Why Do You Have Fewer Rights Than Corporations?
|June 2, 2006||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Why Do You Have Fewer Rights Than Corporations?
Measure T Challenges Corporate Power
Here are portions of a recent article appearing in the Arcata Eye (California, U.S.).
by Daniel Mintz
The coalition supporting Measure T doesnt believe corporations should have the same rights that individuals do — nor does District Attorney Paul Gallegos, and he and other speakers described the initiative as a means of short-circuiting unfair election laws during a forum recently.
Measure T has provoked instant and aggressive opposition. It seeks to ban political spending by non-local corporations, but also asks voters to make the legislative findings that the Supreme Court has asked for as a condition of hearing arguments against corporate electioneering.
The measures goals and motivations were explained recently to an audience of about 35 people at Eurekas Labor Temple, during which Gallegos spoke at length and with passion on his strong support for the ballot measure. He has personal experience with corporate-funded elections, as the 2003 attempt to recall him was almost single-handedly financed by the Pacific Lumber Company and its owner, the Houston-based Maxxam Corporation.
A 1999 ballot measure campaign by the Wal-Mart Corporation, which failed in its attempt to get voters to approve a Eureka zoning change accommodating the construction of a super-store, rounds out the countys history of corporate political funding. And Gallegos said the laws that allow it are based on flawed understanding of the Constitution, as are the intensely-zealous criticisms of Measure T.
What a lot of people dont understand is that our constitution is a limitation on governmental power, Gallegos told the mostly pro-Measure T audience. And he proceeded to describe how that concept has been reversed with the advent of election laws that deem corporate contributions to be free speech and corporations themselves as entities with the same rights as individuals.
Rights are innate, not corporate
Gallegos said the countrys founders envisioned human rights as a natural, not governmental, aspect of existence. Our constitution, our Declaration [of Independence] were formed with the premise that you and I have the rights that were given to us by a supreme being the god of nature is what our founding fathers called it, he continued. Therefore government cannot grant rights, said Gallegos. And if our rights pre-existed the formation of government, and corporations are creatures of government, how can corporations have rights?
The DA added that empowering corporations undermines the foundation of constitutional beliefs and the election process. We need to correct this wrong to our rights and let our government know that we are people and people have rights, thats where it begins and ends.
But Measure T has been portrayed by critics as a delusion. Responding to that, Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, Measure Ts campaign coordinator, pointed out that the history of court action shaping election laws is full of nearly split decisions and minority opinions that raise intense concerns about the effects of corporate political power.
Sopoci-Belknap emphasized that Measure T is not a symbolic gesture but a legal structure thats been outlined by the Supreme Court. The courts have said that communities do have the right to preserve the integrity of the electoral process, she said. So when you all vote yes on Measure T… we will be passing a law that has never been tried before, and we will be doing this for the exact reasons that the courts have said a community could pass such a law.
Youre going to win
The events main speaker, John Bonifaz, a Massachusetts resident who founded the National Voting Rights Institute, said Measure T will reverse a lopsided corporate political advantage that has become a constitutionally protected one. What Humboldt County voters have an opportunity to do in early June is to let this evolving document evolve further and to ensure that when it comes to corporations that are outside your community – that are distorting basic political processes and undermining citizen confidence in your elections that youre going to stand up and say enough, youre going to stand up and say no.
The countys most controversial public figure, Rob Arkley, Jr., has said that the initiative will be met with a legal challenge if it passes. Arkley owns the multibillion dollar Security National Servicing Corporation, which is proposing a shopping center project on Eurekas bayfront on the same site that Wal-Mart eyed in 1999 and his company representative has said that a ballot measure campaign in support of the project is a possibility.
It wont be if Measure T passes and stands, though. And during a question and answer session, Bonifaz drew loud and long applause when he said the level of opposition to Measure T gauges its importance, and added, referring to a quote from Gandhi, Theyre no longer ignoring you and theyre no longer laughing at you theyre fighting you now, but I think youre going to win.
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