In this episode of Wine, Women, and Revolution (The Socialist Podcast) Heather hosts a panel on clean money and politics. She is joined by Dr. Steven Fenichel and Chris Crapello. Dr Fenichel is a long-time activist and currently a candidate for Congress for NJ’s 2nd congressional district. Chris Crapello is a clean money advocate and had worked on political campaigns in NJ.
The Dangers of Big Money
The problems with big money in politics are all encompassing. It denies us healthcare as a right. It gives us an astronomical military budget. This all comes from lobbyists serving their corporate masters. Dr Fenichel refers to big money as “A fatal poison to our democracy”. Concerns of citizens are ignored in favor of profit, from clean air, food, or the environment. Mr. Crapello adds that there is not a single change we are going to make on any of the major political issues unless we get big money out of politics. Our democratic process has been completely subverted by big money interests.
Its Time to Wake Up
Chris has been fighting the battle against corporate takeover of government for year. He is optimistic that people might finally be waking up to the dangers. It can feel paralyzing to know how little your government cares about you. We must break that paralysis and treat it as a call to action. We are in for a fight for our very democracy.
Grassroots not Astroturf
Chris recommends 2 grassroots organization fighting to clean up money in politics. https://movetoamend.org/ is working to pass a constitutional amendment that ends corporate personhood. https://represent.us/ works on the local levels to pass the American Anti-Corruption Act. He then sparks a civil debate about the merits of working inside or outside a corporate duopoly party.
Dr Fenichel talks about how Van Drew became the democratic nominee because he had 600,000 in his war chest and the party aligned behind that money and not their values. A large part of my Steve is running is to bring up the issue of money and politics. No one will be talking about that on the local level if we only have pro corporate candidates running. This is not his first time running to bring up this issue. He ran previously in 2003 on a clean money finance reform platform. Steve feels his passion for Healthcare as a Human Right can never be realized unless we take money out of politics. You can listen to more of Steve here
Clean Money Ordinance
Dr Fenichel talks about his friend Paul Shamus Ryan from Campaign Legal Center, who helped him draft a local clean money ordinance for his home town of Ocean City, NJ. You can find information about Dr Fenichel’s court case to fight for a clean money ordinance in Ocean City here https://campaignlegal.org/index.php/cases-actions/fenichel-v-city-ocean-city-nj the reaction of the Town Council in Ocean City here http://clerkshq.com/Content/OceanCity-nj/council/2006/jun15_06cc.htm . The municipality fought it tooth and nail and it did not become a local ordinance. We can propose these kinds of ordinances in every municipality.
Citizens United was the supreme court ruling that considered “money” to count as free speech. It also decided corporations have the same rights as actual living people and can use their immense wealth and call it free speech. We need to overturn this, and quickly. The power and influence need to be returned to people and not check books. Those who have wealth and power will use their wealth to consolidate even more wealth and power. It’s a never-ending cycle unless we make it change. The panelists and the host all agree that ranked choice voting would be an extremely valuable tool to help return the voice to the citizens of this country.
Lobbyist Groups Donate Large Amounts of Money Here in NJ
Chris talks about the water company “American Water” and how they donate money across the country and locally to facilitate the privatization of this valuable public asset. He browses the website OpenSecrets.org which details national expenditures by lobbyist groups and talks about the hundreds of thousands of dollars they throw to candidates. Chris questions why anyone would think introducing a profit motive into something as critical to the public commons as water would ever be a good idea. This has only happened because of their ability to influence policy with their money. American Water spreads their money across party lines. They will donate to either side of the corporate duopoly coin if they feel that politician will fight to privatize water. Here in NJ they donate to everyone from Frank LoBiondo to Cory Booker.
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