Join our Public Forum on the eve of a special "oral argument" session of the U.S. Supreme Court that could determine whether corporations have "corporate personhood" — the rights of natural persons.

7:30 pm, Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Media Education Foundation, 60 Masonic St, Northampton
Sponsored by Shays2 and POCLAD (the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy)


John Bonifaz
Legal director of Voter Action and former candidate for Massachusetts Secretary of State

Jeffrey Clements
Attorney who filed an Amicus brief representing five citizens groups arguing against expanding corporate First Amendment Rights.

Ward Morehouse
Co-founder of POCLAD

Carolyn Toll Oppenheim
co-founder of Shays2: Western Mass Committee on Corporations and Democracy

The Citizens of the Pioneer Valley


On the eve of a historic Supreme Court session in which the Court will hear arguments in a case that could ultimately decide the Constitutionality of the concept of "corporate personhood," a Massachusetts attorney who filed a brief in the case (Jeffrey Clements) and a local attorney (John Bonifaz) with national expertise on the the case will participate in a public forum on the key issues.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission on Wednesday Sept. 9. At issue is whether corporations can claim free speech rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution, according to Clements and Bonifaz. "The notion that corporations have the same speech rights as people under our Bill of Rights is contrary to the words, history, spirit and intent of our Constitution," said Jeffrey Clements.

Clements filed his Amicus ("friend of the court") brief for five citizens organizations, including: POCLAD, Shays2, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County, and the Clements Foundation.

"The Citizens United case has little to do with citizens, and everything to do with corporations," he said. "A Supreme Court decision saying that Congress and the States cannot regulate the use of corporate money in elections would be a severe blow to our democracy and to our Constitution. Corporations do not vote, speak, or act as people do, but are products of government policy to achieve economic and charitable ends. As such, corporations should not be allowed to influence our elections if Congress and State governments judge that such influence is detrimental to democracy."

Corporate control of our media already gives them a distinct advantage in the marketplace of ideas. Lifting the ban on their flooding the media with political messages just before an election would silence noncorporate voices

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is an ongoing legal case in which the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether the Court should overturn existing state and federal laws that regulate corporate political expenditures. This case is on appeal from a lower court case of the same name from 2008, in which the lower court sided with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that "Hillary: The Movie" could not be shown on television right before the 2008 Democratic primaries. Citizens United, Inc. argued that the ban on its showing the film violated its free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Legal scholars consider this case one of the most important First Amendment cases in years. It will determine the constitutionality of a hundred-year-old ban on expenditures by corporations to influence federal elections and similar longstanding bans in many states. A New York Times front page story on Sunday, Aug.29, 2009, states, "The argument comes at a crucial historical moment, as corporations today almost certainly have more to gain or fear from government action than at any time since the New Deal."

"The Supreme Court has, for years, recognized that corporations, with their ability to amass wealth in the economic sphere, should not be allowed to drown out ordinary citizen speech in the political marketplace," says John Bonifaz, legal director of Voter Action, a national non-profit voting rights organization. "If the current Supreme Court, through this case, were to reverse that long-standing precedent, it would unleash a torrent of corporate money in the political process, posing a direct threat to our democracy. Corporations are artificial entities with state-based advantages and, as such, they do not have the rights guaranteed to persons under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. This pending Supreme Court case provides a clear opportunity to expose the myth of "corporate personhood" and the danger that it presents to free and fair elections."

This case has generated some 40 Amicus briefs from groups on both sides as well as briefs from 26 state Attorneys General —including MA Atty. Gen. Martha Coakley—and the US Solicitor General and others.

The states Attorney Generals' brief supports the Constitutionality of bans on corporate expenditures in campaigns, stating, "Corporate electioneering corrupts the relationship between public officials and the public interest by encouraging politicl dependence on narrowly concentrated private interests embodied in the corporate form" and does so "at the expense of broader and more dispersed interests represented by the people themselves."

