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Forum Post: Money is not Speech; Corporations are not People

Posted 9 years ago on Feb. 29, 2012, 1:58 p.m. EST by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Human Rights Amendment http://www.change.org/petitions/pass-the-human-rights-amendment

Section 1 In all instances wherein the words "person," persons," and "people" appear in this constitution, such words shall be construed to define living human beings only.

Section 2 "Money" is defined only as legal tender for the purpose of settling all debts, public and private. Congress shall make no law recognizing the free flow of money as an expression of speech of any kind, or as an expression of any of the rights enumerated in this constitution.

Section 3 Congress shall have power to enforce this article and to regulate federal elections by appropriate legislation.

Notes: Section 1 ends corporate and union personhood by removing the foundation for the Supreme Court ruling in Citizen's United v FEC, namely that use of the word "person" in the 14th amendment applies to legal fictions (like corporations, unions, NGOs, etc), automatically triggering 1st amendment rights. (see First Nat. Bank of Boston v. Bellotti)

Section 2 places money back in its proper place -- a form of currency, not a form of speech. (see Buckley v. Valeo)

Section 3 uses standard constitutional language to reaffirm Congress' supremacy over the judiciary in the roles of creating law and regulating elections, putting some rein on activist courts.

This is non-partisan, process-oriented language that isn't an attempt to legislate via amendment. Most of the amendment language created by people like Senator Sanders and groups like Move to Amend does too much and too little -- too much legislating and attempting to codify campaign finance rules in the constitution and too little to actually rein-in corporations and the influence of money on the electorate. Process-oriented language is more effective in removing the impediments created by the Supreme Court, less damaging to centuries of corporate contract law, and, ultimately, is more likely to be adopted than legislation masquerading as a constitutional amendment.

This language was generated by the group "Abolish Corporate Personhood Now," which began on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/groups/185690088170660/). If you agree with this approach, please click the link (top) and sign the petition. We probably won't get more than one shot at this -- we need to get it right the first time. Thank you.



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[-] 5 points by PopsMauler (182) from Chicago, IL 9 years ago

Signed it. Nice job, this is great!

[-] 2 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 9 years ago


[-] 4 points by ThunderclapNewman (1083) from Nanty Glo, PA 9 years ago


[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 9 years ago

Thanks very much!

[-] 3 points by ClearTarget (216) 9 years ago

"Money is not Speech; Corporations are not People " AMEN to that. Definitely signed.

[-] 2 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 9 years ago


[-] 3 points by factsrfun (8294) from Phoenix, AZ 9 years ago

I’m no lawyer, but I like it, this looks very solid. Signed.

[-] 2 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 9 years ago

Many thanks!

[-] 2 points by shoozTroll (17632) 9 years ago

I signed them all.......Thanks.......:)

[-] 2 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 9 years ago

No. Thank you! :)

[-] 1 points by badreadnaught (55) 9 years ago

I've just signed the petition

[-] 1 points by HitGirl (2263) 9 years ago

Another idea is to compel congress to make freedom of equal internet access a right that cannot be abridged.

[-] 1 points by HitGirl (2263) 9 years ago

I like it. Goes right to the heart of the matter. Only thing is we also need something that establishes free airways for the broadcast and dissemination of news in the public interest. Or maybe just rules for anything called news.

[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 9 years ago

Totally agree. But it can be legislated once SCOTUS is out of the way. Eliminating the spending of money as an expression of speech narrows the definition of speech and separates it from press and religion, the way it's supposed to be. Simple language that affirms the difference between speech, press and religion would go a long way to providing a foundation for "truth in advertising" and a more vertical "fairness doctrine" -- based on truth-telling, not "balance."

Thanks for the comment and glad you like the amendment.

[-] 1 points by HitGirl (2263) 9 years ago

I did sign it. It's best as it is. It tackles just enough.

[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 9 years ago

Thanks a lot! I was at the Move To Amend event in NYC last night. I'm becoming an affiliate with them. We need to build critical mass. But at some point, all the various version will have to be whittled down to one. I'm holding out hope that at least this approach will prevail.

Thanks again!

[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 9 years ago

THIS is what I'd rather be doing than arguing about Boomers. Too bad so many people would rather pitch a fit over semantics and go tete-a-tete with trolls. We can shout into the void all day long. At some point, REAL solutions have to be on the agenda or this is just another meaningless forum.

