Re: Get the Dough Out of Politics
Dear Ben & Jerry,
My wife and I were recently in Stowe, Vermont, and visited the factory there. We are both fans of Ben & Jerry’s and enjoyed the factory tour and the short movie about the company’s history. Based on that visit we felt compelled to write this letter.
You and your namesake company are involved in getting money out of politics through an initiative started by you called “Get the Dough Out of Politics.” You have expressed pique at the Supreme Court in the Citizens United decision. However, we wonder how familiar you are with the following:
We deal here with a problem that is fundamental to the electoral process and to the operation of our democratic society. It is whether a union can express its views on the issues of an election and on the merits of the candidates, unrestrained and unfettered by the Congress. The principle at stake is not peculiar to unions. It is applicable as well to associations of manufacturers, retail and wholesale trade groups, consumers’ leagues, farmers’ unions, religious groups and every other association representing a segment of American life and taking an active part in our political campaigns and discussions. It is as important an issue as has come before the Court, for it reaches the very vitals of our system of government…Some may think that one group or another should not express its views in an election because it is too powerful, because it advocates unpopular ideas, or because it has a record of lawless action. But these are not justifications for withholding First Amendment rights from any group—labor or corporate. First Amendment rights are part of the heritage of all persons and groups in this country. They are not to be dispensed or withheld merely because we or the Congress thinks the person or group is worthy or unworthy.
However, we would guess that you are familiar with the following:
We are therefore simply left with the question whether the speech at issue in this case is “speech” covered by the First Amendment. No one says otherwise. A documentary film critical of a potential Presidential candidate is core political speech, and its nature as such does not change simply because it was funded by a corporation. Nor does the character of that funding produce any reduction whatever in the “inherent worth of the speech” and “its capacity for informing the public,” First Nat. Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U. S. 765, 777 (1978). Indeed, to exclude or impede corporate speech is to muzzle the principal agents of the modern free economy. We should celebrate rather than condemn the addition of this speech to the public debate.
The first passage is from the dissenting opinion by William O. Douglas in United States v. Auto Workers, 352 U.S. 567 (1957). Douglas was one of the more liberal justices in these modern times. Yet he sounded very much like Antonin Scalia, who penned the second quote from his concurring in part decision from Citizens United v. The F.E.C., 558 U.S. _____ (2010). The point here is to show how far left we’ve moved when the alleged extreme right of 2010 echoes the far left of 1957, and to ask, how far left can we move before the United States that has given the world so much is no longer recognizable.
You claim that money in politics distorts the process and therefore corrupts the outcome. Yet the huge multinational, Dutch corporation that you sold your company too, Unilever, spent $43,132 in direct political campaign contributions in 2012, which does not include monies to PACs which need not be disclosed. In 2012 Unilever also spent $1,770,000 lobbying, up $1,000,000 from 2011. Furthermore, as number 139 on the Fortune 500 list Unilever had $64 billion in revenue and $6 billion in profits in 2012. Clearly, Unilever had no qualms about spending some of that money to corrupt the process. Let us not forget that but for your own personal wealth and the wealth and popularity of your company, you would not have the voice you have to, in our view, truly corrupt the process as Justices Douglas and Scalia warned against. Once you amend the Constitution to limit one group’s freedoms where and when does it end?
The issue of money in politics is truly a straw man issue to divert people from critically analyzing why this country is in the shape it is. We submit that 100 years ago three events took place that set the United States down the path that has led to now. Those events were the passage of the 16th and 17th amendments and the creation of the Federal Reserve Board on December 23, 1913.
The 16th amendment “clarified” the definition of direct taxes allowing for income taxes to be collected. Not sure exactly what needed clarification. The Constitution, as originally written, said that taxes must be apportioned among the several states based on each state’s population as determined by the census. Taxation based on income destroys the concept of apportionment based on population. The question is why would the Framers define the central government’s taxing ability in such a fashion? One of the main goals of the Framers was the delicate balance between a central government with sufficient powers to address the issues common to all of the states, and a central government that is strictly limited in its jurisdictions. One way to achieve that end was to limit the income available to the government so it cannot look to act outside its Article 1 Section 8 enumerated powers. Giving the government a virtually unlimited ATM destroyed that goal.
The 17th amendment now allowed for the popular election of senators, instead of their being elected by the respective state legislators. This weakened and has all but destroyed the concept of federalism and the Framers scheme to make sure that power does not become centralized. The House of Representatives was supposed to be the Peoples representatives and the Senate was to represent state needs. The popular election of senators all but made useless the 10th amendment which reserved all the rights and powers not enumerated in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to the people and the states. 100 years later states powers have been severely circumscribed by the fact that the Federal government takes so much money out of the economy and then bribes the senators with funds for their states if they pass and comply with federal statutes; see speed limit and drinking age laws.
Finally, the Federal Reserve Board has put in charge of the United States money supply, thus how much credit is available, into the hands of unelected and truly unaccountable individuals. In 1913 the United States was a nation with diverse economic needs that local banks would have the ability to monitor and provide credit as warranted. The country is still economically diverse; the needs of Davenport, Iowa hardly mirror the needs of New York City. Yet the banks in both locales have to play by the same rules and are subject to a money supply decided in Washington.
These three items represent in no small measure the reasons why we are in the mess we are in. Neither Democrat or Republican, nor liberals or enough conservatives, are willing to view our current problems based on the events of 1913. Why? Because doing so would show the depth and breadth of the problems; that the problems are seemingly insurmountable; and that the solutions are generational, not subject to election cycles. So, both sides create straw men, such as, immigration, political contributions, second amendment rights, and the like to keep the majority of people focused in the wrong direction.
The question then is it worse for the country when the Koch brothers use their considerable resources to influence politics in this country at this particular time and space, or is it worse for Ben & Jerry to influence political discourse in this country in a permanent fashion with a Constitutional amendment?
Therefore, we ask you to consider what we have written and if you find it compelling to use your considerable energy and resources to educate people about the real reasons for the country’s current state of affairs.
In a nutshell, our problems stem from an out of control central government that has eclipsed its Constitutional powers and forgotten what Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed… (emphasis added)
That consent must come from all the governed, not just the ones you or anyone else thinks are worthy of giving that consent.