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"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 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

* 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, the 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 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.

Originally posted to Byron De Lear on Thu Feb 11, 2010 at 09:33 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  yo Kossers! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KayCeSF, bobdevo


  •  Thanks Byron, I love the statements... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bobdevo, Byron De Lear

    from Madison and Hamilton. :-)

    "There is no red America, or blue America, there is the United States of America." 2004 DNC Speech

    by BarackStarObama on Thu Feb 11, 2010 at 09:38:50 PM PST

  •  Thanks Byron (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Byron De Lear

    This must be fixed

  •  Citizens United, as bad as Dred Scott. (3+ / 0-)

    The five GOP fundamentalist Catholics who now run our SCOTUS, like a committee of cardinals from the Dark Ages, have created a government that is most friendly to the K-Street lobbists. These K-RATS (Kennedy, Roberts, Alito, Thomas & Scalia) have put the property rights of stockholders ahead of all other political rights that we have. Republican corporatists now completely rule the US of A, have no doubts.

    The decision is a disgrace. John Paul Stevens decent is a classic.

    Greenspan admits his free market faith was "a mistake" - Reliance on self interest creates a flaw "in how the world works."

    by Otherday on Thu Feb 11, 2010 at 09:42:30 PM PST

  •  GOP waving the white flag of surrender (5+ / 0-)

    to powerful foreign interests.

    It is also a violation of sovereignty and our system of representation by locale. A corporation can exist in two places at once, board members can be non-citizens of this country. Corporations aren't bound by the responsibility of citizenship, nor is there the natural self check against knowingly pressing for self destructive policies.


  •  The Problem, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Karl Rover, Byron De Lear

    ...or at least one of them, may be that the representatives to a Constitutional Convention have to be selected in a process which will be influenced by the very corporate players we would restrain.  

    So, let's say we get an Article V convention, and the representatives are "bought and paid-for".  What prevents them from subverting the goals you express?

    "We know the truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart." - Blaise Pascal

    by Dixie Liberal on Thu Feb 11, 2010 at 09:45:17 PM PST

    •  we need a new front (0+ / 0-)

      if it was so obvious an opportunity to create a runaway, a complete coup -- and say, enthrone corporate personhood as an amendment -- those powers would have already taken the AVC option. They haven't because they don't know what will happen.

      There are John Birch folks who don't want a convention -- and there are liberals who don't want a convention.

      I believe in open-source gov -- the AVC will be an incremental step towards that.

      Yes, there will be the same forces arrayed to corrupt the AVC, but there will be new influences as well as we play out the nation's first convention. I predict 1/3 of the delegates will be more independently minded for advancing our democracy, and thats about 1/3 more than what we hv in Congress.

  •  trouble is.. (5+ / 0-)

    the Convention would be swamped with winger amendments, everything from flag-burning to anti-gay to anti-abortion to America is a Xian nation. It's a can of putrid worms.

    Do one amendment, the regular way. It can pass.

    •  75% threshold to ratify (0+ / 0-)

      no extreme ideas would survive. only common sense ideas, that would be politically compromising to oppose would pass.

      an example is the 27th amendment.

      •  your example was passed the regular way (0+ / 0-)

        this Convention will be just like Congress- full of "Bipartisanship" and Corporate influence.

        It's a terrible idea.

        •  congress isn't working (0+ / 0-)

          cant get any worse -- we need a new front

          what's your solution?

          •  like I wrote above (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Byron De Lear

            Pass amendments to the Constitution one-by-one, like it's been done several times in the last couple hundred years.

            The Only Humans are Persons Amendment, or whatever you want to call it, to start.

            •  two questions Rover (0+ / 0-)

              why does the convention clause exist?

              and do you support the constitution?

              •  I'll try.. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                burrow owl
                1. hell yeah- most of it.. Other parts, like the 3/5 rule for slaves, and Prohibition (which was in there for a while), hell no. It's a great document, with some real boners.
                1. related to above- the authors were trying to anticipate what would work, and generally got it right. Just because the Convention Clause is there, doesn't mean we have to use it. Kind of like a fire alarm. I don't believe we're on fire yet.

                Good discussion, BDL.

                •  dont know if it's (0+ / 0-)

                  just for fires. its a way to help central gov be better. like oversight.

                  but our discussion is academic, because the apps are in, and Congress is req to issue the call.

                  its kind of tired and boring to see politcal animals (Congress) digging their heels in when it comes time to sharing, or performing an act that could potentially have them lose the monopoly on the amendatory process.

                  but when I think about it, this is precisely what's gotten things so far off track in the first place.

                  accumulating more and more powers and refusing to stnad down ramp down reliquish, ebb and flow, whatever term you want to use.

                  it's an attitude that mirrors the limitless growth fantasy we have running our economy.

                  even as a simple civic ceremony, i think there would be value to derive from our first AVC -- certainly couldn't do any harm. Either it will be compromised by spec interests and obstructed. Or it will just go in circles and do nothing. OR

                  We'll get a lot folks engaged, educated, involved --and the small chance of an opportunity to do something very common sense -- of course, like I mentikoned before, an idea that would be politcally compromising to oppose:  securing the vote and guaranteeing independent verification of ballot results; maybe even standardizing the American voting exprience.  

                  thx for chiming in.

