Progressive Network to create show featuring activists who changed South Carolina history

In March, the SC Progressive Network screened The People Speak, a documentary inspired by the book A People’s History of the United States, which chronicles the lives and experiences of ordinary Americans who, through their words and actions, changed the course of our history. The premise of the film is that change doesn’t come from the top, but rather from the bottom.

Author, historian, and activist Howard Zinn wrote the books and developed the film because he wanted Americans to recognize the power of protest in shaping their country’s history. Zinn, who died in 2010 at 87, said our textbooks present the story of America only through the eyes of its generals and presidents, giving “a distorted view of the past.”

The film got us thinking that we should take Zinn’s idea and apply it to South Carolina history. We’re inviting historians and activists to collaborate on writing, staging and filming a 45-minute or hour-long program documenting the work of some of the Palmetto State’s most important historical figures, in their own words. Like Zinn, we want to focus on those whose passion and commitment to social justice helped shape South Carolina’s story.

If you want to join this collaborative effort, please call us at 803-808-3384, email becci@scpronet.com, or join our Facebook page. We’re shooting to debut the production in September. Between now and then, we’ll meet as needed at the Network’s office to brainstorm and issue assignments. If you have ideas for people to feature in the program, or are interested in performing, please contact us.

See additional resources at The People Speak web site.

SC AFL-CIO supports bill to repeal SC’s “stand your ground” law

As the country attempts to understand the shooting of 17-year-old Treyvon Martin, the SC AFL-CIO calls for justice for Treyvon’s family and supports Rep. Bakari Sellers’ proposed bill to repeal the “stand your ground” provision of South Carolina’s “Protection of Persons and Property Act” enacted in 2006.

“We have long had laws on the books that allowed for legitimate self defense,” said SC AFL-CIO Vice President Ken Riley. “These new laws are being used by vigilantes to excuse frontier justice against unarmed people. People of color have a deadly serious reason to fear that this law provides bigots an excuse to shoot somebody as their first option to resolve a problem.”

The state’s “stand your ground” clause was recently used in the defense of a white Spartanburg home owner who shot a homeless man who was squatting in a vacant house for sale. District Solicitor Barry Barnette said the shooting was justified under the “stand your ground” provision of the state law. “Obviously, your have a right to defend your property,” Barnette told the Spartanburg Herald Journal about the shooting.

The SC AFL-CIO believes these unnecessary laws conflict with its commitment to equal rights and due process for all citizens. “These new laws have no place on the books of a society that considers itself civilized,” Riley said.

The SC AFL-CIO supports Rep. Sellers’ bill that would strike the section of the statute that states, “A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in another place where he has a right to be, including, but not limited to, his place of business, has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or another person to prevent the commission of a violent crime as defined in Section 16-1-60.”

SC Progressive Network Movie Night to feature popular documentary “The People Speak”

For its March monthly movie, the SC Progressive Network will feature THE PEOPLE SPEAK, a documentary film inspired by the books A People’s History of the United States and Voices of a People’s History, which chronicles the lives and experiences of ordinary Americans who, through their words and actions, changed the course of our history.

The movie will be shown March 27 at Conundrum Music Hall, 626 Meeting St., West Columbia. Free entrance, free popcorn. A fine selection of beer, wine, and sodas will be available for purchase. Door opens at 6:30pm; film at 7pm.

The philosophy espoused in the film is that change doesn’t come from the top, but rather from the bottom, and that without those everyday citizens pushing for betterment, there would be no America. This film takes us on a journey from the founding of our country to the civil rights movement, all the way up through today.

Author, historian, teacher, activist, and now television producer Dr. Howard Zinn is a man on a mission. He wants Americans to recognize the power of protest in shaping their country’s history. Along with executive producers Matt Damon, Chris Moore, Josh Brolin, and Anthony Arnove, he is moving his message from high schools and college campuses to film and, later this year, to HISTORY.

