“Move to Amend” Resolution Attacking Corporate Personhood Hits Missoula City Council

“Corporations are not human beings and do not have the same rights as human beings”
— Cynthia Wolken, Missoula City Councilwoman


Hot on the heals of the “Running on Empty” corporate push to consolidate power in the states, Missoula’s newest Councilwoman, Cynthia Wolken, has introduced a Resolution in Missoula City Council to have the City join with communities across the land calling for a Constitutional Amendment opposing corporate personhood.

Wolken’s Resolution was heard and approved in the Council of the Whole yesterday, and moves to the full City Council at its regular meeting next Monday night. Wolken was quoted behind a paywall in the local affiliate of a corporate newspaper chain as saying:

“I heard an overwhelming sense of despair about government,” Wolken said Wednesday. People don’t believe their voices are heard, especially at the state and federal levels, she said. And they believe campaign dollars are distorting democracy…

“A lot of people feel what they say doesn’t matter because somebody with more money will come along and drown out their voices,” she said at a Committee of the Whole meeting.

She is asking the Missoula City Council to place on the 2011 ballot a referendum to push the Montana Legislature and the U.S. Congress to amend the Constitution and declare “corporations are not human beings and do not have the same rights as human beings.

“The city of Missoula, unfortunately, can’t fix this problem, but we can give our constituents a voice at the local level to say how they feel about it,” Wolken said.

Wolken’s Resolution represents Missoula’s local entry into a larger national movement focalized by groups like Move to Amend that are pushing for a Constitutional Amendment:

On January 21, 2010, with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions.

We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to:

* Firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.

* Guarantee the right to vote and to participate, and to have our vote and participation count.

* Protect local communities, their economies, and democracies against illegitimate “preemption” actions by global, national, and state governments.

The Supreme Court is misguided in principle, and wrong on the law. In a democracy, the people rule. We Move to Amend.

Move to Amend is chock full of resources intended to help local activists organize and fight in your community and state against corporate personhood. Check it out and get organized and fight the behemoth!

And right on Cynthia! It’s great to see the new Councilwoman in my old ward take up the good fight and carry on the torch! Get your rearends down to City Council Monday night and show your support for Cynthia in her quest to lead Missoula into the national fight against corporate personhood and domination in American politics.

And don’t forget to listen to the great editorial on Montana Public Radio last year by Brian Muldoon describing Citizen’s United and the history of corporate “personhood.”

Text of Resolution after the jump:


WHEREAS, government of, by, and for the people has long been a fundamental American value, and We The People’s fundamental and inalienable right to self-govern, and thereby secure rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness is guaranteed in the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and;

WHEREAS, free and fair elections are essential to democracy and effective self governance, and;

WHEREAS, persons are rightfully recognized as human beings whose essential needs include clean air, clean water, safe and secure food, and;

WHEREAS, corporations are entirely human-made legal fictions created by express permission of We The People and our government, and;

WHEREAS, corporations can exist in perpetuity, can exist simultaneously in many nations at once, need only profit for survival, and exist solely through the legal charter imposed by the government of We the People, and;

WHEREAS, in addition to these advantages, the great wealth of large corporations allows them to wield coercive force of law to overpower human beings and communities, thus denying We The People’s exercise of our Constitutional rights, and;

WHEREAS, corporations are not mentioned in the Constitution, and The People have never granted constitutional rights to corporations, nor have We decreed that corporations have authority that exceeds the authority of We The People of the United States, and;

WHEREAS, interpretation of the Constitution by appointed Supreme Court justices to include corporations in the terms ‘persons’ has denied We The People’s exercise of selfgovernance by endowing corporations with Constitutional protections intended for We The People, and;

WHEREAS, the judicial bestowal of civil and political rights upon corporations usurps basic human and Constitutional rights guaranteed to human persons, and also empowers corporations to sue municipal and state governments for adopting laws that violate ‘corporate rights’ even when those laws serve to protect and defend the rights of human persons and communities, and;

WHEREAS, corporations are not and have never been human beings, and therefore are rightfully subservient to human beings and governments as our legal creations, and;

