America is engulfed in a new kind of warfare these days against a threat from within that is holding our nation hostage and destroying all we hold dear, especially our democracy and a middle class way of life we may never see again. The new weapons of mass destruction being used against us are vast, unlimited and unidentified amounts of money poured into super PACs by special interests and corporations in order to buy off members of Congress, seize the reins in Washington and take over our country.
Democracy in America has been brought to its knees over the past two years, ever since the Supreme Court handed control of our political process over to a horde of thugs in three-piece suits. The Citizens United decision bestowed the status of "personhood" on corporations and endowed them with the right of free speech through their ability to raise unlimited money to influence campaigns for public office. Following his State of the Union speech, our President declared he supported an amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision, only to flip-flop a few days later and claim that the playing field must be leveled as he voiced support for a super PAC that will benefit him and "candidates who... support economic policies that generate American jobs and invest in the American economy," among other things. O conceded that he must wallow in the muck too, as there apparently is no highroad out of this quagmire.
The president must make his case for reelection to the American people as he travels the country in full throttle campaigning mode, yet despite holding a winning hand of achievements at home and abroad, he still feels he must out-sleaze the other side to win. The once Grand (and now Pathetic) Old Party has no solutions and offers one ditzy idea after another that will further erode the values on which our nation was founded, most notably our safety nets of Social Security and Medicare that exemplify our humanity and fairness and willingness to take care of our own. The Republican candidates continue to put on a sickening display of daily lunacy as their war of attrition wends its way through the caucuses and primaries. Hysteria and hypocrisy are their mainstays, while the real issues and solutions have been buried under an avalanche of misogynistic rants and vulgar assaults on women's health and personal freedom -- a carnival that does not entertain. Next comes "super PAC" Tuesday, where, I'm sure, "shock and awe" will take on new meaning.
Meanwhile, serious grassroots work is afoot in states and municipalities across the country working to build the movement to pass an amendment striking down the Citizens United decision. The People are mobilizing, with full awareness of the long and difficult road ahead. There is great effort going on across the country to build support for an amendment, which will require ratification by three-quarters of the states to pass. Over 150 coalition groups are engaged in this Herculean effort, with 75 new groups working in municipalities across the country. Some encouraging news supplied by Move To Amend is that 59 municipalities and 28 states have passed resolutions supporting an amendment with 11 more state resolutions in process. Move to Amend has been in the lead in building the movement, and they have expressed concerns about some of the efforts by members of Congress who have introduced resolutions addressing Citizens United. Move To Amend's proposed amendment clearly establishes that money is not speech, corporations are not people and allows for no loopholes, putting the People in charge of our government and corporations in their proper place. The concerns about what comes out of Congress is well justified, as there are already four resolutions in the House and two in the Senate, all with major ingredients missing that open the door to loopholes and create ambiguity. Each one of the resolutions fails in one way or another, with a few of them even failing to address corporate personhood, "money is speech" or the issue of nonprofits representing the interests of for-profit corporations.
Meanwhile, the news from Public Citizen is that there is great forward movement in state legislatures in Vermont and Massachusetts to amend the Constitution and overturn the Citizens United decision, with 50 towns in Vermont voting this week on resolutions supporting an amendment to overturn the decision as well. As those organizations in the lead on this imperative move forward, they must also consider including public funding of campaigns. Otherwise the glass will indeed only be half full. It is long overdue that the financing of campaigns be addressed. Perhaps the amendment and public campaign funding can be linked? Indeed, Public Citizen, with its staff of legal and Constitutional experts who have for 41 years represented the people's interests in the Supreme Court -- while winning numerous cases -- should consider this suggestion.
Giving Congress and the states control of regulating contributions and expenditures of campaigns to influence the outcome of elections appears to be the consistent aim of these recent congressional resolutions. All would reverse the Citizens United decision, but more details and specifics are needed in each. It would be a good idea for members of Congress who are truly interested in reversing the Citizens United decision to meet with Move to Amend, as well as Public Citizen and former Wisconsin Senator and former Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Constitution Russ Feingold. I am sure that former Chairman of the House Judiciary, John Conyers, would also have some ideas on the contents of an amendment and strategy to move this process forward. Both are constitutional scholars, and Feingold's Progressives United is also deeply involved in the fight against Citizens United.
It would also be productive for the Occupy movement to unite as a coalition on this issue. Some of the groups support an amendment, while others are not addressing it, preferring to focus on others issues. Indeed, OWS brought world attention to corporate greed and the despicable practices of Wall Street. Now is the time for them to come on board this issue and join in creating the solution.
- with Jonathan Stone