Corporate Personhood Officially Rejected By Boulder Voters

06/22/2011 12:53 pm ET | Updated Nov 02, 2011

The Boulder City Council has taken on some weighty issues in the past, including naked pumpkin runs, smoking bans (excluding 4/20 of course), and the legitimacy of plastic bags.

Next on the Council's agenda? Deciding whether or not to put a referendum on the November ballot attempting to amend the U.S. Constitution to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 ruling on "corporate personhood." The ruling in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission effectively affirmed the rights of corporations as "persons."


Boulder Question 2H, more widely known as the 'Corporate Personhood' referendum has passed by an overwhelming 3-to-1 margin. The Daily Camera reports the final tally, at 12:55 a.m. was 18,392 for and 6,556 against.


As noted by Robert Koehler in a HuffPost blog, condoning corporate personhood

"overturns previous Court decisions that limited corporate money in politics. In lifting the previous federal ban on corporate "independent expenditures," the court has overridden laws in 22 states banning "independent expenditures" by corporations and unions. Now corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money to buy the election results they want and manipulate politics and policy in their self-interest."

The ruling is largely credited for having enabled funding for 501c(4) groups that flooded the 2010 election cycle with political ads.

No question many people stand staunchly opposed to the concept of corporate personhood. Famously liberal Boulderites doubly so.

Citing his belief that "The Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case undid a hundred years of precedent and electoral reform," Boulder Councilman Macon Cowles is leading the charge to put the issue on November's ballot.

Problem is, if the referendum makes the ballot and passes, it would likely be no more than symbolic. For the measure to carry real impact, the Boulder City Council would have to amend the U.S. Constitution. A Constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds supermajority in both the U.S. House and Senate, followed by ratification by three fourths of the state legislatures. Alternatively, a Convention can be called independent of the U.S. legislature by two-thirds of the state legislatures, so long as amendments are later ratified by three-fourths of the states.

Another Boulder Councilman, George Karakehian, told the Daily Camera he did not support putting the refendum on the ballot, saying, "I've always thought we should be dealing with Boulder issues. The Supreme Court made its decision. I'm not about to waste my time questioning it or debating it."

Move to Amend, a national consortium of 50 organizations pushing for a Constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood, supports the Boulder initiative and maintains that local community involvement is necessary for change on a national level.

What do you think? Is the Boulder City Council wasting its time on symbolic gestures, or is this a significant issue the community should speak out on?