Cleveland citizens decry impact of Citizens United case at first Democracy Day hearing

DemocracyDay

Hearing prompts calls to curb corporate campaign influence

By Robert Higgs, cleveland.com

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2017/05/cleveland_citizens_decry_impac.html#incart_river_home

Progressive populism

Populism

The debate over the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the US Supreme Court has increased the opportunity for the rise of a more progressive populism promoting justice, peace and real self-determination/democracy. It’s a very positive development for those who’ve been in an uphill struggle for years, if not decades, to shed light on the growing political influence of the super wealthy and corporations. It marks yet another turning point in the growing awareness that our government has been increasingly hijacked by corporate interests and the super rich. It also has expanded growing public awareness that the problem extends beyond a certain politician, political party, law or regulation. The fundamental problem is the governing rules thanks to activist Supreme Court decisions anointing corporations greater never-intended constitutional rights and equating money as free speech.

Liberation from past oppressions of women and people of color have occurred when social movements have formed to force constitutional changes. Overcoming the political oppression that literally the 99% face today will only happen if we follow the same recipe — the formation of a broad based, multiracial, intergeneration and transpartisan movement to force constitutional change via an amendment abolishing corporate personhood and money as speech.

It’s not easy. Past movements weren’t either. Yet they ultimately prevailed. So shall we.

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Democrats use Trump’s populism against him in fight over Gorsuch nomination
USA TODAY  |  April 5, 2017
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/04/05/democrats-use-trumps-populism-against-him-fight-over-gorsuch-nomination/100052604/

 

 

 

Cleveland initiative opposing Citizens United should have gone to city voters: Lois Romanoff and Chris Stocking (Opinion)

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Great piece posted on cleveland.com…

I offered many reflections in the comments section at the end.

http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2017/03/cleveland_democracy_day_is_wel.html#incart_river_home

Hacked off by the Electoral College

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Below is the January newsletter posting from the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD). It’s posted here because the POCLAD website, poclad.org, was hacked at the end of 2016 with content of the entire website erased. We were hoping to have the site restored before sending out this article. The website will, hopefully, be back online in the next few weeks. We feel POCLAD’s archives and occasional articles examining core democracy/self-governance issues are more relevant now than ever.

HACKED OFF BY THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE
Greg Coleridge

It happened again. For the fifth time in our nation’s history, we have a President of the United States who received fewer popular votes than his opponent.

As if we needed more political developments to question the legitimacy of our political system, we can now add to the growing list a President claiming a mandate to implement his agenda who lost the election by 2.86 million votes.

This issue for many is all about the individual persons who actually won and lost. It shouldn’t be. The larger, more fundamental issue is about democracy.  It’s about the credibility and legitimacy of our political system.

The fundamental question is very simple: should citizens in the United States have the right to have their individual votes count equally when electing their President? Yes or No?

While Congressional Committees are now investigating the threat posed to our elections by the Russians, including possible hacking of private emails, every citizen should be hacked off by the proven threat to democracy on full public display every four years by the built-in system for (s)electing the President: the Electoral College.

Never mind a possible single wall built between Mexico and the U.S. in the next four years, multiple walls were erected in our own original Constitution to keep We the People outside our own government and governance.1  Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Jay and other of our nation’s “founders,” fearing the potential political power of “the rabble,” had little interest in establishing anything approaching a real democracy.

History

The Electoral College is one of those walls. A relic of the immoral and heinous slavery era of our nation, the Electoral College was included in the Constitution to protect the political power of southern slave states when electing the President. Since slaves had zero rights, including the right to vote, an actual democratic national popular voting system would threaten the institution of slavery.

A nifty alternative was proposed by southern slave masters counting the “votes” of states over those of citizens, with each slave counted as 3/5ths of a real person when determining the number of proportional “electors” representing that state. This inflated the political power of slave states, protecting the barbaric institution.  Democracy, like many slaves who resisted their inhumane treatment, was tarred and featured. Little wonder that four of the nation’s first five Presidents were from slave-dense Virginia.

