Corporations are not people, council says

The City Council on Tuesday passed a resolution in support of efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution to abolish "corporate personhood."

Mayor Mike Kasperzak introduced the resolution, which addresses the Supreme Court's 2010 "Citizens United" decision, which has allowed "unlimited corporate spending to influence elections" through the creation of political action committees known as SuperPACs, Kasperzak said.

"The serious consequences of the Supreme Court's decision have been revealed by the farcical and entirely legal million-dollar plus SuperPAC created by comedian Stephen Colbert," Kasperzak wrote in his pitch to the City Council. "It is clear that our Supreme Court got it wrong this time."

The council's Libertarian members, Tom Means and John Inks, were the only members to not support the resolution, with Inks voting no and Means abstaining after raising questions about whether it was an appropriate matter for the council to weigh in on.

Several dozen friends and members of Occupy Mountain View came to the meeting to show their support. Two members, Alison Hicks and Josh Wolf, spent 10 minutes speaking in favor of the resolution.

"Constitutional rights should be reserved specifically for natural persons," Wolf said.

"Allowing (corporations) to spend unlimited cash to influence politics is not free speech," Hicks said.

Hicks noted that it is possible for SuperPACs to be involved in local elections as well, and noted that it has become an issue in San Diego.

"We have worked in Mountain View pretty hard to reduce the effect of money in our elections," said council member Ronit Bryant, pointing the city's voluntary spending cap, which was at $19,000 in 2008. It's become a tradition to stay under the limit and those who do are reimbursed over $2,000 by the city to help publish ballot statements.

"Compared to other cities we are extremely modest," Bryant said. "I think that's the correct way to go for everyone."

Speaking in support of "corporate personhood," Inks spent more time than usual defending his position. The term has "utility" in the law, he said.

"I can get a feel for why this term corporate personhood is being developed in the law," Inks said. "Abolishing the term denies rights to non-government entities subject to the rules of government entities. I think that starts to go backwards in terms of the Bill of Rights."

Inks also said language in the resolution was "inflammatory" and said. "If we were to move to abolish this fictional term we would create chaos in the law."

The resolution points out that corporations were never mentioned in the Constitution and among its numerous statements says, "large corporations, profits and survival are often in direct conflict with the essential needs and rights of human beings."

Council member Macias responded to Inks.

"Corporations are not people, my friend. The constitution has been about expanding human rights. It didn't include certain groups of people as humans. We overreach when we start to think about non-living entities as having human rights; they don't."


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Posted by Sparty
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 21, 2012 at 2:22 pm

meanwhile people are being robbed in front of Castro Elementary school


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Posted by Jes' Sayin'
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 21, 2012 at 2:42 pm

*loud applause*

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Posted by Meghan F.
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 21, 2012 at 2:54 pm

I am so grateful today to live in Mountain View, and proud to have city council members so willing to stand up for human rights. Ending corporate personhood is the core of our collective fight today to reclaim our democracy and protect our rights. I applaud the city council!

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Posted by vfree
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm

I'm speechless, Kasperzak, Bryant, Macias, and occupy are embrassing the people of Mountain View. Logic would dictate that a Union would not be people either. I'm sure you see that differently, since unions give you and your leftist socialist party money.

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Posted by Alex M.
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 21, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Why is our city council wasting its time voting on resolutions that have absolutely no impact or influence on current federal (or even state) laws? Are they seriously suggesting that any corporation based in Mountain View is no longer allowed to act in ways specifically allowed by the Supreme Court of the United States? Seriously?

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Posted by Sparty
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm

" . Ending corporate personhood is the core of our collective fight today to reclaim our democracy and protect our rights. I applaud the city council!"

I assume you "shop local" as well... BOYCOTT CHAINSTORES!!"

Keep in mind the local mom and pop is probably a corporation, and "ending corporate personhood" isn't a talking point from a facebook page, it's something that will ensure your fav mom and pop would also be sued into homelessness the minute someone has a slip and fall in their shop.

You kids and your copy and paste activism are so cute.

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Posted by Nice
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Thank you city council! You make me proud to be a MV citizen!!!

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Posted by Sparty
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm

"The resolution points out that corporations were never mentioned in the Constitution "

Nor was the right not to be murdered,or robbed, or a right to education, libraries, choosing your own clothes...

more jr high level civics for the bread and circus crowd from the clown chamber downtown.

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Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I wonder if the City Council thinks Unions are "people"?

The City Council sures gets a lot of money from those Unions.

Funny how the City Council doesn't have a problem with that.

But what is even more funny is the idea the City Countil of Mountain View bothered to vote on this in the first place.

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Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm

What a ridiculous waste of time. The City Council should be focused on the affairs of the city and that giant corporation among us whose name begins with a G.

Next thing you know the City Council will be seeking to separate from the Union.

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Posted by Fed-up
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 21, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Anyone who wishes to apply for a seat on a City of Mountain View Board or Commission fills out an application, on the bottom of which is a line from Shakespear saying "What is a city if not the people?" That is what city's are, just empty buildings until you add the people. The same logic applies to corporations as well. The unions have long been a source of funding for liberals which explains the vote breakdown. The quid pro quo comes back as "featherbedding" jobs and sweetheart retirement packages that the taxpayers will be saddled with long after these council members have been forgotten. I am not at all surprised by the councils action considering the quality of public education these days.

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Posted by Sparty
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 21, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Let's not forget these jokers on the city council are wasting time on stupid resolutions while Mountain View continues the trend being second to last--only to Gilroy in API scores.

Stupid resolutions 1st, schools...when we get to it!!

