State Legislatures Question Corporate Personhood
This Valentine’s Day, some members of the New Hampshire house likely won’t be receiving much in the way of candies or cards from corporate interests.
Next Thursday, members of the statehouse committee on State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs will meet to discuss House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 2, which calls for the state congressional delegation to “encourage and expedite” a Constitutional amendment to address the highly contentious “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision.
Calling for a constitutional differentiation between people and corporations, the bill goes on to encourage that the proposed amendment declare once and for all, that:
“…money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limited political speech…”
Robin Miller, a union activist from Durham, New Hampshire had this to say:
“This is a brave move that will set New Hampshire’s feet back on a path of living free… like the motto says we do here. However, the damage is done and the die is cast… the work to undo, it is work that demands commitment and dedication on the part of legislators...”
It is just such commitment that activists across the state and across the country have been clamoring for since the 2010 Supreme Court decision. Across state lines and across party lines, the issue surrounding big money’s influence in American politics is striking chords with Americans of all stripes, and not merely the anti-corporate progressives one might expect. James Marron of Londonderry, an Iraq War Veteran, former Republican candidate for state representative and self described Constitutionalist, takes issue with the concept of a corporation having constitutional rights.
“Corporations are property and can be regulated. They have no natural rights. But [are] given rights and privileges.“
The Citizens United debate has ignited passions on both sides of the aisle and throughout the ideological spectrum, with conventional lines of left and right blurring along the way. Many conservative critics cite not only concerns over misinterpretations of the constitution, but also the opportunities for the backers of Democrats and liberal organizations to take advantage of this decision, which was initially regarded as a substantial win exclusively for corporate interests that are typically affiliated more with Republicans and free market conservatives.
As reported by Mother Jones in October of last year, the pro-Obama Super-PAC “Priorities USA” raised over $79 million dollars, with considerable swaths of this coming from Hollywood and organized labor. This, compared to the total of $132,174,589 raised by the pro-Romney Super-PAC “Restore America,” which despite out raising and out spending Priorities, failed to help Romney secure the election.
Many point to the abysmal strategic planning of Karl Rove‘s “Crossroads” Super-Pac for bringing down the GOP in 2012, despite their advantage in outside support and fundraising, for allowing the GOP congressional primaries to turn into constant discussions of rape, abortion and other sensitive social issues where more right wing Republicans often find themselves in trouble.
New Hampshire finds itself the latest in a series of states who’ve engaged in the debate over Citizens United. Since 2010, nearly thirty states have taken up the issue, with eleven having passed measures and resolutions expressing everything from general concern to outright disdain for the ruling. Last month in Maryland, a state to have already taken action against the Citizens United ruling, activists and legislators alike demonstrated to raise awareness of the issue. Activists from Occupy New Hampshire, The Coalition for Open Democracy and Public Citizen are planning to converge on the state capital building Thursday, to hold a similar demonstration.
Image Credit: New Hampshire State House