Rally Calls for Santa Barbara City Council to Oppose ‘Corporate Personhood’
Activists decry influence of money in politics, push constitutional amendment barring corporate campaign contributions
Organizers of Saturday’s rally at Paseo Nuevo hope to convince the Santa Barbara City Council to push for a constitutional amendment to keep corporate money out of political campaigns. (Patrick Kulp / Noozhawk photo)
Activists gathered in front of Paseo Nuevo in downtown Santa Barbara on Saturday afternoon for a rally calling on the City Council to pass a resolution in support of a U.S. constitutional amendment to end “corporate personhood” — a legal doctrine that grants corporations many of the same constitutional rights as individual citizens.
The Santa Barbara chapter of Progressive Democrats of America hosted the rally as part of a nationwide movement called Move to Amend. Participants solicited signatures for the petition, handed out informational fliers and waved handmade signs for passing cars and pedestrians.
Ending corporate personhood would effectively invalidate the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in which it ruled that corporate campaign donations are a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment and therefore, cannot be regulated.
Event organizer and PDSB chairwoman Lois Hamilton said the unchecked power that corporations have to contribute large sums of money to political candidates has given them a huge amount of influence over the electoral system.
“We do not believe corporations are people and we do not believe their money equals speech protected by the First Amendment,” she said. “We want corporate money out of our elections. We want the people of this country to choose their representatives, not corporations.”
According to Hamilton, the group had 500 signatures on the petition going into the event and hopes to have at least 1,000 by the time they take it before the City Council next month. City Council members Grant House and Cathy Murillo have signed the petition, and Murillo attended the rally to show her support.
“I’m giving my effort as an individual, and to me, that’s a lot,” said the first-term council member. “I don’t go out on a limb on noncity stuff very often so this is a big deal for me to be out here. I’m not ready to start blasting the U.S. Supreme Court, but I do support this local grassroots movement.”
Rally organizer Lois Hamilton, left, with Santa Barbara City Councilwoman Cathy Murillo, says she wants “the people of this country to choose their representatives, not corporations.” (Patrick Kulp / Noozhawk photo)
Several California cities — including Ojai, Ventura, Los Angeles and San Francisco — have passed similar resolutions along with six states, including California. There are also numerous bills being considered in Congress in support of campaign finance reform, one of which is backed by Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.
PDSB member Michael Merenda said the group chose the Paseo Nuevo location because its heavy foot traffic allowed them to reach a maximum amount of people and make themselves as visible as possible.
“It’s a high-energy spot with a lot of people coming and going,” Merenda said. “There were group members who were worried about the police and I said, ‘No, no, no, don’t worry, many of the members are 70 and 80. They are not going to get too rowdy.’ Most of these people are retired professionals.”
Santa Barbara resident Antonia Robertson, who is co-chairwoman of the Move to Amend Santa Barbara affiliate, said the most important objective of the rally is to educate and make citizens aware that this is an issue.
“It’s amazing how many people do not connect the dots between Citizens United and super PACs,” she said. “A lot of the mission here is to educate. We’re not normally activists but this issue talked to us at some gut level, and we said, ‘Oh, my god, what kind of country will our kids inherit?’”
The Move to Amend effort aims to garner enough support from local and state governments to compel Congress to consider the amendment. Proposing a constitutional amendment would require a two-thirds majority vote from the House of Representatives and the Senate or a constitutional convention called by two-thirds of state legislatures.
“It’s a huge battle we have ahead of us, and it’s not going to be won overnight,” Hamilton said.
on 08.19.12 @ 03:15 AM
So tell me progressive democrats of Santa Barbara, do you feel the same about unions? The California teachers union and the public service unions spent nearly 3 quarters of a billion dollars on political campaigns the last election cycle in this state, 4 times what corporation spent.
In fact aren’t unions your biggest backers and the biggest opponents of the Citizens United law?
on 08.19.12 @ 03:24 AM
Um, waste of time. They could be doing something that is actually productive.
on 08.19.12 @ 07:27 AM
Professor, there you go with the tit for tat that you constantly bemoan. While I agree that union money is equally corrosive to our politcal well being, it is the secrecy that the Citizens United ruling promotes that should concern you.
Then again, you Tea Party tpes never have been too concerned about where the dirty money comes from.
on 08.19.12 @ 08:03 AM
Unions are bigger contributors than corporations.
ANd this is not a city council’s turf. They should stick to the local stuff and not waste time on meaningless resolutions.
on 08.19.12 @ 09:38 AM
IF YOU ADD UNIONS TO THE PETITION,I WOULD SIGN IT. JAJW
on 08.19.12 @ 10:54 AM
An50, Right on.
If a restriction is passed that applies to corporations it has to include unions to keep the field level.
on 08.19.12 @ 01:36 PM
Yes, this is really terrible that people who earn typically $45K a year can form a union together and pool their resources to support candidates and issues they prefer.
Our democracy is so much better with large foreign corporations and secret billionaires paying individually tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to support Republicans.
on 08.19.12 @ 01:37 PM
Such a total waste of time. While I may agree that rallying behind something you believe in, our City Council should not be bothered with this crap…instead they should focus ALL energy on our own City. period. This is NOT a local issue.. I don’t care if our City Council opposes corporate politics or even the war in the middle east.. their role is to govern locally not deal with frivolous national feelgood crap.
on 08.19.12 @ 03:13 PM
There is much more corporate money out there than union money, it’s not even close. Plus as John_Adams says, union political contributions represent lots of people with similar interests. Corporations can easily outspend unions based on the decision of just a handful of people (e.g. a CEO or a board of directors).
on 08.19.12 @ 03:16 PM
More union bashing, to avoid dealing with this problem… typical.
