City backs ban on ‘corporate personhood’
After listening to a dozen impassioned speakers, the Sonoma City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to support a federal initiative to end “corporate personhood.”
The council has been criticized in the past for taking stands on issues that do not directly affect the citizens of Sonoma. Councilman Ken Brown brought this issue to the council.
“I think this is appropriate for the council to address,” said Councilmember Steve Barbose. “I can’t separate out what’s local and not local. We have to stop the obscene spending that’s taking place in elections.”
The support is for Senate Joint Resolution 33, which proposes a constitutional amendment to repeal the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision that gave corporations the same status as citizens in the matter of campaign contributions. It was introduced by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and would exclude for-profit corporations from the rights given to natural persons by the Constitution. It would also prohibit corporate spending in all elections, and affirm the authority of Congress and the states to regulate corporations and to regulate and set limits on all election contributions and expenditures.
Speaking against the resolution was Fred Peterson of Sonoma who said unions’ rights might be stripped if corporations’ rights were stripped. “I understand that corporations are not people, but unions aren’t either.” He said the topic was not appropriate for council consideration.
Marty Bennett, a history professor at Santa Rosa Junior College, and a union member, said union members may opt out of having any part of their dues spent on political campaigns.
He also said that only 6 percent of workers are unionized, the lowest number since 1905. “Corporations outspend unions by 15-1,” he said.
Bob Baeyan noted that most large corporations are now multinational, meaning foreign interests are influencing our elections.
Councilmember Tom Rouse agreed that unlimited spending by multi-national corporations is “a bad thing.” The council is joined by Sebastopol, Petaluma, and the county Board of Supervisors in supporting the amendment. The action, taken by resolution, will be forwarded to the city’s Congressional representatives.