In a discussion about money in politics, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously agreed Tuesday that corporations are not people and not entitled to the same constitutional protections.
The council's 11-0 vote in front of a packed chamber of Occupy L.A. members and other activists drew a standing ovation.
If supported by the mayor, the city would be on record in support of federal legislation that would ensure corporations are not entitled to the same rights as people, especially when it comes to spending money to influence elections. It also proposed language for a constitutional amendment declaring that money is not a form of speech and affirming the right of the federal government to regulate corporations.
The resolution is, in part, a reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in the 2010 case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The court majority agreed that corporations and unions can spend unlimited amounts of money in elections.
"Every American should have an equal voice in their government," said Council President Eric Garcetti, who co-sponsored the resolution with Councilman Bill Rosendahl. "But unless there are big changes, your voice is only as loud as your bank account. And its the big corporations that have the largest bank accounts of all."
"The flood of corporate money since Citizens United is literally drowning our Democracy. It's drowning the people's voice in the government," Garcetti added.
The council allowed 45 minutes of public comments in support of the resolution before cutting it off to some jeers. "Corporations have taken over our society. They are deciding what we eat, how people educate their children and whether or not we have health care," said Sylvia Moore, with the group Move to Amend, which has the broad mission of opposing laws they say prevent the American people from governing themselves.
"Corporations are polluting our environment," she said. "Some refuse to pay their fair share in taxes. And they are even deciding who gets to vote. They are making our laws when it's government officials that should be making our laws."
The resolution cites Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black's 1938 opinion on the subject: "I do not believe the word "person' in the Fourteenth Amendment includes corporations."