“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Occupy Democracy – Pasadena has done it! We moved a congressman to do what we have been demanding on behalf of this community for the past 7 months! To take a stand against the “Citizens United” Supreme Court ruling which allowed unlimited corporate and individually donated money into our electoral system. If you aren’t sure what “Citizens United” was about and why it should matter give this short video a look:
Our stance has been simple. Corporations are not people. It is a legal fiction that they are. Therefore they are not entitled to the same rights that you and I are entitled to under the U.S. Constitution. What “Citizens United” has done is give them free speech rights. This, in turn, makes regulating their “free speech” (money contributions into our electoral system) impossible. Our goal has been to find a way to overturn “Citizens United” so that our nation’s elected leaders don’t become wholly owned by the highest bidders, while we the American people lose our ability to elect accountable representatives who will SERVE US.
We began our work on this at the end of 2011. With great persistence and imagination, today we can say that we successfully persuaded our congressional representative, Adam Schiff, to follow through with something substantive in support of this. What is “this”? Have a look at our petition which we were able to get 1000 signatures on from the local community Congressman Schiff has represented:
Through a series of public demonstrations in Pasadena, Occupy Democracy – Pasadena was able to make our case in the local newspapers. We added to the community dialogue. We created a safe space for others in the community to lend their voice to our cause. We discovered that putting Congressman Schiff’s name in the newspaper and associating it with our issue got his office’s attention. Prior attempts to meet with him on “Citizens United” had been ignored. Suddenly in February we got a call from his office requesting to meet with us for 15 minutes on this. We have that meeting and the lead-up to it documented (click the picture belowfor more details):
We had a sympathetic ear and were fortunate to get 30 minutes of the congressman’s time but in the end we got no substantive action from him. We persisted. In that persistence we used our imagination to press on. We gathered signatures from 300 additional neighbors in the Pasadena area and then we changed tactics. We got creative in the face of no action.
The Doo Dah Parade in Pasadena was soon going to happen and we decided as a group to march in it. We play acted as the wealthy 1% and I played the role of Congressman Schiff – “The Undecider”. While my fellow ODP leaders played their roles as the wealthy to the crowd, I handed out business cards with Congressman Schiff’s phone number on them while asking people in the crowd to call “my office” to help me decide on what to do about “Citizens United”.
After the Doo Dah Parade, we came up with a new plan. Realizing that Congressman Schiff’s congressional district had changed due to the state redistricting process, we decided to reach out to his new constituents in that new and more liberal district.
It’s amazing the impact of handing out 1000 of these and having conversations with the citizens of these different communities within Congressman Schiff’s new 28th congressional district! It may have ultimately pushed our congressman over to doing something — that and perhaps this letter written on behalf of Occupy Democracy – Pasadena:
All of this led to victory! We moved a congressman! You can find the congressman’s press release here. Here is a local article on this very newsworthy event:
We had been seeing a gradual change in the congressman’s attitude over the the past few months. His sending out an online survey to his constituents on Citizens United (which showed overwhelming support for him to do something about it). Later, a letter that many of us in ODP received from the congressman stated that he was having conversations with Lawrence Tribe, a constitutional scholar. Just a day before Congressman Schiff announced his House Joint Resolution 111 for a constitutional amendment, Lawrence Tribe wrote an essay describing the very language used on H.J.R. 111!
Just one day ago, Thursday 6/22/12, Congressman Adam Schiff was interviewed by Stephanie Miller from Current TV:
You won’t hear the congressman admit it. You won’t see the news media describe it. But it is not a coincidence that our persistent and imaginative approach for advocating for a constitutional amendment to overturn “Citizens United” has led to this. We have had excellent community partners in our effort. We appreciate their help in this. We look forward to continuing our civic engagement work and we hope to empower many others to do likewise. This is proof that it works!
DEMOCRACY ONLY WORKS WHEN YOU PARTICPATE!