Former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney famously told a man at a campaign stop that "corporations are people, my friend."
According to the law, he's right, but in Rhode Island, corporations could see their personhood status revoked if a bill by Cranston Rep. Arthur Handy goes through.
Rhode Island will be the first state in the country to consider legislation that would give voters the right to revoke corporate personhood.
“Everyone knows that a corporation is not a person. How could unlimited corporate money in politics benefit real human people? Rhode Islanders have a powerful desire for independence and we have overwhelming popular support for overturning Citizens United. It’s time to take a stand for common sense and democracy,” Handy said in a release.
According to the release, in 2012, the General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution calling on leaders in Washington to reverse the effects of the Citizens United vs. FEC Supreme Court decision, which enshrined corporations as people and their spending of money in elections as protected free speech. Rhode Island is one of twelve states to take such action alongside at least another dozen who are contemplating similar non-binding legislative action. Meanwhile, hundreds of municipalities around the country have passed resolutions likewise calling for the reversal of Citizens United, including Providence. Rhode Island also enjoys leadership on this important issue at the federal level from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who has spearheaded the initiative to amend the U.S. Constitution.
An affiliate of the Move To Amend (MTA) coalition has sprung up to push RI to take the next logical step and amend its own Constitution. Representative Art Handy of Cranston (18) has introduced legislation on behalf of the new grassroots group that would put the question of whether to amend Rhode Island’s Constitution on next year’s ballot (H6051) for the people to decide.
MTA RI started an online petition in support of the bill on May 3rd that has already surpassed 500 signatures.
Abel Collins, who chairs the fledgling MTA RI affiliate and who ran a grassroots campaign for Congress in Rhode Island’s 2nd District with a prominent call for getting the money out of politics, said “Rhode Islanders know that corporate money is drowning out our voice in government, and we want an opportunity to reclaim our democracy. The general assembly should give us that chance by passing the bill.”
If the bill is passed and voters approve of the “We The People” amendment, Rhode Island lawmakers would once again have the ability to regulate corporate and other special interest spending in elections. “It’s a good first step in the fight to end the cronyism that results in policies like taxpayer funded bailouts, unwarranted subsidies, and massive no bid contracts,” continued Collins.
The ultimate fate of the RI amendment is hard to predict, as it might face a court challenge. If it is brought before the Supreme Court, MTA hopes that the justices will use the opportunity to reverse the mistake they made in Citizens United. If not, more fuel will be thrown on the fire and there will be more and louder calls for a national amendment.