Adding to the dismay was the requirement that each state, regardless of population, would receive an additional two electors — representing the number of Senators of each state. The democratic distortion was in full display (or decay) before the ink dried on the parchment of the original Constitution.

The sordid link between the Electoral College and slavery transcends its birth. Rutherford B. Hayes was the second loser of the popular vote to become President.  Hayes lost the popular vote to Samuel Tilden in 1877. Twenty electoral votes were “unresolved.” The (s)election of Hayes as President was determined by a special commission, controlled by the CEO of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and made up of Supreme Court justices and members of Congress. A deal was struck, The Compromise of 1877: Hayes would receive the 20 electoral votes if he agreed to pull federal troops from the South. This put an end to Reconstruction and the launch of Jim Crow racist laws. Those same troops were shifted to put down the first national labor strike in 1877, resulting in the death of over 100 strikers. Other troops were sent to fight the “Indian Wars” in the West, which stole land and created a different form of enslavement – Indian Reservations.2  Thank you Electoral College!

Democratic disaster

A few years ago Donald Trump said: “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.”
Views can and do obviously change when the shoe is on the other foot – or in his case Tweets are coming from another smartphone.  It’s not surprising that Electoral College outrage is so partisan. It’s the same with gerrymandering. Those doing the line drawing to benefit their political party and marginalize the other party always think it’s fair, even if the drawing paints a democratically damning picture. The Electoral College is, however, a nonpartisan assault on real democracy.

The major pillar of the Electoral College defense is the argument that it provides balance in ensuring political voice and power to rural and unpopulated communities and states. The point was made, for example, that the entire 2.86 million popular vote advantage of Clinton came from just California and New York and, thus, a popular voting system would in effect be determined by wishes, wills and whims of these two coastal states.3

Numbers can be parsed, of course, in ways to make exactly the opposite point. Texas, with its 38 electoral votes, can be claimed to have determined the national election. Given that Trump received 74 more electoral votes than Clinton, it can be asserted that it was the wishes, wills and whims of the Lone Star State alone that determined the final outcome.

There’s a reason that no other nation on the planet self-identifying as a “democracy” or “democratic republic” has anything like an Electoral College. Why? Because it violates the basic democratic principle of “one person, one vote.” Every vote should count and be weighted identically. Under the Electoral College, voters in small states have greater power per person than in more populous states due to every state, regardless of population, automatically receiving two electoral votes. It’s simple math.

Smaller states also have disproportionate power in the U.S. Senate. Gerrymandered congressional districts result in one political party (Republicans at the moment) having far better representation in the House of Representatives than their number of registered party members would warrant in state after state. If you add in the rights of minorities from majorities (be they individuals or institutions) inherently protected by the U.S. Supreme Court, a solid argument can be made that the constitutional scale is tipped well away from the right or power of popular, majority rule.

The fundamental democratic “unit” in our country is the human person (or in the case of elections, voters), not “the state” or “substate” like such as individual states, counties, cities, wards, or precincts. It should be irrelevant, therefore, how many states, counties, cities, wards or precincts presidential candidates won, but only how many eligible human votes they received. That’s how winning candidates are determined for Senate, House of Representatives, state elected office, county elected office, mayor, councilperson, even ward precinct committee person. Governors in all 50 states are elected by popular vote. Should not the same be true for the governor of all states – the President?

It’s only the Electoral College that permits losers to be winners.

If this were as fair as its promoters suggest in choosing a President, it would be a relative breeze to develop an equivalent Electoral College-friendly system at the state level to elect, say, U.S. Senators. Compared to the months it takes for state officials every decade to create gerrymandered congressional and state senate and representative districts, designing such a system would be a relative cakewalk. Winning the greatest number of counties in their a state with rural counties weighted more heavily would elect U.S. Senators regardless of the state’s overall popular vote. Why hasn’t it happened? Because no politician or “Blue Ribbon Commission” could sell it to the public.

