Pixel Tracker 5

Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 1:47 pm | Fair 70º


Sen. Jackson Joins Local Discussion of National Effort to Overturn Citizens United Case

Are corporations people? Is money a form of speech? The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled yes on both counts, most notably in the Citizens United case of 2010. Yet some Americans find these ideas absurd if not appalling.

The result of the ruling has been hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising by corporations to advance everything from climate change denial to corporate-friendly candidates.

On Sunday afternoon, the Faulkner Gallery of the Santa Barbara Central Library was filled to capacity as people learned about the case, the history and what is to be done. Our state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson was one speaker, and the main speaker was David Cobb, national spokesman for Move to Amend, which seeks to overturn Citizens United.

Sen. Jackson reminded us that starting in 1949, the Fairness Doctrine guaranteed balanced access to broadcast media for a spectrum of views. President Ronald Reagan eliminated this requirement, which meant that more money could buy more access for one side with no guarantee of any access for other sides at all.

Cobb spoke with the cool logic and facts of a lawyer combined with the passion of a preacher’s grandson — starting with the history of corporations in America.

Each of the 13 original colonies was a corporation. So was the East India Tea Company that sparked the famous Boston Tea Party. Capturing and enslaving African people was a corporate venture. President Thomas Jefferson railed against the “aristocracy of our moneyed corporations.”

As a result, early American corporations had to serve a specific public interest. Their creation required legislative approval similar to passing a bill into law. Their “limited liability” could last only seven years. If they acted outside the stated public interest, even legally, their corporate charter could be revoked.

“Name one Fortune 500 company today that could exist by that rule,” Cobb challenged the audience.

In contrast, current corporations are formed by filling in a form and paying a fee, and they go on forever.

Cobb reminded the audience of the power held by the people if they remember to use it. The Constitution begins. “We The People.” It grants rights and authority (sovereignty) to the people while imposing duties on the government. The government should fear the people not vice versa.

And corporations in strict legal terms are a “legal fiction.” In the words of dissenting Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, “… corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their ‘personhood’ often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of ‘We the People’ by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.”

So, what is to be done? In principle, Move to Amend is about amending the Constitution to declare that “money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.”

However, Cobb argued that legal change usually follows cultural and social change. Building a movement must precede such action. Move to Amend has started by organizing cities, counties and states to pass resolutions calling for this legal change; 300,000 people have participated so far, and 500 resolutions have been passed around the country.

He says we should aim for 10 times those numbers before we reach the tipping point, where we might change the Constitution and/or expect the court to reverse itself.

Cobb travels the country nonstop and is pleased that this is not a partisan issue. Tea Party people and Occupy people alike recognize that people need to regain their power over corporations and government.

It starts right here with proposed resolutions in the city and the county of Santa Barbara and in the state of California. According to Cobb, the people can and will prevail.

Robert Bernstein is a local photographer and frequent Noozhawk contributor.


Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.