End GUI. Stamp Money out of Politics

Arnie Alpert on July 31, 2015

People power can overcome corporate power, end the "Governing under the Influence" system, and reduce the power of the military-industrial complex.  That was the message delivered by Arnie Alpert at the Stamp Stampede rally in front of the NH State House on July 30, 2015.  

Stamp Stampede, an organization founded by Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry's, held a rally at the State House in Concord on July 30 to bolster efforts to "stamp money out of politics."  AFSC's Arnie Alpert was one of the speakers.  The following is based on his prepared remarks:

Quakers say no one has all the truth and everyone has a piece of the truth, so we need to look for truth in unusual places.  It’s interesting that one of the prophets we look to now is Dwight Eisenhower, a 5-star general, who warned about “the acquisition of unwarranted power by the military industrial complex.”

Pentagon contractors invested $27 million in candidates for Congress in the 2012 election cycle.

Just the top ten Pentagon contractors spent $23 Million on politics.  For that they received $202 billion in contracts last year.   Not a bad return on investment.

The Pentagon contractors spend $128 million a year spent on lobbying, conducted in many cases by former members of Congress, former Pentagon officials, former high-level Congressional staff members.  This is what we call the “revolving door.”

They hold job fairs for retiring generals and admirals looking for lucrative careers selling weapons back to their former colleagues.  

They sponsor trade groups, such as the Aerospace Industries Association, the Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Coalition, the Submarine Industrial Base Council, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems (the trade group for drone makers), the Shipbuilders Council of America, the Surface Navy Association, the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, and more. 

They sponsor “think tanks.” 

They sponsor the media, for example Politico’s “Morning Defense” newsletter, brought to me each day by Northrup Grumman.

They even donate to the pet charitable projects of spouses of members of the Congressional armed service committees. 

This is a classic case of what we call “governing under the influence,” or GUI.

And it’s not just the military industrial complex:

It’s the Wall Street industrial complex, the prison industrial complex, the pharmaceutical industrial complex, the fossil fuel industrial complex, and more,

They are all practicing GUI to corrupt the political process and serve private interest at the public’s expense.

If DUI is a hazard to the people on our roads and sidewalks, GUI is a hazard to democracy.

If DUI needs to be approached as a public health problem of great importance, GUI needs to be seen as a political health problem of the greatest importance.

But while DUI is a crime, GUI is entirely legal.  And it’s gotten more legal due to the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions which further opened the gates for floods of cash to flow into the political system from billionaires and corporations.  

The rich are getting richer.

The mega rich are getting mega richer.

The giga rich are getting giga richer.

And it is easy for them to recycle their wealth into the political system to generate policies that generate more wealth for themselves, leading to higher inequality, less democracy.    

Eisenhower said only “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing” of industrial might with democracy’s needs.

Article 10 of the New Hampshire Bill of Rights says: 

Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government.

We say people power can be stronger than corporate power and we say today we have not yet exhausted all other means of redress.   

We are calling on the candidates to tell us what they will do to end the GUI system.

We are asking:

What will they do to make sure the corporations that profit from building weapons of mass destruction are not determining our foreign policy?

What will they do to make sure corporations that own and manage prisons are not running our immigration and corrections policies?

What will they do to make sure our police departments don’t become just another profit center for the military industrial complex?

What will they do to make sure our political system is based on the principle of one person one vote, not the principle of one dollar one vote?

So far we have trained more than 500 people in NH and a couple hundred more in Iowa.  The GUI project is putting the candidates on the spot and documenting their responses. 

The GUI system is strong, but not invulnerable.  It has a crack that opens in NH and Iowa.

We have a little over six months to make sure the candidates hear from us.

End GUI. 

Stamp money out of politics.

Author

Arnie Alpert

Arnie Alpert

Arnie Alpert is co-director of the American Friends Service Committee’s New Hampshire Program, which he has led since 1981.  In that time he has been involved in movements for economic justice and affordable housing, civil and worker rights, peace and disarmament, abolition of the death penalty, and an end to racism and homophobia.