Free Speech For People works to support and develop legislation that provides innovative and thoughtful solutions to particular issues of campaign finance and corporate power, such as a federal bill that would impose a moratorium on political spending by corporate felons, and a model state law for revoking the charters of repeat corporate offenders.
Recent Legislation Support
- Free Speech For People drafted a Massachusetts state bill, which was favorably reported by the legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary, to prevent business corporations from claiming religious exemptions from anti-discrimination law.
- Free Speech For People drafted and fought for a city ordinance, recently passed by the city of St. Petersburg, Florida, to abolish super PACs and ban foreign-influenced corporations from spending in local elections. The ordinance is the first of its kind, and was passed by the St. Petersburg city council after a 6-2 vote on October 5, 2017.
- Free Speech For People recently provided support and co-wrote a bill with Representative Keith Ellison’s (MN) office to limit corporate felons’ ability to influence elections. The bill is an important step forward in keeping corporations out of our elections — especially corporate felons.
- Free Speech For People drafted model legislation in support of a Model Corporate Charter Revocation Act to hold corporate criminals accountable. This model act would grant citizens (and shareholders) the same authority as the state attorney general to bring forward legal action to revoke a corporate charter granted by the state if the corporation has repeatedly violated the law.
Our St. Petersburg ordinance to end super pacs & ban foreign-influenced corporations from city elections
On October 5, 2017, the St. Petersburg City Council voted 6-2 to enact our ordinance to abolish super PACs and ban foreign corporate money in local elections. City councilwoman Darden Rice introduced the bill, and Free Speech For People, alongside American Promise-Tampa Bay, the League of Women Voters of St. Petersburg, and other allies organized in support of this ordinance. This is a key victory.
The ordinance requires corporations that spend money in St. Petersburg elections to certify they are not foreign-influenced, or owned in whole or a significant part by foreign entities. The ordinance also establishes limits on contributions to political action committees, thereby abolishing super PACs in local elections. To learn more about the ordinance, click here.
Our Corporate Charter Reform
Corporations are created by state law when the state government issues a corporate charter, which provides special benefits not available to citizens. In general, grant of these privileges through a corporate charter serves the public interest because corporations promote economic growth.
But in virtually every state, corporate charters are conditioned on good behavior. Some corporations abuse their privileges by repeated violations of the law. For this reason, state laws have long authorized state officials to revoke the charters of corporations that exceed or abuse their legal authority. Our Model Corporate Charter Act does not change the procedures of state officials to revoke a corporate charter — only who can bring action in the first place.
Our Initiative to revoke Massey Energy’s Corporate Charter
Corporate charters are granted by states to serve a public interest. In exchange for benefits such as limited liability and perpetual life, corporations are required to comply with the law and public policy. In virtually every state, including Delaware, where Massey Energy is incorporated, corporate charters are conditioned on good behavior. Massey Energy Company is a corporation that has engaged in repeated and sustained violations of law, contributing to the deaths of people in central Appalachia and to the destruction and devastation of our environment and communities. The Report of the Governor’s Independent Investigation Panel (the “Report”) concerning the April 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine explosion and deaths describes in more than 100 pages how Massey repeatedly placed profits ahead of worker safety and compliance with the law, and has a long history of criminal and civil violations of law. In the past, states have revoked corporate charters, but the law has been neglected in recent years. Charter revocation is a means use the traditional powers and duties of the states to hold corporations accountable.