"Who are the men, who really run this land?
Why do they run it with such a thoughtless hand?"
Crosby, Stills, & Nash have been singing this song for many, many years now, and we've had enough. With the deluge of dark money flooding our elections, we feel that these questions have never been more important to ask.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, "The amount of independent expenditure and electioneering communication spending by outside groups has quadrupled since 2006." In 2012 alone, groups spent over seven billion dollars trying to influence the election and well over three billion dollars lobbying Congress.
The bulk of that money is coming from a microscopic percentage of super-wealthy corporations and individuals who see buying politicians as just about the highest return on investment they can make.
The vast majority of American voters -- ninety percent -- don't give any money to political candidates. Of the ten percent of voters who contribute, the average donation is about sixty dollars. The average contribution from one of the top 100 corporate donors in 2012, on the other hand, was over five million dollars. Who do you think politicians really represent?
It's no longer a surprise when the New York Times reports that the House of Representatives passed a bill written by a lobbyist for Citigoup in order to dismantle the very reforms put in place to protect American's from 'too big to fail' banks. Or that hedge fund managers pay a lower effective tax rate than your average school teacher. The truth is that big money reigns in Washington.
But we don't think that the men who wrote our constitution had in mind that the person with the largest TV budget should get the keys to the kingdom. That's why we're both supporting StampStampede.org in an effort to enable tens of thousands of Americans to make their money talk by using a little monetary jiu jitsu.
We've been legally stamping messages like 'Not to be Used for Bribing Politicians' on dollars in support bold public campaign finance reforms as well as a constitutional amendment that says:
1) Corporations are not people; and
2) money is not free speech.
People have been fighting to get soft money out of politics for decades. The McCain-Feingold and Shays-Meehan bills are good examples, but they've been eviscerated by the "Citizen's United" Supreme Court decision. Now we have to fight harder.
The Stampede is about giving voice to the 80% Americans -- Republicans, Democrats and Independents -- who realize that unlimited campaign "contributions" are corrupting our democracy and want to get money out of politics. Every dollar people stamp will pass through about 875 hands. It's not defacing currency (we asked our lawyer). It's adorning your dollars. With tens of thousands of people stamping and more joining every day, we're creating a petition on steroids and putting this issue in front of tens of millions of people in order to show Congress that we mean business.
And it's working.
Thanks to the help of big national groups like Free Speech for People, Public Citizen, People for the American Way, USPIRG, Common Cause and Move to Amend, the movement is making big waves. So far sixteen states have passed ballot resolutions calling on Congress to propose a constitutional amendment and over one hundred and thirty members of Congress have endorsed an amendment strategy. That means we're about one third of the way towards winning an amendment. But there is a lot more work to be done and we need your help.
You can start by making some noise. Get mad. Stamp messages on your dollars, spread the word on social media, and get the word out to your friends and neighbors. Building public awareness and demonstrating consistent and growing widespread public support is critical to winning meaningful reforms. The Stampede is not a flash in the pan, stamped bills stay in circulation and average of two and a half years.
Hold your representatives accountable. Those who refuse to fight for these reforms are part of the corruption and we'll make our voices heard at the ballot box.
This isn't about Democrats or Republicans, it's about America and it's about restoring our democracy -- a government of, for and by the people. Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty, so the next time you drop a dollar tip in the jar at the coffee shop, make sure it reads: 'Not to be Used for Bribing Politicians.'
David Crosby is a singer, songwriter and activist who had been inducted twice to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (The Byrds / Crosby, Stills & Nash). CROZ, his first solo record in over 20 years, will be released Jan. 28.
Ben Cohen is the co-founder of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and the founder and Head Stamper at the StampStampede.org, whose goal is to help build the movement to amend the constitution to get money out of politics.