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Ending the culture of Corporate Personhood

Corporations Are Not People: Why They Have More Rights Than You Do and What You Can Do About ItWhat do we need to do to end corporate personhood?

I realized last night that to pass a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood, we must do more than just aim for passing a constitutional amendment.   We must remove the culture of corporate personhood that has taken over our society.

I attended the the key note speech of the “How Class Works” conference last night.  The speaker was Jeffrey Clements, the author of  Corporations Are Not People: Why They Have More Rights Than You Do and What You Can Do about It.  The focus of his speech was overturning the Citizens United decision by passing a 28th amendment to the US Constitution.  The amendment would end corporate personhood by defining persons as human beings only, not artificial entities.  It would also state that money is not speech.  Mr. Clements has been one of the major organizers of this national movement.

After hearing Mr. Clements speak, it is not clear that he understands how much the concept of corporate personhood pervades our culture. I believe that to end the myth that corporations are people, we must work to change our entire culture’s view.  It is not enough to just work for the legalistic solution of a constitutional amendment.    If it is constantly reinforced by cultural forces that corporate personhood is the norm, then it will make the passing of a constitutional amendment an impossibility.

While listening to Clements deliver his keynote speech, I ruminated about a few suggestions about how to end cultural acceptance of corporate personhood: 

  1. Clarence Thomas

    Have political candidates pledge not to take corporate contributions.  This can start in Montana where corporate contributions to politicians are prohibited.  Publicize which candidates have taken this pledge so that voters can show their support for ending corporate personhood.  (A simple way to make sure your candidate does not take corporate money is to vote Green Party. It is agreed nationally by Green Party candidates that they will not take corporate contributions.)

  2. Have the media pledge not to treat money as speech.  Our media have slipped into the lazy habit of judging a political candidates credibility by how much money they have raised, rather than the issues they have raised.  We should be voting for the candidate who will govern best, not the one who can rake in the most money.  The purpose of the media is to be a marketplace of ideas, not a financial marketplace. Even Democracy Now! has slipped into this bad habit; they are only covering candidates who have raised obscene amount of money instead of covering all the presidential races.
  3. Impeach Justice Thomas. After finishing his keynote speech, Clements was asked last night if the Supreme Court Justices who voted for Citizens United should be impeached.  Clements corrected disagreed with the idea. It would be a bad precedent to impeach Supreme Court Justices because their decision is unpopular. (75% of the population disagree with the Citizens United decision.)  Imagine if the Supreme Court justices were impeached because Brown v. Board of Education or Roe v. Wade were unpopular.  Supreme Court Justices should only be impeached if they violate the public trust.  Justice Thomas has violated the public trust in two ways.   First, He has failed to report the income of his wife for decades on disclosure forms.  Second, Justice Thomas should have recused himself from the Citizen’s United decision. His wife’s income comes from the same sources as those that funded Citizen’s United. Impeaching Justice Thomas would send a clear signal that  corporate money cannot even give the appearance of affecting court decisions.
  4. Stop talking about Democrats and Republicans as a shorthand for political beliefs.  Clements did this all night.  Elected officials from both the Democratic and Republican political parties take massive amounts of corporate donations. I was turned off when Clements kept  talking about how even Republican elected officials back the ending corporate personhood, as if Democratic elected officials don’t feed at the same trough.  Furthermore, 1/3 of all registered voters are not members of either the Democratic or Republican parties.  Independents and third party members are the most likely to support the cause of ending corporate contributions to politicians since they are already independent of the two biggest recipients.
  5. Stop talking like corporate money in politics started with Citizens United.  The Citizens United decision just opened the floodgates wider, it was not the start of the problem.  The Democratic and Republican parties have been taking bucketloads of corporate money for decades.  Both of their presidential conventions are funded by corporations.  The phony Commission on Presidential Debates is completely controlled  by the Democratic and Republican parties and corporately funded.  The Democratic and Republican presidential conventions and debates might as well have corporate logos across them like they do in NASCAR.
  6. Forget campaign finance law, go to the source.  If the Supreme Court objects to writing campaign finance laws that limit corporate expenditures, then change the state laws that create the corporations.    If a door closes, open a window. States have absolute control over how corporations are created.  Corporations are merely creations of state law.  State laws regularly prohibit corporations from in engaging in activities that are outside of their purposes.  A person must get special permission from the state to form a religious corporation or an educational corporation or a nonprofit corporation.  It is time to prohibit political contributions by corporations as outside of what states allow them to be created for.  Get on the phone with your Governor and state legislators, and tell them to change your state corporate formation law.
  7. Make art, not corporate personhood.  Culture is driven by the language spoken in its arts.  Write a poem. Or an article. Or a book.  Compose a song.  Make a film.  Perform a play.  Paint. Sculpt.  Whatever your muse calls for in in order to expose the myth of corporate personhood.
Let us know what you are doing to end corporate personhood.
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