record-breaking sum at the time," but a small fraction of what corporations have available. "With hundreds of billions of dollars of corporate profits at stake every time Congress begins a session," wrote Millhiser, "wealthy corporations would be foolish not to spend tens of billions of dollars every election cycle to make sure that their interests are protected. No one, including the candidates themselves, have the ability to compete with such giant expenditures." David Kirkpatrick wrote in the New York Times that the Court "has handed a new weapon to lobbyists. If you vote wrong, a lobbyist can now tell any elected official that my company, labor union or interest group will spend unlimited sums explicitly advertising against your re-election." "The good news," wrote Millhiser, "is that lawmakers are already considering ways to mitigate the damage caused by Citizens United, and a number of options exist, such as requiring additional disclosures by corporations engaged in electioneering, empowering shareholders to demand that their investment not be spent to advance candidates they disapprove of, or possibly even requiring shareholders to approve a corporation's decision to influence an election before the company may do so." Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) have been "working for months to draft legislation in response to the anticipated decision." Potential fixes include banning political advertising by corporations that hire lobbyists, receive government money, or collect most of their revenue abroad. "Another would be to tighten rules against coordination between campaigns and outside groups so that, for example, they could not hire the same advertising firms or consultants. A third would be to require shareholder approval of political expenditures, or even to force chief executives to appear as sponsors of commercials their companies pay for."
A SIMPLE SUMMARY
WHAT IS CORPORATE PERSONHOOD?
The claim that corporations are persons under the Fourteenth Amendment, are therefore equal to humans in possessing individual rights, and therefore enjoy all protections extended to individual humans in the Constitution. .
WHEN DID IT HAPPEN?
The 1886 Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad case has been used to this day to justify equal protection under the Constitution for corporations. But Thom Hartmann’s book shows that the Supreme Court never ruled for personhood, the public never voted for it, and it was never enacted by law. This original ambiguity has now been removed by the recent Supreme Court ruling, removing what little restraint had been achieved by campaign regulation.
WHAT DID OUR FOUNDERS BELIEVE?
The Founders and early Presidents specifically warned that the safety of the new republic depended on keeping corporations on a tight leash.
THE HARMFUL CONSEQUENCES OF PERSONHOOD TO DEMOCRACY:
The enormous rise of the influence of corporate money over government, through lobbying, gifts, and other monetary influences, and through the media through First Amendment free speech protection.
The equally disastrous increase of corporate secrecy under Fourth Amendment right of privacy. And much more.
Unregulated combinations and monopolies of aggregated capital, which should be the servants of the people, became the people’s masters for the profit of a few. The meltdown of our economic system in 2008-09 is the inevitable result.
Not the abolition of the corporation, which has at times and can serve humans and other species well. But the return to the control of corporations by the people through their representatives and courts that prevailed up to 1886. It is up to us to change beliefs and practices that do not serve us. Citizens in California and Pennsylvania had begun to deny corporations the status of personhood. Probably state restrictions will be removed because of the Supreme Court’s decision.
Let us join with the rising movement of citizens who say: Corporations are not human, not persons, but are legal creations, just one of many methods humans can use to manage their economy. Let us join together in any and every way we can to enable the people to regain control over corporations.
The history of and case against corporate personhood in one volume is Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights by Thom Hartmann. Rodale, 2002. In its Nov. 10, 2008 Book Forum, OMNI discussed this book along with other books that demonstrated the harms caused by corporate personhood. (Dick)
10 Ways to Stop Corporate Dominance of Politics by Fran Korten
It's not too late to limit or reverse the impact of the Supreme Court's disastrous decision in Citizens United v. FEC.
Also on alternet: http://www.alternet.org/story/145441/10 from Joanna
[Here are 2 of maybe many petitions and a recommendation, part of the valuable process of finding the thesis and language for the final version.--D]
SIMPLE AMENDMENT NEEDED
So far all the constitutional amendments I've seen are either shooting at the wrong target (limiting corporate spending) or including things they shouldn't (federal and state governmental rights over local government). What we need is something as simple as the 19th or 26th amendments (women and 18-year old votes) - such as "a 'person' is constitutionally defined as a human being" (if necessary make it even more specific "a member of homeo sapiens sapiens" - as silly as "man, wise, wise" is for our species - but something that absolutely cannot be a creation of law). bf
FROM MOVE TO AMEND, PETITITION AND OTHER ACTIONS
MOVE TO AMEND (forwarded by Art Hobson)
Since Thursday, the internet, newspapers and people around kitchen tables across the country have been ablaze with outrage over the Supreme Court's action to open the floodgates to corporate money in our elections. Over 40,000 of you have joined with us in launching a long-term campaign to amend the Constitution, and others have begun to follow your lead.
We think you'll agree that it's time to raise a ruckus! Over the weekend we prepared some ideas for things you can do and materials to get you started. Please check out our new Take Action section right now at:
Here's some of what you'll find there:
1) Spread the word! Tell your friends about the Motion to Amend. Use our form to forward a message to your contacts. Join our new Facebook page to connect with others.
2) Donate to the cause! Move to Amend is the beginning of a multi-year movement to amend the Constitution. We're gearing up big and we need your financial support.
3) Educate Others! Write a letter to the editor to explain what Citizens United ruling does and let others know how they can take action. Make sure to mention the MovetoAmend.org website. Our website has useful tips and sample letters to help get you started.
In the words of Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
We agree, which is why we've also included ideas for group action like:
1) Hold a Funeral for Democracy! Organize a mock funeral outside your closest federal building, with mourners, music, speakers, and eulogies for democracy. Let everyone know that the U.S. judiciary has made democracy illegal by granting away our rights to corporations. Take video to post on YouTube, invite the media, and make sure your political officials are invited to speak in memory of democracy.
2) Organize a Study Group or Kitchen Table Discussion! Most folks do not have a deep understanding of what corporate personhood means to democracy and elections. Bring your friends, family, co-workers, fellow students, or neighbors together for a discussion about why this happened, what it means and what needs to be done. We provide materials to help get you started and readings to discuss.
3) Pass a Democracy Resolution! We include a model resolution to start from. Your political party, rotary club, city, township or even state can pass this declaration calling for a Constitutional Amendment to Legalize Democracy and Abolish Corporate Personhood. We also provide some materials to get you started if you'd like to take action at the municipal level. From Art H
FROM PUBLIC CITIZEN
Dick, [sorry not all the links engaged]
…The Supreme Court ruled last month that corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money in our elections.
I'm asking you to do two things right now to join the fight to defend our democracy from a corporate takeover:
1. Sign our petition at www.DontGetRolled.org for a constitutional amendment to counteract this radical ruling.
2. Help grow the resistance by forwarding this email to 10 friends and family members and asking them to sign the petition, too.
We must preserve First Amendment rights for actual people and the press. The First Amendment was never intended to apply to artificial constructs like profit-hungry corporations.
Many members of Congress are introducing amendments and signaling their support, including Representatives Donna Edwards, John Conyers, Marcy Kaptur, Leonard Boswell and Dennis Kucinich, and Senators John Kerry, Arlen Specter and Chris Dodd.
A real movement is taking shape….
But constitutional amendments do not come easy. We need a groundswell of support from every corner of the nation. We need hundreds of thousands of people to drive the legislative push in Congress.
Thank you, firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Weissman, President
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