There have been posts here about the various petitions going around, but here is a very important one that hasn’t been mentioned. There is a ballot initiative to amend the Constitution of the Commonwealth based on “Corporations are not People, Money is not Speech.”
In recent years corporate spending to manipulate elections has grown out of control. We must pursue all avenues to fix our democracy so that we can work on real problems like climate change. Massachusetts has already done seemingly all we can by electing progressive representatives and senators and passing resolutions directing them to amend the U.S. Constitution. It turns out there is still something much stronger than a non-binding resolution we can do right here in Massachusetts.
Pass Mass Amendment is a grassroots group of local activists working with no funding. I have been helping them collect signatures for this initiative for the last few weeks, and I ask for your help.
The premise of the amendment is that the Constitution of Massachusetts enumerates rights of persons, not corporate entities. The amendment does not change this – it merely clarifies it in order to empower the people to reform political spending by making it easier for ballot initiatives to go forward without tripping on excluded matters. My hope is the clarification will also help and motivate the legislature to regulate campaign finance, but one of the main goals of the movement is to remove a stumbling block for future ballot initiatives.
Money in local elections
Money in politics is a problem at least as much locally as it is nationally. For example, the post on money in the mayor’s race from just the other day. In some cases local elections are even more vulnerable to outside spending than national ones because it takes so much less money to have a great effect.
Massachusetts leading the way
The U.S. Constitution is largely based on the Constitution of Massachusetts. Our state Constitution enumerates rights of persons, not corporate entities. Asserting this makes the current SCOTUS’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution to guarantee rights to corporations ever more tenuous.
Most importantly – this is a clarification. We (myself and the group) do not believe it legally changes anything. Particularly, as well noted by a BMG editor, the idea that a corporation has a “right” to “speech” is absurd.
For questions about the impact, if any, this has on business, I direct you to the FAQ for Rep. Jim McGovern’s federal People’s Rights Amendment.
What about SCOTUS?
Short answer: This is not legislation. More from the FAQ:
We can amend the Massachusetts Constitution and the Supreme Court would not get involved until a law was passed, someone sued, and it could then go to the Supreme Court. It would be the early 2020s before anything to do with our Amendment would make it to SCOTUS. By then, SCOTUS, would not consist of the same Justices.
In addition, the message here is almost as important as the local regulation it may help us, the people of Massachusetts, to create in the future.
The amendment has verbal or written endorsements from a dozen state legislators, including congressional candidate Katherine Clark.
The Constitution of Massachusetts allows the people to pass an amendment by ballot initiative, but it’s a long process. A successful signature drive would put the question on its way to the ballot in 2016. RIGHT NOW, we need 69,000 valid signatures by November 20, with no more than 25% coming from any one county.
Getting the signatures puts the question in front of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts [to challenge the Attorney General’s decertification]. If the SJC rules the question “legal”, then the question goes in front of the legislature. If 25% of the legislators, in 2 consecutive sessions vote to put the language on the ballot, the question goes to the people. It would be the first constitutional amendment driven by ballot initiative in decades. Whether the SJC agrees to allow us to move forward WE WIN in this DIRECT ACTION, aimed at getting mainstream media attention to the question, “Should Corporations be considered People”?
Again, I ask for your signature and support of this initiative.