The briefs filed in this case by Citizens United and the Solictor General and a number of amicus briefs filed in support of the constitutionality of the corporate expenditure ban are available from Democracy 21, an educational organization working to eliminate the undue influence of big money in American politics. Jeffrey Clements' brief is listed on the site under "Women's International League Brief."

The Democracy 21 website includes a collection of articles on the case including one called "Will the Supreme Court Return America to the 19th Century?" in which the author notes the Founders were wary of corporate influence on politics — and their rhetoric sometimes got pretty heated. In an 1816 letter, Thomas Jefferson declared his hope to "crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country." This skepticism was enshrined in law in the early 20th century when the nation adopted strict rules banning corporations from contributing to political campaigns.

See our Corporate Personhood Resources page for general information on the subject.

Shays2 has been on hiatus for a while. We need people to join and invigorate our work. Please read below about our previous work in the Valley.
Yes! Magazine Cover Who's Standing Up?
Shays 2 Co-founder Featured in the Fall 2007 Issue of Yes! Magazine

Shays 2 Co-Founder Ward Morehouse is featured as one of a group of nationally known activists. The story of Measure T and the work of Democracy Unlimited are also featured in this month's issue.

Nestle Backs Down - for Now

Nestle Waters North America has backed off its intent to explore state conservation land in the Upper Pioneer Valley as a source of spring water for a new bottling plant.

An article in the Greenfield Recorder states that Nestle clearly did not want to try to jump through all the state-level hoops, particularly since there are other options that do not involve the state.

The two challenges ahead: 1) blocking "other options" the company may find to access our pure, public water for profit and move ahead with the withdrawal from the acquirer AND bottling plant; 2) strategizing "other options" for municipalities to solve fiscal crises without selling off public assets and comprimising local democracy.

See our Water Privatization Page for general information on the subject. Additional information on the Montague incident can be found at the MontagueMA discussion board.

Some Important Upcoming Public Meetings

As corporations converge in the Pioneer Valley to encroach on our local democracy, activists have a choice of two meetings on the same evening - either to fight Nestle's coming to take public spring water from our state conservation land, or to battle the ongoing struggle to prevent a Super Walmart in the Hampshire Mall on Route 9 in Hadley between Northampton and Amherst. You can also fight corporate hospitals in Massachusetts that are pushing legislation to force nurses to treat so many patients that our hospital care will be unsafe (and their professional licenses will be on the line).

Nestle Meeting

Tuesday, October 16, 2007, 7:00 p.m.
Montague Grange Hall, 34 Main Street, Montague

Everyone is invited to learn more about our water resources, how they are and are not protected, and what we can do. This affects us statewide if the corporation is allowed access to state conservation land and water, even though the water sources taken most directly affect surrounding communities.

[More Info]
See also our Water Privatization Resources Page and a new article by a Canadian watchdog group. Canada has between 20% and 25% of the world's fresh water sources....and with global warming and droughts predicted, the profits in private water sales are expected to soar ? so Canadians are way ahead of us in the U.S. in anticipating the water privatizers.

Wal-Mart Public Hearing

Tuesday, October 16, 2007, 7:30 p.m.

Whether Wal-Mart will eventually be able to build a 212,000-square-foot Supercenter store at the Hampshire Mall could hinge on getting a commercial subdivision plan approved by town planners later this month. The Hadley Planning Board is slated to hold a hearing Oct. 16 at 7:30 p.m. on the definitive commercial subdivision plans for Westgate Center Drive and Hampshire Mall Way filed by Pyramid Corp., the owner of the mall.

[Read More]

Fight for Patient Safety

Get on a free bus ride to the Legislative Hearing (in Boston) on House Bill 2059, the Patient Safety Act! Don't let hospital corporations make profits on our need for care. A hearing on the bill has been scheduled before the Joint Committee on Public Health on Wednesday, October 24, 2007. For more information or to reserve seats, contacting any of the following: Mass Nurses Assn, 584-4607; WMass Jobs with Justice, 827-0301; Mass Senior Action Council, 543-2334.

