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  Corporate Personhood Challenged in the Carpool Lane
January 9, 2013

In November, the voters of Richmond overwhelmingly supported (72.97% to 27.03%) an advisory measure to ask Congress to pass an amendment to the Constitution to remedy the Citizens United decision and previous Supreme Court decisions that bestowed certain rights of people on corporations.
The actual text of the ballot measure included the resolution that (http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/DocumentCenter/Home/View/9151):
1. The voters of Richmond should have the opportunity on the November 6, 2012, ballot to approve an advisory measure providing that our congressional representatives as direct agents of the people, should be instructed to do everything within their delegated authority to propose, and our state legislators should be instructed to ratify, an amendment to the United States Constitution that would clarify several misinterpretations of the Constitution by divided actions of the United States Supreme Court that have culminated in the wrongly decided Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission; and

2. Such amendment should make clear that corporations shall have only the privileges bestowed upon them by their charters, by state and federal law; and the inalienable rights of the real people who are their shareholders or members, and clarify that money is property, it is not speech, and that in order to ensure that all citizens, regardless of wealth, have an opportunity to express their views to their fellow citizens and to their government on a level playing field, the amount of speech than any one citizen may purchase with their property should be limited to levels that do not overwhelm other citizens; and
So, the people of Richmond should appreciate a recent attempt in Marin County to chip away at the corporate personhood concept (see stories below). Incidentally, the attorney representing the scofflaw carpool lane violator is Ford Greene, a city councilman from San Anselmo, who also sits with me on the board of the Marin Energy Authority.
Court: Marin man can't use corporate personhood to beat carpool lane ticket
By Will Jason, Marin Independent Journal
Posted:   01/08/2013 07:15:59 AM PST
Updated:   01/08/2013 08:15:40 AM PST

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MARIN COUNTY -- Corporations may have many of the same rights as people, but those rights do not include riding in the carpool lane in Novato.
That was the message Monday at Marin County Superior Court traffic hearing, where San Rafael activist Jonathan Frieman appeared to contest a $489 carpool fine.
His argument? He was not riding alone in the carpool lane on Highway 101 in October, as alleged by police, because his corporation -- a stack of papers named "JoMiJO Foundation" -- was riding shotgun. Therefore, he was obeying the signs reading, "2 or more persons per vehicle."
His lawyer, Ford Greene cited a section of state vehicle code defining "person" as, "a natural person, firm, copartnership,
Jonathan Frieman, pictured in 2009. (IJ photo/Robert Tong) (Robert Tong)
association, limited liability company, or corporation."
With a hint of amusement, Marin County Traffic Referee Frank Drago said it was a "novel argument." But the goal of the carpool law in question is clear, he said before ruling against Frieman.
"Obviously the goal of the section (of law) is to reduce the volume of cars on the highway," he said.
Frieman and Green, a San Anselmo town councilman, said they would appeal.
"A driver can't be expected to divine the intent of the legislature," Greene said after the hearing. "The driver is entitled to rely on the plain language that's used and 'person' is what's used on the signs along the side of the freeway, and person is what's used in the vehicle code."
In reality, the case has little to do with carpool lanes.
Frieman, co-founder of the Center for Corporate Policy and a local political activist who battled against the opening of a Target store in San Rafael, said the traffic case is about corporate power.
He said he has driven solo in carpool lanes for years, hoping to be pulled over so he could argue about the rights corporations have accrued through more than 125 years of legal precedent. He said the country has gone too far in giving corporations many of the same constitutional rights as people.
"It's to get folks to learn more and understand the absurdity of corporate power," he said.
Contact Will Jason via email at wjason@marinij.com or via Twitter at http://twitter.com/willjason
Corporate personhood advances – in carpool lane
By Josh Richman
Friday, January 4th, 2013 at 12:39 pm in campaign finance.
Corporate personhood takes a new leap forward Monday as a Marin County motorist challenges his traffic ticket by arguing it was OK to drive in the carpool lane because his corporation was with him.
http://www.ibabuzz.com/politics/files/2013/01/Jonathan-Frieman.jpgJonathan Frieman, a local activist and nonprofit consultant, was ticketed Oct. 2 for driving in the carpool lane during restricted hours; the officer apparently wasn’t impressed when Frieman showed him his incorporation papers. A traffic court hearing is scheduled for Monday afternoon.
The fine for such a violation is $478, but Frieman, 59, of San Rafael, says that if the court rules against him Monday, he’s prepared to appeal the case all the way to the California Supreme Court in an effort to expose the impracticality of corporate personhood.
Corporate personhood, of course, has been at the heart of the ongoing debate over campaign finance ever since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling unleashed a torrent of corporate contributions.
“Corporations are imaginary entities, and we’ve let them run wild,” Frieman said in a news release. “Their original intent 200 years ago at the dawn of our nation was to serve human beings. So I’m wresting back that power by making their personhood serve me.”
California Vehicle Code section 470 defines a “person” as “a natural person, firm, copartnership, association, limited liability company, or corporation.” Section 21655.5, under which Frieman was cited, states that “no person shall drive a vehicle upon lanes except in conformity with the instructions imparted by the official traffic control devices.”
Ford Greene, Frieman’s attorney and a San Anselmo councilman, said the Vehicle Code makes “person” and “corporation” equivalent, so “when a corporation is present in one’s car, it is sufficient to qualify as a two-person occupancy for commuter lane purposes. When the corporate presence in our electoral process is financially dominant, by parity it appears appropriate to recognize such presence in an automobile.”