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Sat, Jan 21, 2012
3:00 PM - 5:30 PM

Nation Magazine Discussion Group meeting on "Reversing Citizens United Ruling of the Supreme Court" at Cleveland Park Public Lib

Dear Nation Magazine Discussion Group in DC: With the Iowa caucus followed by the New Hampshire primary reminding us of the direction that Republican candidates would like to take our country by capturing the White House and consolidating their political power in the House and the Senate, progressives face real challenges (and even some dilemmas) in 2012 in holding Obama to the promises that he made in his first presidential campaign, recognizing that some of the compromises he has made are probably calculated to expand his support among Independents and conservative Democrats (even if they don’t generate Republican concessions or willingness to compromise in the national interest (if there is such a thing in a global capitalist world), and strengthening the Occupy Movement to challenge corporate power (or what Ralph Nader has called “corporatism” (in his new book “Getting Steamed to Overcome Corporatism”) which has enabled the top 1% to prosper at the expense of the 99%, especially over the past decade. The next two Nation Magazine Discussion Group meetings will focus on interrelated aspects of these issues on the third Saturday of the month at our regular time and meeting place the Cleveland Park Public Library, 3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW from 3-5 PM on the second floor. On Saturday, Jan. 21st, the second anniversary of the Citizens United decision (where the US Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend as much money as they want to promote or defeat candidates), the Nation Magazine Discussion Group will meet to explore the evolution of “corporate personhood” or how corporations have been using political rights of natural persons to shape the political system and restrict its capacity to protect and expand positive rights of freedom and equality. Following the lead of Public Citizen’s new campaign to Occupy the Corporations in conjunction with Move to Amend’s strategy to Occupy the Courts, both organizations are pursuing political strategies to reverse the pernicious influence of money in politics. This meeting will be co-chaired by Priscilla Offenhauer and Jerry Schlight, and may invite a resource person specializing in the campaign to overturn “corporate personhood”. Jerry will begin the meeting by sharing his personal experience on the Nation cruise in the Caribbean which he has recently returned from as a regular participant over the past fourteen years. Issues to consider: While democracy could be defined as “one person, one vote”, one of the ways that the top 1% have been able to maintain and increase their dominant position in society is through the use of corporate money to influence the political process in addition to shaping the culture through influence over the media. Ironically, this has evolved historically through claiming that corporations have rights as citizens from government regulation, that they would otherwise not have as profit-maximizing organizations which were originally chartered by state or federal government to act in the public’s interest. How have the rich shaped the structure of democracy in the US contributing to the American “exceptionalism” that Mitt Romney likes to contrast with a European-type social welfare state where the government uses public policy to promote the public interest in greater equality and equal opportunity? Despite the myth of equal opportunity in the US, it was reported in the New York Times today that "Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe" (see Jason DeParle, "Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs", January 5, 2012 at the URL ). In seeking to transform the structure of power in the US, the Occupy Movement has been targeting the institutions which favor the rich. While often criticized for not making specific legislative demands that can be processed through the existing political system, the challenge of reversing the ironically named Supreme Court ruling in “Citizens United” (the Super PAC created to circumvent regulations of campaign financing by corporations) is probably the most significant test of the Occupy Movement’s potential as a social movement to transform power in the US. Against the backdrop of a history of ineffective laws to limit the influence of money on the political process, progressive members of Congress and various states and municipalities are proposing legislation or resolutions to revoke “corporate personhood”, the legal rationale for protecting inequality in the political marketplace. The main question is what can the Occupy Movement add to these efforts to end corporate rule and legalize democracy in the US? Underlying the topic of “corporate personhood” is the question who should government be accountable to in a democracy: natural human beings or legal entities created by law to maximize profits for their stockholders? For a fascinating interpretation of the evolution of “corporate personhood” from responsibility to state governments from which corporations received their charters to freedom from government to protect the rights of citizens, see Jan Edwards and Molly Morgan’s “Abolish Corporate Personhood”, June, 2003 (especially pp. 1-10( at the URL For a brilliant detailed analysis of “The Roberts Court v. America: How the Roberts Supreme Court is using the First Amendment to craft a radical, free-market jurisprudence” by Jedediah Purdy , a professor of law at Duke University, see his article in Democracy Journal, Winter 2012 at the URL For a short frightening view of the path to American totalitarianism which merges George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, see Chris Hedges’, “A Brave New Dystopia”, Truthdig, December 29, 2010, Based on this background, should the government in a democratic society be