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The Citizens United petition for a constitutional amendment to limit free speech by dissolving corporate personage is perhaps the most worrisome things heard at Town Meeting day in a while. It is worrisome in that some in our great nation, only a small group, do not understand the Constitution nor the heritage of this great nation we live in. Nor do they seem to understand the concepts of what a business or corporations are. Or the Citizens United case.
The case originated when Citizens United, a corporation, wanted to air a political documentary about Hillary Clinton within 30 days of the Democratic primary – prohibited by law. They wanted the court to enable them to do this with a preemptory injunction against the FEC. In essence, CU wanted to bypass election law.
However, this brought into question at the Supreme Court all aspects of the election laws, from free speech, corporate and union spending and the relative distinction between profit and nonprofit corporations.
This new petition initiative is an attempt to undo the Supreme Court ruling rising from CU’s attempt to bypass election law.
It is a veiled attempt to stifle one political view to give the other an advantage. Truly sad! Freedom of speech in its inception by the framers of the Constitution was to guarantee all the right of political speech. Starting to deny one group this freedom can only have dire consequences in the future.
But the issue of corporate personage is not merely to suppress free speech, it is also to dissolve the 14th Amendment, the right to due process.
As I said at the Town Meeting, which corporations would be affected and lose their personage and constitutional rights? The petition stated “corporations.” Does that mean all businesses, including the private interest groups like VPRIG, the Vermont Legal Defense Fund, the Sierra Club, etc., which are corporations, would lose their voice? But the petition speaks nothing of unions. All businesses would be subject to the capricious and arbitrary whims of governments. And clearly that would hinge on what party was in power at the time.
What makes it worrisome is that these individuals are not against all corporations, it is just the ones they don’t like. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wants the constitutional amendment to only limit personage to “for profit” corporations and not unions.
Would that mean Hollywood corporations would be forbidden from making movies with political content? Would all news corporations be banned from commenting on political issues? After all they are spending money to push a political view.
Again, I guess it would depend on the party in power as to what part of the law would be enforced and against whom?
The reasons I heard of in regard to stripping corporations of their personage and their 1st and 14th Amendment rights were that big money from big business runs the country, or words to that effect. Big business money controls the elections. Let’s look at these statements about big business and their power of money.
I would ask, if big business money did control the country, would the following be true?
Would Barack Obama have gotten elected?
Would the EPA run roughshod over business?
Would there be an OSHA or Civil Rights Commission that sues companies for millions upon millions each year?
I am not arguing the merits of these organizations; I am pointing out that if the all-powerful businesses were that powerful they wouldn’t permit these types of government organizations to interfere with their businesses.
If the issue was purely about money controlling the elections then one would have to consider all forms of massive wealth in the amendment. It would have to prohibit trust funds, charities, private interest groups, union funds and their “in kind” contributions and personal wealth.
We have guys like Corzine, Lautenberg, Bloomberg, Sanders and Soros who have enough wealth to make it difficult to compete against in an election. Foundations like the Ford Foundation and unions like the United Auto Workers and the AFT, etc., that have enormous wealth to control an election. In fact the Auto Workers said they spent $30MM to elect Obama.
Just look what is happening in Wisconsin with union wealth. They want to stop a governor who is trying to control out-of-control spending for the state and its municipalities. Again, I am not arguing the merits of either side but pointing out the fact that union wealth and spending can or attempt to control a government. Just look at Europe.
The 1st and 14th Amendments protect us from tyranny. Erosion of these basic protections as proposed by the Citizens United movement for political benefit is similar to what occurred in Europe in the 1930 and 1940s.
If we look at a business, whether a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, 501c, or “C” corporation, we see that they are nothing more than an individual or collection of individuals, who have constitutional rights individually, that have banned together to conduct a business for whatever purpose. One would ask, why are their 501c corporations?
It is hard for me to see the difference between a “non” or “not for profit” company and a “for profit” company. They are groups of individuals that are bound together by a legal document for a common purpose. It would seem natural that the collection of individuals would have the same rights in a group as they would singularly.
The courts have ruled on the issue of corporate personage since the early 1800s. Each time it was to protect a group of individuals from overstepping and capricious behavior of government. In fact one of the earliest Supreme Court cases involving personage was here in Vermont Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts v. Town of Pawlet (1823).
This petition is a poorly hidden attempt to stifle opposition to a peculiar political ideology veiled in obvious specious reasoning with some makeshift patriotic overtones. Clearly they are not speaking about American values or ideology.
Bifano lives in Warren.