Anti-corruption campaign snubbed by Waxman

August 11, 2010

Members of rallied outside Rep. Henry Waxman’s office yesterday to ask for his pledge in fighting corruption in Washington. The action was part of the organization’s strategy to neuter corporate influence in politics and restore representation to the people.

Members of stand in front of Rep. Henry Waxman’s office on West Third Street in Los Angeles. They intend to end undue corporate influence in national politics by asking lawmakers to sign a pledge to fight corruption and support specific legislative actions. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

MoveOn has been asking citizens and Congress to sign its “Fight Washington Corruption Pledge.” The pledge, which is also its strategy, involves three major steps: overturning the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission which granted corporations the same First Amendment rights afforded individuals, passing the Fair Elections Now Act and regulating the lobbying industry.

Rep. Waxman (D-Calif.) was in Washington, D.C., but District Director Lisa Pinto addressed the crowd on his behalf. Jeff White, co-coordinator for the Los Angeles MoveOn Council, re-stated the group’s desire for Waxman to sign the pledge.

A MoveOn member looks upon the steel and glass edifice that houses Waxman’s office. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

According to White, the council approached Waxman’s office on the pledge a month ago, even offering the representative a chance to change the language of the pledge if he thought it necessary. But, when White asked Pinto if Waxman had seen the pledge, Pinto said she “had no information” on the request.

“Waxman hasn’t responded,” said White. “So, yeah, we’ve been ignored.”

Demonstrators were armed with placards and flags, some with brooms, mops and feather dusters to show their desire to clean the nation’s capital of corporate malfeasance. What started out as a sidewalk-social became a political demonstration when Nomiki Konst kicked up the energy by moving some protesters to the nearby Third Street and La Cienega Boulevard intersection.

Konst is Executive Director of Alliance Hollywood, a non-profit group that aims to gather celebrities to promote progressive issues to lawmakers. She said she was outraged over the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Citizens United case, calling it a “blatant act of judicial activism.”

“I’m really scared that any corporation, foreign or domestic, can funnel money into our political parties,” she said. “Our eyes and minds need to be opened. It’s a really scary time for America.”

According to co-coordinator Donna Dorsey, this campaign was spawned in the aftermath of the Citizens United ruling. She says almost 150,000 people have signed onto the pledge. MoveOn’s goal is 200,000 by the end of August. Out of the 100 senators and 435 representatives in Washington, only 30 have signed the pledge.

Chad Lazzari holds a broom to symbolize his desire to sweep corruption out of Washington, D.C. while getting the attention of passing vehicles. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

MoveOn held nearly 150 such rallies across the U.S. yesterday, according to organizers.

Standing on the steps of the building that holds Waxman’s office, White addressed the demonstrators. He said that all the CEOs, Wall Street bankers and lobbyists in the U.S. only add up to roughly two percent of the population.

“We are the other 98 percent who don’t have lobbyists, who aren’t CEOs,” he said, “and that is all we are asking our representatives to do, is to represent the other 98 percent.”

The group’s demand to pass the Fair Elections Now Act (S. 752 and H.R. 1826) and regulate lobbyists is the “easy” part. Overturning Citizens United, a Supreme Court decision, is a different story. To do so would requires a constitutional amendment, which requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress or through a constitutional convention, initiated by two-thirds of the 50 state legislatures.

The 27th Amendment, which stipulated that Congress could not amend its compensation until an election of representatives intervened, was the last to be added to the Constitution. It was originally proposed in 1789, but was not ratified until 203 years later, in 1992.

Roger Fletcher participated in yesterday’s demonstration to give Rep. Waxman a push in supporting MoveOn’s anti-corruption pledge. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

But MoveOn is aware of the fight they have ahead of them. Their literature admits this and yesterday’s organizers don’t deny it.

“I really see this as a long term thing,” said Dorsey.

As long and tough as the battle may seem, demonstrators see their course of action as the only means for effective change. Chad Lazzari attended yesterday’s demonstration – his first, he admits. He says when the Citizens United ruling came down he was overwhelmed by the possible millions of dollars corporations could pour into elections.

“I could never match that amount of money,” he said. “If I can’t match them dollar-for-dollar, at least I can put my person on the line.”

MoveOn member Roger Fletcher attended the demonstration due in part from the education he got from his son on the growing power of corporations. Though Rep. Waxman has yet to sign MoveOn’s pledge, Fletcher keeps a positive outlook.

“I feel Waxman is one of the good guys,” he said. “We just need to keep him energized.”

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2 Responses to Anti-corruption campaign snubbed by Waxman

  1. Lauren Steiner on August 11, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    I would say the headline is a bit misleading. I am sure Waxman would have come to meet the group had he not been called back to DC to vote on the aid to the states bill. This was announced last week. MoveOn had time to postpone the rally. Lisa Pinto also is not the right person to speak for him. She handles only constituent services for people in the district not policy.

    That said, there is no reason why Waxman could not have responded already if he were contacted previously. Also, there is no reason for him not to have signed on as a co-sponsor to the Fair Elections Now Act which already has 159 co-sponsors in Congress. So people need to keep the pressure up.

    Finally, people need to arrive on time to these rallies. Lisa came down pretty promptly at 11:05 when there were less than 20 people there. It did not exactly look like a groundswell of support for the MoveOn campaign although more people did arrive later after she had gone upstairs.

    Good to learn of this publication. I am pretty active with several groups and did not know of you until now.

  2. Barry Ford on August 11, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    Dan Bluemel is to be complimented highly for his accurate reporting and fine photos of the rally. And Lauren is right, we need to get there punctually and make as strong a showing as possible each time we rally. That said, there was a lot of enthusiasm in the group, eventually totaling, I was told, as high as 120. It was a good start. I also noted a strong response from passing drivers in support of our effort.

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