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Tuesday, August 25, 2009


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. 

In contrast, the idea of a constitutional convention is widely opposed by both liberals and conservatives. Both are justly concerned about the results of a convention where a fundamental restructuring of the constitution could conceivably take place.  Coming from fundamentally different perspectives, neither camp would be willing to take the risk that the other side would hold the day in an open convention. The process would also run the risk of being subverted by the same corporate interests that we are trying to challenge. It is hard to imagine that we would do any better selecting representatives for the convention than we do when we select our representatives in Congress. It seems unlikely that in the end there would be many who would want to take that chance. 

The idea of calling for a constitutional convention has one merit, however. It is a way to get students, union members and others who understand the threat to democracy posed by corporate personhood involved in the grassroots educational movement needed to convince our legislators that they have no real choice but to support the amendment if they wish to keep their privileged positions. With tens of thousands of students and union activists on the streets, going door to door and speaking to groups and individuals about the idea of a constitutional convention, the level of public understanding of the need for an amendment could grow exponentially.

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.

Bernie Sanders and Jeff Merkley are two senators who clearly understand the problem. If they were to convince a few other senators and House members to work with Congressmen like Kucinich and Paul that they can break the grip of corporate power over Congress, they could get a bipartisan coalition to introduce the amendment. Working as a group to jointly introduce the amendment would not only make them less easily targeted by corporate-funded attack ads but would demonstrate to voters that this is not a partisan issue but the one problem that needs to for Americans to move forward together. All it would take to succeed is for these members of Congress to have the political courage to put into motion a process that would cost the careers of many of their colleagues who are unwilling to stand up for the people in challenging their corporate patrons.
The problem of course is that even these stalwarts of democracy might balk at the idea of making themselves targets of corporate-funded groups that would surely pour millions into targeted campaigns to defeat them when they run for re-election. That is where the growing coalition of Move to Amend and others trying to get corporate cash out of politics come in. It is the job of these organizations to work together to educate voters that not only is corporate personhood the problem, but that there is a realistic way to end it through the electoral process. It is my hope that if the proposal is approved, Alliance for Democracy will take the next step toward getting an amendment on the floor of Congress by presenting the campaign to the Executive Committee of Move to Amend for their support.

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.


  1. According to Thomas Jefferson, the revisiting of the Constitution is supposed to take place every generation anyway, and this has never been done. It's high time it were. The problem is, it would need to be done by the right people, and they don't exist right now. However, I'd be willing to wait the time for what we have now to take the shot at it, as it's long overdue, and has been stomped all over anyway by the "UN"Patriot Act. IF they took the time for it now, they would know the same thing; that if they allow corporate personhood to intrude on the constitution, that they would be out of jobs so fast it would make their heads spin. We do have time. We have time to make them suffer through it, and make it work for the people, and suffer they should do for their jobs for once.

  2. You are so right, Dedanna. There are many revisions that must take place but the most crucial is ending corporate personhood. The only way to do that is to bring the Left and Right together in common cause. With 80% of both self-identified liberals and conservatives opposed to Citizens United it would not be as hard as it sounds if enough people realize the significance of the issue.

    I believe that you are right that those willfully ignorant of the fact that the CEOs of corporations have staged a fascist coup will have to suffer more before they will wake up to the truth. These are not bad people, just brainwashed and tooo busy trying to survive in a vicious society and economy that they haven't had time to think it through. It is our job to awaken them to reality before it is too late.

    I do think that we have time, but only if people get to work on the problem NOW and stop buying in to the artificial Left-Right distinctions promoted by corporate politicians and media that is perpetuated by the alternative media and politicians who should know better.

  3. There were some great speeches at http://www.tamethecorporation.org/agenda.html

    My favorite is Gar Alperovitz.

  4. Thanks for contributing and for fighting for a free US and world, Todd.


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