Senate majority leader Harry Reid gave a hell of a speech in Congress about the agenda of the billionaire Koch brothers, carbon barons who are the prime beneficiaries of Citizens United, the Supreme Court case that ruled that corporate persons had the free speech right to engage in unlimited campaign finance spending.
I've posted before about Ben "Ben and Jerry's" Cohen's Stamp Stampede project: Cohen is calling on enemies of corruption to stamp messages opposing the Citizens United Supreme Court decision on dollar bills. Citizens United allows for unlimited political spending, on the grounds that money is speech and corporations are people.
Cohen's running a competition to produce the best Stamp Stampede promotional photo: grand prize is a year's supply (52 pints) of Ben and Jerry's ice-cream.
Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's is riding around the country in a rainbow colored van, stamping $1 bills with messages like "not to be used for bribing politicians," as a way of raising consciousness about the impact of money in politics in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court verdict, which opened the doors to infinite campaign financing by special interests.
He's seeking a constitutional amendment that overturns the verdict, and he's got 15 states onboard. You can sign a petition, buy a stamp and stamp your own money, and hold stamping parties with your friends. The full list of stamp messages is:
"Not to Be Used for Bribing Politicians".
"Stamp Money Out of Politics"
"Corporations are Not People"
“Not To Be Used for Buying Elections”
CISPA is a bill before Congress that will radically increase the ease with which the government and police can spy on people without any particular suspicion. It is being rammed through by people like Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), who received a small fortune in funding from the companies that stand to get rich building the surveillance tech CISPA will make possible.
What's more, Rogers admits it, and even tweets about it! Nicko Margolies from the Sunlight Foundation writes,
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), a co-sponsor and major supporter of the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), deleted a retweet of an analysis of contributions to lawmakers from pro-CISPA companies. MapLight looked at the powerful House Intelligence Committee, where Rep. Rogers serves as Chairman, and followed campaign contributions to the members who are currently considering the bill that would allow companies to share more information on Internet traffic and users with the U.S. government.
Rep. Rogers, or possibly a member of his staff, retweeted the story that identified that members of the House Intelligence Committee "have received, on average, 15 times more money in campaign contributions from pro-CISPA organizations than from anti-CISPA organizations." He retweeted MapLight's tweet of this information from his iPhone and after 23 minutes thought better of it and removed it. Fortunately the Sunlight Foundation's Politwoops project caught it and archived this change of message and of heart. According to the MapLight piece, Rep. Rogers received $214,750 from interest groups that support CISPA.
The EFF has more info on CISPA, and ways you can help kill it.
Corporations are people, so the city of Seattle can't have an opt-out policy for spammy phonebooks no one wants
Seattle will spend $500,000 to settle a lawsuit it lost with phonebook companies over its sensible opt-out program for residents.
Beginning in May 2011, Seattle began allowing residents to opt out of unwanted phonebook deliveries. The program was so popular, the city reports that more than 2 million pounds of paper are saved annually as a result. The phonebook companies sued the city and lost, but won on appeal. The city has chosen not to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The phonebook companies alleged in their complaint that the phonebook ordinance, 'denies [their] rights guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.'(free speech and due process). If not for the legal concept of 'corporate personhood', the phonebook companies wouldn't be able to sue Seattle to assert Constitutional rights originally written only for people.
Rather than ask the question, 'are the phonebook companies people?'and 'do they have the right to free speech?'the courts have focused largely on whether the content in the phonebooks (advertisements and phone listings) represent free speech which can't be regulated or commercial speech, which can be.
The companies claim, 'The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits government from -- enforcing the desire of citizens to avoid communications [and] from prying into citizens' preferences regarding communications they seek to avoid.'
DiominicMR sez, "This past weekend, Occupy Wall Street and Reverend Billy put on one of the largest, most elaborate pieces of street art I've ever seen: a mass wedding between humans and corporations on Wall Street, to mark the third anniversary of Citizens United. This video captures it perfectly. Enjoy!"
