Council Resolution Against Citizens United Passes

A resolution by the County Council urging Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment declaring that corporations are not people and money is not speech passed the County Council today, but only after a lot of complaining by county councilors. Several councilors expressed reservations or outright opposition to the bill before it finally passed, 6-3.

Resolution 266-15 stemmed from Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which gutted protections against excessive corporate spending in elections. The resolution got overwhelming support from residents who testified on it.

“The vast majority of the American population is completely angry and completely alienated…. We will believe corporations are people when corporations are in prisons,” said one. Another noted that in the early days of the United States corporations “weren’t for profit. They were for a single project and they were terminated when the project was done,” and that the constitution had never mentioned them, much less granted them the status of legal human beings, as Citizens United and other Supreme Court decisions had.

State Senator Russell Ruderman, testifying for himself, urged the passage of the resolution. “The whole political system has become Obscene in terms of the cost of competing,” he noted. “They might as well put it on ESPN and call it a sport.”
“Giving corporations the same rights as citizens is the biggest single threat to our democracy,” testified Justin Avery. “…All of the hard work that was done in this county to build a healthy, vibrant democracy was shot down by a 5-4 court decision in the Washington, DC.”

But the testimony didn’t convince some council members.
“I will be voting no, not because I’m voting for crooked government…,”maintained Hilo Councilor Aaron Chung. “What I find wrong about this amendment is that it vilifies corporations…the main problem is that we have this wealth gap…. We see it even on this island, where the rich sometimes try to use their muscle. “ But at another point in his speech, he identified a different problem: “The problem isn’t the corporations, it’s the Super PACs” (enormously wealthy political action committees—which, one supporter of the amendment pointed out afterward, had been allowed to grow so huge and wealthy because of the Citizens United decision).

Councilor Daniel Paleka,   (Western Puna), said he was “taken aback” by Citizens United, but he identified another problem as more important: voter apathy caused by long election cycles: “If you look at American Politics from outside of America, many friends of mine from outside the states say the election period is just too damn long.”

Greggor Ilagan (Eastern Puna) echoed Chung’s comments, noting that the title of the bill singled out corporations as a culprit: “I will be voting no as well, but if you change that title, I will support it whole-heartedly.”

Dennis Onishi (South Hilo, Kea’au) and Chair Dru Kanuha (Portions of North and South Kona) also expressed some reservations about the bill, but still voted for it, as did Maile David (South Kona-Ka’u-Volcano), Valerie Poindexter, Margaret Wille (Kohala) and sponsor Karen Eoff (North Kona). A companion resolution, 267-15, which urges the Hawaii State Association of Cunties to also enact a resolution supporting the constitutional amendment, passed by a 7-2 margin after Ilagan switched sides.

7 replies
  1. Joy Cash
    Joy Cash says:

    Provincial minds do exist on our County council. Thank goodness, there are some representatives that live in our 21st century. Support them.
    Remember, early election cycle has opened, corporations are bringing big money influence to our island.
    It is not to early to identify, encourage, mentor, support candidates that will represent our citizens over corporate interests.

  2. John
    John says:

    Useless, feckless political grandstanding. I guess it’s good we don’t have any problems on this island that they could actually do something about.

  3. Dennis
    Dennis says:

    3 things that should be clarified for your readers:
    1) Regarding your lede sentence – the resolution urged the Hawai?i congressional delegation to introduce an an amendment in Congress, not the County Council, itself.
    2) The resolution number is 266-15, not 245-15.
    3) Council Member Eoff’s first name is spelled with a “K”. Because I respect her and am proud of her for introducing the resolutions and holding steadfast in the face of opposition from some of her colleagues, she deserves to be named correctly.

  4. James Weatherford
    James Weatherford says:

    Just as it became imperative to be specific about the rights of all people no matter what race or gender and who can vote, the time has also come in our nation for a constitutional amendment to specifically keep to people and people alone (not dogs, not cats, not corporations, not political action committees) the rights and responsibilities of people a democratic society. That is basically what is proposed.

    Any other legislation (e.g., tax code), court decision, or executive order, are overturned/made moot if in conflict with a constitutional amendment.

    Constitutional amendments are really large undertakings. This resolution is one of many where local and state jurisdictions are passing similar resolutions, initiating that large undertaking.

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