Most discussions of how to pass a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood dismiss what is likely to be the only possible solution. Instead of calling for a constitutional convention, we should be focusing our efforts on getting an amendment introduced into Congress. While a number of prominent amendment advocates regard this as impossible, the idea of calling for a constitutional convention is far less plausible and much more complicated. With the rapid expansion of corporate power in the politics of the United States, we simply do not have the time to spend focusing exclusively on the unlikely goal of getting a constitutional convention.
The assumption behind the skepticism of those who reject the idea of getting an amendment introduced into Congress is that it won’t pass because Congress as a body is too corrupt. This is clearly true, but what has not been widely recognized is that with Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul and many other members of Congress publicly challenging the power of corporations over government, the stage is set for interested members of Congress to introduce the amendment itself. As more come out in favor of such an amendment, the amendment can become a prominent campaign issue that will enable the public to easily discern between candidates wishing to be elected to serve corporate interests and those who intend to work for the citizens who actually elect them.
With nearly 80 percent of both self-identified liberals and conservatives opposed to Citizens United, we can make support for such an amendment a litmus test in every subsequent congressional election where we can find candidates willing to take a pledge to amend, as dozens did in 2010. On May 22 at the Green Festival in Seattle, Kucinich publicly pledged to actively work to get cosponsors in Congress. Americans can help get the amendment on the floor by making their members of Congress know that we will support them if they do. This would not be difficult if efforts are focused on gathering petition signatures and passing resolutions at local and state levels calling on members of Congress to introduce and champion the amendment.
In one Arizona House District a hard working supporter of Move to Amend has single-handedly gathered 2,000 signatures for a petition in favor of the introduction of an amendment abolishing corporate personhood. Paul Winger reports that over 95 percent of those he has approached in his door-to-door effort have been eager to sign the petition. As a member of the National Council of Alliance for Democracy, I have proposed a campaign to solicit endorsements to a pledge to amend from 2012 candidates for Congress. The campaign will be very similar to the one carried out by Public Citizen in 2010, though the wording of the pledge will be different. The Public Citizen campaign resulted in dozens of candidates declaring their support for an amendment that would strip corporations of the “right” to pay for the election campaigns of their favored candidates.
Imagine the difficulty a contender for national office would have convincing voters that they will represent their interests if they oppose the one measure that would assure that they cannot win election by soliciting corporate money. Once the amendment is passed, members of Congress would have no choice but to serve the people because they won’t be able to depend on propaganda campaigns financed by the corporate interests who put our current crop of legislators in office. Thus, a strategy designed to get an amendment introduced and passed in Congress is feasible because it should gain wide support of voters across the political spectrum who recognize that this is not a partisan issue, regardless of how the corporate media spins it.
There are members of Congress who have shown that they are passionately committed to democracy and to addressing the many critical needs of the nation that their less idealistic colleagues seem willing to ignore or to treat with half-solutions that always seem to benefit their corporate patrons. It is our job to convince them that the only path forward is to challenge their colleagues to choose between the people of the United States and the corporate plutocracy on which both major parties have come to depend for campaign cash.
If Move to Amend decides to adopt the strategy, the idea of abolition supporters lobbying Congress should gain widespread traction nationally. They are a coalition of groups championing causes ranging from ending war to establishing environmental and health care justice. The common thread is that each recognizes that the only way to advance the people’s agenda is to end corporate control of government by a constitutional amendment that would end all corporate privileges. All privileges aside from limited liability have been granted by activist Supreme Courts that have consistently favored the interests of corporate power over the needs and desires of the American public. The groups in the coalition know that only way to overrule the Supreme Court is by constitutional amendment.
The differences between the coalition of Move to Amend, which wants to abolish corporate “rights” entirely and groups like Public Citizen which are focusing solely on corporate money in elections are insignificant and in the end irrelevant. It is Congress that will decide the form any amendment takes. If we succeed at forcing the issue, at that point these groups can lobby for whichever type of amendment they favor. By working together these groups and coalitions can raise awareness that this is not just another issue but the only issue on which the people have a fighting chance of being heard.
We are reaching a tipping point where our congressional representatives will have to realize that citizens of the United States are going to hold them accountable for their acquiescence to corporate control of our government. Those who fail to heed the warning will suffer the consequences at the polls. If progressives and conservatives can work together on the common cause of restoring democracy to America, there is a real chance that we can remove the corporate puppets from Congress. It might just be the first step to ending the partisan politics that masks the fact that both major parties have become corrupted by corporate money.
The coup de grace for corporate rule would be to co-opt the Tea Party by convincing these angry voters that they should be focusing their wrath on corporate control of Congress and not on the illusory “socialist” government they have been trained to fear. When the issue of what has gone wrong in government is phrased as “corporate welfare” it is possible to persuade those who are looking for real solutions that they have simply misidentified the problem. A unified Right and Left speaking as one on this issue could launch the new American Revolution and end the threat of fascism in the United States once and for all.