Monday, 10 November 2014 00:00

At 81, She's Walking 330 Miles to Tallahassee

Written by  Billy Cox | Herald Tribune
Rhana Bazzini, 81, will march from Sarasota to Tallahassee in October to raise awareness of a national movement to address campaign finance reform via a constitutional amendment. Bazzini says she was inspired to walk after reading Doris Haddock's book, "Granny D: Walking Across America in My 90th Year." Rhana Bazzini, 81, will march from Sarasota to Tallahassee in October to raise awareness of a national movement to address campaign finance reform via a constitutional amendment. Bazzini says she was inspired to walk after reading Doris Haddock's book, "Granny D: Walking Across America in My 90th Year." STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER
SARASOTA - Rhana Bazzini describes herself as a “flaming liberal” who, at 81, wants to amend the United States Constitution. But with a pair of sneakers and the support of a handful of local veterans, the spunky widow and cancer survivor is confident her march to Tallahassee will find a bipartisan wind at her back.

“Yes, I worry about the environment, and I worry about our veterans. I worry about education and the environment,” says the diminutive Long Island native. “But our government is dysfunctional, and we can't address any of these things realistically without fixing how we elect people.”

Therefore, sometime in October, and borrowing a page from the late campaign-finance reform activist Doris Haddock, Bazzini will hike 330 miles from her home in Sarasota to Florida's Capitol. The long-range goal is to get lawmakers to ratify a couple of simple points: 1) corporations are not people, and 2) money is not free speech.

Which is easier said than done. Because that would mean attempting to legislatively reverse two controversial U.S. Supreme Court decisions — Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010, and McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission in April — which have opened the floodgates on election spending.

In an ABC/Washington Post opinion poll following the Citizens United verdict, 76 percent of Republican voters, 81 percent of independents and 85 percent of Democrats opposed unlimited campaign spending by corporations. The more recent McCutcheon decision, which erased aggregate contribution limits by individuals, triggered an analysis by consumer watchdog Public Citizen, which recently reported to Congress:

“A wealthy donor may contribute up to $3.6 million in an election cycle to the candidates and committees of a single party, and up to $5.9 million of officerholder leadership PACs are included in the calculation.”

Amending the Constitution, however, is a daunting process that requires the approval of 38 states, whose legislatures must approve the amendment with supermajorities.

Against these long odds comes Bazzini, Florida Studio Theater usher, retired massage therapist, retired Retail Jewelers Association of Connecticut lobbyist, hospital oncology department volunteer, and unofficial den mother to the “Florida Veterans for Common Sense.”

Claiming “I'm not a joiner — I didn't even like being in Girl Scouts,” Bazzini has nevertheless hopped off the fence and onto the political street “because I'm afraid we're losing our democracy.”

Aiming to complete a largely rural five-week journey to Tallahassee along highways 19 and 41 in the fall, Bazzini hopes to drum up grass-roots support for a 28th Amendment by meeting with small-town residents and persuading them to pressure their state representatives.

If she doesn't make it all the way?

“It would be the greatest promotion in the world,” she says, volunteering an imaginary headline. “Elderly Lady Collapses for a Cause.”

Condo manager Patti Wasil doubts a catastrophe is in the cards.

“Rhana's in the pool almost every day for an hour swimming laps,” Wasil says. “She's in great shape and I'm very excited about what she's doing. I want to put it in our newsletter.”

Mike Burns calls Bazzini “80 going on 25” and says, “She's absolutely doing the right thing. There's way too much money in politics and I think she's got this one by the teeth.”

A former POW in Vietnam, Burns is vice president of Florida Veterans for Common Sense and says he would like to see members help escort her to Tallahassee.

“Most of us just complain and go along with things,” he says. “Rhana's an inspiration.”

Bazzini questioned her motivation recently when her son Mike wondered if maybe her campaign was a way of postponing the grieving process from losing her husband, who died last July following a long illness. She conceded the possibility, but also credits Doris “Granny D” Haddock for planting the seeds.

In 1999-2000, from the ages of 88 and 90, Haddock walked 3,200 cross-country miles in support of previously failed efforts by Sens. John McCain and Russ Feingold to eliminate “soft money” from elections.

Their bill eventually passed in 2002, but a key provision was nullified in the Citizens United case when the Supreme Court greenlighted unions and corporations to make independent expenditures and “electioneering communications.”

Haddock died two months after that decision at age 100.

Nevertheless, “she brought a lot of attention to the issue and I admired what she did,” Bazzini says.

For more contemporary perseverance, she cites Kindra Muntz of Venice, president of the Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections, as “my guru.”

Against spirited opposition, Muntz's successful lobbying to replace Sarasota County's touchscreen voting machines with paper ballots and optical scanners looked prophetic during the vote-counting debacle for the Thirteenth Congressional District in 2006. The Florida legislature mandated paper ballots in 2008.

Today, Muntz heads the Sarasota chapter of “Move To Amend,” a national coalition campaigning for an Amendment “providing that the rights extended by the Constitution are the rights of natural persons only.” She praises Bazzini's imminent contributions to that end.

“ 'We the people' has become 'we the corporation,' and Rhana has a great idea for putting this issue in front of people,” Muntz says. “If enough voters become aware of the facts, we can accomplish great things, and I'll support her any way I can.”

More than 500 municipalities and 16 states have passed non-binding resolutions calling for the Constitutional repudiation of personhood rights for corporations and unions, according to Move To Amend trackers.

“Young people are struggling and they don't have the time for this,” Bazzini says. “I've got the time, I've got the interest, and I've got the health. And it's up to my generation to leave this a better place.”