Marin's Jonathan Frieman set out driving in the carpool lane with his articles of incorporation in the passenger seat, and when he was ticketed, he offered this defense: Corporations are people, I had a corporation in the car with me, therefore I had two people in the car, and qualified for the HOV lane.
The concept of corporate personhood has been an ongoing controversy for years—but it hit the mainstream in 2010 following the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which held that restricting political expenditures by corporations was a violation of their First Amendment rights to free speech. Implicit in such a ruling, some argue, is that the Constitution grants protections to corporations as if they were people.
Representing Frieman is attorney Ford Greene—he, too, says the state vehicle code treats a person and a corporation as equivalent.
"When a corporation is present in one's car, it is sufficient to qualify as a two-person occupancy for commuter lane purposes," says Greene, who’s also a San Anselmo city councilmember. "When the corporate presence in our electoral process is financially dominant, by parity it appears appropriate to recognize such presence in an automobile."
It's a delicious bit of absurdity, but leaves lots of wiggle-room for the judge, such as:
* Corporations are people, but have intangible bodies that encompass more than their articles -- also their boards, employees, capital, physical plant, etc. You didn't have a corporation in the car with you, you had its paperwork -- like driving with your friend's birth-certificate and claiming that's the same as driving with your friend.
* Corporations are people, but just as they can't vote, hold public office, or drive a car, they also can't qualify as passengers.
But don't let's let this nit-picking interfere with a good wheeze.
Josh Levy from Free Press sez, "My colleague Tim Karr just released a report exposing the billions spent on political ads around the country -- and how that money is pocketed by local TV stations. Are these stations offering any local news coverage to debunk the lies in these ads? Are they exposing the deep-pocketed interests behind the groups buying ad time? The short answer is: No. The local stations we looked at in the report provided no local stories exposing the special interests behind these ads, and only one station among the 20 surveyed devoted even a few minutes to investigating whether these ads told viewers the truth."
Here are some details from our new report, Left in the Dark: Local Coverage in the Age of Big-Money Politics:
* The Super PACs vs. Justin Bieber: The hundreds of hours of local news that aired in the two weeks prior to Wisconsin's June 5 recall election included no stories on the 17 groups most actively buying time on Milwaukee's ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates. While these stations were ignoring the impact of political ads, they found time to air 53 local news segments on Justin Bieber.
* Fact-Check Fail: The ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates in Charlotte, Cleveland, Las Vegas and Milwaukee did not once fact-check the claims made in political ads placed locally by the nation's top-spending Super PACs and independent groups, even though these groups had spent tens of millions of dollars on frequently deceptive ads in those markets.
* Hush Money: Cleveland's four affiliate stations provided no coverage of the Koch brothers-funded group Americans for Prosperity, despite airing the group's anti-Obama attack ads more than 500 times. Americans for Prosperity has reportedly spent more than $1.5 million to place ads on Cleveland television stations.
* News Out of Balance: Affiliate stations in Tampa aired on average more than 200 political ads a day throughout August. Yet only one station, WTSP, devoted news time to fact-checking any of the most prominent groups buying these ads. In a single segment running less than three minutes, WTSP rated an Americans for Prosperity ad as false, a finding that didn't stop the station from running the group's anti-Obama ads more than 150 times that month.
Nicko from the Sunlight Foundation sez,
The Sunlight Foundation recently launched a free mobile app to help voters better know who is buying political ads this election year. Ad Hawk available for iPhone and Android, listens to campaign, super PAC and issue ads on the TV or radio and then lists information about who placed the ads, their campaign finance profile and other information.
