This was part of the "testimony" presented at the Cleveland Heights Democracy Day Public Hearing on June 9, 2022
Ohio’s history is not just about “the mother of Presidents”, where and when its wartime battles took place, or which Ohioans flew into space. Its hidden part is the story of the struggles of the many people who sought to amake the basic decisions affecting their own lives free from external control. It’s also the story of the few who imposed control over Ohio’s majority of people and resources using the business corporation as their primary vehicle. These stories are enormously relevant today. The first seven questions and answers below are excerpted from Citizens over Corporations: A Brief History of Democracy in Ohio and Challenges to Freedom in the Future, available from [email protected]
1. Where is the following language found?
That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent and unalienable rights, amongst which are the enjoying and defending of life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety; and, every free, republican government being founded on their sole authority, and organized for the great purpose of protecting their rights and liberties and securing their independence to effect these ends, they have at all times a complete power to alter, reform or abolish their government, whenever they may deem it necessary.
(a) US Declaration of Independence
(b) Communist Manifesto
(c) Ohio Constitution
(d) US Articles of Confederation
(e) US Constitution
2. Early legislative acts in Ohio creating corporations one at a time through petitioning the legislature, or General Assembly, stipulated rigid conditions. These privileges, not rights, included what provisions?
(a) Limited duration of charter
(b) Limits on amount of land ownership
(c) Limits on the total investment of owners
(d) Limitation of charter to a stated purpose, with the state reserving the right to amend corporate charters or to revoke them.
(e) All of the above
3. What action did the Ohio General Assembly take against corporations that violated the terms of their charters?
(a) They issued fines.
(b) They appointed “Blue Ribbon” committees to look into the violations.
(c) They revoked their corporate charters.
(d) They expanded the terms of their charters to include whatever violation(s) were being committed.
4. What group of Ohioans made voiced following sentiment?
The corporation has received vitality from the state; it continues during its existence to be the creature of the state; must live subservient to its laws, and has such powers and franchises as those laws have bestowed upon it, and none others. As the state was not bound to create it in the first place, it is not bound to maintain it, after having done so, if it violates the laws or public policy of the state, or misuses its franchises to oppress the citizens thereof.
(a) Radical Democrats
(b) Radical anarchists
(c) Radical farmers and workers
(d) The Ohio Supreme Court
5. Penalties courts imposed for abuse or misuse of the corporate charter were often more severe than a simple plea bargain or fine. The most severe penalty — not uncommon from the mid-1800’s through the first several decades of this century — was to revoke the corporate charter and dissolve the corporation itself. The legal device used to achieve these penalties was 'quo warranto proceedings', meaning “by what authority.” In the mid 1800’s, numerous states amended their constitutions to make corporate charters subject to alteration or revocation by legislatures. Ohio’s General Assembly passed a quo warranto act in 1838. How often did the courts revoke corporate charters in Ohio?
(a) Dozens of times
(b) A few times
(c) Only once
6. Who said, “I believe in the municipal ownership of all public service monopolies...for if you do not own them they will, in time, own you. They will rule your politics, corrupt your institutions, and finally destroy your liberties.”
(a) Ohio communists
(b) Ohio socialists
(c) Ohio nihilists
(d) Cleveland Mayor (and former businessman) Tom Johnson
7. What action did the Ohio General Assembly prohibit by legislation in 1908 and which remained illegal for the most part until 1959?
(d) Corporate campaign contributions
8. In July 2020, we learned that FirstEnergy Corporation spent over $60 million bribing Ohio legislators to ensure the passage of House Bill 6, to publicly bail out the company’s antiquated non-renewable energy power plants and prevent the expansion of clean energy. Since then, what actions have our elected representatives in the Ohio legislature taken?
(a) They’ve repealed in its entirety House Bill 6
(b) They’ve committed legislatively to mandate the dramatic expansion of clean energy
(c) They’ve prohibited FirstEnergy from making political campaign donations to any state official or candidate running for any state office.
(d) They’ve called for the dissolution of FirstEnergy and the provision of electricity by other privately or publicly owned utilities.
(e) None of the above.
ANSWERS TO DEMOCRACY DAY QUIZ
- c ; 2. e ; 3. c ; 4. d ; 5. a ; 6. d ; 7. d ; 8. e (The Ohio legislature passed a partial repeal of the bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine on March 31, 2021. Utilities, fossil fuel interests and nuclear plants are still reaping advantages over clean energy in Ohio. The legislature has not called for revoking FirstEnergy’s charter or any other method of dissolving the company. It’s incapable of prohibiting FirstEnergy or any corporation from making political campaign contributions since the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that political money spent in elections is First Amendment protected “free speech” and corporate entities are “persons.”)