taking back democracy: Arcata’s good news/Phillip Morris petition


Jan Slakov

Date: Sun, 8 Nov 1998 22:19:26 -0800
From: •••@••.••• (Paul Cienfuegos)
Subject: Arcata Measure F (on Corporate Rule) Wins Strong Mandate From Voters

To:  Journal and Newspaper Editors, Social Movement Allies, and Friends,
From:  Paul Cienfuegos, Founding Director, Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt
County (California)

The following article contains 683 words. We would be very appreciative if
you would reprint it in your next issue and/or share it widely with your
friends and allies. We want very much for a huge number of Americans, of
all political stripes, to become aware of the ground-breaking work that we
are doing in Arcata, CA. If you do choose to reprint the article, we ask
that you send us THREE FREE COPIES.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Paul Cienfuegos
Director, Democracy Unlimited

POB 27, Arcata CA 95518
707-822-2242, fax 3481
new web site:   www.monitor.net/democracyunlimited


Article Title:

On Tuesday, November 3rd, the small city  of Arcata, CA made history. By a
vote of 3193 to 2056 (60.83% to 39.17%), the citizens of Arcata left no
doubt that they consider the power of large corporations in our society and
in our community to be a very significant issue which needs to be addressed
in a meaningful way.

"The Arcata Advisory Measure on Democracy and Corporations", known as
Measure F, was sponsored by Citizens Concerned About Corporations, a
spin-off project of Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County which has been
active in the local area since 1996.

Measure F calls on the City Council to:
1) co-sponsor (in cooperation with the drafters of this Initiative) two
town hall meetings in the five months following passage of this ballot
measure on the topic: "Can we have democracy when large corporations wield
so much power and wealth under law?";

2) immediately act to establish, through the creation of an official
committee, policies and programs which ensure democratic control over
corporations conducting business within the city, in whatever ways are
necessary to ensure the health and well-being of our community and its

3) immediately forward copies of this ballot measure to all of our elected
representatives at the county, state, and federal levels, and to members of
the press.

We were overwhelmed by the level of excitement expressed by local residents
about Measure F. It won local endorsements from the Central Labor Council
of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, Mayor Jim Test, Vice-Mayor Jason
Kirkpatrick, city council candidate Bradley Freeman, the Associated
Students of Humboldt State University, two local businesses, and many
individuals. Nationally it also garnered attention. Three of our favorite
citizen activists endorsed it: Jim Hightower (who had us on his talk show
thrice), Howard Zinn, and Noam Chomsky. The San Francisco Bay Guardian also
endorsed it on its cover dated October 28, and will be running a major
article about it soon. Finally, in Seattle, a group of citizen activists
has already begun planning a similar ballot initiative for an upcoming

The only opposition we encountered was from the Arcata Chamber of Commerce
which did not organize against us, and from the Times-Standard, the local
corporate daily owned by MediaNews Group Corporation, the seventh largest
newspaper owning corporation in the country, based in Colorado.

With a steering committee of six dedicated individuals, only one of whom
had ever worked on an initiative campaign, we tackled task after task with
gusto. We placed over 100 yard signs across the community. We hung leaflets
on thousands of doorknobs. We brought Richard Grossman (Co-Director of The
Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy) and Dan Hamburg (Green Party
candidate for governor of California) to speak at a major forum entitled
"Reckoning With the Corporate Attack on Democracy". We tabled, leafleted,
bannered, fundraised, and too much more even to think about. (We're all
VERY exhausted!)

Now the real work begins: launching a city-wide democratic conversation on
the proper role of corporations in our society and our community. Given our
rights as We The People of Arcata, and our responsibilities to protect our
community from harms caused by our corporate creations, how well have we
been doing? What would self-governance look like if giant corporations no
longer participated in our political and cultural institutions? Did
previous generations of Arcatans struggle to keep corporations subordinate
to citizens? We intend to engage the entire city in this discussion. As far
as we know, this is the first American city ever to attempt such a process.

In January, we will be meeting with the entire City Council to discuss how
to begin implementation of Measure F. Our goal is to hold the first town
hall meeting by the end of February, but the city's bureaucratic
requirements may slightly delay this date. After both town hall meetings
are completed sometime in April, the City will create the Arcata Commission
on Democracy and Corporations, which will have its first meeting sometime
during the summer of 1999.

For more information about Democracy Unlimited or its spin-off
organization, please send at least $2 to us at POB 27, Arcata CA 95518, or
check out our new web site at <www.monitor.net/democracyunlimited>. Or
better yet - join our small but busy organization for a mere $25 ($15 low
income) and receive four newsletters, and discounts on a plethora of
articles, books, and audio tapes.

