Walter Wilde wants to amend the U.S. Constitution to say corporations aren’t people.
“I tell you, there’s so much to relate in terms of how far we have gone along the spectrum toward corporate influence, corporate, I say, domination of our political process that it’s hard to even know where to start,” Wilde said Wednesday.
But he is starting. Wilde has helped form a group called Missoula Moves to Amend, soon to be officially affiliated with the national Move to Amend organization, based in California. Members want to “end corporate rule,” and the Missoula group holds its kickoff meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, in Room 106 of the Gallagher Business Building at the University of Montana.
“When the Constitution talks about ‘we the people,’ it certainly didn’t include corporations,” said Wilde, of Missoula. “But over the years, the intense pressures from the private sector to achieve those same rights for corporations have been very successful.”
In November, more than 75 percent of Missoula voters approved a ballot measure calling on the U.S. Congress and state leaders to amend the U.S. Constitution to say that corporations are not human beings. Now, a group called Stand with Montanans is working to put a related measure on the statewide ballot.
A draft “statement of purpose” reads as follows: “This Initiative establishes as the policy of the State of Montana that corporations are not people with constitutional rights and bans corporate money in campaigns. It also instructs Congress and the Montana legislature to get the big money out of politics by limiting campaign contributions from wealthy contributors and by limiting political spending in elections.”
Wilde wants Missoula Moves to Amend to help Stand with Montanans get that measure on the ballot. Doing so requires gathering 24,337 valid signatures from 5 percent of the electorate, and 5 percent in at least one third of the House Districts, according to Stand with Montanans. It’s a daunting feat, but worth it, according to its website.
“By getting BIG money out of politics, we can end crony capitalism and enable everyone’s voices to be heard, not just the voices of the wealthy,” it reads.
The draft initiative language directs the Montana congressional delegation to propose a joint resolution that offers an amendment to the U.S. Constitution – and the Montana Legislature to vote for ratification “if given the opportunity.” Among other things, the amendment would seek to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, which “equated the speech rights of corporations with those of human beings.”
The proposed initiative discusses the Citizens United case as well as Montana’s history of corporate corruption – and its people’s intolerance for it.
“Since 1912, through passage of the Corrupt Practices Act by initiative, Montana has prohibited corporate contributions to and expenditures on candidate elections,” reads the initiative.
The Corrupt Practices Act is “being challenged under the holding of Citizens United,” but the Montana Supreme Court upheld it in a 2011 decision.
“With the infusion of unlimited corporate money in support of or opposition to a targeted candidate, the average citizen candidate (in Montana) would be unable to compete against the corporate-sponsored candidate, and Montana citizens, who for over 100 years have made their modest election contributions meaningfully count would be effectively shut out of the process,” reads part of the High Court’s decision quoted in the initiative. “Clearly the impact of unlimited corporate donations creates a dominating impact on the (Montana) political process and inevitably minimizes the impact of individual (Montana) citizens.”
Wilde, retired from a varied career history, said “really, the role of living, breathing people has been severely diminished” in the country. So he wants to help educate voters, contribute to the petition drive, and grow the Missoula group so it becomes big enough to be influential.
“We have a hope of spawning other similar local grassroots mobilization efforts in the rest of the state,” Wilde said. “We just feel we have a responsibility to lead in this a little bit because Missoula was actually the first place where this all started taking place.”