The story of two brothers and their courageous walk across the country: Minnesota Move to Amend. No corporate personhood.
About a year ago, on May 16th to be exact, two brothers – both Vietnam veterans and both in their 60s, with deep roots in Minnesota – set out to walk across the country for democracy; California; Nevada; Utah; Colorado; Kansas; Missouri; Illinois; Indiana; Ohio; West Virginia; Maryland; and Virginia then into the District of Columbia. They followed Highway U.S.50 from Sacramento to the Lincoln Memorial.
Like the overwhelming majority of Americans, Laird and Robin Monahan
The Monahan Brothers on the Road
disagreed strongly with the January 21, 2010 decision by a one-vote majority of the unelected Supreme Court in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. They were distressed that only five Justices could overturn decades of campaign finance laws, democratically enacted by Congress and state legislatures, and upheld by prior Court rulings. As Laird says when speaking to local groups: “by allowing unlimited corporate money to dominate the political process, including the election of judges, the Supreme Court is silencing the voice of the people and delivering a fatal blow to democracy.” In effect, the Court “legalized” political bribery, a criminal act.
“I grew up with an abiding love for my country,” Laird says. “We set an example for the rest of the world: the land of the free and home of the brave. I grew up with utmost respect for the high standards that our public officials were held to, our judicial system with liberty and justice for all. I believed that the United States stood as a shining beacon to the rest of the world saying, ‘This is how freedom is achieved. This is how real democracy works.’”
“Well, “ Laird says, “we know it was naive. We know it was a school-house lie.” But the standards and principles were there, the promise of our Constitution was waiting to be fulfilled, and there were real people working hard to make the promise a reality in our lifetimes—until January 21st last year.”
The Monahans were angered with the Court’s confirmation that “corporations are legal persons” and have the constitutional right of “free speech” under the First Amendment. In this regard, clearly, the Supreme Court’s attribution of constitutional rights to corporations is unsupported by the U.S. Constitution or the writings of the Constitution’s authors. The invention of corporate personhood was an act of raw judicial activism that undermines our Constitution’s promise of a Democratic Republic.
Laird continues, “I had come to understand politics and the corruptive influence of money on our legislature and on the executive office including the President himself. But when the judiciary, the last bastion of high moral standards and gold plated ethics, sold our Constitution and our government to corporate interests, I felt beaten. I was brought to my knees and nearly to tears.
Then I got mad. I’d be damned if I was going to be victimized and defeated. I served my country and defended that Constitution for four years, I was going to do it again. I then decided to make this trek across the country waking people up and raising their awareness about the need to pass a Constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood. It is the only viable way to limit corporations as long as the Supreme Court is at their beck and call.”
“We don’t have anything against corporations,” Robin says. “Corporations are a necessity in our economy. As a means of aggregating private money for a public purpose there has yet to be found a better way. Investors provide the means for innovation and discovery of new products and ideas.”
Laird and Robindecided they were done with letter writing and phone calls, and rather than do nothing, they got walking.
Starting in San Francisco on May 16, 2010, they headed east along Highway 50 taking their message to people and communities across the country that a Constitutional amendment to deny corporations “personhood” and constitutional rights is vital to restore democracy and assert the inalienable human right of We the People. They spoke along the way with local citizens and the media, demonstrating in front of state capitals and connecting with Move to Amend supporters and allied grassroots groups in small towns and large cities across the country. Read their blog and press accounts at www.lairdandrobin.org or watch a short video of their arrival at the Lincoln Memorial here:
On October 20, last Fall, the Monahan Brothers ended their historic walk by crossing the Arlington Memorial Bridge into Washington, D.C. Later that week, just because it added a touch of continuity, they continued to the Atlantic Ocean and got their feet wet.
But during the long drive back to St. Paul, they came to the realization that after 3,200 miles, they had only made a small first step if the country was going to get their government back.
“We have started organizing within Minnesota,” says Robin. “We are greatly encouraged by the efforts of State Representative Bill Hilty and State Senators Scott Dibble and John Marty, who have introduced bills in the state legislature to amend the state Constitution and allow only ‘natural persons’ to be considered people in the language of the Constitution. We will be working with local groups in communities across the state to pass resolutions at the city and county level in support of the state legislation and the United States Constitution.
The Monahan Brothers “Walk Across America for Democracy” was endorsed by Move to Amend www.movetoamend.org ─ a broad coalition of organizations calling for a Constitutional amendment ending “corporate personhood.” For more information call 707-269-0984. The Supreme Court’s attribution of constitutional rights to corporations is unsupported by the U.S. Constitution and is at odds with our Constitution’s promise of a republican form of government.
While our Constitution’s authors were alive, corporations were completely subordinate to democracy. They could not own stock, engage in activities other than those essential to their business, nor could they make any political or charitable contributions. Corporate lobbying also was prohibited.
Corporations are artificial creations of governments through the Secretary of State’s office in a particular state. No group can decide to give themselves limited liability, immunity from prosecution for corporate crimes, or other privileges. Only governments bestow such privilege. As government creations, corporations should be subject to democratic control, not enabled to control democracy.
The many special powers and privileges the U.S. Government grants corporations (for example, limited liability, perpetual lifespan, tax breaks, etc.), make limiting their political power essential.
No human being’s First Amendment rights will be infringed by preventing corporations from engaging in electoral advocacy. Though Move to Amend dissents from the Supreme Court’s view that spending money to influence election outcomes is equivalent to free speech, every corporate executive remains free, as an individual, to spend unlimited amounts of his/her own money to advocate for or against a political candidate or party (only direct investments to a candidate’s campaign fund are limited by law).
Justice Stevens, in dissent, (joined by Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg) was compelled to state the obvious: “Corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their ‘personhood’ often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of “We the People” by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.”
The Move to Amend statement of purpose:
“We the corporations”
On January 21, 2010, with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions.
We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to:
* Firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.
* Guarantee the right to vote and to participate, and to have our vote and participation count.
* Protect local communities, their economies, and democracies against illegitimate “preemption” actions by global, national, and state governments.
The Supreme Court is misguided in principle, and wrong on the law. In a democracy, the people rule. We Move to Amend.