Award-winning Investigative Journalist Robert Parry (1949-2018)

Award-winning investigative journalist and founder/editor of, Robert Parry has passed away. His ground-breaking work uncovering Reagan-era dirty wars in Central America and many other illegal and immoral policies conducted by successive administrations and U.S. intelligence agencies, stands as an inspiration to all in journalists working in the public interest.

Robert had been a regular guest on our Between The Lines and Counterpoint radio shows -- and many other progressive outlets across the U.S. over four decades.

His penetrating analysis of U.S. foreign policy and international conflicts will be sorely missed, and not easily replaced. His son Nat Parry writes a tribute to his father: Robert Parry’s Legacy and the Future of Consortiumnews.

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National Protest Actions will Oppose Supreme Court Ruling Granting "Corporate Personhood"

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Posted Jan. 11, 2012

Interview with Mark Hays, coordinator of Public Citizen’s Democracy is for People Campaign, conducted by Melinda Tuhus


Jan. 20 marks the second anniversary of the Citizens United case (Federal Election Commission vs. Citizens United), in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations, nonprofit organizations and unions may give unlimited donations to elect or defeat political candidates, based on the interpretation of the 14th amendment to the Constitution that corporations are people with the same free speech rights as individuals.

Some groups, like Public Citizen, Common Cause and People for the American Way – joined by grassroots groups like Move To Amend – have been working since the Supreme Court decision to advocate for a Constitutional amendment restricting the definition of "personhood" to human beings, and to roll back the power of corporations. These groups, under the banner of United for the People, will be organizing protest actions on Jan. 20 and 21 to condemn the Court’s “Citizens United” decision, and call for constitutional reform to take back democracy from corporate rule.

Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Mark Hays, coordinator of Public Citizen’s Democracy is for People Campaign. He explains how and why the campaign is working toward a constitutional amendment, and the role of the Occupy Wall Street movement in raising awareness around this issue.

MARK HAYS: Around Jan. 21 — the second anniversary of Citizens United — our organizations are planning grassroots actions that demonstrate the broad support for constitutional reform from people across the country, and we're doing that in a couple of different ways. First, each organization involved in this effort is planning actions that fit with their particular campaign effort, whether it's focusing on aspects of the judiciary and their role in this problem, whether it's pushing for local and state resolutions calling for amendment, which is something that Public Citizen is doing (with) Move to Amend (and) another group called Free Speech for People, but above all, we're working in a coordinated fashion to show that this movement is broad. One way we're doing that is we have an umbrella network called United for the People, and that umbrella network seeks to show that despite some difference on scope and tactics about how exactly to approach an amendment work, we're united in the ideal that this has been such a game changer that we need to push for constitutional reform together, to restore the balance.

BETWEEN THE LINES: You know, despite earlier efforts by many groups, it's really the Occupy Movement that brought this opposition to corporate personhood into the limelight. A sign held up by a woman in New York at a rally early on and that later went viral said, "I'll believe corporations are people when the government executes one." So is Occupy part of your efforts around Jan. 21, or are they doing their own events in their own cities?

MARK HAYS: I think it's a mixture of both. First of all, I think what's really exciting about the Occupy movement and what's galvanized so many people around the country in response to it – I can't speak for that movement, but I know for me personally and for those who work in the progressive and independent political community that the sentiments there – specifically, this economy doesn't work for people and this government doesn't work for people, it works for Wall Street – are ones that a lot of people share, and their response to the problem of corporate money in politics and corporate domination of our politics rings true with a lot of us, and so thematically there's a lot that we share. So we definitely stand in solidarity with them and we believe that the work that our organization's doing and other organizations are doing to push for an amendment are solidarity actions, if you will, working along toward some of the same objectives. But more concretely, we've reached out to people participating in the Occupy movement to share what resources we have, to engage in a dialogue, to hear what they have to say about this particular issue, and have tried to find opportunities to work together in particular areas in ways that make sense for that particular manifestation of the Occupy movement.

So for example, this past fall, one thing that our organizations did was convene organizing parties around the country to prepare for events around Jan. 21st. And those were tremendously successful: we had somewhere around 200 organizing parties in November and 150 in December. And in that instance, one place where we had success connecting with folks in the Occupy movement is, we reached out to them and invited them to participate in some of those events.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Mark Hays, it's very hard to get a Constitutional amendment passed. Are there other ways your organizations are working to rein in the power of the corporations?

MARK HAYS: You know, at Public Citizen we – and many of our allies – support a spectrum of responses to the Citizens United decision. The best way to think about it is what we need to do in the short term, the medium term and the long term. To begin with, there are things we can do right now to shine a spotlight on some of this influx of corporate money that's pouring into our political system. So, passing laws at the state and federal level to force disclosure from some of these new donors would go a long way to giving us the information we need to understand what's actually happening. That's the first step. The second step we can do is sort of throw some sand in the gears and force greater accountability from some of these new corporate donors. So with that in mind, we and a number of different organizations are seeking to pass legislation or new rules within the corporate governance sector or within the SEC (Security and Exchange Commission) that would basically force corporations to seek approval from their shareholders and investors before spending this money that they now have access to for political uses, or campaign uses.

But ultimately, we're seeking a constitutional amendment because the Court's decision has changed the landscape. It is now very difficult if not impossible to pass legislation that would restrict this kind of corporate funding or similar kinds of donations in the political process. It's also very difficult to litigate our way out of it, not only because of the Court's composition, but because the way in which the judicial system uses precedent. So even if we were able to get a case to the Court that could potentially overturn this precedent, it would take a great deal of time and a lot of stars would have to align. It's not out of the question, but it's something that's difficult.

But, I think the most compelling point for pushing for a constitutional amendment is not only because it's a solution that's necessary; it's also a solution that stands to give us the fuel we need to build the democratic movement to take back our democracy. This is an idea that has galvanized people's attention toward the issue of campaign finance reform and corporate money in politics arguably like none we've seen in many years. It takes the issue to a new level when people realize it's not just about tinkering with the machinery; it's really about the nature of our democracy. So, that's one key reason we're pushing for a constitutional amendment as a focal point for our overarching efforts. And frankly, it could take awhile, but many progressive efforts to change society, to build a new path for our democracy take time – we've seen that in other issue areas. So in this respect we're really just at the beginning of a similar effort.

To learn more about Public Citizen’s Democracy is for People Campaign, visit To learn more about the protest actions being organized for Jan. 20 and 21, visit

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