If you haven’t noticed, your fellow Americans are somewhat pissed about our political situation. No, I take it back — they’re mad as hell. Back in August, I was mad as hell too. I watched in disgust as Washington’s debt ceiling debacle grew from a tremor into an earthquake — one that tore deep fissures in our confidence as a nation to get anything done.
What made it even more frustrating for me, and everyone that I spoke to in late summer of 2011, was that there was little one could do about it but lose your temper. Which of course, I did.
Then, I watched as a funny thing began to happen. Something unexpected, but something so necessary. A summer of simmering frustration turned into a September of action.
People woke up. And then, finally, they began to fight back.
Occupy Wall Street began as a great experiment, with people camping out in Zuccotti Park in downtown New York, sparking a worldwide movement of protests and tent cities. Occupiers had discussions about the future of our economy with a Nobel laureate economist. They echoed back the guidance of spiritual leaders who came to offer words of encouragement. They built a library, they cooked for each other, and they fed the homeless. All of those were noble achievements.
But the most critical thing Occupy Wall Street achieved was this: they lit the match that reignited a national conversation about the link between global inequality and government corruption.
Then something else happened. Members of Congress began introducing bills to fight corruption.
We were inspired to begin work on a project to attack the nefarious influence of money in our political system. As a result, the Get Money Out project was born. It’s a project where we band together, using the best of our collective resources, to ban money from the political process. We recognized early on that this couldn’t be done in the usual way — it had to be a national movement. And that’s exactly what happened. Over 300,000 of us are now on board, and we’ve started the “Great 28 Debate” on ratifying a 28th amendment to the Constitution.
There are now 13 different Constitutional amendments being proposed by various groups and politicians, all focused on money and politics. One Republican Presidential nominee, Buddy Roemer, has based his entire campaign on the corrupting influence of big money. Tea Party advocates like Mark Meckler have come on board. Celebrities and entertainers are committing their resources, from Steven Van Zandt to The Goo Goo Dolls to Russell Simmons. And business leaders, like my friend Landon Rowland, former Kansas City Southern Railroad CEO, and Charlie Kolb, President of the Committee for Economic Development (the organization that wrote the original Marshall Plan), are starting to make waves.
For the first time, this is more than just hopeful chatter about a nationwide movement. We’re seeing concrete, determined action on the local level. The city of Los Angeles has now passed a resolution demanding Congress pass a Constitutional amendment saying that “only living, breathing human beings are afforded Constitutional rights.” We expect many towns and cities to follow suit.
In the past, I’ve likened this effort to “Climbing Everest.” While we have some strong momentum, climbing Everest is no joke. If you and I aspire to be change agents in our society, we must enlist ourselves in a campaign to get money out of politics. As our friend Lawrence Lessig said on The Daily Show this week, ”money is the root, and unless we find rootstrikers who are willing to strike at that root, we’re never going to fix the problem.”
Many of you have signed our petition at Get Money Out. Over the next few months, we need your help to expand this into a full-fledged movement. It is only possible if we enlist each other to work towards this singular goal. We will do that by exposing the auction, advocating municipal resolutions, and convincing our elected representatives to debate and ratify a 28th Amendment to separate business and state.
We also have to put this message everywhere we can. For every school or university that has a student council, that student council should call upon Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment to get money out. If you belong to a local Democratic or Republican club, same deal. If you own shares in a company, call investor relations and tell them how you feel. We can apply direct pressure to state pension managers to do the same thing, as some are starting to do, like New York City’s Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio.
And let’s not be fooled. Our very own Supreme Court says the Constitution allows corporations to spend unlimited secret funds in elections. Our elected officials are only too happy to use that for their benefit, while the voice of the individual voter is increasingly — and dangerously — silenced. President Obama and Mitt Romney are happily scooping up money from Wall Street, while Buddy Roemer, who refuses to take anything but small individual donations from voters, is being shut out. Not only by the Republican establishment, but by the national media who have refused to give him a spot in the GOP presidential debates.
Nevertheless, we can do this. We will do this. Abandon the psychology of what we are going to do, and embrace the psychology of what we are doing.
