We are changing the national conversation: GUI Campaign Update

Eric Zulaski on November 18, 2015

REPORT: Peace and justice activists are shining a spotlight the political influence of Pentagon contractors and the for-profit prison industry. Through our incomparable access to presidential candidates in New Hampshire and Iowa, we are interrupting politics-as-usual and putting people above corporate profits.

Here in New Hampshire and in Iowa, our activist community is reminding the country that the interests of the people—not corporations—must come first. Thank you for speaking out against the corrupt system that enables powerful corporations to drive American policy toward more wars, more weapons and more prisons.

To date AFSC has trained more than one thousand people to bird-dog presidential candidates. Together, we’ve asked the candidates over 300 questions about the excessive influence of Pentagon contractors and the for-profit prison industry. And we’ve put our banners out in front of tens of thousands of people to get them thinking and acting on this issue.

Thanks to volunteers demonstrating outside candidate events and bird-dogging inside candidate events, our efforts to change the political conversation is paying off.

GUI is in the news

Bird dogs and volunteers have played a significant role in 21 major media stories, including coverage in news outlets like the Washington Post, Bloomberg, Boston Globe, NHPR, WMUR, Union Leader, Des Moines Register, Iowa Public Radio, Huffington Post, and FOX News.

People “Like” GUI

Online, people share stories of our bird dog encounters, see photos of our banners in action, read articles on our website, and tweet with the GUI hashtag #WhoProfits.

For example, in early October 2015, one bird dog’s question to Hillary Clinton about Pentagon contractor influence was broadcast live on NBC’s “Today Show” and was later picked up on several social media outlets. That “Today Show” clip has more than 130,000 views on the Iraq Veterans Against the War Facebook page.

afsc.org/gui is a heavily used resource

The GUI website is the go-to resource for journalists and activists who want to know where the candidates will appear on any given day. More than 45,000 people have visited the site over 93,000 times.

Pressing candidates to talk about corporate influence

Our community has been bird-dogging candidates and raising visibility for our issues for a year now, and our persistence is paying off. Republican and Democratic candidates alike have been listening, taking notes, and talking about the effect of corporate money on public policy.

Bird dogs have pushed Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, and George Pataki to speak out against the revolving door between government and corporations, calling for stronger restrictions on members of Congress becoming lobbyists.

Our pointed questions have elicited vigorous comments against crony capitalism from Carly Fiorina, who concedes there is a lot of cronyism at the Pentagon.

Because we asked, John Kasich has said that it’s a bad system when billionaires can pick the next president, and Lindsey Graham has called for the overturn of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which grants corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money on political speech.

On the question of corporate lobbying, Rand Paul says we ought to place restrictions on government contractor lobbying. Chris Christie says we need to shine a light on it. Ben Carson says he wants to make a rule to stop it.

When we first asked Hillary Clinton about the immigrant detention quota that benefits for-profit detention facilities in November 2014, she said that she had “never heard that question,” and that she would “look into it.” Six months later, she spoke out against using private prisons to warehouse immigrants. After persistent bird dogging, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders also spoke out against for-profit immigrant detention. Jeb Bush has said that we should not have a detention quota.

Thanks to people power

All that the GUI campaign has accomplished is due to the sincere involvement of hundreds of people. We are grateful for each of them.

We must continue working together to maintain a strong presence as the candidates and media begin the final frenzy leading up to the New Hampshire Primary and Iowa Caucuses. With your commitment and persistence, we can interrupt politics-as-usual and insist on a government that works for all us. ■

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. - HELEN KELLER