Strategic Plan to Pass the "We the People Amendment" to the United States Constitution
Adopted by the Move to Amend National Leadership Team, April 2016. Click the cover image at right to view an online version of the printed plan. Click here to download a PDF.
Current Year and Updates
2023 Program Priorities and Objectives
Each year the Move to Amend Board National Team and affiliate leadership set priorities and program objectives for the year ahead, guided by the Campaign Goals and Annual Benchmarks laid out in the Strategic Plan. Most of these objectives are made publicly available to help everyone understand the priorities for the year ahead. The objectives are adjusted as needed upon a mid-year review by the National Team.
Key 2023 Amendment Campaign Benchmarks
- We the People Amendment re-introduced in House of Representatives with 100 co-sponsors
- We the People Amendment introduced in Senate with 25 co-sponsors
Plan Table of Contents
- Introduction: This Plan is a Living Document
- Problem Statement: We Are Not a Self-Governing People
- Formation of Move to Amend
- Vision and Mission
- Assumptions: “We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident…”
- Core Principles: Values to Help Build the World We Envision
- The Current Moment: Can We Overcome Our Cynicism to Build a Movement for Real Solutions?
- Campaign Goals: Strategic Objectives to Amend
- Additional Resources
The National Leadership Team (Board of Directors) and staff of Move to Amend developed this Strategic Plan with input from grassroots Affiliate leaders and key supporters. It provides Move to Amend with a ten-year roadmap to pass the We the People Amendment through Congress or a Convention of the States. Our estimate is that it will take ten years to build the movement capacity and organization that will be required to win this endeavor, and that’s at an ambitious but achievable pace. Should the landscape shift to allow us to move more rapidly, we will be prepared to seize the opportunity, in part by having done the work to put this plan in place.
We are charting the course for the passage of the We the People Amendment in order to be transparent and to build momentum and excitement. This document is meant to be a thorough picture of our journey, not merely where we go from here, but how we got to this point – as a nation and as an organization building a larger movement. This plan puts into writing and adds detail to the oral plan we have been utilizing from Move to Amend’s inception. This plan provides a roadmap, with benchmarks and measurable goals, right up to the ratification process, beginning in 2026. Ratification is expected to take 2-4 years after that.
There will be roadblocks as well as opportunities that are currently unknown. The National Leadership Team and staff will review progress quarterly and will review and update the plan annually, as needed. Each year Move to Amend National will conduct a process to set annual objectives for the organization with input from staff and grassroots volunteers. Grassroots affiliate groups as well as Move to Amend partners will need to use the plan to guide their work. All activities should be examined through the lens of the Plan to ensure we are acting strategically and efficiently toward the objectives we have laid out and our goal of building a democracy movement and passing the We the People Amendment.
Contrary to popular belief, we are not a self-governing people in the United States. Instead, we have been conditioned to be consumers allowed to choose between “paper or plastic” at the grocery store, while the fundamental public policy decisions regarding how our society operates are made behind corporate boardroom doors. Practical solutions to the problems we face exist but are not implemented, because “We the People” are not in a position to make and execute these decisions.
The transnational corporation has become the real governing institution in this country and across the globe. Cloaked with the protection of the law, corporations define our work, food, energy use, transportation choices, health care, elections, as well as our relationship with each other and with the earth itself. A relatively small number of people and their corporations have gained overwhelming power over the political system through their ability and willingness to spend large amounts of money to influence who runs for office, who is elected and which issues will be discussed.
Unless and until our society addresses the root cause of the problems we face, we will be doomed to engage in perpetual triage. Single-issue pressure groups react to corporate assaults one at a time. This approach is an understandable response to the immediate impact of these assaults, but it is ultimately an unsatisfactory strategy.
There are heroic citizen activist groups that have halted clear-cutting, defended workers’ rights, fed hungry people, exposed the poisoning of Love Canal, banned D.D.T. and effected other good and noble works. But successes have been few, and when a corporate assault is stopped in one locality, the harm usually moves to another less-organized or less-resourced community. Single-issue successes do nothing to hinder the ability of wealthy corporations to cause the harms in the first place. Most corporate harms are actually protected under law as “private” decisions, beyond the authority of citizens or governments.
