Democracy for the Common Good: A Call to Action

Kevin Rutledge on February 11, 2015

If you can’t drive under the influence, you shouldn’t be able to govern under the influence.”

– John Nichols, Washington Correspondent for The Nation magazine, referring to those who govern our country under the influence of corporate dollars, at Iowa's "Governing Under the Influence" Kickoff event on February 7th. 

Pictures from the event are available on Flickr.

If you can’t drive under the influence, you shouldn’t be able to govern under the influence.”

– John Nichols, Washington Correspondent for The Nation magazine, referring to those who govern our country under the influence of corporate dollars, not peoples’ voices.

John Nichols was the keynote speaker for our Democracy for the Common Good: A Call to Action kickoff event for the American Friends Service Committee’s “Governing Under the Influence” Presidential Campaign Project held on February 7 in Des Moines.  Fourteen co-sponsoring organizations and more than 80 activists from around Iowa gathered to attend workshops and skills-building sessions while discussing the issues of excessive corporate power, money, and influence in our political process.  Yet more importantly, we talked about what we Iowans are doing to reclaim democracy in our state and the rest of the country.

Iowa gets to put the issues on the table. Iowa gets to make presidential candidates talk about things they don’t want to talk about,” Nichols said during his keynote speech Saturday.

Iowa and New Hampshire are home to our “Governing Under the Influence” campaign where we interact with presidential candidates like nobody else can, to change the political discourse. 

We’re getting people to talk about the issues of too much corporate power and influence from lobbying and campaign donations.  We’re getting the presidential candidates to talk about the issues from bird-dogging or asking candidates questions and reporting encounters.  We’re also getting the media to talk about the issues, posted in our Newsroom page, such as the Des Moines Register and John Nichols on the event.

From Saturday’s event, we learned how “Democracy isn’t for the Common Good” in the first set of issue workshops, which focused on how private profit is driving public policy in: Privatizing Education, Immigrant Detention – Profits over People, Common Sense Economics, and The Weapons Industry – Who Profits? Who Pays?

The skill-building workshops brought a “Call to Action for Iowans” to restore “Democracy for the Common Good”: Bird-dogging the Candidates on Corporate Influence, 2016 Iowa Caucus and Resolution Process, and a Constitutional Amendment for Campaign Finance with Move to Amend.

Iowa Caucus and Resolutions - The Issues vs. the Horse Race

Although the Iowa Caucus is about a year away, we are encouraging folks across Iowa to talk about the issues affecting our country, which are more important than who is “winning or losing” in polls the national media loves to cover, by bringing this resolution up for vote at their local caucus, after picking their candidates:

“We support legislation to prevent corporations from using profits gained from government contracts to lobby for more government contracts.

We oppose corporate influence on American democracy and other attempts by corporations to use their wealth and power to ensure greater profit margins and elect candidates who protect corporate interests at the expense of everyday Americans.”

Bird-dogging the Candidates on Corporate Influence

If we don’t ask the questions, who will?  We’re showing people that you don’t have to have hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to have free speech in this country.  All it takes is willingness for change and a question to ask.  Upcoming Iowa Candidate Appearances.

Here’s how our New Hampshire staff bird-dogged Kentucky Senator Rand Paul on corporate lobbyists:

if you do a billion dollars worth of business with government, maybe you shouldn’t be allowed to take any of the billion dollars and lobby the government for more money.” – Sen. Paul

During lunch, a humorous “Pentagon Budget-Elephant in the Room” skit (YouTube video) included a spineless Democrat and clueless Republican debated cutting government spending, while ignoring the $554,200,000,000 Pentagon Budget “Elephant”, was presented by Catholic Peace Ministry and AFSC volunteers to bring us to our main speaker.

John Nichols’ keynote speech brought a sense of duty and responsibility for Iowans in our important role to make candidates talk about the issues.  Somebody gave us the power in Iowa and if we don’t do our part, nothing changes.  That reminds me of my favorite superhero.

“With great power comes great responsibility” – Spiderman

Iowans have the power and responsibility to bring the issues to the “poker table”, play our hand, and “call the bluff” of presidential candidates. 

To become involved with “Governing Under the Influence” in Iowa or New Hampshire, sign up for our email list on the right side of our Get Involved page.  Thank you to our co-sponsors and everybody who attended and stay tuned for more events


Kevin Rutledge

Kevin Rutledge AFSC Governing Under the Influence Presidential Campaign Project

Kevin Rutledge is the Grassroots Education Coordinator with AFSC’s Presidential Campaign Project in Iowa.  Kevin has deep family roots in Quaker activism for peace and social justice.  A graduate from Iowa State University in Sociology and Criminal Justice, his previous work includes: United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) organizer, Public Citizen online organizer to overturn Citizens United, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, and a youth residential treatment facility.  Kevin hopes to one day return to Brazil and live by the beach.

“What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” – Napoleon Hill .