I-1329: A Lesson in Failure

I-1329 failed to make it to the ballot. I can’t say that I am surprised or even disappointed.

It is certainly true that we need to undo the damage to democracy inflicted by dozens of Supreme Court decisions over the past hundred years or more, including recent decisions such as Citizens United and McCutcheon. MoveToAmend (MTA) has proposed a Constitutional Amendment that has been introduced in Congress as HJR 29. I wholeheartedly believe that this language is the best of all the proposals currently under consideration. David Cobb of MTA told me personally that he would not support any of the other proposed amendments, because they were all in some way flawed.

That’s why I am surprised that David Cobb and the rest of the folks at MoveToAmend decided to support an initiative in Washington State (I-1329) that purported, yet failed, to fully address the issues of corporate personhood and money as speech.

For example, HJR 29 states: “The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.”

I-1329 Section 3 stated: “The rights of people protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.” (Emphasis added.)

The language in I-1329 was flawed in the same way that the 14th Amendment is flawed, because lawyers could argue that corporations are people, so corporations have the rights of natural persons. The language in HJR 29 does not have this “circular logic” flaw which in the case of the 14th Amendment has been exploited by corporate lawyers for generations.

Regarding money as speech, HJR 29 states “The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.”

I-1329 did not contain this language in Section 3; therefore, it failed to address fully the issue of money as speech. The initiative danced around this issue in earlier sections, but just like a resolution, it doesn’t much matter what you say in the “whereas” clauses; it’s the “be it resolved” sentences that really matter, and in the case of I-1329, Section 3 is the “be it resolved” section.

So what, you may ask, did I-1329 resolve to do? It would have called for a Constitutional amendment allowing federal and state governments to place limits on campaign contributions and requiring disclosure thereof. Don’t get me wrong. I think this is a good idea. It would restore the constitutionality of limits on campaign contributions such as those imposed by the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) as amended in 1974 and in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA, aka McCain-Feingold Act) of 2002. But really all this does is set the clock back a couple of decades. Do any of us really believe that money did not unduly influence politics in 1974, much less 2002?

The real core of the problem lies in the need to reverse a nearly 200 year history of the Supreme Court granting constitutional rights to artificial entities (such as corporations). The amendment suggested in I-1329 would not have addressed this problem any more effectively than current efforts in Congress to pass the similarly limited Udall Amendment (S.J. Res 19) and House companion, the Deutch Amendment (H.J. Res 119). Both of these proposals would allow limits to be imposed on campaign contributions without addressing the elephantine issue of corporate constitutional rights. Worse, such proposals, if passed, would be praised as “overturning Citizens United”, and greeted with banners proclaiming “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED”, meanwhile killing any real chance of preventing plutocratic control of our republic, and spelling the end of the American experiment in representative democracy.

Interesting side-bar: MTA has called for S.J. Res 19 and H.J. Res 119 to be amended to state conclusively that corporate entities are not entitled to constitutional rights and to establish that spending money is not a protected form of speech. I find this strange since they did not call for I-1329 to include this essential language.

In conclusion, I would like to add that the efforts to get I-1329 on the ballot in Washington were doomed not because the bar is set too high for the number of signatures required, but because the organization leading the signature gathering efforts, known as WAmend, misunderstood the goals of the movement to end corporate personhood, misrepresented the proposed legislation as being something that it patently was not, and through oppressive behaviors alienated many who would otherwise have supported signature gathering efforts.

The clearest example of this is the wrong-headed missive I received from WAmend announcing that they planned to start using paid signature gatherers and asking for donations to cover the cost–with donations to be matched by an outside, unnamed entity. In the days and weeks that followed, WAmend precipitously backed off from this position and ended the campaign by trumpeting the righteousness of a campaign that relied only on volunteers to collect signatures. Too bad they did not understand the people power aspect of the movement when they started the campaign. Perhaps, if they had, they would have been more successful.

"Supreme" Court and US "representative democracy" are in a deep crisis of legitimacy

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It is time to arm and train the nonviolent warriors of our time.

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Bill    Moyer of Backbone Campaign speech at McCutcheon VS FEC Event in    Seattle 10-10-13
Bill Moyer’s 10-10-13 statement regarding “Political Calculus” and the crisis of legitimacy for our government. This was delivered on the US Court House in Seattle, WA on the day the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments on McCutcheon VS the FEC.

https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5138/5434534090_0962b8c331_z.jpgBackbone HQ 4-03-14:
Once again, we have been betrayed by our “highest court” and I am forced to ask, what is so “supreme” about this so-called Supreme Court? How could an institution deserve such a title when it is aggressively undermining checks and balances – not just between branches of government, but between the oligarchic few and the increasingly indentured many?

