Is 2013 the Year of Getting Big Money Out of Politics?

Nicholas Condorcet February 12, 2013 4

By Nicholas Condorcet
Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org

The U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United states money is speech and corporations have First Amendment free speech rights to spend unlimited money in elections.  Some claim this was the final nail in the coffin thus killing Democracy in the United States.  Around the country Republicans, celebrities, Democrats, and everyday people have taken up the fight to end Corporate Personhood.  A common feeling seems to be that the decision to allow large corporations to donate millions to a candidate creates a situation where small business and individuals will be unable to have any influence.  The Supreme Court decision means businesses can give unlimited money to legislators on a committee regulating their industry.

Move to Amend, a national group dedicated to ending Corporate Personhood, has been active in organizing people to sign petitions and approach city councils to pass resolutions against unlimited money in political campaigns.  “Imagine a world where the interests of human beings are held in higher regard than corporate bottom lines, where government works for the people and not for corporate donors” states Move to Amend.  A number of city councils across the U.S. have passed resolutions supporting an end to unlimited money. Locally the cities of Tucson and Flagstaff  adopted resolutions in 2012.  Phoenix, Tempe, Prescott and Mesa have received visits from citizens, mostly led by the Occupy movement, seeking to restore electoral power to the people.

The Occupy movement became heavily involved in the fight for human rights including getting big money out of politics.  Many of those involved with Occupy formed a group which conducts a money stamping campaign the Stamp Stampede.  Inspired by “Where’s George?” stamping, messages include “NOT TO BE USED FOR BRIBING POLITICIANS”. The goal is for people to see the message and think about the effect of money on elections and be inspired to join the fight to decrease big money’s influence.  On the third anniversary of the Citizens United decision, January 19th, there were actions and events across the country to say “Corporations are Not People!”. Locally Occupy Phoenix held a demonstration in Tempe where they gave out End Corporate Personhood postcards, bumper stickers as well as stamping money and collecting petitions.  In Tucson Occupy held a Corporate/Human wedding between former mayoral candidate Mary DeCamp and Ray Theon (Raytheon is a major defense contractor which makes one of the smallest drones used in warfare) to bring attention to the problems of considering corporations people.  Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream has been a proponent of the campaign stating “You sign a petition and, let’s face it, nobody really sees it. But stamping money is essentially monetary jiu jitsu. It’s using the power of money to get money out of politics.”

The Stamp Stampede campaign includes the Amend-O-Matic stamping van which travels across the country. The van travels with speakers Renae and Ash who give teach-ins on Corporate Personhood. Last year they made a stop at Cesar Chavez Plaza to help Occupy Phoenix celebrate its one year anniversary. The Amend-O-Matic is a large Rube Goldberg-esque machine which is mounted on a cutaway van called the StampMobile. The machine allows people to put a dollar into a platen and have the bill stamped with one of two messages– “Stamp Money Out of Politics– Amend the Constitution” or “Not To Be Used For Bribing Politicians– Amend the Constitution”.

Photo taken by Michael Royer

The fight to end Corporate Personhood is entering the halls of Congress. US Representative Jim McGovern has introduced two constitutional amendments to help end unlimited corporate spending in elections.  The first amendment, HJ Res 20, advances the fundamental principle of political equality for all by empowering Congress and the States to regulate political spending.  The second amendment, HJ Res 21, would overturn Citizens United and stop corporations from claiming first amendment rights equal to people.  The introduction of the two bills and the floor speech of Rep McGovern can be found here.  Many citizen groups are expected to support the amendments but the required number of votes for an amendment will make it difficult for these to pass.

In Arizona Representatives McCune Davis, Campbell, Cardenas, Mendez, Peshlakai, Quezada, Wheeler: Alston, Contreras, Dalessandro, Escamilla, Gabaldon, Hernandez, Larkin, Otondo and Saldate introduced HCR 2018 to repeal the Citizens United decision.  If successful Arizona would join other states that have laws against unlimited political spending in elections.  The bill states that the “United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights are intended to protect the rights of individual human beings” and that “the people have neither granted constitutional rights to corporations nor decreed that corporations have authority that exceeds the authority of “We the People”. The bill has been referred to the House Federalism and Fiscal Responsibility Committee to be reviewed.   It remains to be seen if enough support can be found for the legislation. Arizona Senator John McCain, a long time supporter of campaign finance reform, stated on Tonight Show with Jay Leno  that the Supreme Court Citizens United action is the “worst decision” and that the court “should be ashamed and embarrassed” for allowing unlimited spending by large donors.