Revoking Corporate “Free Speech”

One of the core beliefs of Reclaim Democracy is that our Constitution’s Bill of Rights exists to protect the rights of living human beings and their voluntary associations exclusively. Yet since the late 1800s, federal judges have ignored the fact that corporations go unmentioned in our Constitution, and created a broad array of “corporate constitutional rights. Their arguments claim that corporations are legal “persons,” entitled to the protections of our Bill of Rights.

A decade before Citizens United v FEC launched the issue to the forefront, we established the web’s most comprehensive resource on corporate personhood to both explain, and lead to reversing, the process by which corporations seized the legal rights of human beings. This long-term struggle is a foundation of our work, and through Move To Amend, a national coalition of groups working toward this end.

In 2003, we used the Supreme Court case of Nike v. Kasky to challenge corporate “free speech” privileges and engage a national audience in rethinking such ill-gotten privileges. Now we’re building a campaign to erode and, ultimately, revoke the Supreme Court-created “right” of corporations to influence (and even run their own) ballot initiatives that dates to 1978’s First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti ruling.

We are using high-profile battles to broaden awareness of this outrageous usurpation of citizens’ power and build toward the long term goal of reversing Bellotti. Our campaign plans and many background materials are posted here. Our proposed constitutional amendments address this and other long-term goals.

Establish a Citizens’ Debate Commission

The nationally televised presidential debates are the single most influential forum for most Americans to inform their views on presidential candidates, and offer a rare opportunity to hear candidates’ ideas unedited and in context. To our national disgrace, these debates have been controlled since 1988 by a front group of the Democratic and Republican parties that lacks any public accountability — the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).

During the 2000 election cycle, we had considerable success in raising public awareness of the illegitimacy of the CPD. That campaign led us to the necessary work of displacing the CPD with real debates that will serve democracy. In 2004, catalyzed and co-founded the Citizens’ Debate Commission (CDC), now supported by dozens of civic organizations from all over the political spectrum. Our ultimate goal of replacing the CPD with genuinely democratic debates will take some years to accomplish, but even in the first year the CDC helped force important changes that have moved the events from the sound-bite battles of recent years to more substantive debate.

See Presidential Debates Should Serve Citizens and Democracy, Not Political Parties for an overview and links to our research, writing and outside resources on the issue.

Critical Thinking Curriculum Project has raised awareness of commercialism and corporate propaganda encroaching into every pocket of daily life. In addition to our articles, primers, and presentations, we seek to bring such awareness in classrooms — to tomorrow’s citizens. Our Critical Thinking Curriculum (no new materials currently being produced until we find a new volunteer or obtain funding for staff time) helps teachers nurture critical thinking skills in students of all ages, beginning with media literacy.

By helping our kids to learn how to determine the source of the messages they receive through a variety of media, they become savvy media users. They learn to challenge ideas presented to them through news stories, advertisements, textbooks and more.

See Branded: Corporations in Our Schools for one example of why this project is needed.

Breaking New Perspectives into the Mass Media

Our ongoing efforts to bring our message to the masses have resulted in op-eds by staff appearing in the nation’s most prominent newspapers — papers like the Washington Post, Newsday, The Chicago Tribune, La Opinion (the nation’s largest Spanish language paper) and dozens more. We continue our success in reaching our target audience through insightful writing that gets to the democratic root of the issues making headlines. Our outreach also consistently involves talk radio and occasionally televised talk shows.

Examples include: forewarning the public of the corporate agenda for commercializing public lands; re-framing the debate on campaign finance and other electoral reforms; and calling for true accountability for corporate crime and criminals.We invite you to contact us regarding adapting these articles and others for use in your local or regional media outlets

Volunteer opportunities: We always seek to work with skilled writers and researchers interested in reaching a broad audience.

Past/Ongoing Accomplishments

As Citizens United v FEC made its way to the Supreme Court, Reclaim Democracy principals teamed up with representatives of many other pro-democracy organizations to lay plans for exploiting the opportunity, win our lose, to launch corporate personhood into public awareness.

The result was Move To Amend, a nationwide coalition of grassroots organizations working toward the common goal of amending the Constitution to make clear the Constitutional rights are for living beings and that spending money to influence elections is subject to limitations needed to allow all citizens’ voices to be heard.

Before Reclaim was staffed, our director launched a first-of-kind model in Colorado, the Boulder Independent Business Alliance. BIBA helped locally owned, independently operated businesses to succeed, ensure continued opportunities for entrepreneurs, and strove to reverse the trend of losing such businesses to national chains.

We subsequently helped spread the successful model until, much like the Citizens’ Debate Commission, we teamed with others to help spawn the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) to fill a role that merited a singularly-focused organization. AMIBA has since helped seed more than eighty more local alliances and maintains a vital communication network among these community-level efforts, while working to enhance national consciousness of the importance of community-based businesses.

Notably, AMIBA also is the leading grassroots business organization making clear that enshrining corporations with human rights is anti-business and anti-market. See