NEW YORK -- Ben Cohen is stamping the hell out of every dollar he can find.
It's a characteristically eccentric project for the Ben and Jerry's co-founder that he hopes will generate lots of free publicity for his ultimate goal: amending the Constitution to reverse the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which removed limits on independent spending by corporations and individuals for political purposes.
"If politics wasn't being so corrupted and influenced by the money from corporations, we wouldn't be doing the bidding of corporations, which is opposed to the general benefits of the society and the world," Cohen said.
So on a new website, StampStampede.org, Cohen and a group of other activists loosely affiliated with the Occupy movement are selling stamps, at cost, that can be used to put a "Stamp Money Out Of Politics" message on money.
For anyone who wonders whether stamping might count as defacing currency, Cohen has a legal opinion claiming that it's protected under the First Amendment (and the conviction-free history of a different stamping project, Where's George).
And for those who might be just plain annoyed to have a political message shoved in their face when they're just trying to buy a donut, Cohen has an opinion of his own: "In terms of most kinds of messaging, or marketing, you're trying to break through the clutter. And in order to do that, advertisers tend to do kind of edgy, controversial things, and usually some people are pissed off."
The Stamp Stampede has calculated that every bill stamped will be seen by 875 people over the course of its life in circulation. If 100 people stamped 10 bills per day, the activists say, that would generate 300 million impressions -- roughly the same size as the U.S. population.
To spread the word about his stamps, Cohen will be traveling around the San Francisco Bay in early October on a "shakedown" tour. He'll ride in a van, known as the "Amend-O-Matic," which is modified to include a massive Rube Goldberg stamping machine, a spiral elevator and a monorail. The van will continue on its journey across the United States until it reaches Florida in December.
"This is kind of like petitions on steroids," Cohen said. "It's not somebody spending their money and trying to influence the political conversation, it's people that believe in it using their voice."
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