Behold, the 13 amendments in The Great 28 Debate. Every one of them is depending on us to turn them from a fantasy into a reality.
1) Rep. Ted Deutch – OCCUPIED Amendment (or Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy)
Introduced by Congressman Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), the amendment reverses Citizen’s United by stating that corporations are not people under the Constitution, and that corporations are barred from making election-related expenditures. It authorizes Congress and the states to regulate all election contributions and expenditures, and reaffirms Congress’ right to regulate corporations.
2) Sen. Bernie Sanders – Saving American Democracy Amendment
Senator Bernie Sanders introduced an amendment in the Senate that mirrors the OCCUPIED amendment in the House. Introducing this “companion bill” in the Senate allows both houses of Congress to begin debate on the same bill without having to wait for the other to pass it. Learn more. Read the amendment.
3) Cenk Uygur, Wolf PAC – Wolf PAC Amendment
Wolf PAC, a group started by progressive TV and radio host Cenk Uygur, reverses corporate personhood and prohibits corporations from giving to any politician. The amendment also sets a cap of $100 on all political donations and it establishes a public system to fund political campaigns. Read the amendment.
4) Senator Tom Udall – Udall Amendment
Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) along with eight other Democratic Senators proposed an amendment that gives Congress the power to regulate all money spent on campaigns and outside political groups such as Super PACs. It allows states to regulate state elections in the same manner. It would clear the way for Congress to pass reform legislation that would limit spending and would withstand a challenge in the Supreme Court. Read the amendment.
5) Rep. Jim McGovern and Free Speech for People – The People’s Right’s Amendment
Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) introduced the amendment with the support of Free Speech for People, a non-profit group that aims to end corporate personhood. The amendment states that people or persons as used in the Constitution does not include corporations and that corporations are subject to regulation by the people through their elected representatives. Read the amendment.
6) Public Citizen – Democracy is for People Amendment
Pursued by the non-profit group Public Citizen, the amendment would reverse the Citizen’s Uniteddecision and permit Congress to regulate political spending by corporations. The amendment has not been drafted into specific language, but is based on a set of core principles. Read those principles and get more information.
7) Russell Simmons – Simmons Amendment
Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons announced support for an amendment in a speech to Occupy Boston protesters. The amendment establishes public funding of political campaigns and prohibits any political contributions from any source. It gives Congress the authority to design and enforce the public funding system. Read the full text of the amendment. Watch Simmons’ speech.
8)Rep. Donna Edwards – Edwards Amendment
Introduced by Representative Donna Edwards (D-Md.), the amendment would overturn theCitizen’s United Supreme Court ruling by allowing Congress to regulate political spending by corporations.
9) Rep. Kurt Schrader – Schrader Amendment
Introduced by Representative Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), the amendment authorizes Congress and the states to regulate the contribution of all funds to candidates and the expenditure of funds to influence elections. Read the amendment.
10) Rep. Marcy Kaptur – Kaptur Amendment
Introduced by Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), the amendment authorizes Congress and the states to set limits on the contributions that may be accepted by and the expenditures that may be made in support or in opposition to candidates running for public office.
11) Move to Amend – Move to Amend
A group opposed to corporate personhood, Move to Amend, has proposed an amendment that would overturn Citizen’s United by affirming that corporations are not people and can be regulated, and that money is not speech and can be regulated.
12) Get Money Out – Get Money Out Amendment
The amendment was proposed by the Get Money Out organization, which was started by MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan, and became a part of United Republic in late 2011. The amendment prohibits corporations from making political donations and affirms that political donations are not speech, which allows Congress to regulate them. It also makes election day a federal holiday.
13) Lawrence Lessig – Lessig Amendment
Lawrence Lessig, Harvard professor and founder of Rootstrikers, which joined forces with United Republic in late 2011, introduced an amendment that prohibits corporations from contributing money to any candidate, limits campaign contributions to $100, and gives Congress the power to regulate outside campaign spending. It also establishes Election Day as a national holiday.
So that’s the team so far. Join us at GetMoneyOut.com. Tell your friends. Let the world know.