A new organization calling itself “Vermonters say: Corporations are not people!” met in Burlington on December 15th. Its goal, to place the following resolution on every ballot in Vermont (or at least as many as possible) for Town Meeting Day.
BALLOT ITEM FOR MARCH TOWN MEETING
In light of the United States Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that equates money with speech and gives corporations rights constitutionally intended for natural persons, shall the city/town/gore of___________________________________ (municipality name) vote on ___________________(town meeting date) to urge the Vermont Congressional Delegation and the U.S. Congress to propose a U.S. Constitutional amendment for the States’ consideration which provides that money is not speech, and that corporations are not persons under the U.S. Constitution, that the General Assembly of the State of Vermont pass a similar resolution, and that the town send its resolution to Vermont State and Federal representatives within thirty days of passage of this measure?
This is frightening for a number of reasons. The first of which, it would essentially be stripping citizens of their First Amendment right to freedom of peaceable assemblage (a corporation is one way people assemble), freedom of speech and freedom of the press. One does not give up the right to free speech simply because one joins a group. In fact, the rights of citizen to form groups (assemble) and speak as groups is absolutely critical to our freedom as a people.
The second reason was pointed out vividly by an attendee of the December 15 training session. There is no agreed upon language for the constitutional amendment this group is demanding, therefore signing on to this scheme is in reality demanding that our legislators alter the Constitution, without even knowing how. “Even if it is approved, it could end up being something we don’t even support!” This resolution is carte blanch to mess with the First Amendment.
State Senator Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden) has a resolution in the Senate Government Operations committee to this end. Senator Bernie Sanders has his version of an amendment ready to go at the federal level.
Now is the time to speak out against this amendment to your local select boards. Keep it off the ballot in March 2012.