Just got back from Occupy Poughkeepsie General Assembly tonight at Christ Episcopal Church-- great news-- a ton of folks there committed to come out to make my the rally described below this coming Wednesday a reality!...(Amber Rose, Patrick Quinn, Brady Massey, Tom Tildrum, Alex Key, Elaine Fernandez, more)...
Specifically, what we'll be gathering about Weds. Jan. 11th 4:30 pm in front of County Office Building (22 Market St. in Poughkeepsie) is this-- pushing for the Dutchess County Legislature to follow the good recent examples of Albany, NYC, L.A., Boulder, and Oakland-- and pass a resolution for our Constitution to be amended to make it clear-- corporations aren't people!...(this now more necessary than ever, in light of incredibly misguided 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United decision; see MovetoAmend.org)...
Fact: Jan. 14th is deadline for me to get three other county legislators to sign on to the resolution I submitted a few days ago for action in Dutchess on this; otherwise it won't even be allowed by current GOP Co. Leg. majority to even appear on Feb. Co. Leg. Committee Day agenda-- so-- if enough of you out there send letters in to us all at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[update note-- just learned today (Mon. afternoon) that newly elected Wappinger Co. Leg. Francena Amparo, to her credit, has agreed to co-sponsor resolution below from yours truly on this....now just need two more co-sponsors by this Friday 5 pm!]
[scroll down just a bit for texts of resolutions from NYC, Albany-- time for us to lift our voices locally now]
[new from WFP-- sign(!): http://action.workingfamiliesparty.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=5150 ]
[I've been pushin' for this since 2010 (Maurice Hinchey as well); see
http://www.JoelforCongress.org : key reason I'm running http://www.DutchessDemocracy.blogspot.com ; recall as well former Co. Leg. Bill McCabe's efforts on this too-- speak up at next Co. Leg. full board mtg.-- Mon. Jan. 23rd on the sixth floor of our County Office Building at 22 Market St. Poughkeepsie!]
[recall Thurs. Jan. 5th Democracy Now (scroll all the way down to see this): "Citizens United Backlash Grows from Cali. to NYC Urging Congress to Overturn Corporate Personhood"
Pass it on!...
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[here below-- resolution submitted to Co. Leg. offices a few days ago on this by yours truly; email email@example.com now; pass it on!]
WHEREAS, in 2010 the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, holding that independent spending on elections by corporations and other groups could not be limited by government regulations, and
WHEREAS, this decision rolled back the legal restrictions on corporate spending in the electoral process, allowing for unlimited corporate spending to influence elections, candidate selection, and policy decisions, and
WHEREAS, in reaching its decision, a majority of the Supreme Court, relying on prior decisions, interpreted the First Amendment of the Constitution to afford corporations the same free speech protections as natural persons, and
WHEREAS, in his eloquent dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens rightly recognized that "corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires; corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their 'personhood' often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of 'We the People' by whom and for whom our Constitution was established", and
WHEREAS, the Court's decision in Citizens United severely hampers the ability of federal, state and local governments to enact reasonable campaign finance reforms and regulations regarding corporate political activity, and
WHEREAS, corporations should not be afforded the entirety of protections or "rights" of natural persons, such that the expenditure of corporate money to influence the electoral process is a form of constitutionally protected speech, and
WHEREAS, several proposed amendments to the Constitution have been introduced in Congress that would allow governments to regulate the raising and spending of money by corporations to influence elections, and therefore be it
RESOLVED, that the Dutchess County Legislature opposes the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution in Citizens United regarding the constitutional rights of corporations, and supports amending the Constitution to provide that corporations are not entitled to the entirety of protections or "rights" of natural persons, specifically so that the expenditure of corporate money to influence the electoral process is no longer a form of constitutionally protected speech, and calls on Congress to begin the process of amending the Constitution, and be it further
RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be sent to President Barack Obama, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, and Representatives Chris Gibson, Nan Hayworth, and Maurice Hinchey.
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From: Cashawna Parker (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: Resolution Against Corporate Personhood
Date: Jan 6, 2012 12:17 PM
The resolution that the Albany Common Council passed is below.
Senior Legislative Aide to the
Albany Common Council
Council Members Calsolaro, Fahey, Golby, Konev, O'Brien, Sano and Smith introduced the following, which was approved:
Resolution Number 93.121.11R (As amended prior to introduction)
RESOLUTION SUPPORTING THE MOVE TO AMEND CAMPAIGN RELATING TO CORPORATE PERSONHOOD AS DECIDED IN CITIZENS UNITED VS. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION; CALLING ON CONGRESS TO PASS LEGISLATION LIMITING CORPORATE PERSONHOOD TO THE HISTORIC PARAMETERS AS SET FORTH IN THE 1886 SUPREME COURT DECISION IN SANTA CLARA COUNTY VS. SOUTHERN PACIFIC RAILROAD; AND SUPPORTING FEDERAL LEGISLATION REQUIRING DISCLOSURE OF DONORS TO ORGANIZATIONS MAKING POLITICAL EXPENDITURES
WHEREAS, government of, by, and for the people has long been a cherished American value, and We The People's fundamental and inalienable right to self-govern, and thereby secure rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness is guaranteed in the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and;
WHEREAS, free and fair elections are essential to democracy and effective self-
WHEREAS, persons are rightfully recognized as human beings whose essential needs include clean air, clean water, safe and secure food, and;
WHEREAS, corporations are entirely human-made legal fictions created by express permission of We The People and our government, and;
WHEREAS, corporations can exist in perpetuity, can exist simultaneously in many nations at once, need only profit for survival, and exist solely through the legal charter imposed by the government of We The People, and;
WHEREAS, in addition to these advantages, the great wealth of large corporations allows them to wield coercive force of law to overpower human beings and communities that can affect We The People's exercise of our Constitutional rights, and;
WHEREAS, in the 1886 Supreme Court decision in Santa Clara vs. Southern Pacific Railroad, the United States Supreme Court ruled that only certain, specified rights for "persons" can be extended to corporations, and this decision has been the basis for corporate personhood for more than one hundred years, until the Citizens United decision in 2010, and;
WHEREAS, in the dissenting opinion in the Citizens United decision, Justice Stevens wrote that, ". . . in a variety of contexts, we have held that speech can be regulated differentially on account of the speaker's identity, when identity is understood in categorical or institutional terms." The dissent concludes that ". . . the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people . . . .", and;
WHEREAS, in response to the Citizens United decision, United States Senator Charles Schumer introduced legislation to ban foreign-controlled corporations and government contractors from making political expenditures and also requiring disclosure of donors to organizations making political expenditures, and;
WHEREAS, corporations are not and have never been human beings, and therefore are rightfully subservient to human beings and governments as our legal creations, and;
WHEREAS, the recent Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision that rolled back the legal limits on corporate spending in the electoral process creates an unequal playing field and allows unlimited corporate spending to influence elections, candidate selection, policy decisions and sway votes, and forces elected officials to divert their attention from The Peoples' business, or even vote
against the interest of their human constituents, in order to ensure competitive campaign funds for their own re-election, and;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Common Council of the City of Albany states its support for the Move to Amend campaign relating to corporate personhood as decided in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and calling on Congress to pass legislation limiting corporate personhood to its historic parameters as decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in Santa Clara vs. Southern Pacific Railroad.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that copies of this resolution be transmitted to United States Senators Charles Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand and United States Representative Paul Tonko.
