REAL Democracy History Calendar – April 24 – 30

April 24

1936 – Death of Finley Peter Dunne (Mr. Dooley), humorist and writer

“I niver knew a pollytician to go wrong ontil he’s been contaminated by contact with a business man.”

April 25

2000 – Point Arenas CA becomes first modern-day community in nation to pass resolution challenging corporate personhood 

“• Whereas, the Citizens of the City of Point Arena hope to nurture and expand democracy in our community and our nation; and

• Whereas, democracy means governance by the people and only natural persons should be able to participate in the democratic process; and

• Whereas, interference in the democratic process by corporations frequently usurps the rights of citizens to govern; and

• Whereas, corporations are artificial entities separate and apart from natural persons, are not naturally endowed with consciousness or the rights of natural persons, are creations of law and are only permitted to do what is authorized under law; and

• Whereas, rejecting the concept of corporate personhood will advance meaningful campaign finance reform.

• Now, therefore, be it resolved that: the City Council of the City of Point Arena agrees with Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in a 1938 opinion in which he stated, “I do not believe the word ‘person’ in the Fourteenth Amendment includes corporations;” and

Be it further resolved that the City of Point Arena shall encourage public discussion on the role of corporations in public life and urge other cities to foster similar public discussion.”

Jan Edwards and others promoted the resolution campaign with the Redwood Coast Alliance for Democracy

April 26

1978 – First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti – corporations win right to spend money in elections

Corporations win the First Amendment “free speech” right to spend money influencing ballot measures. The Supreme Court ruling (435 U.S. 765, 822) threw out a Massachusetts law and nullified the laws of thirty states that had adopted similar legislation prohibiting corporate spending to influence ballot issues. Dissent by Justices White, Brennan, Marshall: “Corporations are artificial entities created by law for the purpose of furthering certain economic ends…It has long been recognized…that the special status of corporations has placed them in a position to control vast amounts of economic power which may, if not regulated, dominate not only our economy but the very heart of our democracy, the electoral process…The state need not allow its own creation to consume it.” Rehnquist also dissented: “The blessings of perpetual life and limited liability…so beneficial in the economic sphere, pose special dangers in the political sphere.”

This ruling coupled with Buckley v. Valeo is used to deny democratic attempts by We the People to remove corporate money from politics.

April 27

1964 – President Lyndon Johnson on helping business corporations

“We haven’t done anything for business this week — but it is only Monday morning.”

— speech to U.S. Chamber of Commerce

2009 – Comment by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin – banks own Congress

“And the banks — hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.”

What was a refreshing bit of true reality in 2009 is even truer today. The finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector tops all sectors in political campaign contributions (or are they investments?) to Washington politicians. The return on their investments are substantial – no indictments of top bankers responsible for the 2008 sub-prime crisis and financial implosion, bailouts galore…and, of course the continuation of the license to print debt money that is loaned to the US – at interest.

April 28

1890 – Leisy v. Hardin [135 U.S. 100, 128] Supreme Court decision – federal Commerce Clause overrules state law protecting citizens. 

The Court ruled that the laws of Iowa prohibiting in-state sales of out-of-state produced alcohol were unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause. The state argued that the state had the right to bar sales under the “police powers” of Iowa that charges the state with protecting the life, health and welfare of its citizens. The Court disagreed.

In his dissent, Justice Gray stated:

“The police power includes all measures for the protection of the life, the health, the property and the welfare of the inhabitants, and for the promotion of good order and the public morals. It covers the suppression of nuisances, whether injurious to the public health, like unwholesome trades, or to the public morals, like gambling houses and lottery tickets.

This power, being essential to the maintenance of the authority of local government, and to the safety and welfare of the people, is inalienable. As was said by Chief Justice Waite, referring to earlier decisions to the same effect, ‘No legislature can bargain away the public health or the public morals. The people themselves cannot do it, much less their servants. The supervision of both these subjects of governmental power is continuing in its nature, and they are to be dealt with as the special exigencies of the moment may require. Government is organized with a view to their preservation, and cannot divest itself of the power to provide for them.’”

1915 – Founding of the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF)

As part of the WILPF’s ‘”Challenge Corporate Power, Assert the People’s Rights” national campaign in the early 2000’s, study materials were developed and six-session study groups were formed across the country to “explore the history and roots of corporate power, examine global corporatization, decolonize our minds, and participate in democratic conversation.”

April 29

2015 – We the People Amendment, HJR 48, introduced in US House of Representatives 

“Section 1. [Artificial Entities Such as Corporations Do Not Have Constitutional Rights]

The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.

Artificial entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.

The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.

Section 2. [Money is Not Free Speech]

Federal, State, and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of their money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.

Federal, State, and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.

The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.”

Richard Nolan (D-MN) was the primary sponsor and the resolution currently has 14 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.

April 30

2011 – Washington State Democratic Party passes “Amending the U.S. Constitution to Reserve Constitutional Rights for People, not Corporations” resolution

The resolution calls on the state legislature to pass a resolution urging Congress “to pass and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to establish that a corporation shall not be considered a person eligible for rights accorded to human beings under the U.S. Constitution.” The resolution also declares “the use of money to influence elections or the acts of public officials shall not be considered a protected form of speech.”

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