TESTIMONIES AT SHAKER HEIGHTS, OH, DEMOCRACY DAY
Shaker Heights City Hall and via Zoom | September 13, 2021
Those who testified provided examples of how big money in politics and the granting of Constitutional rights to corporate entities are corrupting our democracy:
• Ohio citizens and municipalities are losing their right to self-governance because of the collapse of home rule. This situation is increasingly important because the Ohio General Assembly is more and more the tool of corporate interests, especially the oil and gas industry. A prime example is that municipalities and counties lost the right to ban or levy fees on plastic bags, which are made with a byproduct of the state’s vast fracking interests. Although the ban is set to expire in January 2022, many in the majority want to make the ban permanent, without regard to environmental harms.
• Dark money from 501c4 organizations lines the coffers of candidates and issues up for a vote by Ohioans and the General Assembly. Not only did First Energy dump massive amounts of money into the campaign to push through HB6, but a 501 © 4 organization known as Ohioans for Energy Security sought to squelch the signature collecting effort to put the bill on the ballot and place ads to scare people away from signing signatures or voting for the bill by claiming that the Chinese government would take over our energy grid.
• Nowhere is Big Energy’s power more obvious than in the oil and gas industry’s desire to put lipstick on the pig that is their uncontrollable production of radioactive waste that they call “brine” and promote as a viable substitute for road salt.
If we had a truly representative democracy which demanded full disclosure of the dangers of products and enacted laws that benefit the health, safety, and welfare of people, nature, and future generations, how could this toxic, radioactive waste be spread in our environment? It is the power of corporations which have been granted constitutional rights– and the corrupt officials who advocate policies that benefit them (in this case oil and gas companies) – that allow this to happen. Things are even worse with this issue because there are currently two bills in the legislature – HB 282 and SB 171 – which are designed to grant ‘processed’ oil and gas brine as a‘commodity’.
• County governments and private companies profit from the incarceration, monitoring, and deportation of immigrants legally seeking asylum. Profits are also made through mark-ups on food, clothing, and bedding in jail commissaries; exorbitant fees for phone and video visitation; high immigration bonds that must be paid in their entirety and surcharges on lending services; charges on individuals for remote monitoring and ankle bracelets if they win release; and charter deportation flights or commercial plan tickets if they lose their cases. It is wrong for governments and private companies to profit from inflicting pain and misery.
• Partisan gerrymandering supported by PACs, SuperPACs, and dark money groups has silenced the voices of thousands of Ohio voters – and continues to do so to this day. In the 2010 election, 53 of Ohio’s 99 state House districts were Democratic and 44 were Republican. After the November 2010 election, Ohio lost two House seats due to population loss, and the state legislature shifted to a Republican majority, which redrew maps in 2011 to produce 40 Democratic and 59 Republican districts. This map was ruled unconstitutional because of partisan gerrymandering, and state Republicans were told to redraw the maps in 2019. Despite years of effort by the LWV, Common Cause, and other civic groups, the 5 Republican members of the 7-member redistricting commission produced maps in September 2021 that virtually define gerrymandering, creating a 2/3 majority in both houses.
Is it mere coincidence that 2010 was the year that the Citizens United ruling opened the floodgates for virtually unlimited campaign contributions? It’s not hard to believe that money from PACs, SuperPACs, and dark money groups has inclined the supermajority in the General Assembly, and the majority on the redistricting commission to listen more closely to their big donors – many of them oil and gas interests – than the people of Ohio.
• As gerrymandering and attacks on home rule close off avenues for Ohioans to have their say through legislation, laws are also being instituted to quash protests. SB 33 makes it a felony to commit, aid, or abet any protest at “critical infrastructure” and/or pipelines anywhere in the state. The bill is modeled after ALEC’s “Critical Infrastructure Protection Act” which was intended to suppress the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline 5+ years ago. Oil and gas interests have decided that the best way to avoid criticism for using disproportionate force is to snuff out the spirit of activists before it can become a flame.
• The use of the “red box” thwarts the intent to prohibit the coordination/communication between campaigns and SuperPACs which was incorporated into the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling to brush aside concerns about the corruption of democracy by unlimited campaign contributions. The red box was used in the campaign of Shontel Brown for the nomination to take the position of former US representative Marcia Fudge. On Ms. Brown’s website there were quotes by three SuperPACs, and next to the quotes was a red box with a link directing the SuperPAC and anyone else to documents about how to fund her campaign. The SuperPACs, funded in large part by people connected to the fossil fuel industry, spent $2 million to amplify the messaging in the quotes. She came from behind to win the nomination.