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From: "Freedman-Schnapp, Michael" email@example.com
Subject: NYC Citizens United resolution text
Date: Jan 6, 2012 11:41 AM
The text for Res 1172 can be found at this link and I have copied the text below as well.
Office of Councilmember Brad Lander
Director of Policy
Res. No. 1172
Resolution opposing the United State Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution in Citizens United regarding the constitutional rights of corporations, supporting an amendment to the Constitution to provide that corporations are not entitled to the entirety of protections or "rights" of natural persons, specifically so that the expenditure of corporate money to influence the electoral process is no longer a form of constitutionally protected speech, and calling on Congress to begin the process of amending the Constitution.
By Council Members Lander, Mark-Viverito, The Speaker (Council Member Quinn), Brewer, Levin, Chin, James, Rose, Van Bramer, Garodnick, Vann, Gennaro, Barron, Comrie, Jackson, Palma, Reyna, Sanders Jr., Williams, Rodriguez, Koppell, Arroyo, Ferreras, Mendez., Crowley, Eugene and Wills
Whereas, In 2010 the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, holding that independent spending on elections by corporations and other groups could not be limited by government regulations; and
Whereas, This decision rolled back the legal restrictions on corporate spending in the electoral process, allowing for unlimited corporate spending to influence elections, candidate selection, and policy decisions; and
Whereas, In reaching its decision, a majority of the Supreme Court, relying on prior decisions, interpreted the First Amendment of the Constitution to afford corporations the same free speech protections as natural persons; and
Whereas, In his eloquent dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens rightly recognized that "corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their 'personhood' often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of 'We the People' by whom and for whom our Constitution was established"; and
Whereas, The Court's decision in Citizens United severely hampers the ability of federal, state and local governments to enact reasonable campaign finance reforms and regulations regarding corporate political activity; and
Whereas, Corporations should not be afforded the entirety of protections or "rights" of natural persons, such that the expenditure of corporate money to influence the electoral process is a form of constitutionally protected speech; and
Whereas, several proposed amendments to the Constitution have been introduced in Congress that would allow governments to regulate the raising and spending of money by corporations to influence elections; now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Council of the City of New York opposes the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution in Citizens United regarding the constitutional rights of corporations, and supports amending the Constitution to provide that corporations are not entitled to the entirety of protections or "rights" of natural persons, specifically so that the expenditure of corporate money to influence the electoral process is no longer a form of constitutionally protected speech, and calls on Congress to begin the process of amending the Constitution.
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From: connie hogarth
From: Megan Hastie
Subject: Fw: NYC Council says no to corporate personhood
Date: Jan 6, 2012 2:09 AM
----- Forwarded Message -----
From: "Dan Cantor, WFP"
Sent: Thursday, January 5, 2012 6:43 PM
Subject: Is Your Town or City next?
Tell your local leaders.
Yesterday, something big happened in New York City. The City Council passed a resolution -- by resounding voice vote -- declaring that corporations are not people.
Unlimited corporate spending on elections (the kind made possible by the Supreme Court's misguided Citizens United decision) corrupts our democracy. Corporate money drowns out citizens' voices, and that's what really violates the First Amendment.
Section 1 - Authority
New York City took a stand, and your community could be next. Sign the petition to urge your local leaders to take up the charge:
Around the country, a movement is growing. It started with small cities -- like Boulder, Colorado and Missoula, Montana -- passing resolutions against corporate personhood. Then bigger cities did the same -- Los Angeles last month and New York City yesterday. And last week, the Montana State Supreme Court directly challenged Citizens United, ruling that the state could limit corporate campaign spending.
Momentum is on our side, but victory is still a long way off. The next step is for cities and towns across New York State to take up the charge. And your municipality could be next.
Sign the petition to urge local leaders in your community to stand up to the corporate control of elections. We'll deliver a copy to elected officials when we reach a critical mass in each town:
There was another positive step in New York yesterday, too. In his State of the State address, Governor Cuomo came out strongly for something even bolder: new campaign finance reform, including public financing of elections. These local resolutions will help build more momentum for campaign finance reform and help us finally get money out of New York politics.
The only way to put our government back in the hands of the people is to get rid of the corrupting influence of big money. Once politicians no longer have to rely on big dollar campaign contributions, they will no longer have to listen to the demands of the corporate lobbyists who roam the halls in Albany. And that will open doors on every issue we care about.
Sign the petition here:
Thanks for your support,
Executive director, Working Families Party
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From http://www.HuffingtonPost.com (also see http://www.NYCProgressives.com )...
