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Charles Weed
State Representative
District 3

 

January 19, 2011

Representative Charles "Chuck" Weed represents Cheshire District 3 (Keene) in the NH House of Representatives.

Representative Weed is a member of the House Committee on Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services.

Why would I sponsor a bill to encourage our national legislators to support an amendment that removes corporations from the constitutional rights of personhood? This, as with many complex issues, is poorly understood by many Americans, including many of our legislators here in New Hampshire. 

Anyone who studies the issue, will find that since 1868, in the Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad decision, the legal community including most Supreme Court justices have assumed that corporations received the rights of persons in that decision. It was a mistake; there has never been a decision by the US Supreme Court, and the only reference to corporate personhood was written by the court clerk in a head note, which has neither legal status nor precedence. But it happened at a time when lobbyists from the dominant corporations of the time when "robber barons" lobbied pervasively to achieve that assumed belief. It may be similar to the phenomenon found when occupying troops "establish facts on the ground", from which to negotiate in the future. It was never the intent of the founding fathers to grant corporate personhood. Study the reasons behind the Boston tea party and one sees that it was a protest against the corporate monopoly granted by King George III to the East India Company. The founders established a government to prevent the kinds of concentration of power practiced by the Crown prior to our independence.

Today, under the misguided assumptions of the legal establishment, corporations may lie, receive due process rights, and may pour huge sums of money anonymously into political campaigns because of the equation of dollars and free speech. There will be no change to American politics until and unless the American people and their representatives recognize the concentration of power of artificial persons, which leaves democracy subject to corporate domination. Freedom of speech, due process rights, and other constitutional rights were designed and reserved for real human beings, not the artificial creations of groups of individuals whose sole purpose was to make money through corporate charters closely regulated by the states. This worked well for the first century of our republic.

Corporations are more than just organized groups of people participating in democracy; their purpose is increasing profits and convincing people to buy their products and services. Thomas Hartmann's, Unequal Protection, second edition, provides well-researched examples; here are just a few. In 1997, Ernst and Young, Nike's auditors, "documented how workers in a Vietnamese subsidiary were exposed to cancer-causing solvents like acetone and toluene in ways that would've been flatly illegal in the United States".  

Another Nike funded study, "found evidence of physical and verbal abuse and sexual harassment at nine of its factories in Indonesia." In a lawsuit filed by a lawyer upset with Nike's misleading claims about their workers health and safety standards and the apparent cover up of their auditors' report, Nike argued, "even if petitioners statements could be characterized as ‘commercial speech', the legal regime by the California Supreme Court violates the First Amendment". (Hartman's interpretation here - "we are a company which is the same as a person and so we have a First Amendment right to say whatever we want, just like anybody else." p. 167). 

Even with probable cause, "the EPA can't inspect a chemical factory without the permission corporation that owns it" (p. 224). And most significantly, for American democracy today, in January 2010, the Supreme Court "ruled that it is unconstitutional for Congress to pass or the president to sign into law any restrictions on the right of corporations to pour money into political campaigns as long as the money is not given directly to politicians, their campaigns, or their parties" (p. 174). Besides nullifying most of McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, this decision led to the more than $5 million in outside, largely anonymous, spending that helped to defeat Sen. Feingold, an outspoken advocate of community rights over corporate rights. There cannot be legislation restricting corporate money until they are not regarded as persons.

The founders intended equality between natural born humans, not equality between natural and artificial beings. Justice Rehnquist pointed out in 1978, "This court decided at an early date, with neither argument nor discussion, that a business corporation is a "person" entitled to equal protection of the 14th amendment… It became accepted that corporate property was protected under the due process clause of the 14th amendment. It is wrong."(p.27) 

New Hampshire legislators need to pay close attention to Justice John Paul Stevens' dissent in Citizens United:"the fact that corporations are different from human beings might seem to need no elaboration, except that the majority opinion almost completely elides (confuses) it… unlike natural persons, corporations have "limited liability" for their owners and managers, "perpetual life", separation of ownership and control, "and favorable treatment of the accumulation of assets… that enhance their ability to attract capital and to deploy their resources in ways that maximize the return on their shareholders investments… it is an interesting question "who" is even speaking when a business corporation places an advertisement that endorses or attacks a particular candidate. Presumably it is not the customers or the employees, who typically have no say in such matters"(p. 179)

Please help bring back democracy to the naturally born people; we need a constitutional ban of corporate personhood.


Charles F. Weed, Representative Cheshire 3
Keene, New Hampshire 


Telephone:  603-271-3125
Email: cweed@keene.edu

 

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