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“Party for the Planet” this Wednesday at Redhook Brewery!

Party_for_Planet_BenStampStampede.org founder Ben Cohen will “Party for the Planet” with the Green Alliance at Redhook Brewery in Portsmouth this Wednesday, April 22 from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

The party follows an “Earth Day Clean Up” organized by the Green Alliance, which will be held earlier in the day.

The Green Alliance represents over 100 green-certified Business Partners and 4,000 community members, working to increase the profits of companies that have the least impact on the environment.

Redhook has been a green-certified Business Partner with the Green Alliance since 2011.

Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, is the founder and “Head Stamper” of the Stamp Stampede.  The Stampede is a grassroots movement now including more than 30,000 Americans who are legally rubber-stamping anti-corruption messages onto US currency.  The stamped bills become “miniature billboards” supporting a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.  Each stamped dollar bill is seen by an estimated 875 people as it circulates through the local economy.

More than 60 small businesses in the Granite State have joined the Stamp Stampede by hosting “Stamping Stations” where their customers can legally stamp anti-corruption messages on their money and learn more about the issue of #MoneyInPolitics.  Almost 1,000 people in New Hampshire have their own stamps to beautify their bucks with messages like “Not to Be Used for Bribing Politicians.”  The Stamp Stampede plans to stamp 10% of the currency circulating in New Hampshire, to bring attention to the problem and make it an issue in the presidential campaign.

“This is where the collaboration really becomes powerful,” says Green Alliance Director Sarah Brown. “A business like Redhook is ahead of the curve when it comes to sustainability and is thrilled to be hosting green business leaders, citizens and Ben Cohen. We want folks to connect the dots between responsible business practices and protecting the environment; all three of our organizations share these values.”

“In order to create a sustainable future, we need to put a stop to pay-to-play culture. Progressive green business leaders are part of that,” adds Cohen. “Too often, big oil and special interest groups use campaign contributions and lobbying muscle to block common-sense pro-sustainability legislation. I’m excited to work with the Green Alliance community to help stamp big money out of politics.”

US government policies on the environment, sustainability and energy are among the issues most affected by special interest spending.

At the grassroots level, there is broad bipartisan support for overturning Citizens United and ending the influence of special interests. Four out of five New Hampshire Republicans think Congress is more interested in special interests than its constituents.  More than two-thirds of New Hampshire voters support a Constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United.

So far, 68 of the state’s cities and towns have passed measures calling for a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

The New Hampshire Legislature is now considering two measures about Citizens United.  Last month, the House passed a bipartisan measure calling for a Constitutional Convention.  The Senate unanimously passed a bill calling for an amendment, and setting up a study committee to recommend which proposed amendment to support.  So far, 16 other states have called for a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and get special interest money out of politics.

Wednesday night’s “Party for the Planet” is open to the public and guests will enjoy live music and complimentary eats. The $5 entry donation and $2 from every beer purchased goes to the local environmental non-profit Hodgson Brook Association. There will also be free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, compliments of Cohen.

The Party tops off a drop-in Earth Day clean-up, which runs from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.  Cleanup participants meet at Redhook to get their collection bags and location, and are urged to pick up as much trash as possible.  Clean-up participants get free raffle tickets for every bag of trash collected.  While Redhook and the Green Alliance encourage folks to participate in both the clean-up and the after-party, they are also separate events and visitors are welcome at either or both.

Redhook has an extensive facility-wide recycling and composting program, reuses water from the brewing process, and sends spent grains to local farmers. Early in 2015 they began purchasing wind energy credits and recently installed an electric car charging station, high-efficiency lights, motion sensors and EnergyStar appliances.

Tietjen Hynes is head of Redhook’s Sustainability Committee, and Operations Project Engineer and has coordinated a cleanup for Pease Tradeport, home to a growing number of environmentally-minded companies. Set up as a corporate participatory Earth Day activity, a number of companies on the Tradeport have already committed employees to the cleanup.

“Lots of Pease companies are participating; many of our neighbors are stepping to the plate. We also welcome individuals and have had some smaller green-minded businesses like Aucella commit to both the clean-up and the party,” says Hynes.

With the help of other Pease Tradeport businesses, Hynes organized the Earth Day cleanup to focus on the Tradeport grounds and nearby Hodgson Brook.  “Hodgson Brook not only runs along the Redhook property, but also throughout the Tradeport and is listed as an impaired waterway,” said Hynes. “Land use and urbanization have degraded the freshwater stream, altered the natural makeup of the brook, and created serious pollution problems. We hope to improve the condition of the brook by reducing the amount of litter.”