New York City Council Passes Resolution Opposing Corporate Personhood
First Posted: 1/5/12 12:29 PM ET Updated: 1/5/12 01:54 PM ET
The New York City Council symbolically passed a resolution Wednesday opposing "corporate personhood." Resolution 1172 formally expressed disapproval of the landmark US Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which declared that corporations have the same first amendment rights as people.
The bill, which urges Congress to take action against corporate personhood, was sponsored by councilmembers Brad Lander, Melissa Mark-Viverito and Steve Levin, all members of the Progressive Caucus. After the vote, the Caucus released a statement, which read in part:
"As our support of this resolution demonstrates, restoring confidence in government and strengthening democratic participation is a core principle of the Progressive Caucus. We believe that corporations should not share the same rights as people, that unlimited and unreported corporate donations meant to sway the electoral process should not be considered freedom of speech, and that the government should regulate the raising and spending of money by corporations intended to influence elections. We cannot allow corporate money to manipulate our democracy."
Occupy Wall Street's New York General Assembly voted to support the resolution. Corporate personhood has been a target of Occupy since the movement began in September.
The non-binding resolution passed along party lines with 41 yes-votes from Democrats, five no-votes from all five Council Republicans and one abstention from Democrat Peter Vallone.
Speaking at the hearing, Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Queens) spoke against the resolution, but was nearly drowned out by the boos and hisses of Occupy Wall Street protesters in attendance, The Gotham Gazette reports. "Corporations are people," he said. "All their money goes back to the people."
The New York City Council joins a growing list of local governments across the US who have passed similar resolutions, including Los Angeles, Albany, Boulder and Oakland.
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From http://www.CivSourceOnline.com ...
Cities, states pass resolutions against corporate personhood
January 4, 2012 @ Bailey McCann
Several cities and states are passing resolutions against corporate personhood. The resolutions are the result of Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission which gave corporations the same first amendment rights as individuals and thereby opening the floodgates for money in politics in the US. Cities and states with rules governing political contributions on the books and even some without are hoping that these resolutions will curb the impact of that decision or provide momentum to overturn it completely.
Los Angeles, Oakland, Albany and Boulder have all passed city council resolutions invalidating the concept of corporate personhood. New York City voted this afternoon to join them, with a resolution creating clear dividing lines between the rights of corporations and citizens in Manhattan. The New York decision is notable for both the size of Manhattan but also the size of its business community and the potential impact of such a resolution. Cities across the country are looking at similar resolutions in attempt to restore order in their localities as Super Political Action Committees (PACs) make unprecedented forays into local elections.
On Friday, Montana's Supreme Court restored a 100-year old provision banning corporate spending in local politics. According to the court, even though the Supreme Court ruling strikes federal spending limits, it does not specifically prohibit state spending laws. The court held that the state's Corrupt Practices Act, thus complies with the U.S. Supreme Court's January 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.
Vermont introduced a measure in the state legislature last week that calls on Congress to create a constitutional amendment separating the rights of individuals from those of corporations. California is expected to be the next state to take up a state-level resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision.
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From http://www.TomDispatch.com ...
Published on Thursday, January 5, 2012 by TomDispatch.com
Time to Stop Being Cynical About Corporate Money in Politics and Start Being Angry
Buying Congress in 2012
by Bill McKibben
My resolution for 2012 is to be naïve -- dangerously naïve.
I'm aware that the usual recipe for political effectiveness is just the opposite: to be cynical, calculating, an insider. But if you think, as I do, that we need deep change in this country, then cynicism is a sucker's bet. Try as hard as you can, you're never going to be as cynical as the corporations and the harem of politicians they pay for. It's like trying to outchant a Buddhist monastery.
Here's my case in point, one of a thousand stories people working for social change could tell: All last fall, most of the environmental movement, including 350.org, the group I helped found, waged a fight against the planned Keystone XL pipeline that would bring some of the dirtiest energy on the planet from Canada through the U.S. to the Gulf Coast. We waged our struggle against building it out in the open, presenting scientific argument, holding demonstrations, and attending hearings. We sent 1,253 people to jail in the largest civil disobedience action in a generation. Meanwhile, more than half a million Americans offered public comments against the pipeline, the most on any energy project in the nation's history.
And what do you know? We won a small victory in November, when President Obama agreed that, before he could give the project a thumbs-up or -down, it needed another year of careful review. (The previous version of that review, as overseen by the State Department, had been little short of a crony capitalist farce.) Given that James Hansen, the government's premier climate scientist, had said that tapping Canada's tar sands for that pipeline would, in the end, essentially mean "game over for the climate," that seemed an eminently reasonable course to follow, even if it was also eminently political.
A few weeks later, however, Congress decided it wanted to take up the question. In the process, the issue went from out in the open to behind closed doors in money-filled rooms. Within days, and after only a couple of hours of hearings that barely mentioned the key scientific questions or the dangers involved, the House of Representatives voted 234-194 to force a quicker review of the pipeline. Later, the House attached its demand to the must-pass payroll tax cut.
That was an obvious pre-election year attempt to put the president on the spot. Environmentalists are at least hopeful that the White House will now reject the permit. After all, its communications director said that the rider, by hurrying the decision, "virtually guarantees that the pipeline will not be approved."
As important as the vote total in the House, however, was another number: within minutes of the vote, Oil Change International had calculated that the 234 Congressional representatives who voted aye had received $42 million in campaign contributions from the fossil-fuel industry; the 193 nays, $8 million.
I know that cynics -- call them realists, if you prefer -- will be completely unsurprised by that. Which is precisely the problem.
We've reached the point where we're unfazed by things that should shake us to the core. So, just for a moment, be naïve and consider what really happened in that vote: the people's representatives who happen to have taken the bulk of the money from those energy companies promptly voted on behalf of their interests.
They weren't weighing science or the national interest; they weren't balancing present benefits against future costs. Instead of doing the work of legislators, that is, they were acting like employees. Forget the idea that they're public servants; the truth is that, in every way that matters, they work for Exxon and its kin. They should, by rights, wear logos on their lapels like NASCAR drivers.