Real success would codify the sovereignty and legal rights of citizens. We must amend the U.S. Constitution to eliminate the illegitimate “rights” claimed by corporations.
Move to Amend is not “anti-corporation.” Corporations are the creation of the state and were originally strictly governed by “We the People” through the state’s legislatures, following the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. They were organized around a single goal, usually for public projects, and had limited power and duration. But over time, corporate leaders used their money, connections and the courts to transform corporate charters into entities with constitutional rights, including those regarded as human rights in the first ten amendments. In so doing, some corporations have gained incredible power and wealth, which they wield with impunity in our economy and democracy.
In order to create a real participatory democracy, all corporate constitutional rights must be abolished, including the following:
1st Amendment Free Speech and Religious “Rights”
These rights were meant to protect human beings from the power of the state, but they are now being used by corporations to influence elections through political “contributions,” to advertise dangerous products (such as cigarettes and fracking) over the objections of communities, to avoid having to label genetically modified foods, and numerous other abuses of power. Most recently they have misused “religious freedom” laws and regulations that were meant to protect workers.
4th Amendment Search and Seizure “Rights”
Courts have allowed corporations to use these rights to avoid subpoenas to compel testimony about unlawful trade and price fixing and to prevent citizens, communities and regulatory agencies from stopping pollution and other assaults on people or the commons and public property.
5th Amendment Takings, Double Jeopardy and Due Process “Rights”
Corporations misuse this “right” to argue that they must be compensated when regulations are established to protect homeowners or communities. They even argue that it is their “right” to be compensated for all possible future profits they may have made without such regulations. Corporations also cannot be retried for harm caused by their actions after a court acquittal.
Courts have also ruled that the decision of a public official to grant property to a corporation cannot be revoked by a subsequent public official or even an Act of Congress.
14th Amendment Due Process and Equal Protection “Rights”
These rights, originally enacted to ensure equal protection for former slaves, were gradually extended to corporations by the courts. Courts have allowed corporations to use these rights to build chain stores and erect cell towers against the will of communities, to oppose tax and other public policies favoring local businesses over multinational corporations, and to resist democratic efforts to prevent corporate mergers and revoke corporate charters through citizen initiatives.
Commerce Clause “Rights”
Courts have allowed corporations to misuse this section of the Constitution (Art 1, Sec 8). For example, upholding the legality of shipping toxic waste from one state to another over the “health, safety, and welfare” objections of communities – claiming the waste isn’t actually “waste” but “commerce.”
Contracts Clause “Rights”
The Supreme Court ruled in Dartmouth vs. Woodward (1819) that a corporate charter is a “private contract” based on the Contracts Clause (Art 1, Sec 10) rather than being simply an entity created by public law. So, even though the state creates a corporation when it issues a charter, the Court has said that the state is not sovereign over the charter, merely a “party” to the contract. Thus, corporations became “private contractors” with the state and are, therefore, shielded from many forms of control by the public.
One of the most deplorable examples is that corporations can now claim they are entitled to all the rights of a human “person” when it benefits them (such as spending millions to buy our elections). But when they want to avoid liability for breaking a law, or causing harm, they simply shrug off the responsibilities and liabilities of being a “person,” and hide behind the “limited liability” that the law grants to corporations.
Campaign Spending as Protected Free Speech
Corporate investment in U.S. elections pays huge dividends in terms of corporate-friendly legislation and furthers divisions in the electorate, which prevent “We the People” from unifying for our common good.
Elections should be the people’s tool for representation in our government, but the Supreme Court has dismantled campaign finance measures that were meant to protect against corruption and ensure equal access to the political process, regardless of wealth. Court decisions equating political spending with free speech have made it possible for wealthy individuals and corporations to drown out the people’s voice by dumping billions of dollars into the electoral process. Because of the vast wealth of transnational corporations, they exercise extreme influence in the electoral – and governance – process, to the point that our own representatives no longer represent the people’s interests and are reluctant to address our issues.
