On Tuesday night the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly joined the City of Homer and other municipalities around the state and nation in coming out against corporate personhood in the form of the U.S. Supreme Court case, Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission.
Only one citizen came out in support of the Citizens United Case, a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing unlimited corporate donations to political campaigns under the guise of free speech.
Mary Jackson of Soldotna chided the assembly for wasting time on what she says is a pipe-dream of having a new amendment to the constitution passed.
“In my opinion, this is far outside the reach a local government and an unnecessary expenditure of time and resources for what is an extremely unlikely result. In the history of our nation, 27 amendments have gone forward. That's all. Of that 11,000 amendments only 27 have made it through. As they said it extremely unlikely result,” said Jackson.
Resolution co-sponsor Assemblymember Brent Johnson of Clam Gulch took issue with that characterization.
“ Mary Jackson mentioned that there has been somewhere near a jillion attempts to amend the constitution, and that 27 of them succeeded. One of them, if I recall, was giving women the right to vote. One vote for one person, that there should be equality in the United States. And rich people shouldn't control the United States. I'm proud of Tyson for bringing my attention to it. It isn't going to hurt anything to try because I believe with all my heart that this is the right way to go, said Johnson”
Cathleen Rolf of Soldotna and Gail Knup of Kasilof both raised concerns about power being taken from human constituents in America.
Rolf said, “Money should not be protected free speech. Corporations are only interested in their own bottom line agenda. This money can far outweigh all private persons contributions.
“Corporations have a lot of dollars, so the common folks how do they compete? Should money have so much power? Let's shine the light on the dark money. Let's give the power back to the people," said Knup.
Assemblymember Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski teacher, tried to explain the Supreme Court’s decision to the assembly, but summarized by saying they, the assembly, weren’t qualified to overrule the Justices.
"These nine folks are not their correct nine to rule on this particular issue. But freedom of speech is important. Freedom of speech is important and our country has been trying to sort out campaign finance and political finance and navigate that for a long time. They're going to continue to do that. I'm not going to support this resolution tonight. But I would encourage an increase conversation in what is the truth," said Bjorkman.
Homer Assemblymember Willy Dunne laid out exactly what he thought about the idea of corporate personhood.
"Corporations are an interesting concept in our in our society," said Dunne. "I agree that freedom of speech is a bedrock foundation of our how our society... however, to consider an artificial entity such as a corporation as a person that deserves the same right as an individual human to me is just beyond reason,” said Dunne.
Soldotna Assemblyman Tyson Cox, who cosponsored the resolution, was hopeful the weight of communities coming out against the Citizens United decision would spur legal challenges that will eventually overturn it.
The measure passed 6-to-2, with Bjorkman and Sterling Assemblyman Norm Blakeley dissenting.