Eighteen people testified before Cleveland Heights City Council and the public, with Council President Melody Hart presiding in council chambers at city hall. Mayor Kahlil Seren and Councilors Anthony Maddox, Davida Russell, Craig Cobb, Tony Cuda and Gail Larson were also in attendance. Councilor Janine Boyd was absent.
U.S. House Joint Resolution 54, “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States providing that the rights extended by the Constitution are the rights of natural persons only,” and also establishing that money is not speech, was introduced in the 118th Congress two months ago by Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and a number of co-sponsors. Attendees were urged to contact their Congressperson, Rep. Shontel Brown, asking her to co-sponsor HJR-54. (Update: on the date of the hearing, June 7, the resolution had 49 co-sponsors. As of June 13, HJR-54 had 53 co-sponsors. Rep. Brown was not among them.)
A strong theme this year was the preemption of public goods and public functions by corporate actors for profit and other forms of private gain. In Ohio, this extends to state government preempting local laws to serve the interests of corporations and entire industries.
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]Read more
Public Hearing hosted by Cleveland Heights City Council and also livestreamed on June 9, 2022
[click on image to watch the hearing]
It was announced that U.S. House Joint Resolution 48, “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States providing that the rights extended by the Constitution are the rights of natural persons only,” and also establishing that money is not speech, has attained 94 co-sponsors in 117th Congress, an all-time high. Members of the Ohio Congressional delegation Marcy Kaptur and Tim Ryan are co-sponsors. Cleveland Heights and other 11th district citizens who have been actively lobbying Rep. Shontel Brown to co-sponsor hope that she will do so soon.Read more
Introduction to Newburgh Heights Democracy Day
Carla Rautenberg, Cleveland Heights
Good evening. It’s a privilege to be here in Newburgh Heights for your 2022 Democracy Day public hearing. Thank you, Councilwoman Traore, City Council members and Mayor Elkins, for inviting members of Cleveland area Move to Amend chapters to attend tonight.
As some of you know, but others may not, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision of 2010 led to a national movement to take back the U.S. Constitution after it was usurped by the twin demons of corporate personhood and money being considered free speech. The national, non-partisan organization leading that movement is called Move to Amend. We have proposed, and convinced Congress members to co-sponsor, House Joint Resolution 48, which supports the We The People amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It essentially states that 1. Corporate entities are not people and therefore cannot have constitutional rights and 2. Money does not equal free speech. This message resonates with citizens across political boundaries and across the country.
Newburgh Heights joined this movement early on. In 2012, Brecksville and Newburgh Heights were the first two cities in Ohio whose citizens voted for ballot issues declaring support for such a constitutional amendment! The issue you and your fellow Newburgh Heights citizens passed—by a 73% yes vote! – is an ordinance declaring support for the We the People Amendment. It also established regular public hearings like this one, informally called Democracy Days, at which citizens can testify to the harms caused by corporations having never-intended constitutional rights, and by money being considered free speech.
As trend-setters, you should be very proud because since then, Ohio voters have passed ballot initiatives similar to yours in:
Defiance and Cleveland Heights, in 2013
Chagrin Falls and Mentor, in 2014
Kent, in 2015
Toledo, South Euclid and Shaker Heights, all in 2016
and Painesville, in 2020
In 2016, the City of Cleveland passed an ordinance supporting the We the People Amendment and establishing biannual Democracy Days for 10 years. In addition, 12 Ohio city governments have passed resolutions calling on Congress to introduce the We the People Amendment. Because of all this support in her Congressional district, we were able to persuade Rep. Marcia Fudge to co-sponsor HJR-48 in the 116th and 117th Congresses. We are lobbying Rep. Shontel Brown to follow in her mentor’s footsteps and do the same. 90 co-sponsors have now joined the lead sponsor, Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state.
Meanwhile, we are wondering: how can First Energy be allowed to stay in business after it paid $60 million to Ohio legislators to directly defraud all of us – Ohio taxpayers? You might think the Ohio Constitution offers no remedy for this, but it specifically provides for revoking the charter of a corporation that acts beyond its authority. Bribery and money laundering certainly qualify. So Ohio Move to Amend is asking CAN WE PULL THE PLUG ON FIRST ENERGY? We will hold a virtual forum on this topic on Saturday, May 14 at 10:00 a.m. in order to explore:
- Could we do it? If so, how?
- Is it even a good idea?
- Without First Energy, where and how could we get our electricity?
- Any other implications?
We’ll pass around a sign-up sheet for those who would like more information about this, and/or our other activities.
You may have heard various politicians talk about passing legislation to deal with corporate power or money in politics. That won’t do it. Any laws attempting fundamental reform of the U.S. political system can and will be ruled unconstitutional. The Supreme Court precedents began way before Citizens United in 2010 and in fact date back to 1886!
Only passing a constitutional amendment like U.S. HJR-48 will allow us to reclaim our government from the control of multi-national corporations and wealthy individuals.
Now, my colleague David Berenson and I would like to share a little 5-minute skit about corporate personhood we hope you will enjoy.Read more
Letter to the Editor
Nov. 16, 2021
Governments needed to leave the U.N. climate summit committed to keeping remaining fossil fuels in the ground as soon as possible. Climate scientists have long warned that burning oil, coal and gas is the No. 1 contributor to the climate emergency. President Joe Biden must use his executive authority to stop federal fossil fuel expansion and dangerous pipeline projects. Congress must end fossil fuel production as soon as possible in ways that provide for workers and communities, and dramatically fund renewable energy technologies.