What the corporate take-over of our Constitution means for you

Citizens United is not just about wonky campaign finance and “money in politics.” The corporate take-over of our Constitution worsens the lives of almost every American.

1. Your voice and your vote. Corporations now have the ‘free speech’ right to spend unlimited money in every election, from the presidential race to state and local judge elections, from the water district to the local school board elections. Corporations can now dominate not only what happens (or doesn’t happen) in Washington but your own community is now subject to corporate elections and corporate government.

Example: In Montana, the average state legislative campaign before Citizens United cost $17,000. Now, a shadowy corporate front group called “Western Tradition Partnership”- potentially armed with millions of dollars-  has filed a lawsuit to strike down a 100 year-old law that limited election spending to human beings (and cleaned up the old copper corporation kingdom that ran Montana at the turn of the century). Yes! Magazine tells more here.

In the November 2010 mid-term elections, the most expensive ever, corporations spent hundreds of millions of dollars in undisclosed, un-sourced electioneering. Six out of ten voters, tired of being played as tools, stayed home.

2. Your food. Corporations now strike down laws requiring disclosure of ingredients and hazards. Monsanto and other corporations market genetically modified drugs for cattle that are illegal in most democracies in the world. In the US, Monsanto gets its way. Here, injecting cows with genetically modified drugs not only is legal, it is against the law to require corporations to let people know about it. Agri-corporations and Monsanto lawyers successfully used fabricated corporate Constitutional rights to make it a violation of “free speech” for people in the states to require labeling about the use of genetically modified drugs used in animals and in food production.

 Example: Monsanto’s genetically modified bovine growth hormone drug (rBST) that makes cows produce unnatural amounts of milk and is illegal in virtually every democracy on Earth because of potential side effects for humans. In the U.S., the FDA approved the drug. Monsanto has fought successfully to strike down state laws requiring dairy products made from cows treated with rBST to be labeled as such.

 3. Your land, water, air, and life. Corporate ‘speech rights’ have struck down laws that previously required utility corporations to stop promoting energy consumption contrary to the state policy of energy conservation. Unregulated corporate lobbying and election spending win billions of dollars in subsidies and special laws to favor global fossil fuel corporations over innovative but relatively cash-poor alternative energy companies. American communities and people pay the price.

Example: 500 mountains, 2500 miles of streams and headwaters, and numerous communities in Appalachia don’t exist anymore, obliterated in the past decade by coal corporations engaged in unregulated mountaintop removal coal extraction; we have 10,000 excess deaths each year from coal-burning utilities; 29 coal miners were killed in Massey Energy’s April 2010 mine explosion labeled “industrial homicide” by the United Mineworkers Association. (You can join the campaign to strip Massey of its corporate charter here.)

4. Your job and your income. Citizens United and corporate ‘rights’ are not about speech, they are about power. When the people are not allowed to regulate corporate election spending and lobbying, we have crony capitalism, where those who fund the policymakers get the policies that favor the few who control the largest corporations. For global corporations that have the capital to ‘pay-to-play,’ the American employment market is the same as any other in the world — an expense to contain or eliminate.

Example: In 1980, before corporations had a Constitutional trump card over our laws, the average CEO made 42 times the average employee salary. Now that average CEO multiple is 263 times the average employee wage. Between 1950 and 1980, average income rose 75%, from $17,719 to $30,941. Between 1980 and 2008, average income went from $30,941 to $31,244, a gain of $303 in twenty-eight years. 

5. Your politics and your time. Corporate personhood will fracture the late 20th century political arrangements. The old alliance of Chamber of Commerce corporatists with small government conservatives and libertarians in the Republican Party will break. The alliance of Wall Street corporatists with progressives in the Democratic Party will break. Americans will come together to take back what is ours– the Bill of Rights, our government, and our nation.

Example: The last time that corporate personhood fueled a dangerous Gilded Age, Americans built a movement of Republicans and Democrats, populists and independents to enact four Constitutional amendments between 1913 and 1920. They ensured the Congress had the power to adopt a national progressive income tax; they required that Senators be elected by the people; they guaranteed the right of women to vote. And, well, they also put Prohibition into the Constitution (to be removed by another amendment a decade later). 

To join the movement for the 28th Amendment, you can find links to the many organizations and people working on this effort in my book, Corporations Are Not People or at www.corporationsarenotpeople.com.

 

 

(Adapted from Jeff’s Author Blog with Jeevan Sivasubramaniam at Berrett-Koehler, http://bklists.blogspot.com/2011/11/corporate-personhood-and-you.html)

About Jeff Clements

Jeff Clements is co-founder and chair of the board of Free Speech for People, a national non-partisan campaign to overturn Citizens United v. FEC, challenge excessive corporate power, and strengthen American democracy and republican self-government. He co-founded Free Speech For People in 2010, after representing several public interest organizations with a Supreme Court amicus brief in the Citizens United case. Jeff has served as Assistant Attorney General and Chief of the Public Protection Bureau in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. As Bureau Chief, he led more than 100 staff in the enforcement of environmental, healthcare, financial services, civil rights, antitrust and consumer protection laws. In private practice, Jeff has been a partner at Mintz Levin in Boston, and in his own firm. Jeff also has served in leadership capacities on numerous boards, including that of the Portland Water District, a public agency responsible for protecting and delivering safe drinking water and ensuring proper treatment of wastewater for 160,000 people; Friends of Casco Bay, an environmental organization he co-founded with others to protect and enhance stewardship of Maine’s Casco Bay; and The Waldorf School in Lexington, Massachusetts. In 2012, Jeff co-founded Whaleback Partners LLC, which provides cost-effective capital to farmers and businesses engaged in local, sustainable agriculture. Jeff graduated with distinction in History and Government from Colby College in 1984, and magna cum laude from the Cornell Law School in 1988. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts with his wife and three children. Jeff Clements Twitter: @ClementsJeff Email: jclements@freespeechforpeople.org
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