The Language

 

In early August, PassMassAmendment submitted the following petition
to the State of Massachusetts

PassMassAmendment’s  2016  Initiative Petition

relative to corporate rights and political spending, for  a constitutional amendment to the

Constitution of the Commonwealth of  Massachusetts

to declare that

“Corporations are not people and may be regulated. The General  Court may limit political spending and contributions.”

The Constitution of the Commonwealth is hereby amended by  inserting at the end thereof the following Article of  Amendment:

 

Section  1 – Corporations  are not people and may be regulated. The rights afforded to the human  inhabitants of this Commonwealth, under this Constitution, are not applicable to any  corporation, corporate entity or artificial person. Any references to persons,  citizens, inhabitants, subjects, men, women, people, individuals or like terms  in this Constitution are not to be construed in any way to be referring to a  corporation, corporate entity or artificial person. All corporations, corporate  entities or artificial persons shall do business in Massachusetts under the  regulation of laws passed by the Massachusetts General Court, which shall set  the rights of such entities to do business to promote the common good and  strengthen the social compact of this  Commonwealth.

Section  2 – The  Massachusetts General Court may regulate and set reasonable limits on all  political contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all individuals,  regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and  that no individual gains more access or ability to influence in any way, the  election of any candidate for public office, or any ballot measure. The  Massachusetts General Court shall require that any and all permissible  contributions and expenditures, including late donations,  be publicly disclosed, in a timely  manner, for the purpose of informing the people, before any vote is  held.

Section  3 – Nothing  contained in this Amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the  press.

7 Comments

  1. Reply Peter Nelson

    Section 2 seems vague and open ended. It means I have to have confidence that the state legislature would construe “reasonable” the same way I would. Also it presents problems with regard to local elections (town meeting member, selectmen, etc) because even very modest contributions, say a few hundred dollars, can buy enough publicity to put a candidate over the top.

    I prefer petitions where it’s clear exactly what is being voted on, e.g., “no dog racing” or the bottle bill of 1982, etc. We live in an age where generally people don’t trust elected officials, and this has given rise to an increase in petitions across the country on many different topics, because that way voters can take matters into their own hands. But this petition flies in the face of that because it depends on us trusting the legislature to do the right thing instead of stating outright what limitations we would be imposing on campaign money. Furthermore the vagueness and uncertainty makes it hard to have a meaningful debate about what we’re getting if we support this initiative.

    • Reply Terra

      The Legislature already has the power to do anything it wants. Under the Massachusetts Constitution, corporations do not have inherent rights. There is a bit of clarification required, however, because there seems to be some confusion about this. And we want to clarify the situation.

      We are not actually changing anything. We are just clarifying that “Corporations Are Not People, Money Is Not Speech”. The petition language will do nothing about campaign money. What it will do is make it clear that “the people” can change the campaign donation amounts themselves, via petition.

      That we are talking about this on this post already means that we are making progress. That we have so many Legislators talking about this, we are making progress. If that’s all we do, then it has been worth the effort.

  2. Reply A Lawyer

    “The rights afforded to the human inhabitants of this Commonwealth, under this Constitution, are not applicable to any corporation, corporate entity or artificial person.”

    Wouldn’t that do away with equal protection and due process rights for corporate litigation? For example, say this initiative is passed, and the Commonwealth decides to seize all of the assets of some Massachusetts corporation, just because it wants to. Like, to balance the budget, the governor decides to seize Gillette stadium and run it as a governmental entity. Wouldn’t this amendment imply that the corporation would have very limited ability (and no actual rights) to sue for redress?

    • Reply Terra

      Actually, not. As long as the Legislature guarantees the PRIVILEGE of equal protection and due process for specific purposes. The difference is that corporations do not have INALIENABLE rights…only “rights” that are afforded them via the Legislature…or better said, “privileges”.

    • Reply Terra

      No. The Legislature has granted privileges for corporations to have equal protection and due process under specific circumstances. Corporations have those privileges as “granted rights”. That is different than “inalienable rights”. We are not changing anything. We are merely clarifying that the inherent rights of the constitution are for human inhabitants, not for corporations. Corporate “rights” are granted (and can be taken away) by the Legislature. Corporations are supposed to serve the “social compact”. If they do not, the Legislature reserves the right to eliminate them.

  3. Reply Paul

    Hi. John Adams used some pretty spicy & succinct people- empowering language in the MA Constitution. Are you sure it needs to be amended? Why not just challenge the citizens united ruling with regard to MA elections. The justices on the Supreme Judicial Court are supposed to interpret the MA Constitution.

    *Art VII. Government is instituted for the commons good; for the protection, safety prosperity and happiness of the people; and not for the profit ,honor, private interest of any one man, family or class of men…..

    *Art IX All elections ought to be free…

    * Art VI No man, nor Corporation, or association of men, have any other title to obtain advantages….

    who knows……the justices on the SJC may show some moxie!

    • Reply Terra

      Totally agree! We are not actually proposing that we change anything. We are simply CLARIFYING what we believe John Adams and his colleagues meant. Notice that the only reference to corporations in the Massachusetts Constitutions is to make it clear that they have no rights. If corporations had rights, their privilegees would not be subject to Legislative approval.

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