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February 17, 2012

Sen. Donoghue Cosponsors Resolution Against Citizen’s United

by at 1:14 pm.

This resolution under consideration by the state legislature, while symbolic, says in no uncertain terms that the state of Massachusetts wants the issue of the Citizen’s United ruling to be addressed by a constitutional amendment. It was introduced by Senator Eldridge, and is now also co-sponsored by our state Senator Eileen Donoghue. Thank you Senator Donoghue for doing it.

The text of the resolution:

1 WHEREAS, THE FIRST AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
2 WAS DESIGNED TO PROTECT THE FREE SPEECH RIGHTS OF PEOPLE, NOT
3 CORPORATIONS;
4 WHEREAS, FOR THE PAST THREE DECADES, A DIVIDED UNITED STATES
5 SUPREME COURT HAS TRANSFORMED THE FIRST AMENDMENT INTO A
6 POWERFUL TOOL FOR CORPORATIONS SEEKING TO EVADE AND INVALIDATE
7 DEMOCRATICALLY-ENACTED REFORMS;
8 WHEREAS, THIS CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT HAS
9 REACHED ITS EXTREME CONCLUSION IN THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT’S
10 RECENT RULING IN CITIZENS UNITED V. FEC;
11 WHEREAS, THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT’S RULING IN CITIZENS
12 UNITED V. FEC OVERTURNED LONGSTANDING PRECEDENT PROHIBITING
13 CORPORATIONS FROM SPENDING THEIR GENERAL TREASURY FUNDS IN OUR
14 ELECTIONS;
15 WHEREAS, THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT’S RULING IN CITIZENS
16 UNITED V. FEC WILL NOW UNLEASH A TORRENT OF CORPORATE MONEY IN OUR
17 POLITICAL PROCESS UNMATCHED BY ANY CAMPAIGN EXPENDITURE TOTALS IN
18 UNITED STATES HISTORY;
19 WHEREAS, THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT’S RULING IN CITIZENS
20 UNITED V. FEC PRESENTS A SERIOUS AND DIRECT THREAT TO OUR DEMOCRACY;
21 WHEREAS, THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES HAVE PREVIOUSLY USED
22 THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PROCESS TO CORRECT THOSE
23 EGREGIOUSLY WRONG DECISIONS OF THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT
24 THAT GO TO THE HEART OF OUR DEMOCRACY AND SELF-GOVERNMENT;
25 NOW BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
26 HEREBY CALLS UPON THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS TO PASS AND SEND TO
27 THE STATES FOR RATIFICATION A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO RESTORE
28 THE FIRST AMENDMENT AND FAIR ELECTIONS TO THE PEOPLE.

Ultimately, the only fix for Citizens United and the last few decades of rulings allowing the intrusion of big corporate money into our politics is a constitutional amendment. No laws that try to do anything substantial about this problem will pass muster with the current Supreme Court - they’ve made it clear that the speech of people with a lot of money is way more important than the speech of everyone else, and more important than a fair democracy free of corrupting influence.

A hearing is scheduled in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, where the bill is still under review, on February 28.

What I like about this resolution, is that with it, we will know where our state legislators stand on this very crucial issue facing our country.

PS - also posted on BMG.

PPS - here is the bill on the MA legislature website - complete with history of the bill, more current list of cosponsors, and the time and place of the hearing, which is Feb 28 at 1:00 PM in room A-2.

7 Responses to “Sen. Donoghue Cosponsors Resolution Against Citizen’s United”

  1. Christopher Says:

    It’s more than symbolic. If 2/3 of the state legislatures pass a similar amendment (not sure if there is a strict requirement for being exactly verbatim) then per Article V of the Constitution, Congress is required to call a convention to consider such an amendment. If adopted by said convention it must then be sent to the state legislatures or state conventions (whichever Congress provides in the enabling legislation for calling the national convention) and if 3/4 of them approve it becomes part of the Constitution. I mentioned this to Senator Eldridge recently and I interpreted his response to indicate that this was in fact his goal.

  2. joe from Lowell Says:

    It all goes back the Supreme Court deciding - and not even actually issuing a decision, just suddenly, one day, behaving as if - corporations are legal persons with the rights of persons.

    This doctrine is inherently corrosive to our democracy and society. People are “endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights,” a quite explicit claim that rights are not bestowed by government or by human actions, but by a higher authority that human beings and their institutions cannot rightly interfere with. But corporations are created by human beings, and more specifically, by government. To say that corporations have rights is to say that government grants rights.

  3. Lynne Says:

    Precedent on corporate personhood, unfortunately, as I understand it, goes back over 100 years…

    Corporate free speech goes back to a 1980s ruling.

    The Mr. knows more about it than me.

  4. Lynne Says:

    Oh, and good point, Christopher!

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Eliot Spitzer - “We’ll know when a corporation achieves personhood when Texas executes one of them”

  6. C R Krieger Says:

    A Constitutional Convention is not necessarily a good thing.&nbsp We had one a whle back that took upon itself to change our whole frame of Government.

    And, before we strip corporations of personhood, we ought to have some idea of what replaces it, given that is the flow of law at many levels.&nbsp For example, on what basis does a corporation enter into a contract?&nbsp Doesn’t it have to be an entity of some sort?

    Regards  —  Cliff

  7. Lynne Says:

    I do agree with that, in so far as the corporation *is* a legal entity in so far as it can own property, has legal obligations, etc. And that is obviously something that we need to preserve. Though I would like to redefine the use of LLCs by corporations - that sort of entity was NOT intended for use by big business to foist debt for mergers off its books and prevent the corporation from having to deal with any fallout from failed mergers or partnerships…soooo not “free market”…but I digress.

    However, the SCOTUS rulings that corporations are people (100 years ago) and the 1980s ruling on money being equal to speech, those two in conjunction created the precedent for Citizens United, and the 1980s ruling must be overturned for the sake of preserving our democracy, and the 100+ year old ruling must be modified, and the only way this will happen is by amendment. Trust me, I think the corporations have enough clout to at a minimum ensure their continued existence as legal entities in that process.

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