Free speech math

Money-is-Free-Speech-SHUT-UP

Several conservative websites are abuzz over the charge that there were protesters at the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination hearings this week. Several individuals claim they saw individuals who had been arrested for speaking out inside the hearings being handed cash outside the hearing on the street.

One of the eyewitnesses claimed that he spoke to one of the protest organizers who confirmed giving money to those arrested to pay court fines. It could also have been to compensate the individuals for taking off work. Either way, the conclusion was that the Kavanaugh protests weren’t legitimate.

Opposition to Kavanaugh, of course, is quite legitimate by many people for any reasons. A recent ABC/Washington Post poll shows Kavanaugh having the third-lowest support of any nominee to the Supreme Court in the poll’s history.

There are also legitimate questions about how legitimately objective if confirmed Kavanaugh would be if Donald Trump is indicted on any number of possible charges under the Mueller investigation. Kavanaugh was, after all, Trump’s choice. Though not atop the list of candidates recommended by the Federalist Society, he just so happened to be the only candidate with a solid record of opposing Presidents being prosecuted while in office. Just a coincidence no doubt.

It’s not a stretch to conclude that those who support Kavanaugh are the most upset about the “paid protesters” at the hearings.

But there’s a huge double standard here.

Kavanaugh’s record is clear in questioning the constitutionality of political candidate contribution limits, limitations affirmed in the Buckley v Valeo 1976 Supreme Court decision. Kavanaugh also is a big fan of the 2010 Citizens United v FEC Supreme Court case. Both cases legitimize political campaign spending as being equivalent to political free speech (i.e. money equals speech).

Kavanaugh has also expressed openness to foreign “dark money” political spending. In a 2011 case, Blumen vs FEC, he wrote an opinion upholding a ban on foreign political spending to candidates and campaigns. His opinion, however, excludes foreign spending on “issue ads” (i.e. political ads designed to influence an election without explicitly supporting or opposing any candidate), which can originate from corporations, wealthy individuals and even foreign governments. The sanctioning of foreign-funding of such ads is extremely troubling at a time when U.S. intelligence agencies and others claim Russians were involved in influencing the 2016 elections.

What’s the point of all of this, especially as it relates to paid political protesters?

Simple. As in simple math. Call it “free speech math.”

If “money equals speech” (A = B), then “speech equals money” (B = A).

Translation: protesters who speak out should be paid.

If corporations and the super wealthy can bankroll political attack ads (many of which are done without knowing the sources of the funding, thus the moniker “dark money”), then why the heck can’t protesters be paid for, well, exercising their free speech? During the Kavanaugh hearing. During city council meetings. When protesting on the street. The list is endless. Makes just as much sense as money being defined not as property but as political free speech!

The same people who are outraged about paying people to protest at the Kavanaugh hearing (who all show their faces and will reveal their identities when paying fines) should be much more outraged about the flood of money in our political system which has has been constitutionally shielded by previous Supreme Courts as protected “free speech.” These huge amounts of political cash amount to legalized bribery and results in the drowning out of the voices of the vast majority of people who aren’t investing in political campaigns. The magnitude of the two different forms of “paid speech” isn’t remotely close.

Those who proclaim that paying protesters isn’t legitimately democratic should not only more loudly assert but take action against the ever-growing tsunami of political money from corporate entities and the super duper wealthy flooding our political system as a massive threat to whatever is left of our democratic republic.

Which it is.

Which is why the solution in the short run is to oppose Brett Kavanaugh.

Move to Amend (MTA) supports a constitutional amendment to end political money defined as free speech and corporations in all their forms being anointed with constitutional rights (what many call “corporate personhood.”)

MTA has sent an Open Letter to every member of the Senate stating its objections to his confirmation. MTA has also prepared a questionnaire for US Senators to ask focused on his beliefs about corporate constitutional rights. Forward it to your Senators and request they ask Kavanaugh for his responses.

Please do all you can to oppose the Brett Kavanaugh nomination…whether you’re paid to do it or not.

Frank Jackson Has Raised A Whole Lot More Money Than All Other Mayoral Challengers Combined

All the political cash is sickening. Am quoted in the article below, but a few points were left out: “The system of legalized bribery (e.g. campaign financing) is alive and well in Cleveland as demonstrated by Frank Jackson’s rapid rise of his campaign war chest…Legalized bribery will only end by legalizing democracy — via lower contribution limits and, ultimately, by amending the US Constitution to give voice to the needs of people and communities by abolishing the doctrines that money is constitutionally protected ‘free speech’ and corporations possess inalienable constitutional ‘personhood’ rights.”

