Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney reacts to a heckler during a campaign stop at the Iowa State Fair on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011, in Des Moines.

Provoked by a grass-roots activist who refused to take spin for an answer, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney revealed his true feelings.

It’s not just conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court who think that corporations should enjoy the same protections and privileges as human beings.

Conservatives who would be president are similarly inclined to bend the intent and language of a Constitution that opens with the words “we the people” in order to make it a corporate charter.
If we needed any more confirmation of the necessity for a movement to renew the democratic promise of the American experiment, it came when Romney was confronted by members of Iowa Citizens for Community Involvement. When Romney appeared at the Iowa State Fair to pitch his candidacy for the nomination, the Iowa CCI activists demanded to know whether he was going to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Romney waffled and hoped to avoid having to give an answer. But the grass-roots activists of Iowa CCI — a multiracial, urban-and-rural group aligned with the National People’s Action movement — were not going to fall for that. They demanded to know why Romney and other politicians (of both major parties) would even consider undermining needed programs when billionaire CEOs and corporations pay little or nothing into the federal treasury.

When Romney began to ruminate on how he would not “raise taxes on people,” the Iowa activists shouted: “Corporations!”

As the crowd began to cheer on the idea of taxing corporations that enjoy the benefits of government bailouts and subsidies without — in all too many cases — giving anything back, Romney became incensed.

The former corporate CEO shouted: “Corporations are people, my friend.”

The crowd shouted: “No, they’re not!”

“Of course they are,” replied Romney.

The Republican presidential contender’s bizarre certainty that faceless corporations, many of which enjoy the benefits and protections of the United States while shuttering factories and moving jobs overseas, are somehow human drew a stinging rebuke from National People’s Action Director George Goehl, who declared: “The corporations Mr. Romney believes are filling people’s pockets are the ones who crashed our economy and hijacked our democracy.”

Of course, Romney won’t change. And neither, frankly, will a lot of the Democrats who have bought into the big-money politics that accepts the landscape outlined in the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision — which accords corporations the same political rights as citizens — as the new normal.

But there is nothing “normal” or “acceptable” about a circumstance — illustrated by the Wisconsin recall election fights, expected to see as much as $40 million in campaign spending — that makes candidates and voters electoral bystanders in a process that is bought and paid for by corporations and unaccountable special-interest groups.

“The court’s ruling in Citizens United demands that, once again, we the people use the constitutional amendment process to defend our democracy. We must press for a 28th Amendment — a People’s Rights Amendment — to restore democracy to the people and to ensure that people, not corporations, govern in America,” says John Bonifaz, director of the Free Speech for People project. “We call on all 2012 presidential candidates to make clear that corporations are not people with constitutional rights and to support the People’s Rights Amendment.”

Bonifaz is right. Romney has with his “corporations are people” comment disqualified himself from serious consideration as a contender for any position of public trust.

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