On the anniversary of the Citizens United decision, Vermont politicians are moving to deny corporations the rights that humans enjoy.
A year ago today, the Supreme Court issued its bizarre Citizens United decision, allowing unlimited corporate spending in elections as a form of "free speech" for the corporate "person." Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the dissent, had the task of recalling the majority to planet earth and basic common sense.
"Corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires," wrote Stevens. "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."
Fortunately, movements are afoot to reverse a century of accumulated powers and protections granted to corporations by wacky judicial decisions.
In Vermont, state senator Virginia Lyons on Friday presented an anti-corporate personhood resolution for passage in the Vermont legislature. The resolution, the first of its kind, proposes "an amendment to the United States Constitution ... which provides that corporations are not persons under the laws of the United States." Sources in the state house say it has a good chance of passing. This same body of lawmakers, after all, once voted to impeach George W. Bush, and is known for its anti-corporate legislation. Last year the Vermont senate became the first state legislature to weigh in on the future of a nuclear power plant, voting to shut down a poison-leeching plant run by Entergy Inc. Lyons' Senate voted
26-4 to do it, demonstrating the level of political will of the state's politicians to stand up to corporate power.
The language in the Lyons resolution is unabashed. "The profits and institutional survival of large corporations are often in direct conflict with the essential needs and rights of human beings," it states, noting that corporations "have used their so-called rights to successfully seek the judicial reversal of democratically enacted laws."
Thus the unfolding of the obvious: "democratically elected governments" are rendered "ineffective in protecting their citizens against corporate harm to the environment, health, workers, independent business, and local and regional economies." The resolution goes on to note that "large corporations own most of America's mass media and employ those media to loudly express the corporate political agenda and to convince Americans that the primary role of human beings is that of consumer rather than sovereign citizens with democratic rights and responsibilities."