If you find this too harsh, think about how obligated you feel when someone gives you something. Did you get a Christmas present last month from someone you hadn't remembered to buy one for? Are you going to send them an extra-special one next year?
And that's for a pair of socks. Speaker of the House John Boehner, who insisted that the Keystone approval decision be speeded up, has gotten $1,111,080 from the fossil-fuel industry during his tenure. His Senate counterpart Mitch McConnell, who shepherded the bill through his chamber, has raked in $1,277,208 in the course of his tenure in Washington.
If someone had helped your career to the tune of a million dollars, wouldn't you feel in their debt? I would. I get somewhat less than that from my employer, Middlebury College, and yet I bleed Panther blue. Don't ask me to compare my school with, say, Dartmouth unless you want a biased answer, because that's what you'll get. Which is fine -- I am an employee.
But you'd be a fool to let me referee the homecoming football game. In fact, in any other walk of life we wouldn't think twice before concluding that paying off the referees is wrong. If the Patriots make the Super Bowl, everyone in America would be outraged to see owner Robert Kraft trot out to midfield before the game and hand a $1,000 bill to each of the linesmen and field judges.
If he did it secretly, the newspaper reporter who uncovered the scandal would win a Pulitzer. But a political reporter who bothered to point out Boehner's and McConnell's payoffs would be upbraided by her editor for simpleminded journalism. That's how the game is played and we've all bought into it, even if only to sputter in hopeless outrage.
Far from showing any shame, the big players boast about it: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, front outfit for a consortium of corporations, has bragged on its website about outspending everyone in Washington, which is easy to do when Chevron, Goldman Sachs, and News Corp are writing you seven-figure checks. This really matters. The Chamber of Commerce spent more money on the 2010 elections than the Republican and Democratic National Committees combined, and 94% of those dollars went to climate-change deniers. That helps explain why the House voted last year to say that global warming isn't real.
It also explains why "our" representatives vote, year in and year out, for billions of dollars worth of subsidies for fossil-fuel companies. If there was ever an industry that didn't need subsidies, it would be this one: they make more money each year than any enterprise in the history of money. Not only that, but we've known how to burn coal for 300 years and oil for 200.
Those subsidies are simply payoffs. Companies give small gifts to legislators, and in return get large ones back, and we're the ones who are actually paying.
Whose Money? Whose Washington?
I don't want to be hopelessly naïve. I want to be hopefully naïve. It would be relatively easy to change this: you could provide public financing for campaigns instead of letting corporations pay. It's the equivalent of having the National Football League hire referees instead of asking the teams to provide them.
Public financing of campaigns would cost a little money, but endlessly less than paying for the presents these guys give their masters. And it would let you watch what was happening in Washington without feeling as disgusted. Even legislators, once they got the hang of it, might enjoy neither raising money nor having to pretend it doesn't affect them.
To make this happen, however, we may have to change the Constitution, as we've done 27 times before. This time, we'd need to specify that corporations aren't people, that money isn't speech, and that it doesn't abridge the First Amendment to tell people they can't spend whatever they want getting elected. Winning a change like that would require hard political organizing, since big banks and big oil companies and big drug-makers will surely rally to protect their privilege.
Still, there's a chance. The Occupy movement opened the door to this sort of change by reminding us all that the system is rigged, that its outcomes are unfair, that there's reason to think people from across the political spectrum are tired of what we've got, and that getting angry and acting on that anger in the political arena is what being a citizen is all about.
It's fertile ground for action. After all, Congress's approval rating is now at 9%, which is another way of saying that everyone who's not a lobbyist hates them and what they're doing. The big boys are, of course, counting on us simmering down; they're counting on us being cynical, on figuring there's no hope or benefit in fighting city hall. But if we're naïve enough to demand a country more like the one we were promised in high school civics class, then we have a shot.
A good time to take an initial stand comes later this month, when rallies outside every federal courthouse will mark the second anniversary of the Citizens United decision. That's the one where the Supreme Court ruled that corporations had the right to spend whatever they wanted on campaigns.
To me, that decision was, in essence, corporate America saying, "We're not going to bother pretending any more. This country belongs to us."
We need to say, loud and clear: "Sorry. Time to give it back."
To catch Timothy MacBain's first Tomcast audio interview of the new year in which McKibben discusses how the rest of us can compete with a system in which money talks, click here, or download it to your iPod here.
To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com here.
© 2012 TomDispatch
Bill McKibben is Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and co-founder of 350.org. His most recent book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.
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[recall below too-- good example for City of Poughkeepsie Common Council, Dutchess County Leg.!]
