The City Council passed Resolution 1172 yesterday opposing the United States Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which declared corporations have the same first amendment rights as individuals, a concept that has come to be known as corporate personhood. This decision, which was made just shy of a year ago, prohibited the government from placing limits on individual contributions and has become a favored target of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Protesters affiliated with Occupy Wall Street supported the passage of the Council’s anti-corporate personhood resolution and approximately twenty of them packed the observation balcony during the stated meeting yesterday where they applauded for the bill and booed dissenting members. In addition to expressing opposition for the Supreme Court decision, the resolution called for a Constitutional amendment “to provide that corporations are not entitled to the entirety of protections or ‘rights’ of natural persons, specifically so that the expenditure of corporate money to influence the electoral process is no longer a form of constitutionally protected speech.”
Council members Brad Lander, Melissa Mark-Viverito and Steve Levin, all members of the Progressive Caucus, sponsored the bill. It was co-sponsored by the rest of the caucus membership. After the bill was passed, the Progressive Caucus released a statement saying the resolution showed “restoring confidence in government and strengthening democratic participation” are among the core principles of the caucus.
“We believe that corporations should not share the same rights as people, that unlimited and unreported corporate donations meant to sway the electoral process should not be considered freedom of speech, and that the government should regulate the raising and spending of money by corporations intended to influence elections,” the statement said. “We cannot allow corporate money to manipulate our democracy.”
With the passage of Resolution 1172, the City Council joins several other local government bodies who have passed similar resolutions. Los Angeles, Oakland, Albany and Boulder have also come out against corporate personhood in recent months.