Ad Hawk is simple to use: just listen, identify and learn. When you see a political ad on TV or hear one on the radio, open the app to have Ad Hawk start listening to the ad. In less than 30 seconds, Ad Hawk will create an audio fingerprint using open-source technology and start searching our database of thousands of ads for a match. We identify new ads by monitoring media reports and the YouTube channels of political groups and campaigns. When Ad Hawk finds a match, users will get information on their phone about how much money the ad's sponsor received or spent, where the ad is on the air and media reports about the candidate or political group.
Jeff sez, "Some graphic designers in Seattle anonymously created these cool "Corporations Aren't People" posters for the I103 initiative... they are editable PDFs so you can change the text as needed."
What is Initiative Measure 103? Measure 103 is a citizen's initiative in Seattle to elevate peoples' rights above corporate rights and put an end to corporate personhood and other legal privileges corporations use to overrule communities in our democracy. Read the initiative.
What does Measure 103 do? If enacted, the measure would prohibit corporations from making political contributions or lobbying, end corporate personhood and close the revolving door between elected officials and corporations impacted by their lawmaking. The measure would establish community rights to fair elections, clean government, self-government, citizen oversight of the police, rights for neighborhoods to approve zoning changes, Constitutional rights for workers, rights for nature to protect Puget Sound, our resident Orca pods and salmon runs and legislate status quo network neutrality.
Scott Edelman sez, "Artist Sarah Guthrie (whose work I discovered at the Crystal City, VA art installation Artomatic) believes that since Citizens United grants corporations the same legal status as human beings, they's surely want their own portraits. And so she has painted AT&T, Mattel, General Mills and other corporations in the style of the old masters in a series she calls Corporate Masters. She writes: 'The corporations selected are large multi-nationals that have been highlighted in the news recently: for legally paying less in federal income tax than you and me; for market domination; for bringing the economy to the brink of disaster.'"
In Slate, Dahlia Lithwick examines the impact that Stephen Colbert's SuperPAC is having on public perception of the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, which establishes that "corporate personhood" means that corporations can make unlimited contributions to political campaigns. Dahlia implies that the Court, which has always maintained an aloofness from public life (no cameras, no press office) is smarting under Colbert's withering sarcasm, and that people are responding as well. For example, Colbert's SuperPAC backed Herman Cain (not a candidate) in the South Carolina race, and the voters put him ahead of Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, and Michele Bachmann.
Then last June, like a winking, eyebrow-wagging Mr. Smith, Colbert went to Washington and testified before the FEC, which granted him permission to launch his super PAC (over the objections of his parent company Viacom) and accept unlimited contributions from his fans so he might sway elections. (He tweeted before his FEC appearance that PAC stands for "Plastic And/Or Cash.") In recent weeks, Colbert has run several truly insane attack ads (including one accusing Mitt Romney of being a serial killer). Then, with perfect comedic pitch, Colbert handed off control of his super PAC to Jon Stewart (lampooning the FEC rules about coordination between “independent PACS” and candidates with a one-page legal document and a Vulcan mind meld). Colbert then managed to throw his support to non-candidate Herman Cain in the South Carolina primary, placing higher on the ballot than Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, and Michele Bachmann.
The line between entertainment and the court blurred even further late last month when Colbert had former Justice John Paul Stevens on his show to discuss his dissent in Citizens United. When a 91-year-old former justice is patiently explaining to a comedian that corporations are not people, it’s clear that everything about the majority opinion has been reduced to a punch line.
Money is the dark matter of American elections: visualizing political donations since Citizens United
Mike from Mother Jones sez, "For our upcoming "dark money" print package, we chartified the known galaxy of outside political spending groups by their size. As you can see, we ended up with red giants and blue dwarfs."
If Citizens United was the Big Bang of a new era of money in politics, here's the parallel universe it formed: rapidly expanding super-PACs and nebulous 501(c) groups exerting their gravitational pull on federal elections. A group's size in the chart below is based upon all known fundraising or spending since 2010…so keep an eye out for dark matter. Come back for regular updates.
The Crazily Expanding Political Money Universe (Thanks, Mike!)