City Council Supports Resolution To Abolish Corporate Personhood

Tuesday, 21 May 2013, 9:43:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

Four days after Move to Amend held a national mobilization event to raise “public awareness regarding the issue of corporate influence on elections,” the Santa Monica City Council supported a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood. The resolution was approved Tuesday by a 5 to 1 vote.

Council member Gleam Davis was the sole vote against.

“Corporation are entirely human-made legal fictions. Corporations are not mentioned in the Constitution,” the resolution reads. “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.”

Several speakers urged the council to approve the proposed Move to Amend resolution.

“People have rights, governments have powers, and everything else in between has privileges,” Linda Pierre Avila said.

Former Santa Monica Mayor Michael Feinstein said: “Corporations, by definition, are there to maximize profits.”

Meanwhile, Davis expressed a few technical concerns with the resolution.

“The Move to Amend resolution … does not differentiate between non-profits and … for-profit corporations. It doesn’t exempt labor unions,” Davis said. “I think there may be some unintended consequences.”

Davis cited entities such as the City of Hope or Santa Monica Museum of Art, which are corporations. The abolishment of corporate personhood would strip such organizations of Constitutional protections. For example, Davis pondered whether it would actually be a good idea for a group such as the City of Hope to not be afforded protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.

“Some of our cherished institutions are non-profit corporations. I’m very concerned about limiting their rights to assert … certain rights,” Davis continued. “Just because some organization is a corporation doesn’t make it a bad institution.”

She went on to add the resolution is not necessary because the council already supported a resolution to keep corporate money out of elections.

“To the extent that the reason we’re being asked to adopt this resolution is because we want to express our opinion that corporate money should not have an undue influence on politics, I don’t disagree with that,” Davis said. “But we’ve already adopted that resolution (in January).”

At the heart of the issue is whether corporations may maintain they are extensions of people and are therefore entitled to similar Constitutionally protected rights, such as free speech.

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled corporations were not to be limited in the amount of money they expend in public elections. The ruling held money is a form of speech worthy of First Amendment protection. Limiting the amount of financing a corporation donated to a campaign effectively abridged the corporation’s First Amendment rights to free speech.

According to the Move to Amend website, May 10 was a “day of action against corporate personhood. ”

“Corporate Personhood was concocted by corporate lawyers 127 years ago. On May 10, 1886 in the Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad case, the Court is said to have given corporations their first foothold in the Constitution,” the website read.

The May 10 “day of action” fell on the 127-year anniversary of the creation of corporate personhood, according to Move to Amend.

Move to Amend activists displayed “freeway banners all across the nation” on May 10 in protest of corporate personhood.

Mayor Pam O’Connor excused herself from the council meeting prior to this agenda item being called.

Voters in the City of Los Angeles will have a chance to support the Move to Amend resolution in the upcoming May 21 election.

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