Zinn, who died in 2010 at 87, has been a history professor for most of his professional career, and in the lecture hall and in his writings, particularly his very popular A People’s History of the United States, he espouses history “from the ground up” in an articulate and engaging way. If our textbooks present the story of America only through the eyes of its generals and presidents, Zinn argues, it gives “a distorted view of the past.” Certainly he provides a powerful counterbalance to the hero-centric approach of traditional textbooks. In 2004 Zinn joined with Dr. Anthony Arnove to publish a collection of primary source documents titled Voices of a People’s History of the United States, an academic bestseller on college and high school campuses. The materials range across the length of American history and feature letters, petitions, poems, speeches, and songs from “women and slaves, immigrants and youth, soldiers and students.”

Zinn and Arnove began to organize public performances of selections from Voices in 2003, before its official release, when A People’s History of the United States sold its 1 millionth copy (it has now surpassed the 2 million mark). Today, Voices brings alive the words and emotions of the past with songs and dramatic readings performed by well-established artists. At a presentation this past May celebrating the publication of A Young People’s History of the United States in New York City, seven performers gave new life to the words of famous dissenters — such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass, and Martin Luther King Jr. — and lesser known, but equally stirring, voices from the past.

Bill requiring voters to register by party goes nowhere

The SC House Judiciary Committee today debated a bill to require voters to register by party to vote in party primaries. The SC Progressive Network opposed it, arguing it posed an unnecessary impediment to voting rights. South Carolina has more legislators chosen by primary than any other state.

Enough Republicans on the committee had concerns about limiting voters’ options in primaries — which are paid for by all taxpayers — to send the bill back to subcommittee, making it unlikely the bill will pass this session.

Network Director Brett Bursey pointed out to the committee that 20 of its 25 members had no opposition in the general election and they won their seat in the primary. This applies to both Republicans and Democrats; see memo below.

A majority of the committee members won 99 percent of the vote in their uncontested general elections.

“Sixty-five percent of South Carolina voters had only one candidate to vote for in the last general election for legislators,” Bursey said. “If you can’t vote in the primary, you don’t have a voice on who represents you in the State House.”

Due to partisan redistricting over the past 30 years, South Carolina has the least competitive general elections in the nation. The creation of “safe” legislative districts resulted in 80 of the states 124 House districts (65 percent) having only one major party candidate on the general election ballot. In these 80 races, the voters only opportunity to cast a meaningful ballot was in the primary.

As long as the majority of elections for the legislature are decided in the primaries, all voters must be afforded the opportunity to participate in open primaries. Until our general elections are competitive, restricting participation in the primaries effectively prohibits citizens from casting a meaningful vote for their representative.

Twenty of the 25 members of the House Judiciary Committee had no major party opposition in the 2010 general election. These members took office by winning their party’s primary, often with no opposition.

House Judiciary members with general election opposition (with percentage of general election vote)

Nanny 66% R
Bannister 75% R
Quinn 72% R
Peter McCoy 47% R (Anne Peterson Hutto 43%, Eugene Platt 8%)
Leon Stavinakis 55% D

House Judiciary members with NO general election opposition (with percentage of general election vote)
James Harrison 99% R
Alan Clemmons 99% R
George Hern 99% R
Jenny Horne 99% R
Dan Hamilton 87.92% R
Karl Allen 99% D
Derham Cole, Jr. 99% R
Eddie Tallon 99% R
Walton McCloud 98% D
Greg Delleney 99% R
Boyd Brown 98% D
David Weeks 99% D
Laurie Slade Funderburk 99% D
Thad Viers 99% R
James Smith 99% D
Todd Rutherford 88% D
Tom Young 99% R
Bakari Sellers 99% D
Seth Whipper 99% D
Mike Sottile 99% R

New bill against trespass troubles civil libertarians

By Adam Klasfeld
Court House News

A polarizing debate has erupted over a new anti-trespass law, with some saying it criminalizes protest and others calling it a harmless patch of a security oversight. The White House describes the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Act of 2011, or H.R. 347, as legislation that “makes it a federal crime to enter or remain knowingly in any restricted area of the White House, the vice president’s official residence, or their respective grounds without lawful authority.”

