Category Archives: Citizens United

To Build a Fire


Scandals have no life on their own. Like fire, they need fuel to survive; and the hotter they burn, the faster that fuel goes. This week we saw at least three scandals race across our national attention spans with all the fury of a California blaze. Only they petered out so fast they may as well have been a boy scout’s first effort doused with morning coffee.

But that’s not for lack of trying. According to Dick Cheney, who is quickly acquiring the status of The Crazy Uncle In The Attic, Benghazi was one of the worst incidents that occurred in his career, gracefully eliding the fact that his career encompassed the terrorist attacks of 9/11 that precipitated– with his direct supervision– two disastrous wars, one of which has still to end – at the cost of billions of dollars and thousands of American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghanistan lives.

But whatever. It’s not like you would expect someone nicknamed ‘Darth Vader’ to actually tell the truth. Should anyone be interested in the truth, it’s not hard to come by. Read the recently released emails and the story is less one of ‘scandal’, and more one of interagency infighting with a little SOP confusion tossed on top for good measure – something military types would reclassify as a SNAFU. Hardly nefarious in the Dark Empire way that stalwarts of the GOP would have you believe. The only real scandal here is the fact that the GOP faked the emails they handed off to news organization which naturally reported this out without so much as a simple, ‘Hey, are you sure?’… much less an apology for taking the American public for a useless ride for the last six months. To quickly recap: the GOP edited the emails to agree with their allegations that the White House had edited talking points about Benghazi. I’m not even sure there’s an appropriate metaphor to capture this level of duplicity. Really, it’s something that ought to be studied in one of those Ivy League classrooms the rightwing loves to hate. Doctoral thesis: Republican Meta Narratives and the Birth of Red Herrings in Benghazi

Unfortunately, it’s not like the American Public has ever kept track of these things. Say, remember back when the Republicans burned through a few million tax payer dollars investigating Whitewater and came up with a completely unrelated Monica Lewinsky scandal? Do you suppose they’re pulling that same nonsense again?

The next scandal to flicker forth this week managed to get some traction for a day or two, and then like a backyard fire on a suburban track lawn, it died from lack of fuel. Not only did Steve Miller, the relevant agency director, resign, but Obama was in front of it before Hannity managed to check his cue cards and stop shouting ‘Benghazi’! As Gertrude Stein said about Oakland, “there’s no there there”. Seriously. This is about some poor schmucks in the Cincinnati offices of the IRS who were told to keep an eye out for words like Tea Party, Patriots, Constitution and 9/12 on the mostly correct theory that such groups had a hard-on for advocating tax delinquency, if not outright fraud, and were scooping up money from the Koch brothers faster than Imelda Marcos in a shoe shop. The IRS SHOULD of course be watchful of these groups, but none of that seems to have penetrated rightwing zeitgeist. Sometimes, you just want to take these folks aside and explain that screaming at 3000 decibels that the taxes are un-American, that you’re not intending to pay said taxes and that you think the IRS is, itself, unconstitutional, may not be the wisest choice when you’re trying to earn the IRS good housekeeping seal of approval.

But whatever. By week’s end, the scandal du jour had become the AP email scandal which didn’t make the right nearly as happy as it made the left angry; even though the ‘scandal’ really wasn’t one, at least not in the sense that Boehner had hoped it might be. You know, where you get to “send someone to jail”. No, none of the scandals really took hold, mostly because they asked the wrong questions. For Benghazi the problem wasn’t personalities –Hillary had zip to do with this—it was procedural. But you’d have to be after something beyond pure politics to actually understand the problem. Ditto the issue with the IRS whose guidelines for approving 504c organizations was confusing and became exponentially more difficult when Citizens United opened up a floodgate of applications that the agency had to process.

Finally, the AP email scandal isn’t so much a scandal as a symptom of bad law in need of repeal. Namely, the Patriot Act, passed under Bush and re-upped under the Obama administration which has subsequently made notions like a right to personal privacy, a really free press and due process utterly quaint like a Swanson TV dinner. Or an I Love Lucy episode. Or a boy scout’s first attempt to start a campfire.


