L.A. calls for end to 'corporate personhood'
This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.
At a packed City Council meeting that included remarks from a man in a top hat with fake money tucked in the pocket of his suit, Los Angeles lawmakers Tuesday called for more regulations on how much corporations can spend on political campaigns.
The vote in support of state and federal legislation that would end so-called "corporate personhood” is largely symbolic. But activist Mary Beth Fielder, who spoke in favor of the resolution, called it “a symbol that’s going to be heard around the world.”
The council resolution includes support for a constitutional amendment that would assert that corporations are not entitled to constitutional rights, and that spending money is not a form of free speech.
City Council President Eric Garcetti, the resolution's sponsor, said such actions are necessary because “big special interest money” is behind much of the gridlock in Washington.
“The flood of money since Citizens United is literally drowning out our voices,” said Garcetti, who is running for mayor in 2013. “If we’re going to be moving forward in this country, we need less special interest money in the political process.”
Councilman Richard Alarcon, who also supported the resolution, said corporations are “trying to take over every aspect of our lives.”
“Corporations are at the wheel of America,” Alarcon said. “And they are driving us to destruction.”
Corporations, of course, are frequent contributors in Los Angeles elections, and each of the council members who spoke in favor of the resolution have been the beneficiaries of such spending. Since 2007, for example, Alarcon has received nearly $5,000 in campaign donations from three corporations and their political action committees: Clear Channel, Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures.
Around 100 people showed up to support the resolution, including members of Occupy L.A. There was only one dissenter, a man dressed in jest like the mogul from Monopoly. He was there to represent the wealthy, he said, before pleading with the council: "Please don't vote for this."
For the record, 3:36 p.m. Dec. 7: A previous version of this post referred to Mary Beth Fielder, who spoke in favor of the resolution, as an anti-corporate activist. Fielder says she is not anti-corporate, simply against corporations having undue influence in politics.
-- Kate Linthicum at Los Angeles City Hall