Thursday, September 10, 2009

Two videos from September 8th's Shays2/POCLAD event in Northampton, Massachusetts

On Tuesday, September 8, Shays2 and POCLAD hosted a discussion of the Citizens United v. FEC case--arguments were heard by the Supreme Court yesterday. A decision has the potential to overturn previous precedent on campaign finance, particularly restrictions on donations to candidates by corporations. A question raised by the case, in light of the enormous power that major for-profit corporations and industries already wield over policy development, is whether we need to formally amend the Constitution to legally define personhood. In the meantime, we need to be able to defend why free speech rights should not extend to corporations, and the speakers here offer some great legal history surrounding the usurpation of personhood rights in order to further political ends.

Participating were John Bonifaz, legal director of Voter Action and former Democratic candidate for Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth; Jeffrey Clements, the attorney who filed an Amicus brief representing five citizens groups arguing against expanding corporate First Amendment Rights; Ward Morehouse, co-founder of POCLAD; and Carolyn Toll Oppenheim, co-founder of Shays2: Western Mass Committee on Corporations and Democracy (whose website has a good summary of the case and the issue of expanding free speech to corporations).

Here's Jeffrey Clements:

And Jon Bonifaz:

The court, Bonifaz says, could settle the case in a lot of ways that doesn't "drive it over the cliff," but if it overturns precedent and allows much broader and more obvious legal interference in elections by corporations, the court could "radically reshape our politics and the way we conduct business in the political process."

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