Party for the Planet
Wednesday, April 22
6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
REDHOOK BREWERY PORTSMOUTH

1 Redhook Way
Pease International Tradeport
Portsmouth, NH 03801

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The Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

NH House Considers Bill on Amending the US Constitution to Limit Political Spending

2015-04-07 Steve Rand

The NH House Committee on Legislative Administration today held its public hearing on a bill calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.  The legislation, SB 136, was passed unanimously by the state Senate last month.

The House has already passed a resolution, HCR 2, calling for an Article V Constitutional Convention to address Citizens United.

Steve Rand of Plymouth (pictured above) was one of those who testified.  “Everybody knows that we have a corrupt system, a legally corrupt system.  The question really is: if everybody knows this, why do 95% of us Americans think there isn’t anything we can do about it?” he asked.  “What we are trying to do is change people’s minds about the possibilities; and what you can do — as our elected representatives– is to help that process along.”

Corrine Dodge, one of the Stamp Stampede’s “Rebel Grammies” from Derry, also testified. “I feel so passionately that I could no longer sit by and watch what has been happening to our elections, as they became more corrupt, and as I watched Congress become more dysfunctional.”  Corrine worked with her Town Council to pass a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment.  She also testified in favor of an earlier bill, and met with her state Senator about the bill now pending in the House.

“Now it’s your turn,” she told the Committee.  “What will you, the House Committee on Legislative Administration, decide?  Will you vote against your constituents’ will?  Or will you stand this time with We The People?”

Dan Weeks, of Open Democracy and the NH Rebellion, noted “There is specific language ensuring that the First Amendment is protected, in whatever constitutional proposals are supported by New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation.”

“We do believe there is a way to address the concerns raised by Citizens United, which are magnified, as you all know, by our election last fall, where $100 million was spent in New Hampshire, the majority of it outside money,” Dan said.  “You have heard so many times from citizens that something has to be done.”

The Committee is expected to make a recommendation on the bill within the next several weeks.

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The Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

NH Leaders Applaud Senate Vote for Constitutional Amendment to Stop Unlimited Campaign Spending, Urge House to Follow Suit

Open Democracy, the New Hampshire nonprofit committed to transparent and accountable government, congratulated the New Hampshire Senate for unanimously approving SB 136 on Thursday, a bill calling on Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to address the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
 
Open Democracy leaders and activists from both political parties, together with allied groups, simultaneously renewed their calls for the New Hampshire House to approve a similar measure. If adopted by the House, New Hampshire would become the 17th state to call for a Constitutional Amendment five years after the controversial Citizens United decision was handed down.
 
“New Hampshire citizens are frankly disgusted with the amount of special interest money flooding our elections,” said Daniel Weeks, Executive Director of Open Democracy, citing town resolutions adopted by 67 New Hampshire towns in 2014-15 calling for a Constitutional Amendment and the roughly 12,000 citizen petitioners across the state. “It is precisely because the First Amendment is so sacred that we need to protect the rights of ordinary Americans to speak and be heard in the public square, rather than be shouted down by big spenders with an agenda of their own,” Weeks said.
 
“We applaud the full Senate for responding to their constituents’ demands and passing this historic call for a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to rid our democracy of unlimited special interest spending in elections,” said Gordon Allen, co-chair of the Open Democracy Board. “We are especially thankful to Senators Martha Fuller-Clark (D-21) and Russell Prescott (R-23) for leading this important push.”
 
Members of the Open Democracy Advisory Board John Broderick and Brad Cook, the former NH Chief Justice and Republican Chairman of the Election Law Commission, respectively, called on elected representatives in the House to follow the Senate’s lead and pass the “bipartisan resolution opposing the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates to unlimited spending in elections.”
 
“Although we may not agree on some issues, we both believe there is nothing more destructive of good politics and good policy than secret special interest money in elections,” Broderick and Cook wrote. “Left unchecked, it will consume our electoral process and silence the voice of the people.”
 
The issue of money in politics has attracted near-unanimous public sentiment from across the political spectrum, with 96 percent of New Hampshire residents polled believing that money has too much influence over politics. Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of state residents across party lines support a Constitutional Amendment to limit campaign contributions and spending, according to a University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll.
 
As evidence of their frustration with the status quo, approximately 500 citizens took to the streets of New Hampshire this January, walking 300 miles across the state to protest money in politics as part of the NH Rebellion. The Rebellion activists and allied groups plan to continue marching and are also challenging the presidential candidates to support systemic campaign finance reform during the state’s first-in-the-national primary.
 
