David Cobb: The Supreme Court has legalized corporate bribery – January 27, 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yet again, the U.S. Supreme Court has sided with the ruling elite against the interests of the American people.

On Jan. 21, 2010, in Citizens United vs. FEC, the Court overturned the flimsy federal campaign finance reform laws afforded by the McCain-Feingold law. Corporations can now spend unlimited money in buying our elections. The Court has literally legalized corporate bribery of our elected officials.

So if you were already disgusted by the fact that over $5 billion was spent in the 2008 election, watch out. Because the floodgates are now wide open!

There will be calls to fight back at the legislative level. We need publicly financed elections. We also need laws requiring a majority of shareholders to approve corporate political contributions. Those laws would be an immediate improvement, and I support those efforts.

But even if every one of those laws passed, it would not be enough. Because once again, the Court relied on the illegitimate legal doctrine of “Corporate Personhood” in order to justify this profoundly undemocratic decision.

Corporate personhood is the notion that a corporation can claim to be a person and therefore entitled to have courts overturn democratically enacted laws that infringe upon their human rights. (Can anyone actually support this principle with a straight face)?

As this decision clearly demonstrates, corporate personhood is not an inconsequential legal technicality. Consider this – the Supreme Court ruled that a corporation was a “legal person” with 14th Amendment protections before they granted full personhood to African-Americans, immigrants, natives, and women.

And literally hundreds of laws –perhaps thousands—of local, state and federal laws that attempt to protect our environment, our elections, our safety and health, our right to organize have been overturned as a result of this erroneous doctrine.

At the local level, Measure T, our local law restricting corporate political contributions, was overturned because of corporate personhood. The Arcata and Eureka City councils were unable to forbid cell phone towers for fear of violating the constitutional rights of corporations. Local laws outlawing Big Box development cannot be adopted because of corporate personhood.

It’s time to take ourselves seriously – both about what is at stake and what it will require to actually assume and democratically exercise real power. We must address the reality that the federal courts have made real democracy impossible.

It’s time to follow the lead of the American Revolutionaries, the abolitionists, the suffragists, the trade unionists, and the Civil Rights activists and build a broad-based, multi-partisan democracy movement in the United States.

It’s time to amend the U.S. Constitution to make it clear that only human beings can claim to be “persons” with constitutional rights.

It’s time to make the promise of democracy a reality.

A broad new coalition of grassroots groups and national organizations – representing diverse public interest, community, and local businesses – is making a bold call to overrule the Supreme Court Citizens United and to amend the Constitution to restore the power of people over corporations beyond election law. And Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County is helping to spearhead that effort!

If you are with us, go to the website MovetoAmend.org and call us at (707) 269-0984.

Please join the growing national movement to take our country back.

David Cobb was the Green Party candidate for President in 2004, and is a member of Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County. He can be reached at david@duhc.org