Winning when losing broadens and deepens the ever-growing legitimacy crisis of the Presidency in particular and U.S. political system in general.

The hallmark of one person, one vote as the mechanism to determine outcomes transcends politics to include virtually every civil society organization. Even “Dancing with the Stars” honors one person, one vote in their annual faux electronic elections. You can’t get any more culturally legit!

Taking action

There are very few moments when fundamental flaws in governing institutions are so blatantly revealed. This is one of them.

The challenge will be to address fundamental democratic constitutional flaws amidst responding to scores of anticipated horrific public policy proposals from the Trump Administration.4  It’s what the Move to Amend (www.movetoamend.org) campaign to abolish corporate constitutional rights and money defined as constitutionally-protected free speech faces in the coming years.

It’s the same old story for people of conscience: deciding where to strategically place their strategic time, energy and resources. Should we focus on electing or unelecting public officials? Should we advocate for better laws and regulations? Should we organize for long-term structural and institutional change?

The answer is, of course, some of each. They’re all needed. They all, if understood as a package, reinforce one another.

Despite the in-our-faces contradiction between the myth of one person, one vote that we’re raised to believe our nation upholds compared with the reality the Electoral College presents, little activist energy exists for a constitutional amendment campaign to abolish this antidemocratic arrangement, despite an Amendment being introduced in late 2016 by former Senator Barbara Boxer.

Abolishing the Electoral College is more likely to occur as part of a larger package of constitutional “Democracy Amendments” in the future. This will require that citizens continue organizing a larger “democracy movement” which undergirds many current social, economic, political and environmental efforts.  As a reaction to the evaporating myth of democracy in our country, there is growing dedication to a democracy movement capable of successfully pushing a package of “Democracy Amendments.”  It could be a reality much sooner than we think.

In the meantime, there is an alternative strategy that would neutralize the Electoral College and its democratic distortions. Ten states and the District of Columbia have already passed legislation awarding their respective Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote. These states and DC account for 165 electors.  If additional states with a cumulative total of 105 electors take the same action, the Electoral College would, in effect, be trumped with one person, one vote becoming the means for deciding the next President.

Being hacked off about the Electoral College is wholly legitimate.  Our task is to convert that anger into positive vision, engagement and common action on behalf of an electoral system with democratic integrity.

Notes

1 A list of undemocratic Constitutional provisions has been itemized in an earlier POCLAD article, A U.S. Constitution with DEMOCRACY IN MIND, http://poclad.org/BWA/2007/BWA_2007_MAR.html#3
2 Human Rights for Human Beings, Not Corporations,
http://poclad.org/BWA/2001/BWA_2001_MAR.html
3 The word “coast” is constantly used in this and other contexts not as a geographic descriptor but as a form of derision. “The coast” infers being on the edge or fringe, compared to being mainstream, or the center. The Midwest is authentic or real because it lies in the “heartland.” Interesting how those who use the word “coast” with such derision never use it when describing, say, Texas, with considerable coastline on the southern edge or fringe of the nation.
4 There would have been many horrific policies, though in some cases of a different set, deserving of immediate reaction and resistance if Clinton had been elected.

Testimony at Cleveland Heights “Democracy Day” Public Hearing

democracy-day-webpage-banner

January 25, 2017

Move to Amend’s proposed constitutional We the People Amendment has two components. One is much simpler to understand – ending the constitutional doctrine that money is equal to free speech – because the problems connecting big money to political lobbying and elections are so pervasive.

The other component – ending corporate constitutional rights – is more challenging to grasp. The fundamental problems with corporate constitutional rights transcend the influence of corporate money contributed or invested in political lobbying and elections. Corporate constitutional rights have their own set of components that have in many instances over a century corrupted and perverted authentic democracy.

