MANSKI - MCCABE - GRAVES: 'Overrule the Court' Rally in Madison

February 16, 2010

About 200 people came to the state Capitol in Madison to say "No!" to the Supreme Court's ruling invalidating all legal limits on corporate spending in elections. The rally was organized by Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, The Center for Media and Democracy, and the Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution, and called for a long-term people's campaign for a constitutional amendment to "Firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights."

Liberty Tree founder Ben Manski, noting that the rally was taking place on the bithday of voting-rights activist Susan B. Anthony, drew a parallel between past struggles for equal protection under the law and the struggle against corporate power today.

Lisa Graves of the Center of Media and Democracy called for the impeachment of Chief Justice Roberts, and warned that all legal constraints on campaign spending were placed at risk by the Supreme Court's decision.

Democracy Campaign director Mike McCabe called the Court's decision a "radical reinterpretation of the First Amendment" that "must not and will not be allowed to stand." Along with a constitutional amemdment, McCabe called on all citizens to "pester and prod Congress until it takes up and passes the Fair Elections Now Act creating publicly financed elections for federal office." Full text of Mike McCabe's speech appears below the video:



Mike McCabe speaking at Bobfest, 2009

Remarks by Mike McCabe of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign:


It is fitting that we stand out here in the cold. This is where the U.S. Supreme Court left us.

At a time of corporate power and excess and irresponsibility not seen in this land since the Gilded Age and the time of the robber barons, five men – five blindly ideological and shamelessly hypocritical and thoroughly owned men – have decided that corporations do not have enough influence over our lives and our government and need to be allowed to spend even more freely on elections than they already have been.

Their radical reinterpretation of the First Amendment must not and will not be allowed to stand. This ruling must not and will not be the last word.

Apologists for this assault on our democracy say the court’s majority struck a blow for free speech. The only thing they did for free speech was change its spelling. They took out the “r.”

Those celebrating this decision say corporations deserve a voice in our society. Corporations did not need these five men to rule as they did to have a voice. They already had a voice, and a dominant one at that. Look no further than the national health care debate or the last few state Supreme Court elections for evidence of that. The Supreme Court didn’t give them a voice, it gave them a megaphone.

Corporations did not need these five to rule as they did to lay claim to the same rights as living, breathing, flesh-and-blood citizens – rights they enjoy on top of a host of special legal protections and economic privileges that none of us can possess. No, the idea that corporations are people has been with us since way back in 1886. Mind you, the idea didn’t come from an act of Congress. Or a ruling of the United States Supreme Court. It came from this guy. Bancroft Davis. Former president of a railroad company. Went on to become the court reporter for the Supreme Court. Added a note to the court’s ruling in a case involving the taxation of railroad property saying it was the court’s opinion that corporations have rights as citizens under the 14th Amendment.

Nope, corporations didn’t need this court to rule in this case that corporations are people. Bancroft Davis took care of that for them. What this court did in this case was make them a master race. They amplified their voice. And supercharged their power. To us, these five men gave second class citizenship.

In effect, these five men are trying to raise a new flag over America.

This desecrated flag will not fly over our land. This radical reinterpretation of the First Amendment will not stand. This ruling will not be the last word.

If those who represent us in Washington had an ounce of nerve, there would already be articles of impeachment pending against Chief Justice Roberts for lying to Congress. But we should know this much by now . . . we count on their nerve at our peril.

No, it is up to us. It is up to us to demand a 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution overruling the Roberts court on election financing. It is up to us to pester and prod Congress until it takes up and passes the Fair Elections Now Act creating publicly financed elections for federal office. It is up to us to get the attention of the people in this building too. We recently won the Impartial Justice bill establishing publicly financed state Supreme Court elections. Now we need to expand this new law to all state elections.

Some of these steps – like amending the constitution – could take years. Others will take months. But some steps can be taken in the days and weeks to come . . . in time to make the 2010 elections better than they otherwise will be. Right here and right now we can push for passage of Senate Bill 43 and its companion Assembly Bill 63 that strikes a blow at the heart of the “advertocracy” those five men on the Supreme Court are trying to create, closing the single biggest loophole in Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws, and in so doing pulling the cloaks off the special interest sponsors of campaign advertising and making them stand by their ads.
For the moment we stand outside in the cold. We were put here by five men who are undeniably powerful but just as undeniably corrupt. We stand in protest of what they have done. We speak out in opposition to the warped, bastardized version of democracy they seek to force on us. In a few moments we will march to the federal courthouse. But then we need to march in there and make things right.
They need to hear. . . . Money is not speech. Corporations are not people. Public offices are not commodities. Elections are not marketplaces where these offices are bought and sold. Ain’t nobody going to make us second-class citizens. Not here. Not now. Not nobody. Not no how.