The “Supreme” Court and US “representative democracy” are in a deepcrisis of legitimacy.

The injury of Citizens United vs FEC has now been compounded by the insult of McCutcheon VS the FEC. McCutcheon VS the FEC turns our Federal elections into an auction by removing limits on contributions to candidates in Federal elections. It will allow the most wealthy to spend freely to thrust their minions into Federal office. This along with their decisions on Citizens United and the Voting Rights Act…confirm that our current system in not merely broken, but “fixed.” It is fixed to concentrate power and wealth amongst the few at the expense and exclusion of the many.

Incrementalism has proven a failure in even slowing down the abandonment of our original Social Contract based upon the paradigm of sacred”unalienable rights” of Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness expressed in our original revolutionary Declaration. The evolving expression of those sacred, “endowed by creator” rights articulated as human rights, community rights, and rights of nature are under siege globally.National and global aspirations for that paradigm are being crushed by the paradigm of Commodification. The paradigm of Commodification is propelled by fear and scarcity and finds expression in the cynical inventions of “corporate rights,””investor rights,” and the rights of capital itself – the idol that blesses the commodification of everything and everyone. https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7169/6761545927_493cdc8153_z.jpg

It is time for a new social contract. The Constitution has failed to live up to the promises of the Declaration of Independence. We must support those who building momentum for that movement. The WAMends of this country, nationally inspired and by the Move to Amend coalition are providing a foundation for a movement for a new social contract. But this is much more than a philosophical struggle – this is a paradigmatic battle fought on every front of collusion between corporate and elected power.

Arm the Rebels!
Backbone Campaign is providing tactical tools and capacity to the moral warriors across America through trainings and material support. Join us today! Become part of our network of Action Brigades by attending an Action Camp. Help us arm the nonviolent rebels to help them boldly hold the higher moral ground and inspire a populism that is based on the best in humans rather than the worst, a revolution grounded in LOVE and Abundance.

Defend what you Love – Fight for your Aspirations. We can either acceptour creative inalienable role as co-authors of the future or choosevictimhood andbetray that which is sacred in and around us. This is a spiritualbattle in which Love Must Win!

Forward Together!

Bill Moyer & Team Backbone
Join us today!

Localize This!

 

BACKGROUND: US now has 'parallel Supreme Court' making secret law

Is any kind of meaningful democracy possible in a régime of secret law? — This is the question raised by the lead article in Sunday’s *New York Times*, which said that the FISA court “has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come.”[1] — Its “rulings, some nearly 100 pages long, reveal that the court has taken on a much more expansive role by regularly assessing broad constitutional questions and establishing important judicial precedents, with almost no public scrutiny,” Eric Lichtblau reported.

“In one of the court’s most important decisions, the judges have expanded the use in terrorism cases of a legal principle known as the ‘special needs’ doctrine and carved out an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a warrant for searches and seizures.” 

COMMENT: This is comparable to the U.S. national security state’s invention of a “state secrets” doctrine early in the nuclear era. — As UFPPC said in a statement in a year ago, ( http://www.ufppc.org/ufppc-statements-mainmenu-29/11025/ ) “pervasive secrecy will make democracy untenable in the long run. — Pervasive secrecy means that the American public is unable to evaluate properly the behavior of nations and groups that the U.S. regards as adversaries or enemies. — Their overtly hostile acts, which are usually presented as ‘aggressive,’ are often defensive in nature. — And all too often, the U.S. government is going so far as to consider the efforts of American citizens to maintain open government to be hostile acts as well.” — This is precisely what has happened to Edward Snowden. –Mark] In Secret, Court Vastly Broadens Powers of N.S.A.

Should taxpayer funds be used to help rebuild houses of worhsip destroyed in disasters?

