The event was originally sparked by a request by Cindy Sheehan for local organizers to put together an event that would bring together local residents throughout Oregon to discuss how all these issues are ultimately related to war. The intent was not only to educate the public about the need to generate grassroots opposition to war and other injustice but to bring citizens together to talk about how we can work at the local level to end wars now opposed by 70 percent of Americans.
Sheehan had expressed her belief that as an associate of Al Gore Bradbury must hold the position that the solution to controlling carbon emissions was through a cap and trade system, which she and many others oppose. This creates carbon credits that are designed to be gradually lowered, encouraging corporations to reduce emissions as the credits become increasingly expensive. According to Peter DeFazio, this has the potential to lead to a speculative boom as it has in countries where carbon tax credits have become just another commodity to be bought by polluters so that they can avoid making changes in the levels of their carbon emissions.
Move to Amend holds to the position that corporations should have no “rights” under law. The argument is that since corporations exist only to limit the liability of stockholders in civil actions, stockholders have been granted a privilege and not special rights unavailable to average citizens. They argue that as a result, average citizens are increasingly disenfranchised as the CEOs of large corporations are increasingly able to influence the outcome of elections.
Move to Amend takes the position that corporations having the same rights as human beings is a direct challenge to democracy in America. Accordingly, they (and Take Back America, as an endorser of their organization) advocate for a constitutional amendment that will not only strip corporations of the “free speech right” to finance the elections of their chosen candidates but that will give to local, state and national governments both the authority and the duty to regulate corporations in the public interest, which was the case at the founding of the United States.
One of the more interesting developments at the convention was the coming together of some Move to Amend advocates who want to work more closely with Public Citizen and Free Speech for People to achieve their mutual goal of passing a constitutional amendment. There has historically been a deep division between the groups over the issue of whether that amendment should only end “free speech rights” of corporations or whether Move to Amend’s position that it should end all of the corporate privileges granted them in a series of Supreme Court decisions dating back to the early 1800s should be the goal. This split has historically prevented members of the two coalitions from working together beyond the largely symbolic step of both appearing at large events like the Democracy Convention, where members of the two camps generally talk only to each other.
At least two members of Move to Amend coalition attended a seminar held by constitutional lawyers John Bonifaz and Jeffrey Clements. These are founding members and leaders of Free Speech for People. They described a new strategy to challenge corporate power in court by demanding the revocation of the charters of corporations whose actions constitute “crimes against people, communities and nature.”
Using the example of the Massey Corporation, they detailed a legal strategy to do so. Their argument is that the rights of communities devastated by hilltop mining and the rights of the families of twenty-nine coal miners who died in an explosion due to the repeated and widespread violations of safety laws take precedence over the privilege of corporations to exploit with impunity both the environment and the people of the affected communities.
Activists fighting at all levels of government for environmental responsibility, economic and health care justice and the end of war through grassroots organizing are now one step closer to finding a way to work as one to build a coalition of all Americans across the political spectrum to end corporate rule in America.