  •  I was struck by the perverse symmetry between (4+ / 0-)

    slavery a corporate personhood.

    It is a sad but true sign of an enduring undercurrent of belief (by a sizeable minority) that the American system should be centered on the exploitation of human beings and natural resources.

    The well-known phenomena of psychological projection and confirmation bias account for 198% of conservative so-called 'ideas'

    by power2truth on Thu Feb 11, 2010 at 10:32:34 PM PST

  •  It won't happen (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Republicans wont vote for it because they are set to benefit the most from this ruling and they can hide behind "free speech".

    And there are about 10 corporate dems that won't vote for it either.

    With the republicans hoping for a 2010 wave they need all of the cash that they can get so I doubt any house or senate republican will vote for this.

  •  Essential reading on corporate personhood (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ~~CORPORATE PERSONHOOD. Thom Hartmann. Snippet:
    Excerpt from interview on one of my absolute favorite websites, (you can buy neat stuff from them too. The toffee is excellent):

    . . . . . the railroads began to try to influence or corrupt government to enhance their own power and profits.

    But government fought back. When Santa Clara County sued the Southern Pacific Railroad, that was the beginning of the end. It was actually a tax case, about whether the railroad had to pay property tax on the fence posts it owned along the right-of-way of its railroad through Santa Clara County, on the terms of the County's assessor or the State of California's assessor. The railroad argued that by having different tax rates in different states, they were being discriminated against under the 14th Amendment. This was, by the way, an argument the railroads had brought before the Supreme Court many times. It had always previously been rebuffed, sometimes in strong terms.

    For example, in 1873, one of the first Supreme Court rulings on the Fourteenth Amendment, which had passed only five years earlier, Justice Samuel F. Miller minced no words in chastising the railroads for trying to claim the rights of human beings.
    The fourteenth amendment?s "one pervading purpose," he wrote in the majority opinion, "was the freedom of the slave race, the security and firm establishment of that freedom, and the protection of the newly-made freeman and citizen from the oppression of those who had formerly exercised unlimited dominion over him."

    But in the 1886 case, we are told by over a hundred years' worth of history books and law books, the Supreme Court decided that corporations were, in fact, persons, and entitled to human rights, including the right of equal protection under the law -- freedom from discrimination.

    What was really amazing to me was that when I went down to the old Vermont State Supreme Court law library here in Vermont, and read an original copy of the Court's proceedings in the 1886 "Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad" case, the Justices actually said no such thing. In fact, the decision says, at its end, that because they could find a California state law that covered the case "it is not necessary to consider any other questions" such as the constitutionality of the railroad's claim to personhood.

    But in the headnote to the case -- a commentary written by the clerk, which is NOT legally binding, it's just a commentary to help out law students and whatnot, summarizing the case -- the Court's clerk wrote: "The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

    That discovery -- that we'd been operating for over 100 years on an incorrect headnote -- led me to discover that the clerk, J.C. Bancroft Davis, was a former corrupt official of the U.S. Grant administration and the former president of a railroad, and in collusion with another corrupt Supreme Court Justice, Stephen Field, who had been told by the railroads that if they'd help him get this through they'd sponsor him for the presidency.

    I later discovered that the folks who run POCLAD -- the Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy -- had already figured this out, and that there had been an obscure article written about it in the 1960s in the Vanderbilt Law Review, but it was, for me, like running down a detective mystery. So that was when the foundations for corporate power were laid in the United States, and they were laid on the basis of a lie.

    Unequal protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights
    , by Thom Hartmann

    Thom Hartmann bio:

    [I've met Thom Hartmann and I believe he'd say OK to this large a snippet from an interview the whole of which everyone should read. Really Important Topic!!]

    His books are very rich and satisfying, too.

    Media Reform Action Link

    by LNK on Fri Feb 12, 2010 at 05:27:46 AM PST

  •  Rather than working to make (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    desperately needed changes to our electoral system we are now wasting all this time and energy energy undoing this obvious piece-of-shit ruling. They can't block needed reform head on so they simply redirected our efforts.

    They are only able to stay that one big step ahead of us because their path, the road to tyranny has been so well mapped out by past regimes.  They know where they're heading, and know all of the good spots from which to launch such an ambush.
    These scum knew all along this judgment would never stand.  

  •  I like this Article V deal . . . (0+ / 0-)

    and I will like it even more when and if the people can say to the Roberts Court:  Suck it, big-time.

    "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

    by bobdevo on Fri Feb 12, 2010 at 06:40:01 AM PST

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