Lori Sturdevant: Corporations and people

  • Article by: LORI STURDEVANT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 9, 2011 - 8:36 PM

David Cobb, Move to Amend

Photo: Move to Amdend, Courtesy Photo

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The conventional criticism of the Occupy Wall Street movement – that it is long on complaints about income inequality, but short on proposed remedies – may need revision.

A number of “occupations,” including ones in Minnesota, have latched onto a constitutional amendment proposal that would deny corporations legal status as persons with full First Amendment rights.

End corporate personhood” is their slogan. It’s been popping up lately on signs and banners at the Occupy MN encampment at Hennepin County Government Center and elsewhere around the country.
That’s the handiwork of Move to Amend, a national grassroots coalition that has been collaborating with the Occupy forces.
The coalition seeks constitutional change to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 “Citizens United” ruling, which opened the door for corporations to spend freely on political campaigns by arguing that such spending is constitutionally protected speech.
Citizens United is widely credited for the surge in campaign spending in 2010 that fueled a GOP takeover of the U.S. House.  More than $4 billion was spent on 2010 congressional elections, a 33 percent jump from spending in the previous non-presidential election year, 2006.
David Cobb, Move to Amend organizer and the 2004 Green Party presidential candidate, is in Minnesota this week to draw attention to amendment proposal.
He’s on tap to speak at the Peace Church in Duluth at 7 p.m. today, and in Grand Rapids at Itasca Community College at 6 p.m. Thursday.
As backers of the never-ratified Equal Rights Amendment could attest, those who seek to change the U.S. Constitution have a long and arduous road ahead of them. 
Americans are slow to alter the country’s founding covenant.  It’s happened only 27 times in 222 years.
But the rapid proliferation of Occupy protests in hundreds of U.S. locations, some as remote from Wall Street as Missoula, MT, suggests that Move to Amend has a brisk populist wind at its back.
More evidence from Missoula: On Tuesday, voters there overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment denying corporations legal status as persons.
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Lori Sturdevant is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist.
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