Corporations are not people, council says | March 23, 2012 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - March 23, 2012

Corporations are not people, council says

by Daniel DeBolt

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 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."

Email Daniel DeBolt at


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