A Resolution Abolishing Corporate Personhood
You can pass to educate your local community
While passing a law to ban corporate personhood may seem the most direct way to take on the issue, it may not be the most rapid or the best for your community, at least in the beginning. First, itís necessary to educate a community, and passing a non-binding resolution (instead of a binding law/ordinance) can do just that. Although it wonít have the force of law, it begins the process of change because proposing and campaigning for it will educate the voters in your community. The other benefit of passing a resolution is that it wonít draw legal fire from corporations, who can challenge an ordinance and engage a community in costly litigation.
Beginning with a resolution as an educational effort is important because change movements always work from the bottom up, not the top down. Leaders and elected officials usually donít just wake up one day and change: citizens push them to do so. This is how it worked with the abolition and suffrage movements, among others: Books, articles, and editorials were written; citizensí groups formed; political parties eventually staked out positions; communities passed resolutions, laws, and worked for constitutional amendments; court cases wound their way to the Supreme Court.
Thus, if the United States is to end corporate rule and move toward a modern version of the republican democracy envisioned by the Founders, the process will almost certainly flow from the bottom up. As the issue becomes more and more visible, eventually either the Supreme Court will reverse their clerkís error of 1886 - the way in 1954 and 1973 they reversed their errors of 1896 and 1873, finally declaring that freed slaves and women are now ďpersonsĒ under the law - or the States or Congress will take up the issue.
Whichever way the process of returning corporations to their former status ultimately happens, itíll only come about when a critical mass of the electorate realizes itís an issue.
To that end, an example of one of the most effective tools for educating people is what the town of Point Arena, California did in the year 2000. Instead of passing an ordinance or law, the City Council passed a resolution declaring that the City of Point Arena didnít think corporations were persons. The process took well over a year and was hotly debated in the town; as a result, today there is a high level of awareness about the corporate personhood issue in this part of northern California. Even thought the resolution didnít have the force of law, it was a tremendously successful educational process, and, thus, may represent the best place for a local community to start.
Hereís the text of the final draft of the resolution passed on a 4 to 1 vote by Point Arenaís City Council on April 25, 2000:
Resolution on Corporate Personhood in the City of Point Arena, California
∑ Citizens of the City of Point Arena hope to nurture and expand democracy in our community and our nation.
∑ Democracy means governance by the people. Only natural persons should be able to participate in the democratic process.
∑ Interference in the democratic process by corporations frequently usurps the rights of citizens to govern.
∑ Corporations are artificial entities separate and apart from natural persons. Corporations are not naturally endowed with consciousness or the rights of natural persons. Corporations are creations of law and are only permitted to do what is authorized under law.
∑ Rejecting the concept of corporate personhood will advance meaningful campaign finance reform.
Therefore be it hereby resolved that:
The City of Point Arena agrees with Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in his 1938 opinion in which he stated, "I do not believe the word 'person' in the 14th Amendment includes corporations."
Be it further resolved that:
The City of Point Arena shall encourage public discussion on the role of corporations in public life and urge other cities to foster similar public discussion.
The original resolution proposed to the city council was much longer and had some great language about democracy and corporate rule,
but was eventually pared down to the lean version you see above. (The original is online at
www.iiipublishing.com/alliance.htm) Itís a marvelous template for something you may want to propose or pass in your community.