We feel that the influence of corporations and money in our political process has corrupted the body politic, diluted our natural rights, weakened the social compact, and left us with a system of government no longer focused on the common good.
We look to the preamble of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for guidance and the original Articles I, IV, V, VI, VII, IX and XXI of the Declaration of Rights to help us achieve a restoration of the social compact and the belief in the common good.
Even though the people, when they feel their rights are endangered, were given the right to reform and alter government in the Preamble and Article 7, the ability to achieve alteration and reform only became accessible after the 1917 Constitutional Convention, which resulted in the Initiative and Resolution Ballot measures.
Let us look to history for some background. In June of 1777, the Massachusetts General Court resolved itself into a Constitutional Convention and appointed a committee to draft the Constitution. The public was left out of the process. By the end of February 1778, a constitutional draft had been proposed, agreed upon and later suffered a resounding defeat at the polls.
Subsequently, Essex County decided to convene in Ipswich for their own constitutional convention, which led to the “Essex Result”. The “Essex Result” highlighted the lack of a Bill of Rights in the failed constitution. The “Essex Result” repeatedly refers to “natural rights”.
In 1779, another Massachusetts Constitutional Convention was held. The difference was that the people chose the delegates for this one. The draft included a Declaration of Rights, immediately after the preamble. Let it be known that “natural rights” were mentioned in the first sentence of the Preamble.
This Constitution was submitted to the people for a vote and it passed. This Constitution remains largely unchanged through its history and is the longest lasting document of its kind.
We, at CUWG Inc, are in the process of using the ballot initiative to amend the Massachusetts Constitution. We are actually not comfortable using that phrase. We feel that what we are trying to accomplish is a “clarification” of the Constitution after the mismanagement of corporation power by the legislature. We do not believe that the framers of the Constitution, nor the people who voted for it, intended for corporations to be unfettered.
At the time when our Constitution was passed, a corporation needed to provide a public service and were limited in their scope by their charter. At any time, a charter could be revoked for non-adherence. There was a great deal of concern about corporations gaining too much power. Prior experience with the East India Company is illustrative of this fact. There were very strict rules on what corporations could exist and under what circumstances.
We believe that what our forefathers feared the most, has come to pass. While people have been using money to influence government since the beginning of history, it wasn't until relatively recently that corporations themselves started using money to influence the legislature to legalize what is in the best interest of the corporation. And presently a corporation filing its articles of incorporation does not need to convince the Secretary of State that their group of people and the mission of a proposed corporation is for the good of the people. It need only say that it will engage in “any lawful business”. This is an example of how easy it is for anyone to form a corporation and how little oversight there is over corporate operational principles. In effect, the legislature has given up its responsibility to regulate corporations to strengthen the social compact and promote the common good.
The justification for such ease was to help free up capital “for the good of the people”, to allow new businesses to be created easily. The intent was NOT to allow corporations to become “the invisible government”. And that is what we believe needs to be corrected.
Currently, because of the way that corporations have effectively bought our government, even when corporations break the law, they are not penalized.
We believe that such corporations should have their charter revoked. These corporations have failed to honor the social compact and no longer preserve the common good. We believe in the need to deny the right of a corporation to exist and make them again beholden to the body politic to strengthen the social compact and promote the common good.
There are two main parts to our Amendment language
- Corporations Are Not People
- Money Is Not Speech
PART 1: CORPORATIONS ARE NOT PEOPLE
When we talk about this issue, we like to bring up what our founding fathers felt was the role of a corporation. The only mention of a corporation in the Massachusetts Constitution is in Article VI of the Declaration of Rights. And we feel that the mention was not to bestow rights on the corporation, but to places restrictions on it. We believe that it intends to ensure their cooperation in securing the social compact and promoting the common good, which is the foundation of our constitution. Article VII enhances this view. We need to make known what being a corporation, in the day that this constitution was written, entailed.
For your convenience, here is the language:
Article VI: “ No man, nor corporation, or association of men, have any other title to obtain advantages, or particular and exclusive privileges, distinct from those of the community, than what arises from the consideration of services rendered to the public; and this title being in nature neither hereditary, nor transmissible to children, or descendants, or relations by blood, the idea of a man born a magistrate, lawgiver, or judge, is absurd and unnatural.”
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.”
We would like to cite the Acts & Resolves of 1784 Chapter 53. The Act allows the corporation of a group of men, headed by John Hancock, to build a bridge between Boston and Charlestown, referred to as the Charles River Bridge. In the charter, it cites parameters and restrictions on the corporation. Everything from the governing of the corporation to the size of the bridge and draw, how many lanterns, and the amount of toll to be charged for each category. The bridge needed to be kept in good repair and turned over to the state in good repair, after 40 years.
Corporations were held accountable to strengthen the social compact and preserve the common good as with any other group of men or any amount of people.
It was inconceivable, in that time, to think that corporations had any rights other than what was granted in their charter, which could be revoked if said corporation did not abide by constraints proposed.
