COMMUNITY RIGHTS 3-Pack
Rights exercised by large corporations have never been stronger in the United States. They respond to distant policy initiatives, lawsuits, and latent threats to their bottom lines with lightning speed and a full court press. Their lobbyists vet new regulations and bills with legislators. They kill bills. They write bills. The more glaring examples of corporate-friendly legislation, regulatory policies and court decisions are ones that run roughshod over environmental protection: the Keystone Pipeline, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the massive reductions in fines leveled on Exxon-Mobile oil spills from Alaska to Newark Bay. Communities are fighting back. The cry for Home Rule is heard in municipalities around the country. Local community rights ordinance campaigns hope to fend off polluting fossil fuel enterprises, GMOs, and crude oil train bombs.
Corporations, Corporations. From ExxonMobil to Wal-Mart they dominate society and politics. Over the last 100 years corporations have accrued enormous economic power and legal standing. A corporation is licensed to do business. These licenses are called charters. In theory, when a corporation violates its charter, it can be revoked. That used to happen but not any more. And now corporate power has gotten a big boost. On Jan. 21, 2010, the Supreme Court, in Citizen's United v. Federal Election Commission, ruled that there are no limitations on campaign contributions by both domestic and foreign corporations. Noam Chomsky calls the decision "a dark day in the history of U.S. democracy, and its decline." The ruling, The New York Times says "strikes at the heart of democracy" by having "paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections."
Recorded at the University of Colorado.
Alexis De Tocqueville, in his classic account of his visit to the relatively new country of the United States, was struck by how different it was compared to the monarchies of Europe. What was salient to him was the extent of local community self-government. De Tocqueville saw that as key to democracy. Political representatives, be they city council members or other officials, are held accountable for their actions and are subject to recall. Important decisions would be informed by the sentiments of the larger community. There would be town meetings and debates and discussions. Of course, the U.S. was a much smaller country then, but the fundamental right of citizens to participate in the political process remains central to the functioning of a living democracy. That right has been sidelined in the wake of a massive increase in corporate power and influence.
Paul Cienfuegos is a national leader in the Community Rights movement, which works to dismantle corporate constitutional so-called “rights” and assert the people’s inherent right to self-government. He founded Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County in 1995, co-founded Oregon Community Rights Network in 2013, and co-founded Community Rights US in 2017. More info at www.CommunityRights.US.
Richard Grossman, co-founder of the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy, was an independent researcher and writer focusing on governance, law, corporations, and organizing strategies. He passed away in New York in November 2011.
Thomas Linzey is co-founder and executive director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund and serves as its chief legal counsel. He is the author of Be the Change: How to Get What You Want in Your Community. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Mother Jones, and The Nation.