Frank Jackson Has Raised A Whole Lot More Money Than All Other Mayoral Challengers Combined

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https://www.clevescene.com/scene-and-heard/archives/2017/08/02/frank-jackson-has-raised-a-whole-lot-more-money-than-all-other-mayoral-challengers-combined

Giving limits for city candidates would more than triple since 2010 with new proposal

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By Doug Livingston / Beacon Journal staff writer
December 19, 2016
http://www.ohio.com/news/local/giving-limits-for-city-candidates-would-more-than-triple-since-2010-with-new-proposal-1.734533

The reporter didn’t quite get it right regarding what I said needs to happen — not just public financing, but ultimately a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood and money as speech.

Commit to seeking common ground

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Letter to the editor
Akron Beacon Journal, December 4, 2016
http://www.ohio.com/editorial/vop/letters-to-the-editor-commit-to-seeking-common-ground-and-don-t-protest-take-action-dec-4-1.731307

With the nation seemingly more divided that ever following the election, people of good will on all sides can make several commitments to seek common ground.

• Make a distinction between criticizing the ideas or actions of a person and criticizing the person himself or herself. Asserting, for example, that someone’s ideas are ignorant is different than asserting that the person is inherently ignorant.

• Treat everyone will dignity and respect, regardless of gender, race, religion, income, sexual orientation, geographic home and political beliefs.

• There are several issues that arose during the election that should be explored by all sides for solutions, beginning at the community level.

“Draining the swamp” of lobbyists and reducing the corrupting influence of big money in elections is one. Increasing jobs lost due to corporate-friendly trade deals and automation is another. Preventing foreign wars that risk U.S. lives is a third. Support for an accessible and affordable health care system that avoids government and corporate intrusion is one more.

This list is a start. The vast majority of individuals in our country have more in common than differences. Let’s make sure our nation’s political and economic power elites don’t divide and conquer us.

Greg Coleridge
Director, Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee
Cuyahoga Falls

NEO AFSC February 12, 2016 Podcast

podcasticon

Listen to podcast here

We summarize last week’s activities; share upcoming events for next week; and comment on our Open Letter responding to Akron’s “Blue Ribbon Task Force” report (and the need for your calls), 100 donors having donated/invested more in the 2016 presidential elections than the 2 million smallest donors, why conservatives should support campaign finance reform, and Rob Portman announcing his opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) due to building opposition “back home” (i.e. because of you!).  (Length 34:53)

Testimony before Cleveland City Council Finance Committee on Campaign Contribution Limits

Greg Coleridge, Director, Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee

February 8, 2016

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the difficulty City Council faces when considering the issue of campaign contribution limits. There are numerous factors, some competing against one another, that must be understood and balanced. To be specific, there are 5 factors that are important to be addressed.

  1. The importance of having sufficient funds to run a political campaign
  2. The importance of understanding the different political strategies in elections between organizing money and organizing people
  3. The importance of establishing the proper contribution limits to minimize the influence of special interests
  4. The importance to create not just the reality, but equally important, the perception that the contribution limits are fair, just and proportionate
  5. The importance to understand your own limitations in establishing local laws.

Importance of having sufficient funds to run a political campaign

  • You don’t have to win the campaign financing arms race, but you do need to be credible to reach a certain minimum threshold.
  • Minimum thresholds are relative of course, based on rising costs, political competition, gerrymandered districts in which previously known candidates may now be unknown, etc.

Importance of understanding the different political strategies in elections between organizing money and organizing people

  • It’s often been said there are 2 ultimate sources of political power: money and people. If you don’t have 1, you sure better have the other.
  • Money is a crutch. It can be used as a substitute to engage directly with voters. Money centered campaigns creates 1 way communication via advertisements. It also can transform candidates into products that are sold to voters via slick commercials or mailers.
  • At a municipal level, a huge campaign war chest is not necessarily needed to win – more so of course at the ward level than a citywide race. Nevertheless, an effective volunteer people-centered ground game even for Mayor led by the candidate in a “high-touch” campaign can offset to a great extent a “high-tech” money-centered campaign. It’s more work, energy and time, but can be accomplished.
  • The communication of a people-centered campaign is also different than a money-centered campaign because it’s two way. More direct connection means voters not only hear from candidates but they can speak to candidates – which is vital to keep candidates accountable to voters.

