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AdLib On April - 13 - 2010

First, props to SueInCa for her brilliant article,  The Next Credit Bust – 2012? which inspired me to post this as a kind of companion article.

For those who have expressed interest in GROW and/or focusing on addressing the SCOTUS decision giving corporations unlimited expenditures in elections, a bill is about to be presented in The Senate that would be a first step and it will no doubt need as much grass roots support, calling and emailing and writing Congresspeople, as possible. Here’s an article on it from The Hill:

Democrats prepare for election-year battle to craft Citizens United legislation

By Russell Berman
04/13/10 06:00 AM ET

Legislation that aims to counteract the landmark Supreme Court ruling allowing corporate and union campaign spending could be introduced by the end of the week.

Major provisions include strict disclosure and disclaimer requirements for corporate-funded campaign ads, including a mandate that CEOs and top donors appear on camera to “approve” messages, much as candidates are required to do now. The bill would also explicitly ban contributions from companies with a 20 percent or greater foreign ownership stake, as well as from government contractors or firms that have received and not repaid Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds.

“The heart of this legislation is going to ensure that the public is aware of who is actually putting up the money to finance these ads,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21.

Many reform advocates are hoping to add a provision that would require corporations to hold a shareholder vote for significant political expenditures.

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/91797-dems-ready-for-election-year-battle-on-citizens-united-bill

The difficult issue is that, at least until the SCOTUS changes to have a more liberal majority, the only way federally to reverse their opening the floodgates to corporate spending on elections would be a constitutional amendment or a piecemeal state-by-state regulation of resident corporations.

During Vox Populi last week, there was discussion about the possibility of a coalition of organizations working together, in California as a start, to get a proposition on the ballot which would be sort of a Corporate Responsibility Act. What we discussed then was that it could require that corporate executives would be criminally liable for criminal acts perpetrated by the corporation they run. Additionally,  corporations could be required not only to provide the best profit for investors but since they are now classified as people, be required to balance that with the well being of their society (and employees). Campaign contributions by corporations could similarly be required to conform to the norm for “people”.

There are a variety of responsibilities that could be applied by a state to its corporations that could require them to act as good citizens of this society instead of mercenary sociopaths that have no responsibility to the society that allows them to prosper. Of course, all the possible responsibilities would have to be vetted for their viability and constitutionality so as much as some might be sought, there are legal limitations. 

So, there are two possible areas of direct action that could be pursued by those interested in confronting corporate domination. First and most immediate, being activist about getting your Congresspeople to support and vote for this bill. Second and longer term, exploring the possibility of using California’s proposition process to start a movement across the country for states to require that corporations which want to be treated as people, act as responsibly and socially constructive as other people are required to behave.

Appreciate your thoughts on this.

Written by AdLib

My motto is, "It is better to have blogged and lost hours of your day, than never to have blogged at all."

8 Responses so far.

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  1. dildenusa says:

    I wonder where the tea bag bag partiers will come in on this since their hero Sarah “moose mama” Palin and the republican leadership in congress will certainly be against it. I can’t imagine what their reasoning would be.

    The corporate elites have gotten their way for so long that the sayings, “you can’t have your cake and eat it too,” and “you can’t have it both ways” don’t apply to them anymore. This will be interesting.

  2. SueInCa says:

    I will support the national legislation for sure and will support one at the state level. The first argument we are going to hear is chasing corporations out of the state with unnecessary restrictions, you know the self regulation batshitcrazy cry detractors always use? We would need a platform that addresses the objections.

    I hate these creeps as much as anyone else but does anyone know how we even start something like this? I am sure it has to be written in legalese and does someone have to lobby the CA legislator to push it? What does it cost to sponsor ballot iniatives for vote? Choice Lady may have some insight in to it…….if it can be done, I am more than willing to do whatever I can to back it.

    • AdLib says:

      Sue, we are on the same page on all of this.

      The argument you mention is naturally one that will be made but even if it was a national bill to enforce social responsibility on corporations, they’d whine that they’d have to leave the country.

      Of course they’ll always threaten these things but the logistics of relocating to escape social responsibility is a harder case to make to shareholders and the public.

      Their argument will be an unattractive one, “As corporations we need to have all of your rights as ‘people’ but we also need to be above the law and superior to people when we commit crimes because we don’t want to be held responsible for our actions. We need to be sociopaths to make a profit.” My argument to this would be, “If you want to have the rights of ‘people’, you need to accept the responsibility of being a ‘person’ in this society.”

      The idea is, if it starts in CA and is successful, it can be spread to other states and before a corp could convince its board and shareholders to waste money on relocating to another state, that other state would be voting on similar social responsibility provisions. That would be my other argument, “Wherever you go, we’ll follow you and pass this proposition there too!”

      As for starting up a ballot initiative, I discussed this briefly with Choicelady in Vox Populi last week. She is familiar with the process, cost, etc (she and her group are helping sponsor the current Prop 15 for clean, publicly funded elections in CA…which I urge all Californians to promote and vote for!). Her advice would be invaluable in this pursuit.

      I thought the first best step would be to see how many here, in CA and in other states would be interested in working together to explore doing this first in Cali, as the beginning of part of a national project, to then spread such a proposition into other states.

      • SueInCa says:

        Good deal. CL and I live in close proximity to each other so if she is game, I can definitly team up with her. Whatever needs done, I can lend my time for sure. Nothing I would like better than a fight with corporations? :-)

  3. kesmarn says:

    The Wertheimer bill sounds like a terrific start on attacking this problem, and supporting it would be as simple as letting our congresspeople know how we want them to vote on this. Count me in on supporting this one, for sure.

    I’m not sure how much help I would be on the California Proposition initiative, being so far away. But if there’s anything I can do — even just cheerleading on line — I’d be glad to do it.

    • AdLib says:

      Promoting such a proposition on the internet would indeed be something those not in the state could do.

      Why it may make sense to focus on CA is two-fold. First, CA is often at the forefront of progressive trends in legislation and the citizens have shown a willingness to support that. How Cali goes, many other states will go.

      Secondly, as the most the state with the largest population and with many major corporations based there, the passage of such a bill would have a big effect on millions of people in the state and around the country swiftly.

  4. Chernynkaya says:

    AdLib, I am all over this effort!

    • AdLib says:

      Cool, me too!

      The thing about this bill and considering a California initiative is that they are actual concrete goals.

      That gives people something to come together over and work to accomplish.


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