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Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United - The Middle Ground

citizens-united-cartoon-by-rj-matson.jpgCongress is broken, and it cannot fix itself.  If we begin with that basic fact, this much seems clear: Our Republic can only be saved by We, the People.

with Michael Charney & Eric Byler
Tuesdays at 8 pm ET
on Coffee Party Radio
CLICK HERE to listen

Tonight (Tues. April 9) at 8 pm on The Middle Ground, we'll talk to a team of activists lead by Coffee Party founding member Ryan Clayton about why they believe a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United is the best path forward.  As we speak, Lawrence Lessig is drafting the language to be introduced in state legislatures across the United States, calling for an Article 5 Convention to address the issue of money in politics.

Current law, as decreed by the Supreme Court in the 2010 "Citizens United" decision, calls for unlimited spending by multi-national corporations to influence our elections, and thereby the laws we live by in the United States of America. The Court has said they would welcome disclosure laws, but Congress is too divided to enact such laws, in part due to cynical hyper-partisanship, in part due to the fact that members of Congress from both parties are reluctant to change a system that put them in power.

And yet, so many in Congress say they feel like hostages to fundraising. What can we do to rescue them from this corruption? Keep pressing for disclosure laws? Wait until the next election and "throw the bums out?" Or, if the problem is the corrupt system, and not the well-meaning individuals we send to Washington, perhaps our guests are right in saying a Constitutional Amendment is the only way to free the elected, and save the Republic.

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America's choice


Let us be clear about our choice. When we raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, no one dies. When we cut Social Security and Medicare, people die.
—Annabel Park

Since Friday afternoon, over a million people have seen this message from Annabel Park. It began on our Facebook page and spread throughout American when thousands of people began reposting the image on other pages. Keep sharing.

Let's get fellow Americans to wake up and fight to protect Social Security and Medicare (our lives, our health) from being used as bargaining chips in a callous political fight — not without hearing from us.

Day by day, issue by issue, We the People are proving that our voices cannot be drowned out by political advertising and political advertising disguised as news. Today, the majority of Congress is more likely to be voted out of office than advertised out of office. We've proven that, but we need to prove it again and again until we change the calculous by which Congress and the President make decisions.

In between election cycles, multi-national corporations and economic royalists expect to make decisions about our futures without hearing from the People. Social media is changing that. Let's not let them forget.

Share this message by clicking here if you are logged into Facebook, or by using the share buttons below.

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Lawrence Lessig TED Talk zeroes in on money in politics

"It's a pathological, democracy-destroying corruption, because in any system where the members are dependent upon the tiniest fraction of us for their election, that means the tiniest number of us, the tiniest, tiniest number of us, can block reform."

—Lawrence Lessig


Yesterday, TED released my TED talk — "We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim." At the same time, they released an eBook that I wrote to accompany the talk, "Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress and How to End It." If you've seen me speak recently, you'll recognize the roots in both. I worked incredibly hard to produce both, ("way too hard" my three year old tells me), and I am very eager to share them both with you today.

At our #Rootstrikers conference on the 20th in San Francisco, we'll talk about the next steps that this movement needs — with not just us Lefties, but also with many from the Right (including the co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots) as well. But right now, I would be grateful if you would just watch the talk, and share it. Both the talk and the book are freely licensed. In San Francisco, we will be releasing the code to encourage others to take it, and remix it. Now, please just consume — and if you like them, or think it would help, please share them both with your friends.

It has been a long road to this place. In the past five years, I've given hundreds of talks across the country — almost 100 last year alone, traveling 149,000 miles, and spending 107 nights away from my kids. But slowly, and finally, I think we're making progress. And with your help, I believe that we can kickstart the kind of movement — cross partisan, citizen based — that this fight will take.

I hope you can make it to San Francisco. But whether you can or not, I am really hopeful you will give me the 20 minutes it will take to watch this video, and share it broadly.

Watch the talk.

Read the eBook.

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Don't Do Koch alerts consumers to Koch Brothers products

My guest today on Politics Done Right (1 pm ET, 12 noon here in Texas) is Sally Swisher of the “Don’t Do Koch” campaign, which kicks off April 1st. No, its NOT too late to get involved, the campaign lasts all month. 

