their mark: New recruits sign on to The Other 98 Percent
kicks off a new campaign for political change
here can afford to pay a corporate lobbyist, right?” asked
Joe Seeman, a volunteer coordinator for Moveon.org. “One or
two percent of the population can afford a corporate lobbyist.
We’re not them, we’re the other 98 percent.”
Capital Region members of Moveon.org kicked off their campaign,
the Other 98 Percent, in downtown Albany on Tuesday afternoon.
The campaign has three goals: Overturn Citizens United v.
FEC; pass the Fair Elections Now act; and pass the Lobbyist
Reform Act. Aug. 10 marked a national day of action for the
five-million-member progressive movement that is seeking to
highlight corporate corruption in Washington.
In January, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Citizens United
in a five-to-four decision to grant corporations the same
First Amendment rights as private individuals. The ruling
rejected a limit on how much a corporation can spend on an
election and is sure to have an impact on the upcoming midterm
elections in November. In a spirited 90-page dissent, Supreme
Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that “the majority cavalierly
ignores Congress’ factual findings and its constitutional
judgment: It acknowledges the validity of the interest in
preventing corruption, but it effectively discounts the value
of that interest to zero.”
corporation isn’t a person,” said Doug Bullock, an Albany
County legislator representing the 8th District. “Give me
its name if it’s a person. Does it have a home?”
Tuesday’s rally was held in West Capitol Park in downtown
Albany and featured guest speakers from Democracy Matters
and Veterans for Peace, as well as local activists and grassroots
organizers. Local musician and activist Taina Asili [Metroland,
Listen Here, July 22], also performed. Poems by Langston Hughes
and Maya Angelou were read between speakers.
In the open mic portion of the event, Moveon.org’s Wendy Brown
took the opportunity to defend President Barack Obama, who
until that point had been targeted by previous speakers. Brown
exchanged barbs with a heckler who made it clear he wanted
Obama out of office.
The exchange highlighted Seeman’s earlier argument about the
need to forsake the peripheral issues and focus on getting
money out of politics. “We want the elections to be about
the underlying problems that prevent us from having a functioning
democracy,” he said.
Moveon.org has succeeded in getting the support of congressmen
Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and Scott Murphy (D-N.Y.) for the Other
98 Percent. Meetings with Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are ongoing. The campaign has support
from about a dozen other lawmakers across the country and
numerous candidates nationwide have pledged their support.
The Other 98 Percent’s three goals were decided upon in town
hall meetings conducted by Moveon.org, in which they asked
their members what problems in Washington they believe are
Of the three goals, passing the Fair Elections Now act seems
to have gained the most ground. A state version of the law
was adopted in Maine in 2000 and the state now boasts that
80 percent of their elections are carried out along the law’s
guidelines. In Maine’s current gubernatorial race, three candidates
are using the system, including the Democratic Party nominee.
Other states are following suit, albeit less successfully.
Under the federal bill, donations would be matched publicly
at a four-to-one rate for candidates who adhere to certain
The Lobbyist Reform Act’s biggest provision is that it would
set a five-year moratorium on lobbyists switching to carreers
in government service and vice-versa. Seeman said that one
of the biggest reasons corruption in Washington is so systemic
is that corporate lobbyists have been allowed to slip in and
out of government posts, using their personal and professional
relationships to grease the wheels of governance.
Cara Benson, another volunteer coordinator for Moveon.org,
said she was encouraged by the turnout at the rally and that
Moveon.org was going to continue the fight by pressuring lawmakers
into supporting the Other 98 Percent and signing up citizens
for the cause. “Movement building is slow,” she said. “But
talking about some basic reforms,” said Seeman. “About trying
to get corporate money out of the political system.” Seeman
noted that while these weren’t radical ideas, seeing real
change in a system that protects itself so effectively is
a daunting task. “I don’t know if we’re going to be successful,”
he said. “But I can tell you one thing, if we don’t do anything
we’re certainly not going to be.”
loose ends this week-