Posted September 27, 2012
We are one step closer to taking over City Hall and turning the wheels of government toward our cause to ReFarm Los Angeles.
Early in our campaign, we learned that our first hurdle on our path to being Los Angeles' next mayor would be registering to vote as a corporate citizen.
Last week we filled out our voter registration, and took it to the County Recorder. The staff at the Recorder's Office, both our local branch and then the Main Office, were incredibly friendly and helpful. They did seem to think we were confused, or maybe even dumb, but they were very good sports as they patiently explained to us the difference between registering a business and registering to vote.
When they finally understood that we were trailblazing new territory for corporate suffrage.... well watch the video:
Here's the text of the addendum we submitted with the application:
Addendum: The Case for Corporate Vote
While Farmscape LLC is not a biological human citizen by the classical conception assumed on your form, Farmscape hereby registers to vote within the state of California based upon the new standard for corporate personhood affirmed in the Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission ruling. The Supreme Court has asked that corporate groups of citizens not be discriminated against in their participation in the political process, therefore Farmscape intends to register its candidacy for Mayor of Los Angeles. To qualify as a candidate, Farmscape must first register to vote.Facts:
- Farmscape is a corporate citizen of the United States of America and a corporate resident of California, established in Claremont in 2008.
- Farmscape is not biologically 18 human years old.
- All Farmscape managers, staff, and equity holders, however, are over 18 years of age.
- All Farmscape managers, staff, and equity holders are US citizens and residents of California.
- In total, Farmscape managers, staff, and equity holders have much more than 18 years of experience operating the business under the corporate form, meaning the assemblage of people is more than 18 human years old.
Lisa Napoli writes for KCRW:
The race to become Los Angeles’ next mayor in 2013 is already crowded with eleven declared candidates. Now, a corporation has announced its intentions to enter the fray. It’s called Farmscape, a company of young entrepreneurial urban gardeners who’ll turn your yard into a food source.
Crowded indeed! At this moment, Farmscape has twelve employees. By entering the race, Farmscape more than doubles the human head-count
Lauren Lloyd writes in LAist:
There's a new mayoral candidate in town, and it's not a typical person. It's a "corporate-person." Farmscape, L.A.'s largest urban farming venture, recently announced its political endeavor and will use a "ReFarm" platform to bring the farm back to the city..
The LA Weekly seemed similarly excited about our corporate candidacy and our vision for ReFarm. Simone Wilson writes:
In the end, their "corporate" message is really quite the opposite. They use it more as a tool to point out the terrible job that humans are doing of running Los Angeles. (Due, in large part, to corporate ties. Ironic!)
Well said, Simone. But in the same article, Farmscape also faces its first anti-corporate prejudice at the hands of the biologically human Jim Sutton, an expert witness on elections law:
LA Weekly called a top California elections lawyer, Jim Sutton, to get his take on the feasibility of the campaign. Could this work? "Oh, god no," says Sutton. He says the Supreme Court's corporate-personhood ruling is very often made out to be more than it is. "It didn't say corporations are people," says Sutton. Instead, it simply allowed corporations to be considered people "for the purposes of communicating with the public" during an election. Aka, through campaign donations or endorsements. (emphasis added)
So Sutton does not think the majority opinion in Citizens United extends beyond a narrowly-tailored application to PAC funding. SCOTUS Justice Stevens would probably agree with Sutton that corporations have no business campaigning. Stevens writes:
Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters. The financial resources, legal structure, and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process.
Unfortunately for Sutton and the like-minded, Stevens’ team lost 5 to 4. This quote comes from the dissenting opinion in Citizens. Farmscape believes the majority opinion in that ruling is so strong in its wording on equal treatment for corporate persons engaged in the political process that it should imply a corporate right to vote and serve in public office.
In fact, we think the court will find corporations ought to be empowered as public servants for all the reasons that Justice Stevens seems to fear them. Again from his dissenting opinion:
The majority's unwillingness to distinguish between corporations and humans similarly blinds it to the possibility that corporations' "war chests" and their special "advantages" in the legal realm, may translate into special advantages in the market for legislation.
All the “special advantage” of the corporate form -- like amplified financial resources, potential immortality, limited liability, and streamlined organization of multitudes of people -- make corporations not inhuman, but superhuman. Where Stevens sees a threat, Farmscape sees potential!
Why not set such powers loose to lead a movement to turn a city green and feed its people delicious, homegrown produce? Why not put such a powerful entity at the helm of city hall with a mandate to turn a concrete jungle into an edible paradise? Farmscape could use these resources to bring about sweeping change, converting a hastily built, sprawling behemoth into a delicious, sustainably-managed Garden City.
Beyond our difference of interpretation in Citizens, we do appreciate that Sutton and The Weekly have identified the first major challenge our campaign faces: proof of age and citizenship. The Weekly notes that “running for office has less to do with a single Supreme Court ruling and more to do with the California Constitution and elections code. Individuals who run for office must be U.S. citizens over 18 years of age, along with other human-centric requirements.”
At this inflection point in history, when Los Angeles has the opportunity to embrace a path of sustainable, human-first development, it would be wrong to discriminate against Farmscape’s candidacy simply because Farmscape is not an individual human, but instead a group of hard-working urban farmers assembled under the corporate form. Leadership is leadership, good ideas are good ideas, whether contained within one person or many. A corporation can choose to serve the interests of people, just as a person can choose to serve the interests of corporations. Values are the issue, not form.
We will make our case to the California elections board that Farmscape is a naturalized corporation, born in Claremont, California with identity documents like its Articles of Incorporation to prove it. Farmscape’s staff and equity-holders are all over 18 years of age, and furthermore have more than 18 years of combined experience under the corporate banner of Farmscape, day in and day out farming the landscapes of Los Angeles. And we think the Supreme Court has clearly commanded that discrimination against corporate persons must end.
Quoted in the LA Weekly, Sutton recommended that Farmscape "re-read the California constitution." We will, Mr. Sutton, and we will fight any unequal treatment we find there for freedom and suffrage of the corporate person.
Know that we are resolved to win this campaign, and know also that we’re going to need an experienced legal advisor to help. Perhaps you’d be interested in an exchange of services? Farmscape will need bright minds like yours, and perhaps you’d enjoy a home harvest of heirloom eggplant, purple basil,and fresh melons?