Though seemingly innocuous, civil libertarians took issue with the language of the bill, which defined “restricted buildings as grounds” broadly enough to include any place where Secret Service personnel are stationed. At the Lawfare national security blog, D.C.-based attorney Wells Bennett speculated that this could include demonstrators loudly protesting the Obama administration’s targeted-killing program. After the bill sailed through the House of Representatives in a 388-3 vote, John Tjaden, a board member with the American Civil Liberties Union of Sacramento, sounded the alarm in a blog post titled, “Goodbye, First Amendment: House Bill HR 347 will make protest illegal.”

President Barack Obama, a former constitutional law professor, signed it Thursday? A spokesman for Rep. Thomas Mooney, the Florida congressman who sponsored the bill, called the controversy “a whole lot of kerfuffle over nothing,” in an interview with Reason Magazine. “This doesn’t affect anyone’s right to protest anywhere at any time,” spokesman Michael Mahassey insisted. “Ever.”

Mahassey said the bill updates existing law, allowing the government to federally prosecute those who would climb over the White House fence. In that sense, the H.R. 347 controversy mirrors that of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), widely known as the Homeland Battlefield Bill for allowing the military to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens without charge or trial. NDAA defenders say the government already claimed that power under the Authorization to Use Military Force, which courts have upheld in subsequent case law.

Civil libertarians countered that the NDAA took narrowly tailored legal opinions and expanded them to have global jurisdiction. ACLU policy advisor Gabe Rottman told Courthouse News that, in both instances, small changes to existing laws could have profound changes. One such change in H.R. 347 is the “intent standard,” which the law reduced from “willfully and knowingly” to “knowingly,” Rottman said. A federal appeals court parsed this difference in 2005 while considering the case of Brett Bursey, a South Carolina activist arrested for protesting then-President George W. Bush at the Columbia Airport. In the opinion, the 4th Circuit agreed that “willfully” had a stricter standard than “knowingly.”

“Divining the meaning of ‘willfully’ in criminal statutory mens rea terms has long bedeviled American courts,” the unanimous opinion states. A footnote continues: “We focus our discussion on whether Bursey ‘willfully’ violated the statute, because, generally, ‘[m]ore is required’ with respect to conduct performed willfully than conduct performed knowingly.”

Now the head of the SC Progressive Network, Bursey told Courthouse News that he did not “willfully” or “knowingly” break any law he could perceive.  He said he was standing in a crowd of people when singled out for arrest because his sign said “No more war for oil, no war against Iraq.”

“They told me that I would have to go to the Free Speech Zone,” Bursey said. “None of them were quite sure where it was.”

When police told him they would charge him with trespassing, Bursey said he had “a déjà vu moment” because he was arrested for state trespassing charges — at almost exactly the same spot — while protesting Richard Nixon in 1969.

Bursey said he fought the 1969 case all the way to the state Supreme Court, and won. Believing he would beat the charges again, Bursey refused to budge at the Bush protest until police hauled him into a corrections van.

“I watched George Bush get off Air Force One through the bars of the paddy wagon and go into this building to give this speech, where he actually used the words, ‘They hate us because we’re so free,’” Bursey recalled, adding, “And I’m hogtied to the van outside.”

Bursey said that he learned from local reporters about four months later that he had been indicted under a statute called “Presidential Assassinations, Kidnappings and Threats.” “I fell out of my chair when I read that,” Bursey said. This time, Bursey lost his appeals, which again went up to the Supreme Court. And he had to pay a $500 for the misdemeanor charge. Under a 2005 reauthorization of the Patriot Act, that offense would have counted as a felony. The Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Act of 2011 uses similar language.