Link to the original article from Herald Tribune.

Read 1451 times

Latest Economic and Social Justice News

  • How Texas could give up on its DREAM

    Is this check-mate? With Gov.-elect Greg Abbott poised to take over the governor’s mansion in the Lone Star State later this month, the Texas legislature will be in prime position to attack and ultimately dismantle one of the state’s most successful pro-immigrant initiatives on the books: the Texas DREAM Act.

    Read More
  • Amid Time of Soaring Inequality, Rich Say: The Poor Have It Easy

    Oxfam International's Winnie Byanyima says political leaders will ignore inequality at their own peril. According to the nation's richest people, the poor have it easy. Fifty-four percent of survey respondents categorized as the most financially secure said "poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without

    Read More
  • Yep, That's Right... "Free": Obama Plan Would Cover Community College Tuition

    Proposal put forth by White House would see federal and state governments pay for two years of college for all those able to maintain 2.5 GPA A new proposal unveiled by President Obama would make two years of a community college education "free" for all those who maintain a certain

    Read More
  • Icy Cold and Cut Services Create Dangerous Perfect Storm for Homeless

    With number of people without permament housing rising nationwide and services for them falling, near-zero temperatures put thousands at severe risk As record-breaking cold weather sweeps across the nation this week, reports from around the nation show how the U.S. homeless population—which has risen dramatically in recent years—are being hit the hardest in the

    Read More
  • In Wake of Charlie Hebdo Attack, Let’s Not Sacrifice Even More Rights

    EFF is stunned and deeply saddened by the attack on Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical newspaper. As free speech advocates, we mourn the use of violence against individuals who used creativity and free expression to engage in cultural and political criticism. Murder is the ultimate form of censorship.

    Read More
  • The Right Tries (and Fails) to Justify Its Assault on Social Security

    How does the right justify the kind of action Congress took this week, when it moved to cut disability benefits for millions of people by 20 percent? Answer #1: With buzzwords and rhetorical dodges. Answer #2: Not very well. For details on the House’s action, we pointed yesterday to a number of

    Read More
  • As Top Democrats Embrace a Robin Hood Tax, It’s Time for Activists to Go Big

    Americans who are serious about addressing income inequality have long recognized that the United States needs a Robin Hood Tax—a charge on financial transactions proposed by campaigners who have argued since the Wall Street meltdown of 2008 that “banks, hedge funds and the rest of the financial sector should pay their

    Read More
  • As France Mourns for Charlie Hebdo, Calls For Unity and Understanding

    'If this attack is allowed to feed discrimination and prejudice, it will be playing straight into the hands of extremists whose clear aim is to divide religions and societies.' As people across France and around the world mourn the death of the twelve people killed at the offices of the

    Read More
  • 'Hostage-Takers': Republicans Go After Social Security on Very First Day

    Advocacy groups vow to fight back against what they believe is a preliminary "stealth attack" that portends a wider assault on a program that makes survival possible for millions of vulnerable Americans As Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik immediately remarked: "Well, that didn't take long."  

    Read More
  • GOP Rule Change in Congress Signals New Dawn for 'Voodoo Economics'

    'Few economic theories have been as thoroughly tested in the real world as supply-side economics, and so notoriously failed.' A seemingly arcane rule change passed by the House of Representatives on Tuesday night signals that a new wave of tax cuts for the wealthy and what has long been criticized

    Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Featured News

  • #SOTU2015 #DemandERA White House Phone Blast +

    Please join us in supporting our President's bold agenda and in reminding him to "REMEMBER THE WOMEN" in his #SOTU address by vigorously supporting the movement Read More
  • How Texas could give up on its DREAM +

    Is this check-mate? With Gov.-elect Greg Abbott poised to take over the governor’s mansion in the Lone Star State later Read More
  • Russia Blamed, US Taxpayers on the Hook, as Fracking Boom Collapses +

    As Congress removes restrictions on taxpayers bailing out the too-big-to-fail banks, the right is blaming environmentalists and Russia for the Read More
  • TPP Media March +

    Join our TPP Twitter Storm. Everyone with a Twitter account can participate. The Twitter storm begins on Tuesday at 9pm Read More
  • Rate of environmental degradation puts life on Earth at risk, say scientists +

    Humans are “eating away at our own life support systems” at a rate unseen in the past 10,000 years by Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19
  • 20
  • 21
  • 22
  • 23
  • 24
  • 25
  • 26
  • 27
  • 28
  • 29
  • 30

ESJ Calls

Featured Economic and Social Justice News

  • How Texas could give up on its DREAM +

    Is this check-mate? With Gov.-elect Greg Abbott poised to take over the governor’s mansion in the Lone Star State later Read More
  • Amid Time of Soaring Inequality, Rich Say: The Poor Have It Easy +

    Oxfam International's Winnie Byanyima says political leaders will ignore inequality at their own peril. According to the nation's richest people, Read More
  • Yep, That's Right... "Free": Obama Plan Would Cover Community College Tuition +

    Proposal put forth by White House would see federal and state governments pay for two years of college for all Read More
  • As Top Democrats Embrace a Robin Hood Tax, It’s Time for Activists to Go Big +

    Americans who are serious about addressing income inequality have long recognized that the United States needs a Robin Hood Tax—a charge Read More
  • 'Hostage-Takers': Republicans Go After Social Security on Very First Day +

    Advocacy groups vow to fight back against what they believe is a preliminary "stealth attack" that portends a wider assault Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6

Does Your Legislator Support the ERA

 

ERAMap