(NaturalNews) It was a warm day in Spokane during an unusually warm summer. I was crossing the parking lot towards Huckleberry’s Natural Market on the South Hill in Spokane, Washington, when Stacy Cossey approached me and other shoppers with a bright sign that read, “Honey-bees Unite for I-735.” If you stop to speak to her about why she is collecting signatures, you’ll notice that her shirt has a bigger message: “I-735: Get BIG money out of elections!”
Stacy Cossey is a former stockbroker turned activist who turned to grassroots organizing after departing the world of finance. Before the subprime mortgage crisis, Stacy realized that her clients were about to lose a lot of money and did something unusual: She told her clients that they needed to get out of the stock market and invest in gold and silver instead. In doing so, she herself lost about 2/3 of her own income, but when the 2007 and 2008 crash hit, she saved her clients from suffering some very big losses.
As a financial consultant, Stacy saw firsthand the scope of economic, political and social injustice that results from unchecked corporate power and control. She discovered, extensively researched and wrote about her findings. It was a powerful, personal and professional epiphany to realize that the economy did not work the way we were all led to believe. Disheartened about her role in that system, she quit a 27-year career and hasn’t looked back.
She found out about I-735 and the efforts of the Washington Coalition to Amend the Constitution (WAmend), and discovered that there were people pushing for positive changes in our nation. They were fighting to stem the increasing concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few major corporations, and they had a viable action plan. She was hooked and knew she had to become involved.
The issue of corporate personhood is at the core of the misguided notion that corporations should enjoy the same rights as “We the People.” While corporations have had some level of “personhood” for at least a century, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in FEC v. Citizens United took it to a whole new level. By granting corporations the right to use money as a substitute for the First Amendment right of free speech, the Supreme Court opened the door to unlimited and undisclosed Super PAC contributions. You might as well say that, here in America, corporations have the right to buy elections, which they routinely do. By the same token, you could argue that in America (under the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments) corporations are entitled to pollute and degrade the environment.
WAmend is a grassroots organization created, funded and empowered by ordinary people who are pushing back and saying: “This is NOT okay in America!” They are part of a larger network of national organizations such as Move to Amend and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund that are fighting to create the momentum necessary to challenge corporate control and return the power back to people.
WAmend is pursuing a Constitutional amendment to clarify that it should be citizens, the living breathing “We the People” meant by the founders — not corporate entities—that are entitled to the rights enshrined in the Constitution. It also stipulates that spending money does not constitute free speech as defined by the First Amendment. Finally, the amendment would make it possible to regulate political contributions and expenditures in order to prevent undue influence, and both political contributions and expenditures would have to be promptly disclosed to the public. Once they collect the 330,000 signatures necessary to get this on the Washington State ballot and pass it, they join 16 other states already on record as calling for a constitutional amendment.
As Stacy explains, “GMO labeling Initiatives are one of the most visible misuses of our First Amendment rights. Two years ago, here in Washington State, we had a GMO labeling Initiative. Washington state voters put in $9 million to buy advertising to encourage other voters to support labeling, while out of state, multi-national corporations through their Super PACs shelled out $33 million dollars. They bought the election! What made it legal is that they had our rights, which they used against us. This same scenario was then repeated in California, Oregon and Colorado.”
While the state of Vermont spoke up loud and clear and was the first state to pass an initiative requiring GMO labeling, they are now facing a lawsuit brought by Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association – a food industry front group that includes Coca-Cola, General Mills, Dole, Kellogg’s, Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, Syngenta, BASF and hundreds of other corporate entities. Outrageously, both the GMA and Monsanto individually are now claiming that complying with labeling would be a violation of their First Amendment rights.
People everywhere want fresh air and water, healthy food, a clean environment and a good economy. Corporations everywhere want profits. Most are not shy about making hefty political contributions in order to buy favors, and it is these favors that allow them to pollute our environment, often even putting people’s health at risk just to ensure the bottom line. But unlike people, corporations don’t need to breathe and eat, or find a job to survive.
So it is up to us. We the People must unite. We have to act and speak out to protect our country and our world. This is the civil rights movement of our day, a movement that aims to bring back the very rights of “We the People” envisioned by the founding fathers. While the citizens of Washington State may be in the spotlight at the moment, they can’t take on corporate power without the help of the rest of us. Financial support is essential, but so is volunteering and activism to get out the word.
As Stacy points out in her tireless pitch for signatures, “Since some of the biggest abusers of our First Amendment rights are the chemical companies, we think the bees are with us on this one.” Yes, we think so too!
If you live in Washington, the initiative still needs signatures to be passed. Click here to find out where you can sign. The deadline is December, so sign today!