Stamp Stampede calls for a constitutional amendment to defend American democracy from corporate interests.
By Martha Shaw
It’s impossible to say how many dollar bills stamped in red with Stamp Stampede messages to end political bribery have been introduced into circulation so far. But, if it’s any indication, I got one as change at New York Penn Station over the holidays. Mine said, “Not To Be Used for Bribing Politicians.”
The Stamp Stampede campaign was devised to spread the word across America about the enormous, devastating power of private corporate interests over politicians, which is threatening our democracy. The campaign calls for a constitutional amendment declaring that 1) money is not speech; and 2) corporations are not people.
Citizenship, Cash and Politics
My first reaction was, “Of course money is not speech and corporations are not people.” It turns out, it is and they are.
Apparently this faux pas happened right under our noses slowly over time, and with our own tax dollars. According to Stamp Stampede organizers, it got much worse in 2010 when a Supreme Court ruling under Citizens United allowed for unlimited donations by billionaires and corporations to Super PACs that fund elections. The complaint is that this loud, omnipotent and biased voice of Super Pacs is drowning out the voices of We, the People.
I asked Stamp Stampeders how much would it take to publicly fund candidates running for federal office. What would it cost Americans to free politicians from the gropes of corporation interests, and grant Americans independence from the rich and powerful, if not greedy, forces that drive our elections? What is the magic number needed to hold candidates accountable to voters, instead of donors?
What a Publicly Funded Election Would Look Like
According to Stamp Stampede, if elections were publicly funded, rather than by special interests, it would only take $2 billion dollars to fund all candidates running for a federal election. In the scheme of things, and considering how much is at stake (like, our democracy) that seems like peanuts. It’s only .02 percent of the annual federal budget, a small price to pay for true democracy.
Isn’t that what our soldiers have been defending since the Revolutionary War? Heck, according to an interview with Stamp Stampede, we already spend $716 billion a year on national defense, supposedly to defend our democracy. What’s another two million?
Stamp Stampede organizer, Charles Lenchner, points out though that overturning the Citizens United ruling in 2010 would not be enough to solve the problem of fixed elections. “Prior to 2010, obscene amounts of money were already being spent by private interests to buy political candidates,” he said.
And Stamp Stampede is not acting alone in its call for a constitutional amendment declaring that money is not speech and corporations are not people. Lenchner cites hundreds of organizations around the country, including 400 cities, communities and small towns, and 150 members of Congress who have signed on to this amendment.
The problem they face is that most voters don’t get it.
An Ice Cream Maker Set on Educating Voters
According to Stamp Stampede, four out of five voters support the cause to end political bribery, yet the vast majority of citizens aren’t aware or knowledgeable about the need for a constitutional amendment. Yes, Americans hate the TV commercials and mud-slinging election campaigns fighting to outspend one another, but people don’t have the means, or the language, to address the issue.
The Stampede hopes to change all that.
“That’s why we are putting the message on money,” says Lenchner. “Our dream is that you won’t make a transaction in your local grocery store without encountering a bill that has our message stamped on it.”
The Head Stamper of the Stamp Stampede is Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. Cohen and his stampers first got their inspiration from Occupy George and Where's George. "What better way to stamp money out of politics, than to stamp the money," he said while assuring me that the movement is one hundred percent legal. "This campaign fuses social media and grassroots activism with various organizations in order to engage the public in protecting our hard-won democracy," he added.
"Stamping money is political Jiu-Jitsu. We're using the currency itself to highlight the issue of money dominating our political system. At the end of the day, Americans want one person to equal one vote, not one dollar to equal one vote. Corporate money doesn't just degrade the quality of our laws and legislators, it devalues us, as citizens and as human beings," Cohen emphasized.
The more I learned, the more I was convinced that our forefathers would probably have joined the Stamp Stampede. So, I ordered a stamp of my own. You can join too, and choose from messages including: Corporations Are Not People; Stamp Money Out of Politics; The System Isn’t Broken, It’s Fixed; and Not To Be Used for Bribing Politicians.
Anyone can join the Stamp Stampede and start stamping by ordering stamps (from $8-$10) online at http://www.stampstampede.org and follow the Stamp Stampede on Facebook and Twitter. Why not?
Supreme Court’s Shocker
Stamping out Big Money in Politics
The Fair Elections Now Act
Local and state resolution efforts to amend the Constitution