WHEREAS, large corporations’ profits and survival are often in direct conflict with the essential needs and rights of human beings, and;

WHEREAS, the recent Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision that rolled back the legal limits on corporate spending in the electoral process creates an unequal playing field and allows unlimited corporate spending to influence elections, candidate selection, policy decisions and sway votes, and forces elected officials to divert their attention from The Peoples’ business, or even vote against the interest of their human constituents, in order to raise competitive campaign funds for their own re-election, and;

WHEREAS, large corporations own most of America’s mass media and use that media as a megaphone to express loudly their political agenda and to convince Americans that their primary role is that of consumers, rather than sovereign citizens with rights and responsibilities within our democracy, and this forces citizens to toil to discern the truth behind headlines and election campaigning, and;

WHEREAS, tens of thousands of people and municipalities across the nation are joining together to call for an Amendment to the United States Constitution to Abolish Corporate NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Missoula City Council places the following referendum language on the November 8, 2011, general election ballot for the approval or disapproval of the voters of the City of Missoula: Ballot statement:

The citizens of Missoula, Montana, hereby urge the Montana State Legislature and United States Congress to amend the United States Constitution to clearly state that corporations are not human beings and do not have the same rights as citizens.

FOR urging our state and federal elected officials to amend the United States Constitution to state that corporations are not human beings.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that, should it pass by a majority vote on November 8, 2011, a copy of this Referendum of non-binding statement on behalf of Citizens of Missoula be forwarded immediately to United States President Barack Obama, Senator Max Baucus, Senator Jon Tester, Representative Dennis Rehberg, and all members of the Montana State House and Senate

  1. Turner

    Excellent news and excellent post. I linked to it on my Facebook page. Other cities and even states need to follow suit.

  2. I understand the profound concern people have about the pernicious influence of money on politics and policy, but an assault on our first amendment rights to assembly and speech will destroy more than it protects. Without free speech guarantees for corporations, virtually every newspaper will lose constitutional protection for its news reporting and editorial writing. The majority in the Supreme Court decision explicitly warned that the government has no reliable method to discern earnest editorial commentary from corporate advocacy. I don’t want to live in a country or operate any kind of news reporting outfit where every newspaper column or broadcast commentary is potentially actionable because it violates corporate restrictions on political activity.

    Trying to silence groups of people who might disagree with you seems fundamentally wrong to me anyway.

    On the other hand, I’m strongly in favor of stringent requirements to quickly and reliably report the identities of individuals and corporations engaged in political speech. The people behind public policy campaigns should be easily identifiable and held accountable in the court of public opinion for their openly professed views.

    Matt Gibson
    Independent Publishing, Inc.

    • JC

      Why do you need a corporation to protect the first amendment rights of individuals–your reporters and editorial writers? You don’t. Taking first amendment rights away from corporations does nothing to hinder the rights of your employees to speak and write as individuals.

      And I am strongly opposed to your notion of “stringent requirements to quickly and reliably report the identities of individuals… engaged in political speech”. That is the most draconian, big brother opinion that I have ever heard a publisher of a “progressive” weekly expound.

      You would propose that I must identify myself in order to engage in political speech, yet a corporation need not identify those in the corporation who are dictating its speech? Dumbfounding.

      And you think I need to be ‘held accountable in the court of public opinion for [my] openly professed views” by being easily identifiable? Mind boggling.

      I find it absurd that you are willing to trade my right to privacy for your fictional notion of corporate personhood.

      Your draconian approach to this topic bodes ill for this country. If the media acts as an advocate for advancing corporate personhood, then their corporate “freedom” to defend and report on the corporatization of our politics however they wish will in turn drive this country into a place where the flesh and blooded become subservient to faceless corporations running our politics and government.

      Lastly, you say that “virtually every newspaper will lose constitutional protection for its news reporting and editorial writing”. Balderdash. There are Constitutional protections for the freedom of the press.

      “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”.

      You already have Constitutional protection, and a long and settled history of case law protecting the rights of a free press. Nobody is taking away, or proposing to change the First Amendment. Go cry me a river.

