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Life Arts    H2'ed 4/9/14

Who Will Be The Next US Senator To Hear The American People On Reversing Citizens United?

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My guest today is progressive political activist and frequent OpEdNews contributor, The Pen. Welcome back to OpEdNews, PEN.We spoke very recently about your attempts to raise awareness and outrage over Citizens United and to effect a constitutional amendment to reserve it. I understand there are more developments worth talking about.  Can you start the ball rolling, please?

PEN: Sure thing, Joan.  And thank you for following these events so closely.

The wonderful breaking news is that we are seeing movement in the United States Senate as a direct result of our advocacy to amend the Constitution to reverse the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, by declaring the corporations are not the people the Constitution intended to confer inalienable rights upon.  Senator John Walsh of Montana has now answered the call and joined in cosponsoring S.J.Res.18.  This is the first new cosponsor of this proposed constitutional amendment since last year, and can fairly be described as a break-out.

Our participants have already generated more than 13,000 messages to Congress on this , each going to both your senators and your house members as well.  And we are just getting started on this.  Of all issues we have ever taken on, this is the number one concern of our people.  And all we have to do now is rinse and repeat.  Which is to say, if we can change one vote we can change them all.

JB: I love that fighting spirit, PEN! It's so much easier and so very tempting to just toss in the towel and give up.

PEN: Well, Joan, you know the defeatists will try to tell you, and we both know they are out there, that the politicians won't listen to us.  We have so much proof dramatically to the contrary.  We got filibuster reform because you spoke out.  Ultimately, just our own system helped to facilitate 30,000 constituent messages on that one.  We stopped another vain Middle East war (in Syria) because you spoke out.  We stopped fast track for the so-called Trans Pacific Partnership. The Senate intelligence committee just released the torture report, another one of our actions.  And these are just a couple of recent examples.  If and only if we speak out in sufficient numbers, politicians by definition must listen.  They have no other political choice.  The only way the bad guys win is by persuading people that their voices don't matter, when we know the exact opposite is the reality.

JB: So, let's go back and give our readers more of an idea of how this movement is gaining momentum. How was Sen. Walsh of Montana enlisted to the cause? And who else from Congress has already signed on?

PEN: S.J.Res.18 and H.J.Res.21 were both introduced in Congress a year ago.  The first had three sponsors, and the one in the house had 34, and that's where things sat until our people started speaking out, so this is the crack in the door, so to speak.  Because this was the only proposal on the table with the same language in both the senate and the house, and because we felt it did a fine enough job of addressing the corporate personhood crisis in particular, we decided to jump on it.

Our argument is that if the Democrats want to win elections, this is the mother of all campaign issues. If the Democrats were to en masse join in cosponsoring these measures, then they could go to the American people and say, "Elect more Democrats so we can make this happen."  And the significance of a state like Montana, where now BOTH senators are sponsors of S.J.Res.18, is that the Democrats in Montana are giving their constituents the kind of representation that makes people want to vote for them more and more.

JB: If there are now four cosponsors in the senate, Montana's most likely the only state where both senators are cosponsoring this legislation.  Not necessarily what I might have anticipated in terms of a hotbed of activism, but I like it! If we can get this issue to catch fire in Montana, it raises all kinds of possibilities. What can we learn from what happened there (or elsewhere) that could be useful in stirring up more participation nationwide?

PEN: Let's talk about Massachusetts, where as of this moment we have zero cosponsors on the senate on this (though we have most of the house reps on the parallel measure, H.J.Res.21).  What's going on with senator Elizabeth Warren, who is sending out fundraising solicitations right now railing about what a terrible, awful thing the Citizens United decision was?  There's one of our next primary targets.  If you are in Massachusetts, you need to call her office right now and demand to know why she has not yet stepped up to the plate.  That's how it happens, YOU speak out, politicians listen.

JB: That's really surprising and very disturbing. I love Elizabeth Warren and consider her a bright spot in the senate. Do you have any theories about her aberrant behavior? Or is it irrelevant why she hasn't stepped up to the plate?

PEN: Maybe this specific proposal was not yet on her radar.  Like I said, we discovered these things were just lying on the table out there, just waiting for someone to take notice, like we did.  The point is that only the squeaking wheel gets the grease, and if there was ever a screeching wheel, I suppose we're it.  

JB: Thank goodness you're on it!

PEN: And the number one most powerful way you can make your phone call count is to use the new resource we created to make a public record, that anyone else can see, of your phone calls, and what they say in RESPONSE, to ALL your members of Congress, not just to Senator Elizabeth Warren.   It's called The People Lobby interface, and it includes tollfree numbers you can use, looks up all your members of Congress for you, and gives you their direct office phone numbers as well .

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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