Among the more unusual ballot items approved in Colorado's election yesterday was Boulder Question 2H, which calls for a constitutional amendment to declare that corporations are not people. And Boulder City Councilman Macon Cowles, one of 2H's most vocal backers, believes voters sent a message that echoes Occupy Wall Street's.
In Cowles's view, 2H is "a very clear statement of the belief of Boulder voters that corporations put Democracy into a trick bag -- that corporations are driving the political agenda of the federal government, and the state government, too, to such an extent that the people's work is not getting done."
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would no doubt disagree. While on the campaign trail, as seen in a clip on view below, he famously announced that "corporations are people." But Cowles and Boulder voters who approved 2H by roughly a three-to-one margin have a different view. Here's the measure's text.
"Shall the People of the City of Boulder adopt the following resolution: RESOLVED, the People of the City of Boulder, Colorado call for reclaiming democracy from the corrupting effects of undue corporate influence by amending the United States Constitution to establish that:
1. Only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights, and
2. Money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech."
The measure is nonbinding -- but Cowles doesn't think that makes it inconsequential.
"First of all, it's an important statement of public purpose, of public determination," he says. "Number two, in a city like Boulder, it gets the issue onto our legislative agenda. Each March, we send a small group to Washington, D.C., but we have continual contact with our senators and representatives, and we will be letting them know this is important. It will start a conversation about the appropriate role of business institutions in the life and politics of our country.
"Corporations go through huge cash flows and vast treasuries and fund armies of lobbyists in Washington every day, doing fundraisers for people in political office and actually drafting legislation. And that tarnishes our Democracy, and subverts the things that are important to people: quality education, a good transportation system, health care for their families, good jobs. And we can't even bring these things to a vote. When you look at health-care reform, what most people want, which is single payer, doesn't even make it into the room where the solutions are being discussed."
How to change the nation's course? According to Cowles, "People are going to have to get into the streets, going to have to put their bodies into this and spend more of their precious time, I'm afraid. Because until we gather in large numbers and demand that our senators and congresspeople and members of our state assemblies react to this, nothing is going to change."
This last comment sounds as if it was torn from an Occupy Wall Street manifesto -- and Cowles definitely sees a kinship between that movement and 2H. "These are different facets of a common understanding that's widely shared, which is that corporations are picking the pockets of people. They're making us poorer, and they're increasing the risk of being a taxpayer, because we have to bail them out. They're making it riskier to be an investor, making it riskier with respect to disease and health-care challenges, because they're shredding the safety net, they're making it riskier to be an elder, they're making it riskier to have a family with a child or family member with special needs. And there are the environmental risks. The environmental crisis is on a slow burn, but it's picking up speed -- and yet, the response of our national leaders has been neglect."
To Cowles, "both 2H and Occupy Wall Street are currents. They're actions people are taking to try to reverse a trend where they see that the kind of society in which they hope to live is coming apart."
Look below to see the aforementioned Romney speech, followed by a video shared by the Vote Yes on 2H website that should help folks "understand what Yes On 2H is fighting for."
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More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Photos: #OccupyWallStreet on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol."