I love this story. And I love what preceded it. A retired couple called a general meeting in January for those interested in getting a local initiative to pushback Citizens United. Probably 150 people attended that first meeting. Now, last night in the City Council chambers, after a big petition push, we have succeeded, with a 9-0 unanimous City Council vote, thus joining 200 other cities and towns across America.
But what I love most about what preceded it is that this couple, former mayor Tomi Allison and her retired IU professor husband James Allison, not only started this movement locally, but went to Washington, D.C. to spend three days in the Library of Congress looking up the historical documents that led to the recent Supreme Court decision to finalize the long-trending transmogrification of corporations as strictly temporary, legal entities to enable projects for the public good into the predatory behemoths they are today with all the rights of flesh-and-blood persons and none, that is none, of the responsibilities.
It’s as if our much-vaunted “pragmatic” Ayn Randian Capitalist American ethos of “getting ahead” by climbing up over everyone else has been collectively projected into these artificial, mind-constructed, hydra-headed monsters that now threaten to devour the body politic whole.
Jim and Tami came home and wrote a play about what happened way back then, titling it “The Prosecution of Judge Waite,”and presented it at the U.U. church on May 25th and 26th, less than one month ago.
From the U.U. program notes: “Waite presided over the Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific decision (1886) that gave birth to the myth that corporations should be granted the same legal rights as a human being, serving as a legal foundation for the Citizens United ruling in 2010. That decision gives corporations a First Amendment right to “speak” through unlimited monetary contributions to political campaigns.”
I attended one of these beautifully acted and directed, very enlightening 45-minute performances, and was amazed to learn just how haphazardly the entire sorry saga of how we lost our constitution to the corporations came about.
The script for the play is available online, should you wish to present it in your community as part of the burgeoning nationwide, bottom-up effort to nullify the top-down corporatization of the federal government.
Here’s the front-page, above-the-fold story in today’s Herald-Tribune. YES!
Resolution encouraging passage of constitutional amendment OK’d 9-0
June 21, 2012
A Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on the political process was derided as “scandalous,” “a sham of democracy” and “a national emergency” by the Bloomington City Council and public speakers alike Wednesday.
The Bloomington City Council voted 9-0 Wednesday to pass a resolution encouraging the passage of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishing that corporations are not “people” and money is not “speech.” The move, which the local Move to Amend — South Central Indiana chapter led by former Mayor Tomi Allison had pushed for since January, is a reaction to the landmark 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
The resolution establishes that “corporations are not ‘people’ and only natural persons are endowed with constitutional rights; Money is not ‘speech’ and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech; and such an amendment should not be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.” The rest of the resolution calls on state and federal representatives and other communities to support the effort to amend the Constitution and dictates that a copy of the resolution be sent to Indiana’s congressional delegation and to President Barack Obama.
Wednesday’s decision followed more than an hour of testimony from the public in which speakers, among them members of the local Move to Amend group, universally criticized the Citizens United decision. Move to Amend members also presented the council with a petition signed by more than 1,600 members of the community.
“I’m just tired of living in a country that is dominated by corporations,” former councilwoman Isabel Piedmont-Smith said. “It’s just another attack on our democracy and move toward plutocracy.”
Many speakers described their frustration with the influence they say that money has over elections when funneled through anonymous “Super PACs.” Among them was council member Dave Rollo — a co-sponsor of the resolution with council members Susan Sandberg, Tim Mayer and Andy Ruff. Rollo said the reason wealthy individuals and corporations are spending millions on campaigning is because it does influence the national political agenda.
Several people referenced the recent recall election of Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin as an example of a situation where money from out-of-state, anonymous parties influenced the outcome.
“Forget about Democrat or Republican, we’re talking about the selling of our democracy here!” speaker Scott Wells said at the meeting. “Our elections are being bought and sold. We have to get up in arms. … It’s time for us to take back this country.”
Another member of the public asserted that in 85 percent of campaigns, the candidate who spent the most money ultimately won.
Councilman Darryl Neher, meanwhile, noted that so-called Super PACs outspent individuals, candidates and traditional political action committees by a margin of four-to-one.
“Money is not speech, it is a tool by which someone can express him or herself,” said Chaim Julian, chairman of Democracy for Monroe County. “It would be inappropriate to use a megaphone in this chamber. It is also inappropriate for somebody to come in and spend millions and millions to influence an election, thereby drowning out those who don’t have that money.”
Others, meanwhile, expressed disappointment with the Supreme Court itself for decision.
Speaker Elsa Harik called the situation “profoundly disturbing” and “the single most urgent problem” facing the nation today.
“If we can’t trust the Supreme Court to keep above the fray of competing interests, especially those with the most financial clout, how can we keep faith in our government, government for and by the people?” she said.
Council members were universally in favor of the resolution, including Marty Spechler, although he said he did not agree with every word of the resolution.
“What we need is to restore the power of the Congress and the states to regulate expenditures in elections,” Spechler said.
With Wednesday’s decision, Bloomington became the first city in Indiana to pass a resolution in support of such a constitutional amendment, speakers said. However, more than 200 other communities and five states so far have signed resolutions to that effect, according to the council’s legislative packet.
Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2012