Rally to call for limit on political funding

CHARLESTON – A rally Monday in Charleston wants to convince state senators to support a resolution calling for an end to the practice of treating corporations as people with freedom of speech rights.

The rally is being set up Monday around 9 a.m. at the state Capitol where people can meet their state senators and urge them to support a U.S. Constitutional Amendment to get corporate money out of politics.

On March 28, the West Virginia House of Delegates passed a similar resolution with bipartisan support and some people want the Senate to follow suit.

People will be urging senators to vote for Senate Resolution 24, which calls for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This said corporations could spend unlimited sums in political elections.

Some have said this ruling gave companies “corporate personhood” where, under the law, corporations are like people, entitled to protections and benefits under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the exercising of free speech.

Many feel there is a need to amend the U.S. Constitution to say that corporations are not entitled to personhood rights. Money is not equivalent to free speech so corporations should not be allowed to spend unlimited funds trying to influence elections, some people believe.

”The Supreme Court relied on other prior decisions which afforded the spending of money to influence elections the full protection of the First Amendment and disregarded the distorting and corrupting effects of unlimited money in elections,” the resolution said. ”In his eloquent dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens rightly recognized that, ‘corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their ‘personhood’ often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of ‘We the People’ by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.’

”The court’s decision in Citizens United severely hampers the ability of federal, state and local governments to enact reasonable campaign finance reforms and regulations regarding corporate political activity,” the resolution states.

If the Senate joins the House and passes the resolution, West Virginia will be the 12th state Legislature nationwide calling for the constitutional amendment. Officials with the District of Columbia have supported the call for the amendment.

The resolution was sponsored by Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, and co-sponsored by Senate President Jeffrey Kessler, D- Marshall, and 15 other Democratic state senators.

Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, said she has not seen the resolution and does not want to comment on it until she has a chance to read through it. She does not know which committee will be working on the bill or when it might come up for a vote.

Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood, could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

The rally will last 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Participants will gather by the Robert Byrd statue under the Rotunda on the second floor of the Capitol.