Join Shays 2 and other local grassroots groups at the Pioneer Valley Relocalization Workshop

Sunday, September 30, 2007
10:00 am - 5:30 pm
Northampton Center for the Arts
17 New South Street, Northampton

One step to taking power back from unsustainable corporate globalization is a reinvestment in our own communities, building vibrant local economies based on cooperation instead of competition, meeting people's needs instead of manufacturing desires, and respecting the natural environment around us.

Pioneer Valley Relocalization Workshop Schedule

Hear Shays 2 board members speak at Plenary sessions in the morning, hear Ward Morehouse speak at an afternoon session and come chat at the Shays 2 table.

Keynote speaker Frances Moore Lappé is launching her new book, "Getting a Grip: Clarity, Creativity, and Courage in a World Gone Mad."

Register now (free) to reserve your seat! Email your name/address/email/organization (if any) to, or call (413) 256-1157. If your organization would like to table call/email (413) 256-1157, For more information, visit:

Radio Public Forum with Alan Snitow
Author of Thirst: the Corporate Theft of Our Water

Friday, September 21
4:30 p.m., WMUA 91.1FM
Call-in number: 413-545-3691

Private "takings" of our public water resources are looming large right now!

• Nestle Corporation is considering building a new bottling plant in the Montague area and use spring water from the aquifer on state conservation plan onthe Montague Plains somewhere in Massachusetts. The Pioneer Valley is just one of several sites in Massachusetts Nestle's is exploring.

• Furthermore, a bill in our state legislature threatens to make water and sewer privatization easier for the cities and towns before citizens can get their voices heard.

This week, the weekly radio show Writer's Voice with Francesca Rheannon will feature a live call-in forum on corporate vs. citizen control of public water resources. Call in to discuss these issues with guest Alan Snitow, co-author of Thirst:

• The threat of a Nestle water bottling plant taking our public water from the Montague Plain state conversation area, and how other states have fought Nestle

• The threat of widespread water and sewer privatization in our Mass. cities and towns, and how communities around our country have fought that.

Guest Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman produced the film documentary, Thirst, which was aired by PBS. Join host Francesca Rheannon and fellow citizens to literally "air" your concerns, thoughts and questions about who should control our water!

The show will be re-broadcast locally on September 27 at 8 AM on Valley Free Radio 103.3.

For more information, see our background section on water privatization.

The threat of water privatization strikes again in the Pioneer Valley...this time on state owned land near Montague.

The story: Company looks for water in Montague Plains

To understand this threat, read Thirst: the Corporate Theft of Our Water, a brand-new book outlining citizen struggles against multinational corporate privatization of local water and sewer systems (with two chapters featuring struggles in Western MA alone - Holyoke and Lee - where Shays 2 was involved!).

• Write your state representatives and state senators to oppose the threat of fast-track privatization of Massachusetts water services in all our cities and towns from a new bill (House Bill 3216) that is before the legislature now!

Read a list of reasons Shays 2 opposes this bill.

[Read more...]

Thirst: The Corporate Theft of Our Water

Monday, April 16, 7:00 p.m.
Odyssey Books, South Hadley,
Co-sponsored by Shays 2

Meet the authors of Thirst: the Corporate Theft of Our Water, a brand-new book outlining citizen struggles against multinational corporate privatization of local water and sewer systems (with two chapters featuring struggles in Western MA alone - Holyoke and Lee - where Shays 2 was involved!).

Learn about how we can fight the threat of fast-track privatization of Massachusetts water services in all our cities and towns from a new bill (House Bill 3216) that is before the legislature now!

Discuss citizens rights-based strategies to save our public sector now under assault, prevent the corporate theft-through privatization-- of our water, earth and airwaves.

[Read More...]


The WFCR Democracy Task force was organized in response to the cuts of four radio shows, two of them locally produced, by WFCR-FM radio (88.5 fm), Pioneer Valley public radio.