      • I think you missed the point JC. Although the Indy’s reporters rights as individuals aren’t at stake here, but the paper’s right to publish their work might, as well as our right to speak with an institutional voice. For instance, candidate endorsements might wind up violating future laws regarding political speech by corporations.

        A lot of folks seem to assume the press would somehow be exempt from any potential restrictions on corporate speech. But who owns the press? The majority’s warning points out the difficulty in determining when Disney’s ABC network is engaging in earnest news reporting and disinterested commentary and when it’s driving a political agenda to say, reduce corporate income tax. Where does that leave ABC news? I’m worried about that problem.

        Your emphasis on personal privacy would seem to put you at odds with all current laws requiring public reporting of political donors. Is that your intended stance?

        • Sorry about that garbled first sentence, but I hope you get the drift.

        • JC

          I didn’t miss your points.

          1) Your complaint about a “paper’s right to publish” is hollow. The freedom of the press to publish is enshrined in the 1st Amendment, and a long body of settled case law.

          2) As to “our right to speak with an institutional voice” that is exactly what I am talking about. The anonymity afforded corporations is at the root of the problem. I’ll defer to Sam Reynolds’ statement about this:

          “Sam Reynolds of The Missoulian coined the phrase “editorial transubstantiation” to describe the belief (incredible to him) that an unsigned editorial can express the opinion of something so impersonal as a newspaper. It was like the leap of faith, he said, that is involved in believing that bread and wine are transubstantiated into the blood and body of Christ.”

          I’m not concerned about your ability to speak with “an institutional voice”. You have your individual voices. And you can sign your opinions and endorsements to absolve the corporation of accountability for their content.

          3) My emphasis on personal privacy is not at any odds with public reporting with donations. Thats ridiculous. I do not equate my speaking politically with giving money to a politician. Those who equate money with speech are the ones who have the problem here. Would that be you?

          4) Your worries about ABC and Disney’s “rights” seem petty to my and millions of other people’s concerns about the loss of our national integrity due to capture of the political process by corporations.

    • sounds like mr gibson, has swallowed the whole citizens united bait….. hook line and sinker.

      corporations are created by people. they are entities but only insomuch as they comprise a common enterprise. they are not living breathing citizens any more than a building (which is shared and built by people for a common enterprise) would be.

      the sole purpose of the entity is to serve the interests of the common investors, who are people.

      individuals are free to donate to whatever cause they want to. but the idea that corporations should be able to donate to politicians who will further the entity’s interests sways political power in a dangerous direction away from democracy and liberty into a self-serving feudal colony.

      the liberty of individual americans is at stake here. for a publisher to proclaim openly that this is ok; that it is ok for america to turn over 235 years of protection of individual rights to a corporate monarchy is unthinkable and so egregiously against the principle of what the first amendment stands for that i am frankly amazed.

      between the social fascism of the far right and the corporate takeover of our liberties and our laws as well as our politicians, america is in grave danger of losing freedom altogether.


      • Geez, bear, saying I swallowed something hook, line and sinker makes me sound like a gullible stooge. Is that the way you feel about everybody who disagrees with you?

        • disagreeing with someone who makes his living with the printed word and who basically is ok with giving up individual rights to machines leaves me no choice but to consider them at the very least gullible if not a bit daft.

          but that’s just me.

          i am sure a lot of publishers feel the same way right?
          i am also certain that you are in good company.
          the blindness of the mainstream media toward the loss of political power of the individual is what troubles me.

          i knew your predecessors sir. and they would not ride the waters of the river Styx with you on this point, i am sure.

  3. lizard19

    there is inevitably going to be a backlash against the corrosive influence of corporate cash in our politics, because that’s the main reason our choices have been reduced to either corporate tool D or corporate tool R.

    maybe if corporate personhood didn’t so closely resemble sociopathic behavior, there wouldn’t be campaigns like the one noted in this post.

    but they are sociopaths.

    what else can explain a massively profitable company like Verizon trying to literally fuck over their employees for no other reason than they can, just to make more money. and for the striking workers, the sociopath known as Verizon is threatening to yank away their health insurance.

  4. How about adding Unions and Non-Profit Organizations into this. Or are these organizations “persons” while corporate organizations are “non persons”?

