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Politicians Need to Choose: Democracy or Plutocratic, Corporate Rule

Protester waves corporate flag in front of Supreme Court
Protester waves corporate flag in front of Supreme Court
Photo by Chip Somodevilla

The grassroots movement to overturn the Citizens United v FEC (2010) decision is gearing up in New York State. NY4Democracy, a coalition of eight organizations, is working to have the New York State Legislature pass a resolution to Congress to convey that New York State "affirms its intent to ratify an amendment to the United States Constitution" to protect our Republic from the corrupting Supreme Court decisions that weaken the power of the individual and undermine our democratic system of government.

The Court has increasingly corrupted our rights, first by granting constitutional rights to properties (corporations) over the last 125 years, and second in Buckley v Valeo (1976) and again in McCutcheon v FEC (2014) when the Court decreed that spending -- and now giving -- money is the equivalent of political speech, protected by the First Amendment. Money is legal tender. It is no more speech than a knife and fork is a steak or a hammer is a house. Money, not the people, has become sovereign as the power that rules our government.

There is no language in the Constitution to support the equivalence between money and speech. The same holds for the Court doctrine that associations of any sort (unions, PACs, corporations, etc.) have rights as natural persons. Supreme Court justices have been legislating from the bench in an anti-democratic manner, and we the people have lost our democratic Republic. Instead of securing our rights, the Court has distorted and misused them and, consequently, has undermined our constitutional Republic.

The Declaration of Independence makes it clear: "... to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter... it…."

In cases like Buckley v Valeo, Citizens United v FEC and McCutcheon v FEC, the Court has not functioned to secure our rights. Instead, the justices have corrupted the definition of rights which had never equated money with speech and always had been endowed only to people, not to properties. The right of association had never been construed to imbue associations with rights. No legislature in the United States has ever granted associations constitutional rights either. Corporate rights are exclusively the result of judicial activism.

Misguided judges have violated basic ontology by equating cash with electioneering speech. Money is legal tender, not speech. Honest men and women understand that to allow unlimited, and even undisclosed foreign money to pose as speech in the American political process is corrupting to representative government. Equating money with speech simply defies common sense.

The amendment sought by the NY4Democracy coalition will restore more than hundred years of state laws, struck down in 2010 which protected against such corruption - laws protecting against the robber barons, monopolies, and concentrated power. This resolution is nothing short of a step toward restoring our state legislatures' and Congress' power to ensure that government remains, as James Madison wrote in Federalist #52, "dependent on the people alone."

We must not allow this usurpation by the Supreme Court to unlawfully take Congress' constitutional power as they did by creating these anti-democratic doctrines of money as a form of speech and corporation constitutional rights. Money spent on campaigns is one of several "manners of holding elections" (Article 1, Section 4, U.S. Constitution). We should not need to pass and ratify an amendment that restores that particular manner of holding elections to legislatures and Congress, but no Court decisions that violates basic ontology and common sense should stand.

President Kennedy once said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." The Supreme Court has institutionalized plutocracy, i.e., a government of, by and for the wealthy few. It has been institutionalizing corporate rule. NY4Democracy's agenda is an amendment to the Constitution to restore rightful power to the people via their Congress and state legislatures to govern. Such an amendment would not take the U.S. into unchartered waters. It would right the ship of state.

The Constitution is clear: only people have rights. Government-created, legal associations should only have privileges as granted to them by the people, as represented by elected officials in government. We the people, want corporations and all association entities returned to the legal status they had for the first 98 years of this our democracy as was the full intent of the founding fathers to safeguard against concentrated wealth and power.

The amendment sought would reverse the dangerous usurpation of power from the people from which the Constitution derives its legitimacy. Americans must either amend to restore democratic order or give our Republic a proper funeral. If we’re going to rescue democratic government, New York needs to join the 16 other states that have conveyed to Congress the willingness to ratify an amendment abolishing both money as a form of speech and corporate constitutional rights. The "We the People Amendment" is the only, currently introduced language (HJR-29) that addresses both of these anti-democratic, case-law traditions. Association entities are not persons, and money is not speech. The Court’s judicial activism, going back 125 years, must be reversed, and New York must help lead the way.

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