Nov. 11, 2014 – Ending Corporate Money in Our Elections: Who’s Ready to Make It Happen?

Greetings! You are listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos.
One week ago, we witnessed the most corporate-money-drenched election in our nation’s
history. Every election in the future will become the most corporate-money-drenched election
in our nation’s history if We the People don’t start paying a lot more attention to the fact that
corporations are only allowed to donate money to influence elections, and to lobby politicians,
and to define the boundaries of reasonable debate on the issues, only because corporations
have been granted First Amendment free speech “rights” by the Supreme Court. “Money
equals speech”, screamed the Supreme Court in their 1976 Buckley vs Valeo decision.
So you would think that given that our elections are drowning in corporate money that is
making it nearly impossible for the public to figure out what we really think about anything
that matters, that concerned citizens would be all over these so-called corporate “rights”. But
you would be wrong.
On the day after the election, I listened to hours of news coverage from the corporate and
independent media, including this station, and although there was lots of talk about the
corporate money that drowned the election, there was hardly a single word about what could
actually be done about it. The implication was that nothing could be done about it – that it was
pretty much hopeless. That’s a very strange point of view – especially when you’re hearing it
from long-time activists from a whole variety of social movement groups working on GMO’s,
land use policy, funding for public education, environmental protection, etc.
The fact is – it’s not true at all that nothing can be done about corporate money and lobbying
drowning our political system. It’s not true at all. So what’s going on here?
Could it be that single-issue activists cannot quite get themselves to believe that to win on their
individual issues, they’re going to have to expand their educating and organizing to include an
analysis and strategy to end corporate “rights”? For example, how could it be that the Yes on
92 GMO labeling campaign did not use any of their hard-earned millions of dollars to reach
out to the public and say something like this,
“Are you sick and tired of Monsanto and other corporations interfering in our right to vote on
the labeling of GMO foods, by drowning our election in corporate money? Are you sick and
tired of Monsanto and other corporations lying to us in their campaign mailers and TV ads?
Did you know the only reason Monsanto and other corporations are allowed to participate in
our elections at all is that the Supreme Court has granted constitutional “rights” to
corporations? Please join us in working to end corporate constitutional so-called “rights” so
that We the People can take back our elections and have the kind of political discussion that is
essential in a democratic society. Let’s work together to ensure that Monsanto and other
corporations are never again allowed to participate in an election campaign – not their money
– not their political voice – not their lies. Because until we get corporations out of our
elections, let’s face it – it will be nearly impossible to get GMO ingredients out of our foods….
This message has not yet been brought to you by the Yes on 92 campaign.”
I have been waiting for years now to hear this kind of ad from a state ballot initiative
campaign. Why is it taking so long? Do these groups really think they can continue to keep up
with the ever increasing spending required to challenge corporate money in elections?
We simply can’t afford for our citizens groups to keep waving the white flag of surrender on
the issue of corporations in our elections. That pathway leads to disaster. So let’s not go there!
Instead, I urge everyone listening to this Commentary to consider having a conversation about
this issue the next time you meet up with whatever groups you work with. Tell them that
you’re ready to start paying a lot more attention to the fact that our elections are in deep
trouble, and that we can’t continue down this path much longer. Tell them that they have to
start focusing more attention on corporate so-called “rights” in how they educate and organize
their members. Remind them that the public already thinks it’s ridiculous that corporations
should have constitutional “rights”, and that this could be a winning strategy in the next round
of ballot initiatives. That if we strip corporations of their “rights”, we can take our elections
back and stop having to waste so much time and money. And hey – we’ll start winning again
too, because let’s not forget – the primary opposition to most of our common sense ballot
initiatives is corporate! Will you talk about this at your next meeting?
And one more thing:
Is there anyone listening who is planning a ballot initiative campaign in the near future? Are
you ready to consider my challenge to you? I would be honored to assist your campaign in
developing a new kind of message to voters – one that helps voters understand that this
ridiculousness can be ended – that we really can get corporations out of our elections and start
having the kind of political debate again that We The People deserve. Can we afford to do
anything less?
You’ve been listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos. You can
hear future commentaries every Tuesday on the KBOO Evening News. I welcome your
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remember: WE are the people we’ve been WAITING for!

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