    Unions, Non-Profits and Corporations are all organizations right? All have power and influence so all should be in the same category as non persons with the exact same restrictions. Right? Am I wrong here?

    • JC

      WHy don’t you go and read up on corporate law and answer your own questions. You obviously don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. Pretty much everything you said is wrong.

      • I wouldn’t be so quick to reject that argument, JC. A corporation is a corporation, right? Are you going to let non-profits skate because they fit into a particular part of the tax code? Every C corp in the country will end around your intended restrictions by simply forming non-profit arms to do their advocacy for them. The prohibitions on speech Cynthia’s movement contemplates would seem to affect all groups that organized as corporations under the law. That’s why I’d characterize it as an assault on our fundamental rights to assembly and speech.

        Matt Gibson
        Independent Publishing, Inc.

        • JC

          You can make Andy and the Tea Party’s argument for him if you want. I just thought it might be good for him to learn to think for himself a little bit.

          But beings as you went ahead and did his work for him, I don’t distinguish between the types of corporations when it comes to corporate personhood.

          Nonprofits ( c(3)’s ) are already heavily restricted from political speech, and cannot endorse. Political influence of for-profit corporations far outweigh the influence of unions, and leveling the playing field here is fine with me.

          And no, every C corp in the country will not do an end around corporate restrictions. That’s your fantasy, and it’s not altogether clear what you’re insinuating.

          As to the movement to restrict corporate personhood as a “fundamental rights to assembly and speech”, you again are confusing the “rights” of corporations with the rights of individuals. Reserving rights under the Constitution to the flesh and blooded takes nothing away from them.

          But again, I point to your position as being the one that will inevitably end up with corporations capturing the political process in this country. I call that fascism. And it is well underway and opinions like yours only serve to facilitate it.

    • mr benson

      I agree Andy. And most churches are organized under the fed tax code 501 as well and should mind that political prohibition as well.

      • Escapee

        Churches enjoy immunity from all of this. They are not 501C’s or anything of the kind so long as they stick to their business.

        • mr benson

          “Churches and religious organizations, like many other
          charitable organizations, qualify for exemption from
          federal income tax under IRC section 501(c)(3) and
          are generally eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions.” (as long as they do the things the code requires)

          A quote from the IRS for the terminally stupid, like “escapee” above.

  5. I see this as a big distraction to the city council doing the work for the city. But we all have our romances.

    • JC

      You don’t think the city should be doing the work it’s constituents want? It’s just a resolution. Maybe an hour or two of effort. Not exactly a “big distraction” like, say, buying a ball park was.

      • mr benson

        Not always, JC. Remember when the citizens of cities in Mississippi and Alabama and Georgia wanted segregated businesses and facilities?

        So when the citizens show up and want the council to do something stupid, pretend that they know anything about foreign policy and surrender to Iraq, or pretend they’re the Supreme Court and make legal rulings, the council should have the integrity to know their business, and stick to it.

    • Yes, i think that exactly. But this doesn’t have anything to do with running the city. I don’t think the citizens of Missoula care nearly as much about that as they do other things like fixing roads and maintaining parks (and repealing the bullshit war on street food vendors.)

      If this cause should be taken up it should be taken up with the Montana legislature.

      This is just romantic horseshit.

      • jack ruby

        That doesnt make sense according to your own logic since the MT Legislature does not have the ‘jurisdiction’ to take away corporate personhood & overturn Citizens United. It would be just as meaningless a gesture as you claim this to be.

      • Maybe you should read your Constitution on how a convention can be called.

        • jack ruby

          Oh I thought you were talking about something that you believed the Montana Legislature had the jurisdiction to accomplish on its own, not a romantice bullshit notion that MT Leg. being one of the dozens of states required to call for a Constitutional Convention, will lead the charge to actually amend the Constitution. Please accept my apologies. So many baggers have the mistaken notion that the MT Legislature has the authority to nullify acts of the federal government I mistakenly assumed that was what you meant.

    • Escapee

      Since we cannot hope for any help at then national level, corporations running that show and all, it’s going to be grassroots rebellion that overturns that slimy decision. You don’t think Missoula has a dog in the race? The you do not believe in bottom-up government.