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The Senate-approved legislation, as amended, asserts “the need for a United States Constitutional Amendment to address the Citizens United ruling and related cases, that protects New Hampshire’s ability to make its own laws regarding campaign finance while protecting the First Amendment.” To bill also establishes a study committee to examine the impact of the Citizens United ruling and related cases in New Hampshire elections; to evaluate the different Constitutional Amendment options being proposed in Congress; and to consider short-term solutions to issues raised by Citizens United.
 
One such measure, disclosure of independent spending in state elections, was approved by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Hassan in 2014. However, insufficient compliance with SB 120 in the 2014 election led Open Democracy to file complaints against both liberal and conservative political committees with the New Hampshire Attorney General. As of March 2015, the Attorney General’s investigations are still ongoing.
 
A forthcoming Open Democracy analysis of the 2014 mid-term election in New Hampshire reveals that approximately $100 million was spent by candidates, parties, and third-party groups – the highest level of election spending in state history. More than half of the total spending came from so-called “independent” groups, with the majority of their funding coming from out-of-state and/or undisclosed sources, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate contest also ranked as the most negative race in the country with over 90 percent of all television ads characterized as attacks. 
 
Although efforts to overturn Citizens United in Congress have stalled in recent years for lack of bipartisan support, liberal and conservative leaders alike have called for state and congressional action to mitigate what they describe as the ruling’s adverse effects on elections and representation. As early as 2010 when the decision was handed down, New Hampshire’s late Republican Senator Warren Rudman wrote in The Washington Post, “Supreme Court opinion notwithstanding, corporations are not defined as people under the Constitution, and free speech can hardly be called free when only the rich are heard.”
 
To mitigate the corrupting influence of money in politics, Senator Rudman went on to urge “Republicans and Democrats in Congress [to] work together to expand political speech for all citizens by replacing special-interest money in politics with small donations and public matching funds.”
 
Open Democracy, a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Concord, advocates for a range of campaign finance and election reforms including citizen-funded elections, overturning Citizens United, election modernization, and full rapid disclosure of campaign contributions and spending. 

NH Senate Unanimously Calls for Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

2015-03-26 Senate Passes SB136 3The New Hampshire Senate just passed a bill supporting the amendment of the US Constitution to overturn Citizens United. The voice vote was apparently unanimous. The bill, SB 136, establishes a study committee to review the various proposed constitutional amendments, and issue a report by November 1st regarding which approach should be supported by the New Hampshire congressional delegation.

“Fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy and the consequences of the Citizens United ruling on our elections must be addressed,” said Senator Martha Fuller Clark.​ “The issue of such large amounts of money influencing our elections is not a partisan one; it affects all of us. That’s why 67 of our municipalities have passed warrant articles calling for action on this very serious issue which threatens our democracy.”

“In 2014 alone, over $49 million was spent on NH Congressional races from outside groups, drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens,” she said. “I’m pleased that my Senate colleagues have finally agreed that it is time to do something about the corrupting influence of such large amounts of out-of-state money on our elections. I urge the House to agree as well.”

2015-03-26 Senate Passes SB136“The Senate’s action today is a huge step forward in the grassroots effort to make New Hampshire the 17th state to call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United,” said Paul Brochu, the Stamp Stampede’s Lead Organizer in New Hampshire.

“We’re very hopeful that the House will also pass this bill.  The House called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United in 2013 and 2014; and earlier this year the House passed a resolution seeking an Article V Constitutional Convention to overturn Citizens United,” he said. “I think we’re all tired of out-of-state special interests trying to buy our elections.  It’s time for some common-sense limits – and that common sense starts by telling the Supreme Court that no, corporations are not ‘people.’ ”

“Today, thanks to the bipartisan leadership of Senators Russell Prescott (R-23) and Martha Fuller Clark (D-21), the Senate at last voted to pass a version of SB 136 that includes language specifically calling for a constitutional amendment,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Co-Director of Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign.  “This reflects what the people of New Hampshire have been urging their elected officials to do in response to the surge of outside money being spent on state and federal elections.”

2015-03-26 Senate Passes SB136 2 (2)“The pressing question before the nation today is whether it is ‘we the people’ or ‘we the corporations and big money interests.’ This not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. This is a deeply American issue. Whatever our political differences may be, we all share the common vision of government of, by, and for the people,” said John Bonifaz, President of Free Speech for People.

“This victory also demonstrates that a sustained people-powered movement can win,” he added. “New Hampshire citizens from throughout the state have repeatedly called on their legislators to take this action. They have rallied. They have marched. They have traveled to their state capitol to stand up and be heard. And, today, the people were heard. When the history of the 28th Amendment is written, it will include the story of New Hampshire citizens demanding their democracy back.”

