Public Comment

Resolution Opposing "Citizens United" Decision at City Council Today (Tuesday)

By Phoebe Sorgren
Tuesday April 27, 2010 - 07:07:00 AM

Ending corporate dominance of our government is key to most of what we want whether climate justice, fair trade, food security, affordable quality healthcare, or -- in many cases -- peace. The "CITIZENS UNITED" Supreme Court ruling against the Federal Elections Commission lifted corporate limits on buying elections, so Berkeley's Peace & Justice Commission recommends that the City Council again call for constitutional amendments saying that a corporation is not a person and may not claim constitutional "rights" (such as corporate financing of election ads being defined as free speech.) These resolutions are researched/vetted by volunteer commissioners, cost the city almost nothing, and have more weight than individual lobbying. Corporations may operate by privilege, the way they did historically, and can more easily be held accountable, when needed, if they no longer have human rights. 


If this makes sense to you, PLEASE ask the Berkeley Mayor and City Council to vote for this Resolution now via email or phone:  

Your note will be more persuasive if you personalize it by telling them a bit about yourself or why you care about saving democracy and whether you live or work in Berkeley. 

Emails may be addressed to: Honorable Mayor Bates and members of the Berkeley City Council. 

They will vote on it at the Tues April 27 meeting tomorrow which starts at 7pm, Maudelle Shirek City Hall, MLK Jr Way between Allston/Center. It is item #13 on the consent calendar. People are bringing small signs to hold up with bold and concise messages such as: 

$ = Speech?! 

Corporations =?! 

End Corporate Personhood! 

End Rule Inc.! 

Save Democracy! 

YES 28th Amendment! 

If they do not pass it by unanimous consent at the beginning of the meeting (with 2 minutes each for 3 speakers), public comment will be allowed just before it comes up for Council discussion later that night, sometime before 11pm. Public comment rules, which are complex, can be found here. (Scroll down to find them.) 


Comments on the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission Supreme Court ruling:, 

President Obama, “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.” nytimes 

John Kerry “...the Court has struck at the very heart of our democracy, a democracy in which corporations already have too much influence....the system has now been tilted inexorably towards those who have the most money... also clears the way for the domestic subsidiaries of foreign corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections..." 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy "goes to the very core of our democracy and it will allow major corporations -- who should have law written to control their effect on America -- instead control America."  

Former Senator Warren Rudman (R-NH), "Supreme Court opinion notwithstanding, corporations are not defined as people under the Constitution, and free speech can hardly be called free when only the rich are heard."  


2010 Berkeley Resolution to Reclaim Democracy and Oppose Corporate Constitutional "Rights" 


WHEREAS, Chapter 3.68 of the Berkeley Municipal Code sets forth functions of the Peace and Justice Commission including,"(A) Advise the Berkeley City Council on all matters relating to the City of Berkeley's role in issues of peace and social justice, including, but not limited to support for human rights and self-determination throughout the world;" and  

WHEREAS, on June 15, 2004 the Berkeley City Council unanimously passed a Resolution on Corporate Constitutional Rights stating, in part, that "historically corporations were created as artificial entities, chartered by state governments to serve the public interest, cause no harm, and be subordinate to the sovereign people; and yet by judicial interpretations, corporations gained personhood status, free speech and other protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment," although the framers had no such intention, and that "the citizens of the City of Berkeley consider it to be our sovereign right and civic duty to recognize that corporations remain artificial entities created by the people through our state legislatures;" and 

WHEREAS, the U.S. Supreme Court 5:4 ruling on January 21, 2010 (in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission) rolled back remaining legal limits on corporate spending in the electoral process, allowing unlimited corporate spending to influence elections, candidate selection, and policy decisions and thus potentially unleashing unprecedented torrents of corporate money in our political process thereby drowning out the voices of "We the People" and threatening democracy.  

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Council of the City of Berkeley again calls for amending the United States and California Constitutions to declare that corporations are not entitled to the protections or "rights" of human beings and to declare that the expenditure of corporate money is not a form of constitutionally protected speech.  

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Council of the City of Berkeley applauds Congresswoman Donna Edwards for promptly introducing a related amendment to the U.S. Constitution (H.J.RES. 74) and thanks Congresswoman Barbara Lee for co-sponsoring it. 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Council of the City of Berkeley calls on other communities and jurisdictions to join this action by passing similar Resolutions. 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City Council directs the City Manager to send copies of this Resolution to our state and federal government representatives including: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, CA State Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, CA State Senator Loni Hancock, Majority Leader of the CA State Assembly Karen Bass [now Alberto Torrico,] President pro tempore of the CA State Senate Darrell Steinberg, U.S. Representative Barbara Lee, U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives Steny Hoyer, Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate Harry Reid, and President Barak Obama.



Current situation and its effects 

On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission reversedlong-established constitutional law by extending first amendment and other constitutional "rights" to corporations, specifically in regard to holding that corporate campaign spending is "protected speech." In reaction to this unprecedented decision, a Joint Resolution was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would partially reverse the Citizens United decision by permitting Congress to regulate corporate expenditures in elections. (House Joint Resolution 74). 


Rationale for recommendation 

The Peace and Justice Commission, consistent with its mandate to promote peace and justice, locally, nationally and internationally, views the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission to be a direct threat to democracy as it promotes increasing corporate influence in a government "of, by and for the people." The City Manager takes no position on the Commission's recommendations contained in this Report.