Paul Cienfuegos
Director, Democracy Unlimited



"The Arcata Initiative is a unique historic event.  It is wonderfully
encouraging to see what ordinary citizens can do to challenge corporate
power in the interest of true democracy."
(Howard Zinn)

"[T]he good citizens of Arcata have the historic chance to fire a shot that
will be heard 'round the world.  Sign the petition to begin reclaiming the
people's sovereignty over corporations.  It's the patriotic thing to do!"
(Jim Hightower)

     "The achievements and plans in Arcata provide an inspiring model of
what popular democracy can achieve in constructing a world designed for
human beings, not profit and power - for today and for the long-term
     "The Measure F questions address some of the major issues of the
contemporary world. The conflict between democracy and
corporations is apparent. Its significance is measured by the
power of these unaccountable private tyrannies, granted
extraordinary rights by radical judicial activism that tore to
shreds the foundations of classical liberalism and Enlightenment
values. On the scale and import of this power, comment is hardly
necessary. The implications are vast for every aspect of human
life. The initiatives that are being undertaken at Arcata are a
most welcome and constructive effort to address these fundamental
(Noam Chomsky, on two different occasions)

"I support the adoption of Measure F, because we need to begin a discussion
about the impact that large corporations have on our cultural and political
institutions. I think it is appropriate that the discussion start in
Mayor Jim Test



The People of the city of Arcata do ordain as follows:

WHEREAS, The U.S. Constitution establishes the principle that "We the
People" hold sovereign power to govern ourselves;

WHEREAS, Historically in this nation, corporations were created to be and
were regarded as artificial entities, chartered only to serve the public
interest, cause no harm, and at all times be subordinate to the sovereign

WHEREAS, The California Constitution of 1879 contained the following
passage (similar to many other state constitutions):
"... the exercise of the police power of the state shall never be so
abridged or construed as to permit corporations to conduct their business
in such manner as to infringe the rights of individuals or the general
well-being of the State."  (Article XII, Section 8);

WHEREAS, A century ago, large corporations began an effort to transform the
law and claim civil and political rights and privileges which were intended
only for real human beings under the Constitution, including full
participation in our democratic processes (such as unlimited spending to
influence elections);

WHEREAS, Over the last century, large corporations were also successful in
removing the language in most state constitutions (including California's)
which had asserted citizen authority over corporations;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, That the People of Arcata support the amending of
the California Constitution so as to clearly declare the authority of
citizens over all corporations. To this end, we request that our City
Council co-sponsor (in cooperation with the drafters of this Initiative)
two town hall meetings in the five months following passage of this ballot
measure on the topic: "Can we have democracy when large corporations wield
so much power and wealth under law?";

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the People of Arcata request that the city
government of Arcata immediately act to establish, through the creation of
an official committee, policies and programs which ensure democratic
control over corporations conducting business within the city, in whatever
ways are necessary to ensure the health and well-being of our community and
its environment;

AND BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, That the People of Arcata request our city
government to immediately forward copies of this ballot measure to all of
our elected representatives at the county, state, and federal levels, and
to members of the press.

Date: Thu, 12 Nov 1998 10:07:49 -0800
From: nurev <•••@••.•••>
Organization: Nurev Independent Research
Subject: Petition to revoke Philip Morris's charter.

From: Dale Wharton <•••@••.•••>


Revoking Philip Morris's Charter--Petition

         Sign the online petition to revoke the charter!
SINCE the first American corporations were chartered in 1776,
their lawyers and lobbyists have been sneaking around in our
courtrooms and state capitols, reconfiguring the law to better
suit their needs. Yet few people have stepped back to look at
the results and start asking questions:

"You mean corporations and their activities were once subject to
public consent? How on earth did corporations get the rights of
people? How did we get stuck playing by their rules--trying to
regulate to minimize corporate damage? So why aren't we asserting
our right to shut offending corporations down?"

Charters were once issued sparingly to meet specific public needs
and expired after 10 to 30 years. Corporations were restricted in
size and allowable wealth. Directors and managers were held
liable for corporate harms. And legislatures reserved the right
to amend and revoke corporate charters at will.

Defining the corporation, Article 12 of California's 1879
Constitution filled several pages in 24 sections. All but four
have been repealed, the final regression occurring in 1972.

