By Joelle Hervic
May 2, 2015
We the Corporations: Corporations and the Hijacking of Democracy:
Asserting People Power.
Joëlle Hervic, Esq.
CEO, Human Dimensions TV
Corporate money has hijacked our democracy with mega corporations spending billions to buy elections and politicians. Big Oil, Big Gas, Big Pharma, and Big Banks spend staggering amounts buying political power to push policies and candidates that help big business and hurt the rest of us. For as long as this corporate power continues, real change will not be possible at a governmental level and countries will be powerless to address the major issues and challenges of the day, in particular, global warming.
At the same time, corporate rights are being elevated to exceed the rights of human beings. In the US the law recognizes corporations as people and protects them while diluting the rights of human beings. Instead of protecting people and the Earth community – the laws protect and insulate corporate power and fail to make corporations accountable to the community. U.S. and other courts have increasingly granted corporations greater rights and protections at the expense of individual rights.
This trend was hugely amplified in the controversial and divisive 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That case concerned a dispute over whether Citizens United, a Political Action Committee (PAC), could air political advertisements publicizing a video-on-demand that was critical of Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential campaign in which she was a candidate. In a 5-4 ruling, the Court declared unconstitutional the government restriction on corporate and union spending during US elections, and determined the broadcasts should have been allowed. In so doing, the Court overturned century-old precedent that allowed the government to regulate campaign expenditures.
Trade agreements have also been investing companies with increasing power at the expense of individuals. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a particularly troubling trade agreement that is currently being negotiated in secret. If implemented it would strip any remaining powers from people to have any say in setting limits and protections. The TPP is being negotiated between Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. If you are concerned about the food you eat, the health of ecosystems and environmental protection you should be very concerned about the TPP.
Some provisions have been leaked including a provision called “investor-state dispute settlement” which gives foreign corporations the political power to challenge national laws before a small panel of lawyers that would not be reviewable by any courts.
Cause for Hope
In 2012, in a marked departure from the judicial trend strengthening corporate powers and protections, President Judge Debbie O’Dell-Seneca of the Court of Common Pleas for Washington County, Pennsylvania, found that corporations were not “persons” entitled to the State’s constitutional protections.
Ruling in a hydraulic fracturing contamination case that there is no corporate right to privacy under Pennsylvania’s constitution, she granted the request of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Washington Observer-Reporter to unseal a court-approved settlement between Plaintiffs, Stephanie and Chris Hallowich, and Defendants, Range Resources, MarkWest Energy Partners and Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream Partners.
Judge O’Dell-Seneca declared that “in the absence of state law, business entities are nothing.” Citing the 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution in support of her finding that corporations were never intended to be constitutionally protected “persons”, she declared that “an even more dubious proposition is that the framers of the Constitution of 1776, given their egalitarian sympathies, would have concerned themselves with vesting, for the first time in history, indefeasible rights in such entities. . . that language extends only to natural persons.”
Reasoning that if corporations are permitted to claim rights independent from people, then “the chattel would become the co-equal to its owners, the servant on par with its masters, the agent the peer of its principals, and the legal fabrication superior to the law that created and sustains it.”
This decision and others and the growing movement around the world of regular people who are voicing their opinions, protecting their communities and saying “no” to corporate power is inspirational. We can’t afford to wait around for governments to do the right thing because we will be waiting for ever. Change is possible but it’s up to you and me.
What you can do
- Support new film in pre-production, “The Journey Home” (TJH) anyway you can – whether it’s sharing the website and Facebook page with your friends, contributing your talent or with a financial donation. No contribution is too small.
TJH is a new inspirational movie that features a mysterious warrior who finds himself in present day North America – a stranger in his own land once more and whose personal journey is a quest for reconnection with the sacred – and with himself.
- Inform yourself about how companies are influencing your lives – from the food you eat, the air you breathe and the water you drink to the news you read. Read the labels of the food you eat – see if the tuna you buy is sustainable and whether the food you eat has been genetically modified.
- Divest your superannuation from fossil fuel investment. Look for ethical alternatives.
- Look for petitions and like-minded groups which are working to take back power from corporations and which are working on local issues including hydraulic fracturing.
 Citizens United v. FEC, 130 S. Ct. 876 (2010).
 See Washington County Judge Orders Marcellus Shale Development Settlement Records Unsealed, Paula Reid Ward, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 20 March 2013. Available at: http://pipeline.postgazette.com/news/archives/25102-washington-county-judge-orders-marcellus-shale-development-settlement-records-unsealed
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