Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Constitution, Corporations & Coal


Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. - Benjamin Franklin

No free government can stand without virtue in the people, and a lofty spirit of patriotism. - Andrew Jackson

Virtue may be defined as the love of the laws and of our country. As such love requires a constant preference of public to private interest, it is the source of of private virtue... A government is like everything else: to preserve it we must love it... Everything, therefore, depends on establishing this love in a republic. - Thomas Jefferson


Here in Bellingham, we are focused on Coal and the proposed export terminal at Cherry Point.

Behind this proposal are Corporations that stand to profit from this venture, despite any concerns expressed from the local community.

But, behind that is the Constitutional interpretation expressed only last year, that Corporations are People, and that Money represents Speech.

At what level should any of these nested -and cascading- ideas be opposed?

The answer is at ALL levels.

Of course, ultimately the most effective level is the latter, the Constitutional level.

It does take more time and effort, even though in the end solving that problem would have the effect of helping to solve a myriad of multiple problems.

But, there is a way to attack all three levels of problems, individually and collectively, which is the subject of this blog.


Finally, a great book has appeared that offers clear and achievable ideas and effective actions that we can take as citizens to put some things straight again in this country:

Corporations are not People by Jeffrey D Clements

My wife, Joan, obtained this book through Truthout and gave it to me to read, for which I am thankful.

This is by far the best analysis and simple action plan I've yet to read about doing something positive about correcting some basic problems that threaten the very foundations of our republican form of democratic government.

It actually gives me hope!

Of course, the actions suggested will take work, but they hold the promise of having us -the public- in control of very important changes most of us already wish to make in our government.

Below, is a quick summary of the three steps the author suggests, all of which are positive steps in their own right.

Taken together, they would go a long way toward correcting the excesses in lobbying, elections, tax fairness, bail-outs, financial regulation, outsourcing jobs overseas, corporate accountability, campaign finance, wage equity, corruption of public officials, crony capitalism, and the undue influence of transnational corporations on society, the environment and local governments.

To me, as well as many others -including libertarians, 'Tea Party' supporters, Occupy protesters and others- those actions are both necessary and overdue, yet Congress continues to be paralyzed to act in any meaningful way!

If, for other reason, its time for the public to assert its power and get these things to be part of a serious national discussion, with definitive action as the end result.

That public effort alone can give Congress and the Supreme Court the clear direction they so desperately need to get us back on the honest track our Founders intended.


• First and most important, we need to work for the 28th amendment to the Constitution, a People's Rights Amendment, to reverse Citizens United and corporate constitutional rights.

• As the second step, we must insist, rather than beg, that corporations actually serve the public interest. Corporate law should ensure that corporations do not really take benefits from the public; they must also fulfill duties to the book.

• Third, we need to make election and lobbying laws that punish, rather than reward, corrupt crony capitalism and bribe-based politics.


Here's the proposed Amendment XXVIII:

Section I. We the people who ordain and establish this Constitution intend the rights protected by this Constitution to be the rights of natural persons.

Section II. The words people person or citizen as used in this Constitution do not include corporations, limited liability companies, or other corporate established by the laws of any state, the United States or any foreign state. Such corporate entities are subject to any regulation as the people, through their elected state and federal representatives, deem reasonable and are otherwise consistent with the powers of Congress and the States under this Constitution.

Section III. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people's rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, and all such other rights of the people, which lights are inalienable.


While it may not be immediately obvious how such a short and clear Amendment might be effective, here is my take;

The Citizens United decision early last year by the US Supreme Court essentially culminated a long campaign by corporate interests that determined -by a 5-4 margin- that corporations are people and money is speech.

Those remarkable expressions simply defy reality to me!

In fact, they are so ridiculously Orwellian that its hard for me to believe that our highest court could have made such a decision.

But, they did. And now we're stuck with the results, at least until we can get their attention in no uncertain terms.


Great corporations exist only because they are created and safeguarded by our institutions; and it is therefore our right and duty to see that they work in harmony with these institutions. - Theodore Roosevelt


Here are some links that are helpful in revealing resources available to aid this cause:

About Citizens United:

The Constitutional Amendment Campaign & the People's Rights Amendment:

Corporate Charter Reform & Corporate Accountability:

Corporations for the 21st Century:

Cleaning the Swamps: Campaign Finance & Lobbying Reform:

Other Resources: