Are corporations people? If they are, says a tongue-in-cheek ad that Stephen Colbert's super-PAC was running in South Carolina before the primary there, then Republican Mitt Romney is a "serial killer" of corporations. "Mitt Romney says he's for corporations, but Mitt Romney has a secret," pronounced the ad's narrator. "As head of Bain Capital, he bought companies, carved them up and got rid of what he couldn't use. If Mitt Romney really believes 'corporations are people, my friend,' then Mitt Romney is a serial killer. He's Mitt the Ripper."
But Romney — who uttered that "corporations are people" line last spring, defending low taxes for corporations — could get a presidential-candidate pardon from a new movement that would render the question moot. On Friday, January 20, Occupy the Courts, a national day of protest, will push for officially denying corporations personhood status with demonstrations outside of federal courts in close to a hundred cities — including a major protest outside of the U.S. Supreme Court. They're all pushing a proposed 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution by Move to Amend — a grassroots coalition dedicated to "ending the illegitimate legal doctrines that prevent the American people from governing ourselves." The exact wording? "We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights."
The Occupy the Courts movement got its start right here in Colorado, where Boulder voters approved Question 2H in November 2011, denying corporations personhood status, and Aurora residents have also protested any move to consider Gaylord Entertainment, which wants to build a massive new hotel complex, as a human. Steve Justino, an attorney in Centennial who is co-chair of Colorado Move to Amend, came up with the concept of a day of protest geared toward abolishing corporate personhood.
"We don't want to just jump over the people," he says. "We want to convince the people to stand behind us — that Move to Amend's 28th amendment is right — so we have that support and politicians can't ignore it."
They won't be able to ignore it here in Denver, where the group will be handing the petition to staff at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on January 20. "We've actually gotten a commitment from the clerk who is going to come out of the building and take Move to Amend's 28th amendment into the courthouse," Justino says. Former lawmaker Ken Gordon is also planning to speak on the issue outside the Capitol at 10 a.m. that day.
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The protest marks the second anniversary of the court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. "I could see the trainwreck coming," explains Justino, "and when it came down, I was just furious." He joined Colorado Move to Amend in the summer of 2010, becoming co-chair with fellow volunteers Nancy Price and Michael Melio.
But Occupy the Courts is all Justino's baby. "It's a truly viral phenomenon," he says. In the month after the Occupy the Courts page on the Move to Amend website debuted, on December 2, it got 230,000 views. That number more than doubled in the next week...and that was before Colbert's super-PAC got in on the game.
Scene and herd: The National Western Stock Show is definitely not a person — and that's good, because the prices that parking lots have been charging all week are downright inhuman! Off Limits heard reports of up to $50 on Martin Luther King Day, and even the city has gotten in on the action, demanding $15 to park in the municipal lot southwest of the Coliseum even on a slow Tuesday.