“All across New Hampshire, people from both parties are saying they’ve had enough of Big Money in politics,” Brochu said.  “In town after town, Town Meeting after Town Meeting, Granite State voters have said ‘no more!’  It’s been amazing to watch all these people – many of whom have never been politically active before in their lives – suddenly step forward and lead their hometowns to take a stand and say the Constitution should be amended.”

“Many of the people who have stepped forward on this issue had never before called or written to or met with their elected officials.  They’re acting as ‘citizen lobbyists’ for the very first time, trying to take back their government from the special interests and Big Money donors,” Brochu added.  “This is what democracy is supposed to be about – and it is beautiful to see.”

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Stamp_StampedeThe Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

The Rest of the Story on Scott Walker’s Visit to Concord

By Paul Brochu, Lead Organizer, New Hampshire for The Stamp Stampede

According to someone who was there Saturday morning:

2015-03-14 Walker protest 1More people were outside protesting against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker than were inside the building, attending the event.

Inside, what was billed as the NH-GOP’s “2016 Kickoff Grassroots Training” quickly devolved into an exercise in political fundraising.  Party Chairwoman Jennifer Horn kept reminding the “Grassroots” participants to donate, donate, donate.  She also encouraged them to volunteer for Americans For Prosperity. (Which is somewhat odd… wouldn’t the Party want its “Grassroots” volunteers to support Republican candidates, not a 501(c)(4) “social welfare organization” founded by the Koch brothers ??)

Inside, party officials were touting Scott Walker as “the only candidate willing to fight the special interests.” (Which is an odd characterization, while there’s an ongoing investigation into “whether Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and conservative groups illegally worked together in recall elections” including “the involvement of Walker’s campaign in raising money” for the Wisconsin Club for Growth.)

Inside, party officials were discussing who would – and wouldn’t – be allowed into the event.  Among those left outside in the cold?  Any and all Republicans from Massachusetts.   Apparently, NH GOP officials thought Massachusetts Republicans had struck some sort of “deal” with labor unions… and because of that, any Republican from Massachusetts was turned away at the door.  Among those left outside the event?  A gray-suited man who described himself as a “Lifetime Member of the National Republican Inner Circle” who happened to be from Massachusetts.

2015-03-14 Walker protest 2(And, yes, there were Republican union members outside the event, too.  Party officials keep forgetting that, in New Hampshire, a large chunk of union members are registered Republicans.  And Republican union members weren’t any happier with Scott Walker than Democratic union members were.)

And also outside the event?  Gov. Walker’s fundraising machine, which reportedly is going full-steam all around the country. Here’s how CNN reported it:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is on an ambitious mission this spring to scoop up major GOP donors ahead of a likely presidential run … Walker’s PAC, Our American Revival, provided CNN with a list of names of reliable Republican donors who have already committed to bundle funds for him or contribute significantly to a Super PAC that would be developed to support him should he run. And Republican fundraisers have told CNN donors are lining up to meet with him as he’s rocketing up in the polls.

New Hampshire used to pride itself on the “First in the Nation” primary.  Only now, we’ve been beaten to the punch by a bunch of billionaires holding their own “interviews” and trying to pre-select which candidates will be able to run for President.

2015-03-14 Walker protest 3That’s why the Stamp Stampede was outside the event, too, Saturday morning.

We remember back in 2011, when Gov. Walker thought he was talking with David Koch. (Frankly, it was kind of embarrassing; governors should be dignified, not fawning.  You can read the transcript here.)

And even before that: the videotape of a billionaire asking him whether he could make Wisconsin a “completely red state, and work on these unions, and become a right-to-work” state.  And Walker replied that his “first step” would be “to divide and conquer” the unions through his “budget-adjustment bill.”

That was after the 2010 elections, in which Walker won the support of Operating Engineers Local 139.

Terry McGowan, the union’s business manager, said the union gave its 2010 endorsement only after getting assurances Walker would not pursue right-to-work legislation. [McGowan said] he was continuing to take Walker at his word given his public statements and conversations he has had with him.  “You don’t hear him say, ‘Yes, I’m going to go after right-to-work legislation,’ ” McGowan said of the video.

But he added that divide and conquer is a phrase that is anathema to those in the labor movement. 

“It means turning worker against worker,” he said.

The billionaire gave Walker a $500,000 donation.

And last week, just before he came to New Hampshire, Scott Walker signed “Right-to-Work.”  Apparently, it’s good for getting donations.  “Even before the Legislature passed the measure on Friday in a fast-track process, Mr. Walker’s political backers were raising money on the issue.”

