Steven Rosenfeld

November 28, 2011

Across the country, momentum has been building for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution declaring that the democratic rights and freedoms granted to people do not apply to corporations and corporate entities.

In November alone, local voters in ColoradoMontanaMaineWisconsin and California passed various resolutions to ban corporate personhood. Seven bills have been introduced in the current Congress, including four this month—including amendment proposals. Public interest groups have been gathering petition signatures, all with an eye to the two-year anniversary of a Supreme Court ruling, known as Citizens United, which granted significant new political powers to corporations by ending a century-old prohibition on directly spending money from their corporate treasuries for political campaigns.

A constitutional amendment proposed by Congress must pass House and Senate chambers with two-thirds majorities and then be ratified by three-fourths of the states. The last amendment, passed in 1992, concerned congressional pay and was proposed in 1789. The 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18, passed in 1971, after tens of thousands of youths that age died in Vietnam but could not vote. Though the political equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest, supporters of an amendment to reverse or reign in corporate constitutional rights are not deterred.

“We are facing a crisis in American democracy today,” said John Bonifaz, co-founder and director of Free Speech for People, who has been involved with various proposals in Congress. “The question is whether it is ‘We the people’ or ‘We the corporations.’ The response to that crisis has to be a bold vision that will restore democracy to the people. Constitutional amendment fights are the very kind of fights that return us to the basic principles of what we are as a nation.”

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