Citizens Initiative Calling for End to Corporate "Personhood" & Money as Speech on November Ballot
Cleveland Heights voters will decide on Nov. 5 whether their city will take a stand against a controversial ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that corporations are people and money is speech, thanks to a citizens' initiative supported by nearly 3,100 signatures that was allowed onto the ballot by Cleveland Heights City Council by a unanimous vote on Aug. 5.
If approved by voters, the initiative, Issue 32, will establish an annual public hearing to examine the impact of big money in politics on our democracy. Following the hearing, the clerk of council will write letters to federal and state representatives summarizing the hearing and informing them that the citizens of Cleveland Heights have voted for a Constitutional Amendment declaring that only human beings possess Constitutional rights and money is not equivalent to political speech. The full text of the citizens’ initiative may be found at https://movetoamend.org/cleveland-heights-mta-circulates-initiative-0.
Members of the group Cleveland Heights Move to Amend collected the signatures on petitions in support of the initiative and submitted them to the city in July. As requested by the group, city council placed the initiative on the ballot rather than simply adopting it as an ordinance.
Voters in Brecksville and Newburgh Heights passed similar ballot measures last November, while voters in Defiance will consider one this November and Mentor voters may do so next year. Other Ohio cities, including Athens, Oberlin, Fremont and Barberton, have enacted Move to Amend resolutions by city council vote rather than by ballot initiative, and Lakewood will consider adopting a similar resolution this month.
Supporters of Move to Amend contend that the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC expanded never-intended constitutional rights for corporations and resulted in record sums of spending on political advertising by corporations and wealthy individuals in 2012 through largely anonymous SuperPACs and 501(c)4 tax-exempt organizations.
"Using the power of the Constitution, corporations override local ordinances to place cell towers, big box stores, and hydro-fracking installations pretty much where they please," said Carla Rautenberg, Cleveland Heights Move to Amend member. "We all know that the doctrine of money as protected free speech has corrupted our national politics. So this issue is vital at the local, state and federal levels of government."
Cleveland Heights Move to Amend (https://movetoamend.org/oh-cleveland-heights) is affiliated with the national Move to Amend campaign (http://movetoamend.org), formed in response to the Citizens United decision, which has sponsored hundreds of Move to Amend initiatives and resolutions around the country.
Greg Coleridge is coordinator of the Ohio Move to Amend Network, a member of the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy and director of the Economic Justice Program of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee.