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Jim McGovern's War on the Constitution ^ | April 26, 2012 | Jeff Jacoby

Posted on 04/26/2012 4:01:59 AM PDT by Kaslin

US REPRESENTATIVE JIM MCGOVERN, a Worcester Democrat, generated some unwanted controversy two years ago when he publicly declared: "The Constitution is wrong."

The context was a discussion of campaign finance during a debate between McGovern and his Republican challenger, Marty Lamb. "A lot of the campaign-finance laws we've passed have been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court," McGovern said. "I think the Constitution is wrong. I don't think money … equals free speech. I don't think corporations should have the same equality as a regular voter."

Critics pounced, a minor storm erupted, and a day later McGovern took his words back. A slip of the tongue, he explained -- he'd meant to say "court decision," not "Constitution." His problem wasn't with the Bill of Rights, it was with the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which restored the right of corporations to engage in political free speech.

But McGovern's problem, it turns out, is with the Bill of Rights. He objects to the way it safeguards fundamental rights -- such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances -- not only when citizens act as lone individuals, but also when they unite as corporations in order to pool their assets and act more efficiently.

Like many on the left, McGovern has gone batty on the subject of "corporate personhood." This is a perfectly commonplace, centuries-old legal construct that makes it possible for individuals organized as a group to carry out their affairs effectively. Because corporations are legal "persons," for example, they can rent property without requiring the signature of every shareholder on every lease. They can be sued in court as single entities, without obliging plaintiffs to go after tens of thousands of individual defendants. They can be taxed. They can enter into contracts. They can register patents.

What infuriates many liberals is that corporations can also express political views, spending money to take sides in contested elections. "Corporations are not people," scowled McGovern at a Democratic forum last week. "They do not breathe. They do not have children. They do not die in war. They are artificial entities which we the people create and, as such, we govern them, not the other way around."

So the congressman proposes to strip corporations of all constitutional liberties and guarantees.

McGovern has introduced a "People's Rights Amendment," which would explicitly limit all rights protected by the Constitution to "natural persons." All "corporate entities," on the other hand, would be subject to any laws and regulations that lawmakers "deem reasonable." At last week's forum House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi endorsed the crusade to exclude corporations from the Constitution's safeguards.

It is hard to overstate how radical and dangerous the People's Rights Amendment would be. It would overturn Citizens United, all right -- along with much of the freedom Americans have always taken for granted.

All of them would lose their constitutional rights, including freedom of speech and of the press, if US Rep. Jim McGovern's "People's Rights Amendment" were adopted.

Under McGovern's proposal, corporations -- for-profit and nonprofit alike -- would have no more rights than legislators chose to give them. Congress could ban ExxonMobil and R.J. Reynolds from commenting on any public issue, and they would have no recourse to the First Amendment. But it isn't only Big Oil and Big Tobacco that could be censored with impunity. So could Planned Parenthood and the National Rifle Association. So could the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and the Museum of Fine Arts. So could innumerable universities, charities, churches, small businesses, and government watchdogs. And so, of course, could most newspapers, magazines, TV networks, and book publishers. Corporations of every kind would lose their constitutional defenses. Vast swaths of American life would be permanently vulnerable to the whims and vendettas of politicians.

And what is true of First Amendment rights would be true of all the others: Protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, due process under law, the right to trial by jury -- corporations could be stripped of them all.

McGovern and Pelosi may honestly imagine that mutilating the Constitution in this way will make American democracy more wholesome and less corrupt. What it would really do is empower the political class to a degree never before seen in our history. Far from reinvigorating the dream of the Founding Fathers, the People's Rights Amendment would transform it into a nightmare.

"The Constitution is wrong," McGovern said in 2010. Maybe so. The alternative he's proposing is far -- far -- worse.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Editorial

1 posted on 04/26/2012 4:02:01 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin
The same equality?
2 posted on 04/26/2012 4:27:49 AM PDT by ComputerGuy (HM2/USN M/3/3 Marines RVN 66-67)
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To: Kaslin

Two points: if we tax them, they deserve the protection of the bill of rights. Does “No taxation without representation” ring a bell?

Second point, his proposed limitation to “natural people” is an obvious attempt to stop the application of human rights to the unborn as well as to corporations.

It is insulting how the left wants to extend all the rights of citizenship to anyone who walks in or washes up on the shores but deny them to free Americans who act in concert.

I wonder if the proposed limits on corporations would apply to corporate entities like labor unions, the Sierra Club, NOW, Acorn or the democrat party.

3 posted on 04/26/2012 4:29:57 AM PDT by muir_redwoods (I like Obamacare because Granny signed the will and I need the cash)
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To: Kaslin
Call me screwy, but .....

(Article, quoting Jim McGovern)

"I think the Constitution is wrong. I don't think money … equals free speech. I don't think corporations should have the same equality as a regular voter."

Actually, after you filter for misstatements, ignorance, and just plain dumbness, he has a point.

As other posters and the author point out, artificial persons (corporations, partnerships, etc.) need a form of legal personhood in order to transact their affairs.

They just don't necessarily need first class, full citizenship.

And in fact, the Supreme Court has never, ever addressed the question of corporate rights. Rather, an ambitious and corrupt Associate Justice and the Clerk of the Supreme Court finagled an interpolation of an 1880's tax case (involving the Central Pacific RR and a California county's taxing power) in the epitome of the case written by the clerk. The point incorporated in the syllabus of the case by the Clerk of the Court, that corporations enjoy all of the rights inuring to live persons, was pure fiction and fraud, and was not at all in the holding of the Court. This mischief was undetected by the Chief Justice, who was already abed with his terminal illness.

4 posted on 04/26/2012 4:46:09 AM PDT by lentulusgracchus
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To: lentulusgracchus

> They just don’t necessarily need first class, full citizenship.

Then that would have to apply to every corporate body, including the Press, the Unions, the Churches, and any other body of individuals coming together to express a purpose.

I don’t think we want to go there.

I think it’s very good that the DemonRATS are going there. It exposes them for the totalitarian statists that they are.

5 posted on 04/26/2012 5:10:35 AM PDT by Westbrook (Children do not divide your love, they multiply it.)
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To: Westbrook

Going back to the Declaration of Independence, it is “WE THE PEOPLE” not we the corporations, we the unions, we the mudslimes, we the teachers...

Once you give any collective the same right as the individual you are asking for trouble. That is exactly why the Federal Government was given not just fewer rights/powers, but significantly fewer rights/powers so as to limit their power which is so easy to abuse and proven beyond reproach by history.

Once you allow any group to contribute to a campaign (both sides in the last USSC case were WRONG) you completely eliminate “WE THE PEOPLE” from the process.

Had the USSC ruled that only We The People could contribute THAT would have supported the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Instead we just got another 5-4 decision in a long pathetic line of 5-4 political, black robed hacks, ideological BS.

You may be rich enough to counter the campaign expenditures of GE, SEIU, AFL-CIO, NEA, Halliburton, Microsoft, Apple, Shell, Exxon, etc, but most of us are not.

Right now the average citizen has no voice as, like it or not, in campaigns voice = money = voice. It is how communications are funded.

I am sure the left wanted unfettered spending by communist unions and all corporations excluded. The right wanted corporations to equal citizens and they are NOT.

Soros, in his own words, wanted the entire world to not only be able to contribute but to actually vote in our elections. Yes he did say that. He feels that because the USA wields so much power in the world that the entire world should be allowed to vote in the USA. I wish this man would join his fellow scum Saul Alinsky IMMEDIATELY.

6 posted on 04/26/2012 6:20:31 AM PDT by Wurlitzer (Welcome to the new USSA (United Socialist States of Amerika))
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To: Westbrook
I don’t think we want to go there.

Your call. But the decision was made by two men over a couple of fingers of strong drink no doubt, without society's attention, consideration, or consent. Was this well done?

Further, they were interested parties, and so what was done was corrupted by their intentions.

7 posted on 04/26/2012 2:41:15 PM PDT by lentulusgracchus
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