Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Friday: Occupy SA, Phase Two: 'Citizens United' protest songs around the federal court

Posted By on Tue, Jan 17, 2012 at 10:35 AM

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This Friday the federal building courthouse downtown will get Occupied. And while the terminology will be familiar enough that our readers don't really need it spelled out for them, this occupation deserves two clarifications. Protestors rallying on January 20 only have both a specific agenda (overturning the Supreme Court's majority decision of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission responsible for the flood of anonymous dollars now usurping our political process with untraceable corporate dollars) and the benefit of organization (organization, that is, beyond the “leaderless” variety represented by the recent extended presence at HemisFair Park that never truly sparked in San Antonio).

When in early Decmber local attorney Michele Petty (left, at MLK March on Monday) saw that no one had taken the lead to make sure San Antonio was represented in the planned national demonstrations marking the second anniversary of Citizens United being called for by Occupy-inspired movetoamend.org, she got busy. Groups like the local Sierra Club responded, forwarding the rallying cry far and wide (or at least Newsmonger got numerous invites from environmental interests).

“I went to their website to see who was doing it in San Antonio: zippo, nada. And there were only two others in all of Texas. I just said, 'You know what? I have to do it,” said Petty. “The only way we can get this done is by constitutional amendment. I've felt we needed to do that with corporate personhood for years and years and years.”
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In fact, Petty's position as a frustrated attorney who has been faced down time and time again by companies benefitting from the court's acceptance of the belief in corporate personhood — where companies were able to hide information because of “attorney-client” privilege, with the company itself as the individual “client” — helped fuel her ire. Corporations, Petty said, have been working away for “decades and decades” to get equal status to human beings in courts of law. “These conglomerates not only have the same rights but because the way they are structured they wind up having the equivalent of more rights than an individual,” she said. “That corporation can shield so much of its activities and questionable goings-on by saying, 'OK, but we consulted with our attorney about this, therefore it's attorney-client privilege. That has been an ongoing problem in litigation for years and years. It's a miracle anytime an insider reveals that information and gets those smoking guns out.” With the stand on Friday, Petty expects good street theatre to capture Big Media's attention (who can resist giant dancing puppets?) and patriotic songs to stir the hearts of attendees. But ultimately the movement sprouting actions across the nation hopes to get a constitutional amendment on the books wiping out Citizens United now enabling the Super PACS to rake in virtually unlimited dollars for issue ads to sway votes. Cities across the country (such as New York City) have been passing resolutions calling for the end of corporate personhood and supporting the Move to Amend. San Antonio? Petty's got your resolution all drawn up:  
To: The Honorable Mayor Julian Castro and San Antonio City Council Members We believe that the Supreme Court majority got it wrong in Citizen’s United v. FEC.   Allowing corporations to donate or to spend unlimited amounts of money in political races is not good for democracy and skews the elections. In the last state legislature greedy developers sought to evade San Antonio’s Tree Ordinance by donating to an East Texas Representative who submitted a bill on their behalf to abolish our tree ordinance and utterly thwart the power of the City to prevent developers from cutting down the few remaining trees we have in our Extra Territorial Jurisdiction.   Citizen’s United gives those people who don’t get what they want from City Hall an even greater opportunity to go buy off a legislator from another area of Texas to try an end run around our ordinances.   San Antonio is not home to the corporations with the most money in this country--the corporations who are especially adept at influence peddling and Super Pac spending to get what they want out of Congress.  San Antonio will always come out on the short end of the stick when it comes to Federal handouts, pork barrel contracts and entitlements because our local corporations don’t buy elections like the bigger companies in other cities and other parts of the country. We ask you to vote for a resolution in favor of a constitutional amendment that eliminates personhood status for corporations, and that declares that money is not the equivalent of free speech.  This is our proposed language: Whereas, government of, by, and for the people has long been a cherished American value, and We The People’s fundamental and inalienable right to self-govern, and thereby secure rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness is guaranteed in the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and; Whereas, free and fair elections are essential to democracy and effective self-governance, and; Whereas, persons are rightfully recognized as human beings whose essential needs include clean air, clean water, safe and secure food, and; Whereas, corporations are entirely human-made legal fictions created by express permission of We The People and our government, and; Whereas, corporations can exist in perpetuity, can exist simultaneously in many nations at once, need only profit for survival, and exist solely through the legal charter imposed by the government of We The People, and; Whereas, in addition to these advantages, the great wealth of large corporations allows them to wield coercive force of law to overpower human beings and communities, thus denying We The People’s exercise of our Constitutional rights, and; Whereas, corporations are not mentioned in the Constitution, and The People have never granted constitutional rights to corporations, nor have We decreed that corporations have authority that exceeds the authority of We The People of the United States, and; Whereas, interpretation of the US Constitution by appointed Supreme Court justices to include corporations in the term ‘persons’ has long denied We The Peoples’ exercise of self- governance by endowing corporations with Constitutional protections intended for We The People, and; Whereas, the illegitimate judicial bestowal of civil and political rights upon corporations usurps basic human and Constitutional rights guaranteed to human persons, and also empowers corporations to sue municipal and state governments for adopting laws that violate ‘corporate rights’ even when those laws serve to protect and defend the rights of human persons and communities, and; Whereas, corporations are not and have never been human beings, and therefore are rightfully subservient to human beings and governments as our legal creations, and; Whereas, large corporations’ profits and survival are often in direct conflict with the essential needs and rights of human beings, and; Whereas, the recent Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision that rolled back the legal limits on corporate spending in the electoral process creates an unequal playing field and allows unlimited corporate spending to influence elections, candidate selection, policy decisions and sway votes, and forces elected officials to divert their attention from The Peoples’ business, or even vote against the interest of their human constituents, in order to ensure competitive campaign funds for their own re-election, and; Whereas, large corporations own most of America’s mass media and use that media as a megaphone to express loudly their political agenda and to convince Americans that their primary role is that of consumers, rather than sovereign citizens with rights and responsibilities within our democracy, and this forces citizens to toil to discern the truth behind headlines and election campaigning, and; Whereas, there is a groundswell of support in San Antonio for an Amendment to the US Constitution to Abolish Corporate Personhood; Therefore be it resolved that the City of San Antonio hereby calls on our legislators to sponsor a bill in Congress for an Amendment to the Constitution to Abolish Corporate Personhood with the following language: Section 1 [A corporation is not a person and can be regulated] The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only. Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law. The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable. Section 2 [Money is not speech and can be regulated] Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure. Federal, State and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed. The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment. Section 3 Nothing contained in this amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press. Be it further resolved that the City of San Antonio calls on other communities and jurisdictions to join with us in this action by passing similar Resolutions  to return our democracy, our elections, our communities back to America’s human persons and to thus reclaim our sovereign right to self-governance. Be it further resolved that the City of  San Antonio supports education to increase public awareness of the threats to our democracy posed by Corporate Personhood, and encourages lively discussion to build understanding and consensus to take appropriate community and municipal actions to democratically respond to these threats.
--- For more information on how Citizens United affected political spending in the U.S., check out this Open Secrets report.

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