 By handing out "Don't Do Koch flyers" (that look like Penny Savers) at supermarkets that sell Koch Brothers products, active citizens like you across the U.S. are offering fellow shoppers and fellow Americans the opportunity to buy alternative products instead. With this information in hand, we can avoid  spending our hard-earned dollars on products that enrich these infamous oil barons who symbolize partisanship, greed, injustice, and the corrupting influence of money in politics.
Saturdays at 1 pm ET (10 am PT)
CLICK HERE to listen
As Sally writes in her latest email to volunteers, "Let people know that their product choices can help to keep us all from being played for fools by the Kochs." All it takes is you, a friend, and a printer to print out this downloadable flyer. Participants thus far have said the flyers are warmly received, and great conversation starters that lead to networking and deeper civic engagement.
Our other topics today will be our failure to care for our military veterans, and the cases before the U.S. Supreme Court that just might bring a measure of equal justice to America in the form of marriage equality.
Please call (646) 929-2495 at 1 pm ET (10 am PT) and add your voice to our show.
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April Fool the Koch Brothers – Don’t Do Koch on April 1st


Charles and David Koch, billionaire industrialists, were two of the most prominent one percenters trying to buy the 2012 election. Their company, Koch Industries, gave over $5 million in disclosed contributions to candidates and PACs, along with who knows how much in undisclosed cash.

It has also spent a fortune in lobbying and issue advocacy, supporting such things as climate change denial, union busting, conservative curriculum in education and capture of the US Supreme Court. The Koch brothers are huge supporters of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, which gives corporations and wealthy individuals a way to develop laws and channel them directly into our legislatures.

The Big Apple Coffee Party, our local affiliate in New York City, has been handing out flyers in front of local supermarkets allowing shoppers to choose alternatives to Koch brothers products, and telling them why this is a vital choice. They've learned that shoppers really appreciate the information, and it’s a great way to start conversations that spread the word locally about what is happening to our democracy.

Now Big Apple Coffee Party has created this great downloadable toolkit with flyers and instructions for anyone to use and inviting us to help make this action spread across the country. Join the action here. The more people participate, the more impact it will have.

During the month of April, we hope to see volunteers across the country passing out flyers to let consumers act to take their democracy back. 

To participate,

  1. Facebook event page and “like” and “share” the event.

  2. Check the locations already listed on the Facebook event page. To join a listed event, email the contact address for that location.  Be sure to mark yourself as “going” and invite your friends.
  3. If you don't see one near you, click here and register your own new location. It will soon show up on the location list on the Facebook event page.

  4. Check out this great toolkit for organizing the event. 

  5. Here is a recording of our training call which took place on March 26 at 8pm ET. Listening to this is recommended but it is entirely optional since the toolkit contains instructions.

If you have any questions or want to follow up with your registered event, email or call 212-252-2619.  

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Follow the Money: The Monsanto Protection Act

gmo.pngAlarming emails have been hitting our inboxes, claiming the 2012 Farm Bill as “The Monsanto Protection Act.”  But was it really?

Yes.  And No.

Recently on LUNCH WITH LOUDEN, we took a look at the rocky road the 2012 Farm Bill has traveled and how it came to be known as the Monsanto Protection Act, which guarantees immunity to biotech companies that produce genetically modified organisms (GMO) that are routinely used in our food production industry.

According to legal experts, this provision “would create a precedent-setting limitation on judicial review” and is a “dangerous assault on fundamental federal and judicial safeguards”. (Food Democracy NOW!)

And what was in the rest of the Farm Bill?  

Thursdays 12 Noon Pacific (3PM ET)
Listen to PODCAST

Deb-hike.jpgJeaneneCoffee.jpgCoffee Party ON!
Jeanene & Debilyn

P.S.  Citizens United did NOT benefit Coffee Party USA.  Our average contribution is $30-35.  Please support this grassroots organization in our mission to Connect Communities to Reclaim our Government for the People by becoming a Member or making a donation.  Thank you.  

Photo credit:  Cristian Baitg / Getty Images

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Voting Rights in 2013 — Gov. McDonnell surprises many by signing Voter ID law

gov-bob-mcdonnell.jpgI recently wrote that "Rebranding the Republican party" and voter suppression are incompatible. Last year, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) seemed to agree. But this week he changed his mind about that to the surprise of many, including me.