Americans United for Separation of Church and State reports that the House of Representatives voted to allow taxpayer funds to be used for rebuilding houses of worship destroyed by floods and other disasters.  Here’s how Washington State reps voted:

Action CenterElected OfficialsIssues and Legislation
To amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to clarify that houses of worship are eligible for certain disaster relief and emergency assistance on terms equal to other eligible private nonprofit facilities, and for other purposes

On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass
02/13/2013
House Roll Call No. 39
113rd Congress, 1st Session

Passed: 354-72 (see complete tally)

How the U.S. House from Washington voted: voted
   • Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-1) Y
   • Rep. Doc Hastings (R-4) Y
   • Rep. Denny Heck (D-10) Y
   • Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-3) Y
   • Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-6) Y
   • Rep. Rick Larsen (D-2) Y
   • Rep. Jim McDermott (D-7) N
   • Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-5) Y
   • Rep. Dave Reichert (R-8) Y
   • Rep. Adam Smith (D-9) N
Votes Legend

If asked, Do you support taxpayer money being used to support religious organizations, I’d say no. But for this bill, I’m not sure which way to vote is correct.    Government funds help all sorts of individuals in crisis; that’s what government does.  I’m open to hearing arguments.

Americans United wrote:

Rebuilding houses of worship with taxpayer money poses problems for religious liberty.

On February 13, the House of Representatives passed HR 592, a bill to allow taxpayer money to go towards the rebuilding of houses of worship by a vote of 354-72. Although this bill passed in the House, your action was not in vain.  Several members of Congress made passionate speeches on the House floor prior to the vote, and many of our concerns were raised.  Thank you for your advocacy and commitment to this issue!

The 72 legislators who took a stand against this violation of the constitution deserve to be thanked, so this is your chance to thank them!  And, if your Representative voted for the Government rebuilding of houses of worship, please remind him or her that the government must adhere to the Constitution and the principle of church state separation, even in difficult times.

Find out how your Representatives voted and send them a follow-up message!

'Declaration For Democracy' Campaign to Overturn Citizens United

Backbone Campaign
      projection on US Supreme Court 1-20-12

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:
Bill Moyer, Executive Director, Backbone Campaign 206-356-9980, bill@backbonecampaign.org

February 7, 2013

The Backbone Campaign and Allies Applaud Re-Launch of ‘Declaration For Democracy’ Campaign to Overturn Citizens United

2,000 Public Officials Have Already Expressed Support for Constitutional Amendment

WASHINGTON – This week The Backbone Campaign and ally organizations applauded the re-launch of the “Declaration For Democracy” campaign. Public officials signing the declaration are proclaiming their support for amending the constitution to limit the influence of money in our democracy and to restore the rights of the American people in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC. Representatives Donna Edwards (D-MD), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Keith Ellison (D-MN), James P. McGovern (D-MA), and John Yarmuth (D-KY) circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter today urging their colleagues to sign the declaration.

By the end of the 112th Congress, 2,000 public officials had expressed their support for a constitutional amendment, including President Obama, 102 Members of the House, and 29 Senators (list visible at http://united4thepeople.org). "FOR SALE" Backbone Action on 10-20-10

The Declaration For Democracy reads: “I, ____________, declare my support for amending the Constitution of the United States to restore the rights of the American people, undermined by Citizens United and related cases, to protect the integrity of our elections and limit the corrosive influence of money in our democratic process.” The declaration can be found here: http://united4thepeople.org/index.html

“The Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United and related cases put our political system on the auction block to be sold to the highest bidder,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “Americans don’t want an auction, they want a working democracy. We are thrilled that these Representatives are inviting their colleagues to join the growing chorus of voices calling for change. We look forward to getting even more public officials on board this year.”

“Companies ought to be competing in the marketplace with the best products and services, not in our elections for unfair influence of the decisions that will impact our economy by those with the deepest pockets,” said David Levine, CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council. “This money is better spent by investing in growing our businesses, creating jobs and building a stronger economy.”"Sold" Backbone action at US Capitol on 1-21-11

“Voters across the country have demonstrated overwhelming support for a constitutional amendment that clarifies that unlimited campaign spending has never been free speech,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “Congress must respond to that.”

“Our electoral process should be about the rights of individuals to participate in our nation’s politics,” said Larry Cohen, President of Communications Workers of America. “That’s what democracy looks like. The Communications Workers of America commends elected officials at every level of government who are fighting to restore fairness to our political process. The role of money in politics must be completely overhauled. Today it dwarfs everything else and is distorting our democracy. Working with other progressive organizations, CWA is committed to stopping the flow of secret cash to political campaigns and making it clear to all dollars are not speech. This effort will require constitutional changes and other measures to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for secret spending and today enables billionaires to buy our nation’s elections. We also will work for the public financing of elections, because without these very real changes, the one percent will continue to control our politics.”

