By Money Out of Politics -San Diego – Special to the SDFP
On Tuesday, the San Diego City Council overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution to reverse Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruling that in 2010 allowed unrestricted political spending by corporations and unions.
The resolution was supported 8-0, as San Diego joins 350 cities and 12 states that have endorsed resolutions. This victory comes as a result of the hard work of a multitude of people and organizations, at the local forefront of which was Money Out of Politics/San Diego (MOP).
MOP is a local activist group that was initially born a year ago this month out of a Women Occupy San Diego meeting. The brainchild of Dianne Lane, MOP was joined by Pam Page, who, alongside Lane, has dedicated countless hours to the cause.
For many months, MOP met weekly and slowly increased their numbers. Local activists Masada Disenhouse, Susan Duerksen, Kristen Smith, Evie Kosower, Kenyon Applebee and Martha Sullivan became regulars. Many others came and went, all making useful suggestions and helping in many ways. Like all organizations of this sort, most attendees are active in other public interest groups and many hold down full time jobs.
MOP’s projects have always been deadline driven. In January, Move to Amend (MTA), the national organization whose sole purpose is to work toward amending the constitution to reverse the Citizens United decision, was promoting a nationwide Occupy the Courts day. The MOPsters decided this was just the thing to raise awareness here in San Diego.
In the end, they did not actually occupy the courts, but held a big, colorful rally on the Federal Courthouse lawn with speakers Lori Saldana, Marjorie Cohn, Anne Hoiberg, and Tahra Ludwig taking turns standing on an actual soapbox.
The event was reported by Rueters as being one of the biggest Occupy the Courts event in the nation.
In February MOP hosted another MTA packed-house event, this time at the Peace Resource Center for MTA spokesperson David Cobb’s national barnstorming tour. About that time MOP started working in coalition with local Common Cause people like Simon Mayeski, Ric Bainter, and John Malugen and the San Diego League of Women Voters’ co-president, Jeanne Brown.
MOP began to focus on getting the City of San Diego to pass a resolution calling on congress to amend the constitution to reverse the effects of the Citizens United decision. They created a draft resolution which was pared down to three bare essentials:
- “Corporations are not people and are not endowed with the Constitutional rights of human beings;
- “Money is not speech;
- “and the people’s elected representatives have the power to regulate all election-related contributions and expenditures.”
For months MOP members worked on obtaining as many signatures as they could from individuals and on securing endorsements from organizations and individual local leaders and elected officials asking that the City of San Diego endorse the resolution. Three MOPsters created a corporate person costume to draw attention at events such as Occupy the Arts, Politifest and the California Clean Money Campaign kickoff. An online petition was set up through Change.org.
MOP continued on that path until John Smith, the Common Cause organizer for Southern California, advised he did not know of any successful resolution that depended on a petition drive. While disappointed that it was not, in fact, the sheer number of people in support of a cause that affected change, MOP suspended the effort to collect individual signatures.
In the spring, Move to Amend and Common Cause, supported by dozens of other organizations, created a website called Resolution Week. The goal was for cities all across the nation to endorse a resolution in June. The MOPsters jumped in, although it turned out to be an ambitious deadline for MOP and San Diego.
By June, the group had gotten as far as presenting the resolution as a non-agenda item to the Rules Committee of the San Diego City Council. In July, Smith invited Page and Lane to meet with organizers from Redlands and Claremont, Calif., both of which passed resolutions.
Meanwhile, MOP members met with individual City Council members from April through July, finding out bits and pieces of sometimes conflicting information and slowly began connecting the dots. Finally, MOP learned they would need to meet with the SDCC Rules Committee consultant, Lea Fields-Bernard, who in turn suggested we meet with Council president Tony Young, who also serves as the RC chairman. MOP soon found out they would need a memo signed by three council members supporting a resolution in order to put it on the SDCC Rules Committee.
This called for another round of meetings, emails and phone calls, especially with sympathetic council members, namely Marti Emerald, Todd Gloria (who had published a resolution of his own for his district), David Alvarez and Sherri Lightner. MOP also met twice with staff in Kevin Faulconer’s office. Laurie Zapf declined to meet with MOP.
Through the efforts of Mayeski, Disenhouse, Page and Lane, MOP got their website up and running in September. That month also saw Page and Lane giving a presentation to the students of political science teacher, Eli Cameron, at High Tech High International.
In late October, Marti Emerald’s office let MOP know the resolution would be on the agenda the following week. However, the following day, that information was retracted.
On Nov. 7, the day after the national election, MOP received a call from Marisa Beruman, Marti Emerald’s chief of staff, saying the resolution would be the only item on the Rules Committee agenda the following week. On that day the room was packed with supporters, many of whom spoke, from the following endorsing organizations:
- California Alliance of Retired Americans
- California Common Cause
- Center for Policy Initiatives
- Green Party of San Diego County
- League of Women Voters
- Martin Luther King Democratic Club
- Mid-City CAN
- National Lawyers Guild – San Diego Chapter
- Older Women’s League (OWL)
- Point Loma Democratic Club
- San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council
- Sierra Club
Many other individuals and organizations, including San Diego Clean Neighborhoods Campaign, members of Women Occupy San Diego, High Tech High International political science teacher and several students also showed their support.
The RC voted 3-0 (Emerald, Gloria and Young) the resolution be heard by the full city council. On Tuesday, Dec. 4, the resolution was voted 8-0. Council Member Mark Kersey left the room during the vote; Faulconer, Zapf and Scott Sherman spoke against the endorsement, but ultimately voted in favor of it.
So, let’s hear it for grassroots organizations! An amendment to the constitution might be a long way off, but, as Margaret Mead once put it so very well, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”