Tampa takes symbolic measure to declare corporations are not people listen03/15/12 Janelle Irwin
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:
Tampa City Council unanimously passed a resolution this afternoon that declares corporations are not entitled to the same rights as people. Mary Mulhern initiated the item because she said allowing corporations to funnel large sums of money into political campaigns isn’t what constituents want.
“We’re kind of the closest to the people as opposed to the corporations when it comes to running for office and campaigning. Tampa City Council and a local office like ours – I don’t know about my colleagues, but I didn’t have any Super PACs helping me when I ran for city council. So, I think it’s important that we show to our constituents that we are not owned and don’t feel that politicians and our representatives should be subsidiaries of corporations.”
The resolution calls for a constitutional amendment declaring corporations are not entitled to the rights of natural persons, and the expenditure of corporate money to influence the electoral process is no longer a form of constitutionally protected speech. It calls on Congress to begin the process of amending the Constitution. Activist Tim Heberlein said it’s an important symbolic move.
“I think it’s actually a great statement that will be made by the city if this passes that corporations are indeed not people. I think you’re seeing a lot of issues of inequity when it comes to the political process because right now we establish dollars with freedom of speech. Now with this new Citizens United hearing, there is unfair advantage of corporations having larger free speech powers than the individual. When corporate interests outweigh the individual – regardless of what party you’re from – it’s very problematic.”
The initiative was drafted in response to the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling that paved the way for corporations to spend heavily on political campaigns. Susan Shannon, a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said if more localities follow suit, this could make a difference.
“I think that it establishes a political will if this happens all over the country than there’s a loud voice saying that we are the people, the corporations are not the people and in fact, work against the interest of the people. So, I think that it should happen all over the country.”
Tampa is not the first to take steps to send a message to federal lawmakers. In Vermont, more than 50 municipalities are working on similar measures.