“The first post-Citizens United presidential election confirmed our fears that the new campaign finance system allows well-heeled special interests and secret spenders to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens,” said Blair Bowie, Democracy Advocate at U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “There is, however, a silver lining: unprecedented public support for real reforms to ensure that in our democracy every citizen is a political equal, regardless of the size of her wallet. We applaud members of Congress who commit to achieving this end.”

“We can’t both maintain Citizens United as the law of the land and maintain a functioning democracy,” said Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen. “A mounting public movement is demanding a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and restore our democracy. The legislators leading the way to winning a constitutional amendment are carrying out the grandest American traditions to defend and expand our democracy.”

“Americans who are wondering why it’s tough 28th Amendment delivered on Jan. 21, 2012er to get ahead in today’s economy should look to big money politics for answers,” said Adam Lioz, Democracy Counsel for Demos. “When just a few billionaires and special interests can counter the voices of millions of ordinary citizens in the public square, these big donors get to set the agenda in Washington and across the country. Now is the time to build a democracy in which the strength of a citizen’s voice does not depend upon the size of her wallet-and amending the constitution is a critical step.”

“Our nation today faces the central question of whether We the People or We the Corporations shall govern in America,” said John Bonifaz, the co-founder and executive director of Free Speech For People, a national campaign launched on the day of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling to press for a constitutional amendment to reclaim our democracy. “To defend the promise of American self-government, we must enact a constitutional amendment that overturns our system of unlimited campaign spending and the fiction of corporate constitutional rights and that restores republican democracy to the people.”

“Now is not the time to be timid; rather, we need to seize this moment and overturn Citizens United with a Constitutional amendment that also overturns all Constitutional rights granted to corporations by court-created doctrines. The Constitution is for ‘we, the people,'” said David e. Delk, Co-chair of the Alliance for Democracy.

“After the most expensive election in U.S. history and the history of the world and with more money secretly funneled through tax exempt groups to try to influence who wins office, more and more Americans are demanding that the Constitution be amended to restore the rightful role of ordinary people in our democracy,” said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy and the publisher of PRWatch and ALECexposed, adding, “we applaud these Representatives and urge others to publicly declare whose side they are on: the side of voters or big money.”

“The greatest political reform of our time will be to abolish the legal concept of ‘corporate personhood’ and the inherently anti-democratic equation of money with political speech,” said Bill Moyer, Executive Director of the Backbone Campaign.

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Overturn Citizens United: Get corporate money out of politics

Click here to sign a petition ask the WA State legislature to help overturn the Supreme Court Citizens United equating money with speech and treating corporations as persons.

Get the Washington State Legislature to pass a resolution during the 2013 session calling on the U.S. Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that in effect reverses the 2010 Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision by clarifying that:

1. Only human beings, not corporations, are persons under the United States Constitution.
2. Money is not speech and the donation of money to a political campaign is not a form of constitutionally protected speech. Therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.

Grand Jury Resisters Need Your Support

Friends are in jail. We don’t know how long they will be there. We don’t what criminal activity is being investigated that leads to these folks being jailed for refusing to answer Grand Jury questions.

Land of the Free. Home of the Brave.

First they came for the anarchists….

Jump in, you can help. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Compilation Album Created in Support of Grand Jury Resisters

Musical Impressions has created a compilation album called “Black Clothing, Anarchist Literature, Flags, Flag-Making Materials, Cell Phones, Address Books, & Hard Drives” in support of the Grand Jury Resisters.

You can buy it here. Proceeds go to support the legal and material needs of those resisting the FBI investigations of anarchists in the Pacific Northwest.

Marriage equality and voting rights for corporations, please!

 I look forward to the day when corporations are free to marry whomever they want – even including other corporations (or would that simply be a corporate merger?).

When will we learn to accept corporations as people just like the rest of us? We should all be outraged that King County Elections has deprived a corporate person of his right to register to vote here in King County. No wonder corporations feel compelled to buy elections. Perhaps if we let them vote, they would be less corrupt. They may even be willing to pay their fair share of State taxes (or maybe not). 

McCain and Whitehouse take on Citizens United – POLITICO.com

McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse working together to rein in Citizen’s United — who knew? Go Montana!
It’s not over until only people have the rights of people, and we get the money out of electoral politics.