Bursey thinks that Occupy Wall Street and other protest movements might have caused legislators to boost the law. “Why was it necessary to pass this new statute?” Bursey asked. “Since ’05, under the Patriot Act, this same statute has been in effect replacing the one that I was arrested under. So it’s nothing new.”

Bursey believes he is the only protester to have been prosecuted under the laws in their earlier or subsequent forms. “They only arrested one person in 30 years,” he said. In a rhetorical question to legislators, Bursey asked, “What is the clamoring horde that’s trying to break down your bubble?”

Rottman also could not identify any other protester arrested under the former anti-trespassing statutes, but he hoped that H.R. 347 did not signal its expansion. “I hope this law will not be applied to make lawful protest a federal crime,” Rottman said. “Given the discretion, there is concern that it could be misused. The ACLU and other groups that track these regulations will keep a keen eye on any abuse.”

Progressive Movie Night to feature award-winning documentary “Inside Job”

The public is invited to a free screening Feb. 28 of Inside Job, a 2010 documentary about the late-2000s financial crisis directed by Charles H. Ferguson and narrated by Matt Damon. Ferguson says the film is about “the systemic corruption of the United States by the financial services industry and the consequences of that systemic corruption.”

Inside Job was well-received by film critics who praised its pacing, research, and exposition of complex material. The film was screened at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival in May and won the 2010 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

The movie will be shown at Conundrum Music Hall, 626 Meeting St., West Columbia. Free entrance, free popcorn. A fine selection of beer, wine, and sodas will be available for purchase. Door opens at 6:30pm; film at 7pm. Event sponsored by the SC Progressive Network.

Governor’s union-bashing unwarranted, unfair

By Micheal Parrotta
Myrtle Beach, SC

I am a firefighter in South Carolina. I respond when the alarm goes off without the slightest hesitation, just like the men and women who work alongside me. Our job is to save lives and property. We do that job with pride. We are deeply committed to keeping our neighbors and communities safe, because we are proud citizens of the great state of South Carolina.

We are also union members.

In her State of the State address, Gov. Nikki Haley proclaimed my fellow firefighters and paramedics and I “are not needed, not wanted and not welcome in the state of South Carolina.”

Her rhetoric made it sound like she was talking about truly evil people. Or an angry invading force. Instead of me and tens of thousands of other hard-working citizens.

Does she really want to deny all of us a voice in our work lives, or drive us out of South Carolina?

That’s a lot of taxpayers, a lot of moms and dads, a lot of Little League coaches. Police officers, dock workers, mail carriers, paper mill workers, utility workers, UPS drivers and more, who work long, tough hours and help keep our state’s economy humming along, are also union members.

What does Gov. Haley have against us?

We are employed here and pay our taxes here. We live middle-class lives. We own houses, keep our yards up and spend money in the state we call home.

Maybe Gov. Haley doesn’t like that our membership in our unions allows us to advocate for such things as better equipment to make sure we can respond effectively and fast.

Maybe the governor doesn’t like that we are able to earn a living that gives us and our families a decent life and keeps us off public assistance.

Or maybe she is listening to the same politicians in Washington who are failing our country by doing the bidding of big corporations — the ones with headquarters well outside of our state that profit mightily from the hard work of South Carolinians.

In her address, Gov. Haley said the state of the state is “surging.” Really? Where’s it surging to? Our state’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average. Our citizens are among the lowest paid in the nation.

We know that Wall Street profits have been surging in the past few years. But have you been surging? Are your wages surging? What about your home values?

Gov. Haley is not the only extremist politician pointing fingers at people who work for a living as the evil ones. Her agenda looks like it was written by national corporate lobby groups that just can’t seem to get enough profit and power, and don’t care a whit about the good people of South Carolina.

Firefighting is not the career to choose if you seek fame and fortune. If that’s what you’re looking for, you might try politics. We often refer to fire fighting as “the calling,” because most of us from an early age feel a call to serve our communities. It is tough but rewarding work. And for too many of my colleagues, exposing our bodies to dangerous, traumatic and physically demanding situations and carcinogenic fumes means our career won’t be a long one.

