Organizational History

Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County has gone through many permutations since our inception in 1996. We started as a study group of citizens interested in uncovering the history of democracy and corporate rule. We were so inspired and energized by what we learned that we decided to create a formal organization devoted to dismantling corporate rule at the local level. The first major project the group conducted was a three-city (Eureka, Arcata, Redway) series of well-attended public forums to reframe the USDA Organics proposal as a symptom of corporate rule.

In 1998, our work inspired a ballot initiative in the town of Arcata - the Arcata Advisory Measure on Democracy and Corporations (Measure F). However, as a project of a non-profit, DUHC does not engage in organizing political campaigns. So a spin-off group was formed, Citizens Concerned About Corporations (CCAC) to run and campaign for Measure F. DUHC continued to exist alongside CCAC, offering educational materials, workshops and organizing events.

After the victory of Measure F many of the founders of Democracy Unlimited moved on. Paul Cienfuegos ran and operated DUHC solo for a number of years, keeping the name alive and continuing to lead workshops, speak at local rallies, write articles for publication, and provide other educational materials. In July 2000 he was joined by Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, who interned with DUHC while she took a semester off from college. Within a few months she was hooked and decided to stay on to work with Paul and re-build the organization.

Ryan Emenaker, David Cobb and Hannah Clapsadle joined Kaitlin in 2002 when we formed a Steering Committee, and Paul stepped out of leadership. Jared Wilken joined our Steering Committee in 2004 and Shannon Tracey came on board in the summer of 2006.

In 2005 Democracy Unlimited wrote an ordinance that would go on to become the language of a county-wide ballot measure. The law stated that non-local corporations would be prohibited from contributing money to local elections and constituted a direct challenge to the notion that corporations can claim "personhood" and First Amendment rights to justify election spending.

The Humboldt County Ordinance to Protect our Right to Fair Elections and Local Democracy (or Measure T) was run by the Humboldt Coalition for Community Rights which successfully passed Measure T in June 2006 with 55% of the vote, making Humboldt County the largest jurisdiction to successfully challenge Corporate Personhood through municipal civil disobedience.

In August 2008, the law was challenged by the Pacific Legal Foundation as unconstitutional for violating corporate rights. The law was overturned, but citizens rallied in response and vowed that Humboldt County would continue the fight for local democracy against corporate power.

In 2009, Democracy Unlimited helped establish Move to Amend, a coalition dedicated to amending the U.S. Constitution to end the judicial doctrines of corporate personhood and money-as-speech. Move to Amend rapidly gained a wide base of support from citizens nationwide after the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, and has grown steadily ever since. DUHC has been at the center of Move to Amend's organizing success all along, providing MTA's office space, national field operations management, most of its staff, and much of its national leadership.

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