February 16, 2013
Congress Responds to Move to Amend Grassroots Organizing with "We the People" Amendment
By Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap
Covers Move to Amend introduction of We the People Amendment in Congress to state that only people have constitutional rights and money is not free speech.
The growing grassroots democracy movement took another huge step forward this week when Congressional Representatives Rick Nolan (DFL-Minnesota) and Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) joined Move To Amend coalition organizers Ben Manski and George "Leesa" Friday at the National Press Club to announce that the " We the People Amendment " was being introduced in Congress (H.J.Res. 29).
This amendment clearly and unequivocally states that:
Section 1. [Only People Have Constitutional Rights]
The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.
Artificial entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.
The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.
Section 2. [Money is Not Free Speech]
Federal, State, and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate's own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of their money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.
Federal, State, and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.
Lead sponsor Rep. Rick Nolan (DFL-Minnesota), said: "It's time to take the shaping and molding of public policy out of corporate boardrooms, away from the corporate lobbyists, and put it back in city halls -- back with county boards and state legislatures -- and back in the Congress where it belongs."
Ben Manski, a spokesperson for the Move to Amend coalition agreed, saying: "Today, members of Congress join a movement that insists on the fundamental equality of all Americans, and that rejects the idea that the corporate class should have special protections against We the People."
The Move to Amend Coalition was formed in preparation for the Supreme Court's Citizens United v FEC ruling in 2010. Today, the coalition boasts over 260,000 supporters, thousands of endorsing organizations, and has organized over 150 local affiliate across the country. These are groups who have formed in their local communities to educate, agitate and organize in direct support of the Move To Amend position that only people have constitutional rights and that money is not free speech.
In a few short years this grassroots movement has passed almost 500 resolutions in municipalities and local governments across the country calling on the state and federal governments to adopt an amendment.
Deeper still, they have used the citizens initiative process to place the issue squarely before the voters in dozens of cities and counties, and have won every single election! Most of those elections have been super-majorities, often winning by more than 70%. These victories include areas traditionally considered liberal, and other areas traditionally considered conservative.
"The movement transcends typical political parties and labels," said George Friday. "The Move To Amend coalition is multi-racial, includes rural and city folk, all united in the belief that we need a social movement to create real democracy, and to make the promise of democracy a reality in the United States," she said.
The Move to Amend coalition makes a point of differentiating ourselves from the other proposals that have come forward in response to Citizens United. We recognize that the Citizens United decision is a problem, but it is not the problem. Citizens United is not the cause, it is a symptom.
The real problem is that a small group of wealthy individuals have hijacked our sacred right to self-government, and are using the political and legal systems to legitimize that theft. We must get money out of elections, to be sure. But we have to go deeper than that to address the reality that corporate lawyers use the illegitimate doctrine of "corporate constitutional rights" to overturn public health, environmental protection, and worker safety laws. And such laws are political questions, and should be decided with public debate, discourse, and the opportunity to vote and participate. When the decisions are made in the courts, "We the People" are relegated to spectators.
The path to a Constitutional Amendment is long, and it will take a sustained grassroots political education effort to succeed.
The Move To Amend coalition is up to the task. We are getting larger, stronger and better organized every day. But we need you to succeed. And frankly, the American people -- and the world -- need us to succeed.
So please join us at by signing up at http://movetoamend.nationbuilder.com/petition
If you are part of an existing organization working on civil liberties, peace, justice, democracy, environmental protection please endorse this effort at http://movetoamend.org/organizations
Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap is Executive Director of Democracy Unlimited. She grew up in Santa Fe, NM and came to Humboldt County in 2001 by way of Western Massachusetts where she was studying education and community at Hampshire College.
She served as a member of the national Leadership Team of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom's campaign to Challenge Corporate Power, Assert the People's Rights and the STORY (Strategy Training and Organizing Resources for Youth) Board of the SmartMeme Project. She is also a Principal with Program on Corporations Law and Democracy and Local Democracy Fellow for the Liberty Tree Foundation.
In November 2004 Kaitlin was elected to serve on the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District Board. She is the youngest member to serve in this position, as well as the the first woman to take this office. She was re-elected in 2008 and now serves as Board President.
Kaitlin serves as the National Director for Move to Amend. She oversees the national field organizing operations for the campaign, the affiliate support program and provides internship program supervision.
She can be reached at email@example.com.