Corporations Are Not People

| December 23, 2002 Issue

On December 9, Porter Township, a municipality of 1,500 residents in northwestern Pennsylvania, became the first town in America to ban corporate involvement in their local government. As Paul Cienfuegos reports in Democracy Unlimited, township officials passed a binding law stripping corporations of their civil and constitutional privileges, privileges that have traditionally been used to override the proceedings of local democratic decision-making.

Prior to the action, Porter Township had, along with nearly a dozen other Pennsylvania municipal governments, adopted a law that allowed them to verify the safety of sewage sludge being applied to land in their town, and prevent corporations from turning to state or federal officials to override local government action. In response, corporations file suit, alleging the law violates a number of corporate civil rights. Meanwhile, sludge producers lobbied the Pennsylvania legislature to pass laws stripping municipalities of their authority to make laws controlling their land—an effort ultimately thwarted by a coalition of mineworkers, the Sierra Club, the AFL-CIO, and others.

In response, Porter Township decided to strengthen its initial law, and voting to eliminate corporate interference in the town's democratic process. As Cienfuegos writes, Porter and the other townships' actions "evidence a shift of communities away from permitting corporate harms to asserting direct control over corporations."

--Erica Sagrans

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