• The rights of citizens and municipalities may continue to be extinguished unless all corporate constitutional rights are abolished. For example, a lawn care service could refuse to disclose toxic chemicals in their lawn treatments by appealing to its First Amendment right NOT to speak. Efforts by Shaker Heights city council or residents (or those of any another community) to require city inspection of a corporation to protect workers and the environment could be challenged as a violation of that corporation’s Fourth Amendment privacy rights. Efforts to protect homeowners from a company digging or drilling under private homeowners could be challenged in court as a violation of the corporation’s Fifth Amendment takings rights to lost future profits. Efforts to provide preferential treatment of locally owned businesses over a chain store that sends profits outside the community could be challenged in court as a violation of that corporation’s Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights.
• Ohio pension funds invested with private equity funds are subject to high fees and deliver poor performance. Problems linked to private equity include rising rent and evictions, increasing toll roads, killing a national $15 minimum wage, surprise medical bills, and fueling climate change.
• Employer-based health insurance is not only an issue of the unemployed. Employed people deal with high expenses and the constant changing of health insurance plans. And how much money could the U.S. government and taxpayers save if we could eliminate the overhead of Medicaid and Medicare by allowing a system of Medicare for all who want it or simply universal health care coverage. Although the Affordable Care Act plans will remain an option under the Biden administration, it may be attacked in the future.
All the above point to the loss of representational democracy because of the principle that money is speech and the granting of constitutional rights to corporate entities. Complete testimonies are below.Read more
Letter to the Editor
October 1, 2021
The city of Kent will be holding Democracy Day next week, on Oct. 6. I imagine your first impression of the Democracy Day label is that it may be a holiday to celebrate our form of government because of what the United States has achieved. No! It is not a day of celebration but a day of mourning.
This public hearing before City Council will be about how corporations have abused democracy and taken control of our political and financial lives in the name of capitalism, renamed corporatism. Why? Because corporations control democracy. They are the winners and we are the losers. Capitalism is about making “big and dark money” that is accumulated by the plutocrats at the top and not shared with “we the people.” For more background, read New Yorker journalist Jane Mayer’s books and articles.
Democracy Day is an invitation to listen to how our corporations have acquired personhood and how their money has been ruled a form of speech. If “we the people” don’t act, the next presidential election could further erode our democracy toward an autocracy. For more information on the event, Google “Kent Democracy Day”.
Move to Amend Ohio’s Quarterly Statewide Gathering (Virtual Event)
Saturday | October 23 | 10 am ET
**Please RSVP below to receive Zoom link and dial in phone number**
Cynthia Brown, DeEscalate Ohio Now Coordinator
Pamela (Pam) Brooks, Jane and Eric Nord Associate Professor of Africana Studies, Oberlin College
Charles Peterson, Associate Professor of Africana Studies & Chair of Africana Studies, Oberlin College
Professors Brooks and Peterson will interrogate the post-Civil War’s Fourteenth Amendment, from its lofty promises of full citizenship and “equal protection of the laws” for all Americans to its hijacking by powerful interests. Providing current context of what this means for Ohioans today, Cynthia Brown, Ohio’s leading advocate for the state’s Repeal Qualified Immunity campaign, will discuss the doctrine that perversely grants immunity to officials who violate citizens’ rights, including those guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Background: Within twenty years of the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification in 1868, Big Money successfully claimed that corporations are people (“constitutional persons”) that likewise deserved constitutional “We the People” rights. Since then, successive Supreme Court rulings have granted corporations other U.S. Constitution rights, all based on the Fourteenth Amendment. This important session will illustrate how powerful forces have subverted its guarantees of full citizenship for emancipated black people to instead legitimize laws that put property rights over black lives.
The Fourteenth Amendment: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
The event is free, and all are welcome!
By Sarah Wittman | Guest columnist
September 3, 2021 | Miami Valley Today (Ohio)
Friends and Neighbors,
I think we have all known for a long time that our elected officials have forgotten who they really work for — we the people, not their mega campaign donors and large corporations. A congressperson’s schedule reveals how much more time they spend meeting with corporate special interest groups and lobbyists or rubbing elbows with CEOs at campaign fundraisers than meeting with their actual constituents.
Large corporations have found it very easy to spend time in Washington interfering and taking advantage of our political process because of the broad interpretation of the Constitution and the reinforcement of First Amendment rights to corporations in the 2010 Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. This broad interpretation has allowed corporations to use these First Amendment freedom of speech rights to donate millions of dollars to political campaigns. This amount of money is vastly more than your or I could ever afford to contribute, and it creates a tremendous disadvantage to the average citizen. Who do you think is going to be first at the door asking for a favor when their politician gets elected?Read more
July 3, 2021
June 24, 2021
Letter to the Editor
PBM fiasco shows more must be done to hold corporate executives responsible
I write to thank The Dispatch for its series on Pharmacy Benefit Managers and the editorial in the June 20 edition that summarized how PBMs prey upon the country’s health care system and increase the cost of health care.
