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Mr. Hausladen Takes On Mr. Corporation

by Thomas MacMillan | Feb 22, 2012 12:45 pm

(20) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: City Hall, Occupy Wall Street

Douglas Hausladen breathes, walks, talks, and eats. He wants to stop a newly powerful foe who does none of that.

In a new proposal, Hausladen, a downtown alderman, has teamed up with the Green Party and Occupy New Haven to go after the U.S. Supreme Court’s notion that corporations are people.

The proposal, officially submitted at Tuesday evening’s meeting of New Haven’s Board of Aldermen, is a resolution calling on the state and federal governments to hold a convention and amend the U.S. Constitution “for the purpose of ending corporate personhood.”

Hausladen said he’d like to see the effects of two U.S. Supreme Court decisions erased by a constitutional amendment. One is in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, which struck down limitations on political spending by unions and companies. The other is McComish v. Bennett, which struck down a program that allowed publicly financed campaigns to receive multiple payments of public matching dollars to compete with privately financed campaigns, including those funded by corporations. The current Republican presidential primary season has seen a new level of corporate domination of campaigns through the rise of “super PACs” enabled by the Supreme Court.

Underlying each Supreme Court decision is the notion of corporate personhood, which holds that corporations are people, and thus entitled to spend their money freely. Money being speech in the eyes of the law, it’s against the First Amendment to limit it.

“This is a direct attack on democracy,” Hausladen said.

“The Court’s decisions in Citizens United & McComish severely hamper the ability of federal, state and local governments to enact reasonable campaign finance reforms and regulations including any practical public financing,” his submission reads. “Corporations should not be afforded the entirety of protections or ‘rights’ of natural persons, such that the expenditure of corporate money to influence the electoral process is a form of constitutionally protected speech.”

Click here to read the entire proposal, with extensive supporting material.

Hausladen said he was initially looking to submit his proposed resolution on the one-year anniversary of the Ciitizens United decision, on Jan. 21. As it happened, Occupy New Haven’s working group on “Issues and Proposals” was working on a similar proposal at the time, said Allan Brison, a former Green party East Rock alderman and member of the working group. Brison showed up at the Board of Aldermen Tuesday night wearing Green Part and Occupy New Haven pins on his sweater, as well as one that said simply “Vegan.”

The proposal is Occupy New Haven’s first foray into local legislative action. The matter is headed next to the Board of Aldermen’s Human Services Committee for a public hearing.

On Jan. 30, Hausladen met at the Elm City Market with Brison and other members of the Green Party and Occupy New Haven, along with current East Rock Alderman Justin Elicker. They worked on merging the two proposals.

Also present at the co-op meeting were members of Wolf-PAC, a political action committee dedicated to overturning the Citizens United decision with a constitutional amendment. The group’s director, Chris Campbell, appeared on an online news show (click on the play arrow to watch) to talk about Hausladen’s proposal and also name-checked New Haven’s State Rep. Roland Lemar, who he said is working on a similar measure at the state level.

Meanwhile, at the co-op, no corporations were spotted inspecting avocados in the produce aisle.

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Comments

posted by: YISalderman on February 22, 2012  1:05pm

I would really like to hear what budget solutions for the city by the Alderman instead of being side tracked by Occupy. I understand the movement but please do what you were elected to do first…

posted by: GregoryL on February 22, 2012  1:05pm

Excellent!  I’m glad to see that there are some people working on this.  I’m a friend of Doug’s, and appreciate his work on this.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on February 22, 2012  1:35pm

now this is the doug we all know and love!!!

posted by: cedarhillresident! on February 22, 2012  1:37pm

@YISalderman

indirectly this has alot to do with taxes. Do you want people that represent the corp. best interest in office or the person that represents the people in office.

posted by: robn on February 22, 2012  2:46pm

Money isn’t speech. Money is a device used to sometimes project speech or to sometimes drown out the speech of others. If current law allows media market saturation by large corporations it abridges the speech of small groups or individuals by drowning them out. The founders could not have envisioned modern media and the ability of large corporations to drown out the voices of the individuals but they did want to protect speech for all and thats why the first amendment is what it is. And on that foundation these cases must be struck down.

posted by: DrJay on February 22, 2012  4:47pm

I see 2 problems:
First, if there is a constitutional convention (which only happened once in 1787), amendments to the constitution of all kinds become easier to pass. I bet a ban on gay marriage and abortion will happen way before any action on corporations.
More importantly, I don’t think the Board of Alderman is the proper venue for this type of action. Federal issues should be dealt with in Federal forums. These type of resolutions blow off some steam but don’t accomplish a thing. Let’s focus on what we can fix at a local level.

posted by: DownTownNewHaven on February 22, 2012  5:34pm

It is good to see an elected official that cares about the integrity of our democracy. Unfortunately our Congress is already bought so the only chance we have is if local and state leaders stand up for us.

