Citizens United Presentation
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5
×
 

Like this? Share it with your network

Share

Citizens United Presentation

on

  • 837 views

Speech to Lincoln MA Town Meeting March 24, 2012 in support of constitutional amendment to eliminate the right of corporations to the rights in the Constitution that belong to "the people."

Speech to Lincoln MA Town Meeting March 24, 2012 in support of constitutional amendment to eliminate the right of corporations to the rights in the Constitution that belong to "the people."

Statistics

Views

Total Views
837
Views on SlideShare
833
Embed Views
4

Actions

Likes
1
Downloads
3
Comments
0

2 Embeds 4

https://www.linkedin.com 3
http://www.linkedin.com 1

Accessibility

Categories

Upload Details

Uploaded via as Adobe PDF

Usage Rights

© All Rights Reserved

Report content

Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

Cancel
  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
    Are you sure you want to
    Your message goes here
    Processing…
Post Comment
Edit your comment

Citizens United Presentation Document Transcript

  • 1. Town  of  Lincoln  Warrant  Article  39  Town  Meeting  March  24,  2012  Citizens  United  Presentation  by  Peter  Pease    I  love  our  town  for  its  long  history  of  thinking  deeply  about  issues  of  national  and  global  importance,  and  occasionally,  as  today,  putting  significant  issues  before  the  town  for  a  vote.    This  article  proposes  that  Lincoln  join  in  a  nationwide  effort  to  amend  the  US  Constitution,  to  show  our  support  for  Rep.  Jim  McGovern’s  proposal  filed  in  the  House,  and  urge  the  Commonwealth  to  pass  the  bills  filed  by  Rep.  Cory  Atkins  and  Sen.  Jamie  Eldridge.  The  language  in  the  salmon  sheets  is  the  same  as  Rep.  McGovern’s.      Many  thanks  to  Joanna  Hopkins  for  her  tireless  work  on  this  issue  and  preparation  of  the  Warrant  Article  we  will  vote  on  today.  We  are  indebted  to  Jeff  Clements  of  Concord  and  his  organization  Free  Speech  for  People.  They  have  been  working  tirelessly  to  educate  us  all  on  this  topic,  and  leading  the  effort  to  amend  the  Constitution.    This  is  necessary  because  the  Supreme  Court  has  recently  championed  the  right  of  corporations  to  enjoy  the  protection  of  the  rights  in  the  U.S.  Constitution  that  belong  “to  the  people.”      The  Supreme  Court  held  in  Citizens  United  v.  Federal  Election  Commission  that  the  FEC  may  not  enforce  the  law  against  corporations  running  ads  to  influence  an  election  during  certain  time  periods  before  primary  and  general  elections.      (slide)    You’ll  probably  remember  the  campaign  by  persons  other  than  Barack  Obama  against  Hillary  Clinton  in  2008.    The  FEC  prohibited  “Citizens  United”  from  televising  its  production  Hillary:  The  Movie,  because  the  plan  was  to  televise  it  during  the  last  30  days  before  the  primary.  Any  other  time  was  fine,  allowed  by  the  law.  The  rule  had  been  enacted  into  law  in  a  bipartisan  effort  led  by  Senators  McCain  and  Feingold.  Remember  bipartisanship?    But  the  Supreme  Court  slapped  down  this  minor  rule  –  no  corporate  electioneering  in  the  last  30  days  before  a  primary,  or  60  days  before  a  general  election.  The  5-­‐4  decision  overruled  two  very  recent  Supreme  Court  decisions  upholding  McCain/Feingold,  one  of  which  was  joined  in  by  none  other  than  Chief  Justice  Rehnquist.    The  Supremes  based  the  ruling  on  their  view  that  corporations  have  a  Constitutional  right  of  freedom  of  speech.    McCain/Feingold  is  invalid  on  its  face,  even  though     1  
  • 2. Citizens  United  expressly  disclaimed  this  argument,  and  no  one  can  restrict  corporate  political  speech.  Wow.      The  floodgates  are  open,  and  money  has  been  blasting  into  the  political  process.  Are  the  corporations  multinationals?  This  Supreme  Court  doesn’t  care.  On  the  national  and  the  state  level,  corporations  are  now  free  to  spend  whatever  they  want,  however  they  want,  to  influence  elections  of  our  national  and  local  leaders.      This  includes  judges  in  most  states.  I  am  sure  that  any  judge,  like  for  example  the  West  Virginia  Supreme  Court  Justice  who  received  massive  campaign  contributions  from  coal  mining  company  Massey  Energy’s  President  Blankenship,  I’m  sure  that  he  disclosed  the  conflict  of  interest  and  recused  himself  from  any  case  involving  Massey,  didn’t  he?  (He  didnt)    Why  should  we,  the  people,  not  give  corporations  the  constitutional  rights  granted  to  people?      A  corporation  is  an  artificial  entity  that  is  allowed  to  exist  by  the  permission  of  the  government.  