New York, NY – Over 300 citizens rallied today at New York University and Federal Hall to denounce “those who are trying to buy or steal our democracy” and to call for overturning Citizens United, enacting Fair Elections campaign finance reform in NYS, and expanding the vote.
“Since we know the problem of billionaires and super PACs trying to privatize our democracy, Money-Out/Voters-in Day is focused on solutions,” said former NYC Public Advocate Mark Green. “We demand a Democracy-for-All agenda that makes sure a person’s voice and vote doesn’t depend on the size of her wallet.”
The day of action began with a rally keynoted by Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Senior Pastor Emeritus at the Riverside Church, and Jeff Clements, President of Free Speech for People. Speakers included former Public Advocate Mark Green, who wrote the NYC small-donor matching fund law in 1998; Michael Kink, Strong For All; Shirley Aldebol, SEIU 32BJ; Bill Samuels, New Roosevelt Initiative; Estela Vasquez, SEIU 1199; and Susan Lerner, Common Cause/NY. Comedian Lee Camp and the band Deathrow Tull also performed.
“Today’s event showed that there’s real momentum – in fact, a hunger – to reinvigorate our democracy and insure that it serves the people instead of the special interests,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY. “The three solutions proposed today - overturning Citizens United with a constitutional amendment, enacting publicly-financed elections in New York and expanding the vote through adopting early voting in New York State – are proactive and effective steps which we can accomplish through working together.”
“Our democratic system of self-government works when we are political equals,”
“Our democratic system of self-government works when we are political equals,” said Liz Kennedy, Counsel at Demos. “We are entitled to a government that represents our interests, not one dominated by big money where our voting rights are under attack. Now is the time for fundamental reform, to take money out and put voters back in the center of our democracy.”
The day culminated with a “Corporate Personhood Wedding” on the steps of Federal Hall, organized by Occupy Wall Street, in which Koch Inc. was married to a bride, under the banner “If corporations are people, can I marry a rich one and give million$ in political donations?”
In addition to being on the eve of the presidential inauguration, the weekend of Jan. 19 precedes the third anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – both on Jan. 21.
Protesters in New York are part of a nationwide day of action called “Money Out/Voters In” taking place on and around the weekend of Jan. 19. Coalitions in over 70 towns and cities are rallying to demand lawmakers enact laws that limit the corrosive influence of money in politics and expand participation at the polls. In New York, organizers included: Auburn Theological Seminary, Citizen Action/NY, Common Cause/NY, Demos, Judson Memorial, Move to Amend, MoveOn, New Roosevelt Initiative, OWS Faith, Public Citizen, SEIU 1199, SEIU 32BJ, Teamsters Local 237, Transportation Forward, and the United Federation of Teachers.
“The 2012 election – only the second post-Citizens United election – was the most expensive ever, saw more outside money spent than ever, had more secret, Dark Money spent than ever, and subjected voters to unprecedented negative, attack advertising. We can’t keep going in this direction and maintain a functioning democracy,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “As this week’s actions demonstrate, the good news is the American people are in an uproar, and demanding fundamental reform, including a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and related decisions.”
These actions come during a groundswell of support for improving our democracy. Last election day, voters in Montana, Colorado, Chicago, San Francisco and dozens of towns in Massachusetts overwhelmingly backed initiatives that called on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. So far, 11 states and more than 350 communities have formally called for an amendment. In addition, more than 100 members of Congress have expressed support for an amendment, as has President Barack Obama. And referring to the long lines that marred voting in many states, President Obama also said, on election night, “We have to fix that.”
There is no excuse for New York State not passing a Small-Donor Empowerment Act this year,” said Bill Samuels. “It is the most important step to clean up decades of insider control of Albany. I challenge Cuomo, Silver, and Skelos to get it done.”
The first presidential election since Citizens United lived up to its hype, with unprecedented outside and secret spending from corporate and wealthy donors drowning out the voices of everyday Americans. A new report shows how the top 32 Super PAC donors, giving an average of $9.9 million each, matched the $313 million that President Obama and Mitt Romney raised from of all small donors combined – that’s 3.7 million people giving less than $200.
Endorsers of the New York events also included: 99Rise, Act Now, Broadway Democrats, Chelsea Reform Democratic Club CWA, Downtown East for Obama, Downtown Independent Democrats, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Manhattan Young Democrats, New Kings Democrats, New York Communities for Change, Occupy Catholics, Three Parks Independent Democrats, United NY, Voterbook NYC, and the Working Families Party.