With yesterday’s vote in the state house, Vermont is now the first state to call for an amendment to abolish the doctrine known as “Corporate Personhood” which gives corporations constitutional rights meant to protect people.
Hawaii and New Mexico have passed resolutions against the Citizens United v. FEC ruling by the Supreme Court, but the Vermont resolution goes beyond simply overturning that case and aims to remove corporations from the constitution altogether and make clear that money is not speech and that campaign spending and political contributions can be regulated by government.
Support for the resolution in the state legislature comes from a mandate set forth by Vermont’s citizens. Last month 65 town meetings passed similar resolutions, calling on the legislators in the state to stand up and urging Congress to send an amendment to the states for ratification.
“Americans of all political persuasions are tired of the big money in politics and tired of corporations running the country,” said David Cobb, spokesperson for the Move to Amend coalition, a grassroots national organization spearheading resolution efforts across the country. “We salute the good people of Vermont for standing up first to make clear that an amendment that addresses this issue at its core is what’s needed now.”
While Vermont is the first state to clearly call for an end to corporate constitutional rights, this is far from the first resolution passed. Nearly half of the states have seen passage of resolutions at the local level through city and county councils, and a handful of cities have also passed measures using the initiative process. This week Salt Lake City, Utah became the latest city to join the effort when Move to Amend volunteers turned in 11,400 signatures collected in 60 days to qualify a resolution for the ballot in their town.
“Communities across the country are standing up to show their outrage and to demand that their legislators pass an amendment to overrule the Court,” stated Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, National Field Organizing Director for Move to Amend. “We recognize that an amendment is a big task, but Move to Amend’s volunteers are ready to rise to the challenge.”
Background on state resolution effort: The Vermonters Say Corporations Are Not People partnership, which worked together on town meeting proposals, also has worked to pass the resolutions at the state legislative level. The effort includes Move to Amend; Public Citizen; Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, a Move to Amend affiliate; Vermont Peace & Justice Center; VPIRG; Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, founders of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc.; Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility; Rural Vermont; Vermont Workers Center; Common Cause Vermont; Occupy Burlington; Vermont Action for Peace; and the Safe and Green Campaign.