WILPF/MTA collaboration promotes end to corporate rule.
As the nation waited in early January 2010 for the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court's latest lock-step departure from representing the common good in favor of corporate greed, Move To Amend (MTA) rolled out its long-anticipated web site and petition to "Amend the Constitution and End Corporate Rule."
Anticipating the Court's decision, a small group of concerned organizations banded together as early as the summer of 2009 to found MTA and ready a web site to launch when the decision was announced. Those organizations, including Liberty Tree, POCLAD, Democracy Unlimited, The Center for Media and Democracy, and Ultimate Civics, began seeking endorsements and signers, and approached WILPF to join their Steering Committee, based on the 15+ years of ground-breaking work WILPF had accomplished on this issue through the Corporations v. Democracy (CvD) Campaign and Issue Committee.
In the 1980s, some of WILPF's most brilliant members, including Mary Zepernick, Jan Edwards, Molly Morgan, and Virginia Rasmussen, created a powerful, multi-session study course that presented the facts from both an historical and political point of view. The still timely and easy-to-use down load course on the WILPF website (www.wilpf.org/cvd), proves incontrovertibly that from our nation' s founding, "democracy" was an elusive dream, and never a particular goal of our founding fathers (the white m ale property owners who comprised only 10 percent of the colonial population and whose true aim was to protect their own wealth and property rather than create a true democracy).
The course dramatically demonstrates the ways in which corporations gained power over "We The People" through ill-gotten Constitutional rights in a string of historical giveaway decisions by the Supreme Court.
It was fitting, then, that WILPF took its place on the MTA Steering Committee. MTA was on the same page for targeting corporate personhood as a legal fiction that must be reversed. The CvD Leadership Team set about to engage WILPF branches in this timely and critical issue.
For the next year and a half, MTA grew, and so did its ability to reach out effectively. More than 121,000 signatures (and counting!) were collected in an online petition at an excellent web site (www.MoveToAmend.org). Independence Day 2010 saw the beginning of actions around the country, revealing widespread distrust of the Citizens United decision by both sides of the political spectrum and demanding an end to corporate rule.
Last summer, we followed the march of The Monahan Brothers (Laird and Robin) across America--from California to D.C.--which focused national attention on the issue of corporate personhood.
Last December, we urged folks to mark the First Anniversary of the fateful Citizens United decision. MTA speakers made tireless stops across the nation to plant seeds and nurture new affiliate MTA groups. WILPF's CvD committee encouraged members and branches to further support the movement to end corporate rule, with actions to:
* Break with big banks in favor of local credit unions or community banks;
* Protest against predatory lending practices in local communities;
* Support local businesses and local sustainable food movements;
* Identify large corporations in your area that receive tax credits but pay no taxes;
* Form or nurture MTA affiliates;
* Use the Challenge Corporate Power Study Course in your communities even if you have run it before; and
* Collaborate with other strong area groups, including unions, environmentalists, peace groups, food security, predatory lending and foreclosure activists, and healthcare reformers to promote Move To Amend and pro-democracy actions.
Last year, WILPF members Jim and Tomi Allison of Bloomingdale, Indiana did superb research on the 1886 Supreme Court Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad case, which enshrined the illegitimate concept of corporate personhood as law. The Allisons' 30-page scholarly research paper showed that Justice Morrison Remick Waite had never heard arguments about corporate personhood during the case. Only the disreputable header notes of the former railroad executive serving as Waite's Court Clerk asserted the constitutional rights of personhood for corporations. They also demonstrated that Waite and the other justices who decided railroad cases during that era were guilty of corruption. In early 2011, this paper was turned into a highly entertaining play, titled The Prosecution of Justice Waite. Performances were staged in Iowa and at the WILPF National Congress in North Carolina. The play's script and a PowerPoint version are available to WILPF branches that wish to produce the play in their region (contact email@example.com).
MTA has proven itself to be well ahead of the curve with journalists, bloggers, and other activists who took up the call for an end to corporate personhood rights. Even the Free Speech For People coalition of groups (including Common Cause, Public Citizen, and MoveOn) are now leaning closer to MTA's position that ALL corporate constitutional rights must be rolled back, not just their First Amendment Free Speech rights (per Citizens United).
In recent months, MTA's tech-savvy staff and volunteers have put in place a remarkable series of free webinars for those interested in learning more about MTA: tips for passing resolutions, holding effective actions, and recruiting for/organizing new MTA affiliate groups. These webinars are available on the MTA web site and have much to teach activists and organizers.
After more than 15 years of work on Corporate Personhood and Challenging Corporate Rights, WILPF is seeing its ground-breaking and far-reaching efforts catapulted forward through our collaboration with MTA. In 2012, MTA is asking us to foster ballot initiatives in local cities, counties, and communities to put the four points of their amendment language to a public vote. Abolishing corporate personhood won't solve every problem in America, but it is an important starting point for creating peace and economic justice, stabilizing communities, and protecting our environment, labor rights, and human rights.
By Marybeth Gardam, Des Moines WILPF