New version of Toledo Talk

    July 28, 2007

100 Pennsylvania Towns Revoke Corporate Constitutional Rights - Many probably didn't know that corporations, even the most dispicable, are considered humans under the law. They have constitutional rights, just like a human. Except they are largely above the law.

Here, in Pa, some 100 towns are saying no to that:

Clean Air and Water;


By Channing Joseph, Staff Reporter

Nearly 220 years after America's Constitution was drafted in
Pennsylvania, scores of rural Keystone State communities are declaring
the document null and void.

More than 100 largely Republican municipalities have passed laws to
abolish the constitutional rights of corporations, inventing what some
critics are calling a "radical" new kind of environmental activism.
Led by the nonprofit Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, they
are attempting to jumpstart a national movement, with Celdf chapters
in at least 23 states actively promoting an agenda of "disobedient

"I understand that state law and federal law is supposed to pre-empt
local laws, but federal law tells us we're supposed to have clean air
and clean water," the mayor of Tamaqua, Pa., Christian Morrison, told
The New York Sun.

More than a year ago, the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Corporation
stirred an uproar in Mr. Morrison's eastern Schuylkill County borough
with a proposal to use a large strip mine as a disposal site for
material dredged up from the Hudson and Delaware rivers.

But in May, the mayor, 37, cast a tie-breaking council vote to enact
an ordinance that bans corporate waste dumping -- making his the first
community in America to do so -- and abolishes all corporate rights
within his borough.

"The state and federal environmental protection agencies... support
the big corporations, and they really don't look after the safety of
the people that I represent," Mr. Morrison told the Sun.
Representatives at Lehigh Coal and Navigation did not respond to
multiple requests for comment.

The legal defense fund's director of education, training, and
development, Richard Grossman, has said that today's federal and state
laws too often condone corporate practices that pose ecological and
public health hazards, such as strip mining and toxic waste dumping.
The solution, his organization suggests, is to deny corporations of
all their rights, thereby denying them the ability to engage in any
potentially dangerous practices.

The legal fund's strategy is not without critics, of course. The
president of the conservative Eagle Forum of Pennsylvania, Fran Bevan,
said the "whole process undermines representative government" and
"harkens to 'radical environmentalism.'"

With nongovernmental groups such as Celdf, "elected officials... many
times unknowingly give in to their agenda because it sounds like a
good solution," Ms. Bevan told the Sun. Instead, she said, "I think
that we need educated elected officials and need not depend on NGOs
who are accountable to no one.... We certainly have enough agencies
and laws that oversee sites where businesses and industries develop."

Celdf was founded in 1995 to provide legal services to environmental
groups. Since that time, it has taken on the additional mission of
working with rural governments to establish "home rule," the legal
notion that small communities can exercise sovereignty at the local

About 43 states currently provide for some level of municipal home
rule. According to its Web site, Celdf assists those municipalities
"that are ready to take this bold step in local self-governance" by
helping to draft the necessary legislation.

But in doing so, some members of these communities are going so far as
to say their local laws ought to supersede federal authority, defying
the Supreme Court's long-standing view that corporate entities are
legal persons entitled to due process, equal protection, free speech,
and other rights. Their aim is to use one or more of the anti-
corporate ordinances they have passed to establish a Supreme Court
test case disputing corporate personhood.

Abolitionists in the early 19th century could "have ended up demanding
a slavery protection agency -- you know, the equivalent of today's
Environmental Protection Agency -- to make slaves' conditions a little
less bad," Mr. Grossman said in a 2000 speech comparing corporations
to slave owners. Instead, "they denounced the Constitution" -- which
permitted slavery at the time -- "and openly violated federal and
state laws by aiding runaway slaves."

Just as judges and juries slowly changed their minds about the slave
trade, Mr. Grossman said, today's public eventually will come to see
corporations in a different light.

Through decades of work, abolitionists "built a political movement ...
with the clout to get their three constitutional amendments enacted,"
he added, referring to the 13th through 15th amendments.

But the young mayor of Tamaqua has less lofty goals.

