One of the events leading up to the start of the American Revolution (secession from Britain) was the 1773 Boston Tea Party. Colonists, disguised as Native Americans, threw tea owned by the East India Company into the Boston Harbor in protest of the abuses of power by this early multinational corporation.
Thom Hartmann pointed out that this giant corporation was able to influence the British government into enacting laws that gave it unfair advantage over small businesses in the colonies. For example, the British government gave the corporation a monopoly over tea imported to the colonies and exempted it from paying the tea taxes that small businesses paid.
Colonists had experienced life under the East India Co. and were determined not to allow corporations to have similar control over their lives in their newly formed nation. The group Reclaim Democracy summarized the position of the new nation: "Our country's founders retained a healthy fear of corporate power and wisely limited corporations exclusively to a business role. Corporations were forbidden from attempting to influence elections, public policy, and other realms of civic society."
States had the authority to charter corporations and restricted a corporation's role to a specific purpose. The charter was for a limited period, and it could be revoked if the corporation exceeded its authority or caused public harm. Unfortunately, as time went on, corporations were able to violate these laws with impunity and thus gained incredible wealth, using it to gain greater political influence. Limited liability laws were eventually passed, providing further protection for corporate owners, officers and managers.
In 1886, the Supreme Court ruled on a case involving the Southern Pacific Railroad. The case didn't address the personhood issue for corporations, but the court reporter wrote that corporations were persons in the introduction to the decision. This statement had no legal standing, but corporations continue to benefit handsomely from it.
Today, giant multinational banks and other corporations exercise undue influence over governments. Government collusion in corporate/financial crimes are well past the point when the colonies rebelled against British rule and corporate power. Unless citizens band together and regain control over their communities, the situation will only get worse.
Residents are now collecting signatures for a Colorado ballot initiative to protect community rights against corporations and the state government. Go to cocrn.org for more information and to learn how to get involved.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.