This will be PassMassAmendment's third year petitioning for a ballot initiative based on “Corporations are not People, Money is not Speech.” This is our first year to formally challenge any concerns about any restrictions contained in Article XLVIII, concerning the language that Citizens can use for a ballot initiative.
We at PassMassAmendment feel that the corrupting influence of corporations and big money on the political process and government, has reduced the voice of the people and their influence in our representative government. The People have lost faith in government. An example of this disdain felt by the People, towards government, is that as a ratifying State for the Federal Constitution, we were guaranteed a republican form of government in which the People are now represented in the federal government by Congress, and yet, there was recently an election and the People give Congress a 9% approval rating. The system is broken and the People have lost faith.
Article V. All power residing originally in the people, and being derived from them, the several magistrates and officers of government, vested with authority, whether legislative, executive, or judicial, are their substitutes and agents, and are at all times accountable to them.
Article VII. Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men: Therefore the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity and happiness require it.
Article IX. All elections ought to be free; and all the inhabitants of this commonwealth, having such qualifications as they shall establish by their frame of government, have an equal right to elect officers, and to be elected, for public employments.
Attorney General v. Apportionment Commissioners 224 Mass.(?) 604 - “There can be no equality among citizens if the vote of one counts for considerably more than that of another in electing public officers. The true spirit and meaning of the Constitution is that each voter has an equal voice in the enactment of laws and in the election of officers of the State. Such equality must be secured in all laws for the choosing of representatives in the General Court or the Constitution is violated.”
Associated Industries v. Attorney General, 418 Mass. 286 - “At this stage, however, we follow “the firmly established principle that art. 48 is to be construed to support the people's prerogative to initiate and adopt laws.” Id. at 211. In other words, unless it is reasonably clear that a proposal contains an excluded matter, neither the Attorney General nor this court on review should prevent the proposal from appearing on the ballot. A challenge to a decision to allow a proposed initiative on the ballot is only the first opportunity to mount constitution-based attacks on the law.”
With the previous statement in mind, we would like to bring attention to Article LIX - “Every charter, franchise or act of incorporation shall forever remain subject to revocation and amendment.” If a corporation had any rights under the Massachusetts Constitution, the legislature would not have the ability to revoke or amend every charter, franchise or act of incorporation. This would need to be done by constitutional amendment. Therefore, Section 1 of our Amendment language is in line with the already existing Article LIX and should not be subject to challenge.
It need be noted that both Articles XLVIII and LIX passed at the same time, 1918. During the debates of the 1917 - 1918 Constitutional Convention, there was great concern about the “Invisible Government”, which were the corporations, mostly railroad and subway, taking over by corrupting the political process and Government, thereby leaving the People with no voice, much like it is today. To combat this, the People were finally given what was guaranteed to us in the Preamble's first sentence - “The end of the institution, maintenance, and administration of government is to secure the body politic, to protect it, and to finish the individuals who compose it with the power of enjoying in safety and tranquility their natural rights, and the blessings of life, and whenever these great objects are not obtained, the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their safety, prosperity, and happiness.: What the People demanded and finally received in 1918, was Article XLVIII - the Initiative and Referendum process. Note above, the link of individuals to people. The individuals cited above are most definitely human beings and not corporations.
In the letter of 2013, not certifying our language, “rights of the individual” was used in reference to corporations. We would like to cite Yont v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, 275 Mass. 366 - “An amendment to the Constitution is a solemn and important declaration of fundamental principles of government. It is characterized by terse statements of clear significance. Its words were employed in a plain meaning to express general ideas. It was written to be understood by the voters to whom it was submitted for approval. It is to be interpreted in the sense most obvious to the common intelligence. Its phrases are to be read and construed according to the familiar and approved usage of the language.” We see no way that an individual could be construed to be a corporation. This along with the link of individuals to people, in the preamble, should make the fact absolutely clear, the “rights of the individual” referred to in Article XLVIII has nothing to do with corporations.