"I'm trying to protect the community that voted me in," Mr. Morrison
said. "Both my parents are riddled with cancer."

Several members of his 7,000-person community have been diagnosed with
rare forms of the disease, and the dumping at several nearby superfund
sites is to blame, Mr. Morrison said.

Schuylkill County is heavily Republican, and voters there strongly
supported President Bush in the last two presidential contests,
according to the Pennsylvania Department of State Bureau of
Commissions, Elections, and Legislation.

Mr. Morrison, however, is a Democrat. "It's not too often you see a
Democrat get elected to anything in Tamaqua," he told the Sun. Still,
Mr. Morrison said he is willing to stand behind his community's new
ordinance, and go to prison if necessary. The ordinance is "set up so
it can be done civilly," he said. "If not, criminally."

The young mayor's spirit of civil disobedience extends beyond his
rural community in eastern Pennsylvania. With active chapters in
states from Alaska to Arizona, including New York, Celdf is spawning a
nationwide movement with weekend workshops that cost between $300 and
$400 and that are designed to encourage attendees to push for anti-
corporate legislation in their communities. Called the Daniel Pennock
Democracy Schools, the 10- to 20-person classes began in 2003 at
Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa., and are named in honor of a 17-
year-old boy who died after exposure to sewage sludge.

Shireen Parsons, who has organized several of the courses in Virginia,
became involved with Celdf several years ago, when members of her
mostly Republican community in Christiansburg, Va., began organizing
against a proposed highway project.

She received a telephone call from Celdf's executive director, Thomas
Linzey, who told her, "We want to litigate this for you."

After three lawsuits and three appeals, Ms. Parsons said, the courts
finally ruled in favor of the corporate highway project. It was at
that point that she and other Celdf members decided to change their
strategy and challenge the legal system rather than work within it,
she said.

State and federal laws are "set up so that we will always fail," Ms.
Parsons told the Sun. "We have been working with these regulators for
40 years, and everything is worse. So we haven't gained anything from
working within the system."

Lyn Gerry, the host of "Unwelcome Guests," a weekly radio show based
in Watkins Glen, N.Y., has aired excerpts of Democracy Schools on her
two-hour program, which is broadcast to at least 20 stations in 12
American states, Canada, and New Zealand. According to the New York
State Board of Elections, residents of Schuyler County, to which
Watkins Glen belongs, voted strongly in favor of Mr. Bush in both the
2000 and 2004 elections.

Ms. Gerry said her neighbors in her village of about 2,100 people have
been abuzz about the Democracy Schools after recent proposals to dig a
quarry and to dispose of toxic waste on nearby farmland. She added:
"We've got some issues here that lend themselves" to Celdf's project,
which she refers to on her show as "disobedient lawmaking."

"What underlies the Democracy School, what makes it so powerful is
that it's an organizing model," she said. "The community comes to a
consensus and says, 'We have the right to decide how it is here. We're
making a legal right to do it.'"

Back in Pennsylvania, not everyone is convinced.

"Our environment is the only one we have, so we need to be
conscientious about our use and non-use," Ms. Bevan of the Eagle Forum
said. "The question that I have concerning Celdf... is, 'Do we need
them?' Do we have problems that are not being addressed, or are we
creating problems that do not exist?"

posted by prime3end to politics at 12:00 A.M. EST     (4 Comments)

Comments ...

Corporations were given personhood rights by mistake and misinterpretation.

If those lazy gold bricking members of the lawyers' unions would actually read the law, Corporations would be more honest by law (not dishonest by law, now). And the suicide rate amongst lawyers would drop down to that of doctors' levels.

The excerpt:

Abraham Lincoln looked back on the growing power of the war-enriched corporations, and wrote the following thoughtful letter to his friend Colonel William F. Elkins:

"We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood. The best blood of the flower of American youth has been freely offered upon our country's altar that the nation might live. It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country.

"As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless."

Lincoln's suspicions were prescient. In the 1886 Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state tax assessor, not the county assessor, had the right to determine the taxable value of fenceposts along the railroad's right-of-way.