Beyond corporate free speech rights preventing laws limiting corporate campaign donations, those same 1st Amendment free speech rights have prevented communities from acquiring the right to know what ingredients (i.e, chemicals, GMOs) are in their food. That’s due to the acquired corporate 1st Amendment right not to speak. Corporate religious rights, granted in the Hobby Lobby decision, have limited access to health care to employees. Corporate property rights, (via the 5th Amendment takings clause) have limited laws protecting communities from environmental destruction. Corporate privacy rights (via the 4th Amendment) have limited the health, safety and welfare at workplaces over decades. And corporate commerce rights (via the perversion of the Commerce Clause and 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause) have limited laws and regulations on pipelines, transportation of toxic waste, mining, and landfills.

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Nearly 70 people attended the Democracy Day public hearing

Corporate anthropologist Jane Anne Morris in her book Gaveling Down the Rabble states that 100’s of democratically enacted laws and regulations protecting workers, consumers and the environment passed by Democratic and Republican state and local legislatures over decades have been overturned by the corporate perversion of the Commerce Clause and 14th Amendment. Before the  1st Amendment became the go-to democratically destructive hammer of corporate agents, it was the Commerce Clause and 14th Amendment.

If all we do is overturn Citizens United or merely end money as speech, corporate agents will reach back into their anti-democratic tool kit and assault us like they did in the past – usurping democratically enacted laws. Amending the Constitution is damn hard. It rarely happens. It’s not like reaching a goal through passing a series of laws one piece at a time. We only have one chance. We better make the most of it. That’s why abolishing the legal doctrine of money defined as free speech and corporations defined as legal persons as reflected in the We the People Amendment is mandatory.

History shows that what seems impossible today becomes inevitable tomorrow based on the degree of internal preparedness and timing of external conditions.

Now’s the time to educate ourselves and others, pass resolutions, collect organizational endorsement, organize ballot initiatives, and encourage Congressional endorsers. The right time and conditions externally will inevitably arrive.

Electoral College Hijacks Democracy — Again

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Today is a historic day. Only 5 times in the history of the United States of America has a select number of individuals come together to overrule the will of a majority of voters who case their ballots for the President of the United States.

Those Overrulers are members of the Electoral College. Despite Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote by over 2 million individuals, Donald Trump won the majority of “Electoral College” votes — a relic of early U.S. history established to protect the political power of slave states from “free” northern states.

We are, thus, enslaved over the next four years with being ruled by a President without a popular mandate — again. Our undemocratic Constitution has once more delegitimized and corroded what remains of our democratic republic.

Over the last six months, we’ve seen three grotesque examples of democratic people power being hijacked by the power elite (I.e. wealthy individuals and corporations):

1.    Last summer, ExxonMobil Corporation argued in court against publicly releasing documents on what they knew about the effects of human activities, specifically the burning of fossil fuels, on climate change. Their defense was that such a release of such information was a violation of their 1st Amendment free speech, 4th Amendment search and seizure and 14th Amendment due process constitutional “rights.”

2.    Over the past two years, the impact of political contributions from the super wealthy and corporations from the Presidential level on down (or up, depending on your view) to the federal Congressional and state levels have drowned out the voices of people and constituencies trying to raise critical issues, perspectives and alternatives without access to millions of dollars to run political ads during the current election cycle. It’s nothing new. It was just worse that the previous election cycle, which was worse than the preceding cycle.

3.    The candidate for President of the United States who received two million more votes than her closest competitor lost to that competitor because of some arcane, slavery-era Constitutional provision.
Some democracy.

So what are the lessons for those dedicated to creating real democracy?

There are many, but the central one is the need to not only spend activist time, energy and resources focused on changing public officials, laws and regulations. We must also spend at least some time focusing time, energy and resources on changing or amending the many undemocratic elements of the U.S. Constitution.

How many more times will a corporation assert never-intended constitutional rights to avoid being accountable to the public and the planet before we act? How many more election cycles must we live through where the voices of huge numbers of individuals and key constituencies will not be politically heard before we act? How many more Presidents will be “elected” who receive fewer votes than their competitors before we act?

