Model Resolution to Free Democracy from Corporate Control and Amend the Constitution

Last updated March 3, 2011

This model resolution has been used in multiple communities, most recently the city of Richmond, CA (pop 105,000), where it passed 6-0 on March 1, 2011 (with some additions). A local member involved in pushing this effort, Phoebe Anne Jorgenson, reported “The mayor and each of the Councilmembers in attendance spoke quite knowledgeably and eloquently in favor of a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood and to establish that money isn’t speech. They added two clauses quoting Justice Stevens’ Citizens United v FEC dissent and ‘when freedom to speak is equated with freedom to spend money, millions…are disenfranchised, thus denying their full rights…’ Public comment was also riveting, passionate!” We hope to access a video recording soon.

This template can be used to help grow the movement and get other communities to take this stand. It can be used with City Councils, County Boards of Supervisors, etc. Convincing a sympathetic official to put this on a meeting agenda is a great first step, then launch a campaign to generate calls and letters from constituents of the officials who will be voting. Outreach help is available from ReclaimDemocracy.org and organizations linked below.

Resolution to Free Democracy from Corporate Control

Whereas, the U.S. Supreme Court has granted corporations personhood status, free speech and other protections guaranteed to living humans by the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment, yet historically corporations were created as artificial entities that were subordinate to our democracy, the_____________________ considers it to be our right and duty to assert that corporations are not natural persons with human rights but artificial entities created by our government; and

Whereas, although some corporations make important contributions to our society, they are required by law to put profit ahead of any other concern, can exist simultaneously in many nations, and use court granted “corporate rights” to get laws that threaten corporate profits weakened or overturned, even when those laws protect people and communities; and

Whereas, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission threatens our democracy by rolling back limits on corporate spending in electoral campaigns, allowing torrents of corporate money to drown out the voices of “We the People”; and Whereas, a Washington Post – ABC News poll found that 80% of Americans oppose the Citizens United ruling (Democrats 85%, Republicans 76%, Independents 81%) and a Harris poll found that 87% think big companies have too much influence in Washington; and

Whereas, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy stated that the Citizens United ruling “will allow major corporations – who should have law written to control their effect on America – to instead control America;” and former Republican senator Warren Rudman wrote, “Supreme Court opinion notwithstanding, corporations are not defined as people under the Constitution, and free speech can hardly be called free when only the rich are heard.”

Therefore, Be It Resolved that the_______________________ calls for freeing democracy from corporate control by amending the U.S. Constitution to establish that: 1. Money is not speech. 2. Corporations are not natural persons and not entitled to constitutional rights. 3. Regulations passed by Congress or state legislatures to reclaim democracy by limiting political expenditures by any corporation, limited liability entity, or other corporate entity shall not be an infringement of the First Amendment.

Be It Further Resolved, that the_____________________ requests that our elected representatives introduce a constitutional amendment that contains all of these principles, or introduce motions to include these principles in related constitutional amendments (HJRes 74, SJRes 28, Ca HJRes 3.)

Be It Further Resolved, that the _____________________ calls on other communities to join the movement to amend the U.S. Constitution in actions that defend our right to self-governance.

Be It Finally Resolved, that the _____________________ directs that this Resolution be posted on its web site and sent to U.S. President Barack Obama, the leaders of the U.S. House and Senate majority and minority, the Jusdiciary committee chair, our U.S. Senators______________________ _____and Congressperson______________________, our Governor _____________________, our State Legislators and all local media outlets.

The Why’s and How’s of Resolutions:

Why it is useful to convince City Councils, Boards of Supervisors, County Boards, Labor Councils, and other bodies to pass symbolic, non-binding Resolutions:

  1. Resolutions increase public awareness during the lobbying campaign that precedes passage and after passage (with thorough publicity efforts). One community’s success often inspires others.
  2. Public pressure gets results. The movement to divest from apartheid South Africa started in one city and spread, as did economic sanctions on the regime in Burma, eventually becoming national policy. Trade reps gave up on the MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investments, a harsh precursor to NAFTA) after many cities passed Resolutions in opposition in the U.S. and internationally. An organizational letter carries more weight than a note from one constituent.
  3. Resolutions may help get a related legally binding ordinance passed later by setting the groundwork and getting officials on the record as supporting democratic principles and opposing corporate personhood and money as speech.

How to Get a Resolution Adopted

It is not necessary to master the history of corporate personhood. The silver lining of the Supreme Court ruling against the Federal Elections Commission in 2010 is that public awareness is now at an all-time high. Mainstream America has understood for years that corporations have too much power. Now a large majority is concerned that the Supreme Court gave corporations more power to buy elections, and agrees that corporations should not be considered to be legal persons and that money should not be considered to be speech.

Many organizations and politicians are now using this as a fund-raising opportunity because it resonates with their members or constituents.

To get your City Council to pass a local version of the Model Resolution, fill in the blanks and set up appointments with a few Council members individually, ideally with someone who helped his or her campaign. There may be a related local issue that can be added as a Whereas clause. Point out ways in which the corporate undermining of democracy adversely affects the lives of local residents.

Create e-mail and flyers inviting public comment at the meeting and advance lobbying. Make it easy for people to write or e-mail by providing addresses, talking points, and brief sample letters for them to paraphrase/personalize. Speak to religious institutions, environmental groups, labor, and other entities. See Move to Amend’s “Pass a local resolution” page for much more.