But there's hope. All states have the largely dormant power to
revoke corporate charters--the very papers that permit corporate
existence. In early May, New York Attorney General Dennis Vacco
filed court papers seeking to dissolve the corporate existence of
The Council for Tobacco Research and The Tobacco Institute on the
grounds that they are tobacco-funded fronts that serve "as
propaganda arms of the industry" despite claiming from their
inception to be independent, scientific institutions.

"It's about time the Attorney General lived up to his
obligations," says New York's Richard Grossman of the Program on
Corporations, Law, and Democracy, the group that started the
charter revocation movement. "Over the last five years, many
people I've talked to have rolled their eyes at the thought of
charter revocation. Many think such an action is a pipedream.
Fortunately, Vacco's actions show they're wrong."

The movement was started by longtime activists who realized
fighting for corporate regulation didn't work. Corporations
simply break the law, include fines and court fees as a cost of
doing business, and pass it off onto their customers. While most
corporations break the law on a regular basis, Grossman realized
they are not chartered to do so. This realization spurred a
wealth of legal research and created momentum within the
burgeoning movement.

Law in New York, the home state of Philip Morris, Inc., holds
that a for-profit corporation can be dissolved if it "(a)
procured its formation through fraudulent misrepresentation or
concealment of material fact, (b) exceeded the authority
conferred upon it by law, (c) violated any provision of law
whereby it has forfeited its charter, (d) conducted its business
in a persistently fraudulent or illegal manner, or (e) abused its
powers in a manner contrary to the public policy of the state."

If you convince the Attorney General to file an order to "show
cause," accompanied by a petition stating the grounds, the case
will go to court. Easier said than done, of course. Incredible
feats of organizing and education will be necessary to shift the
law back in the public's favor and undo a pattern over a century

         Where to begin?

Let's start with a massive campaign to revoke the charter of
Public Enemy Number One--Philip Morris, Inc.--for consistently
violating the above "(d)" and "(e)" while marketing to minors and
covering up evidence of health risk, among other reasons.

There's hope in the dusty halls of law history and even more in
the organizing underway. Birmingham Circuit Judge William Wynn
recently discovered that Alabama is one of the few states
allowing an individual to initiate charter revocation. So as a
private citizen, he's filed to forbid the five major tobacco
corporations from operating there. The case is now in court.

But don't forget, "the movement is much deeper than charter
revocation," says Paul Cienfuegos of Democracy Unlimited in
Arcata, California. "It's about nothing less than building a
locally-led national movement which for the first time in US
history demands and creates mechanisms of authentic democratic
control over all institutions we citizens are sovereign over, be
they corporate or government."

Will Philip Morris, Inc., fall to such a populist effort? It's up
to you.

Sign the online petition to revoke the charter!
     Jason Mogus
     Director of Client Services
     Communicopia Internet

     What!?! Another Megamerger?
     Envolve & Communicopia Get Hitched!
     Check out Merger Site:
More on Measure F:

Date: Thu, 12 Nov 1998 17:57:15 -0800
From: nurev <•••@••.•••>
Organization: Nurev Independent Research
Subject: Good news. Good news. Good news.

From: Craig Daniels <•••@••.•••>


Arcata Voters Overwhelmingly Support Ballot Measure F on  Democracy
and Corporations: The First Ballot Initiative of its  Kind in U.S. History

Press Conference scheduled at 11:00am, Wednesday at Arcata City Hall,
736 F St.
PRESS CONTACT:  Paul Cienfuegos, Executive Director,   Democracy
Unlimited of Humboldt County, 822-2242

Ballot Measure F, which passed by 61% to 39%, is the first ballot
measure in the history of the United States that begins the process of
withdrawing the illegitimate privileges and rights that corporations have
claimed for more than 100 years, and returns sovereign authority to "We The
People" of Arcata.

        "This allows the people of our community to redefine the
possible," said Arcata Vice-Mayor Jason Kirkpatrick.  "Historically average
citizens made the decisions that affected their communities.  These days, large
absentee corporations tend to have more say than citizens or their

        The Measure F Steering Committee looks forward to working with
local citizens in implementing Measure F.

Jason Kirkpatrick,
POB 4796,
Arcata, Ca 95518
707-826-1688 (ph)
707-822-8018 (city hall fax)

 "When the economy is global and governments are national, global
corporations and financial institutions function largely beyond the
reach of public accountability, governments become more vulnerable to
inappropriate corporate influence, and citizenship is reduced to
consumer choices among the products corporations find it profitable to

--David C. Korten, When Corporations Rule the World, 1995