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January 21, 2012

Bopp’s office site of Occupy protest on campaign funds case

TERRE HAUTE — Members of Occupy Terre Haute and Occupy Nomads stood in front of the Terre Haute offices of attorney James Bopp Jr. on Friday to call for a constitutional amendment on the second anniversary of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on political campaign funding.

In Citizens United versus Federal Election Commission, the high court stated that corporations have the same First Amendment rights as people and can spend unlimited amounts to influence elections, said Leigh Chapman, a Terre Haute resident and member of Occupy Terre Haute.

Bopp took the case to the Supreme Court, while another attorney presented the issue before the court.

“Corporations are not people. Money is not speech. Corporations should not be allowed the same status as human beings,” Chapman said, while standing in front of Bopp’s office at Sixth Street and Wabash Avenue.

She said corporations dominate the political process through political action committees, high-paid lobbyists and multi-million dollar contributions from very wealthy contributors. “That is not what our founding fathers intended the political process to be like at all,” Chapman said.

Chapman said she supports a “Move to Amend” coalition that seeks a constitutional amendment that “states that rights recognized under the U.S. Constitution belong to human beings only and not to artificial legal entities such as corporations or labor unions and that political campaign spending is not a form of speech protected under the First Amendment.”

Bopp was not present at his office Friday during the protest. When contacted by telephone Friday, Bopp said, “If you are regulating money to convey speech, you are regulating the speech itself,” he said.

“Somebody had to buy the soap box that the first person stood on to try to convey their message. If you say they can’t buy a soap box or say they can’t buy a megaphone or they can’t put on a [TV] commercial because they are spending money, then you are prohibiting speech and that is what the Supreme Court has ruled,” Bopp said.

Bopp said corporations are made up of people and “is the way for people of average means to pool their resources in order to participate. Citizens United is all about independent speech and we still have contribution limits,” Bopp said.

“Corporations are groups. The Sierra Group is a corporation. The National Right to Life is a corporation. This is just a common form that people use in order for groups of people to come together to pursue their goals, including all the advocacy groups that advocate on all sides of political issues,” Bopp said.

Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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