Two freshmen seek end to corporate personhood


Two new members of Congress, Reps. Rick Nolan, DFL-Minn., and Mark Pocan, D-Wis., will introduce a resolution on Tuesday aimed at reducing corporate influence in politics through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

According to Nolan, the amendment would establish that "corporations are not people, and money is not speech." In a press conference Monday, he announced the plan along with representatives from Move to Amend (MTA), a coalition that seeks to eliminate corporate personhood rights. The organization officially launched Jan. 21, 2010, the day that the Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates for unprecedented election spending. Nolan won his race last year with generous financial support from unions, as did Pocan.

Ben Manski, a member of MTA's executive committee, said that the plan enjoys popular support by implementing changes that "tens of millions of Americans have already called for." According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, 80 percent of Americans oppose the Citizens United ruling, and MTA says close to 500 local resolutions have already been passed calling on state and federal governments to adopt the amendment. Endorsers of the MTA effort include a long list of left-leaning groups.

Last November the campaign reform group Common Cause claimed victory in five states on initiatives and local resolutions to overturn Citizens United. Not all turned on the issue of corporate personhood; for example, in Colorado, 73 percent of voters approved an initiative to instruct the state's congressional delegation to support efforts to amendment to the Constitution to allow Congress and the states to limit campaign contributions. Common Cause is part of another group, United for the People, that gathers together information about efforts nationwhide to over turn Citizens United. It includes a list of federal and state officials who have taken a position on overturning Citizens United, although not on specific language of how to do it.

Nolan and Manski recognize the challenges involved in pushing for legislation dealing with the issue of corporate personhood head on. "It wouldn't surprise me if it took five to 10 years," said Nolan. For the amendment to succeed, two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote in favor, and 38 states must ratify it before it becomes part of the Constitution.

Nolan said he had not gauged support among other members of Congress, but that he and Pocan will soon make a call for co-sponsors of the resolution. "I have no doubt that it will ultimately become reality," said Nolan. "Its importance could not be more apparent."