It’s time to stop treating the employees who provide our public services and those who keep our economy going as though we’re selfish demons. We are your neighbors. We go to work every day, just like you. We care about this state and its citizens.

We are not corporations with headquarters in other states or other countries that answer to profit-hungry shareholders on Wall Street. We are South Carolinians who have just as much of a right to have a voice in the workplace and a say in our futures as the folks writing Gov. Haley’s speeches.

Parrotta is president of the S.C. Professional Fire Fighters Association, a member of the SC Progressive Network.

The lies that corporations tell

By Jeff Koob
Columbia, SC

Near the end of the 19th century the U.S. Supreme Court decided that corporations should have all the rights of people. In the latter half of the 20th century, it ruled that monetary contributions to political causes are a form of free speech and, since corporations are people, their investments in political decisions that favor them are covered by the First Amendment. And now in the 21st century, the court has ruled that there are no limits to the “right” of corporations and political action groups to sponsor advocacy advertising.

Thus has the Supreme Court opened the floodgate to an unprecedented barrage of propaganda, paid for by wealthy interest groups. More than ever, political office is up for sale to the highest bidder. To borrow from Orwell, all citizens have free speech, but some now have a lot more than others.

Propaganda aims to persuade, not inform, and one of its primary tactics is to present opinions as facts. That’s precisely what attack ads do. I’ll leave it to someone else to predict what left-wing propagandists may put forth this year, but we’ve already seen the unsubstantiated opinions that the right wing will represent as facts in the presidential campaign:

• Raising taxes on the rich or otherwise leveling the economic playing field is class warfare or envy of the rich.

• President Obama is an abject failure/the worst president ever.

•  Obama is a freedom-hating socialist with a hidden agenda. Only the most vehement Obama-haters believe this, but they’ll try to sell the notion that we have to “take back” an America that’s being “lost” under Obama.

•  The Republicans could have done a better job getting the economy back on its feet. This is pure conjecture. Obama’s plan seems to have prevented the Great Recession from turning into a second Great Depression; nobody has the facts to prove otherwise.

• Obamacare (sic) is socialized medicine, and therefore bad. In fact, many of the reforms are viewed favorably by a majority, but the propagandists have demonized the whole package as “Obamacare.”

Sad to say, the electoral process is no longer a matter of civil discourse, and the glut of money from corporations and interests groups is largely to blame. The only solution I see is public funding of elections.

Jeff Koob is a longtime supporter of the
SC Progressive Network.

Anti-union bill threatens Charleston port

SC Progressive Network

One of South Carolina’s largest economic engines, the Port of Charleston, is threatened by an anti-union bill (H-4652) now making its way though the state legislature. Sponsored by Rep. Bill Sandifer (R-Oconee), it would require unions to disclose every single financial transaction, publicize membership lists, and would raise the fine for violations of the state’s Right to Work Act from $100 to $10,000.

Sandifer, who chairs the Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee that is hearing his bill, stated at a Feb. 2 subcommittee meeting, “We do have one of the toughest right-to-work laws in the country; my goal is to have the toughest.”

The bill was passed out of subcommittee, and is scheduled to be heard by the full committee in the next two weeks.

Ken Riley, President of the Longshoreman’s union that works the Charleston port, questioned why punitive laws were being directed at the 5 percent of the state’s workers who belong to unions and make decent wages and benefits. “This unwarranted attack is political grandstanding intended to shift the blame for our economic problems from policy makers to workers,” Riley said.

Ken Riley, President, ILA Local 1422

According to the State Ports Authority, trade through South Carolina ports facilitates 280,600 jobs and provides an overall economic impact of $45 billion each year. The per unit cost of containers handled by Charleston Longshoremen is the lowest of all US ports.

