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COMMUNITY VOICES | Citizens chained and united - Let's pass HF 276 the "We the People" Act
The "We the People" Act HF 276/ SF 17 has passed Minnesota's Civil Law Committee and needs everyone's help as it faces an imminent make or break close vote in the full State House. It succinctly requests a U.S. Constitutional Amendment to overthrow the Supreme Court's rulings in favor of both Citizens United and Shaun McCutcheon. Thanks to a citizen’s organization called Move to Amend, 500 cities/ towns plus 16 States have voted in support, and with HR 276 Minnesota could be the next. Minnesota Move to Amend will be having a rally at the state capitol 2PM on Wednesday, April 30 joined by Common Cause, Friends of the Earth and League of Women Voters though the critical vote may happen earlier.
Rarely in human history has there ever been an arrangement where so few people could single-handedly inflict so much damage to so many as just 5 Supreme Court justices just did. (Click here to read my addendum on The Supreme Court's 5-4 rulings) Farewell to fair play.
In the McCutcheon ruling announced April 2nd, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the $123,200 aggregate limit for how much money any individual donor could give to candidates, parties or PAC's in a two-year election cycle was unconstitutional under the First Amendment even though money is mentioned nowhere in the first amendment. (Click here to read my addendum on McCutcheon Tarnishing the Name of Free Speech)
Here is a parable to explain illegitimate court-fabricated doctrines that these 5 out-of-touch justices they have imposed upon our nation:
1: Declaring corporations to be “legal persons” under the 14th Amendment thereby having first Amendment free speech rights is like chaining natural persons to the wall behind the elephant in the room. (Click here to read my addendum on A Basic Refute of Corporate Personhood)
2: Declaring money/ campaign donations to be free speech under the 1st Amendment is like giving laxatives to the elephant.
3: The Supreme Court’s tacit endorsement of the elephant’s voter suppression gimmicks through striking down section 4 of the voting rights act last year means that we can’t go in with shovels and dig out the chained up natural persons after they have been crapped on by the elephant.
4: When a number of the chained up natural persons tried to start an uprising by chanting “Money is property not speech” the good squad led by Shaun McHutcheon came by and put muzzles in their mouths saying “Sorry fellas, you need to have a million dollar lobbyist for your voice to be heard or accepted as legitimate.”
As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in his dissenting opinion "where enough money calls the tune, the general public will not be heard".
The moral of the story is that we the natural persons don’t get to have a seat at the self-governance table if we are chained to the wall.
These rulings unfairly tilt the electoral playing field in favor of candidates who are short on ethics, morals and new ideas that are popular with voters but long on access to brute cash to fund attack ads from which they could hide behind.
Two bills have been introduced into the federal congress, HR 20 (Sarbanes) the "Government by the People" act and S 2023 (Durbin) The "Fair Elections Now" act that offer ways to blunt the impact of these rulings by restoring the playing field for small donors.
Imagine what kind of nightmare world will it be if every single person who runs for higher office has to toe the line on corporatist orthodoxy or else be taken down by a now unlimited tidal wave flood of secret untraceable cash. With the help of a deregulated media where one person could own as much of the media as they wish, the largest polluting corporations on earth can now carpet bomb with attack ads any politician who respects legitimate authority to EPA enforcement or any other entity who will hold them accountable. It should be no surprise that it was a climate-denying coal Baron who brought forth the case against aggregate campaign donor limits.
What has made America great enabling our historic ability adapt to change, challenge and new circumstances. The Citizens United and McCutcheon rulings rip that legacy away. These rulings basically codify conservatism and resistance to change into our system, exalt the obstructionists who block reform and lead to an ossification of government.
This prolonged unwillingness to adapt to new circumstances is in fact what authors Jared Diamond and Joseph Tainter identify as the primary most consistent historical reason why societies fail and collapse.