Let’s be clear: the ability “to scoop up major donors” should not be the #1 qualification to become President.

It’s not something to be proud of.

The willingness to say one thing publicly, and something else to mega-donors – that’s not something to be proud of, either.

Eagerness to embrace divide-and-conquer as a political strategy?  That’s beyond the pale.

Stamp_Stampede
The Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

US is STILL Redistributing Wealth to the Rich

35BillionFriday’s Motley Fool had an eye-opening article about $35.5 billion of stock buybacks recently announced by Big Banks.

That’s $35.5 billion of profits being “returned to stockholders” rather than being used to pay bank employees a living wage. Yes, these days almost one-third of bank tellers receive public assistance (including food stamps, Medicaid, welfare, EITC).

Yes, that’s our tax money at work: “State and federal governments pay nearly $900 million each year to support bank tellers on these programs.”  At the same time Big Banks are “returning” billions upon billions to “stockholders” – including the very same corporate insiders who decide how much money will be spent on buybacks, and how much on wages. (Wondering how many shares these “insiders” own? Click on these links, then scroll down: Citigroup; Bank of America; JP Morgan.)

That’s $35.5 billion going up the economic ladder, rather than being used to pay workers a living wage.

And that’s just from nine banks. Goldman Sachs has predicted that – this year alone – US corporations will spend $707 billion buying back their own stocks.

That’s money that could be used to create jobs. Or pay employees a living wage. Or restore the health insurance and pension benefits that have been stripped away during the past 20 years. Or invest in new factories, or research and development.

Or, gosh. It could wipe out the entire federal deficit. If only corporations were still paying taxes at the same rates they paid in the 1950s, 60s and 70s… rather than “returning” all those billions to investors.

Read more about stock buybacks here.

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Note to readers: you may have noticed, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged here at NH Labor News… and that’s because I’m now working for StampStampede.org. The Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

Stamp_StampedeYou can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

Need motivation to stamp?  Just think about Citigroup, which spends millions of dollars each year on lobbying, and millions more on political contributions (to both parties)… and, oh, wait! There are also 27 members of Congress who themselves own stock in Citigroup. Now, think about last December’s Cromnibus legislation, which included a provision written by Citigroup lobbyists leaving taxpayers on the hook for another Wall Street bailout.

And now… they’re “returning” $7.8 billion of profits to shareholders (rather than, say, rehiring some of those 50,000 workers who were laid off during the last Wall Street meltdown).

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

Canterbury Approves Resolution Against “Citizens United”

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Money is Not Speech and Constitutional Rights are for Human Beings

Following an unusually placid series of votes approving budget items, Canterbury, New Hampshire’s annual Town Meeting came to life during a debate over a resolution calling for a Constitutional Amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision.

Discussion began with a well delivered speech by Laurie Lockwood, who said that due to the 2010 ruling, “there can now be no effective restraint placed on campaign spending by corporations, Political Action Committees, unions,  or groups of any kind.  If you have a mailbox, a radio, or a TV, you are aware of the results.”

Lockwood explained that the purpose of the resolution is to pressure Congress to act, in accord with Article Five of the US Constitution.  Amendments are rare, P3130042

Laurie Lockwood

but not unprecedented, she said, and it is our duty as citizens to take action.

The resolution was pretty straightforward, calling on the town’s elected officials to support an amendment to the US Constitution establishing that “only human beings, not corporations, are endowed with constitutional rights; and money is not speech, and  therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.”

Without change, according to Lockwood, we will have more “nasty, expensive elections that discourage participation, and we end up with representatives who are indebted to wealthy and powerful interests.”

In a thinly veiled reference to the brothers Koch, Lockwood said “fossil fuel interests have already pledged to spend a billion dollars on the 2016 elections.” 

When she finished, many town residents applauded and it looked for a moment like we might proceed to a vote without further remarks.  But Howard Moffett, a retired attorney who serves as one of Canterbury’s State Representatives, decided to share his reservations.  Although he had voted for similar resolutions at the State House, he said he was concerned that language calling for the end of corporate personhood went too far.  He said he would have preferred the resolution was drafted differently, but that he would support it because “we just have too much money in our politics drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens.” 

Rep. Moffett’s statement elicited a invitation for him to elaborate on his concerns and a request for information about how the resolution had been drafted.  Rep. Moffett spoke again briefly, and I addressed the origin of the resolution and its relationship to others being considered all over the country, which together can create a groundswell of pressure on Congress to act even if they don’t share theP3130015exact same wording.  