[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 9 years ago

Please also see:

Citizens United Update by DKAtoday http://occupywallst.org/forum/citizens-united-update/

[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 9 years ago

I've compared this amendment language to 16 other proposals from the following sources: Sen. Sanders/ Rep. Deutch; Sen. Baucus; Rep. McGovern/Free Speech for People; Rep. Kaptur; Rep. Schrader; Rep. Kucinich; Rep. Yarmuth; Rep. Edwards; Rep. Ellison; Move To Amend; Lawrence Lessig; Russell Simmons; Dylan Ratigan/Jimmy Williams; Cenk Uygur/WolfPAC; and Renew Democracy.

All 16 proposals fall short in at least one of 12 categories:

One specifically regulates the judiciary - unnecessary and redundant.

Two use fixed dollar amounts - forcing later generations to update.

Four use vague or contradictory language - obvious problem there.

Another four strip contract and property rights from corporations - too far.

Five use "natural persons" in definitions - "living human beings" better.

Seven employ subtractive definitions - very unorthodox for the constitution.

Eight carve out exceptions for the free press - big loophole.

Ten leave legal fiction (corporate) personhood intact - 14th amendment.

Fourteen use limited definitions of legal fictions - leaving loopholes.

Fifteen are outcome-oriented and act as campaign finance legislation.

And all sixteen fail to properly address money as speech, leaving intact the Supreme Court's definition of spending money as an expression of speech, which fails to strip the Supreme Court of the power to overturn campaign finance reform laws, no matter how cleverly they're worded.

This is possibly the single most important issue in America right now, with a far-reaching impact on all other issues. We won't get more than one shot at this. Let's make sure we're using the right language.

[-] 2 points by April (3196) 9 years ago

I agree with you about the money as speech in some of these other proposed amendments.

Actually, I'm concerned about the personhood issue. And how ending corporate personhood might impact the media, corporations or other associations and their freedom of speech. Real speech. Not money related.

Because quite honestly, as far as CU and PAC ads are concerned, I could care less what interest group wants to spend money to put ads or propaganda on tv. I don't watch much tv though. But for anyone else, it's not an imposition on their freedoms because it's quite easy to turn the channel, or tune out. Vote with your remote. The only real issue I see is that corporations and interest groups get to act like people with rights to speaking freely. And have the money to buy air time to amplify their speech. All the more reason to vote with your remote. When flooding the airwaves becomes ineffective - they'll stop flooding the airwaves.

Other non media forms of speech or expression that corps or interests groups can buy and utilize - do we care? Airplanes with banners in the sky perhaps? Do we care if they want to express themselves that way like people??

I guess what I'm really wondering is - do you think it's possible to accomplish the same outcome without having to address personhood. And by just saying money is not speech. Couldn't then any campaign finance legislation limit the contributions from corporations or other organizations the same way it limits individual contributions?

I think I like the Move to Amend language better as far as the money issue because it limits money as speech with specific relation to elections. Can you explain to me further why you think it needs to be broader than that. We can't possible know or envision all circumstances where money might be useful as speech. I think I would prefer to leave that option open, rather than shutting the door completely.

[-] 2 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 9 years ago

Thank you for the very thoughtful comments and questions.

Let me go backwards. The language I'm proposing is actually much narrower but has a broader impact. Attempting to codify the specific regulatory powers Congress has over federal elections and campaign spending (and some include state powers for state elections) is entirely plausible from a constitutional standpoint but problematic for a few reasons:

One, campaign finance reform is a partisan issue, whether we want it that way or not. The corporate-controlled GOP and blue-dog Dems will treat it like any other liberal "class warfare" issue, making adoption even harder than it already is.

Two, it doesn't close the loop on the Supreme Court's view that spending money is an expression of speech, leaving the door open for SCOTUS to find new legislation unconstitutional on largely the same grounds, especially if it also doesn't contain a personhood component.

Three, since the amendment attempts to codify the spending of money without overturning the "spending of money as an expression of speech" foundation under the SCOTUS' rulings, it creates an ambiguity in the constitution that can be exploited. It undermines its own purpose.

By contrast, using simple language to undermine the foundation the rulings themselves were built upon sweeps away all of that case law in one stroke and doesn't run the risk of creating loopholes because it unwinds case law rather than piling new case law on top of old. The impact cuts deeper into the foundation of the Supreme Court rulings but actually has a lighter touch in the constitution itself. Rather than creating an ambiguity, it reinforces the significant differences between speech, press and religious freedoms codified in the first amendment.

