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Occupying Democracy

We the People, not We the Corporations

Photo: Matt Wuerker, License: N/A

Matt Wuerker

Photo: Matt Wuerker, License: N/A

Matt Wuerker

The Powers That Be want us to believe that this effort is hopeless, that we can’t really undo the legal scaffolding of artificial personhood that the corporados have erected over us flesh-and-blood citizens. Rather than attempting to deconstruct the Brave New America, they tell us, we should be satisfied with softening its rougher edges with things like campaign-finance reporting requirements.

Now there’s a rallying cry for an angry public: “Give us campaign-finance reporting regulations or give us death!”

How insulting to say that Americans today are too small to achieve big democratic results. And how erroneous. As a friend of mine notes, those who say it can’t be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

Here’s a partial menu of actions that are underway or that you could start right where you live:

1. Amend. Two major coalitions are aggressively organizing grass-roots power from coast to coast to demand and pass a constitutional amendment to prohibit corporations from buying our elections. Yes, this is a difficult and lengthy process, but as an old Spanish dicho puts it, “Big maladies require big remedies.” The people have passed amendments before and we can again, especially for a cause that starts with such broad and passionate public support.

2. FreeSpeechForPeople.org proposes a straightforward amendment to repeal the Supremes’ infamous Citizens Unitedruling. The coalition’s battle cry is: Citizens United against Citizens United. Movetoamend.org proposes a broader amendment to declare that only human beings, not corporations, are persons with constitutional rights.

Both coalitions have grass-roots organizers, do-it-yourself toolkits for raising the issue locally and getting others involved, petitions to be circulated and sent to public officials, videos and other graphic materials for getting people informed, sample resolutions for local and state officials to pass, ways to connect people to each other and to the national movement, and a wealth of other organizing ideas and resources.

3. Uncover. One of the little-noticed and unfulfilled promises included in the Court’s Citizens United ruling is that, corporations should at least have to disclose to shareholders and the public how much political money they spend on whom. Congressional Republicans, however, have blocked proposals to implement this minimalist democratic gesture, and President Obama so far has not issued administrative rules to shine even a little sunlight on secret electioneering by corporations.

But you don’t have to wait on Washington. Citizens groups in Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin and Colorado have pushed disclosure requirements into law, and at least nine federal courts have ruled that these requirements pass constitutional muster. Groups in Los Angeles, Fort Wayne and Chicago, in New Mexico, Connecticut and elsewhere are pushing conflict-of-interest laws to ban or restrict campaign donations by corporations that seek government contracts.

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