Democrats in Washington State Officially Oppose “Money = Speech” Precedent and Corporate Personhood

Published June 9, 2004

Editors’ Note: Introducing positions into any local or state political party’s platform is one effective tool for broadening awareness of important issues among politically active citizens. We share below examples of statements passed by the Washington State Democratic Party on June 5, 2004, which occured after many citizens helped pass similar resolutions in their county platforms — a truly bottom-up process. Much of the language comes directly from our articles on campaign finance reform — we’re thrilled to see it put to such effective use!

Related platforms and resolutions have been passed in Oklahoma, New Hampshire and Maine. 

Resolution: Money Is Not Speech

Whereas, thirty-six years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the poll tax, which was a pay-to-vote scheme levied by several Southern states with the intention of disenfranchising Blacks. The Court struck down this scheme in Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections by prohibiting deliberate economic exclusion of citizens from the electoral process, and;

Whereas, the bias of wealth still plagues our politics, largely due to the 1976 US Supreme Court decision in Buckley v. Valeo where the Court made a leap of logic to declare that spending money to influence elections was a form of “Free Speech,” protected by the First Amendment and largely beyond democratic control, and;

Whereas, as a result, we have two distinct classes of democratic participation. One class includes the majority of us who are entitled to turn out on Election Day to choose from a menu of candidates pre-selected because of their ability to raise (or possess) huge sums of money. The other class includes those wielding the real power – – the ability to finance candidates’ campaigns. This elite group determines the options for the rest of us and subsequently controls the political agenda, and therefore;

Be it resolved, that in order to provide all citizens, regardless of wealth, with more equal opportunities to influence elections, to influence public policy, and to run for office; and to further the principle of “one person, one vote” in a participatory and democratic republic; and to limit corruption and the appearance of corruption in our government, we, the people, declare the unlimited use of money to influence elections to be incompatible with the principle of Equal Protection established under the Fourteenth Amendment, and;

Be it further resolved, that we, the people, support all efforts:

  • To give Congress the power to set limits on contributions and expenditures made to influence the outcome of any federal election, including the power to ban such contributions and expenditures,
  • To ensure that each state shall have the power to set limits on contributions and expenditures made to influence the outcome of elections in that state for all offices, and

State Platform Plank on Corporate Power

Editor’s note: The language here was negotiated by the local activists who succeeded in passing the plank over vigorous objections. This is an example of their individual success, not model language.

  • We believe:
    • corporations are vital to our economy and standard of living;
    • business-friendly laws can be beneficial; and
    • corporations should not exert undue influence on our body politic or use our Constitution in the courts to thwart our democratically enacted laws.
  • We support:
    • revoking the charters of corporations that repeatedly violate our laws; and
    • a government created by, or, and for the people, not corporations.
  • We oppose:
    • the Supreme Court precedent that corporations are people, and further oppose corporate rights as persons under our Constitution and their associated constitutional rights, including the First Amendment right to make political contributions in the corporate capacity; and
    • tax breaks to corporations and other corporate welfare, unless a verifiable public interest is served.

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