Mayors' Conference Passes Anti-corporate Personhood Resolution

Search form

Mayors' Conference Passes Anti-corporate Personhood Resolution

Mayors' Conference Passes Anti-corporate Personhood Resolution
Fri, 6/29/2012

Last week the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously adopted a resolution calling for a U.S. Constitutional Amendment to clarify that corporations are not people and money is not speech.

Portland, Oregon Mayor Sam Adams co-sponsored four resolutions, which were discussed, debated and adopted unanimously. The resolutions ranged from speaking against corporate personhood and reversing Citizens United, to opposing the shipment of radioactive nuclear waste through our cities and towns, and re-establishing the ‘polluter pays’ principle in our environmental laws, as well as confronting the issues of the housing crisis facing our communities with respect to vacant and nuisance houses.

Read the full text of the anti-corporate personhood resolution adopted by the mayors:

ESTABLISH AS A POSITION OF THE UNITED STATES CONFERENCE OF MAYORS THAT CORPORATIONS SHOULD NOT RECEIVE THE SAME LEGAL RIGHTS AS NATURAL PERSONS DO, THAT MONEY IS NOT SPEECH AND THAT INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURES SHOULD BE REGULATED

WHEREAS, the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights are intended to protect the rights of individual human beings also known as “natural persons”; and

WHEREAS, corporations can and do make important contributions to our society, but the United States Conference of Mayors does not consider them natural persons; and

WHEREAS, the right to free speech is a fundamental freedom and unalienable right and free and fair elections are essential to democracy and effective self-governance; and

WHEREAS, United States Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in a 1938 opinion stated, "I do not believe the word 'person' in the Fourteenth Amendment includes corporations"; and

WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court held in Buckley v. Valeo (1976) that the appearance of corruption justified limits on contribution to candidates, but rejected other fundamental interests that the United States Conference of Mayors finds compelling such as creating a level playing field and ensuring that all citizens, regardless of wealth, have an opportunity to have their political views heard; and

WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court in Buckley overturned limits on independent expenditures because it found that the corruption or perception of corruption rationale was only applicable to direct contributions to candidates; and, WHEREAS, United States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens observed in Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC (2000) that “money is property, it is not speech,”; and

WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court recognized in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990) the threat to a republican form of government posed by “the corrosive and distorting effects of immense aggregations of wealth that are accumulated with the help of the corporate form and that have little or no correlation to the public’s support for the corporations political ideas” and upheld limits on independent expenditures by corporations; and

WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court in Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission (2010) reversed the decision in Austin, allowing unlimited corporate spending to influence elections, candidate selection, policy decisions and sway votes; and

WHEREAS, prior to Citizens United decision unlimited independent campaign expenditures could be made by individuals and associations, though such committees operated under federal contribution limits; and,

WHEREAS, given that the Citizens United decision “rejected the argument that political speech of corporations or other associations should be treated differently” because the First Amendment “generally prohibits the suppression of political speech based on the speaker’s identity,” there is a need to broaden the corruption rationale for campaign finance reform to facilitate regulation of independent expenditures regardless of the source of the money for this spending, for or against a candidate; and

WHEREAS, a February 2010 Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 80 percent of Americans oppose the U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United ruling; and,

WHEREAS, the opinion of the four dissenting justices in Citizens United noted that corporations have special advantages not enjoyed by natural persons, such as limited liability, perpetual life, and favorable treatment of the accumulation and distribution of assets; and

WHEREAS, corporations are legally required to put profits for shareholders ahead of concerns for the greatest good of society while individual shareholders as natural persons balance their narrow self-interest and broader public interest when making political decisions; and

WHEREAS, addressing both the Citizens United decision, and corporate personhood is necessary; and WHEREAS, the City Councils of Missoula, Montana; Boulder, Colorado; and Madison, Wisconsin have referred the issue of corporate personhood to their communities for advisory vote.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that it is the position of the United States Conference of Mayors that corporations should not receive the same legal rights as individual human beings (also known as “natural persons”) do; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the United States Conference of Mayors also determines that the most urgent action needed is to reverse the impacts of United States Supreme Court Citizens United (2010) decision and the door it opens for unlimited independent campaign expenditures by corporations that contributes to the undermining impacts that “corporate personhood” has on free and fair elections and effective self-governance; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the United States Conference of Mayors calls on other communities and jurisdictions and organizations like National League of Cities to join with us in this action by passing similar Resolutions.

RESOLUTION ADOPTED JUNE 2012

Article Tabs

One of the slogans of the Occupy movement was "capitalism isn't working." Now, in an epic, groundbreaking new book, French economist Thomas Piketty explains why the movement was right.

As credit card companies try and spur consumer spending in the United States with introductory perks and cash rewards, they have raised interest rates on other customers to a remarkable 21 percent.

Inmates will refuse work, calling for education, rehabilitation and an end to overcrowding, life sentences without parole – and “the free labor system.”

Oil spills are the reality of transporting oil – and in the Pacific Northwest, where workers from the fishing to tourism industries depend on oil-free waterways, the threat is all the more grave.

The rage and nihilism that come from the frustrations of American life are expressed through violence.

Revolts are shaking the world, bursting in the most unexpected places, but they rarely take power. Is the big explosion still coming?

Posted 5 days 3 hours ago

The Vermont Senate passed a bill to require labeling on all GMO foods sold in the state – signaling a wave of nationwide victories against the Gene Giants may be underway.

Posted 5 days 3 hours ago

Life in tent encampments, vehicles, motels, and storage units - REAL CHANGE focuses on four men who sell Real Change News, a street newspaper in Seattle. Follow ROBERT, GEORGE, DANIEL, and BUDDY as they navigate the less visible side of homelessness in America. Despite their struggles, they persevere. Each sells newspapers to get by.

Posted 6 days 3 hours ago

From climate change to Crimea, the natural gas industry is supreme at exploiting crisis for private gain.

Posted 5 days 3 hours ago

A right-wing Canadian outfit funded by the Kochs wants to privatize the Canadian health care system – and Prime Minister Stephen Harper is now steering policy that way.

Posted 5 days 4 hours ago

Basma Khalfaoui, whose husband Chokri Belaid of the Popular Front was gunned down in February, talks about freedoms and the future of Tunisia.

Activists spearheaded an initiative called the Eviction Free Zone for neighborhoods in Minneapolis, where activists hunker down in foreclosed properties, warding off attempts by police and banks to change the locks.

Strike Debt bought and abolished over $1 million in debt from emergency rooms in Kentucky and Indiana.

A U.S.-led trade deal is currently being negotiated that could increase the price of prescription drugs, weaken financial regulations and even allow partner countries to challenge American laws. But few know its substance.

The Legacy of Occupy: Sticking It to Wall Street

To “occupy” Wall Street is no longer a policy demand, if it ever was. Extending democracy to Wall Street might be a better and bolder banner - with proposals for greater disclosure, accountability, regulation, a transactions tax and more.

Sign Up