In 2012, McDonnell was hounded by members of his party to sign a bill restricting the right to vote in a crucial election year. He did, but he also issued an executive order to protect citizens' right to vote by allowing other forms of identification, such as a utility bill, to be accepted. An estimated 870,000 Virginians do not have, and may not be able to afford the time and expense to acquire, a government-issued ID. McDonnell also ordered voter registration cards, which were also accepted at polling places in 2012, sent to every registered voter.

Republican lawmakers cried foul, and when the 2012 election produced zero cases of voter impersonation (success), but, a Barack Obama victory in the commonwealth (failure?), they passed a new bill to do away with the Governor's voter-protection measures.

Many expected McDonnell to veto the bill in order to uphold his authority and his legacy as governor, and, to position himself as a mainstream candidate, viable for higher office. Unfortunately, McDonnell has backed down, and on the last day he could have done so, signed the more restrictive voter ID bill into law.

In the face of a very expensive media campaign about voter fraud — which aired mostly on Fox News and other Republican media outlets starting in 2009 — majorities of respondents to polls say they support ID requirements to protect the integrity of our elections. But then we have the facts to deal with. For instance, the fact that there have been almost no documented cases of voter impersonation fraud, which is the only kind of fraud that voter ID laws could address. You are more likely to be struck by lightning than be a victim of voter-impersonation fraud. Meanwhile, the documented cases of actual voter fraud occur with absentee ballots, or in voter registration fraud such this case in Virginia in 2012. But bills that addressed real and actual problems with Virginia elections — such as long lines at the polls (see below) — could not make it through committees in the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

Reagan George, a Tea Party Republican and active proponent of voter ID laws in Virginia, acknowledged when we interviewed him that no actual cases of voter impersonation have been documented in Virginia. (If lawmakers asked for $2,000,000 of taxpayer money to address a problem, wouldn't you want to see at least one documented case of that problem before that money was spent? And that's just the price tag for the 2012 version of this law). But Mr. George said that voter-impersonation fraud might occur if we don't pass laws to prevent it: "My bank has never been robbed... does that mean the bank shouldn't have a vault?"

But that is assuming that stopping voter impersonation is the real intention. A more cynical intention might have to do with the fact that hundreds of thousands of American citizens and legal voters in Virginia, and millions across the United States, will have their voting rights systematically abridged by such restrictions, and, they are just the types of voters that Republicans would prefer to see discouraged enough that they might stay home. Consider this video about Augustine Carter, an 85-year-old woman who went through hell and high water in order to get a photo ID despite the fact that she had been voting in the United States for 60 years. 

If the estimate of 870,000 Virginians lacking government-issued IDs is accurate, I doubt that many of them possess the determination that this woman did, hiring a genealogist and pulling census records from 1940 to prove her citizenship. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, lawmakers expect less than 5,000 people to obtain voter ID's in response to this law. Their expectation is my fear. Whatever the number is, most of these people will simply be removed from our democracy. Now that it is law, perhaps Ms. Carter's story will inspire a higher percentage of them to reacquire  their right to vote. But if even one American citizen is disenfranchised to suit the electoral goals of a major political party, that is one citizen too many.
Story of America's interest in voting rights increased when Annabel Park and I witnessed and filmed the five-hour ordeal voters in Prince William County had to endure — as it happened, in the most heavily African American precinct in the most diverse district of one of Virginia's most diverse counties.
It's a shame that legislators in Virginia are so focused on fixing the non-existent, but thoroughly advertised "problem" of voter-impersonation fraud, but not preventing real and actual flaws in Virginia elections, like long lines at the polls. On the one hand, their action abridges the People's right to vote. On the other hand, their inaction abridges the People's right to vote. And in both cases, it's the same people who suffer, the same people who have always suffered when political outcome, not democratic principles, govern our approach to voting rights.
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Connecting Newtown, CT to Selma, Alabama

Selma, Alabama is, triumphantly, associated with voting rights. Newtown, Connecticut is, tragically, associated with gun violence. Tonight we connect the issues and the towns on The Middle Ground.