      • I don’t believe in in bottom up government. I think I said it should be taken to the state – where the jurisdiction for constitutional questions actually matters.

        Get the petitions out if you think it matters and take it to your state reps. Doing this at a local level, where there is no jurisdiction, is just pandering on the part of city council members.

  6. Ingemar Johansson

    What a waste.

    Next thing you know they’ll be passing a law to allow transvestites use of public bathrooms.

    • Escapee

      Or allowing blacks in restaurants. That was pretty much a local jurisdiction human rights thing too, ya see.

      • mr benson

        Actually, local jurisdictions forbade blacks in restaurants. It took the feds to force desegregation on the states. In some ways, the local action quite similar to the one we are discussing, yet another action to try and take rights away granted by the federal govt and the courts.

  7. Swede, at least that had something that was in the city’s jurisdiction.

    • Ingemar Johansson

      Got me on that one Dave.

      But consider this one. Wouldn’t these be the same people would would grant human rights to animals and trees?

      • Escapee

        God almighty what a dumb statement!

        • Ingemar Johansson

          You’re right, I’m just 25 years ahead of the times.

          From Wiki: The idea of awarding rights to animals has the support of legal scholars such as Alan Dershowitz and Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School. Animal rights is routinely covered in universities in philosophy or applied ethics courses, and as of 2011 animal law was taught in 135 law schools in the United States and Canada. Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby argued in 2008 that the movement had reached the stage the gay rights movement was at 25 years earlier.

          • JC

            Key word: “animal”. Animal rights. Not human rights. Nobody is advocating giving first amendment rights to animals. But we have given them to corporations.

            At least animals can think…

          • Nobody is advocating giving first amendment rights to animals.

            Speak for yourself.

            • JC

              Show me where someone is advocating first amendment rights for animals.

            • I am. (Why so serious?)

              • I don’t care what you hate. I wasn’t conflating anything. I was making an attempt at a joke. Obviously a few of you couldn’t see the complete ridiculousness of arguing for animals’ First Amendment rights.

                And I don’t have to defend anything on any merits. I think the issue is overblown and I don’t care much about it. The only point I’ve made is that I don’t want my city council wasting time. Beyond that, anything you have to say about CU is something I don’t care about.

              • Escapee

                Your argument has been destroyed on that level too.

                1) Saying that city councils have better things to do than “waste time” on broad issues of civil liberties is akin to saying that we should give up on this one. It so happens that the issue is not being fought at any level aside from city councils in progressive towns. Yeah, that’s how bad it has gotten in this country. But it is what it is. The issue must be fought, and if that is where it starts, maybe ends, it’s still a fight that must be fought

                2) My ex wife, after losing an argument (only occasionally) would resort to the cavalier defense (“I don’t care about it anyway”). If that is the case go away.

            • Escapee

              In hate to see this silly debate tactic succeed. They are derailing the arguments put forth by conflation of one idea (that corporations are individuals) with another (that animals, unable to speak for themselves, need laws to protect them from inhuman treatment).

              The two are not related. Budge, you need to defend CU on it’s own terms. On what grounds should organized investors have rights superior to the people who created them? Leave the kitty cats out of it, stand your ground, make your case. JC will tear you a new one,

          • Escapee

            The argument that animals have “rights” is in the realm of laws we make because those laws are just. Animal suffering needs to be minimized. We have the power to do so, just as we have the power to rprotect children from abuse.

            It is not related in anyway to CU. Go back to Wiki now and learn about “conflation.”

  8. That’s because you argue in bad faith most of the time. But taking it to the legislature is one hell of a lot less romantic than nonsense sentiments passed by city councils.

    • jack ruby

      Was this for me? What do you mean Im arguing in bad faith? I personally dont see any romance in dealing with the Missoula City Council or the MT Legislature…I do not believe there is a member of either august body which I would find a romantic interest in. But to your actual point…so you dont think Im just arguing with you in bad faith…there really isn’t much practical difference. Both (a resolution by the City Council and the MT Leg) would be for all practical purposes a statement of position made for the purposes of swaying public opinion and influencing policy. One would actually have an infinitessimal chance of being part of a wider movement to amend the Constitution in a way that has never actually succeeded. So in that sense I can agree it would be somewhat more helpful although I couldnt say less romantic. The reality is that this will not change until the Supreme Court decision is overturned. Which may or may not ever happen. The Court will and has responded to politicial pressure and what it perceives to be the public opinion though and of course is subject to replacement and new membership.

