The following is an exchange between an amendment critic, Vincent Todd, a disbarred lawyer, who has defended Refinance America, Ltd, and Move to Amend activists Michael Melio and Ken Roberts over the amendment language being proposed by Move to Amend. Melio is on the steering committee of the Colorado chapter of Move to Amend, and Roberts is the editor of one of the oldest of the progressive web sites, Progressive Living. Additional comments countering Todd’s claims are added by rootchoppervst.
Arguments Against Resolution/Amendment are by Vincent Todd [VT] in block quotes.
Arguments For Resolution/Amendment are by Ken Roberts [KR], Michael Melio [MM] and rootchoppervst [RC].
[VT]: The problem with the criticism of the Supreme Court’s rational in Citizens United is that partnerships, associations and corporations are so deeply ingrained in our society that the First Amendment would be meaningless if left guaranteeing only the rights of assembly, association and expression in natural persons.
[KR]: It would not be meaningless at all because these rights are already guaranteed to the individuals who comprise, in aggregate, partnerships, associations, and corporations. Granting them again to these aggregates counts these individuals, and only these individuals, twice, which is a violation of the most fundamental principle of political democracy: one person, one vote.
[RC]: Businesses have the privilege to advertise, but it was made a “right” in Virginia Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Consumer Council . All rights that have been granted to corporations or property are based upon a fraud perpetrated by the corporatist court reporter, Bancroft Davis. “We the people” have rights, not corporations; and it does not matter how long the SCOTUS has been waging this fraudulent campaign for corporations against the American people. It must be reversed.
[VT]: Churches, Trade Unions, Political Parties, Newspapers and Television Networks all have found protection under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
[KR]: The individuals who comprise these aggregates already have protection under the First Amendment. They don’t need to be protected twice.
[RC]: This is true, and abolishing corporate rights will need to be countered in some cases with legislation that, for example, amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to — hypothetically — protect the NAACP should be be sued by the KKK to turn over their membership list. Abolishing corporate personhood will have benefits and costs, but the benefits far outweigh the costs. Where the costs are prohibitive, Congress could step in to minimize the damage the loss of rights would inflict on non-profit corporations and trade unions as described.
[Editor’s note: Restricting access to the Fourteenth Amendment for legal fictions would not have any impact on individual rights. Membership lists, for example, would still be protected by individual Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.]
[VT]: A Union Organizer may have First Amendment rights as a natural person, but if the Union has no First Amendment Right to employ the Organizer or to provide materials or sustenance to assist the Organizer, the Union would not be able to function.
[KR]: [Note: this is a divide and conquer tactic. We may want to give thought to this tactic ourselves.] The individuals who comprise the Union have every right to provide materials and sustenance to the Organizer, and union function is in no way impeded. On the other hand, unions are vastly outspent by the wealthy CEOs who arrogate to themselves the right to allocate the resources of corporations politically, when that right properly belongs only to the individual shareholders who are the proper owners of the corporation.
[Editor’s note: Since when are organizing, employment or providing materials or sustenance First Amendment rights?]
[VT]: The reporter may have the scoop of the century, but if no one exists to print it, who learns of the story.
[KR]: The proposed amendment in no way impedes the existence of a press. Indeed, by reducing the political clout of the largest media conglomerates, the door is opened to a much greater diversity of smaller and more local publications.
[MM]: It is important to frame this debate upon this foundation: that Freedom of the Press is founded upon Freedom of Speech; and that Press Freedom is therefore an extension of our Human Right to Free Speech, with the addition that we “also have the right to publish our words and ideas.”
[RC]: The freedom of the press, whether corporate or non-corporate, is protected. That is the point of Section 3 above, to carve out that one exception to corporate political expression. Corporations that are entities of the press would retain their freedom to editorialize about ballot issues and election races right up to the day of the elections under Move to Amend’s proposed amendment. This would include Fox, MSNBC and CNN, all corporations that belong to the modern “press.”
[VT]: How many hubs in the Internet, necessary to the distribution of any of the world wide web, are owned by individuals and not corporations?
[KR]: More divide and conquer. Ownership of the hubs of the internet will not be affected in any way by the proposed amendment.
[Editor’s note: Internet hubs that don’t control content have no First Amendment tripwires to trigger. Moot point.]
[VT]: If your minister has the right to free speech from his pulpit, but the Church has no right to have the pulpit in a structure where people can assemble to worship and hear from the minister, how is his pulpit protected?
[KR]: The minister’s right to free speech is already guaranteed to him. However, the reach of the minister, and indeed the reach of all of us, is largely impeded by the existence of huge media conglomerates.
[RC]: Todd is really reaching with this claim. Ending corporate personhood has absolutely nothing to do with the “establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This is not just a “divide and conquer” tactic; it’s absurd and suggests that Todd is desperate to defend his corporate clients.
[VT]: Without the First Amendment the minister can preach from a soapbox in a public park or street corner, but no association or other “corporate” entity has a guarantee that the state cannot prevent them from buying a taller or larger soapbox or even property upon which to install pews for those who wish to listen.
[KR]: For the reasons previously identified, our amendment does far more to secure the First Amendment than does the enshrinement of fictional corporate persons, whose “rights” are counted twice, and then counted again through massive political corruption. The state doesn’t buy larger soapboxes, but corporations most assuredly do.
[VT]: If your criteria is personhood, then the millionaires and billionaires may spend as much of their wealth individually to battle our message as they want, but the law could prevent us from pooling our wealth (political parties, PACs or Non-profits) to fight their agenda.
[KR]: Number of US billionaires: 412. Number of US millionaires: 3 million. Number of US corporations: 7 million (with another 25 million companies). If the millionaires and billionaires are limited in their contributions to the same levels that the rest of us can afford, the playing field would be greatly leveled, and nothing says that this can’t be done separately from this amendment.
[RC]: The whole point of Section 2 of the proposed amendment is to empower Congress to limit the amount of money that millionaires and billionaires can spend to support their agenda. Todd’s comment ignores Section 2 to claim that “your criteria is personhood.” Overturning Buckley v Valeo and Citizens United is compatible with abolishing corporate personhood. Citizens United was not decided over corporate personhood, but it well could be in the future if it is not abolished by the people using an amendment to the Constitution to attain this end. Additionally, nothing in MTA’s proposed amendment would prohibit political parties from taking in contributions, but Congress would be empowered to place all Americans, regardless of financial standing, on more or less equal footing. The point, framed in different language, is to turn back the tide toward plutocracy set off by Buckley in 1976.
[Editor’s note: Without legal personhood, Citizens United, as an association, would not have had standing as an appellant in a free speech case. It is the free speech rights granted to Citizens United, by virtue of the Court’s interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment defining legal fictions as citizens, that allowed Justice Kennedy to expand a simple case of statutory jurisdiction into a First Amendment challenge that the plaintiff’s own lawyers wouldn’t even attempt. It’s true that the majority in the decision did not rule on or in any way address legal personhood. By ignoring the question completely and simply crafting a decision that assumes legal personhood to be synonymous with citizenship, they went much, much further. Associations are no longer just artificial persons, they are now artificial citizens.]