DrJay- A run away convention is a myth, this type of Convention would be for a single amendment. Furthermore a Convention is extremely unlikely. The beauty of Doug’s plan is that it goes father then just asking congress nicely to address the issue of Citizens United. Rather then just saying please Doug’s plan would provide a carrot and a stick. Organizing states to call for a Constitutional Convention is historically one of the most effect ways to force Congress to act. The 17th amendment for example was only passed by Congress when the states came within one state of calling a Convention.

As for you second issue I think I have already addressed it in part, but it is also important to point out that our federal government has done nothing in the last two years to rectify the damage done by the Citizens United ruling. In fact if anything subsequent rulings by the Court and FEC have made the situation worse.

If Roger Sherman the first mayor of New Haven and one of our founding fathers understood that sometimes it does come down to New Haven to save a nation. If he hadn’t bothered to get involved there would have been no Connecticut compromise and no Constitution in the first place. The SCOTUS has inflicted grievous harm on the Constitution that Roger Sherman saved, it is not only proper, it is more then fitting to have the City of New Haven take this stand.

posted by: HhE on February 22, 2012  7:30pm

One of the things I really like about Doug is how he targets, small, achievable, improvements like the dog park, and gets it done.  Another is how he thinks global ideas and ideals, like knocking corporate personhood on the head.

Fair enough YISalderman and DrJay.  I worry about the whack jobs getting control of The Constitution, and it drove me batty last year when the BoA burned most of a meeting on a social/political resolution that was completely outside their mandate instead of focusing on a critical task at hand.

Spot on robn and DownTownNewHaven.

posted by: WolfPacNH on February 23, 2012  1:16am

Go Forward Doug! Excellent work.  This is exactly what we need to get other legislators thinking about this issue. 

In response to Dr. J, I believe you are wrong my friend on both counts.  Gay marriage and abortion will not be first because you need 3/4 support to get an amendment, that is a massive number and those issues don’t have the kind of universal support that getting corporate money out of our election process has, not even close.  And this must be done on a local level because our federal government is completely bought.  This is our ONLY option and it will work.

@YISalderman Come on now, you want to complain that someone is making an effort to clean up our democracy that is totally and completely bought by corporate America??  An issue that almost every American is concerned about?  Sorry, but this problem is getting fixed NOW, with or without your help.  To any elected official in any state who wants to introduce legislation to this effect… PLEASE DO SO!!

http://www.wolf-pac.com

posted by: Threefifths on February 23, 2012  9:37am

How about taking on Term Limits.

posted by: jayfairhaven on February 23, 2012  11:35am

i’m probably in the minority here, but it looks to me like the citizen’s united ruling was a victory for free speech. the disclosure aspect, which you can read about here,

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/20/us/disclosure-may-be-real-legacy-of-citizens-united-case.html

puts the responsibility in the hands of the voters to find what platforms are being advanced by which entities, and that information is transparent. that’s a good thing for a politically engaged populace.

i don’t think we should be legislating which corporate boards are allowed to advocate for their preferred political agenda.

posted by: HhE on February 23, 2012  4:43pm

Threefifths, I think you already know (crooked two party system and all that), but as a reminder, those in power typically use their power to stay in power.  So term limits is just about a non starter.  Also, if term limits were imposed, professional lobbyists and the like would have even more power as they would be the only corporate memory.

Careful,  WolfPacNH.  It is easy, living in a blue state, to think that there is not a lot of objections to gay marriage and abortion.  My range of friends and contacts include conservatives in Connecticut, and people living in red states.  Believe me, there is a lot of strong support for banning gay marriage and abortion.  Do I think this is the way forward?  Yes, but it is not without grave risks.

jayfairhaven, yes and no.  Certainly a majority of Justices agree with you.  However, a majority agreed with Plessy v. Ferguson, so I don’t put much stock in what the US Supreme Court says about that most sacred document.  “In theory, I agree with you, in Theory.  In theory, Communism works.”  The problem is will people really dig through all the disclosures when they are being bombarded with political adds?  I think the smart money says “no.”  The very wealthy will (have already) gain controlling domination of political discourse in the media.  Their money=speech, corporation=person advantage will give them the ability to control Congress and the White-house.  (There is no doubt in my mind that the Communist Chinese did this with the Clinton White House.)

posted by: jayfairhaven on February 23, 2012  5:08pm

hHe, thanks for the reply.

i’d like to point out that the citizen’s united ruling is over a year old at this point, and just like before, money is used to run campaigns and advocate for policy. publicly funded elections compel, through taxation, funding of campaigns that any one of us may abhor.