    • JC

      DAve, if you’d read the preamble to the Resolution, this is what it says:


      This is the way the the citizens of Missoula let their elected representatives to the state legislature know that this how they want them to act on this issue.

      You may disagree with the process, and others might giggle like a bunch of silly schoolgirls, but the City Council is but a first small step toward citizens getting their voices heard and organized, and then proceeding on to the state level.

      Are you in support of a Constitutional Amendment of this sort? If so, then how would you rather the state take it up, if not from a grassroots approach?

      Move to Amend also has advice for organizers in states with initiative and referendum processes to proceed that way, also. I’d like to see enough interest in this Amendment so that maybe a political constituency would form around a citizen’s initiative to drive the process forward, as I don’t believe that the leg is ready to act on this.

  9. As a matter of fact I’m not in favor of this type of constitutional amendment and I find all the Koch talk on the left as shrill and crazy as the Soros talk on the right. I want both Soros and Koch to support things I believe in and be a goddamn vocal about it as they care to be.

    But for even things that I do support, such as legalizing drugs, gay marriage, open borders, I still wouldn’t approve of the city council taking it up. It’s not their preview to express public opinion beyond their jurisdiction. It just panders to constituencies.

    Like I said, start a petition and see what real support exists rather than wasting one single minute passing something whose membership changes potentially making such a sentiment largely ephemeral in a couple of years.

    • JC

      Well, then I guess we disagree all the way around. I for one don’t mind using the City Council as a vehicle for raising awareness, and building constituency. And that’ll be past us next week, and we can see if enough people in the community get fired up about the issue to work on petitions and what-have-you.

      But I think your desire to have both the Kochs and Soros agree with you is a fantasy. And waiting for the rich to agree with the little man on the street is just not going to happen.

      While the Kochs go on their way using their money to buy a political system of their liking, the rest of us are going to keep thinking of ways to keep them from solidifying their oligarchy.

      Oh, and what is shrill about all the mega-millionaires and billionaires saying to go ahead and raise their taxes? They see the pitchforks on the horizon.

      • I think your putting words in my mouth. Kochs and Soros have both supported the Drug Policy Alliance and massive liberal immigration reform. Soros has gamed the banking system and fx markets that have had crushing effects on the poor. Kochs have lobbied their interests in oil and energy. Both have good things and both have bad things.

        But just because you agree with Soros more than you agree with Koch doesn’t mean that either one is right.

        You want to get rid of rent seeking? Get rid of so much rent to seek?

  10. JC


    I take it back Dave. Let’s grant 2nd Amendment rights to cows.

    ;-) I’m not always so serious… But I do think it is about as absurd a granting first amendment rights to corporations.

  11. while fully acknowledging how difficult it is to expunge corruption,the political language of this country used to at least pretend to abhor it…..

    but now after citizens united, corruption has been cemented as law, the larvae of corporatism is rapidly chewing away the foundation of this country’s basis – one person, one vote.

    i consider whatever anyone can do to deter it- whether it is city councils, or one american citizen on a corner holding a sign, to be patriotic.

    and i consider those who support citizens united to be traitorous to the ultimate survival of this democracy.

    • So, someone who disagrees with you is a “traitor”?

      I’ve been writing about and exposing corporatism for decades. I abhor it. But your position on CU against mine is therefor a bit more complicated than me endorsing corporate interests isn’t it? But I’m glad to know that you would convict me of a hanging offense.

      Your standards of patriotism are just a bit too high for me.

  12. Escapee,

    Fight away. Let me know how you do. And let your ex-wife know that I feel her pain. The good news is that I don’t need to divorce you to blow you off.

  13. Chuck

    Isn’t there a backlog of urgent and important work that HAS to be done? How about jobs?

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