Here’s one reason the IRS might be especially interested in the Tea Party types:
Judge rules tea party group a PAC, not a nonprofit


“That’s so ugly, isn’t it? That plastic bag stuck in the tree?”
“Yes, it really is a shame. Those bags get stuck in the trees in our park all the time.”
“Did you know that plastic bags are made with petroleum products?”
“No, I never thought about it before.”

… and there’s my opening. The conversation begins. 😉

No one likes to see plastic bags stuck in the trees of our parks, washing down our storm sewers, stuck to the exhaust pipes of our cars, or stinking until they shred, sloshing in the tides, visible and unsightly during our visits to the beach. When I have exhausted every other way to hold a conversation with someone who opposes my politics, we can always agree that those ‘tree bags’ are an eyesore. It’s a fail-safe opportunity for me to introduce a conversation about how plastics have really invaded our culture, and how plastic contributes, not only to the depletion of fossil fuels, but to the demise of our marine life as well.

Next, I ask them if they have ever heard of the Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s a concentration of plastic and other man-made sludge, estimated to be about twice the size of Texas (so far) and located north of the North Pacific Gyre. It’s driven and held in place by oceanic and wind currents. There are several garbage patches in our oceans, the Pacific being the largest of them.

The plastic and trash enter our waterways by storm sewer outlets, ocean vessel dumping, and various other methods. As it begins to photo-degrade, the plastics are reduced to smaller pieces (some microscopic), and the reduction becomes a toxic soup. The chemicals are consumed by fish, whales and dolphins, among other ocean life, and eventually it kills them. Birds that feed in ocean waters are also victims of the plastic garbage piles. We see their decomposed bodies on the shoreline. All that’s left is some feathers, a pile of bones, and … plastic.

(Here’s a great ABC News Video about it – Disposable Island)

This conversation evokes sympathy from just about everyone. Once I have touched on the dead marine and bird life, I throw in a fact that brings them back home. I ask if they’ve ever heard of method products inc., an eco-friendly company whose products are sold in many high-traffic variety stores. Though it doesn’t claim to be a “green” company, their brand is easily recognized by average shoppers. The method company collects plastic trash from the beaches of Hawaii and elsewhere, and recycles it to create the packaging for their cleaning products. Hopefully, I’ve given my conversation partner a thought or two about using more eco-friendly products.

Then, back to the bigger picture.

“You know, it’s really a shame that we produce so many plastics anyway. They use up much of the oil that we seem to find so precious these days.” That’s when I drop the F-bomb on them – FRACKING.

“Have you ever heard of fracking?” I find many people who are unaware of it, or at least the devastating environmental and health effects that result from it. I tell them about the studies and consequences of the hydraulic fracturing process – everything from man-made earthquakes to flammable “drinking” water from a kitchen faucet. We discuss the impact of Fracking on the people who live in surrounding communities, like cancer and brain lesions!  These studies indicate a need for strict regulation: “There have been over 1000 reports of contaminated groundwater since fracking began, and studies also link the extraction process to polluted air, disease and death in farm animals and wildlife in addition to humans. It is also connected to the increase in earthquake activity. Doctors have come out against fracking; it’s been banned in New Jersey, and other states are considering banning it.”

At this point, I am usually met with an incredulous, “Well, that doesn’t seem right!”

“I know!” I agree with them, and then I move to the most important part of the conversation. We need safety regulations, but lobbyists from oil companies, chemical companies and others, such as Halliburton, have swayed legislators who have exempted the process of hydraulic fracturing from some of our key federal environmental laws. “That’s why we have to keep corporations from having undue influence over our government and legislators. We need to reverse the Citizens United decision – you know?”

I have found some people who don’t know about the Citizens United decision or how it’s affecting our nation. I explain the Supreme Court’s ruling and that as a result, corporations now contribute to political interests without identifying themselves or disclosing their donations to the public. These massive donations, PACs and corporate lobbying groups have strong influence over our politicians, and ultimately our laws. They also pour money into media outlets and run dubious ads that influence voter’s choices. Because of the Citizens United decision, the voice of the American people has been pushed nearly out of the democratic process.

