If Occupy Wall Street is easy to criticize, it's also a movement with which many politicians can find common ground. In the past month, Democratic Representatives Jim McGovern and Ted Deutch have introduced drafts of amendments to the U.S. Constitution that reflect the ideals of the 99 percent with a focus that should sound pretty familiar. Fans of Shelby, Occupy Denver's fearless dog leader, will remember much of it from the ideals behind her election.
Should it be approved through an extensive and tedious process, the People's Rights Amendment (on view below) will revoke corporations' rights to personhood, a demand made bluntly in Occupy Denver's statement concerning the election of its canine standard-bearer.
Maybe the group could have shot farther than the Colorado Constitution."We hereby demand that Shelby not only be legally recognized by both State and Federal government as the leader of Occupy Denver, but also as a person," the group stated in a press release on the subject. "We of Occupy Denver demand that any and all rights and privileges granted to corporations under the rights afforded them through corporate 'personhood' be made illegal through State constitutional amendment."
Cut to: McGovern's proposed amendment, introduced November 15, which gets right to the point. Although the meat of the document is only three paragraphs long, the text echoes many of the statements made both by Occupy Denver and many of its fellow OWS branches across the country: "The words people, person, or citizen as used in this Constitution do not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities ... and such corporate entities are subject to such regulations as the people, through their elected State and Federal representatives, deem reasonable ... "
This would include the regulation of corporate campaign financing, a decision that would repeal the US Supreme Court's vote on the issue in January 2010. In the case of Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court overturned a ruling a lower court established in 2008 with a 5-4 vote to interpret the First Amendment to include the rights of private businesses to basically spend their money however they'd like.
In general, the proposal offers heavy food for thought, particularly given that it was released at the same time the movement was focusing on resuscitating democracy of, by and for the people.
Since the proposal's release, Democratic New Mexico Senator Tom Udall has agreed to co-sponsor a petition on its behalf, and Florida Representative Ted Deutch has released a similar amendment, known as the "Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy Amendment" -- the OCCUPIED Amendment for short. Unlike McGovern's proposal, the OCCUPIED Amendment targets other means of enterprise in addition to corporations and LLCs and would stop corporate election-spending automatically. Deutch's amendment, which you can read on its website, takes the central principles behind McGovern's and runs farther with them.
Although Shelby has yet to release a statement about the potential amendments, it's pretty clear she would be proud. While her election has opened the local chapter to equal parts ridicule and congratulations, the reason for her role has been validated for her human counterparts far outside the city.
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"Shelby has more human traits than any corporation: She can bleed, she can breed and she can show emotion," protester Aaron "Al" Nesby told Westword the night of Shelby's election on November 6. "If this is the way the corporate world chooses to do business, let's apply the same rule."
Here's the amendment:
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver dog leader Shelby discussed & mocked on NPR's Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me."