We are continuing to work on longer-range projects to organize a citizens-rights based campaign to make public media accountable to public input.For Background on the current WFCR campaign, and to join their listerv, go to

Many public radio stations across the country have been straying from their original mission of offering alternatives to commercial programming, due to financial pressures, without seeking listener input. SHAYS 2 will present a proposal for a campaign to demand transparency, accountability and citizen input in programming decisions based on citizens' rights to know where tax dollars flow.

If you are interested in getting on our Shays 2 steering committee to work more closely on our projects, send an email to


How Corporations Are Infiltrating State and Local Government and Plundering Our Democracy

An evening with Jill Stein, founding president of Massachusetts Coalition For Healthy Communities, to discuss how we in Shays2 can expose and challenge this critical situation that threatens to rip away our democracy through corporate power at the state level over our local Western Mass municipalities.

Wednesday, October 25, 7:00 p.m.
Unitarian Meeting House
220 Main Street, Northampton

Corporate Rights vs. Community Rights
How activists, labor, business, public officials and ordinary citizens joined forces in California to fight the consolidation of corporate power

Sunday, September 17, 7 p.m.
Media Education Foundation,
60 Masonic Street, Northampton
Free and open to the public

Speaker Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap led the successful legal campaign to ban outside corporations from donating to local elections in Humboldt County, CA. She is an inspiring young democracy organizer who has built a national reputation as speaker and workshop facilitator. Join us in discussing our own Shays 2 campaign to keep large corporations from hijacking our Western Mass communities!

[Download Flyer]

Co-sponsored by Shays2.

Event Recap
David Cobb: On Building Effective Democracy in the Face of Corporate Hegemony
By Ben Frank, Patriotic Pulse
Friday, 30 June 2006

NORTHAMPTON, MA — Attorney David Cobb, fresh off his recent Measure T victory banning non-local corporate campaign donations in Humboldt County, California, was the featured speaker at a event called "Building Effective Democracy in the Face of Corporate Hegemony" held on Wednesday.


An Evening with Michael Shuman
Author of The Small-Mart Revolution

Wednesday, October 18
6:30 - 9:00 p.m.
Garden House, Look Park, Northampton
The event is only $5 for Shays 2 list members ($10 for the general public)

Shays 2 is co-sponsoring this event with Pioneer Valley Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (PV BALLE), Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA), and CitizensMatch (a program of Highland Valley Elder Services). Shuman will speak at 7:45 p.m. after a musical presentation by Jay Mankita.

Shuman, recognized as one of the leading local living economy thinkers (and doers) is also author of Going Local: Creating Self Reliant Communities in a Global Age.

John Bonifaz says no to outside corporate funds in local elections Video of John Bonifaz, candidate for Mass. Secretary of State

Si Kahn
Democracy Activist and Singer/Songwriter

Saturday, Sept 16, 8:00 p.m.
Unitarian Society
120 Main Street, Northampton


A Two-Day Retreat!
Join the movement to build democracy! You are invited to a participatory retreat on shifting power from corporations to citizens in the Pioneer Valley & Berkshires

September 16 - 17, 2006, Saturday - Sunday (with an optional visit to the Si Kahn folk concert on Saturday night)

The "Building Democracy" retreat will help us explore together how we can reclaim our rights to democratic self-governance, and why democracy is impossible when corporations wield so much power. We create a culture of solidarity among our own Western Mass local citizens -- organizers, local business people, community activists, and working people-- by examining strategies to fight corporate dominance in Western Mass., and address proven ways to fight corporate dominance at home. Such connections provide fertile ground for local empowerment and region-wide efforts to challenge corporate rule.

Featured facilitator Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, an inspiring young democracy organizer who has built a national reputation as speaker and workshop facilitator. Measure T campaign coordinator (working with David Cobb), Humboldt County, California.

More information...
Download flyer
Download schedule (MS Word format)

Local Radio Program Highlight
Hear investigative reporter Greg Palast critique the role of oil companies and their profits as an engine of this Middle East war!