From: "Knapp, Elizabeth" Elizabeth.Knapp@albanycounty.com
Date: Jan 6, 2012 10:54 AM
PROCLAMATION OF THE ALBANY COUNTY LEGISLATURE
EXPRESSING SOLIDARITY WITH OCCUPY ALBANY
Whereas, "Occupy Albany" Movement, in solidarity with "Occupy Wall Street" Movement is exercising their 1st Amendment Right by peacefully demonstrating in City of Albany's Academy Park since Friday, October 21st; and
Whereas, additional "Occupy" protests have taken root across the Country, from large demonstrations in Boston and Oakland, to dozens of smaller ones in between, with many more being planned every hour, including a large-scale "Occupy Colleges" movement on college campuses across the United States. There are now 1731 cities which have some "Occupy" presence; and
Whereas, the "Occupy" demonstrations are a rapidly growing movement with the shared goal of urging U.S. residents to peaceably assemble and occupy public space as a public forum that is concerned with addressing critical issues about the nation's economic crisis, consolidation of wealth and power, and the ability of residents to meaningfully participate in the democratic process; and
Whereas, the causes and consequences of the economic crisis are eroding the very social contract guaranteed by the United States Constitution; namely, the ability of Americans to come together and form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense of, promote the general welfare of, and secure the blessings of liberty for all, allowing every American to strive for and share in the prosperity of our nation through cooperation and hard work; and
Whereas, residents of the County of Albany like residents across the Capital Region and the United States, are reeling from over 10 years of continuous war resulting in economic crisis that threatens our fiscal stability and our quality of life; and
Whereas, in the City of Albany, 24.7% population lives in poverty; 31.4% of children and 12.8% of seniors live in poverty; the statistics are worse for minorities: 30.5% African Americans and 35% Hispanics live in poverty in the City of Albany; and
Whereas, our economic system can only be called broken when one considers that currently, over 25 million Americans who seek work are unemployed; more than 50 million Americans are forced to live without health insurance; and, even using our current poverty measure that is widely recognized to be inadequate and outdated, more than 1 in 5 American children are growing up poor in households that lack access to resources that provide basic survival needs, such as; food, clothing, and shelter; and
Whereas, the fiscal impact of the continuing economic crisis is disastrous to education, public services, infrastructure and essential safety-net services that have historically made America successful, with school class sizes growing while teachers are laid off and forcing cities and states to make sobering choices that just a few years ago would have been unthinkable, such as how to cut hours and services from public safety provision, delaying or neglecting to maintain essential physical infrastructure including roads, sewers, water and power delivery; and cutting services provided by our libraries, recreation, and park facilities; and
Whereas, one of the largest problems causing our economy to continue to flounder is the foreclosure crisis, with some banks continuing the use of flawed, and in some cases fraudulent, procedures to flood the housing market with foreclosures, such as the recent revelations of widespread foreclosure mismanagement by mortgage servicers who fail to properly document the seizure and sale of homes, in some cases foreclosing without the legal authority to do so, prompting the 50-state Attorney General investigation of offshore closure practices; IN THIS REGARD THANK YOU TO THE MAJORITY OF ALBANY COUNTY LEGISLATORS WHO SIGNED A PROCLAMATION REQUESTING DIVESTMENT OF FINANCIAL TRANSACTIONS BY THE COUNTY IN THE BANK OF AMERICA, JP MORGAN CHASE AND WELLS FARGO; and
Whereas, some of "Occupy Albany" movement participants have participated in action against expiration of the surcharge on the New York's wealthiest (millionaire's tax, set to expire on December 31st, which means $5 billion less in revenue) and in another action urging for banks to renegotiate mortgages and put a freeze on foreclosures.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Albany County Legislature hereby stands in support for the continuation of the peaceful and vibrant exercise of the First Amendment Rights carried out by "Occupy Albany". We applaud the actions of District Attorney David Soares and Police Chief Steven Krokoff in upholding the law and Constitution in regards to Occupy Albany.
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Government of, by, and for Š ?
Posted on January 4, 2012
Do you want Walmart picking our President? How about Exxon Mobil choosing your next member of Congress?
As we kick-off the 2012 election season, we are at a time of deep lack of faith in our democracy. One big reason: corporations are gaining more and more power at election time. They have long been able to hire armies of lobbyists to roam the corridors of power. But thanks to the Supreme Court's decision last year in Citizens United v. FEC that "corporations are people," unrestricted waves of corporate cash can now flood TV and radio with so-called "independent expenditures" pushing the candidates that those corporations prefer.
In New York City, we are fighting back Š for a democracy of, by, and for the people (not the corporations).
Supporting a Constitutional amendment to repeal "corporate personhood"
Today, the City Council passed a resolution that I sponsored (along with colleagues in the Progressive Caucus) calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn that wrongheaded ruling by the Supreme Court in Citizens United and make clear that corporations aren't people, and don't have "free speech" rights to buy and sell our elections.
While only symbolic, it's an important step. The Los Angeles City Council passed a similar resolution last month and other cities have taken stands. The movement is building to take back our elections.
Protecting our local campaign finance laws
New York City already has one of the country's strongest campaign finance laws, including reasonable contribution limits and public matching funds (so that working people have a real chance of winning office). Our local laws bar corporate contributions, and - especially important - place strict limits on contributions from lobbyists or individuals who do business with the City. Our laws have been strengthened over the years, but not without resistance from moneyed interests.
Some good news: Just before the holidays, the United States Court of Appeals upheld the City's campaign finance law, ruling against members of the Conservative Party who challenged it, hoping to restore the power of lobbyists and those holding or seeking City contracts to influence elections. Thanks to the court ruling, New York City's local elections will remain some of the fairest in the country.
Back when the suit was brought in 2009 (when I was a candidate for office) I was proud to submit an amicus curiae brief in the case, along with Mark Winston Griffith, supporting the City's Campaign Finance Law. Thanks to Jenner & Block for preparing the amicus. The Second Circuit's decision is here.
Expanding democratic participation
Many of you have also been part of renewing local democracy in New York. Over the past few months, I've been working with constituents on participatory budgeting, which is allowing residents of this district to decide how money will be spent in their neighborhoods. Last fall, we held big community meetings to gather ideas and many residents volunteered to help with the research and decide what projects to put before voters. In March, you will be able vote on which projects get funding. Check out BradLander.com/PB for updates on some of the projects being considered.
If we want a government that is truly of, by, and for the people - all of us - then we need to keep corporations and their lobbyists from dominating our elections. Our democracy depends on it.
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The Fight to End Corporate Personhood Comes to NYC
January 4, 2012
The Big Apple Has Joined the Fight
3:00PM ET UPDATE: The City Council has passed the resolution, making NYC the second major city in the United States to pass a resolution against Citizens United and corporate personhood. We applaud the City Council on this action. Here's the press release from the Progressive Caucus, who led the charge on the resolution along with Speaker Christine Quinn.
(Ed. note: This is just the beginning! Let's #getmoneyout!)
When the city of Los Angeles became the first metropolis to defy the Citizens' United decision and declare that corporations are not people, it sent shock waves throughout America.
Maybe, just maybe, a case for repealing what is seen by many as one of the great infringements on our democracy could be had. With the announcement that New York City Council, today, will be deciding on its own resolution opposing Citizens' United, there is a palpable sense that this could be the year that "We the People" regain control of a system that has started to spin violently out of control.