Because the Supreme Court is the vehicle that created the doctrines of “corporate constitutional rights” and “money is speech,” our only recourse is through a constitutional amendment to overrule the Court.
Formed in September 2009, Move to Amend began as twelve grassroots organizers and attorneys in a living room. These founders represented organizations that had been working for the past 20+ years to educate and organize against Corporate Constitutional Rights or “Corporate Personhood.”
Until this point, the groups had prioritized local strategies to challenge corporate rule, such as enacting community ordinances banning corporate ownership of water, banning corporate spending in elections, and passing local resolutions calling for an end to Corporate Personhood. Despite solid organizing and many successful local campaigns, these efforts could not effect the kind of fundamental change that is necessary. The fight needed to be taken to the next level – and that meant going national.
It was determined that to successfully amend the Constitution, end corporate rule, and demand real democracy, a multi-racial and intergenerational movement must be built. Considering the history of institutionalized racism and violence used to deny most of the population human and civil rights, any discussion of the Constitution and U.S. democracy would need to acknowledge this reality. Any movement seeking to challenge this reality must commit to taking leadership and direction from those communities most often denied human rights and protection by the legal, economic and political systems of this country.
Assuming the Court’s Citizens United decision would certainly reinforce and expand the doctrines of Corporate Personhood and Money = Speech, the group decided they would form a coalition called the “Campaign to Legalize Democracy” and launch a website with a “Motion to Amend,” including background information and an online petition.
After the Citizens United ruling, Move to Amend called on supporters to pass resolutions in their communities demanding an amendment to overrule the Supreme Court. In the first five years of the campaign, more than 600 cities and towns passed resolutions in support of the amendment.
Move to Amend has been rooted in grassroots organizing since our founding, with dozens of local “affiliate” Move to Amend groups active across the country educating, organizing and mobilizing to grow the U.S. democracy movement.
Move to Amend’s We the People Amendment was drafted in November 2011 and first introduced in the 113th Congress in the House of Representatives in February 2013.
Today Move to Amend is a coalition of hundreds of organizations and hundreds of thousands of individuals. We are committed to social and economic justice, ending corporate rule, and building a vibrant democracy that is genuinely accountable to the people, not corporate interests.
Make Real the Promise of Democracy
Move to Amend’s vision is to make real the promise of a vibrant, democratic society rooted in social, economic, and ecological justice that is genuinely representative and accountable to the people and not corporate interests.
End Corporate Rule and Legalize Democracy
Move to Amend’s mission is to build a people’s movement on behalf of a U.S. Constitution that reflects our vision. We call for the We the People Amendment to the Constitution declaring that inalienable rights belong to human beings only, not to mere legal entities, and that money is not a form of protected speech under the First Amendment and can be regulated in political campaigns.
The following are necessary for true democracy rooted in social and economic justice:
- Systems of inclusive and participatory governance
- A legal system rooted in protecting human rights for all people, as well as rights of Nature
- Fundamental and systemic institutional transformations
- Commitment to a culture of cooperation and liberation
- Economic equity and just distribution of resources
- Independent, accessible media and open internet
- Educated and critically-thinking populace
Our Movement to Amend needs to support the above during our campaign in order to ensure that passing the We the People Amendment moves us further down the path toward our vision.
Anti-Oppression and Solidarity Organizing helps us develop relationships with those on the front lines of struggle against the impacts of corporate rule, our essential and immediate allies in the work ahead. Only through the talents, experience and wisdom of all persons is mutual governance and a system rooted in justice possible.
Coalition and Movement Building is integral to connecting numerous issue communities to the legal roadblocks of corporate constitutional rights and money as protected political speech. The power of a movement rests on the common ground – the shared vision and strategies – among its participant members and groups. That ground is the result of focused listening, learning, talking, and evaluating together.
