By: Logun Buckley
This last week ADA Iowa Organizer Chris Schwartz along with Tracy Leone, an Organizer for the Iowa Federation of Labor and members of the Quad City Next Up Young Workers Group met to organize the Quad City area in preparation of the respective counties and cities to introduce resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the US Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee ruling. Over fifty packed the room to watch the documentary Pay 2 Play at Rozz-Tox, a local coffee shop in Rock Island, IL and discuss their thoughts on the movie and what steps were necessary to reduce the power and influence that corporate money has on government policy.
The movie Pay 2 Play was released in mid 2014 as a response to the Citizens United v. FEC decision. The filmmaker John Ennis inspires hope in his film, advocating for people to do whatever they can in protest to big money in politics. Ennis himself uses street art in protest. The game Monopoly is referenced in the movie, specifically the ideology that is instilled by playing the game. To win the game in the end, you must have the most money. The bottom line is more important than anything else to a corporation, and a corporation will spend as much as it takes to make it easier to make more money. There are various methods that corporations can take to ensure this but funding the politicians that will push the corporation's agendas seem to be the easiest and best bet for them. Agendas that include keeping the minimum wage a starving wage, reducing safety and health regulations, increasing tax loopholes, and blocking bills that help the middle class in Congress, The Senate, and the House of Representatives.
The messages in the movie were echoed in the concern of the audience. All that were present discussed observations of money influencing local politics, as well as the larger issue of why we had come to Rock Island in the first place, the Citizens United decision. Many referred to the recent 2014 Midterm Elections as a prime example of the corrupt money in politics, citing new US Senator Tea Party elite Republican Joni Ernst and her Koch funded campaign. One member of the audience brought up the fact that voters don't think their votes matter anymore when competing against corporate money, and statistics can prove that. According to Good Magazine, in 2010 0.26% of the American Voting Public (Around 800,000 people) contributed 68% of total donations to congressional campaigns. Those politicians rely on small groups of Americans to fund their campaigns, giving those contributors power over which policies and special interests the politician will pursue in order to keep the contributions coming in. Until there is an amendment to the US Constitution, the Citizens United decision will continue to unfairly advance corporate influence in politics over the needs and welfare of actual United States citizens.
It is going to be an uphill battle to get this amendment passed. For over a century corporations have influenced courts to negotiate on their own behalf, giving more and more rights that were meant for citizens to corporations. A woman from the Sylvis, IL City Council had fought for and passed a resolution calling for the passage of an amendment overturning Citizens United. These resolutions are an important first step in building the pressure needed for Congress to pass a constitutional amendment. Sylvis, IL isn't alone in this resolution 16 States and numerous cities and counties across the US have passed them as well.
A group of community leaders is pushing the effort in Waterloo, IA right now. On Tuesday, January 27, ADA Iowa Organizer Chris Schwartz will be speaking to the Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors in order to publicly request that they schedule a vote on the aforementioned resolution to stop Citizens United.
If you would like to introduce a resolution in your city or county to reverse the Citizens United ruling by amending the US Constitution and therefor reduce corporate spending in politics then you can check out our website at adaction.org or contact ADA Iowa Organizer Chris Schwartz at firstname.lastname@example.org.