The focus of the event was the need for an amendment to the Constitution of the US in response to the controversial Citizens United v. FEC ruling of the Supreme Court of the US of 2010.
David Cobb, a spokesperson for the national Move to Amend coalition visited Atlanta to speak at the event.
In Citizens United, the Supreme Court of the US overturned parts of a 2002 federal law called the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), often referred to as the McCain-Feingold law, thus allowing unlimited campaign spending on advertisements by corporations and unions in the weeks leading up to Primary Elections and General Elections.
"Our goal is to abolish corporate personhood, which was created in the recent US Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, and [to] re-establish a government of, by, and for the people," Cobb told Atlanta Progressive News.
"Corporate personhood is the precedent created by the Supreme Court that gives corporations the rights that were intended for human beings, which is unconstitutional in many respects. A corporation should not be allowed to have both limited liability plus the same rights as a human being,” Cobb said.
"Allowing unlimited corporate money to flood our political process, people are losing faith and confidence in the system,” Cobb said.
“Democrats, Republicans, and the Tea Party... are in support of the new proposed amendment which will amend the constitution to abolish corporate personhood,” Cobb said.
“Giving corporations the same rights as people is in conflict with our environment, public health, and public safety,” Cobb said.
The process of amending the US Constitution is daunting. An amendment has to be proposed either by a two-thirds vote of both houses of US Congress, or else by a constitutional convention convened when the legislatures of two-thirds of the states so request. The amendment has to be ratified either by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the states, or by conventions in three-fourths of the states, depending on which means of ratification Congress proposes.
“The proposed amendment will clearly establish that money is not speech, corporations are not people, and allows for no loopholes. Our amendment will put people in charge of our government, and corporations in their proper place,” the Move to Amend website states.
“The Supreme Court stole our sacred right to self-government by granting corporations Constitutional rights and we as people need to take back these rights,” Cobb said.
In addition to his role with Move to Amend, Cobb is the National Projects Director of Democracy Unlimited, a lawyer, and a political activist. Cobb has sued corporate polluters, lobbied elected officials, and has been arrested for non-violent civil disobedience.
In 2004, Cobb ran for President of the United States as the Green Party nominee.
When asked if he was going to run for President in the future, Cobb smiled and said, "I will not run for President again and my plan is to continue with this movement because I feel that I will be able to make more of a difference," Cobb said.
If enacted, the proposed new amendment would be the twenty-eighth amendment to the Constitution of the US.
The text of the proposed amendment is as follows:
"Section 1 [Corporations are not people 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 amendment states.
“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,” the amendment states.
“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,” the amendment states.
“Federal, State and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed,” the amendment states.
“The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment,” the amendment states.
“Section 3. Nothing contained in this amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press,” the amendment states.
When Cobb was asked about the movement’s success so far and his strategy to pass this amendment he replied, "We have helped support over four hundred cities and counties to pass resolutions. We have also gotten on the ballot in over twenty-five jurisdictions and passed all twenty-five by overwhelming majority.”
No such resolution is known to have passed within the State of Georgia; however, Don Dressel, a local organizer for Move to Amend, says local advocates have been in touch with members of the City Council of Decatur and expect that a resolution might pass in Decatur, Georgia, as early as January 2013.
A search of the final action legislation database reveals that the City of Atlanta has not yet passed such a resolution.
“Our strategy is to work on the local level before moving on to the state or federal level to build a strong grassroots movement,” Cobb said.
Cobb is very excited and optimistic, and believes it should take about ten years to pass.
“We need everyone to get involved and sign up with our movement so you can see how you can help at a grassroots level," Cobb said.