City Council will vote on the resolution today. It is sponsored by Progressive Caucus Members Brad Lander, Melissa Mark-Viverito and Stephen Levin with the co-sponsorship of the entirety of the Progressive Caucus and the support of Speaker Christine Quinn.
At the heart of their vote is the contention that corporations, and their money, do not deserve the same First Amendment protections that citizens do. The protection of unregulated campaign donations as freedom of speech represents a very real subversion of our democratic ideals as a nation, and allows elected officials to play to the highest bidder.
The resolution calls for a return to pre-2010 regulations about campaign finance spending, but many of us hope this could be the beginning of a real revolution that sees the total removal of money from politics in the interest of reforming our system.
As our generation presides over what seems to be the decline of America's vitality and ability to pull itself out of this economic slump, it has become increasingly clear that politics-for-money has become one of the most sinister problems we face as a nation.
The vote takes place today. Here's hoping that this is not the last we see of cities asserting themselves in the fight against corporate personhood.
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From http://www.democracynow.org/2012/1/5/citizens_united_backlash_grows_from_cali :
Citizens United Backlash Grows from Cali. to NYC Urging Congress to Overturn Corporate Personhood
Adding to a growing nationwide backlash against the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, California lawmakers have introduced a resolution that calls on Congress to "propose and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United." The New York City Council has just passed a similar resolution, echoing measures passed in Los Angeles, Oakland, Albany and Boulder. We speak to Public Citizen President Robert Weissman; California Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski, who introduced the state’s Citizens United resolution; and New York City Council Member and measure co-sponsor Melissa Mark-Viverito. "I think it taps into the sentiment that we’re seeing around the country growing, regarding Occupy Wall Street, where people really feel that government is disconnected from the vast majority of the population, and because of this influence that corporate interests have," Mark-Viverito says. [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZALEZ: We turn now to a growing nationwide backlash against the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that opened the door for nearly unlimited political spending to influence elections. On Wednesday, California lawmakers introduced a resolution that calls on Congress to, quote, "propose and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United ... and to restore constitutional rights and fair elections to the people." Meanwhile, here in New York, the City Council passed a similar resolution. All of this comes after similar measures passed in Hawaii and other cities, including Los Angeles, Oakland, Albany and Boulder. On Friday, Montana’s Supreme Court restored a 100-year-old ban on corporate spending directed at political campaigns or candidates. Last year, federal lawmakers introduced four different constitutional amendments to the U.S. House and Senate aimed at overturning the Citizens United ruling.
AMY GOODMAN: Some of the concern about the impact of Citizens United is inspired by the influx of unlimited corporate cash into Iowa’s presidential caucus. Television ads sponsored by a political action committee that supports Mitt Romney plastered the state’s airwaves, attacking his rival, Newt Gingrich.
RESTORE OUR FUTURE: Ever notice how some people make a lot of mistakes?
NEWT GINGRICH: It was probably a mistake. I made a mistake. I’ve made mistakes at times.
RESTORE OUR FUTURE: So far, Newt Gingrich has admitted his mistakes or flipped on, teaming up with Nancy Pelosi, immigration, Medicare, healthcare, Iraq, attacking Mitt Romney, and more.
NEWT GINGRICH: I made a big mistake in the spring.
RESTORE OUR FUTURE: Haven’t we had enough mistakes? Restore Our Future is responsible for the content of this message.
AMY GOODMAN: That ad was paid for by super PAC, or political action committee, called Restore Our Future. The PAC has no direct participation from the Romney campaign, but three of its founders were campaign staffers on Romney’s failed 2008 presidential bid. Gingrich finished fourth in the Iowa caucus and accused Romney of trying to buy the election.
Well, for more, we’re joined by two lawmakers who helped introduce resolutions opposing Citizens United. California Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski joins us from Sacramento. He helped author Assembly Joint Resolution 22, which he introduced on Wednesday. And we’re joined by Melissa Mark-Viverito, a member of the New York City’s Progressive Caucus and co-sponsor of the resolution which passed here in New York yesterday. Rob Weissman is also staying with us, the president of Public Citizen.
Let’s go to Sacramento, California. Bob Wieckowski, talk about the legislation, the joint resolution that you introduced yesterday.
ASSEMBLYMEMBER BOB WIECKOWSKI: Well, good morning, Amy and Juan.
California is the most populous state, obviously, and we want to send a strong message to members of the United States Congress that we need to have Citizens United overturned, that it’s just—the influence of corporate money in our elections is just not going to be tolerated in California.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And what would it take to be able to get a constitutional amendment? This is a resolution, right? It’s not—it’s not binding, even on the state?
ASSEMBLYMEMBER BOB WIECKOWSKI: Right, correct. It’s a voice in the debate that’s going on. And we understand that Congress has to go through the process of introduce the amendment, has to be ratified by the states, three-quarters of the states. So it’s an uphill battle. But the dialogue and the outrage that people feel, and people in California feel, about this potential influence that corporate money is going to have on our elections is—needs a vehicle. And this is where we start.
AMY GOODMAN: And Melissa Mark-Viverito, talk about the New York City Council resolution that you co-sponsored.
COUNCIL MEMBER MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: Well, basically, as the assemblyman said, it’s about really allowing this municipality to have a voice in this debate. We’re seeing this discontent grow. Surveys demonstrate that people just don’t want this level of corporate influence and dominance over government. And so, this is a way of really adding our voice. I think it taps into the sentiment that we’re seeing around the country growing, regarding Occupy Wall Street, where people really feel that government is disconnected from the vast majority of the population, and because of this influence that corporate interests have, which is really representing that 1 percent and continuing to want to dictate the laws and regulations in this country.
So, it is, coming from New York City, a strong statement that we also, as a municipality—and hopefully the state will do the same thing here in New York, is to send that message that we want a constitutional amendment. Historically, obviously, most of these amendments have come from Congress, having—bringing it back to the states, and it’s never been done at the state level, making the request to the Congress. But again, we’re seeing this grow across municipalities and across states, so hopefully this will lead to some level of resolve and resolution on this matter.
