Los Angeles has become the largest city to come out against Citizens United. Last week, the City Council unanimously voted to approve a motion against corporate personhood and the decision loosening restrictions on corporate campaign donations.
The motion calls for an amendment to the Constitution establishing that only living persons, and not corporate “persons”, are endowed with constitutional rights. Put together by the national coalition, “Move to Amend,” the resolution looks to highlight legal precedent, citing Justice Hugo Black’s 1938 dissenting opinion in Connecticut General Life Insurance Company v. Johnson, in which he stated “I do not believe the word ‘person’ in the Fourteenth Amendment includes corporations.”
The resolution also argues that the Citizens United decision overstepped 10th Amendment boundaries and in regulating nationwide election activity “supersedes state and local efforts to regulate corporate activity in their elections.”
While overturning Citizens United is certainly the primary aim of this new movement, part of the argument that needs to be made against last year’s decision is that money cannot be categorized as speech. As Sam Favate pithily pointed out in his Wall Street Journal piece: “If money equals speech, what does no money equal?” So, Move to Amend is also looking to overturn the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision. n this case, the court ruled to uphold federal limits on campaign contributions, but it also held that spending money to influence elections is a form on constitutionally protected free speech.
Move to Amend is targeting corporate personhood and campaign contributions from a grass roots, city-by-city method of attack. The strategy is to pass community resolutions across the nation through city councils and through direct vote by ballot initiative. As outlined in the resolution: “Our goal is for 50 towns and cities to put Move to Amend’s resolution on the ballot for the Presidential election in November, 2012.” Los Angeles was a big victory — the question now is who else will follow.
With highly political cases before the Supreme Court, galvanizing primaries for the Republican Party, the influence of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, and the first outing for Citizens United in a national election, what an election season this is heating up to be.
- LA City Council to Vote on Citizens United Declaration (blogs.wsj.com)
- Los Angeles City Council Votes Unanimously: It’s WE the PEOPLE (dailykos.com)
- The Road to Citizens United (legallyeasy.rocketlawyer.com)