The Path to Possibility

Monday might be a very big day.

The California State Senate is set to vote on AJR-1, a resolution introduced to the California State Assembly in 2012 by Representative Mike Gatto. It calls for a constitutional convention for the purpose of revoking corporate personhood in regards to free speech and limiting campaign finance.

It has already passed the California State Assembly.  And the Senate judiciary Committee.  It was set for a vote last Thursday, but was tabled for unspecified reasons (rumors are some of the yes votes were absent at the time).  It has been rescheduled for a vote on Monday, June 23, 2014.

A very similar resolution has already passed in Vermont.  The movement, led by Larry Lessig and other citizen-funded groups was the very definition of grass roots. (Registering nary a ripple in the national media, of course.)

Similar resolutions are in various stages of percolation in 10 different states, introduced and supported by both Democratic and Republican legislators who’ve had enough.

Article V of our ceaselessly amazing U.S. Constitution allows for conventions to be called by the states, circumventing the federal government. It requires 2/3 of the states to call for the convention and 3/4 of the states to ratify the amendment once the convention puts forth a resolution. In short, we need 34 states to call for a convention and 38 states to ratify an amendment proposal.

It is also critical to note that constitutional conventions are required be very specific.  They can only be held regarding the issue for which they were called. No switcheroos or add-ons after one has been convened.

Of the people. By the people.  Like music to the ears, innit?

Needless to say, if AJR-1 does pass in California, it would be historic.  The largest state in the union would have called to amend the U.S. Constitution for the express purpose of returning the democracy back to the American people.

It would be a chance to undo the damage done by the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) which proclaimed corporations as people and preventied bipartisan campaign finance reform on the grounds that money is speech protected by the U.S. Constitution, as well as McCutcheon v. FEC decided in April of 2014, in which SCOTUS struck down many of the remaining limits on campaign contributions. These decisions  effectively allowed for the purchase of entire elections by private interests.  It’s what led to the explosion of Super PACs and their shady regulations.

But let’s call this for what it is: legalized corruption.  A recent Princeton study found that voter opinion has no discernible influence federal lawmakers.  The only opinions that moved the needle were rich donors and the lobbyists that work for them.  In other words, lawmakers are only listening to the people who fund their campaigns. Money for influence. All that comes out of it is voter apathy and stymied political discourse (and cash windfalls for a select few). It’s the reason we can’t do anything about climate change, or for-profit prisons, or gun control, or our schools, or any of the monumental and mounting issues we face.

Legalized corruption.  

So long as SCOTUS holds that money equals protected speech, they can shoot down any campaign finance reform law anyone tries to pass.  And so far,  they pretty much have.

AJR-1 is a means to put an end to this broken corrupt system.

Of course, that’s if it passes.  And make no mistake, it would only be the first salvo in what could very well be a long and hard fought political war.

But however the vote goes in the California State Senate, the fight is only beginning.  Often times, the powers that be try to slow cook hot-button issues. They wait for the furor to die down, occasionally placating the disquieted masses with some meager, symbolic concessions, then get back to business when the noise dies down and interests shift (the 4 biggest banks are bigger now than they were before the 2008 crash…por ejemplo).

We can’t continue to let this happen.  It’s not about going after the super rich donors or even the politicians.  Its about tearing down the system that has squeezed the people out and made us inaudible.

We’re late in the game in California, but if you support the idea of exercising the power of the people and getting money out of politics, I urge you to call your California state senator Monday morning (you can find your state reps here) to let them know you support AJR-1 and you want them to vote yes.

Even if you don’t live in California, call your state legislators.  Let them know  you support a constitutional convention to get money out of politics.  Demand it. Tell them you want your democracy back.  (Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a catch-all database.  The best way to find your representatives is to type in “who are my representatives” and then your state in your favorite search engine.  Usually in the first 2 or 3 choices you’ll find one that only requires your address or zip code and then finds your reps along with contact info for you. Teh interwebs are awesome.)

96% of Americans say that the influence of money in politics needs to be reduced. 91% believe nothing can be done about it.

They’re wrong.

It’s well worth it to show them.

Finger crossed.

 

The Ugly Head of Citizens United Rears Up

Remember during the 2010 State Of The Union Address when Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito shook his head in dissent when Barack Obama commented on how the Citizen’s United decision would greatly affect elections (Or when Alito and the other conservative Justices didn’t attend the 2011 State of the Union Address)?

I wonder what Alito thinks now.

The Young Turks break down the impact of the Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission in the form of a phenomenon newly prevalent in this election: the billionaire sugar-daddy.

I believe that this is the number one problem we face in our country today.  Sure, there are more severe issues surrounding war and poverty, life and death stuff.  There’s corruption and greed, too.

But in the end, it all flows back to Citizen’s United, wherein the activist Supreme Court decided that money represents free speech.

The Citizen's United Decision is reverting us back to the political boss system.

Thus, corporations and special interest groups pumping billions of dollars into elections with minimal identification standards and no standards for honesty or truth-telling, is simply an expression of free speech.

“What’s that you say?  The electorate has been so turned around by all this heavily funded misinformation and outright lying that they don’t know which way is up?  Whoops!  Pure happenstance–hey, is that Glee playing on the t.v.?  That looks like a hoot!”

Never mind that China–or any foreign government or group–could theoretically be footing the bill.  Those interests would simply be exercising their freedom of speech.  Here.  In America’s political system.

Citizen’s United is the reason why we have privatized prisons and crappy public schools and stagnant wages and and humorous financial reform law and even more (or less) humorous health care reform and record breaking corporate profits and record-breaking executive bonuses and draconian online piracy bills and all the other situations that occur when financing elections adds to the profit margin.

We all have a voice, some voices are louder or farther reaching, but essentially, it’s an equivalent right.  When we talk about dollars, it’s not equal.  And that’s the point of capitalism.  If it was all equal it would be communism.  So by definition, the Citizen’s United decision gives those that have lots of money even more rights than the rest of us.  Supreme Court activism at its worst.

You know what?  I could care less what Alito thinks.  I could care less what any politician thinks.  It is imperative that we get money out of politics.  The future of our nation depends on it.

(Constitution correction image from: http://www.laprogressive.com/citizens-united-corporate-power/.  Citizen’s united logo from: http://www.opensecrets.org/news/reports/citizens_united.php.  Pledge Allegiance Cartoon from: http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/2011/12/30/citizens-united-loses-in-montana-supreme-court-upholds-state-ban-on-corporate-spending/.)