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Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Jackson Park
on Mar 21, 2012 at 9:35 pm

There is no mention of the Corporate Person idea in the Constitution itself but it was developed by court decisions and law in the century after that. Is this correct? Apparently a restricted idea like it is necessary to conduct business. The corporation with limited liability was one development making the modern economy possible but it means that when the sheriff comes around, no one's at home - except the Corporate Person.

If it's not in the Constitution, then presumably Congress could define it as it please in being a political actor. Of course corporations would dump truckloads of money on Congress to prevent change or vote themselves more privileges. They have gotten in the habit of sending money to Washington as the ROI is higher than any investment in the marketplace.

The mischief of our follow the money politics is both political and economic. Politically it obviously makes a mockery of Democracy, in practice it just leaves the US a corrupt Banana Republic like all the others except that we are righteous nevertheless. The economy is left less efficient, more misallocated, more corrupt, and less Capitalistic and market oriented almost by the day. Large corporations are global and buy their global interests in Washington which are often dictated by other governments, most recently China.

We can see the inefficiency and essential corruption we get when we pay just under 18% US GDP for medical care. Other developed countries are paying a bit over half that for universal care and years longer life expectancy (ref - CIA World Factbook online). Most are single payer or mixed delivery systems such as we have now. But Switzerland has an insurance based, state of the art, system that would save us trillions though not as much as France's scheme. Since they both have longer than US life expectancy they don't appear to be pulling the plug on Granny which is what the US Right proposes to do to save money while loudly accusing their opponents of such a program. Corruption costs in life and money.

We all know the US financial system's ability to buy insurance as too big too fail. They get bailed without management changes or even new rules. They bought their way out of reforms going back 70 years. Today a "reform" bill - Dodd Franks - is thousands of lobbyist written pages or it couldn't pass. Glass Steagal was 37 pages that kept the Us banking system clean for 70 years. Corruption costs dearly. Without reforms we will have another '08 Crash without the money to bridge it over. Finance is not a service to our economy, our economy is a service to finance.

Today much of our national politics is Confederate gone national. That is, raising adversarial, distracted mobs while the real players clean the table. With the Citizens United decision our system is officially Banana Republic warmed over and Banana Republics historically do not survive. It really is that simple - the American Experiment will disappear. It will take a Constitutional Amendment to fix it and it will have to be grass roots (not Astroturf). It won't need thousands of pages.

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Posted by Mike Laursen
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 21, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Mr. DeBolt,

As a professional journalist, are you aware that the term, Libertarian, when capitalized refers to a member of the Libertarian Party. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe Tom Means has no connection to the Libertarian Party.

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Posted by Mike Laursen
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 21, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Anyway, I'm sure that libertarians such as Means and Inks could expound for hours on the abusive corporate welfare that goes on in this country. Yet, their discernment forces them to take a stance that appears to be in favor of corporate welfare and crony capitalism just because they were confronted with a overly simplistic resolution that conflates a fairly neutral legal framework with the abuses of cronyism that are build on top of that framework.

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Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 21, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Are unions which millions in political donations have personhood?

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Posted by Ann Schneider
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 22, 2012 at 9:47 am

Thanks Council for taking a stand on the dreadful Citizen's United case. Now please encourage all our sister cities and states to do the same.

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Posted by Observer
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 22, 2012 at 9:59 am

I think that the Citizens United decision affected corporations and unions the same. My understanding is that both Corporations and Unions were allowed to contribute to political campaigns or parties -- they both always did -- but there were special restrictions on them that did not apply to individuals. Citizens United said that corporations - AND unions - are "people" and should be allowed to contribute with no restriction. So if you're against this for corporations, you are also against this for unions.

Quick snipped from Wikipedia, which I don't always trust: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 08-205 (2010), 558 U.S. ––––, 130 S.Ct. 876 (January 21, 2010), was a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court, which held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting political expenditures by corporations and unions.

Anyone know if this is correct?

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Posted by Bena Vohra
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 22, 2012 at 10:04 am

The latest financial crisis involving large investment banks, and the money they invested in politicians who changed laws and regulations in the banks' favor solely to maximize profits, has had a detrimental effect on our local community. This makes it a concern that directly affects the business of this city. The loss of revenue from property tax, income tax, sales tax, etc. have all been felt in Mountain View.

We deserve more security than that, and I thank the City Council for passing a resolution that represents the concerns of so many.

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Posted by Laura C.
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 22, 2012 at 11:54 am

Hurray! I'm delighted and proud that our city government is committed to taking local action for this important issue that affects every *real* person in the nation.

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Posted by Craig Clevidence
a resident of another community
on Mar 23, 2012 at 10:09 pm

We at Renew Democracy would say to the Good people of Mountain View that your concern and action is highly laudable, however the issues of corporate personage and money equaling speech are in many ways red herrings and distract us from solving the seminal issues at hand. As far as corporate personage is concerned, determining the legal status and nomenclature utilized is not the seminal issue. What is crucial is what corporations, unions and other organizations and groups can do to distort democracy through the power they gain by aggregation both economically and politically.
That is why the Renew Democracy Amendment proposes that "The right to contribute to political campaigns and political parties is held solely by individual citizens." This strong statement diffuses concern about the status of any organization as it would no longer be able to contribute.
The Renew Democracy Amendment also proposes, "Political campaign and political party contributions shall not exceed an amount reasonably affordable by the average American." This allows for small-scale contributions that cannot by themselves influence legislators to act contrary to the will of the majority of their constituents.
If Americans take up this issue of solving the constitutional problems delineated in Citizens United, they should strongly consider the proposals in the RDA as the way to actually solve the underlying problems. Web Link

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Posted by BeckyJ
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 26, 2012 at 9:12 am

Yay City Council!!

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