If the corporation is legally equivalent to the individual, then perhaps it should have not only the same rights, but the same responsibilities as the individual. For starters, individuals (generally) are not permitted to marry until the age of 16. To avoid duplicity, corporate mergers should be prohibited until each party has been trading for at least 16 years. Persons who unlawfully cause death can be jailed for life (or in some instances, executed). In the interest of fairness, corporations which cause death by unlawful activities should lose their business license for life.
I could go on ad nauseam, but I hope people get the point as regards responsibility. Considerings that conservatives and the right love to wield the “personal responsibility” card, they should be in full agreement with this.
on 08.19.12 @ 04:43 PM
If you want to be inclusive, then be inclusive. Get MONEY out of politics. Public campaign financing. No influence buying by unions, corporations, rich individuals, or anyone else. Perhaps we could elect qualified candidates that weren’t beholden to anyone? If you’re going to solve the problem, solve the root of the problem, not the latest symptom. I’d recommend checking out RootStriker on the internet.
on 08.19.12 @ 04:48 PM
I’ll bet that none of those protestors know the reason that “corporate personhood” was established in the first place.
on 08.19.12 @ 05:24 PM
you’re wrong, arroyo, the LA Times a week or so published an article with numbers: unions donations much higher than corp.
on 08.20.12 @ 02:47 AM
Why is it that Progressives fight Corporations but support them with their purchases.
Every dollar spent is a vote that they have wasted because they do not select the corporations that support their views.
on 08.20.12 @ 09:00 AM
Becky wins best comment award on this thread.
on 08.20.12 @ 12:03 PM
i recommend using corporations and companies to run state, county and city services and projects, without union influence. Privatize!
on 08.20.12 @ 12:44 PM
Very accurate reporting. Thank you NOOZHAWK for covering our heartfelt campaign to return our DEMOCRACY to the people. Corporate Super PAC money has no business in our political process! It has transformed our candidates’ missions into having to constantly raise money rather than doing the job they were elected to do. To join our local movement please go to the website at http://www.MovetoAmend.org. THANKS TO ALL THE GRASSROOTS ACTIVISTS WHO SHOWED UP AND SPOKE OUT!
on 08.20.12 @ 03:59 PM
CAProgressive, how much union money have you taken? How do you explain away the enormous amount of money public service unions spend on campaigns compared to corporations (4x)? Why are union funds never included in the “progressive” attacks on campaign financing. How do you explain the confiscation of union dues for union management supported campaigns, against the wishes of union members? Why are union management decisions about how union member’s dues are spent, kept secret from members (that’s for you Willie)?
We see a lot of crap from the left against corporations, which is mostly a ruse to divert from the real purpose which of course is a government controlled economy (socialism). I got news for you dopy progressives, it’s not the organization that’s the problem it’s the size. If you hate big business you ought to hate big government all the more, along with your big enormous public service unions, for there is little difference between them, except the government has a lot more guns and the unions are better at stealing your wages.
on 08.20.12 @ 08:26 PM
Yup Professor , I am against union money buying elections too. Said as much when I praised Becky’s post above. That said , I also agree with John Adams comment above that folks making $45,000 banding together on isssues affecting them is not quite as sinister as your sainted brothers Koch and their dirty money. They steer your TeaBircher party and all you fools can do is genuflect before them in servile ignorance.
on 08.21.12 @ 01:30 PM
Unions would also be banned from contributing under the proposed Constitutional amendment - I am working with this group, and I know all the details. Money is not and should not be considered “speech” in the context of political campaigns.
I support unions but it would be a small price to pay to ban union money if we can get transnational corporate money out of our city, state, and Federal governments. We are losing control of our own country because of these Supreme Court decisions. Corporations have no loyalty to any country, and they see the United States as just one more country to exploit.
on 08.21.12 @ 02:35 PM
Last election the California Teachers Union spent $300m. Public service unions nearly that much. Small price you say? My God man you are either repugnantly naïve or devious beyond belief. The public unions in this state are far more powerful than private corporations. They are not going to give that up without a fight. How in the world can you liberals, progressives and leftists be so adamantly opposed to big corporations and not see the equally dangerous and corrupting influence of these big money unions? Or huge bloated governments for that matter?
on 08.21.12 @ 04:06 PM
The Constitutional amendment would apply nationally, not just to California. Unions are relatively powerful in this state but nationally they are not. I work with this amendment group and believe me we have already gotten push-back from Democratic unions. I tell them they are protecting a relatively minor turf and they have to stop being small-minded and look at the larger picture. Some of them do see the light.
Corporations are world-wide and they write the rules for international trade agreements. Those agreements like NAFTA override Federal and state laws. Corporations give politicians jobs when they leave office, pay for universities that train pro-corporate lawyers and judges, create foundations that distribute propaganda through the corporate media. They use politicians to control the economy via giveaways like military contracts, farm bills, and increasingly privatized services. Transnational corporations ARE the big government that runs our lives. Of the 100 largest economic entities in the world 49 are countries and 51 are corporations - that’s how big they are now. I am pro-business and pro small business (I own a small business myself) but these giant businesses are in a league of their own.
on 08.21.12 @ 06:04 PM
Fair enough Bill. I too am pro small business as well as small government. Keep in mind though; private business is beholden to the market. They can buy a senator of a congressmen or a small government, but they cannot buy you. The power you have in your wallet is phenomenal. Most companies, even very large ones understand this, which is why they spend so much on advertising.
Thus, a country, with as free a market as it can have, distributes power far better than any system of laws or political entities and they are not backed by military force like a government. The problem we have is we try to control large private entities by restricting the very thing that makes small private entities successful, the market place.
BTW – if you are getting blow back from unions then you are probably on the right track.
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