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Fight to keep big money out of political campaigns

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As we watch the numbers of Occupy Wall Street protesters dwindle, understandably so with the advent of the winter months and cold weather, many may think or even wish that they have gone away, but the 99 percent movement is far from dead.

Clueless pundits and local newspaper letter writers still have harsh words for them, but, low and behold, a sleeping giant has been awakened. The vast majority of Americans are tired of watching big money rule American politics and leave the crumbs for the rest of us.

OWS wants to take the money out of the political process and stop the political spending that was unleashed with the infamous Citizens United case that said corporations are people and that money is speech. That case was a game changer in American politics. President Barack Obama even said in a State of the Union speech that the U.S. Supreme Court made the wrong decision with that case. He was right.

You can only donate up to $2,500 directly to a candidate, but you can donate an unlimited amount to a super political action committee. Millions of dollars are flowing into the Republican super PACs right now to fund mostly negative ads about their opponents in the runoff elections. Negative ads work, so “smear” is the word.

Political ads are protected by the First Amendment, so they can say whatever they want about each other without fear of fines or punishment — and they do. In fact, they do not even have to be true. Product ads are accountable to the Federal Trade Commission and the radio and TV stations for truth and accuracy and are subject to fines. Now, does that make sense?

Some states are putting their own brakes on political spending, New York being one of them. The City Council just passed a resolution against Citizens United and opposing the corporate control over our elections. Gov. Andrew Cuomo even announced his support for publicly financed elections. City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has been out there pressing corporations not to spend corporate funds on elections.

In Vermont, a resolution was introduced urging Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution and ban corporate personhood. The argument is that corporations are not people and they cannot vote and often have motives that are contrary to the best interests of actual people.

The Montana Supreme Court recently ruled that the Citizens United ruling does not apply to Montana campaign finance law. In Montana, there is a law that prohibits corporations from making contributions to or expenditures on behalf of state political candidates or political parties.

As an example of how manipulative political spending is, take a look at what happened in North Carolina in the 2010 elections. It was reported that retail store giant Art Pope targeted 22 legislative races by dumping untold cash into the coffers for state Republican candidates in those districts. He won 18 of those he targeted, which placed that state’s General Assembly in the hands of Republicans for the first time since 1870.

A later study found that three-quarters of the spending by independent groups in those races was linked to Pope. Karl Rove’s Americans for Prosperity also played a significant role in these elections with power and money, and so did the infamous Koch brothers. North Carolina, a longtime blue state, was turned into a red state in two years due to the influence of big money.

Today, Mitt Romney is reaping untold millions of dollars in contributions from bankers and fund managers because he is one of them and they want him as the president to push policies that further their causes. Once in office, his policies will push the 99 percent further down the hole they have already dug for us in favor of the 1 percent who benefit the most.

Business already controls most of the Republican legislators through American Legislative Exchange Council. This is a group of more than 2,000 members, heads of corporations and the like who write legislation and give the ready-made laws to congressman they favor. Where did you think the anti-union laws that infuriated Wisconsin came from, which were almost the same laws for Ohio, New Jersey and more? ALEC writes them and its paid puppets get them into law through the U.S. House of Representatives, the branch of Congress that makes the laws.

Rove’s group ranks all members of Congress based on how they vote on conservative issues and tallies the results. Good Democrats have low to perfect zero rankings because they vote for the environment, laws to protect us from big banks and abusive corporations, regulations to protect us from physical or workplace harm, the right to form labor unions, anti-voter suppression laws and the ability to keep our homes safe from pollution and other hazards.

AFP sees these issues as all anti-business. Rove is raising $240 million to run ads for their candidates, mostly to smear those who do not stand for their causes. AFP is for business and all else be damned.

Republicans have introduced legislation to allow corporations to donate directly to political campaigns without going through a super PAC. They argue that all corporations are not the same size but are subject to the same rules, hence it is unconstitutional.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court and redefine “corporate personhood” and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) has already introduced the same amendment in the House.

There is a big grassroots movement afoot to join these movements and take the money out of politics, but it is going to be a tough fight. The money is against us.

Tyler Cassell

Flushing

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