Each of those rights is codified separately in the same amendment. The Supreme Court has continuously expanded the definition of speech in it's rulings equating spending money with an expression of speech. In effect, SCOTUS has recognized that the use of a tool is an expression of speech. On it's face, the concept is logical until you start to compare it to the use of other tools.

If you give money to a campaign to build an office, you're sending a positive message. If you throw a rock through the campaign window you're sending the opposite message. Those are both "expressions of speech" in the abstract. But the rock thrower's right to express himself by damaging property is not recognized. The only reason the inequities in wealth distribution aren't recognized as doing damage to our property, the electoral process, is because it isn't physical.

Therefore, speech itself is not an all-encompassing term. If it was, all expressions would be covered by "freedom of speech" and there would be no need to include separate provisions for freedom of religion and the free press. Codifying money as a tool that cannot be equated with an expression of speech of any kind provides the foundation for interpreting those lines more distinctly in future legislation and rulings. (This would have the fringe benefit of creating a foundation for bringing truth in advertising and a vertical fairness doctrine back to the airwaves.)

Can all this be accomplished without including provisions about personhood? Yes but not as well. If I had a choice of one provision or the other, money is definitely number one. And if I had to choose one of the other versions addressing corporate personhood or no personhood provision at all, I'd go with nothing. This is another area where doing less accomplishes more.

By simply redefining what people ARE, instead of what they AREN'T, we include all possible legal fictions now and in the future. And by sticking to a simple definition, we undermine 125 years of case law, going back to SCC v. SPR, without impacting contract or property rights currently enjoyed by enterprises of all types. As I'm not a lawyer, I recognize there may be a few obscure regulations that will need to be updated to conform with proper language as stipulated by the new amendment, but that's a housekeeping operation and not really germane.

Lastly, the whole purpose of using process-oriented language it to modify the way the constitution may be interpreted and empower congress to regulate elections without interference by SCOTUS' expansive definition of money and personhood. If we ratify process-oriented language, all we will have done is rendered several Supreme Court rulings unconstitutional and therefore, null and void. But we won't have passed new law. That will be up to Congress and that's when the partisan battles over campaign finance reform can resume. The first step is to take SCOTUS out of the fight. Then elect good Reps and make them do the right thing.

Thanks again for the engaging discussion.

[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 9 years ago

This language is superior to any other language I've seen. Compare it to the versions from Move To Amend or Senator Sanders and you'll see the difference between this process-oriented language and their outcome-oriented language.

[-] 2 points by April (3196) 9 years ago

This issue, how to approach campaign reform (whether or not CU needs to be overturned, whether or not a const. amend. is necessary, other ways around the problem of personhood and money as speech) has been argued and discussed and argued again since I got here.

Anyway, there was a poster here a while back - Rico. He had some of the best analysis of the issue that I know of, which you might be interested in. It's posted here somewhere, but I can't find it in an original post. It must be buried in comments somewhere.

But he also posted on The Multitude forum.



[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 9 years ago

Thank you for the comment and the links. Rico makes some very good points. In fact, the reason the language my group is proposing is superior to others is addressed by Rico's concerns. Move To Amend and Sen Sanders (as archetypal examples) would indeed upend centuries of contract law, going back to British Common Law and the Magna Carta.

But contract law and civil rights are separate issues. Limiting the definition of "person" to living people preserves the privileges enjoyed by legal fictions with respect to contract law while stripping away the trigger that grants automatic first amendment protections. That's our section one. Section two then adds teeth by redefining money as a tool and prohibiting the spending of money from being defined as an expression of speech. That empowers congress to enact campaign finance reform that is both meaningful and harder for SCOTUS to overturn, if not impossible. Section three simply reaffirms congress' power to regulate federal elections as stipulated in Article 1, sections 4 and 5.

I do believe this language addresses all the important concerns about contract law and preserving freedom of the press while still being a significant clipping of SCOTUS' wings. I hope you'll take a look at the amendment and sign the petition, if for no other reason but to add to the groundswell.

Thanks again.

[-] 2 points by April (3196) 9 years ago

I'm all in. Everything you say makes complete sense. But quite honestly, I've not been able to rap my brain around the issue completely. I sign everything and anything for campaign reform. I need to do more research. : )

I think where Rico was going was to take a more pragmatic approach. More of an 80% solution. And I think Rico's ideas are similar to that of Buddy Roemer's.

