Berkeley Resolution Rejects Corporate Constitutional “Rights”

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 _(Your towen, city, county)_ 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 corporations have made important contributions to society, they may exist simultaneously in many nations, use court granted “corporate rights” to get laws and regulations that protect people weakened or overturned, put profit ahead of any other concern, and use money derived from consumers and employees to lobby for statutes that endanger democracy, human values, and ecological survival; 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 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 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;” and Senator Chris Dodd pointed out that “money is not speech,” that “corporations are not people” and that “a constitutional amendment is necessary to fully restore the trust and voice of the America people.”

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.

Be It Further Resolved, that the ____________________ requests that our elected representatives introduce a constitutional amendment that contains both 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 others 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 _____________________ will post this Resolution on its web site and send it to U.S. President Barack Obama; other pertinent elected national and state officials including our own and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy, House Judiciary Committee Chair (Ranking Member in 2011) John Conyers, U.S. Senators Chris Dodd and Tom Udall, U.S. Congresswoman Donna Edwards; and all local media outlets.

Why and How to Advance a Local or State Resolution

Why it is useful to convince City Councils, Boards of Supervisors,County Boards, Labor Councils, clubs, etc. to pass symbolic, non-binding Resolutions:

  1. Resolutions increase public awareness during the lobbying campaign that precedes passage and success creates many additional opportunities. each success may inspire other communities or bodies to copy it.
  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 cities passed Resolutions in opposition nationwide and then internationally.
  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.

ReclaimDemocracy.org is eager to help anyone pursuing a local resolution or ordinance. The Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom and Move to Amend also provide excellent resources.

Mainstream America has understood for years that corporations have too much power. Now a large majority agrees that corporations should not be granted constituional “rights” and that money should not be equated with speech.

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 including several of their constituents who are sympathetic to this cause. Point out ways in which the corporate undermining of democracy adversely affects our lives. Consider choosing a related local issue and adding it as a “Whereas clause.” Convince a sympathetic Council member to put the item on a meeting agenda with enough advance notice that you can motivate and organize people to lobby for it.

Create e-mail and paper flyers inviting public comment at the meeting and lobbying in advance. Make it easy for people to write or e-mail by providing addresses, talking points, and brief sample letters for them to paraphrase/personalize. Encourage creativity. If there is enough people power, speak to church groups, environmental non-profits, clubs, any who might help. It is fun to table at farmers’ markets.

Once the Resolution passes, send out press releases and celebrate!

By Phoebe Anne Sorgen