The series illustrates the essential role local newspapers play in protecting the public interest.
It also revealed yet another example of how executives in corporations routinely escape accountability for their criminal actions because a corporation is considered a “person” under current U.S. law.
The Dispatch reported how Centene corporation and its subsidiaries double-billed Ohio for their services, were sued by the state and then paid the state $88 million to “settle” the case without admitting any wrongdoing. It also paid a total of $1.1 billion to settle claims from several other states.
But no one faced criminal charges. Not the executives and managers who planned the thefts. Not the accountants who buried the thefts in annual reports. Not the corporate boards that signed off on those reports. And of course, since a company cannot be locked up, not the corporate “person” that was allowed to use its stolen money to buy its way out of accountability. Everyone involved in this multistate criminal conspiracy walks away scot-free.
So I ask the question: If an individual swindles senior citizens and reaps millions of dollars, how much of that money should it take to pay a large fine, admit no wrongdoing and walk away with no criminal liability?
Corporations are not people.
As Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens noted in 2010, the idea of corporate personhood “often serves as a useful legal fiction…” Corporations “are not themselves members of 'we the people' by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.”
More information can be found at movetoamend.org.
Steve Abbott, Columbus
Sandy Bolzenius, Coordinator of the Central Ohio MTA affiliate, developed a creative, personal and powerful approach to request Rep. Joyce Beatty co-sponsor HJR 48, the We the People Amendment. In addition to working with others to set up a virtual meeting with Rep. Beatty or an aide, she produced and sent a packet to the Congresswoman. The packet contained a personal letter and booklet appealing to her interest in Frederick Douglass and in making the connections between the efforts of Douglass, Ida B. Wells and Rosa Parks to assert the morality and constitutionality of slaves being human persons, not property, with Move to Amend's efforts that corporations are property, not human beings, and can be defined by We the People.
Below is Sandy's letter to Rep. Beatty. Click on the image to download the bookletRead more
Cleveland Heights' Democracy Day presented powerful testimony
Cleveland Heights City Council members, speakers and virtual viewers called January’s 8th annual Democracy Day public hearing “inspiring,” “informative,” and “enlightening”—hardly the “waste of time” claimed by Robert Shwab in a letter published in the March issue of the Heights Observer.
VILLAGE OF CHAGRIN FALLS
MOVE TO AMEND
March 4, 2021
Present: Grube, Rogoff, DeBernardo
The virtual meeting was called to order at 9:00 a.m. by Council President Erinn Grube.
Written statements were read from the following and are attached:
Diana Nazelli, 35 High Court, Chagrin Falls
Greg Coleridge, Cleveland Heights Resident
Anthony Fossaceca, 61 Olive Street, Chagrin Falls
Kathryn Garvey, 70 East Washington Street, Chagrin Falls
Sharon Broz, 410 Bell Street, Chagrin Falls
Judy Kramer, 165 Pheasant Run Drive, Chagrin Falls
Judy Majcen, 7180 Harris Farm Drive, Bainbridge Township
Lynne Rustad, 442 Solon Road, Chagrin Falls
Becky Thomas, 124 Ridgewood Road, Chagrin Falls
Audio comments from:
David Lima, 7774 Litchfield Drive in Mentor, said he coordinates the Mentor Move to Amend. He spoke about the ongoing tension in the history of the United States between legislative efforts to limit the influence of money and political power and judicial rulings curving congress=s power to do so.
Russ, 10259 Regatta Trail, Reminderville, spoke about the influence of corporations, problems with the environment, and global warming.
Mrs. Grube announced that the next Move to Amend meeting will take place in March of 2023.
Mrs. DeBernardo said we do face a lot of problems and we have been discussing them for decades. We do need to start working on solutions.
The meeting adjourned at 10:11 a.m.
MOVE TO AMEND DAY
March 4, 2021 - Public Comments Submitted
TABLE OF CONENTS
ZOOM CHAT ROOM MEETING COMMENTS ... 1
Greg Coleridge ... 1
Anthony Fossaceca ... 2
Kathryn Garvey/Sharon Broz ... 4
Judy Kramer ... 5
Judy Majcen ... 6
Diana Nazelli ... 7
Lynne Rustad ... 7
Becky Thomas ... 10Read more