Jim Burnett spoke as a representative of persons seeking to change the outcome of the 2010 Citizens Unites v. the Federal Elections Commission ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. While Freistatt is a small community, Burnett said 60 towns in Vermont, many of which were small like Freistatt, pushed their state legislators to back the proposal and got results.
The argument that a business entity qualifies as a person was initially pushed by the Southern Pacific Railroad in a 14th Amendment tax assessment case against Santa Clara County. The railroad won its case.
Burnett said the U.S. Supreme Court made a 5-4 ruling in the Citizens United case that declared corporations to be persons. With the Fairness Doctrine having been abolished in 1987, personhood entitles corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns as part of their free speech rights.
The consequences have spawned Super Political Action Committees (PACs) that have flooded specific political races with ads. Over $1.1 billion is expected to be spent by such organizations this year. Burnett said foreign countries owning corporations also have the right to direct money into U.S. political campaigns.
"Corporations are not citizens," Burnett said. "We're asking towns and governments to pass resolutions to reverse Citizens United, City requests are more meaningful than individuals.
"It would be a great pleasure to have Freistatt be the first southwest Missouri town to pass a resolution, joining Kansas City, stating that corporations are not people such as I, and their money is not free speech as we think of it.
"Our voices are small, but if nothing is attempted, nothing gets done," Burnett said. "I'd like to get government 'of the people, by the people and for the people' back where our government belongs."
Burnett received a round of applause for his presentation. In deciding on a next step, Clerk Deborah Schoen suggested adding a question about the constitutional amendment to a survey being distributed to utility customers. The survey has required answers for utility issues and may generate more responses.
Trustees agreed to send out the survey. If the response is positive, trustees will pass a resolution in support of the amendment at their Oct. 11 meeting.