Article XLVIII states - ” No proposition inconsistent with any one of the rights of the individual, as at present declared in the declaration of rights, shall be the subject of an initiative or referendum petition.“ This was passed at the same time as Article LIX, cited above, which we use to state that corporations can not have constitutional rights in Massachusetts. If the legislature has complete control over corporate charters and can end them, which could not happen unless corporations had no constitutional rights in Massachusetts, it would have to be done by constitutional amendment. Again, it needs to be noted that Articles XLVIII and LIX were enacted at a time when there was a great concern about the corrupting influence of corporations, on the General Court, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
There was also case history cited stating rights under Articles XVI and XIX - Associated Industries of Massachusetts v. Attorney General 418 Mass. 279 - “The initiative proposal is not “obviously improper” simply because it would place some restrictions on free speech, free press, or the right of peaceable assembly.”
Section 2 - Article XXI - “The freedom of deliberation, speech and debate, in either house of the legislature, is so essential to the rights of the people, that it can not be the foundation of any accusation or prosecution, action or complaint, in any other court or place whatsoever.” This clearly does not mention “money.” At this point, we would like to refer to the PassMassAmendment Legal Discussion - “Since the 1884 enactment of Massachusetts General Law Chapter 320, Section 7, and subsequent editions of that law, any solicitation or accepting of money by any elected official in the Houses of the Legislature or any public building is illegal. These laws applied to only specific physical locations, including those locations where free speech was protected. The distinct connection between disallowing money specifically where free speech was protected and the importance of protecting free speech from the influence of money can not be denied. These laws limited the use of money in places where free speech was guaranteed by the State Constitution at that time. If the framers of the law had believed that money was protected speech, they would have, at that time, not barred its use in those hallowed chambers. The law was intended to uphold the validity of the constitutional protections of our democracy by taking money out of the place of protected speech. We feel that this validates our claim that money has never been considered speech in Massachusetts. We suggest checking out the whole Legal Discussion at passmassamendment.org
We would like to point out that in 1948, Article LXXVII was enacted, thereby giving “Free Speech” to the People outside of the State House. It was added to Article XVI which guaranteed “Freedom of the Press.” Why was it not added to the original “Free Speech” guarantees of Article XXI? Our belief is that “deliberation and debate” in the State House is sacrosanct and any other “Free Speech” is subject to limitation. To this day, no political contributions can be made in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts State House and not even a political sign is allowed in the most hallowed area for “Free Speech.”
Bowe v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, 320 Mass, 249 - “We see nothing in either of the proposed laws that impairs the freedom of a voter to express his choice as to men or measures. Indeed, the proposed law forbidding political contributions, like corrupt practices acts in general, would tend to increase the freedom of elections by removing influences upon the voter that the use of money can bring to bear.”
Our attempt to amend the Massachusetts Constitution is being done in an effort to exact the least amount of change possible, to accomplish what needs to be done. Our respect for the “Longest lasting document of its kind” and the efforts of the men and women during the days of the Revolution and then during the Debates from which our Constitution emerged, is absolute. We see ourselves, in a way, as kindred spirits, in that their battle was basically against a multi-national corporation, the East India Company and ours is against a plethora of multi-national corporations, infecting the political process and government, and robbing us of our constitutional protections in their lust for profit, which adversely affects almost every aspect of our lives.
We also have the greatest respect for our kindred spirits, who in the early days of the 20th Century, fought long and hard in the political arena, against the corporate overlords, to have the 1917 - 18 Constitutional Convention convened, which led to the enactment of Articles XLVIII and LIX. Article XLVIII which finally gave the People the process by which to ”..alter government, and take measures necessary..” which we were guaranteed in the Massachusetts Constitution, and were not able to affect, until the Initiative and Referendum. And then, Article LIX, which guaranteed that corporations would always be kept under strict controls and never have any constitutional protections except for what the legislature might decide upon granting and then taking away if necessary.
They forged these tools so that we would never again feel the oppressive boot of the corporate overlords on our necks. I imagine that it would be excruciating for the folks who brought us Articles XLVIII and LIX, to see how much of a hard time that we are having trying to accomplish what they so painstakingly set up.
In the debates which brought us the Initiative and Referendum, on page 789, Mr. Cummings, the sponsor of the Amendment which includes the “recall of judges and judicial decisions” starts a comment. On page 790, Mr. Cummings states, “If the people of Massachusetts believe one year from to-day, or ten, that it is necessary or asvisable to modify this Amendment or repeal it and give the Initiative and Referendum the entire governmental field to operate in, that may be done. If it could not be done, I should not move this.” On page 791, he states, “Under the Initiative and referendum, if the courts declare a law unconstitutional we have the power to expand the Constitution and reenact the law to make it constitutional.”
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