Democracy Day Remarks by Bill Wilen

October 17, 2016

October 6, 2016 / Kent, Ohio

We’re here today because our collective voice is essential in a legal democracy.

This microphone probably cost less than $100. but the small group of extremely wealthy donors who have gained even more influence in elections are using million-dollar megaphones to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens. This is particularly evident in the Ohio Senate race. They are the kingmakers in our illegal democracy.

We want to return power to the people and that may happen if we can overturn the Citizens United decision that opened the flood gates to unlimited campaign spending by corporations.

I recently read a very informative book by Bob Herbert, who was a NYT columnist, Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America. He said the Citizens United was called “a milestone in the disempowerment of ordinary Americans.” Another said that “rarely have so few imposed such damage on so many. When five conservative members of the Supreme Court handed for-profit corporations the right to secretly flood political campaigns with tidal waves of cash on the eve of an election, they moved America closer to outright plutocracy, where political power derived from wealth is devoted to the protection of wealth.”

Herbert said, “For ordinary Americans, excluded for the most part from the wealth of the nation and from any meaningful participation in policy making, new avenues to a better life would have to be found. Voting would not be enough. How else could ordinary people get their voice heard? The short answer is direct action. As virtually all of the money is currently on the side of entrenched power, the only viable option for ordinary Americans is the creative use of their own energy, intelligence, and superior numbers.”

We here in the audience represent meaningful and active participation.  To date, over 700 municipalities in the US, including 20 in Ohio, including Kent, and 17 states have approved resolutions or voted for ballot initiatives calling for a 28th Amendment to the US Constitution to affirm that human beings have constitutional rights, not corporations, and money is property, not speech.

Those numbers show we have a major movement underway. What specifically is the bigger picture in OH and United States legislatures?

My wife, Kathy, and I attended a M to A rally in S. Euclid 3 weeks ago. The press release was titled “Ohio Lawmakers Agree with Voters: Corporations Are Not People, Money Is Not Speech.” 
Two lawmakers in the OH House of Representatives have introduced a non-partisan resolution calling on state and federal legislators to support an amendment to the US Constitution “that would abolish corporate personhood and the doctrine of money as speech.”

A Move to Amend activist said “Ohioans are sick and tired of pay-to-play politics and corrupt corporate influence on our elected representatives at state and federal levels.” As an aside, hopefully Representative Kathleen Clyde will join the efforts since she is our progressive democrat in the Ohio House. 

The picture gets larger because the US government is involved through House Joint Resolution #48 proposing the Move to Amend “We the People” amendment.
15 House of Representative members supported it from 9 states.

We need 2/3 of the House to approve the M to A 28th constitutional amendment and the chances are increased if OH joins the movement. Activism in Kent and across the nation is alive and well. Thank you Kent Council and you, “members of the general public!”

[Wilen was one of the leaders of Kent Citizens for Democracy, which helped organize the successful Move to Amend ballot initiative campaign in 2015]