The Council recently passed a Resolution calling for action on the issue of Corporate Personhood. I will post my comments spoken at the hearing soon.
The following is a summary of the issues, authored by Herman M. Frankel, M.D., sent to me via email and posted with permission. It is an example of why, three years into my term, I still read and answer all emails myself. Dr. Frankel writes:
Thank you for the Resolution establishing “as a position of the Portland City Council that corporations should not have the constitutional rights that natural persons possess, that money is not speech and that independent campaign expenditures and campaign contributions should be regulated.”
(The Resolution is accessible at www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=380652.)
Knowing that you have already received strong expressions of agreement from many other Portlanders, I’m grateful for the chance to make my contribution by submitting this written expression of support. Please let me do so by quoting Montana Supreme Court Justice James C. Nelson and US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
In the 12/30/11 Montana Supreme Court opinion rebuking the US Supreme Court Citizens United decision, Justice James C. Nelson wrote this:
“Corporations are not persons. Human beings are persons, and it is an affront to the inviolable dignity of our species that courts have created a legal fiction which forces people—human beings—to share fundamental, natural rights with soulless creatures of government." Just in case that wasn’t crystal clear, Nelson goes on to add that “while corporations and human beings share many of the same rights under the law, they clearly are not bound equally to the same codes of good conduct, decency, and morality, and they are not held equally accountable for their sins. Indeed, it is truly ironic that the death penalty and hell are reserved only to natural persons."
The Montana Supreme Court opinion is accessible here:
In his dissenting opinion in the 01/21/10 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United matter, U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote this:
“In a democratic society, the longstanding consensus on the need to limit corporate campaign spending should outweigh the wooden application of judge-made rules. The majority's rejection of this principle "elevate[s] corporations to a level of deference which has not been seen at least since the days when substantive due process was regularly used to invalidate regulatory legislation thought to unfairly impinge upon established economic interests." Bellotti, 435 U. S., at 817, n. 13 (White, J., dissenting).
“At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.”
The full text of Justice Stevens’s dissenting opinion is accessible here:
The Citizens United decision by the US Supreme Court is discussed here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._Federal_Election_Commission
The full text of the Citizens United decision by the US Supreme Court is accessible here:
The Montana Supreme Court decision is discussed here:
Steven Rosenfeld. Montana High Court Says 'Citizens United' Does Not Apply In Big Sky State: State Supreme Court Issues Remarkable Ruling Against Corporate Speech
I’m grateful to you, and to the members of our City Council, for your continuing commitment to hearing the voices of our citizens raised in support of our civil rights, of our US and Oregon Constitutions, and of our democracy itself.
Let’s keep working together to make our city and our world a better, safer, and healthier place for everyone, one interaction at a time.
Herman M. Frankel, M.D. Director, Portland Health Institute Center for Building Caring Relationships
Member, Multnomah County Family Violence Coordinating Council
Member, Communities of Color Task Force of the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
Member, Oregon Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team