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LWV-Hawaii Legislative Testimony

HCR 282

Relating to
Corporate Entitites

Requesting Congress to take immediate action to redefine "Corporate Entity" to preclude the use of the term "person" in the definition.

House Committee on Judiciary (JUD) - chair: Karamatsu, vice chair: Ito

Thursday, April 8, 2010, 2:00 p.m.. Conference Room 325

Testifier: JoAnn Maruoka, LWV of Hawaii

Click here to view HCR282

Chair Karamatsu, Vice Chair Ito, and Judiciary Committee members,

The League of Women Voters of Hawaii strongly supports a resolution to Congress. Attached is the proposed HD1 that we feel better states the position. We request that you use the proposed language and pass this resolution.

On January 21, 2010 in a 5-4 decision on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations and unions are persons and thereby entitled to Constitutional protections. The ruling threw out vital protections against corporate and union spending in elections, overturning a 1990 decision that upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates, and a 2003 decision that upheld the part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, aka McCain-Feingold, that restricted campaign spending by corporations and unions.

We strongly believe that the term “person” should match reality. Corporations and unions are legal entities; money is not speech, and human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.

Justice Stevens forcefully dissented that “At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.” He also said the majority had committed a grave error in treating corporate speech the same as that of human beings and defended the restrictions that were struck down as modest and sensible. As he pointed out, even before the decision, corporations could act through their political action committees or outside the specified time windows.

A February 2010 Washington Post - ABC News poll found that Americans of across the political spectrum overwhelmingly [80% of respondents] oppose a Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations and unions to spend as much as they want on political campaigns, and most favor new limits on such spending to allow unfettered corporate political spending.

The national president of the League of Women Voters of the United States stated in congressional testimony and letters to U.S. Senators and Representatives, “The Court’s majority decision in Citizens United v. FEC was fundamentally wrong and a tragic mistake. But this is the decision of the Court. Congress needs to respond now, recognizing its own authority and responsibility to uphold the Constitution.”

While special interest money has always been a concern in elections, corporations may now intervene in elections, taking power away from voters. That is why it is important for Hawaii to speak up. HCR 282 lets Hawaii’s voice be heard in Congress on this urgent and critical issue, and we ask you to pass it, using the proposed language.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify.

Attached: HCR 282 HD1 Proposed


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