The Middle Ground
with Michael Charney & Eric Byler
Tuesdays at 8 pm ET
CLICK HERE to listen to archived recording

From Newtown, CT, Darren Wagner will make his second appearance on The Middle Ground, and his first since he launched the Newton Action Alliance. He is a former Deputy Sheriff who has become a leading voice on the issue of gun violence after he and his family were shaken by the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre.

From the Selma, AL, Chellette Henderson is a retired aerospace executive who has returned to her childhood home after her husband and her mother passed away. Having participated in the famous voting rights marches in Selma 48 years ago, she is getting reacquainted with Alabama after raising a family, making her career, and helping to establish MLK Day, in Mesa, Arizona. We'll ask the two of them share their views on issues such as gun safety, voting rights, and how to overcome cultural division.

We'll also ask Darren and Chellette to comment on each other's work, and give us their advice on how to be an effective and active citizen. Speaking of which, we're starting an hour early and ending the show promptly at 8 pm so our listeners can participate with Annabel Park and the Big Apple Coffee Party in a strategy call for the "Don't Do Koch" initiative which kicks off April 1st, helping consumers identify which products in their supermarkets enrich partisan-extremist oil barons Charles and David Koch. 

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Press [1] For Democracy Welcomes Public Citizen

publiccitizen_logo_400x312.jpgPartner Spotlight: Public Citizen’s Sharehoder Actions
This Monday at 10 p.m. Eastern
Call (646) 929-2495 to listen & hit [1] to speak
Or listen online live or later 

The first in our series of Coffee Party Partner Spotlights, we’ll be joined by Kelly Ngo -- Legislative Assistant with Public Citizen's Congress Watch.  While many are attacking the problem of Big Money in politics by working to overcome the Citizen’s United decision, Kelly is helping to lead a series of actions by Public Citizen -- one of the Coffee Party’s affiliated organizations on the Grass Roots Task Force.  Public Citizen is calling for Starbucks and other corporations to adopt shareholder resolutions calling on these companies to refrain from all election-related spending.  Starbucks already has excellent disclosure policy, but investors and good governance groups want the company to go one step further and take a real stance against corporate money in elections.     

Dan_no_tie_headshot.jpgYou’ll not only learn about the actions themselves, but how you too can get involved in this crusade against special interest money, the shareholders they hurt, and how you could be a victim of this abuse and not even realize it.  Join political activist and Coffee Party board member host Dan Aronson listen in here, or better yet, call (646) 929-2495.  And when you do, remember to Press [1] for Democracy.

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Coffee Party 3 Years Later: Virtual Townhall Today at 3:30pm ET


Join me on Coffee Party Radio today at 3:30 pm ET for a Virtual Townhall with Coffee Party local organizers about the lessons we've learned from 3 years of organizing.

Coffee Party Radio Virtual Townhall with Annabel Park
Sunday March 24, 2013 at 3:30 pm ET

Listen live or as a podcast:

Add your voice by calling (646) 929-2495. 

Press "1" to raise your hand to speak.

Three years ago, the Coffee Party leaped from a popular Facebook page to a national phenomenon with people getting together in coffee shops and community centers to engage in civil dialogue as fellow Americans, and work together to form a more perfect union. It made national news.

What are the lessons from three years of calling for caffeinated civic engagement? I will talk to local organizers from Coffee Party USA - Western Kentucky Group - Owensboro, KY, Lehigh Valley Coffee Party Movement, Big Apple Coffee Pa rty and other local groups to share their experiences.

What does it take to create a truly inclusive and civil dialogue? The Owensboro, KY Coffee Party has been meeting every week for three years and their core team includes a Tea Party leader. We have a lot to learn from their experience. They will be calling in as a group at 3:30pm ET.

The Big Apple Coffee Party has been focused almost exclusively on the problem of money in politics. Their model of local organizing is effective and inspiring. Chuck Zlatkin will join us at 4:30pm ET to discuss their work including their new action, Don't Do Koch on April 1st.

Virtual Townhalls Podcasts:

Gun Violence (Recorded January 13th)

Economic Recovery
(Recorded January 27th)

Immigration Reform (Recorded February 10th)

Election Reform (Recorded March 10th)

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