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'Money is not speech' - Ben and Jerry's co-founder launches campaign to highlight the influence of corporate money in American politics

Sunday, June 24, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: money, free speech, Ben and Jerry

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(NaturalNews) Longtime social liberal Ben Cohen, co-founder of "Ben & Jerry's" ice cream brand and one of the deep pockets behind the "Occupy" movement, wants to take his message a step further this election season by actually stamping U.S. paper money with key anti-establishment messages.

According to recent reports, Cohen will launch his movement this summer, when a number of political contests - most notably the presidential race - heat up in earnest. The message? Essentially, it's this: There is too much money in American politics today, and a dollar bill does not equate to political "speech," at least not in the traditional sense.

Cohen and the advocacy group Move to Amend (http://movetoamend.org/frequently-asked-questions) which promotes the mantra, "End Corporate Rule, Legalize Democracy," are planning to distribute rubber stamps with anti-corporate spending messages so that those who are so inclined to do so can stamp their dollar bills.

The goal of the movement is the adoption of a constitutional amendment that says corporations don't enjoy the same free-speech rights as individuals and that money itself is not political speech.

Stamping money to rail against the use of money - in politics

The Ben & Jerry's co-founder, who ostensibly is aware of his own corporate label and obviously, judging by his wealth, does not give his product away for free, wants to take a giant stamping machine on a national tour, encouraging "thousands of people to buy rubber stamps and stamp any currency that comes into their possession," Yahoo! News reported.

Cohen says his attorney told him that such defacement of U.S. currency is legal, as long as bills are still legible after they are stamped. According to Title 18 U.S. Code, Section 333, says it is illegal to cut, deface, mutilate, disfigure, perforate, or rejoin bills. Other acts, such as writing notes on bills or other mutilation that occurs naturally, is not illegal, but ultimately it's up to a judge to determine whether or not an individual has defaced currency, and that judge is free to consider all mitigating circumstances.

That said, Cohen is moving ahead with his stamp campaign. According to reports, the stamps he is issuing say "Corporations are not people," "Money is not speech," and "Not to be used for bribing politicians," among others.

The amendment Cohen seeks is one that would reverse decades of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, all of which have upheld campaign contributions as a form of political speech. Such an amendment would also negate the high court's Citizens United decision in 2010, which said that corporations and unions were allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns, as long as they don't flow directly to candidates themselves. That ruling overturned existing campaign finance laws which forbade such practices and led to the creation of so-called "super PACs" (political action committees) which now pour tens of millions into campaigns.

The Ben & Jerry's mogul wants this iteration of the "Occupy" movement, which began last year as a movement seeking to demonize large corporations (but not large unions), to be even tougher than the first, in which scores of people "occupied" public spaces - parks, storefronts, areas outside of businesses, etc. - around the nation.

Funding the 'movement' against money

"In some ways, it's kind of a more difficult and certainly a more time consuming task than occupying parks," Cohen told Yahoo! News.

Of course, such "movements" take money - the very kind of money Cohen and his allies seemed destined to demonize, especially since some of the $300,000 he said he's raised for the effort in February had come from wealthy businesspeople. His goal is to reach really big money - $1.8 million.

His organization, the Movement Resource Group, has only raised about $100,000 since, so he's not sure he will make his goal.

But that isn't deterring the real hardcore Occupy operatives. They are going to launch a new project this summer, despite a dearth of funding. Among their targets? Disrupting the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., in August, when party officials and delegates expect to nominate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the GOP presidential nominee.

No word yet whether the same Occupy operatives will demonstrate against the Democratic National Convention, to be held in Charlotte, N.C., beginning Sept. 3 - where, no doubt, lots of big-money activists and businesspersons will also be.

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