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San Francisco County, CA November 6, 2012 Election
Proposition G
Policy Opposing Corporate Personhood
San Francisco County

Declaration of Policy - Majority Approval Required

Pass: 260595 / 80.99% Yes votes ...... 61181 / 19.01% No votes

See Also: Index of all Propositions

Information shown below: Summary | Fiscal Impact | Arguments |

Shall it be City policy that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as human beings and should be subject to political spending limits?

Summary Prepared by The Ballot SImplification Committee:
The Way It Is Now: In Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the free speech provision of the First Amendment protects corporations as well as human beings. It ruled that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend money for political purposes, invalidating a federal law that limited corporate political spending. The Proposal: Proposition G would make it City policy that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as human beings and should be subject to political spending limits. Specifically, Proposition G declares that:

  • Spending corporate money is not constitutionally protected speech.
  • Limits on political spending provide an opportunity for all citizens--regardless of wealth--to have their political views heard.
  • The People of San Francisco urge their Representatives and Senators in Congress to propose a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission decision.

Fiscal Impact from The City Controller:
City Controller Ben Rosenfield has issued the following statement on the fiscal impact of Proposition G: Should the proposed declaration of policy be approved by the voters, in my opinion, it would not affect the cost of government.

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Arguments For Proposition G Arguments Against Proposition G
Vote for Prop G: Policy Opposing Corporate Personhood San Francisco has strong campaign finance laws to limit the excessive influence of corporations and interest groups on public officials and election outcomes. But our elections are threatened by the recent Citizens United vs. the FEC Supreme Court decision which ruled that corporations have the same constitutional rights as human beings and spending an unlimited amount of money on politics is the same as free speech protected by the Bill of Rights. Although corporations can make important contributions to our society using advantages that the government has granted them, corporations are NOT people. The Constitution was written to protect the rights of human beings, not corporations. Granting multinational corporations artificial rights above and beyond the individual rights of their shareholders undermines the rights of people. Spending huge amounts of money to buy election results is not free speech -- it is bought speech. We must set limits on campaign spending and contributions to Super PACs by billionaires, which drown out the voices of ordinary voters. We can influence the Supreme Court's reading of our Constitution by passing an amendment that authorizes limits on campaign contributions and spending and ends artificial rights for corporations. Proposition G affirms that San Franciscans oppose Corporate Personhood and unlimited corporate spending in elections and sends a message to our representatives in Congress that the reversal of the Supreme Court's ruling is a priority. Unlimited corporate spending has no place in elections, and our democracy should never be for sale. That's why organizations like Common Cause, businesses like CREDO Mobile, and all 11 members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors urge you to vote YES on G. John Avalos David Campos David Chiu Carmen Chu Malia Cohen Sean Elsbernd Mark Farrell Jane Kim Eric Mar Christina Olague Scott Wiener

Rebuttal to Arguments For
Corporate reforms are badly needed. But Proposition G takes aim at the wrong target! As economist Michael Suede has written: "The evil that comes from corporate personhood does not stem from the fact that groups of people can voluntarily voice their views. The evil comes from treating corporate groups as persons when it comes to liability laws. Holding a corporate entity liable for damages, rather than the corporate owners (or shareholders) is why corporations are so destructive to the market..." "Corporate liability laws allow corporations (groups of people) to do bad things, while allowing the owners of that corporation to avoid personal responsibility for their actions. In fact, the primary purpose of incorporating is to avoid liability problems (hence the title `limited liability corporation')!" Unfortunately, we doubt the politicians behind Proposition G have the courage to tackle fundamental corporate reform by going after limited liability. Among other things, that might start raising questions about the privilege of limited liability they themselves enjoy as government officials under the doctrine of "sovereign immunity." In the meantime, their hypocritical grandstanding on the issue of money in politics + how many of them refuse corporate/union donations? + threatens free speech and contradicts a previous policy declaration, Proposition O, approved by San Franciscans in 1991. That measure passed by 73% of voters affirmed our city's "unqualified support for the First Amendment" and "rejection of every form of censorship." Please vote NO on Proposition G. Libertarian Party of San Francisco Starchild

If you write essays supporting your favorite candidates and spend your money to publish them, everyone agrees this is protected as free speech under the First Amendment. But what if you and a group of friends who like your essays get together and form a media company called San Francisco Friends Press Inc. (SFFP) for the purpose of publishing them? We believe the right to free speech still applies, and that you and your friends acting as SFFP should be able to legally spend the group's money to publish your essays. The U.S. Supreme Court in its Citizens United decision agreed that people's free speech rights do not disappear when they act together cooperatively, whether as a corporation, a union, or a nonprofit like the Citizens United itself. Proponents of Proposition G say no. They claim that as a corporation, SFFP should face restrictions on publishing your essays. Yet if SFFP were a union or a nonprofit, no problem -- Prop. G says nothing about restricting the legal rights of those groups to promote political views, even though they aren't "persons" any more than corporations are. Proposition G claims the Constitution and Bill of Rights are "intended to protect the rights of individual human beings" and that "corporations are specifically not mentioned in the Constitution as deserving of rights entitled to human beings." By this logic, government agencies would have the power to search your company's offices without a warrant or reasonable cause, or quarter troops there without the company's consent, since the Constitutional rights guaranteed under the Third and Fourth amendments don't apply to corporations! Proposition G is inconsistent and dangerously flawed. It threatens the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of the press, and other freedoms we take for granted. Please vote NO! Libertarian Party of San Francisco Starchild

Rebuttal to Arguments Against
We disagree with the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens Untied vs. FEC. We support Measure G so voters can tell Congress to reverse this decision because corporations are not people+only people are people. And money is not speech--it's property. "A group of friends" is not a corporation that is granted extra privileges to limit its shareholder's liability. It is wrong for a CEO to use these extra privileges to spend the group's money without express permission from their stockholders to make political statements. People's rights do not disappear when they form a corporation, but the corporation does not gain its own separate rights above and beyond the people that comprise it. Our democracy provides for "a group of friends" to make campaign contributions through Political Action Committees (PAC's). Unions and non-profits do use PAC's to express their political views. Let the corporations form their own PAC's and be held accountable to their stockholders. Citizens United provides for unlimited political speech with NO disclosure. Voters have a right to know who is funding the candidates and issues. We demand disclosure and limits on campaign contributions, and a democracy where voter's political speech is not drowned out by the flood of secret money that Citizens United made possible. Measure G does not threaten the Freedom of the Press. Individuals can still come together to form media outlets that people can read if they want or spend limited amounts of money on ads. Vote YES on Measure G. CA Common Cause

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Created: December 17, 2012 13:47 PST
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