However, in writing up the case's headnote - a commentary that has no precedential status - the Court's reporter, a former railroad president named J.C. Bancroft Davis, opened the headnote with the sentence: "The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteen Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Oddly, the court had ruled no such thing. As a handwritten note from Chief Justice Waite to reporter Davis that now is held in the National Archives said: "we avoided meeting the Constitutional question in the decision." And nowhere in the decision itself does the Court say corporations are persons.

Nonetheless, corporate attorneys picked up the language of Davis's headnote and began to quote it like a mantra. Soon the Supreme Court itself, in a stunning display of either laziness (not reading the actual case) or deception (rewriting the Constitution without issuing an opinion or having open debate on the issue), was quoting Davis's headnote in subsequent cases. While Davis's Santa Clara headnote didn't have the force of law, once the Court quoted it as the basis for later decisions its new doctrine of corporate personhood became the law.

Prior to 1886, the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment defined human rights, and individuals - representing themselves and their own opinions - were free to say and do what they wanted. Corporations, being artificial creations of the states, didn't have rights, but instead had privileges. The state in which a corporation was incorporated determined those privileges and how they could be used. And the same, of course, was true for other forms of "legally enacted game playing" such as unions, churches, unincorporated businesses, partnerships, and even governments, all of which have only privileges.

But with the stroke of his pen, Court Reporter Davis moved corporations out of that "privileges" category - leaving behind all the others (unions, governments, and small unincorporated businesses still don't have "rights") - and moved them into the "rights" category with humans, citing the 14th Amendment which was passed at the end of the Civil War to grant the human right of equal protection under the law to newly-freed slaves.

On December 3, 1888, President Grover Cleveland delivered his annual address to Congress. Apparently the President had taken notice of the Santa Clara County Supreme Court headnote, its politics, and its consequences, for he said in his speech to the nation, delivered before a joint session of Congress: "As we view the achievements of aggregated capital, we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies, while the citizen is struggling far in the rear or is trampled to death beneath an iron heel. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people's masters."

posted by charlatan at 12:04 P.M. EST on Sat Jul 28, 2007     #

Perfect examples from Common Dreams. Till your post, I thought Ike was the first to warn the nation about these bastoids, it seems it goes back to the start of things, a corruption with a huge root system. An infestation that has taken over democracy from the people and delivered it to the few at the top. How can we be expected to send our children to fight for corporate profit. It seems so apparent that we are doing that in Iraq. Contrived war with premeditated intent to create a "pearl harbor type even" to justify the invasion of Iraq to the American people. see the P.N.A.C. report, from the late 1990's, its a think tank report that was presented to Clinton by Cheney while on a neocon think tank. From day one, G.W. was going into Iraq. Daddy bush's co bought a large arms co right before the war, made many millions, along with bushe's uncle who armors vehicles bound for iraq. cheney and rice are big oil representatives in executive and cabinet level positions. Pearl and Wolfowitz helped draft the P.N.A.C. report too.

Its Americans most horrible time and our most important opportunity, to face the corporate imperialism and what its done to the country and to start making changes to reverse it, and make sure it can't happen again. In that respect I salute the people of Pennsylvania for starting this grass roots effort. The only way to change things if from the bottom up. Throw the bums out of office at the polls, assuming that Diebold hasn't taken that ability completely away from us.

posted by prime3end at 10:55 P.M. EST on Sat Jul 28, 2007     #

Interesting. The only trouble I see is, unless this move is made everywhere, the greedy corporations will simply move.
Even if this was done all over the U.S., they'll move to other countries. I DO think something like this needs to be done, but somehow we need to make it more difficult for the companies to just up and move.

Some of the Big 3 auto plants just over the border in Mexico are terrible polluters. No E.P.A. to worry about. Just dump that crap in the river. Unfortunately, some of the rivers they dump in flow North.

posted by JeepMaker at 10:44 A.M. EST on Sun Jul 29, 2007     #

Good points jeepmaker. I'm for repealing corporate personhood.
posted by Chris99 at 08:55 P.M. EST on Sun Jul 29, 2007     #

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