AMY GOODMAN: Who were the forces on this New York City Council—you’re a City Council member—that pushed this forward and off, the communities, like the community you represent? How does that fit in with campaign finance reform?
COUNCIL MEMBER MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: Well, we have one of the strongest campaign finance laws in the country, is in New York City. And obviously, this also impacts—this decision is going to impact local elections, because your independent corporate interests can spend as much as they want. And so, it is going to impact us. But we do have strict laws, and we’ve been historically the strongest to say that we don’t want that level of influence in our local politics. And so, my community, which is a low-income community, it is a community of color that a lot of times has been disenfranchised, in general. You know, we obviously are very concerned about having our voice heard and having government really reflect the true interests and needs of our communities. And again, limiting corporate influence and dominance through contributions is one way of doing that. Allowing—
AMY GOODMAN: You represent East Harlem.
COUNCIL MEMBER MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: Correct, East Harlem.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, hours before voters took part in the Republican caucus, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich appeared on CBS and publicly accused Mitt Romney of being a liar.
NORAH O’DONNELL: You said of Mitt Romney, "Somebody who will lie to you to get to be president will lie to you when they are president." I have to ask you, are you calling Mitt Romney a liar?
NEWT GINGRICH: Yes.
NORAH O’DONNELL: You’re calling Mitt Romney a liar?
NEWT GINGRICH: Well, you seem shocked by it. I said yes. I mean, what else could you say?
NORAH O’DONNELL: Why are you saying he’s a liar?
NEWT GINGRICH: Because this is a man whose staff created the PAC. His millionaire friends fund the PAC. He pretends he has nothing to do with the PAC. It’s baloney. He’s not telling the American people the truth.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Rob Weissman, what about this whole issue of how these groups have developed and their so-called ties, or no ties, that they supposedly have to the candidates?
ROBERT WEISSMAN: Well, under the election rules, they’re not allowed to coordinate with the candidates. And let’s assume that they’re not. They probably aren’t. But in the case of the Romney PAC, as well as—the super PAC, as well as the others, it’s exactly as Newt Gingrich said. It’s run by Romney’s prior campaign manager and other Romney friends. They’re soliciting from the super Romney donors. And they’re running ads on behalf of Romney, doing exactly what Romney would like to do, but worse.
So there’s two key features of it. One is that because there’s no accountability whatsoever for an entity called Restore Our Future, unlike there is for candidate Romney, they can do nothing but run vicious attack ads, and they can’t be held accountable in the way that Romney himself would be if he were to run the ads.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain—
ROBERT WEISSMAN: The other is that Romney—the Romney campaign has got donation limits. The Restore Our Future super PAC does not. So they’re getting donations on chunks of a million dollars or more, and it’s coming from individuals and from corporations, thanks to Citizens United. We’re really moving very quickly in the direction of massive corruption of the election process, in a way that goes back at least to Watergate and maybe long before.
AMY GOODMAN: Rob Weissman, can you explain Citizens United, what this group was, what this Citizens United decision came out of, how it links to Hillary Clinton and an organization that Newt Gingrich, who seems now hoist on his own petard, worked closely with, Citizens United?
ROBERT WEISSMAN: Well, the organization Citizens United is an extreme, fringe, right-wing organization. If you go to their website, they’re very concerned about the U.N. takeover of the in the United States, and that’s sort of one of their core agenda pieces. They also spend a lot of time developing so-called documentaries. And in the lead-up to the 2008 election, they did an hour-long video hit piece on Hillary Clinton, assuming that she was going to be the nominee for—the Democratic nominee for president. Then the issue—as it turned into a court case, the issue was, could Citizens United air this hour-long attack video on Hillary Clinton on cable TV on demand? And that was actually a really narrow question to our election law that’s kind of technical—not unimportant, but not really that interesting. And that’s how it was handled as it went up to the courts.
When it got to the Supreme Court, it was argued that way, the first time in front of the Supreme Court, over that narrow, technical issue. And the Supreme Court said, "Well, that’s all very nice, but we’re interested in a much bigger question, which is, can we just wipe away all restrictions on corporate spending on elections, so long as there aren’t direct contributions from corporations to candidates?" So having decided what the question should be, even though it wasn’t the question in the case, the Supreme Court then held a new argument and answered the question the way they intended to, which was to say, corporations have a constitutional First Amendment right to spend whatever they want to influence election outcomes.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting that Newt—
ROBERT WEISSMAN: So that was all generated from this organization, Citizens United.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting that Newt Gingrich made films with Citizens United, his own organization. But Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yeah, I’d to bring back Bob Wieckowski from—the California assemblymember. What’s been the impact? Because California obviously has very expensive media markets throughout the state. What’s been the impact of the Citizens United case on races already in California?
ASSEMBLYMEMBER BOB WIECKOWSKI: Well, so far, we had—we had like the city of Los Angeles and the city of San Francisco races. So, our primary season starts in June. And I think folks are terrified, as Robert pointed out, that there’s going to be this deluge of corporate money that’s going to come in. And we also have a changed primary system where we have the top two—top two voters are going to go into the general. So we’re concerned that we’re just at the beginning of a whole year of corporate spending to, you know, determine what the outcome of the elections are going to be. So, the spending is just—hasn’t started yet. They’re collecting the moneys, I guess.
AMY GOODMAN: And the issue of privacy, Bob Wieckowski?
ASSEMBLYMEMBER BOB WIECKOWSKI: Well, I don’t put much weight on the issue of privacy. I mean, corporations aren’t natural people. The public has a greater interest, and we as legislators have a greater responsibility, to let people know who this message is coming from. As has been outlined on your show, there’s—we don’t even know who, you know, People for Good Government are when they come in, and there’s no—there’s no accountability that we have with that. And, you know, this decision flies in the face of all the history of the United States of trying to limit corporate influence and trying to limit these—have these manipulations in our elections. It’s really—it’s quite scary right now in California with all the money that potentially could be spent on determining the outcome of races.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And I’d like to ask Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito—as you said, New York City has one of the toughest campaign finance laws, and it also has a six-to-one public match for those who participate in—under the rules, but it hasn’t stopped a billionaire from running for mayor three times and spending $70 million to $100 million each time to get himself elected as mayor.