It  allows  people  to  act  without  being  fully  accountable  for  the  acts  of  the  corporation.  The  corporation  can  avoid  liability  for  the  corporation’s  wrongdoing  for  any  amounts  greater  than  the  assets  in  the  corporation.  So  can  the  company’s  officers,  directors  and  shareholders.      There  are  many  good  reasons  to  allow  corporations  to  be  formed  and  do  business.  They  have  gathered  the  capital  and  talent  necessary  to  create  wonderful  products,  industries,  jobs,  and  our  generally  vibrant  and  productive  economy.    But  they  are  not  “people.”    You  can’t  put  a  corporation  in  jail.  What  about  “3  strikes  and  you’re  out?”  If  the  many  states  that  have  enacted  “3  strikes  and  you’re  out”  laws  could  apply  them  to  corporations,  most  of  the  Wall  Street  financial  firms  would  be  rotting  in  the  clink.  BP  would  have  been  locked  away  long  before  the  Horizon  disaster.      Instead,  corporations  can  commit  the  same  crimes  over  and  over,  and  get  slapped  on  the  wrist  by  the  authorities.  Typically  the  settlements  allow  the  corporation  to  make  no  statement  about  whether  the  bad  acts  occurred,  to  pay  a  fine,  and  sign  a  statement  saying  they’ll  never  do  it  again.      The  fine,  which  sometimes  includes  compensation  to  the  injured  parties,  is  generally  a  small  fraction  of  the  injury  suffered,  and  an  even  smaller  fraction  of  the  amount  gained  or  the  expense  avoided  by  the  corporation.    And  why  do  some  corporations  keep  doing  bad  things,  breaking  the  law?  Because,  to  many,  “greed  is  good.”  The  primary  duty  of  the  corporation  is  to  itself,  to  its  financial  success,  to  make  as  much  money  as  it  can.       2  
  • 3.  It  is  not  too  hard  to  calculate  the  benefit  of  a  particular  action,  the  risk  of  getting  caught  if  it  is  illegal,  and  the  cost  of  settling  the  case,  if  you  get  caught,  and  cannot  delay,  deny  and  successfully  avoid  the  plaintiff.    If  you  add  it  all  up,  it  often  pays,  and  pays  very  well,  to  do  the  wrong  thing.  Some  even  go  so  far  as  to  say  that  it  is  the  duty  of  the  corporation  to  maximize  its  profit,  through  any  means  that  do  not  risk  the  continued  existence  of  the  corporation.      Even  when  we  are  not  talking  about  wrong-­‐doing,  it  is  clear  that  there  is  an  enormous  amount  of  corporate  money  that  is  being  used  to  influence,  and  often  create  government  policy,  and  to  secure  direct  infusions  of  your  tax  dollars.        (slide)    Over  the  13  year  period  of  1998-­‐2010,  the  publicly  disclosed  top  20  spenders  in  Washington  spent  nearly  $4B.  The  top  3  contributors  to  the  Chamber  of  Commerce  are  unknown.  I  just  can’t  think  of  any  good  reason  why  we  should  know  what  companies  they  are,  can  you?      Hmmm  .  .  .      I  see  820  million  reasons  why  its  so  hard  to  make  any  changes  in  our  amazingly  expensive  and  amazingly  inefficient  health  care  system.    If  you  add  up  all  the  totals  spent  lobbying  by  industry,  the  numbers  are  absolutely  terrifying.          (slide)    We’re  talking  TRILLIONS  of  dollars  now  –  nearly  30  trillion  dollars  over  the  same  13  year  time  period.      There  at  the  bottom  you  can  see  the  plaintiffs’  lawyers  –  nearly  $350  million.  Some  of  that  was  my  money,  trying  to  preserve  shareholders’  rights.  Now  who  do  you  think  got  the  better  part  of  that  argument?    Now  why  would  these  corporations  spend  so  much  of  their  hard-­‐earned  profits  lobbying  in  Washington?        (slide)    The  financial  guys  got  Glass/Steagall  repealed,  which  allowed  them  to  eliminate  the  wall  between  banking  and  investment  bank  risk-­‐taking  for  their  own  benefit.      Glass/Steagall  was  enacted  following  the  Great  Depression,  and  protected  us  from  the  same  result,  until  a  few  years  ago.  And  guess  what,  we  still  haven’t  restored  that  sensible  and  necessary  rule.       3  