The importance of establishing the proper contribution limits to minimize the influence of special interests

  • High campaign contributions limits or caps can have a corrupting influence on politics, politicians and public policy.
  • Potential political contributors should never believe they could become actual political investors by giving a campaign a huge sum of money, expecting a political or economic return. This is much more likely if contribution caps are too high. This can result in wasted taxpayer dollars used to payoff a large contributor/investor.
  • The reverse is also true. Large campaign contribution limits can also entice elected officials to shake down potential funders – with various promises for generous pay-to-play contributors.

The importance to create not just the reality, but equally important, the perception that the contribution limits are fair, just and proportionate

  • The proposed contribution limits call for a 50% increase for ward council and 900% for Mayor.
  • I feel a $10,000 contribution limit for Mayor and $1500 for ward councilpersons is much too high.
  • By comparison, individual contribution limits for President of the United States is $2700 per election. PAC limits are $5000 per year.
  • Why exactly do mayoral candidates believe they should be entitled to receive political contributions in amounts more than 3 times as large as candidates for President of the United States of America? And why should increases be more than the rate of inflation?
  • High contribution limits can create the perception that Cleveland politicians are potentially for sale…or at least for rent.
  • Seen from another perspective, there are tens of thousands of Clevelanders who are economically hurting. Poverty is at 39%. Median household income is less than $25,000. These Clevelanders can’t conceivable relate to giving a political candidate $100, let alone $10,000. They are trying to do more with less. It would seem appropriate that those who they elect to represent them might want to consider trying to do the same.
  • President Carter last week in an interview on the BBC called large political contributions at the federal level “legalized bribery.” This is what increasingly citizens feel – victimized by a political “capital punishment,” – meaning if they don’t have political capital to invest in elections, they will be punished – by not having their voices heard, their needs met, their communities helped. This is what citizens in Akron felt in 1998 when they passed by an overwhelming margin a campaign finance reform ballot initiative that I helped organize. It’s also the feeling of citizens who are organizing for the passage of city council resolutions and ballot initiatives across the country to get big money out of elections from wealthy individuals and corporate entities.

Finally, the importance to understand your own limitations in establishing local laws

  • Meaningful campaign finance reform is needed everywhere.
  • However, there’s only so much that can be done by you and other legislatures.
  • Our government is increasingly broken because the system is fixed – as in rigged to benefit the super wealthy and corporate interests that have corrupted and perverted the Constitution to equate corporations as legal persons and money as equivalent to free speech.
  • These two doctrines make any real reform virtually impossible. All that can be done under the current constitutional ground rules is construct campaign finance “speed bumps.”
  • The ultimate solution to the problem is to end corporate personhood and money as speech. That what the MTA citizen initiative seeks to do.
  • You may or may not know, Councilwoman Cleveland certainly does as a member of the committee, that there is currently a citizen initiative being circulated which seeks to place on this November’s ballot in Cleveland, calling on Congress to pass a Constitutional Amendment to end corporate personhood and money defined as free speech.
  • If passed, this constitutional amendment would allow you, as local elected representatives, to truly define the amounts and sources of campaign contributions that make sense to you and citizens. It also would allow real public financing of elections.
  • In the meantime, it’s an imperfect world. Special interests have many ways to circumvent any limitations, however small or large, that you determine.
  • However, what you do, in establishing contribution limits, nevertheless sends a message – to citizens, voters, and potential funders.
  • May the limits that you agree to send the message across the city that the voices of citizens without money will not be drowned out by the voices of citizens and noncitizens that do contribute to the political campaigns in Cleveland.

Thank you.

Contact: GColeridge@AFSC.org / 330-928-2301

NEO AFSC February 5, 2016 Podcast

podcasticon

Listen to podcast here

We report on last week’s activities; announce next week’s events; and comment on President Carter calling big campaign contributions “legalized bribery,” a challenge to enact political campaign contribution limits in Cuyahoga County, a proposal to raise political campaign contribution limits in Cleveland by 900%, the Akron “Blue Ribbon” committee recommendation of exploring selling/leasing the water and sewer system, and the official signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  (Length 38:43)