In 1886, in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, the United States Supreme Court first suggested that “corporations are people” for the purpose of claiming the protection of the 14th Amendment. By 1889, three more Supreme Court cases agreed with that position, as the major corporations of the era, the railroad companies, sought to claim Constitutional rights previously only enjoyed by natural persons.
On November 5, 1889, the voters of the soon-to-be State of Wyoming emphatically rejected the notion that “corporations are people.” On that date, the voters adopted the new Constitution of the State of Wyoming, which stated unequivocally that corporations are not people; they are tools to serve human needs. Article 10, section 2 states: “All powers and franchises of corporations are derived from the people and are granted by their agent, the government, for the public good and general welfare, and the right and duty of the state to control and regulate them for these purposes is hereby declared.”
Notwithstanding that declaration by the Wyoming voters, the U.S. Supreme Court has continued to grant corporations ever-increasing human rights, including (in 2010) the right to spend unlimited money promoting their favorite political candidates. That decision, and others since then, have led to a tsunami of virtually untraceable money pouring into the political system, drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens.
We, the people who created corporations “for the public good and general welfare,” now need to enact an Amendment to the United States Constitution that mirrors the most sensible language in the Wyoming Constitution. Our ancestors understood clearly that corporations are tools, not people. And, since tools do not have human rights, corporations must be prohibited from interfering with our human elections. Our democratic republic depends on it.
KEN CHESTEK, Laramie
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