  • 4.  The  financial  guys  also  kept  the  Commodity  Future  Trading  Commission  from  regulating  derivatives.  So  we  let  the  big  boys  play  –  they  know  best.    There  has  been  an  amazingly  successful  effort  to  stop  the  EPA  from  making  and  enforcing  the  law.  Mercury  and  the  coal  industry  are  prime  examples.    There  is  a  continuing  and  shocking  procession  of  elected  and  appointed  officials  who  leave  the  government  and  the  areas  they  regulated  to  take  positions  in  the  industries  they  regulated.      Billy  Tauzin  is  one  of  my  favorites.  After  creating  Medicare  “Part  D”  prescription  drug  coverage,  and  putting  rules  in  place  that  make  it  illegal  for  the  government  to  negotiate  drug  prices,  he  takes  a  job,  a  few  months  later,  as  President  of  PhRMA,  the  Pharmaceutical  Research  and  Manufacturers  of  America.  Salary  –  more  than  $2M.    There  is  an  ancient  Greek  saying  –  “the  fish  rots  from  the  head.”  The  culture  of  a  corporation  is  created  by  the  CEO  and  senior  management.  If  they  do  not  make  it  very  clear  that  employees  should  do  the  right  thing,  even  when  it  will  diminish  profits,  there  is  no  chance  that  this  will  happen.      Typically,  employees  who  “blow  the  whistle”  like  Sherron  Watkins  at  Enron,  will  be  blackballed  in  the  industry  and  find  themselves  unemployable.    There  are  countless  tales  that  can  be  told,  from  the  customer  “muppets”  of  Goldman  Sachs,  eyeballs  waiting  to  be  gouged,  to  the  falsification  of  mortgage  and  foreclosure  documents,  to  accounting  tricks  and  lies  through  special  purpose  entities  –  it  goes  on  forever.    Today’s  executives  are  paid  hundreds  of  times  the  salaries  of  their  base  rate  employees.  It  was  about  475  times  a  few  years  ago,  and  is  now  about  300.  Compare  that  with  a  multiplier  of  about  40  in  the  1960’s.  The  leaders  have  never  had  more  incentive  to  maximize  profits  and  take  home  fabulous  wealth.    Officers  and  directors  sit  on  each  others’  boards,  and  approve  each  others’  salaries.  Shareholders  have  minimal,  if  any,  control  over  any  actions  taken  by  the  corporation.  It  is  very  common  for  executives  who  are  forced  to  resign  in  disgrace  to  leave  with  multi-­‐million  dollar  compensation  packages.    So,  corporations  are  not  people.  They  do  not  think  like  people,  they  cannot  be  punished  like  people,  and  they  are  allowed  by  law  to  amass  tremendous  wealth.      It  is  our  task,  we,  the  people,  to  set  the  rules  that  govern  the  corporations,  to  do  our  best  to  make  sure  they  behave  responsibly,  abide  by  the  law,  and  do  not  damage  our  citizens,  our  country  and  our  precious  Earth.       4  
  • 5. If  fair  and  just  laws  and  regulations  are  enforced,  then  the  leaders  of  our  corporations  will  have  much  greater  ability  to  create  and  maintain  cultures  of  respect  for  the  law  and  good  business  practices,  knowing  that  those  corporations  that  take  illegal  shortcuts  will  suffer  consequences.      If  corporations  are  allowed  the  rights  of  the  people  under  our  Constitution,  they  can,  will,  and  have  already  avoided  and  evaded  our  proper  efforts  to  govern  their  conduct.  Let  me  provide  a  few  examples.        (slide)    In  First  National  Bank  of  Boston  v.  Bellotti,  corporations  were  able  to  prevent  Massachusetts  from  enforcing  a  law  banning  corporate  spending  to  influence  the  outcome  of  a  citizen’s  referendum.  The  vote  was  on  whether  the  Commonwealth  should  have  a  graduated  income  tax.  Corporations  hate  that,  I  guess,  or  at  least  their  CEOs.    In  the  Central  Hudson  Gas  case,  the  Supremes  decided  that  NY  could  not  stop  the  utilities  from  promoting  the  consumption  of  energy.    In  Lorillard,  the  Supremes  decided  that  MA  could  not  enforce  rules  preventing  cigarette  companies  from  advertising  Joe  Camel  near  schools  to  get  the  attention  of  “replacement  smokers.”  That’s  the  language  the  tobacco  guys  were  using  in-­‐house.  They  knew  they  had  to  get  kids  going  with  cigarettes  early,  because  if  you  get  too  old  before  you  start,  there’s  a  much  better  chance  that  you’ll  be  able  to  quit,  and  avoid  being  a  lifetime  addict,  before  you  die  of  lung  cancer.    In  Amestoy,  the  2d  Circuit  held  that  the  State  of  Vermont  could  not  require  sellers  of  milk  to  disclose  whether  their  milk  was  from  cows  that  had  been  treated  with  recombinant  DNA  bovine  growth  hormone.  A  simple  yes  or  no.  Can’t  do  it.  The  corporations  have  a  Constitutional  RIGHT  NOT  TO  SPEAK.    Here’s  another  good  one.  Just  last  Fall  the  D.C  Circuit  decided  that  corporations  cannot  be  required  to  include  information  about  directors  nominated  by  the  shareholders,  because  it  infringes  on  the  corporations’  freedom  of  speech  rights.  So,  the  rule  promulgated  by  the  SEC  was  held  to  be  unconstitutional.    I  can’t  take  any  more  of  this,  so  I’ll  stop  talking.    Please  join  me  in  voting  for  this  resolution,  to  support  the  efforts  underway  in  Massachusetts,  in  Washington  and  throughout  the  nation  to  amend  the  Constitution  and  restore  balance  to  our  society.           5