Grassroots Organizing is the key to building capacity. Personal relationships are still the best way to spread our message and find support. Deep change takes root from below and is nurtured by the life and community around it. That nurturing is delivered through the art and skill of local democratic organizing.
Dedication to Political Education is an ongoing, necessary process to absorb the lessons of history, learn from the successes or failures of past people’s movements, and move forward to victory with intentionality. We cannot change current conditions unless we know how we got here: What’s the story? What went wrong? What were the forces at work? Through mutual understanding, we are better equipped to rethink that story and engage one another in creating a new story that makes real the promise of democracy.
Commitment to the Well-Being of Human and Earth Communities is essential, as is cooperation and the holistic view. Governance should be conducted in service to the common good and our common wealth as “We the People” have both collective obligations and individual rights.
Maintaining Political and Economic Independence allows Move to Amend to go forth unencumbered by partisan politics or the quid pro quo associated with corporate or wealthy funders. It is essential to attaining and sustaining government of, by and for all the people.
Decisions and policies made to protect transnational corporations’ bottom-lines are connected to nearly every harm our society faces. This reality has become increasingly transparent to the public at large. Distrust of big business and government institutions is at an all-time high. Americans are hungry for solutions that address our corrupt and failing political system, and for systemic reforms that put our legislators to work for people over corporate profit. Polling shows that support for a Constitutional amendment stating that corporations do not have the same rights as people averages 80% – across political parties.
While a number of D.C. Beltway organizations have formed campaigns since Citizens United, these groups have almost universally taken the position that tackling corporate constitutional rights comprehensively is unattainable. This despite the cry from both their stakeholders and the public at large to end corporate Constitutional rights entirely. These groups have coalesced instead around a gently palatable “Democracy for All Amendment,” a half-measure that – at best – takes us back to the pre-Citizens United era. Even before Citizens United, corporations and the wealthy still dominated the political process. Congress asserted its authority to regulate campaign spending only when there was enough political pressure to force them to use that authority.
Passing an amendment is an enormous undertaking. The impact must be commensurate with the effort needed to win. The 28th Constitutional Amendment must be strong and clear enough to end corporate rule – there’s no room in this crisis of self-governance for half solutions or ambiguity. We need to operate on the assumption that once an Amendment comes out of Congress or a Convention of the States, we won’t get another shot. So we must get it right the first time.
Over the past five years, Move to Amend has set itself apart from this grouping of D.C. Beltway insiders in a number of ways:
1) We have pledged that we will only put our name on amendment and resolution language that fully dismantles the doctrine of corporate constitutional rights and the notion that spending money is speech. This has established confidence in our supporters that Move to Amend can be depended on for honest and straightforward analysis of the variety of amendments and policies being circulated now, and any that come forward in the future.
2) Our vision is inspiring and courageous instead of politically cynical and unnecessarily compromising. Demanding what we need – rather than simply what we think we can get – has moved thousands of volunteers to surge Move to Amend forward at a pace that we would never have imagined possible when we launched in 2010. We have more victories under our belt than organizations with ten times our resources. Outsiders assume that Move to Amend is just as well-financed and staffed as big, wealthy institutions due to our ability to be creative and tenacious and accomplish more with less.
3) Move to Amend uses an intersectional analysis of oppression and privilege as a framework to guide our organizing and organizational development. This has laid the foundation needed to build a diverse national board of directors and to develop organizational partnerships across racial divides. It also serves as the foundation for a rigorous political education program for our members. Every grassroots affiliate commits to deepening their understanding of social movements and how to effectively build a massive and diverse base in our campaign to claim political power for people and communities, not corporations.
This movement faces two great threats. The first and most obvious is the vast political and financial power of corporate leaders who will oppose any diminishment of their control over our government.
The second threat is amendment campaigns advocating smaller, weaker course-solutions – mostly related to campaign finance reform. Sometimes a long-term struggle for systemic change requires accepting incremental or lesser solutions along the way, but it is imperative not to start with half measures. Presenting a partial solution as the final goal invites confusion and makes it far easier for canny opponents to co-opt the momentum for ending corporate constitutional rights entirely.
