Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


'Corporate personhood' issue advances


Haines Borough voters will likely get a chance to strike a blow against “corporate personhood” when they go to local polls Oct. 1.

Clerk Julie Cozzi this week reported said that a petition with 291 signatures submitted to the borough Aug. 6 probably contains the required 216 valid signatures to go on the municipal ballot.

The initiative petition sponsored by the local We the People group would ask voters: “Should the Haines Borough charter preamble and bill of rights be amended by the addition of the following: ‘We, the people of the Haines Borough, believe the rights set out in the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Alaska, like those in this charter, are guaranteed only to individual human beings and do not apply to artificial entities’?”

Activist Gershon Cohen said the group had no difficulty gathering the required number of signatures. “It was really easy because support for this is so broad across the community. There’s a broadly understood concern that the Supreme Court has changed the course of our country to allow entities other than human beings to have constitutional rights.”

Cohen said the borough charter doesn’t conflict with the idea that constitutional rights belong only to individuals, but borough Mayor Stephanie Scott suggested the matter be clarified by voters.

“Our group supports strong democracy,” Cohen said. “Taking it to a vote of the people is absolutely appropriate. Now the people of the community will have a chance to vote.”

Cohen said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case “represents a significant threat to the democratic process.” The effect of the decision allows corporations and labor unions wide latitude in election campaign spending under the premise that such spending is constitutionally protected speech.

“To have people of all different political views all agree on this fundamental principal shows people understand what we’re supposed to be as a society and that the Supreme Court has overturned 100 years of law on this topic. This (vote) will make it clear we’re joining hundreds of communities throughout the country to tell the Supreme Court, ‘We believe you got it wrong and we want you to change your mind.’”