You are no doubt aware of the cynical maxim, “money talks”. Nowhere is this truer than right here in the US of A. In the last few years, the U S Supreme court has enshrined the idea by claiming it to be protected in the US Constitution. Two recent rulings, Citizens United vs. FEC and, more recently, McCutcheon vs. FEC have set judicial precedent by stating that money is speech and is therefore protected by the first amendment, and that corporations are equivalent to persons and are therefore entitled to the rights conferred by the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. As a result, a corporation can give as much as it wants to a political campaign because any attempt to limit it is an infringement of “free speech.” Of course, you have the very same right, but it is likely that your resources are orders of magnitude less than a large corporation, so that makes those corporations much bigger and more powerful citizens than you are.
Likewise, giving a little stipend to any office holder is not graft. It is a small amplification of a request or suggestion by a constituent for that office holder to vote a certain way on a particular bill. Of course, you or I can make our own requests to those office holders. Does the fact that you are giving little of nothing in the way of a monetary contribution make a difference in the importance a politician may assign to your request?
Some years ago, when campaigns were not quite as expensive as they are today, our Representative Jim McDermott told us at a town meeting that congress people spend on average 30-50% of their time raising money for their next campaign, i.e. a senator just elected to a 6 year term must collect about $20,000 every day for those 6 years in order to have enough to run again. So, McDermott said that they tend to start their legislative week on Tuesday and finish on Thursday so they can spend the rest of the week raising money. So much for getting the important and urgent business of the nation done. Of course, that was when campaigns were not as expensive as they are now.
If you were one of these elected officials, would you spend time getting $25 donations from small donors or $25,000 donations from big donors? If those big donors provided 80% of your campaign funds, would you cater to their needs more than the smaller people? Technically, it is the votes that count and corporation do not have the vote. However, past records clearly show that the candidate with the most money wins 90% of the time. That is why Congress tends to overlook your interests in favor of the wealthy special interests.
It all comes back to those Supreme Court decisions. Because they have interpreted the US Constitution as saying that Corporations have the same rights as people and that money is equivalent to speech, all past attempts to regulate campaign funding and all future attempts by Congress to do the same will be contested in court, found to be unconstitutional, and thrown out.
If we are to regain control of our government, we will first have to amend the US Constitution to specify that corporations are not people, and that money is not free speech. That will allow us to begin the long task of regaining control of our government.
That very amendment is now in the works. Our Rep. McDermott is a cosponsor as is Sen. Patty Murray. Sixteen states have passed resolutions supporting it. As many more, including our state, are in the process of passing resolutions. Initiative 1329 will put the question on the ballot in Washington State next fall. In order to get on the ballot, we need to collect 300,000 signatures by June 20. We now have less than 100,000 with only a month to go. My experience so far is that 9 out of 10 registered voters that I approach want to sign. Often, while someone is signing my petition, 4 or 5 people will walk by. Four of those might have signed. We really need people to help gather signatures! I know many are intimidated by the idea of asking people to sign on to something. I’ve found people that don’t sign are polite, people that want to know more get a small leaflet from us for them to study and learn more, People that want to sign are usually very appreciative of your willingness to be out there to give them the opportunity.
We need signature gatherers at the Farmer’s Market in Vashon, at the Ferry docks, or anywhere and time that you want. You can pick up a petition from me and circulate it among your friends. We really need your help right now! You can tell your grandchildren that you were out there on the front lines when our great experiment in democracy was saved from extinction. Won’t you help us?
Call or write me: Terry Sullivan, 463 2812,