Another voter asked about corporate personhood, which brought Laurie Lockwood to the microphone again for a short history lecture. 

Finally Judy Elliott took the floor.  “We want to make it clear that corporations do not have the right to spend unlimited money on elections.”  That was the last word.

Wayne Mann, the town’s Moderator, called for a vote, which in Canterbury is conducted by voters waving a green card for “yes” or a red card for “no.”  There were a few “no” votes, but no doubt that the resolution had the overwhelming support of the citizens present.   

The vote followed weeks of organizing by a small, informal committee of Canterbury residents who worked together to draft the resolution, collect petition signatures, organize an educational program at the library, and talk up the issue in town.   Canterbury now joins dozens of other New Hampshire towns, and hundreds across the country, that are calling for the Constitution to be amended.  

Ben Cohen Speaks About Corporations Buying Our Politicians At #WeRise Event In Concord

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About 40 activists gathered at the New Hampshire State House as part of the nationwide #WeRISE Day of Action.

Stamp Stampede’s Ben Cohen speaks at “We Rise” Action at State House
National Day of Action to Put People and Planet First

The StampStampede.org joined with NH Citizens Action, the NH Rebellion, American Friends Service Committee, Open Democracy, Granite State Progress, People For the American Way, Every Child Matters and other New Hampshire organizations to protest “a political system rigged on behalf of big corporations and the wealthy.”

“Congress needs to stop acting like a wholly-owned subsidiary of multinational corporations,” said Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben&Jerry’s Ice Cream and Head Stamper of StampStampede.org. “When billions of dollars are being poured into our elections, government stops serving the people and serves the corporations instead.”

031115StateHouseWERISE1207

Stamp Stampede Head Stamper Ben Cohen spoke about the movement to pass a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

Cohen cited a Sunlight Foundation study showing that politically-active corporations get back $760 in government benefits for every dollar they spend influencing politics. “People watch this stuff happening, and they’re angry about it.  People in both parties are angry about it.  Our elected officials are supposed to be serving us, their constituents, and instead they’re spending our tax dollars subsidizing corporations.”

“It’s time to take our government back,” Cohen said.  “If ‘We the People’ can’t out-spend the corporations, we can at least out-shout them.  That’s why StampStampede.org is turning US currency into millions of miniature political billboards, by legally stamping it with messages like ‘Not to Be Used for Bribing Politicians.’” Every stamped dollar bill is seen by about 875 people.  That means if one person stamps three bill a day for a year, the message will reach almost 1 million people.   “It’s a petition on steroids,” said Cohen.

There are over 30,000 stampers across the country and hundreds in New Hampshire.  StampStampede.org has also recruited over 50 small businesses in the state to set up small point-of-purchase stamping stations where customers can stamp their dollars, buy a stamp and learn more about the influence of money in politics.

“Our goal is to stamp 3.4 million bills – that’s 10% of the currency in New Hampshire – before next February’s presidential primary,”  said Cohen, “It’s monetary jiu-jitsu – we’re using money to get money out of politics”

The Concord “We Rise” rally was one of a nationwide series of actions organized in affiliation with National People’s Action, Center for Popular Democracy, and USAction.   “All across the country, families are taking to the streets, parks and state capitols to send a clear message: ‘Our statehouses and our cities belong to us.  It’s time for legislators to enact our bold agenda to put people and planet first.’”

#WeRise

Senator Lou D’Allesandro: We Must Pass SB 136 To Overturn Citizens United

Open government is not owned by anyone but the people. When a citizen in my district chooses to speak his or her mind, that person can walk through the doors of the State House without being stopped or questioned and can walk directly into my office.  My door is always open.  As New Hampshire citizens, we believe this is right because we believe that the Capitol is the people’s house and that our job as legislators is to serve the people. I try to embody this belief and work very hard to respond to my constituents, even stopping in the hallways between sessions to hear what they have to say. If we disagree, we might even have a debate.  Such respect and openness to our constituents is the envy of other states, where the citizenry may not have as direct access to their elected officials.

However, with every election we see the further encroachment of outside groups and interests in influencing our elections. This threat to our democracy is the direct result of the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC. Now, dark money groups with secret donors can attempt to push their pet projects on lawmakers with possibly dishonest or underhanded tactics. These outside groups do not understand our pride in service to our constituents, but their influence is felt all the same. Now, rather than hearing voices of our constituents on the merit of the argument, we lawmakers are forced to contend with the threat of overwhelming finances of special interest groups should we choose to vote with our conscience. This only serves to disenfranchise both the lawmakers and our constituents. We feel this frustration so deeply that, when I was at a forum held in Manchester, former Senator Majority Leader George Mitchell, who spoke, said that the Citizens United decision was a very bad decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court.