“Ninety-five percent of all containers shipped out of East Coast ports are required by contracts to be handled by union labor,” Riley said. “If you bust our union, you close the port of Charleston.”

“It’s ironic that the same politicians who decry government intrusion in business affairs want to force more government regulations on productive businesses that use union labor,” said SC Progressive Network Director Brett Bursey.

Bursey warned that if the bill becomes law, citizens who believe that workers’ rights are equal to those who profit from low-wage jobs will picket the port of Charleston.

“My guys won’t cross a picket line,” Riley said.

The truth behind Gingrich’s false food-stamp claims

INSTITUTE INDEX
Institute for Southern Studies

Date on which Republican presidential candidate and former Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich, speaking during a debate in South Carolina, claimed that “more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history”: 1/16/2012

Number of days later that the Gingrich campaign unveiled a TV ad making the same claim: 1

Number of people who have joined the food stamp program — known since 2008 as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP — under President Obama: 14,200,000

Number of people who became SNAP beneficiaries under President George W. Bush: 14,700,000

Number of people added to the SNAP rolls in the 12 months before Obama took office in January 2009: 4,400,000

Percentage by which that exceeds the number added in 2007, when the economic downturn began: 300

Number by which the SNAP rolls declined in October 2011: 43,528

Number of people receiving SNAP benefits, according to the latest figures available: 46,224,722

Proportion of U.S. residents that represents: 1 in 7

Proportion of residents receiving SNAP benefits in Mississippi, the state with the highest poverty rate: 1 in 5

Under the economic stimulus bill President Obama signed in 2009, increase in monthly SNAP benefits for a family of four: $80

Income limit for a family of four to be eligible for SNAP: $29,000

Percent of SNAP beneficiaries who are white: 36

Percent who are African-American: 22

Percent who are Latino: 10

Percent who are children: 47

Percent who live in a household where someone has a job: 41

Percent of SNAP households that also received cash welfare benefits in 1990: 42

In 2010: 8

SNAP’s annual cost to taxpayers: $75,000,000,000

Percentage by which that cost has increased since 2008: 200

Value of economic activity generated for every $1 spent on SNAP benefits: $1.84

(Click on figure to go to source. To comment on this index, click here. Image of Gingrich during the Jan. 16 GOP debate is a still from Fox News video via FactCheck.org.)

The real meaning of “self-deportation”

By Wendy Sefsaf

Immigration Policy Center

The term “self-deportation” has found its way into the GOP presidential primary race, with candidate Mitt Romney outlining a vague immigration platform which includes “self-deportation,” or the idea that unauthorized immigrants will voluntarily choose to leave the U.S. if life here is made unbearable enough. While “self-deportation” may be a new idea to some, those who monitor immigration policy understand that it is code for “attrition through enforcement” – a plan pursued by extremist immigration-control organizations in Congress and state houses across the nation.

Mr. Romney explains how he thinks “self-deportation” would work by saying “if people don’t get work here, they’re going to self-deport to a place they can get work.” However, as described in a forthcoming report from the Immigration Policy Center, “self-deportation” – or, more accurately, “attrition through enforcement” – goes far beyond denying unauthorized immigrants work. The strategy is currently embodied in state laws that include provisions denying education, transportation, and even basic services like water and housing to anyone who cannot prove legal immigration status. So far, the states that have attempted to roll out this plan have done little more than undermine basic human rights, devastate local economies, and place unnecessary burdens on U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants.

There is little evidence that “attrition through enforcement” is causing unauthorized immigrants to leave. In fact, a July 2011 study from the RAND Corporation found that, despite improved economic conditions in Mexico and worsened conditions in the United States, fewer Mexican immigrants returned to Mexico in 2008 and 2009 than in the two years before the recession.

The Urban Institute’s Juan Pedrozo has also pointed out that “it’s tough to tell whether (and how many) immigrants have left a community if you are looking right after a state passes a law. It can take years of evidence to test claims of a mass exodus.” Moreover, “growing evidence suggests that most immigrants (especially families with school-age children) are here to stay, except perhaps where local economies are particularly weak.”

