Saturday, 06 September 2014 00:00

Coalition Asks John McCain to Support Constitutional Amendment, Hits a Glass Wall

Written by Deborah Montesano | The Political I
Activists left outside John McCain's glass wall. Activists left outside John McCain's glass wall.
On Thursday, a broad coalition of activists met at Senator John McCain's office in an upscale building at a tony Camelback Road address to ask him to sponsor a constitutional amendment. Known as the Democracy For All amendment, it would overturn the Supreme Court 's decision on Citizens United from four years ago. You know — the decision that allowed all that money from 'corporations-are-people-too' into the political process.
The activists represented such groups as Public Citizen, Political Action, People For the American Way, CREDO Action, Communication Workers of America, Common Cause, Progressive Democrats of America, and Wolf PAC Arizona. They turned over the signatures of thousands of Arizona residents, joining in an action that was taking place across the country on the same day. Hundreds of thousands of petitions were also delivered to senators in Kentucky, Virginia, Louisiana, Indiana, Arkansas, Illinois, Alaska, and New Hampshire.

All were asked to support the Democracy For All amendment, which so far has the backing of 50 senators. It's scheduled for a vote on Monday, September 8th. For anyone who is wondering why the irascible McCain was among those targeted for their support, it might have something to do with his reaction to the original court decision in 2010. At the time, he said:

"I think there will be scandals associated with the worst decision of the United States Supreme Court in the 21st century. Uninformed, arrogant, naive. I just wish one of [the justices] had run for county sheriff. That's why we miss people like [former Chief Justice] William Rehnquist and [former Justice] Sandra Day O'Connor, who had some experience with congressional and other races ... I predict to you that there will be scandals and I predict to you that there will be reform again."

Fine words. So, four years later, what's the holdup in correcting the situation? After all, the proposed amendment allows Congress and the states to limit money spent on candidates and on influencing elections. It allows Congress and states to "distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities". And it emphasizes that the amendment does not grant "the power to abridge the freedom of the press." Pretty straightforward, wouldn't you say?

But Senator McCain wasn't in his posh office to greet the activists and give them an answer to their demand. Instead, the group was left in the hands of the private building's management and the senator's front desk staff. Dan O'Neal, state chairman of Progressive Democrats of Arizona, described what happened there as 'mission creep' — referring to the 'mission' of these official-acting persons. First, the group was told they were welcome to assemble in the lobby. However, as O'Neal began to address the group, management (backed by security) changed their minds and said the activists were making too much noise — although only O'Neal was making any noise at all. And even though only one office fronted the lobby — Senator McCain's nearly empty one, where all of two staffers stood staring gape-mouthed through the glass walls.

So the activists agreed to go into the senator's office with their statements, and their box of petitions, which was their goal anyway. Once inside, the two young staffers said that only 10-15 of them could be there at a time, leaving the larger portion of the group outside the glass walls, peering in and holding their "Corporations Are Not People" and "#GetMoneyOut" signs against the glass. As the group shifted to bring some people out and let new people in, building management suddenly decided there were also too many people in the lobby and ordered everyone to leave the building under the threat of arrest for trespassing.

So this is democracy in action. A U.S. senator rents an office — at taxpayer expense — in a private building where the ability of his constituents to see him is controlled by the employees of this exclusive building. Of course, the Senator's staffers themselves cooperated in trying to curtail the right of Arizonans to be peacefully heard.

If all those glass walls of Senator McCain's office are supposed to represent transparency, they're failing miserably at the task. But doesn't that image represent what this is truly about? — the illusion of transparency that is actually constructed of impenetrable walls, erected between America's politicians and the people they are supposed to represent?

Overturn Citizens United? Don't hold your breath waiting for the cooperation of Congress. Democracy will have to be enforced the same way the United States won it in the first place — by the people, average Americans, taking charge and exerting their will.

Link to the original article from The Political I.

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