Campaigns and organizations promoting limited course adjustments are siphoning away resources and support while conceding critical demands before the fight has even begun. Our grassroots leaders have conversations every day with ordinary citizens who don’t understand that none of the Amendments but the We the People Amendment will address corporate constitutional rights. They hear “corporate personhood” in emails and talking points from other national groups and think they all lead to the same outcome, when that is not the case.
Move to Amend urges allies and voters to take courage and embrace the boldness of our vision. Bold visions have won Constitutional Amendments in the past and will again.
1) Engage other social, economic, and environmental justice movement organizations to see passage of the We the People Amendment as a strategic priority by making connections between their missions and corporate rule and by fostering anti-oppression literacy within Move to Amend to effectively build solidarity with organizations working in highly impacted and marginalized communities.
2) Win support of three-fourths of State Legislatures and Congress by offering educational opportunities for elected officials, connecting with their networks, and running candidates for office. Hold candidates and elected officials accountable through the Pledge to Amend campaign and urge both voters and elected representatives to break ranks with dominant parties that stand against our agenda. Explore the strategy of a Convention of the States and support legislators seeking to set up a partisan-neutral process for an Article V Convention.
3) Disrupt corporate governance by shining a light on examples of corporate rule through traditional and social media, practicing direct action against the systems of legal authority that enable corporate rule (as opposed to mere corporate behaviors) and partnering with and lifting up other movement organizations that focus on systemic targets.
4) Create mainstream and widespread support for We the People Amendment by conducting organizing campaigns in communities and informing journalists about Move to Amend. Develop diverse spokespeople with broad appeal to popularize our message and make it accessible to a diverse audience. A strong presence on social media, coupled with traditional organizing will provide the foundation to devise educational campaigns that connect Move to Amend to people’s lives.
5) Cultivate a culture of collective empowerment within Move to Amend by supporting grassroots leaders and developing campaigns that build capacity, power, momentum and hope to help people believe in themselves and their collective power. Build organizational structures and processes that are transparent, accountable and accessible to support personal and collective empowerment, as well as safe and welcoming for people from diverse backgrounds – including traditionally marginalized people.
6) Maintain Move to Amend’s independence from corporate political parties and funding sources by building budgets in which at least 80% of our funding comes from individuals in order to maintain independence and resist co-optation. Seeking out opportunities to educate donors and program officers and promoting Move to Amend’s commitment to independence will build capacity and ensure that organizational or funding partnerships don’t compromise our values or goals.
7) Foster education and understanding of movement history and political power in Move to Amend and the larger movement by providing educational opportunities on movement history and analysis of power to our leadership and supporters. Draw from lessons of the past and cultivate ongoing strategic thinking to shield us from scare tactics, intimidation, co-optation, dearth of vision, and marginalization by rival organizations and opposition forces and to prepare us for the ensuing backlash following the passage of the We the People Amendment. Partnering with other movement organizations engaged in developing similar educational opportunities will build strength and solidarity.
We the People can no longer wait to make real the promise of democracy in the United States. We cannot solely rely on the half measures and reforms whose slow movement further imperil our dying planet – it is time to push for systemic Constitutional change. The We The People Amendment is a necessary and indispensable first step forward towards the world we deserve and require. Completing this campaign is an ambitious endeavor, but the U.S. Constitution has been amended at other times in history when foundational change was necessary. We can and must do it again.
Please join Move to Amend in the exciting and formative fight of our generation! Sign up at www.MoveToAmend.org/motion.
- Move to Amend Structure
- We the People Amendment Language and Co-Sponsors
- Comparison of Proposed Amendments
- Model Resolutions and State Legislation Language
- Pledge to Amend Information
- Leadership Summits and Convergences
- Move to Amend Affiliate Information
- List of Move to Amend Affiliate Groups
- Motion to Amend Petition