“It’s one of the most wrongheaded decisions in court history,” said Sen. Chuck Shumer of New York, referring the Supreme Court’s decision to allow corporations to spend unlimited amounts of cash supporting or opposing candidates.
Nobody would claim there needs to be more money in electoral theater, and yet removing any impedance to corporate political spending has some heralding the highest Court’s recent ruling as a victory for free speech and others proclaiming the end of democracy that the “floodgates of corruption, now burst open.”
Politicos and people in the know see Big Money as the primary influence in determining election results, and without any restraints, the national trajectory toward plutocracy and even forms of subtle fascism is paved.
Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, said, “Corporations are not people, they do not vote, and they should not be able to influence election outcomes. It is time to end this debate by amending the Constitution to make clear that First Amendment rights belong to natural persons and the press and do not apply to for-profit corporations.”
Several online movements to amend the US Constitution have sprung up to assert once and for all that free speech is for people — not corporations. Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig has launched “Call a Convention” to propose and pass an amendment preserving Congressional independence from outside influences — especially fiscal benefactors.
Another initiative, Free Speech for People, calls for an amendment movement to address the legal fiction known as “corporate personhood” by asserting that First Amendment free speech rights are the exclusive domain of living organic human beings — and not to be granted to artificial constructs like trans-national conglomerates.
A series of cases before the Supreme Court throughout the 19th century has built the legal framework surrounding corporate personhood, culminating in the pivotal Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad in 1886 where the tacit conclusion saw corporations as “legal persons”.
The most poignant distillation of corporate personhood appeared in a 2004 article by Molly Morgan and Jan Edwards entitled “Abolish Corporate Personhood.”
“Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person.”
House Democrat Donna Edwards recently introduced an amendment in Congress, stating,
“The ruling reached by the Roberts’ Court overturned decades of legal precedent by allowing corporations unfettered spending in our political campaigns. Another law will not rectify this disastrous decision. A Constitutional Amendment is necessary to undo what this Court has done. Justice Brandeis got it right: ‘We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.’ It is time we remove corporate influence from our policies and our politics. We cannot allow corporations to dominate our elections, to do so would be both undemocratic and unfair to ordinary citizens.”
But what has passed under the radar for over a century is a little known mechanism known as an Article V Convention. The Article V Convention was designed into the Constitution as a way to contend with entrenched corruption, like when representatives are bought-and-paid for — or when the Supreme Court overturns a century of legal precedent.
Some facts to consider:
* The Constitution says when 2/3rds of the States apply for a convention, Congress shall call a convention to propose amendments.
* James Madison said in 1789 that State applications for a convention will accumulate after being sent to Congress until the 2/3rds threshold is met, at which time an amendatory convention shall be called without delay.
* Alexander Hamilton stated that calling the Article V Convention is a non-discretionary action by Congress and a “peremptory” obligation, meaning without debate.
* Until a little over a year ago, there was no central repository or reference containing a complete record of all the State’s Article V applications.
* Friends of Article V Convention (FOAVC) sponsored an audit of the Congressional record and discovered over 700 applications from all 50 states — 500 since 1960. They can be viewed at foavc.org.
* Since the required number of state’s applications to trigger the convention is 34, and over 700 from all 50 states have been sent to Congress, the legislative branch of the United States Federal Government is currently in breach of the direct, simple and unambiguous language of the Constitution, Supreme Law of the Land.
In conclusion, the people have been denied their say in helping to right a now nearly capsizing ship-of-state. Checks-and-balances are good things. They are tools. Just as much as top-down corrections have served our nation like in freeing the slaves, or getting women the right to vote, bottom-up checks-and-balances are just as necessary — especially when faced with a recalcitrant Congress unable or unwilling to self-correct.
FOAVC wants to see Congress obey the Constitution and issue the call for the Article V Convention. An Article V Convention will re-invigorate our representative democracy through a robust and public debate on amendments like abolishing corporate personhood, campaign finance reform, free speech for people, election reform, balanced budget, etc. No extreme ideas will survive the amendatory process as 3/4ths of the states (38) must ratify any proposed amendments to become law, thereby eliminating any radically partisan proposals and making absolutely impossible what many fear: a “runaway” convention.
As we are now faced with the ramifications of a legal coup d’état from an activist and elitist Supreme Court, it’s time to dust off the real intent of the Framers and put into action the very tool made for the occasion: an Article V Convention to visit some ideas whose time has come; to open up a new front for the people in the great procession and serenade of the through-composed American political opus.