This threat to our democracy must be met with a forceful and immediate response. Last year, I supported a bill calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Unfortunately, this bill failed to pass the legislature, and the problem has only worsened since.  In the 2014 congressional election, outside groups spent more than 49 million dollars on three congressional races in New Hampshire- one of the highest amounts of outside spending in the nation.

The citizens of New Hampshire see this continual erosion of our democracy, and are appalled. According to a University of New Hampshire Survey Center Granite

State Poll, 69 percent of residents have said that they would support a constitutional amendment that limits corporate campaign contributions and spending. This support includes majorities on both sides of the political spectrum as well as independents1. Furthermore, 56 towns in New Hampshire passed town warrants in support of a constitutional amendment, including a unanimous vote in the conservative town of Derry2. On this issue, I have listened to concerned citizens from all walks of life – from high school students to seniors, and small business owners to farmers – who spoke on the issue. I’ve rarely seen an issue with such deep and bipartisan support.

It is imperative that, as legislators, we respond to our constituents and show them we can address this issue and restore trust in our government. Therefore, I call on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass SB 136 this year.

References:

1) Azem Z., Smith, A., Granite State Poll, April 18, 2013. The University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

2) www.nh4democracy.org (NH Towns with Town Warrant Articles)

#TBT 2004 — Granny D Speaks To Labor Groups About Campaign Finance Reforms

In 2004, Doris “Granny D” Haddock challenged the mainstream political machine by running for the US Senate.  Her message was clear, support working families and keep the money out of politics.

In 1999, Granny D walked 3,200 miles across the United States pushing for campaign refinance reforms.

“On January 1, 1999, at the age of 89, she began a walk across the country to demonstrate her concern for the issue, walking ten miles each day for fourteen months and making speeches along the way. When she arrived in Washington, D.C., Granny D was met by 2,200 people, representing a wide variety of reform groups. Several dozen Members of Congress walked the final miles with her.” (Biography of Doris Granny D Haddock)

Since her epic walk across the country many organizations including the NH Rebellion, Public Citizen, the Stamp Stampede, and labor groups across the country have taken up the torch to continue her work to reform our campaign finance laws.  After the devastating effects of the Citizens United ruling, even more groups have joined the fight to get the money out of politics.

Below is a speech from Granny D to labor groups in September of 2004.  Granny D passed away in 2010, yet her efforts to reform our campaign finance laws will live for many years to come.

Doris Granny D Haddock

September 18, 2004

With John Sweeny present, Granny D tells it like it is

Thank you very much.

I do not come today seeking an endorsement from you as a group, but to speak with you as individual citizens of New Hampshire, and to ask each of you for your personal endorsement and your vote.

I have a few things to say about the issues that are important to labor, but I would like to first make a more general statement.

We are not a self-governing people, a free people, if we are only that in the few hours we have at home between jobs.

To be a self-governing people, a free people, requires that we have the habits, tools and benefits of democracy with us all day long.

That has been the whole point of the American labor movement.

That is an important fact to keep in mind, as corporations make their play for more and more control over our lives. We live by their credit cards and credit reports and job performance evaluations and by their ever-more stingy benefits. We live in fear of their power to send our jobs overseas or to, in a thousand other ways, decide that we are expendable. We are not. They get us as employees, and they get us as consumers: They steal our time by understaffing their phones and stores so that, not only do we not have those jobs in our communities, we search the stores ourselves as unpaid clerks, we wait endlessly for telephone help, we learn to do their back-office keypunching by entering all the information ourselves on their websites or at their automatic teller machines or at their do-it-yourself checkout counters. The human beings are no longer across the counter or on the phone with us. The missing salary, no longer in the pocket of our neighbors and friends, is in the pocket of a faceless CEO, who in some instances makes $50,000 for every hundred dollars his remaining employees make. It is a national scandal, for which there seems to be no shame.

That is the small stuff. The big stuff is that they conspire in some countries to kill the union organizers. In this country they lock in the employees until they allow them to leave. This is a kind of corporate Stalinism that is on the rise, and unionism is one way to stop it.

And here is the bigger problem, yet: These runaway corporations, once our servants, now buy our elected representative out from under us, and what is left is no Democracy.

Yes, I know the unions go shopping for Congressmen, too. But the Congressman who promises to serve the needs of working people as a condition of political support is a fundamentally different thing than a politician who promises to work against the needs of his or her constituents for the sake of political donations.

