Mayor Adams proposes resolution on ending corporate personhood

"Establish as a position of the Portland City Council that corporations should not receive the same constitutional rights as natural persons do, that money is not speech and independent expenditures should be regulated."

Thus reads the first sentence of a new proposed resolution for the City of Portland.

Earlier in the week Mayor Adams proposed a resolution regarding corporate personhood and money as speech. You can read his proposal here. The resolution would establish official instructions for the city's lobbyists to work on these issues as part of the 2012 Federal Legislative Agenda for the city.

The Resolution needs changes.    Read more ...

While we congratulate the Mayor for making good on a promise to Occupy Portland to introduce such a resolution, Alliance for Democracy has a few changes we would suggest.

First, strike the word "same" from the first sentence which current reads, "Establish as a position of the Portland City Council that corporations should not receive the same constitutional rights as natural persons do, that money is not speech and independent expenditures should be regulated." Corporations should not have constitutional rights, period. Having "same" in there suggests there are some constitutional rights which they should have. Corporations should be regulated by law. They should never go to court asserting that a law or regulation violates some constitutional right which they claim to have.

Second, the second WHEREAS statement should be removed. It voices support for the efforts of Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley as well as Representatives Kurt Schrader, Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio. While we are encouraged that our Senator Merkley (where is Sen. Wyden?) and Oregon Democratic representatives recognize the need to address the problems posed to democracy by the US Supreme Court's Citizen United v FEC decision, their efforts come up short of the mark. All the proposed amendments only address the "money is speech" problem. They do not address the corporate personhood issue. Both issues need to be addressed at the same time. The democracy advocacy group Move to Amend has suggested language which does address both issues without leaving loopholes.

Third, the major BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED statement should be rewritten. It currently reads, "BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Portland hereby includes in its 2012 Federal Legislative Agenda support for efforts to pass an Amendment to the United States Constitution related to campaign finance reform including S. J. Res. 10 [note: SJ RES 10 is a constitutional amendment calling for a balance federal budget. The correct number is S.J.Res. 29] introduced by Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico and Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and H.J. Res. 72 introduced by Representative Kurt Schrader of Oregon and co-sponsored by Representatives Blumenauer and DeFazio of Oregon; and, respectfully urges Oregon’s Congressional delegation to prioritize congressional proposal of an amendment to the United States Constitution addressing the threats to representative government identified in this resolution so that the states may ratify it; and,"

The references to the Oregon senator and representatives need to be removed because their proposed amendments are inadequate.

The Udall/Merkley Amendment

  • has a time limit of seven years during which the amendment must be approved. Such a limitation is not required in the constitution and this is far too important an issue to be subject to such an artificial restriction.
    does not explicitly mention candidate expenditures in elections, only contributions. Buckley v Valeo (overturned by Citizens United decision) said that contributions could be limited but that expenditures by candidates could not be controlled.
  • only addresses the question of Money is Speech. Corporate power is founded not just on their "right" to use their money to speak but also on US Supreme Court decisions granting them rights under the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and 14th amendments. The "rights" granted under the 14th amendment (equal protection and due process) have been invoked time after time to overturn the laws enacted by governments at every level.
  • grants congress the right "to regulate the raising and spending of money....to candidates for nomination." Congress is therefore not explicitly granted the ability to do the same for campaigns regarding initiative and referendums; however, corporate power is exercised via expenditures and contributions on those campaigns as well. We need only think of the corporate funded campaigns to defeat Portland citizens initiatives to form a People's Utility District here in Portland. Or the more recent campaign in Wash state which privatized liquor stores.
  • grants congress and the states the right to regulate. This implies that congress cannot ban raising and spending of money but it is our desire the corporations should be banned from those activities.

H.J. Res 72, introduced by Rep Kurt Schrader, suffers from the flaws #2, #3 and #4 above. It has two other flaws:

  • it is poorly written with a double negative, " No one who is not a citizen..."
  • it states that "whenever Congress should exercise such power on associations of citizens of the United States, it must apply equally and uniformly to all associations of citizens of the United States." It is not clear that this would apply to corporations as corporations are not associations of citizens; rather they are associations of capital, associations of property.

We would propose this language to replace the proposed language:

"BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Portland hereby includes in its 2012 Federal Legislative Agenda support for efforts to pass an Amendment to the United States Constitution related to campaign finance reform and overriding US Supreme Court decisions which have granted human rights to corporations; and respectfully urges Oregon's congressional delegation to prioritize congressional proposal of an amendment like that provided by Move to Amend to the United States Constitution addressing the threats to representative government identified in this resolution so that the states may ratify it; and"

The proposed Move to Amend amendment reads:

Section 1 [A corporation is not a person and can be regulated]
The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.
Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.
The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.
Section 2 [Money is not speech and can be regulated]
Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.
Federal, State and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.
Section 3
Nothing contained in this amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.

But I want to Vote!

While we support the effort of Mayor Adams to get direction to the city's future efforts, we the voters of Portland also want to vote on this issue.

In Madison WI, Dane County WI, Boulder CO and Missoula MO the voter were given the opportunity to express their opinion on the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and the question of if corporations are people and they overwhelmingly voted Yes. Yes that Money is Not Speech and that the US Supreme Court had been wrong in their decision in Citizens United. Yes, that Corporations are not people.

The people of Portland also want to have their opinion heard, not just via a city council resolution but at the ballot box.

Move to Amend PDX has proposed that we vote on this referral:

RESOLVED, the People of the City of Portland, Oregon call for amending the United States Constitution to establish that:
1. Only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights, and
2. Money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.

Contact Mayor Adams and the Portland City Council
Contact them with this message:

Thank you for considering passage of a resolution instructing the future actions of the city's lobbyists with regard to ending corporate personhood and establishing that money is not speech.
Remove Same in the first sentence. Corporations should have no rights, period.
Replace the major BE IT RESOLVED statement with one without reference to our Oregon Senator and Representatives or their proposed constitutional amendments. The reference should be to the proposed constitutional amendment written by Move to Amend (movetoamend.org)

WE WANT TO VOTE! We collectively can make a stronger statement regarding corporate personhood and money is speech than the city can by only passing the resolution. Pass the resolution and then give us the ability to vote by referring the language written by Move to Amend PDX to the ballot.

Mayor Adams: (503) 823-4120, E-mail: Samadams@portlandoregon.gov

City Commissioners:

Amanda Fritz: (503) 823-3008, E-mail: amanda@portlandoregon.gov
Nick Fish: (503) 823-3589, e-mail: Nick@portlandoregon.gov
Randy Leonard: (503) 823-4682, E-mail: randy@portlandoregon.gov
Dan Saltzman: (503) 823-4151,E-mail: dan@portlandoregon.gov

David e. Delk, President | Alliance for Democracy | 112 NE 45th Ave, Portland OR 97213 | 503.232.5495 | www.afd-pdx.org |

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