Tune in to Writer�s Voice with Francesca Rheannon and Daisy Mathias:
Friday, August 11 from 5:30-6:30 PM on WMUA 91.1 FM, or
Thursday, August 17 from 8:00-9:00 AM on Valley Free Radio 103.3 FM

Greg Palast talks about his best-selling book Armed Madhouse. Go to to hear an excerpt.

Recent Events

Building Effective Democracy in the Face of Corporate Hegemony
How a California County won local control over outside corporations at the ballot box and how we can too!

Wednesday, June 28th, 7:00 p.m.
Unitarian Universalist Society of Northampton and Florence
220 Main Street, Northampton

With featured speaker, David Cobb

[Download Flyer] [Event Recap]

David Cobb is a nationally-known democratic activist, a leader in the Humboldt County, CA challenge to corporations, and the 2004 Green-Rainbow candidate for President.

Fresh from the June 6th victory in Humboldt County�s Measure T - a referendum that banned outside corporate funds from local elections - David Cobb will strategize with us on building a similar campaign in Western Mass.

The Mass. Connection to Measure T: it challenges a law based on a landmark Massachusetts case at the US Supreme Court referred to as "the Bellotti decision" that contributed to the legal definition of a corporation as a "person" with constitutional rights. Our own state had a similar ban on corporate funds in issue-oriented referendums until 1978 and we want to win it back!

Mass. connection to Cobb: Our own voting rights attorney John Bonifaz (now running for Mass. Secretary of State) worked with Cobb on Measure T. As director of the National Voting Rights Institute, Bonifaz represented David Cobb in his lawsuit to recount the votes in Ohio�s 2004 presidential election. (See the June, 2006 Rolling Stone article Was the 2004 Election Stolen? by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.)

Cobb is a volunteer member of the Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County Steering Committee (one of the groups working on Measure T). He has worked intimately with the POCLAD (Program on Corporations, Law and Corporations), the Center for Voting and Democracy, and Reclaim Democracy. He currently serves on the Sierra Club's national Corporate Accountability Committee and as a Fellow of Liberty Tree: Foundation for the Democratic Revolution.

Join us! JOIN OUR ACTION COMMITTEES! We are part of a nation-wide movement to build real democracy in America. Explore how growing corporate "rights" undermine our Constitutional rights and democracy � and how we can resist together, advancing our diverse issues as activists and citizens.

"We, the People, Inc.?"
How Can We Overturn the Corporate Takeover of our Cities, Towns and Elections?

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 17th at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Northampton and Florence, 220 Main Street, Northampton - Hosted by Shays 2

Kickoff speaker, John Bonifaz, founder of the National Voting Rights Institute, opposing corporate-provided voting machines that lack paper trails or access to computer codes for accountability. He is a candidate for Mass Secretary of State, an office from which he can protect the integrity of our election procedures (he needs 15% of the delegates at the MA Democratic Convention early next month in order to insure a place on the primary ballot in September). He will be the first in a series of Shays 2 speakers on local control in the face of corporate instrusion.

Bonifaz will offer ways we can work to overturn undue corporate influence in our region. An open discussion will follow. He will discuss:


A film and discussion about the World�s Worst Industrial Disaster in Bhopal India and its relevance for our own struggles against corporate control.

Commemorating International Human Rights Day (Dec. 10) and the 21st anniversary of the Bhopal Disaster (Dec. 3).

Wednesday December 14, 7:00 p.m.
Media Education Foundation
60 Masonic Street, Northampton


Three Western Mass Residents Testify for Ban on Privatizing Municipal Water and Sewer Plants Before State Legislative Committee

Full story...

Ward Morehouse's Testimony

Urgent Public Meeting on Racism & Sexism in
Electoral Politics This November

With Holyoke City Councilor Lillian Santiago

Thursday, October 27, 7:30 - 9:00 p.m.
Florence Community Center Auditorium
140 Pine Street, Florence, MA [map]