I invite them to write to their legislators about fracking and about overturning the Citizens United ruling, and mention that they can go to APV’s website, and use our link to identify their legislators. At that point, I can end the conversation without ever having spoken the words Republican or Democrat, and, yet, we are united in thought!

“Hey, can you give me a hand to get this plastic bag out of the tree? Thanks!”


Bravo! and thanks to APV board member, Rhonda Hening, for contributing this thoughtful post, and for her continuous devotion and active support for so many of the progressive issues confronting us today.

Dying for Work

Worker safety comes before corporate profit only when politicians and business alike understand the advantage to being “on the side of the angels“.

Once learned and understood, we’re supposed to have safe working conditions for good reason. This morning, in Dying for Work, Leo Gerard, International President, United Steelworkers, brings back to the surface something we know, or should know, in the light of new-found accountability under corporate personhood.

If corporations are people, as Mitt Romney and the Republican majority on the Supreme Court claim, then their privileges as humans come with the responsibility to act humanely. Corporate-people must fulfill their obligations to workers and communities. Profit can’t be their sole raison d’etre. That’s not how it is with flesh-and-blood people. If it were, then society would condone profit-motivated murder, like killing a parent for insurance money. Now that they’re people, corporations have an even greater duty to prevent deaths on the job. And if they don’t, they must be held accountable in criminal court the same way a money-grubbing son would be if he murdered his parents for the life insurance

The legacy of those who died on March 25, 1911 should be honored, but unless enforcement effectively deters profit-driven corporate offenders, it’s meaningless.

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire – Impact

Apple, Martin Luther King, the Wright Brothers and Bernie Sanders?

People don’t buy what you do – they buy why you do it. ~ Simon Sinek

Senator Bernie Sanders, December 8, 2011
The Saving American Democracy Amendment

The Petition to Support the Saving American Democracy Amendment

One of the 10 most watched TEDTalks of all time:


APV is a part of the Move to Amend Movement.


Grassroots Momentum Builds Toward Passage of a Constitutional Amendment

LOS ANGELES, CA – Next week the Los Angeles City Council will vote on a resolution that calls on Congress to amend the Constitution to clearly establish that only living persons — not corporations — are endowed with constitutional rights and that money is not the same as free speech. If this resolution is passed, Los Angeles will be the first major city in the U.S. to call for an end to all corporate constitutional rights.

The campaign in Los Angeles is the latest grassroots effort by Move to Amend, a national coalition working to abolish corporate personhood. “Local resolution campaigns are an opportunity for citizens to speak up and let it be known that we won’t accept the corporate takeover of our government lying down,” said Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, a national spokesperson for Move to Amend. “We urge communities across the country to join the Move to Amend campaign and raise your voices.”

Earlier this year voters in Madison and Dane County, Wisconsin overwhelmingly approved ballot measures calling for an end to corporate personhood and the legal status of money as speech by 84% and 78% respectively. In November voters in Boulder, Colorado and Missoula, Montana both passed similar initiatives with 75% support.

“We are experiencing overwhelming support for what may be a historic turning point in restoring a voice to the voters and setting an example for the rest of the country,” stated Mary Beth Fielder, Coordinator of Move To Amend LA. “This action would provide the basis for overturning the recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.”

Move to Amend volunteers in dozens of communities across the country are working to place similar measures on local ballots next year, including West Allis, WI, a conservative suburb of Milwaukee where last week local residents successfully qualified a measure for their spring ballot.

Move to Amend’s strategy is to pass community resolutions across the nation through city councils and through direct vote by ballot initiative. “Our plan is build a movement that will drive this issue into Congress from the grassroots. The American people are behind us on this and these campaigns help our federal representatives see that we mean business. Our very democracy is at stake,” stated Sopoci-Belknap.

The campaign in Los Angeles is endorsed by a growing list of organizations including Common Cause, Occupy LA, LA County Federation of Labor, Physicians for Social Responsibility, The Environmental Caucus of the CA Democratic Party, Southern California Americans for Democratic Action, MoveOn LA, Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains, Democracy for America, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, AFSCME 36, LA Green Machine and California Clean Money Campaign.

Please join APV in support of the Move to Amend movement. We need your help!

The Alliance for Progressive Values ~ Giving your values a voice!