[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 9 years ago

I know exactly what you mean. I wrote that language and I'm still doing research!

Thanks a lot!

[-] 2 points by April (3196) 9 years ago

Have you sought/gotten any input on it from any professional societies? Like the ACS or other similar that would have expertise to critique or provide opinion and analysis.

Not questioning your own knowledge and expertise. Just that the more the better. And having some other recognized expert opinion on it could re-affirm and be used as additional support to promote it.

[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 9 years ago

I and a couple other people are working on that now. I take no offense at all. I'm not a constitutional scholar or even a lawyer but I think that's helped give me the right perspective in drafting the language. I see a lot of legalese and a lot of non-constitutional language coming from such people. It's overthinking. I don't expect my language to survive but I do think this approach is truly superior to any outcome-oriented language I've seen so far.

[-] 3 points by April (3196) 9 years ago

I don't care whether it's written in Egyptian hieroglyphics, so long as it achieves the result. And it looks like really great work. I'm sure it took alot of time and effort. Thanks for that. It's people like you that care enough to do all that for the rest of us, that gives us all hope : )

[-] 0 points by LetsGetReal (1420) from Grants, NM 9 years ago

I support a constitutional amendment but I think this one is flawed.

Section 2 says "Congress shall make no law recognizing the free flow of money as an expression of speech of any kind, or as an expression of any of the rights enumerated in this constitution." Congress isn't the problem, it was the Supreme Court, not congress, who decided that spending money is protected speech.

I also find Section 4 unnecessary at best. If we amend the constitution to establish that corporations aren't people and money isn't speech, that removes the judicial obstacle to legislation. I also object to stating that Congress has the authority because that could override the rights of the states to legislate the conduct of their own elections, even for candidates for federal offices.

I agree that it is important that we get a good amendment, and I don't think this is it. The best one I have seen is that suggested by Move to Amend. http://movetoamend.org/amendment

[-] 1 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 9 years ago

Legitimate concerns but I think misplaced.

Of course the Supreme Court is the problem but the judiciary need not be included as their role is simply to interpret the constitutionality of laws that emanate from congress. Prohibiting congress from passing the kind of laws that interpret the constitution the way the Supreme Court already has interpreted the constitution, starting with Buckley v. Valeo, effectively overturns 36 years of case law with regard to money in politics.

The only amendment that specifically addresses the judiciary is number 11 and it says nothing about how the judiciary interprets law. That's not what the constitution is designed to do. We're not talking about the rules of the road here. We're talking about the road. Move to Amend's language is legislation masquerading as an amendment and it will never pass in its current form.

There is no section 4. But to your point -- "if we amend the constitution to establish that corporations aren't people and money isn't speech, that removes the judicial obstacle to legislation" -- that is precisely what this amendment does without trying to upend centuries of contract law, which the Move to Amend language does. I signed their petition but I think their language strips too much and fixes too little.

You also appeared to object to section 3 (the final section) in its reaffirmation of congress' role in regulating elections. One, that power is already codified in article 1, sections 4 and 5, and this simply reaffirms that, and; two, using the word "federal" clarifies congress' role in national elections but leaves state and local elections to their respective jurisdictions by mechanism of the 10th amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

I think that addresses all your concerns. Love to hear any rebuttal. I'm not trying to win any contests here. Just trying to sweep the Supreme Court out of the way of meaningful campaign finance reform.

[-] 0 points by factsrfun (8294) from Phoenix, AZ 9 years ago

I was going to say the same thing that "pew" just said, everything is direvted toward Congress normally.

I don't think there is any danger of Congress not getting their own hands into the writing, so this is just step one.

[-] 0 points by jeivers (278) 9 years ago

I think I still like the "Move to Amend" amendment more as well.

[-] -2 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 9 years ago

I signed them all then I sent the package out on Facebook and twitter.

Take part in the Peoples lobby.

Participate in direct action.

This is another way another tool to move forward.

We move forward - TOGETHER.

Unite in Common Cause!

[-] 2 points by pewestlake (947) from Brooklyn, NY 9 years ago

Total awesomeness! Many thanks.

[-] -2 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 9 years ago

Thank you for posting the opportunity.

People need to see them to take them.

Thank you.

[+] -4 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 9 years ago

Signed twittered and Facebooked. Direct action. Proper legislation to support. Regain government - use all of the good tools that come your way. This is part of the peoples lobby it is free and it can be effective.