Citizens vs. Citizens United
Activists want to amend state constitution to affirm that corporations aren't people
Published: March 14, 2012
The backlash to the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling two years ago continues to mount.
Recently, this rag reported on the nascent effort to amend the U.S. Constitution to say that money isn't speech and corporations aren't people.
Last week a group of Michigan good-government activists announced plans to try to amend the state Constitution in order to compel disclosure of corporate efforts to influence elections.
Backers of the proposed Corporate Accountability Amendment say they have two main goals:
The first is to require "instant disclosure” of "corporate-funded political communications and lobbying in Michigan.”
The second is to require corporate backers who fund political ads to identify themselves in the same way that candidates now have to.
As stated on the group's website, "pay-to-play politics is out of control when wealthy corporate interests can elect their preferred candidates and get special favors and tax breaks. This grassroots initiative takes the first step for us as citizens to address the lack of disclosure for corporate political activity.”
Gotta like that — even if, as Rich Robinson of the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network says, the proposed amendment won't keep wealthy individuals from treating the electoral process as their own personal plaything.
Helping to spearhead this reform effort is Jocelyn Benson, a Wayne State University law school professor who specializes in voting rights issues. A Democrat, Benson previously made an unsuccessful bid to become Michigan's Secretary of State.
Part of the reason for pushing for a constitutional amendment, Benson tells News Hits, is the lack of a legislative response to concerns raised in the wake of Citizens United, which helped pave the way for the type of Super PAC-funded attack ads we saw dominate the airwaves here during the Michigan Republican presidential primary.
"The bottom line is that we as citizens don't know what goes on behind the scenes because of the state's weak lobbying and disclosure laws,” Benson says. "What we are attempting to do, essentially, is to put in the state Constitution that citizens have a right to know.”
So, who could be against such transparency? The Michigan Republican Party, for starters. The GOP responded to announcement of the amendment effort by attempting to tar Benson, in part, with claims that this is merely an attempt to revive her political career.
We say, even if that's true, what does that have to do with the merits of the amendment itself? The answer, of course, is absolutely nothing. But the ploy is typical: If you can't find fault with the message, then try to smear the messenger.
Slightly more than 320,000 valid signatures are required to get the measure on the ballot. This is a grassroots effort that intends to rely on volunteers to get the job done. If you'd like to help the cause, or simply want to learn more about the effort, go to corporateaccountabilityamendment.com.
> Email Curt Guyette