Ventura County supervisors adopted a resolution on Tuesday, voting 4-1, with Supervisor Peter Foy dissenting, to urge Congress to enact legislation and a constitutional amendment to end “corporate personhood” and expressly enable campaign finance regulation. Co-authored by Supervisors Steve Bennett and Linda Parks, the resolution, whether simply symbolic or politically motivated, serves as a stand against the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which ruled in favor of corporations having the same legal rights as human beings. The ruling allowed corporations and unions to make unlimited political donations as a First Amendment right of free speech. (Foy who opposed the motion said it didn’t address unlimited spending by unions, but Bennett countered, saying such a constitutional amendment would address both corporations and unions.)
The move by the Ventura County supervisors, however, may not result in much. Cal Lutheran University political science professor Herb Gooch said it would be extraordinary for the U.S. Supreme Court judges who still sit on the bench, and made the ruling in the first place, to reverse their decision. Also, because of the current gridlock in Congress, getting Democrats and Republicans to agree on and pass legislation for such a constitutional amendment simply isn’t there at the moment.
The apparent limitations on ending corporate personhood don’t necessarily mean that any efforts to do just that are futile. In fact, doing anything, from protests to contacting our legislators and our legislators urging change, is better than doing nothing. “You can’t lie down and not do anything, the silence being interpreted as acceptance,” Gooch said.
While it may take years, even decades, to see the demise of corporate personhood and unlimited political spending, our actions today do count for something. The Ventura County Supervisors join the city councils of Thousand Oaks and Ojai in the effort to end corporate personhood. They are among the many cities, counties and even states across the country that have adopted resolutions to abolish corporate personhood. Hope springs eternal but the battle is just beginning.
Though average citizens may expect to be overwhelmed with more negative campaigning than ever before with an estimated $1 billion to be spent on the presidential election, fueled by super political action committees (PAC) that will have unlimited spending, we can opt to tune it out and make it known that we, as voters, can’t be bought. But we have a long way to go as the primary season proved that there is much power in persuasion.
As the battle rages on, we applaud local activists and elected officials for their efforts in trying to level the playing ground. We look forward to more bold moves to bring awareness to the situation and that our Congress members are paying attention. But it takes a multitude of voices to move forward. For those who disagree with corporate personhood but remain silent, doing nothing will get us nothing, or worse. So get motivated, get active and do something. If your City Council members have remained quiet on the matter, now is the time to urge them to join in fight.