COUNCIL MEMBER MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: Right, and it’s true. I mean, our—what we obviously would want to see is people to opt in to the campaign finance program, because it does create a level playing field. Everyone that participates in the program for the position you run, you’re capped in terms of how much money you can raise and how much public money you get back to really have a budget for your campaign. But people can opt out of the program, and then that’s where the amount of undisclosed money or the amount of money that you can raise for an election is one that is not capped in any way. So, obviously that’s where we saw our mayor independently finance his own campaign and in the last election spend over $100 million in a mayoral election. So, we obviously are concerned.
And just to reiterate, the other issue with the Citizens United is the lack of transparency and accountability, that you don’t know where this money is coming from. And you’ve already seen, two years in, you know, how much additional money has been spent in the last election cycle. So, really, it’s a bad, bad decision. And we’re really concerned about the implications running into the future.
AMY GOODMAN: Melissa, you used to work for SEIU. This also involves union money.
COUNCIL MEMBER MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: Yes. But unions are made up of members, and it’s very clearly known who the individuals are that comprise unions. And so, when a union is giving money in a donation to a candidate, you know exactly where it’s coming from, so there is that level of disclosure that it already exists. And fighting on behalf of worker rights and collective bargaining rights, to me, is very different than fighting behind an interest who actually wants to exploit workers and really government intervention in the protection of workers. It’s a very different dynamic.
AMY GOODMAN: And in a moment, we’re going to have a very interesting discussion about what’s going on in Indiana around worker rights. But I wanted to turn to one last clip. A day after narrowly winning the Iowa caucus, Mitt Romney came under intense questioning in New Hampshire Wednesday by a member of Occupy Boston and Occupy New Hampshire over his past comment that corporations are people. The exchange took place at a televised town hall during which Senator John McCain endorsed Romney.
MARK PROVOST: You’ve said that corporations are people. But in the last two years, corporate profits have surged to record highs, directly at the expense of wages. That’s in a JPMorgan report. Now, it seems that the U.S., it’s a great place to be a corporation then, but increasingly a desperate place to live and work. So would you refine your earlier statement from "corporations are people" to "corporations are abusive people"? And would you be willing to reverse the policies of both the Obama administration and his predecessors around corporate-centric economic policies that only see wealth and income, you know, just go to the top, at record highs seemingly, every—faster every year? And the people in this country are in a permanent economic stagnation. So, I just want to see some color on that.
MITT ROMNEY: Where do you think corporations’ profit goes? When you hear that a corporation has profit, where does it go?
MARK PROVOST: [inaudible] profit, I mean, it depends—
MITT ROMNEY: Yeah, but where does it go?
MARK PROVOST: Well, it depends. If they retain it, there’s retained earnings, that means that they’re not spending it on—they’re not distributing it as dividends, and that means they’re not using it for capex, capital expenditure. You know, so they could just hoard it. That’s retained earnings. Right? But as profits, it goes to shareholders. So it goes to the 1 percent of Americans that own 90 percent of the stocks.
MITT ROMNEY: OK, not let’s get to facts, all right? There are two places they can go.
MARK PROVOST: Those are facts, Mr. Romney.
MITT ROMNEY: Hold on. It’s my turn. You’ve had your turn. Now it’s my turn, all right? First of all, you’re right it goes to dividends, all right, which is to the owners. But they’re not the 1 percent. All right? They’re not only the 1 percent. I’m sure, among the dividends, go to the 1 percent, but also go to the people who have pensions. All right? There’s a guy. You don’t—are you in the 1 percent? No. He’s got dividends and retirement plans, 401(k)s. They’re filled of the dividends that come out from corporations. That’s number one.
Number two, you are right, they can go into retained earnings, which then can be used for capital expenditures or growing the business or hiring people or working capital. When a business has profit, it can do good things: give it to the shareholders and grow the enterprise. And by the way, the only way it can hire people is if it grows the enterprise.
Now, corporations, they’re made up of people, and then, of course, the buildings that people work in. The buildings don’t pay taxes. The only people that—the only entities that pay taxes are people. And so, corporations are collections of people that are trying to have good jobs for themselves and promote the future. And so, corporations are made up of people, and the money goes to people, either to hire people or to pay shareholders. And so, they’re made up of people. So, somehow thinking that there’s something else out there that we could just grab money from and get taxes from, and everything could be better, that doesn’t involve people, well, they’re still people. And what I want to do is make America a place where those corporations that have that money decide to invest here.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Mitt Romney answering a question from one of the people at the town hall about calling a corporation a person. Rob Weissman, we just have a minute. Can you respond?
ROBERT WEISSMAN: You know, that’s a lot more of a refined response than he gave before. But he’s wrong about what he’s saying. Corporations are entities, not just a collection of people. They are entities that have their own legal life, state-created legal life. And the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United said that those entities, not the people within them, but the entity itself, has the right to spend whatever it wants to influence the outcome of elections, that’s—to represent actual, real, live, living, breathing human beings.
I mean, that’s why we need a constitutional amendment to both overturn Citizens United and clear the way of this confusion that corporations have a claim on the constitutional rights that are intended to protect people, real people, like you and me. It’s why the resolutions in New York and California are so important, and it’s why people are mobilizing around the country on the second anniversary of the decision, January 21st, to really build the movement to call for a constitutional amendment. It’s going to take a long time, but we are going to win this thing. Folks who want more information can go to a lot of places, but among them is democracyisforpeople.org, which is our campaign to help drive forward the movement for a constitutional amendment.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you all for being with us. Rob Weissman is president of Public Citizen. Thanks to California Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski, joining us from Sacramento, and Melissa Mark-Viverito, a member of the New York City Council and co-sponsor of the resolution here in New York that passed yesterday.