Have you ever heard of Monsanto? It’s a dairy company that refused to put rbst, a hormone injected into cows to produce more milk, on the label. The more absurd fact is that they were allowed to get away with it because as a corporation they had constitutional rights, including the right to speak…and the right not to speak. This is just one of the many results of the 2010 Citizens’ United supreme court case that allowed for corporations to have constitutional rights because they are technically people.
Recently, Andover High School was visited by Jeffrey Clements, the president and co-founder of Free Speech for People, the author of the Corporations Are Not People , and an attorney. His lecture was primarily focused around Citizens United, its corrupt effects, and why it should be overturned. His main argument was that democracy is being destroyed by the decision taken in Citizens United. To prove this he gives many convincing examples. For example, he told us about Chevron. Chevron, an Oil Company, was responsible for a gas well explosion in Pennsylvania that sent thousands to the hospital. He went on to say that in an attempt to avoid the tricky situation the company “invests” 1.5 million dollars into the city council in order to have a great influence over decisions made by the city council in regard to Chevron. Going even further Clements explained that they also “invested” 2.5 million dollars into the speaker of the house, hence the lack of discussion in Washington about global warming. Jeffrey Clements boldly stated that democracy is being destroyed because companies like Chevron have more control over the government than the actual people.
Clements’ solution to this is the 28th Amendment, which his organization Free Speech promotes. The 28th Amendment overturns the Supreme Court’s decision on the 2010 Citizens United Case. How far have they come to achieving this? “In just three years since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, we have come one third of the way to amending the US Constitution to reclaim our democracy and to ensure that people, not corporations, shall govern in America,” said John Bonifaz, co-founder. “Sixteen states [out of the 38 needed] representing tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of cities and towns, from Los Angeles to Boston, have passed resolutions and ballot measures in support of a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United” says another representative of Free Speech.
Jeffrey Clements’ cause and solution seem to be righteous and so far effective. However, the actual lecture that he gave to AHS students definitely had room for improvement. Students who had prior knowledge on Mr. Clement’s and his cause were all set but for those who didn’t, the lecture could have been easily confusing at some points. To begin with, his position against Citizens United was not clear to many people until further into the lecture because he threw himself into making his argument before explaining his side. Not only this but at points he tended to talk too fast or use terms unknown to the common teen. However his weakest point was answering the questions. Although when making his argument he was strong and firm, when defending it he rambled and stumbled over the questions while never directly answering them. For example one student asked a question something along the lines of, “Although corporations were more invested in Mitt Romney, Barack Obama still won the election. So are corporations really corrupting democracy?” Clements’ answer to this was unclear and hidden amongst a ramble of words.
Nonetheless, Jeffrey Clements did open students’ eyes to the reality of situation and showed us the extent to which the Citizens’ United decision is corrupting American democracy. He reminded us that it affects us personally whether we know it or not. Despite the flaws in the lecture itself, the message was clear. He told us, “Every generation had to make sure democracy doesn’t fail, which in history it often has. Every generation has gotten us closer [to the perfect democracy] and your generation will too.”
By Amrutha Palaniyappan