“Banks have all the money, and the rich hold all the cards.” These are common laments among Central Ohioans who, as the dismal turnout in the November 2014 elections indicate, suspect that democracy is not working as it should. While the majority of citizens and businesses play by the rules, clearly other are writing the rules, and not to our benefit. Large and often multinational corporations expect politicians to fight for their interests, not ours. It’s all too much, and we wonder, why don’t citizens unite and take back our democracy? Then along comes an organization called Citizen United. Sounds inviting.
The problem is that Citizens United is an atrocious misnomer. It consist not of large numbers of concerned citizens for the nation as a whole, but of a small band of lobbyist for wealthy elites. It represents not the majority’s interests, but those of corporations, most spectacularly in the infamous Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC (Federal Elections Commission). Arguing that corporations are entitled to personhood rights as any other voter, Citizens United won. The case caused ordinary citizens to lament even more, yet, unexpectedly, it also raised awareness of just how corporations access their power through the Supreme Court. In the wake of the Citizens United’s devastating victory, a genuine united citizens’ movement emerged. Move to Amend is a grassroots national movement dedicated to taking back our democracy.

Citizens United v. FEC: The Case:

The case began in 2009 when Citizens United aired a film about Hillary Clinton, then a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries. Clearly working against her nomination, Hillary: The Movie portrayed Clinton as a Machiavellian, radical socialist. The FEC objected on the grounds that Citizens United violated fair campaign laws by airing what it considered an electioneering vehicle during the primary season. Furthermore, the FEC cited it for not fully disclosing the financial backers of the film. Citizens United argued that their 90-minute piece was no different from an NPR, 60 Minutes, or other news report that sought to inform the public. By denying its backers the right to air it, they contended that the FEC was interfering with their First Amendment rights of free speech. Losing in lower courts, Citizens United took its case to the US Supreme Court which, in a five to four decision, sided in its favor. The Court ruled that artificial entities, such as corporations, had personhood rights. It then struck down earlier election laws by providing artificial entities the right to spend unlimited money to support or oppose issues in elections.

Citizens United v. FEC: the Consequences

The consequences of the Citizens United v. FEC ruling are obvious to Americans in and out of Ohio. Spending by outside groups has ballooned with fewer organizations revealing their donors. In 2012, presidential candidates Barrack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s campaigns collectively raised over $300 million dollars among small donors. It took a whopping 3.7 million of citizens to do so. Super Pacs raised the same amount, yet with just 32 wealthy donors! As Senator Elizabeth Warren warned in 2014, "when 32 people can outspend 3.7 million citizens, our democracy is in real danger.” At the time, Warren was calling for the overturn of Citizens United vs. FEC. The case, however, was not all-together precedent-setting, but a symptom of a long-term trend.

Citizens United v. FEC: A Symptom of A Flawed System

The Supreme Court has long granted personhood status to corporations, thereby entitling them to the same constitutional rights as natural persons. Corporate lawyers cite the landmark 1886 Santa Clara County v. the Southern Pacific Railroad case (over a tax issue) as setting the precedent by ceding Fourteenth Amendment rights to corporations. Less than twenty years before, Congress had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment in order to secure the rights of recently emancipated slaves on par with other Americans. The Amendment guaranteed all citizens equal protection under the law and entitlement to due process. In the era of the Guided Age and Jim Crow legislation, who might have more need to call on the Fourteenth Amendment? By 1886, this mattered far less than who could finance their appeals to the Supreme Court.
(See cartoon.)
Since then, corporations have steadily accessed personhood status, each time through the Supreme Court. For instance, in 1893, they gained Fifth Amendment rights to preserve their rights over their property, thereby preventing citizens from leafleting in malls, legislating against chain stores and openly organizing at work places. In 1906, they won Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure, impeding the ability of government agencies charged by citizens to monitor and enforce labor and environmental regulations. Courtesy of the Supreme Court, corporations may opt for the rights of corporations when convenient and the rights of citizens when desired.
While successive Supreme Courts have deemed corporations people, they are, of course, not people. They survive on profits instead of clear air and water as we do. They never get old, thereby recognizing pensions and healthcare in terms of their bottom lines. They do not die, and with comparatively unlimited funds than available to natural persons who might challenge them, find it in their interest to drag out lawsuits forever. The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska is just one case that has yet to be settled. While many corporations take the high road, it is not incumbent on the most wealthy to do so.

Corporate Personhood: Local Effects

How does corporate personhood effect real citizens in Central Ohio? Do our elected official attend to us or to the interest of artificial persons? You decide: Overwhelming percentages of Central Ohioans are concerned about the money politics, the impartiality of the media and climate change. The majority also have consistently voted against permitting casinos in our neighborhoods and publicly financing of the Nationwide Arena. Today, Columbus is a battle ground of political advertising in which the election season never seems to end. We are (nearly) a one-person newspaper town. Our state legislature has put alternative energy policies on hold. We have casinos in our neighborhoods and a huge debt that we must pay for the Nationwide Arena.

The Solution: Amend the Constitution (Move to Amend)

Enough lamenting. Time to move, and to move decisively. The purpose of Move to Amend is not to merely reverse Citizens United v. FEC, but to amend the Constitution to read, in summary,

1. The rights protected by the Constitution of the U.S. are the right of natural persons only, and

2. Government shall regulate contributions and expenditures for the purpose of influencing the election of any candidate or ballot measure.

We can do more than lament. We can learn and raise awareness that, united, natural born citizens can take back our democracy. To learn more and be part of the solution, join the Central Ohio Affiliate of Move to Amend on Wednesday, January 21 to discuss, on this Fifth Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizen United v. FEC, the effects of corporate personhood on central Ohioans. (Program below.)

Citizens United v. FEC 5th Anniversary
The Effects of Corporate Personhood on Central Ohioans
Sponsored by Move to Amend
Wednesday, January 21 (11 AM – 4 PM)

11.00 – 11.30: Meet at ProgressOhio (172 E. State St., 6th floor) to organize for outdoor awareness march.
11.30 – 12.45: March and drive in downtown area to raise awareness of Citizens United v. FEC, corporate personhood, and the campaign to amend the constitution.
1.00 – Return to ProgressOhio for hot cocoa and cake, informal discussion.
1.30 – Speakers Forum. Move to Amend is pleased announce the following speakers who will open discussion and provide insight into topics of significant relevance to all Central Ohioans.
* Michael Greenman (Interfaith Caucus) Topic: The impact of Citizens United v FEC on faith communities, and the "Freedom of Religion".
* Jon Beard (Columbus Compact Corporation) Topic: The public funding of Nationwide Arena
* Carolyn Harding (City of Columbus Bill of Rights) Topic: Citizen’s rights to protect our environment from the hazards of fracking
* Bob Fitrakis (Free Press) Topic: The local media
3.00 – 3.30 – Informal discussions

If you would like to attend/participate and have questions, contact Sandy Bolzenius,



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