Full disclosure: Mears is one of the organizers of the event.
Islanders are applying the “think local first” philosophy to address a national issue. Move to Amend Kitsap, a local affiliate of a national campaign, will host a Grassroots Forum from 7-9 p.m. Thursday, July 12, at Eagle Harbor Congregational Church at the corner of Winslow Way and Madison Ave. Organizers of the gathering hope to start some dialogue on what can be done at the local level to address the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizen’s United ruling.
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was a key U.S. Supreme Court case. The court held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting the independent political expenditures that corporations and unions can make.
Fran Korten, island resident and publisher of YES! Magazine, will share her insights on the issue. “The founders gave us a way to exercise a “people’s veto” by amending our Constitution to overrule our country’s highest court,” she wrote in the Summer 2012 issue of YES! “We have done it before. To save our democracy, we must do it again.”
Move to Amend’s approach is to encourage citizens to work at the local level to get resolutions passed by their municipalities and county governments. While only symbolic, these local resolutions can be combined to show wide-ranging support when the process moves to the state level, which is where a request for an amendment will be generated.
Move to Amend Kitsap organizer Don Manning’s first attempt to get a resolution passed by the Port Orchard City Council was shot down in May. “I started by approaching the City Council,” Manning said. In retrospect, mustering local citizens first is critical to being taken seriously, he said.
Steve Hamm, Move to Amend Port Townsend organizer, did just that. He and other Port Townsend folks gathered 1,200 names of people who supported an amendment that declares that corporations, while valuable, are not considered “people” and that money does not equal speech. This means that (a) limits could be set on election campaign spending and (b) full disclosure regarding the source of contributions could be required.
Hamm will take part in Thursday’s forum and explain how Port Townsend got its resolution passed. He will address what is involved in advancing an amendment through the city, state, and national levels.
Manning connected with a concentration of Bainbridge Island citizens who convinced him that, in Kitsap County, the City of Bainbridge Island is the logical place to begin such a campaign. About that same time, Korten was having conversations with the Rev. Dee Eisenhauer, pastor of Eagle Harbor Congregational Church, about Citizen’s United and churches across the United State that were forming a coalition to address the ruling.
Organizers recognize the need to build a broad, transpartisan base of support for an amendment, or what Korten refers to as a “prairie fire.” Eisenhauer will speak at the forum about why some faith-based communities support Move to Amend.
Following the presentations, participants will have an opportunity to sign the Move to Amend petition, ask questions, and offer their perspective and ideas on the issues. So far, 150 islanders have signed, many during the recent Grand Old Fourth festivities, where Move to Amend Kitsap had a parade entry and booth at the Street Fair.
Move to Amend is just one of a handful of national organizations working to get an amendment passed.
“This widespread, multisector activism is exactly what is needed to amend the Constitution,” said Korten in her “Use the People’s Veto to End Citizen’s United” article. “It’s hard to get two-thirds of the Congress and three-quarters of the states to agree on anything, much less a measure that curtails corporate power. The trick is to build relentless pressure from the grassroots.”
“You can stand up and say, ‘I’m not going to take it anymore,'” Manning said. “We have to get together. The future looks bleak if this is allowed to remain unchallenged. If you don’t care about it for yourself, think of your family and the kids coming after you.”
For more information, visit Move to Amend Kitsap on Facebook or at www.movetoamend.org, or email MTAKitsap [at] gmail.com.