Next Tuesday, April 10, at the town meetings of all four down Island towns, including West Tisbury, there will be an important resolution presented for a vote.
The resolution is written in support of Bill S.772 that Sen. Dan Wolf and Rep. Tim Madden are working hard to get passed at the state level. It calls on Congress to initiate a 28th amendment to the Constitution overturning a ruling handed down by the Supreme Court in its 2010 decision in favor of Citizens United v Federal Election Commission. Simply stated, the ruling declared that since corporations had been equated with real people, they were now entitled to the right of free speech under the 1st Amendment of the Constitution (their money being equated with speech).
This ruling is directly responsible for the advent of SuperPACs and the sudden massive spending in political campaigns by big corporations and their big money special interest groups. Not only is this spending by rich and powerful entities unlimited, it is also anonymous. This means that stockholders in many of these huge companies can be unaware that their investments are supporting these political expenditures.
It is the massive funding by SuperPACs that enables the barrage of negative attack ads at election time. Their messages, which appear on the TV screen over and over and over at higher and higher decibels, repeat ad nauseum, information about the opposing candidate, which is most often distorted, out of context and downright untrue. The effects of this repetitive, brain-washing type strategy have been proven to reverse poll statistics within a few days and very often bring about electoral victory for their candidate.
In this way, we end up with elected officials aligned with huge corporations and their special interest groups. These politicians then set policy serving the interests of the groups that got them elected, rather than the interests of the American people. Ordinary people cannot come anywhere near to matching the massive amounts of money that wealthy corporations spend to get candidates elected. Consequently, the voice of the people gets drowned out. Elections end up being bought by the highest bidder. This is the hijacking of our democracy by corporate power.
People all across this country are quickly realizing that this situation is out of control. Polls show bipartisan opposition to the Citizens United Ruling. A Washington Post poll showed that 80% of their respondents opposed the ruling. A Hart Research poll has reported that 85% of Americans feel that wealthy corporations are exerting undue influence at all levels of government. Results of a poll conducted by the American Sustainable Business Council et al found that 66% of small business owners think that the Citizens United decision hurts small business. Only 9% felt that it benefitted small business.
A grassroots movement is growing in states, cities and towns all across the country to halt and repair the damage to our democracy. Twenty-five states have recorded some activity at the legislative level to reverse it. Towns and municipalities in many states are presenting resolutions at their Town Hall meetings in support of legislative initiatives at the state level to overturn the Citizens United ruling. Voting to support these resolutions puts added pressure on Congress to correct the situation.
A constitutional amendment is not a light undertaking or an easy thing to achieve. However, it is possible, as shown by past movements that pushed to get them enacted. Consider the Abolitionist, the Suffrage, and the Civil Rights movement and the resulting passage of the 13th, 14th and 19th Amendments respectively, that resulted from them.
It is up to us to participate in our beautiful democracy and make sure that our government serves the interest of the American people and not the financial interests of corporate America. You can do so by attending your upcoming town meeting, joining in discussions about local issues that affect you and your family directly and by voting to support this resolution.
The meetings for the down Island towns and West Tisbury are on April 10, Chilmark on April 23 and Aquinnah on May 8. Meeting time is generally 7pm. Check your papers for the locations as they are mostly not at the Town Halls but at larger venues.
Let's show Dan Wolf and his colleagues in the Senate and the House that we support their efforts on our behalf. Wouldn't it be great if the entire Island of Martha's Vineyard would join the ranks of many other towns across Massachusetts and around the country in the move to take back our democracy from corporate control? Come be part of a fast growing grassroots move to stop big corporations from running this country. We urge you to attend your town meetings. Come vote and make your voice be heard. Our quality of life, our children's future and our planet is at stake here. If we do not exercise our rights as citizens, we will surely lose them!
For more information: Go to the websites for People for the American Way, Common Cause, Move to Amend, and Public Citizen. Wikipedia has an extensive entry under Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Also watch a great video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5kHACjrdEY
Chris Fried, Tisbury;Zelda Gamson, Chilmark; Sarah Nevin, Edgartown; Ann Rosenkranz, W. Tisbury; Richard Toole, Oak Bluffs; Michael West, Tisbury