Furthermore, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, “nearly two-thirds of the 10.2 million unauthorized adult immigrants in the United States have lived in this country for at least 10 years, and nearly half are parents of minor children,” most of whom are U.S. citizens. There is no reason to believe that they are going to “self-deport” as their ties to the country have grown much deeper.

Whether you call it “self-deportation” or “attrition through enforcement,” this is a policy that offers no genuine solution to the growing instability of our immigration system. Relying on a strategy conceived by immigration restrictionists and pursued by opportunistic politicians is no game plan. This country deserves to hear more detailed and thoughtful approaches from politicians and policy makers—ones that will offer a way forward, rather than ones grounded in divisive and punitive approaches to unauthorized immigration.

The Immigration Policy Center, established in 2003, is the policy arm of the American Immigration Council. IPC’s mission is to shape a rational conversation on immigration and immigrant integration. Through its research and analysis, IPC provides policymakers, the media, and the general public with accurate information about the role of immigrants and immigration policy on U.S. society. IPC reports and materials are widely disseminated and relied upon by press and policy makers. IPC staff regularly serves as experts to leaders on Capitol Hill, opinion-makers and the media. IPC is a non-partisan organization that neither supports nor opposes any political party or candidate for office.

Campaign reform advocates call for clean elections measure on SC ballot

Most South Carolinians are now feeling the effect of unregulated corporate cash that has flooded the state with record numbers of nasty political ads. While most bemoan the devolution of the campaign system – including some GOP candidates – some are redoubling efforts to do something about it.

Advocates for campaign finance reform will hold a press conference on Jan. 20 at 1:30pm in the lower lobby of the State House on the second anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that deregulated limits on corporate campaign donations and fueled record spending in the SC Republican presidential preference primary.

John Crangle, Director of Common Cause of South Carolina, will address the implications of the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

“Most people disagree with the Supreme Court rulings that corporations are people and money is speech,” Crangle said. “Amending the US Constitution is going to take some time, but we can address this corruption on a state level now by passing clean elections.”

Rep. Joe Neal, Co-chair of the SC Progressive Network, will speak about the Clean Elections Act that he reintroduced this week. (See more at the Network’s web site.)

“The Clean Elections Act has been introduced in every legislative session since 2000,” Neal said, “but now I think people are waking up to reality that public offices are on the auction block.” Over 90 percent of the candidates for the state legislature that spend the most money win.”

“South Carolinians who are disgusted with the flood of unregulated cash that is corrupting our political system have a way to fight back,” he said. “The Clean Elections Act will allow people to run for office without having to accept corporate, private or PAC money, and still run a competitive campaign.”

Rep. Neal’s legislation calls for putting clean elections on the general election ballot this November.

Citizens who are concerned about money corrupting our political system are invited to attend the press conference.

Walmart runs for president!

In the immortal words of Mitt Romney, “Corporations are people, my friend.”

Unlimited corporate spending on elections is the driving force in our democracy. Yet, there is a growing movement in this country to deny corporations the rights afforded to them by the Supreme Court of the United States. Los Angeles passed a resolution declaring that corporations are not people and money isn’t speech.

South Carolina Democrats want to put a resolution on the ballot asking the public to vote on corporate personhood. There are even people who would blame the lingering recession and growing inequality in our society on major corporations.

That is why, today, I am officially announcing my candidacy for president of the United States. It’s time to take a stand and fight for those who have come under so much attack in recent months: the 1 percent. They need a strong voice in this race, and as America’s largest private employer and the world’s largest retailer, with over $480 billion in revenue in 2010, I am that voice.

Some might scoff at such a notion, since no major corporation has ever even been elected to Congress. But this is America – where corporations are considered people and any retail conglomerate can grow up to be president.

Please take a moment to check out my web site.