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Putting the People Back in 'We the People'



When Abe Lincoln talked about “government of the people, by the people and for the people” at the Gettysburg battlefield in November 1863, it’s a pretty safe bet he wasn’t including corporations in his definition of “people.”

But in January 2010, a bitterly divided US Supreme Court decided  that corporations have the same free-speech rights as people – meaning they can pour unlimited amounts of money into political campaigns.

In a 5-4 ruling the court’s conservative majority struck down the 2002 McCain-Feingold Act, which restricted corporate and labor union spending on “electioneering communications.” President Obama called the decision “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

The decision was an example of radical judicial activism, and a group called the Campaign to Legalize Democracy is pushing a radical remedy for it – a constitutional amendment that would make it clear that corporations and unions don’t have the same rights as actual, living, breathing human beings.

Two representatives of the movement, David Cobb and Riki Ott, will be at the Central Oregon Environmental Center on Kansas Avenue in Bend this weekend to talk about the court’s decision and how to fight it.

Cobb, the 2004 Green Party presidential candidate, and Ott, an Alaskan community activist and writer, are aiming to “help local citizens learn how they can work to abolish corporate personhood and reestablish a government of, by, and for the people,” according to a news release.

“The movement we are launching is a long-term effort to make the U.S. Constitution more democratic,” Cobb said in the release. “We recognize that amending the Constitution to restore the power of the people over corporations will not be easy, but we know correcting the Supreme Court is imperative to the progress of our nation.”

The meeting with Cobb and Ott will take place from 7 to 9 pm Sunday at the Environmental Center; admission is free.

The group also has launched an on-line petition drive to gather signatures in support of the constitutional amendment. At this writing, almost 69,000 people have signed.

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