CLEVELAND -- At its last meeting of 2016, Cleveland City Council passed Ordinance No. 1015-16, created by initiative petition, establishing a "Democracy Day" and "providing that the people of the City of Cleveland support the movement to amend the U.S. Constitution to establish that corporations are not people and money is not speech and also providing for biennial public hearings on these topics," the first to be held in the second week of May 2017.
Last summer, volunteers with the Cleveland Move to Amend campaign, part of the national Move to Amend democracy movement that advocates the constitutional amendment, gathered and submitted more than 5,000 valid signatures, as required by the City Charter to place the initiative on the ballot.
We thank Cleveland City Council for taking a position on this important national issue. We feel local public officials need to oppose the growing corrupting influence of corporate entities in our society and big money in our elections. It's clear from the November election that voters believe our government has been captured by interests who don't represent people without money or power.
We urged City Council to place the citizen initiative on the ballot for voter consideration rather than simply enact the initiative as an ordinance. These issues are important enough to have not only Cleveland public officials take a position, but also Cleveland citizens. A ballot measure would have given us the opportunity to discuss with the community the many problems connected with corporate power and large campaign contributions from the super wealthy.
While we had hoped to get on the ballot, we look forward to working with Cleveland City Council to hold the city's first Democracy Day public hearing in May. The every-other-year hearings will provide an ongoing arena to shed light on the problems of, and alternatives to, corporate constitutional rights and the spending of unlimited money in elections.
As if the recent presidential election season were not enough, the 7th anniversary of the infamous Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court was Jan. 21.
This reminds us: The huge amount of secret money that flooded into our electoral system as a result of Citizens United was not the first assault on the democratic principle of one person, one vote - far from it. Big money in politics and the outsize influence of corporations on our political system were already huge issues on Jan. 20, 2010. One day later, release of the Supreme Court decision made them even worse.
The mistaken doctrine of "money equals speech" dates to the Buckley v. Valeo decision of 1976, but a corporation first claimed its "right" to legal personhood status 90 years before that.
In 1886, the Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad case contained a side note (not part of the ruling, but nevertheless creating precedent) claiming the 14th Amendment provided equal protection under the law to corporate "persons." Since then, corporations -- and unions -- repeatedly have perverted the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 14th amendments, and the Commerce Clause, to assert their never-intended constitutional rights.
An amendment establishing that only human beings, not corporate entities, have constitutional rights, and money does not equal speech, will be required to restore sovereignty to the American people. Simply overturning Citizens United will not do the job.
Hundreds of communities across the nation have already enacted municipal resolutions and/or ballot measures in support of such an amendment. In Ohio, 22 communities have already taken a stand -- 12 via municipal resolution and 10 by the ballot, including this past November with "yes" votes of 82 percent in Shaker Heights and 77 percent in South Euclid.
Citizens in Brecksville, Chagrin Falls, Cleveland Heights, Defiance, Kent, Mentor, Newburgh Heights, and Toledo previously passed similar ballot initiatives. City Council resolutions supporting the constitutional amendment have been passed in Athens, Barberton, Bedford Heights, Canton, Dayton, Fremont, Lakewood, Lorain, Oakwood Village, Oberlin, Oxford, and South Euclid.
Move to Amend supports the We the People Amendment, House Joint Res. 48. It's co-sponsored by 24 U.S. representatives, including Rep. Marcy Kaptur.
Fundamental problems require fundamental solutions. The Cleveland ordinance adds to the growing national momentum to guarantee that the political voices of average people are heard over those of corporate entities and the super rich.
Lois Romanoff and Chris Stocking are co-chairs of Cleveland Move to Amend.
- Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission
- Community Organizing
- Constitutional Amendment
- Constitutional Renewal
- Corporate Culture
- Corporate Personhood/Corporate Constitutional Rights
- Corporate Rule
- Democracy Movement
- Local Democracy
- Local Organizing
- Money as Free Speech
- Move to Amend Resolution
- Supreme Court
- Understanding the Corporation