David Cobb was the 2004 Green Party nominee for president. The northern California attorney is now spending his time rallying citizens behind a grass-roots effort to reduce the power of corporations in America. MovetoAmend.org brands itself as a coalition dedicated to ending "the illegitimate legal doctrines" that prevent the American people from governing themselves.
In anticipation of his multi-city visit to Florida that includes stops in Sarasota, Tampa and Pinellas County this weekend, CL caught up with Cobb last week.
CL: Tell us about the push to get a constitutional amendment passed to address the issue of corporations.
David Cobb: Let's begin by acknowledging that people from across the political spectrum, from the left to the right to the center, all agree that corporations have way too much power. We believe at www.movetoamend.org that it's even beyond the issue of corporate power. Unelected and unaccountable CEOs are ruling over us, they are literally making the fundamental decisions that affect our lives on a day-to-day basis. A linchpin doctrine that legalizes their authority is the doctrine of corporate personhood. Corporate personhood is a doctrine that says a corporation is a person under the constitution with constitutional rights. If any person, corporation or human person claims that their constitutional rights are being violated, it means that they are arguing in court that some democratically enacted law is an illegitimate law, because it infringes on their core rights.
But how would your constitutional amendment stop what corporations are doing right now?
Well, the point is that right now corporations can go into court and overturn democratic-enacted laws that attempt to protect the environment, that attempt to protect workers, that attempt to protect our safety and health, that attempt to protect our electoral process, [and] the doctrine of corporate personhood is the argument by which corporate lawyers overturn those laws. So, if we abolished corporate personhood at the constitutional level, we the people could actually create those laws, and frankly those laws that were once on the books, that, for example, prohibited corporate money in elections, that prohibited corporations from engaging in monopolies and trusts, and that prohibited corporations from engaging in activities that polluted our air and waters and our streams.
Let me ask you about the Green Party. In 2004 you when you ran for president you said, "I'm running in order grow and build the Green Party not just in this election cycle, but for the future." How solid is the Green Party in 2010?
It's fantastic. The Green Party is getting larger, stronger and better organized with every election cycle, and one of the great untold stories is that the Green Party is growing. And nobody talks about that, but we've run more candidates for office at the local level each election cycle, [and] more candidates, at the local level, get elected. More people join and register in the Green Party every election cycle. By virtually every manner of calculating the objective growth of the Green Party, the Green Party is growing. The one exception to that is the mentioning in the media. The corporate media refuses to acknowledge the reality of the Green Party growth, and I think that's because the corporate media realizes that the Green Party is a legitimate threat to entrenched power, and most Americans are coming to realize that independent media might be actually old-style free press, but corporate media is not left-wing, corporate media is not even right-wing, corporate media is all about the existing established system.
It looks like the Republicans are going to do well in November, even though they were thrown out of office in record numbers in 2006 and 2008, and now they want to throw out the Democrats. There are obviously third parties, or fourth and fifth parties, but they don't get the attention, nor do we have that many candidates running with those parties. What do you think about our current system?
I want to say this very clearly — we need a multi-party system. We need a Libertarian party, we need a Constitution party, we need a Labor party, we need a Green party. All the people should feel they have representation in our government. That's why we need voting systems like proportional representation, or instant run-off voting, so people can vote for who they want, instead of against what they hate. The voting system is the problem. And if you feel you have to vote against what you hate the most, at least acknowledge the stench. If there is a spoiler problem, it's only because the voting system is forcing people to feel like they have to vote for the lesser of two evils; whether you're a principled conservative or a principled liberal this voting system stinks, and proportional representation and instant run-off voting would not only solve those problems, but it would also help to create a more civil and pluralistic society where we would learn to tolerate one another, learn to compromise and negotiate, to do coalition-building and do alliance-building.
I was wondering if you were aware of Amendment 4 here in Florida, better known as the Hometown Democracy amendment? Which essentially would allow voters to have control over a County's comprehensive land use plan?
Absolutely! I am a big supporter. It is an incredible exercise in grass-roots democracy, and it's worth pointing out that ordinary citizens used the initiative process to get that on the ballot. It wasn't corporate money, it wasn't paid petitioners, it was actual volunteers using the process the way it was intended to be used, which was citizen legislation to try to actually fight back against entrenched powers. So I know about it, I think it's exciting, part of the reason I came to Florida was to campaign in support of that.
David Cobb will be Sarasota on Saturday September 18 from 10 a.m.-12 noon at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota, 1975 Fruitvale Road. He'll be in Tampa later that day, at the John F. Germany Library, 900 N. Ashley Drive from 3 p.m-5 p.m.