The Citizens United decision allowed corporations to use money from their treasuries for candidate advocacy, not direct donations to candidates. Some argue the decision has not released a torrent of political spending by corporations, thinking narrowly of the Fortune 500. But they overlook the new use of corporate nonprofits (particularly secretive c-4s) as front groups for profit-making corporations, as well as the enormous jump in “independent” expenditures by Super PACs funded by the mega-donations of corporate CEOs. The underlying problem is captured well in a resolution for an anti-Citizens United Constitutional amendment adopted by the Raleigh City Council on July 3 (congratulations, Raleigh!) It says, in part: “Whereas concentrated wealth should not outweigh the rights of ordinary citizens by using its economic power to influence election outcomes, including the selection of candidates.” Bottom line: To overturn the conversion of fair elections into commodities sold to the highest bidder, we’ll need an amendment that not only limits corporate power but also declares that the purchasing power of money from all sources is not protected from regulation by the First Amendment; money is property, not speech. By the way, hear George Friday from Move to Amend tonight in Raleigh.
Our Issues Category
The posts in this category discuss our core issues.
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Wednesday, July 4th, 2012
Click here to read part one.
After an exhausting week of interviews, I found myself rising early Saturday morning to volunteer at the “Juneteenth” festival in Durham. Excited to have an opportunity to “Get Out the Vote,” I set up my table four full hours before the festival started, hoping to catch people who were wandering downtown to check out the action. Four hours later, with no completed voter registration forms to show for my efforts, I laughed at myself for thinking that at celebration of political and civil rights my table would be crowded with people needing to register. I flipped through a novel and hoped that someone would approach me before my skin started blistering in the hot summer sun.
Finally, someone interrupted my reading with a tap on my table. A man with dark hair, dark sunglasses, and a Durham Bulls cap stood in front of me. He held two plastic bags filled with groceries in each hand.
“Hola. ¿Cómo estás?” he said slowly, testing my ability to comprehend. I responded with the usual niceties, hoping that my limited Spanish wouldn’t be exhausted too quickly. He gestured toward my “Register to Vote Here!!” sign that I proudly displayed on the front of the table. “Para votar?” he said. “Si! Para Votar!” I exclaimed, happy that he understood my broken Spanish. I was also happy to finally meet someone who may not have been registered.
As I shuffled around to find the voter registration forms and a ballpoint pen, the man suddenly put down his grocery bags and made a frantic “time-out” signal. “No papeles. No votar,” he said slowly so I could understand. I retracted my outstretched clipboard and stared down at the “SOLICITUD DE INSCRIPCIÓN PARA VOTAR EN CAROLINA DEL NORTE” inscribed across the top, hoping some words on the page would jump out and save me from the seemingly endless silence that followed.
The awkwardness that paralyzed my face soon departed, and a heavy, defeated, hopeless, shameful feeling settled in its place. I couldn’t help this man, not because I couldn’t communicate or he could understand the importance of voting and what was at stake in this year’s election, but because of just two words–“No Papeles.” It was hard to turn away someone who seemed so interested in fully participating in the community in which he lives and works. My exchange with him revealed more about the realities of democracy in North Carolina, and in America, than all of my interviews with clergy members combined.
Democracy NC Intern
Monday, July 2nd, 2012
My name is Erin Sweeney and I am a student intern doing a summer research project for Democracy North Carolina. I’m working out of Democracy NC’s headquarters in Durham. It may surprise some of you that Democracy NC does not have a fulltime organizer for the Triangle; the main office serves more as a communications hub and operation site that coordinates other staff (and other interns!) throughout the state. However, Democracy NC recognizes Durham’s importance in the upcoming election, and wants to explore the possibility of a “Souls to the Polls” program in the area. “Souls to the Polls” encourages faith-based communities to register, educate, and mobilize people to vote.
My job is to reach out to area religious leaders of all types to discuss how faith and political participation intersect in Durham. One of the questions I most enjoy asking priests, reverends, pastors, ministers, bishops, rabbis (and other faith leaders I have yet to interview!) is: “What are the most important social/political issues to you and your congregation?” The answers vary but interestingly, nearly all of my conversations have included discussion about the need for “immigration reform.” That buzzword conceals more about the issue than it actually reveals; immigration is a complicated issue that poses challenges for political leaders on both sides of the isle.
One congregation I visited was Immaculate Conception, a Catholic church whose congregation includes many Latinos. Father Dan, the priest there, told me Durham is unique in the way is values community-based organizations that “aim to improve the structures that impede citizens, and even non-citizens, from enjoying society’s benefits and blessings.” Organizations like Durham CAN and El Centro Hispano “provide a locus for Durham’s Latino community, in addition to the churches,” Father Dan continued. When I cautiously asked how many people in the church’s congregation have legal documents, Father Dan shrugged as if to say, “It doesn’t matter to me.” He went on to explain how the church has adapted to become a more inclusive environment. Most of the staff speaks Spanish fluently and all of the signs and pamphlets are available in multiple languages. As I drove away from the church, I waved goodbye to Father Dan and sighed, relieved that I had met someone who truly welcomes all immigrants, regardless of legal status.
Something Father Dan said about gratitude is stuck in my mind. He said “No blessing is accepted, or taken for granted. They are meant to be shared. We must ask ourselves, ‘How can we make society more generous?’” Father Dan was speaking about wealth, saying that richer people had a moral and theological imperative to help the less fortunate. But I find myself wondering how the spirit of generosity and sharing blessings extends to things like job security, peace of mind when passing a police car and voting rights? Democracy North Carolina encourages people exercise their right to vote on behalf of those who cannot.” Amen to that.
To be continued…
Democracy NC Intern