In any case, I walked long and worked hard to help pass the McCain-Feingold bill, which is imperfect to say the least, and which may upset you because it prevents unions from spending union treasury money for the direct support of federal candidates–it may please you to know that I cut my own throat in this, as I can’t take a dime from you. But the new law also prevents corporations from doing the same, and they were outspending you, eight dollars to your one.

The fact is, there are better ways to run and win elections, and that is by taking no special interest dollars from any interest group, so that the people finally have the choice of voting for someone with no strings attached, who will represent them.

Now, if this catches on someday, you will have to shop carefully for your candidates, because you will have less leverage over them, even when they come from your own ranks, which they will increasingly do. Candidates will just come to you for your votes, as I do today, and not for your money or your organizational help or endorsement. They will tell you their opinions, and you will decide to vote for them or not.

So here are my opinions, so that you may decide.

As corporate power increases and corporations become worlds unto themselves, controlling too much of too many lives, employee rights must increase to balance this power. The larger the company, the more democratic it must legally become, or we shall have a planet of fiefdoms worthy of the Dark Ages. Workers must have expanded freedom to choose a union. Workers must have the right to democratically decide upon solidarity, if they so choose by majority vote. The so-called “right to work” laws interfere with the workers’ ability to democratically decide to stand together in solidarity or not.

Further, the right to organize must be insulated from management pressure. There is a bill in Congress, The Employee Free Choice Act, Senate Bill 1925, that provides this, and I would vote for it and actively work for its passage.

As is true in nearly every state, New Hampshire is struggling to pay for its schools. The argument is over the necessity of an income tax as a way to take the upward pressure off the property tax. It may be best for us, as New Hampshire taxpayers, to pay for the teachers and the books so we can keep some local control, but I see no reason why we can’t put a lot of people to work rebuilding and even maintaining our schools and some other public buildings, and our roadways and bridges, with federal money. I am told that every billion federal dollars spent for real improvements like schools generates 47,000 jobs. Think what we could do with the billions wasted by the Bush Administration on his billionaire tax cut and his foreign misadventures!

What else can you get from me without giving me a dime? I’ll vote to raise the minimum wage, keep our jobs at home, end or seriously rework WTO, NAFTA and other agreements that are more exploitation than opportunity. International trade agreements, by the way, should be negotiated by representatives of the the world’s workers and human rights representatives, not by the bankers. These damaging international institutions must, before another generation passes, be seen as the old way, the colonial way, that the advance of human civilization has overtaken.

As to the 40-hour work week and overtime pay, we cannot have a democracy if people do not have the time or energy for it. We cannot remain a free people if we are trying to hold down two or three jobs. It is a national security issue, a homeland security issue, if you value your democracy.

One more issue: The idea of Social Security privatization rests upon the idea that some seniors will be able to find a higher return if they make their own investment decisions. The idea therefore has the inescapable balancing assumption that we are willing to see some other seniors receiving less than what they need to live on. The underlying lie of the privatization argument is that the government does not invest the money well, and we can do better ourselves. The truth is that the proceeds of the system are not invested, they are spent by our so-called representatives in Congress for billionaire tax cuts and tragic misadventures. If the Social Security money were held in trust and invested, it would have returns far beyond what the average investor could expect. The problem isn’t bad investment by government bureaucrats; the problem is grand larceny by the bunch in the House and Senate.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. Let me say one more thing about unionism. The union movement could have developed as one race against another. It did not—the races came together in the unions. The union movement could have been a war between men and women, but you stand together now and protect each other’s interests. The union movement could have been long-time citizen against immigrant or undocumented worker. Remarkably, you stand together and look only at the fact that a human being is a human being, and deserves the right to make a living without exploitation.

There are many things about our nation that make us proud. Yes, all our progress has had its dark moments and dark sides, and we forget none of that. But we move forward, don’t we? We move toward a shared dream of a society that is as great as its people, don’t we?

The unions took our ideals and dreams of democracy and moved them into the working hours of our days, onto the shop floors and into the great mills. And we did this through ten million acts of courage, and each of those acts was a step toward justice, fairness, freedom and the right to turn the pursuit of happiness from a well-turned phrase on parchment to the reality of American life. That life–and the very survival of the middle class–is under siege now, and I know it.

And now you know that I know it, and that we would have a lot to talk about after I get elected. But if you want to talk to me before I get to Washington, get on your walking shoes, because that’s how we’re getting to D.C. And after I set up office there, you’d better come see me yourselves when you need to, because your lobbyists aren’t getting past the “No Lobbyists” sign on my door. So you’ll have to do this democracy yourself, as I am doing.

Thank you for having me here today.

Via Web Archives

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