able to protect the public interest from corporate influence over the political process? If the Supreme Court were being honest in its Citizens United ruling, would it have said something like: “We don’t care whether or not independent spending (by corporations) can or cannot corrupt the political process; the First Amendment trumps this risk of corruption regardless of any factual record”. If the Supreme Court has determined in Citizens United (2010), reaffirming Buckley v. Valeo (1976) that money is free speech, should Congress be able to restrict corporate domination of the political process even if they wanted to? (In Brown v. Board or Education (1954) the Supreme Court reversed its position on “separate but equal” which had been regarded as the law of the land since the Supreme Court had decided in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) that state mandated separation of the races was valid under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as long as the segregated facilities were equal. What legislative proposals have been made to strengthen corporate accountability to a democratically elected government under the Constitution? How has the Iowa caucus been affected by unregulated money in politics? If money is so important, how did Santorum practically tie for first place with Romney, and why did Gingrich lose support so precipitously when he was attacked by the Super PAC set up by Romney’s staff and financial supporters? How much of Obama’s political compromises can be explained by his corporate sponsors vs. his leadership style to seek consensus vs. his accommodation to Republican intransigence? How could corporate power be effectively confronted by the Occupy Movement at the community level? How are Public Citizen and Move to Amend trying to mobilize a social movement against Citizens United through house parties, citizen petitions, and street theater? What could we expect if “corporate personhood” was considered constitutionally protected from government regulation and superior to core principles of freedom and equality for natural persons? What could change in public policy if “corporate personhood” was abolished? References to examine: 1.Joseph Stiglitz, “Of the 1%, By the 1%, For the 1%”, Vanity Fair, May2011 at the URL 2.See Public Citizen’s website ( for a.Frequently Asked Questions at the URL b.“The Supreme Court Ruling” at the URL c.What can Congress do? at the URL d.Related videos at the URL including “The Story of Citizens United v. FEC” (2011) and “Senator Bernie Sanders speaks to Nationwide House Parties”, “Democracy is for People, Not for Corporations”, Example of Street Theater You Can Use to "Occupy the Corporations: Expose the Imposters!" e.Money and Democracy Update: Obama rakes in business cash, momentum builds to Citizens United anniversary, Dec. 16, 2011 by Angela Bradbury from Public Citizen’s CitizenVoice blog at the URL f.John Yarmuth (D-KY) introduces bipartisan bill to get money out of politics, Dec. 20, 12011 at the URL 3.See Move to Amend’s website ( for a.“What could change if corporate personhood were abolished” at the URL b.Jan Edwards and Molly Morgan’s “Abolish Corporate Personhood”, June, 2003 (especially pp. 1-10) at the URL c.Chris Hedges, “A Brave New Dystopia”, Truthdig, December 29, 2010, 4.See ‘Citizens United’ Backlash: Montana Supreme Court Upholds State's Corporate Campaign Spending Ban , Huffington Post, January 4, 2012 at the URL 5.“Three Reasons Not to Sweat the Citizens United Ruling”, Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie, Reason TV, at the URL for a libertarian perspective that claims that more information is always better than less, and equates newspapers with other corporations to suggest that the Citizens United ruling can only contribute to more truth and a better informed public. 6.“As States Take on Citizens United, Lawrence Lessig Offers Bold Plan to Get Money Out of Politics”; Interview with Lawrence Lessig on Democracy Now on January 4, 2012 at the URL 7.For a humorous and insightful expose of corporate influence in the culture wars that shape our consciousness but don’t directly affect campaign financing, see “Kabulvision: A New Lowe” on The Daily Show on December 13, 2011 at the URL The Nation Magazine Discussion Group meeting on February 18, 2012 will be led by Bob Crowe to explore the specific strategy of a constitutional convention to change the rules so that corporate power does not continue to eclipse the power of American citizens and democracy can be legalized. This meeting will be fleshed out in a future email following a Public Forum on Saturday, January 14th that the Northern VA Peace and Justice organization will be sponsoring at the Shirlington Public Library, 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA from 2-4 PM. to discuss the need for a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United decision to remedy the pernicious influence of money in politics. May the New Year renew our understanding and commitment to promote democracy, peace, and justice in our community, nation, and world. On January 5, 1941 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his "Four Freedoms" State of the Union Address. In this speech, FDR described the "basic things expected by our people" as including "jobs for those who can work," "security for those who need it," and "ending of special privilege for the few," and the "preservation of civil liberties for all." He foresaw a post-war world marked by four universal freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear ("a world-wide reduction of armaments" to prevent military aggression). There is plenty of work to do. Please invite any interested persons who want to participate in this meeting. Sincerely, Bob Griss, Coordinator Nation Magazine Discussion Group in DC H: (703) 639-0437

Event Location

Cleveland Park Public Library
3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW
second floor meeting room
Washington, DC 20008