Such court rulings take us in exactly the wrong direction from where we need to go in our grand mission to build a resilient self-sufficient society to prepare for and adapt to the challenges of the 21st century like peak oil and climate disruption. If we the people are given not political leverage to restrain corporate exploitation of the planet’s human and natural resources, then the long term stability of planetary civilization is put into even further jeopardy than it already is.
Our environmental protections, arguably the highest achievement of human civilization, were not created by some impersonal mechanistic entity known as the market. At the time of the first Earth Day, the American people worked the levers of democracy and our government responded like it was supposed to.
People have fought and died for endangered rights that we took advantage of on the first Earth Day. We shall not surrender to “woe is us” plutocracy. (Click here to read my addendum on Political Cynicism and Resignation) We as a nation never let our vision go despite some dark times. Here is reason for hope:
In the 2012 election grassroots ballot initiatives to overturn Citizens United won amazingly consistent support from all across an otherwise polarized political spectrum. Anti-Citizens United initiatives just as much voter approval in the “purple” swing state of Colorado (72% for Amendment 65 demanding that Congress draft a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United) and the libertarian “red” state of Montana (76% for Initiative 166 declaring that corporations do not have constitutional rights) as deeply “blue” Democratic Chicago (74% for approving a local initiative demanding that Congress propose an amendment reversing Citizens United).
About ¾ of Americans whether Democrat, Republican, or Independent oppose the Citizens United ruling and don’t agree that for-profit corporations should have the right to flood political campaigns with tidal waves of cash.
Overturning Citizens United is an issue that over ¾ of citizens are actually united upon in agreement; if only these united citizens could be unchained from the wall behind the elephant.
If only we in the United States could hold a national ballot initiative on a constitutional amendment rather than having passing it in painfully gradual piecemeal incidences, the plutocrats' rigged game would be over in one fell swoop.
Yet the whole weight of this popular opinion from over tens of millions of eligible voters is canceled out by the personal opinions of just 5 Supreme Court Justices who basically gave their thumbs up to a class war to divide America into the plutocrat's version of winners and losers. This class war is one which the “general welfare” as proclaimed in the Preamble to our Constitution, is being sent to their “loser” trash heap by a government on the auction block of their chosen “winners” who are people in the establishment who have already amassed millions and billions in wealth and privilege.
In addition to the Supreme Court, the benches are stacked with activist judges who fabricate corporate rights that don't actually exist. The legal fiction of corporate rights is the singular cannon that could take out public health, food/ drug safety, environmental stewardship and financial transparency regulation all in one fell swoop because it leaves corporate interests free to savagely attack any proposal that would serve the the “general welfare” as proclaimed in the Preamble to our constitution. The same immense power aggregation traits that make corporations such highly effective as economic tools make them dangerously corrupting to government and democracy if unrestrained by law. The logical conclusion of corporate governance is a race to the bottom for who can most effectively plunder public resources while rigging the markets to squeeze out the more conscientious competitors. This is what corporate law regimes behind the fabrication of corporate rights are actually working for. It is not for being “pro-business” in general but for strategies to grant the most socially irresponsible corporations unfair advantages.
If we want a better world where the ethical businesses win, then we need to do is get creative and rewrite corporate charters in a way that incentives sustainability and full employment.
Let's imagine a victory where the chains that had tied the natural persons to the wall were broken the former captives declared “free speech is not fee speech, and human rights are for real humans not corporations and we should all have the right to vote to dig ourselves out of elephant dung.”
This is not even a political issue at its core. This is none other than a moral issue. The implied assumption behind Citizens United and McCutcheon is the Calvinist notion that just because an individual has immense personal wealth that it is evidence they must have some superior moral character, self-discipline and personal responsibility to the extent that they have the greatest political wisdom for the rest of us to comply with. It excludes any consideration that the super rich got that way by being basically more ruthless, aggressive and predatory in character than the average moral person and therefore deserve to be restrained from political influence.
In concluding I would like to thank the publisher TC Daily Planet for letting me use my free speech in a way that the founders intended- speaking truth to power.