May 062013

How a clerk turned corporations into humans

By Joy Arnold

It is claimed by some that 127 years ago, on May 10, 1886, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decided that corporations are people. The claim is not true, though it is hard to imagine a more disastrous impact even if it were: it has been taken for true, with disastrous consequences for the American public.

In the 1880s, Santa Clara County, California, under the state constitution, could tax railroads on their franchise, roadway, railway, rails, and rolling stock. As was its right, the county levied taxes on fences appearing on the Southern Pacific Railroad’s property; at the same time, it did not deduct the amount of the mortgage from the value taxed. When Southern Pacific refused to pay these taxes, the county brought suit in state court.

In response, the railroad had the matter removed to the federal system, where the Federal Court for the Northern District of California agreed with the railroad that the state (or its counties) could not tax fences and must deduct the amount of the mortgage from the taxable value of property. Santa Clara appealed to SCOTUS, where the lower court ruling was affirmed. Continue reading »

Dec 052012

By Joy Arnold

Record amounts of money spent in November’s election did not always reap as much as its sowers hoped. There were some glorious victories for the rest of us in spite of money.  Across the country in over 150 cities, for example, residents had the opportunity to vote on measures calling for an end to the doctrines of corporate constitutional rights and money as free speech.  In every single town the vote was supportive, often by overwhelming margins. It passed in ultra conservative Pueblo, Colorado, where the city newspaper came out against it, as well as in liberal Boston.

These ballot initiatives follow the 173 municipal governments across the country that have passed such resolutions and 55 organizations that have endorsed the work of Move to Amend, a national coalition of groups building grassroots support for a two-pronged Constitutional amendment that declares corporations are not people and money is not speech, and that therefore both can be regulated. Continue reading »

Sep 052012

David Cobb informs, inspires crowd at UK

By Joy Arnold

If money can buy a political system, should it be called a “democracy”?  That was one question a crowd of nearly 100 people wrestled with last Thursday night at the University of Kentucky’s Center Theater. The crowd was there to hear attorney-activist David Cobb explain the role of corporations in American history. Cobb, spokesperson for the national organization, Move to Amend (MTA), was invited to Lexington to speak by the Central Kentucky chapter of Move to Amend (CKYMTA).

Born in San Leon, Texas, Cobb worked in construction and as a commercial shrimper before going to college.  Despite growing up in what he calls “rural poverty” in a home that didn’t have a flush toilet, he graduated from the University of Houston Law School in 1993, maintained a successful private law practice in Houston for several years and ran for president on the Green Party ticket. These days, Cobb works on the law and research committee of Move to Amend.  He likes it best when people refer to him as an “engaged citizen.” Continue reading »