by Stephen A. Justino, Co-Chair, Colorado Move to Amend
Colorado Move to Amend congratulates our friends “Colorado Amend 2012” – Colorado Common Cause, People for the American Way, and others - for collecting enough signatures to qualify “Amendment 65” for the ballot.
Amendment 65 will offer Coloradoans a chance to stand against the U.S. Supreme Court’s odious Citizens United v. FEC decision. Citizens United is the case in which the Supreme Court found that corporations have inalienable rights under the 1st Amendment, and, that it is a violation of those new-found rights for governments to restrict a corporation’s independent political expenditures.
As the proponents of Amendment 65 rightfully recognize, Citizens United opened the floodgates on corporate and secret money in our elections. Already in 2012 outside spending is double what it was during the record-breaking 2008 elections. Nearly all of that money comes from groups that do not disclose their donors. In granting corporations inalienable constitutional rights, the Supreme Court has given powerful special interests undue influence in the democratic process. The deluge of corporate cash is drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens.
Colorado Move to Amend shares those concerns. Move to Amend has been organizing against corporate power for over a decade, and we have been fighting Citizens United since it was handed down in 2010. It is from that position that we urge Colorado voters to vote “YES” on Amendment 65.
Our “YES,” however, is actually a qualified “YES, but . . .”
We say “Yes, but . . .” because we understand that the threat to “small d” democracy posed by unlimited corporate spending in elections is not the “root cause” of the problem. The torrents of corporate spending unleashed by Citizens United are just symptoms of the two fatal diseases afflicting our democracy – the specious, Supreme-Court-created doctrines of “money as speech” and “corporate personhood.”
Amendment 65 is an effort to deal with the problem of “money as speech.” But, it says nothing about the equally destructive problem of “corporate personhood.” Any proposed constitutional amendment must go beyond overturning Citizens United, because the problems posed by “corporate personhood” go far beyond Citizens United.
Corporate abuse of the 1st Amendment is not limited to money in politics. In recent years, energy corporations, tobacco corporations, chemical and pharmaceutical corporations, alcohol corporations, and banking corporations, have all successfully claimed corporate free speech rights to invalidate federal, state and local laws.
Corporations are also abusing the 4th Amendment. For example, people are typically stunned to learn that OSHA cannot do a surprise workplace inspection, but it cannot, because the Supreme Court has held that surprise OSHA inspections violate business’s inalienable rights to be free of unreasonable search and seizure under the 4th Amendment.
We, the People, have a moral, and ethical, obligation to regulate the corporations, and other artificial legal entities, that we create. Corporations are using "inalienable constitutional rights" that they were never intended to have to overturn democratically enacted laws and regulations.
Amendment 65 is a step in the right direction. Americans across the country are discussing the need for a constitutional amendment to deal with the devastating impact Citizens United is having on our political system. By passing Amendment 65, Colorado will be making an important statement in that national debate.
Colorado Move to Amend does not endorse the language of Amendment 65, however. We will not compromise on our core belief that any proposed amendment must say two things, clearly and unequivocally: 1) inalienable rights recognized under the constitution belong to human beings, only; and, 2) money is not speech and thus political contributions, and political spending, can be regulated.
We say “Yes, but on Amendment 65” because, in our opinion, in order to be effective, any constitutional amendment must say “Corporations are NOT People!” and “Money is NOT Speech!!” Amendment 65 does not.