corporations don’t just include assumed “bad guys” like walmart, et al, but churches, charities, and non profits. those against the citizen’s united ruling, when you drill down, are for censorship. they don’t want corporations, boards of directors, or collections of like-minded individuals to advocate ideas that they disagree with.

let the increased volume of political speech in the wake of citizen’s united flourish. it’s good! find out where it comes from, be suspicious and curious, tell your friends about it, post comments on the independent. it will all increase the quality of the discourse, and create more informed choices.

posted by: Threefifths on February 23, 2012  5:51pm

posted by: HhE on February 23, 2012 3:43pm

Threefifths, I think you already know (crooked two party system and all that), but as a reminder, those in power typically use their power to stay in power.  So term limits is just about a non starter.  Also, if term limits were imposed, professional lobbyists and the like would have even more power as they would be the only corporate memory.

Not true.In fact Term Limits Gets reelection rates back to near 50. It is called rotation in office.As far as professional lobbyists and the like have even more power as they would be the only corporate memory.This may be true.But Under Term Limits,There is less chance for corruption of government officials if time in office is limited; new politicians are less likely to have the knowledge to exploit the system for personal gain and are more skeptical of lobbyists & special interests.In fact polls across the country show that the voters want Citizen Referendums on Term Limits.

posted by: DownTownNewHaven on February 23, 2012  6:56pm

jayfairhaven-
A few points of clarification, the Citizens United ruling is 2 years on one month old at this time. It is however, and this is critical, the first Presidential Election cycle since the ruling so we are effectively seeing the consequences of Citizens United in full swing for the first time right now, and if you think this election looks just like they have before you are not paying close enough attention. The Republican primary and the ungodly sums of money http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/21/us/politics/super-pac-role-grows-for-republican-campaigns.html
As this article indicate, traditional campaigning has already become obsolete to the advantage of a handful of billionaires. 17 individuals and organizations account for the vast majority of the funds raised for the primary so far. Not “churches, charities, and non profits” 17 billionaires

On a more serious note your claim that this is about silencing opposition is very troubling. This is about equal representation under the law. When only 17 people are dictating the terms of our democracy that is when we the people are effectively silenced. All we want is equal representation where every individual has a voice and a vote. No one wants to take away an individual member of a corporate board, we do however need to safe guard our democracy from a multinational company buying our politicians because we allowed an artificial construct to have more rights then American citizens.

posted by: NewHavenDem35 on February 24, 2012  12:17am

Given they are all Democrats how can they not support it? Unlimited funds are a threat to democracy and fair elections, not to mention Democratic incumbents. I hope they pass it, otherwise some Republican Super PAC might be able to spend so much they can even win in New Haven! Vote Yes!

posted by: HhE on February 24, 2012  8:14am

Well argued,  Threefifths.  Can you give a reference to your claim?  Thanks.

Well said, DownTownNewHaven.  Thank you for your previous history lesson.  I’m thinking on putting you on my “fantasy NHI Poster” roster.

You are welcome jayfairhaven.  It is good to have dissension.  “If everyone is thinking alike, is anyone really thinking?”  I got that quote from a book on General Patton.  I would point out, we already have some restrictions on the First Amendment, such as the cliche of screaming “fire” in a crowded theater. 

NewHavenDem35, I seam to recall having to scratch out “Democrat” as my party affiliation when I registered in New Haven.  (I had to do the same thing to “Republican” when I registered in Greenwich.)

posted by: Threefifths on February 24, 2012  10:17am

posted by: HhE on February 24, 2012 7:14am

Well argued,  Threefifths.  Can you give a reference to your claim?  Thanks.

Yes.The president of the United States has Term Limits.The Mayor of New York Has Term Limits and the major of voters want Term Limits.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHiicN0Kg10

posted by: jayfairhaven on February 24, 2012  10:18am

downtown:

since you mentioned the “ungodly” sums of money by one side of the aisle, i checked them both

http://elections.nytimes.com/2012/campaign-finance

obama has raised more than the top three republican primary hopefuls combined, and he’s not running a primary against anyone. i didn’t mention that to make a blue/red argument, just to point out that there isn’t one party running roughshod over the other. 

the sums of money are not important. it’s their money to spend as they see fit, even billionaires. from the article you cited, some of it goes to smear santorum, a most noble cause in my book. 

take a look at the republican primary. there have been 6 candidates who at one point have been considered front runners. for all that ungodly money, it certainly hasn’t bought a consensus. let’s see how this thing plays out before legislating who is allowed to spend their money.

posted by: Threefifths on February 26, 2012  2:56pm

Ours is a government of checks and balances. The Mafia and crooked businessmen make out checks, and the politicians and other compromised officials improve their bank balances.
Steve Allen

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