Helena city commissioners are considering joining a nationwide push to amend the U.S. Constitution to affirm "human beings, not corporations" are entitled to constitutional rights.
On Wednesday, the commission called for revisions to a Sept. 20 resolution submitted by local engineer Will Garvin. The resolution designates money as “property, not speech,” and says corporations are “subservient to human beings.” Garvin noted that corporations are not mentioned in the United States Constitution.
The resolution called for Helena to join “530 American towns, cities, counties and states” by calling for an amendment limiting constitutional rights to human beings and revoking the status of political contributions as speech.
The First Amendment status of corporations took on new urgency with the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which declared political contributions a form of speech protected by the Constitution. With passage of Garvin’s resolution, Helena would follow in the footsteps of Missoula and Hot Springs, which approved similar measures in a 2011 referendum and 2012 city resolution, respectively.
The actual number of towns that Helena would precede varies by source. Reclaim the American Dream, a political website favoring a corporate personhood amendment, lists 19 states and 784 cities, counties and towns as having adopted such resolutions.
At Wednesday's meeting, Commissioner Heather O’Loughlin said there has been previous discussion about whether such an amendment should be addressed by Congress and the individual states or through a constitutional convention. O’Loughlin said she had “grave concerns” about the possibility of a constitutional convention due to the wide variety of organizations seeking amendments on other topics.
Attending members of Move to Amend, an organization supporting Garvin's resolution, clarified that they support a congressional amendment over a new constitutional convention.
Garvin said he is “more than happy” to clarify his resolution’s language on how an amendment would be passed, saying he is not interested in a convention either.
A statewide referendum calling for a corporate personhood amendment passed with nearly 75 percent approval in November 2012. Thirteen months later, the First District Court of Lewis and Clark County struck down language compelling legislators to ratify an amendment contrary to the Citizens United decision.