People often mistakenly think that The Boston Tea Party was “against the King”. The Boston Tea Party was against the East India Company and no other. No other tea was dumped into Boston Harbor, except that which was owned by the East India Company. No one was allowed to salvage any of that tea. People tried and were rebuked. A total loss.
After our Constitution was passed, corporations had to operate under the restrictions imposed by their charter, which caused said corporations to strengthen the social compact and promote the common good.
Since then, our legislature has decided to loosen controls imposed by the charter. Nowadays, the reason for incorporation can be for any lawful purpose.
The legislature has failed in its duty to secure the body politic by strengthening the social compact and preserving the common good. We can only attribute this failure, to serve the public, a result of the corrupting influence of money, resulting in the legal bribery of our general court.
The 1917 Massachusetts Constitutional Convention happened because the people were discouraged by how the legislature was corrupted by the influence of corporations and money. Members of the convention highlighted the influence of corporations and money in the election process. The people felt that their voices were not being heard over the amplification that money provides to other voices. Despite the ability to pursue Initiative and Referendum, we feel that the situation is worse today. And we aim to restore the focus of government to strengthening the social compact and preserving the common good.
PART 2: MONEY IS NOT SPEECH
To begin this narrative, we feel that we need to make clear what we are talking about. Using a Funk & Wagnalls dictionary, we give you two definitions:
The only mention of free speech in our original constitution can be found in Article XXI.
Free speech was a right only in either house of the legislature. Does anyone actually feel that the learned men, who wrote our constitution, actually felt that the only place to give money (a bribe) to a representative of the people, should only occur in either house of the legislature? No reasonable person would think so.
Originally, Article XVI stated, “the liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom, in a state: it ought not therefore, to be restrained in this Commonwealth”. In 1948, the Article was amended (LXXVII) and “the right of free speech shall not be abridged”, was added.
We insist that the original use of “free speech” did not mean “the giving of money” and we believe that still holds true. If the new amendment did not clarify otherwise, we need to adhere to the original meaning.
To suggest that the writers of our original constitution, being very pious and religious, were not familiar with Timothy 6:10, which states “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil”, would not clarify their intentions, pertaining to money, does not make sense. Church service attendance was mandatory until 1833. To suggest that the state which led the way in our Revolution, Massachusetts, would have its leaders, being pious religious men, suggest that the two Houses of the Legislature should be the only place place to give money to Legislators is absurd. Even now, no State Senator or Representative can accept or solicit money inside the House of the Legislature. Throughout the history of our Constitution, nothing has changed. Money is not considered speech in our Constitution. We just want to make that clear.
The natural rights provided for by the Massachusetts Constitution are based on strengthening the social compact and preserving the common good.
Even today, free speech has limitations. I can not walk into a theater and shout, “fire” without there actually being a fire, otherwise, I could be subject to arrest. Limitations also include libel, perjury, defamation of character, fighting words, blasphemy, obscenity, national security, gag orders, noise levels, obstruction of justice and harassment.
We refuse to conflate the limits that we can make to political campaigns to a restriction on our free speech rights, but we would like to comment on free elections. First, we would like to cite Article XI of the Declaration of Rights, “all elections are to be free”. That should be enough, but we will add some case history. Swift v Registrars of Voters of Quincy 281 Mass 277, “The object of elections is to ascertain the popular will and not thwart it”. McSweeney v Cambridge 422 Mass 656, “In so far as the issue relates to each voter’s right to an equal voice in the electoral process.”
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 this state. Such a quality must be secured in all laws for the choosing of representatives in the general court or the constitution is violated.“
We, at CUWG Inc, would like to cite the preamble and 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 interests of any one man, family, or class of men”, to highlight the inequality of our election process. Allowing money to be considered speech makes it so those with more money will have their voices heard over those with less money. This differentiation makes elections unequal and unfair.
In 1998, the people passed a ballot initiative referred to as, “the Clean Elections Law”. This initiative passed by a two-to-one vote by the people. Our representatives did not abide by the vote of the people and refused to fund the law. And in the end, had a voice-vote to deny the will of the people, thereby not being accountable to the people for their action.
The corrupting influence of money can be felt most when large sums of out of district money is spent to try to change the course of a vote in our state. Should not the people who live in the state be the ones who decide who will take office? Because of the corrupting influence of money and the correspondent ability to buy media time, we believe that states should be allowed to regulate where campaign donations originate. Should campaign donations for a local senate race come from only the districts that are being represented in that Senate race? Or should we allow money to come from another state, from people who do not live in those districts? When this happens, the elected representative, if he/she wants to keep his/her job, becomes beholden to out-of-district interests. Do we want to allow this to continue? We believe that the people should be able to decide.
We feel that the corrupting influence of money on our elected officials has made it so that the only option left is a ballot initiative to amend the Massachusetts Constitution based on the language, “Corporations are not People” and “Money is not Speech”. We consider it our only option to restore the body politic to the original intention of strengthening the social compact and promoting the common good.