City Council debates corporate personhood, campaign financing

In a split vote, the Ashland City Council rejected a proposal to draft a statement in support of abolishing corporate personhood during Tuesday’s council meeting, instead settling on a less strongly worded resolution in support of increased oversight of campaign financing by states.

Supporters of the original proposal argued that Ashland should ally with several other municipal governments such as Los Angeles and New York City in passing a resolution decrying corporate personhood and imposing campaign spending limitations.

“I have two core values that make up who I am,” said Carol Voisin, a council member. “And one of them is democracy. Yes, it’s a value. Democracy means by the people and for the people … real people, not corporate people.”

Opponents of the proposal referred to it as “political theater” and “divisive,” asserting that a city council shouldn’t be politicizing an issue or taking sides, and instead focus on getting real work done.

“I have a serious problem with politicizing a local body whose job it is to govern,” said Greg Lemhouse, a council member. “This is political theater at its finest … the city council has not taken up a political issue since 2004.”

The council split down the middle, Mayor John Stromberg cast the final vote.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for city council to associate itself in this way,” he said, voting against the proposal.

Council Member Russ Silbiger then made a second proposal stating that the city of Ashland was in support of a constitutional resolution that would direct states to regulate campaign financing.

Silbiger explained that he deliberately avoided any mention of corporate personhood in his proposal in order to avoid politicizing the issue.

The council voted 7-1 in support of the new proposal, with Lemhouse casting the dissenting vote.

The issue of corporate personhood came about after the landmark 2010 Supreme Court “Citizens United” decision, which decided by a 5-4 majority that corporations can make unlimited indirect political contributions because corporations have the same rights as individual people.

The Move To Amend movement began shortly after, with the goal of overturning the Citizens United decision and amending the U.S. Constitution to clarify that corporations do not have the same rights as people.


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