Imagine if a measly 1% of the $1.4 billion that was spent to elect Clinton was invested in a national effort to democratize the U.S. Constitution (addressing the items mentioned above and others)? That’s $14 million. Not a bad down payment for doing some democratic damage (as in positive change)!

Regarding the Electoral College, there is a short-term solution short of amending the Constitution. It’s passage in states of what’s called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). The idea is that states that pass this law agree to award all their electoral votes to the Presidential candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide, regardless of the vote in participating states.  Since it’s a law, what one legislature can pass, another in the future can repeal. It’s certainly better than what we have, but not as permanent as amending the Constitution to abolish the Electoral College altogether.

It’s time to take advantage of this outrageous, but also teachable and organizing moment to fundamental (re)create real democracy by democratizing our Constitution.

Cleveland City Council passes ordinance on corporate power and money in elections

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NEWS RELEASE

Contacts: Lois Romanoff, 216-231-2170, loisromanoff@gmail.com
Chris Stocking, 440-376-8400, Christopher.Stocking@gmail.com
Diane Karpinski, 216-921-2474, ms.diane.karpinski@gmail.com
Greg Coleridge, 216-255-2184, gcoleridge@afsc.org

For immediate release, December 8, 2016

Cleveland City Council passes ordinance calling for U.S. Constitutional Amendment on corporate power and money in elections; creates biennial Democracy Day

[Cleveland, OH]  Cleveland City Council Monday night passed an ordinance calling on Congress to enact a Constitutional Amendment ending constitutional rights for corporate entities and to money being defined as free speech. The ordinance also establishes an every-other-year “Democracy Day” public hearing that will address the impact on the City of political contributions by corporations, unions, Political Action Committees, and Super-PACS; the first to be held in May, 2017

The Cleveland Move to Amend (MTA) campaign, part of the national Move to Amend movement that is proposing the Constitutional Amendment, had submitted last summer more than 5000 valid signatures by volunteers required by the City Charter to place the initiative on the ballot.

“We thank Cleveland City Council for taking a position on this important national issue,” said Lois Romanoff, co-chair of Cleveland Move to Amend. “We feel local public officials need to oppose the growing corrupting influence power corporate entities in our society and big money in our elections. It’s clear from the recent election that voters believe government has been captured by interests who don’t represent people without money or power.”

“We urged City Council to place the citizen initiative on the ballot for voter consideration rather than simply enact the initiative, said Chris Stocking, co-chair of Cleveland Move to Amend. “We feel these issues are important enough to have not only Cleveland public officials take a position, but Cleveland citizens. A ballot measure would have given us the opportunity to broadly discuss with the community the many problems connected with corporate power and large campaign contributions from the super wealthy.”

“While we had hoped Cleveland City Council would have permitted our initiative to go to the ballot, we look forward to working with them to hold the first biennial Democracy Day public hearing next May,” said Diane Karpinski, member of Cleveland MTA. The hearing will be an ongoing arena to shed light on the problems of and alternatives to corporate constitutional rights and the rights of unlimited money being spent in elections.”

“Hundreds of communities across the nation have already enacted municipal resolutions and/or ballot measures in support of this Constitutional Amendment,” said Greg Coleridge, Move to Amend Ohio coordinator and Director of the NE Ohio American Friends Service Committee. “Twenty two communities in Ohio have, to date, taken a stand — 12 via municipal resolution and 10 by the ballot, including this past November with 82% of Shaker Heights voters and 77% of South Euclid voters.”

Citizens in Brecksville, Chagrin Falls, Cleveland Heights, Defiance, Kent, Mentor, Newburgh Heights, and Toledo previously passed a similar ballot initiative while the communities of Athens, Barberton, Bedford Heights, Canton, Dayton, Fremont, Lakewood, Lorain, Oakwood Village, Oberlin, Oxford, and South Euclid passed city council resolutions supporting the Move to Amend-backed Constitutional Amendment.

Move to Amend support the We the People Amendment, HJR 48. It’s co-sponsored by 22 U.S. Representatives.

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