chalkings on the web for the 99%

How can politicians represent you when they're paid millions to represent
someone else?

Corporations are not people.
Money is not speech.
The system's not broken,
it's fixed!



The Argument for McPherson Square

Northwest Washington DC:
Across K Street from McPherson Square and extending north, east, and west are the billets of lobbyist armies assembled to advance their individual causes.

None of these people have been pleased with the presence of Occupy - particularly on their turf and within their view, particularly when they are paying some of the highest commercial rent in the nation, particularly when easily twenty thousand citizens pass along K Street each day.

As Wall Street has become synonymous with the corrupt practices of the financial industry, K Street has long been symbolic of out-sized access and the corruption of our political process.


Disclaimer:
Certainly not all lobby groups are bad, but they are all part of a system which is an open-arms invitation to corruption and abuse.

The Square is not a visual joy in contrast to Franklin Square a block to the east or Farragut Square a block to the west. As of this writing all evidence of the Occupy movement has been removed by instruction of the National Park Service. Three quarters of the Square has been cordoned off with metal fencing for "restoration". Some of Occupy adversaries may view this as a relief. But adding weight to the lid of a pressure cooker is no reliable solution.

McPherson Square is iconic within the Occupy movement. Looked down upon by a phalanx of concrete and steel complexes, staffed with the minions of wealth and influence, McPherson Square should represent the people's assurance that we still live in a democracy which guarantees the freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly. The greater the push for protestors to shut up and shove off, the greater the proof for protestors to resist. All citizens must understand, when the targets of dissent can dictate the time, place, and duration of the protests, all liberty is in peril.

Make no mistake, the National Park Service continues to throw every obstacle into the path of an Occupy presence and an Occupy voice. The Park Service and the US Park Police have not dealt with Occupy in good faith. There have been case, after case, after case - with verified collaboration - of the Service not following its own regulations, misstating fact, illegally confiscating property, lying to the media about Occupy activities, spreading malicious rumors about Occupy participants, and sending those wishing to abide by the rules into a bureaucratic maze with no center.

Occupy protestors across the country have been willing to extend their demonstration of dissatisfaction indefinitely. Historically in our country this has been unacceptable - no matter the protestor complaints or goals. In every instance protestors have been forcefully dispersed. The reader is encouraged to check out past examples such as the Bonus Army, Coxey's Army", and a full history of the 1960's Poor People's Campaign. Particularly poignant would be a look at the FBI's program called COINTELPRO. COINTELPRO goals were to... create a negative public image for target groups (e.g. by surveilling activists, and then releasing negative personal information to the public) break down internal organization, create dissension between groups, restrict access to public resources, restrict the ability to organize protests, restrict the ability of individuals to participate in group activities.

The crux issue is the guarantee of speech and assembly.

Whatever prejudices might have existed within the Park Service or whatever quiet pressures might have been applied, it was the public complaint from Representative Darrel Issa (one of the richest members of Congress) which prompted a major assault on Occupy activities at McPherson Square.


Aside: It is almost certain Issa had never stepped foot into the Square when he demanded the end of Occupy "camping" although he was, as expected, mute about fellow representatives illegally "camping" in their government provided offices.

On February 4, 2012 dozens of hazmat clad maintenance people, flanked by mounted and flack-jacketed patrolmen, under the eye of a circling helicopter, drove their trucks into the Square and took all but token remnants of the "occupation". It was widely reported by the press that a brick was thrown at the police. Days later court documents revealed it was a plastic water bottle.

"They can have tents for symbolic purposes only. So long as there is compliance, we will have no issues," said Sgt. David Schlosser, a Park Police spokesman. "Their First Amendment rights are paramount."

Subsequent, less dramatic, raids occurred over the next several months. Protestors were informed they could retrieve their goods from the Park Police but that was merely an invitation into the maze.


Follow the Park Service rationale specific to McPherson Square: Tents are allowed, but sleeping in the tents is not. Unattended tents are presumed to be abandoned property (as is anything else not under constant scrutiny).
"Attended" is (arbitrarily) defined as being "within view at all times" - source: National Park Service Division Chief Robin Owen. This may or may not be a suitable definition, but would pertain to demonstrations for which a permit had been issued according to the NPS, NCR "Requirements for Special Events Held on Parkland". A more attractive definition from Occupy's vantage is (from 36CFR Code of Federal Regulations, Parks, Forests, and Public Property Chapter 1, Part 2, Resource Protection, Public Use, and Recreation. 2.22(a)2 states, "Leaving property unattended for longer than 24 hours, except in locations where longer time periods have been designated or in accordance with conditions established by the superintendent." And as long as it in accord with 2.22(b)2. It states, "Unattended property that interferes with visitor safety, orderly management of the park area, or presents a threat to park resources may be impounded by the superintendent at any time."
If the latter is the standard by which demonstration material is treated it has clearly been left to the discretion of the maintenance staff (trash collectors) who have removed "Occupy" material, presumably with blanket direction from above. We'd very much like to see that directive.


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The major contents of this site cover only the past 6 years. We would like to think corrupt practices, once revealed, should be dealt with within that span - new laws or regulations written, bad actors indicted and jailed, or newly elected representatives to turn a tide. By the same token, experience would not leave us surprised that, when one noxious weed is pulled, another new shoot crops up. However, what is most shocking about some of the reports reprinted here is how long some of these toxic influences have been allowed to persist. In addition, what is most poignant and problematic is that, allowed to continue, the more they are able to choke out positive activity.

Lobbyists As Advocates

K st. is synonymous with well financed, well appointed lobby firms, but these visible, self and legally defined groups are just the tip of an iceberg. Operating in various degrees of shadow are advocacy groups masquerading as think tanks, PR firms, educational institutions, charitable organizations, etc.

But no matter the source, we might all agree that a good idea should be able to fly on its own. That it might be wrapped in glittery paper shouldn't make a difference, although we do know it does. That it might be wrapped in bearer bonds takes advocacy to a whole other realm.

The 2009 Supreme Court Citizens United decision has catapulted us into that other realm. The flood gates are not just open, they have been removed from their hinges. And in most instances this is creating a direct confrontation of citizen interest against corporate interest. In such a battle citizens are at a distinct disadvantage. There is so much wrapping paper it's almost impossible to find the message. But when an advocate holds a campaign check or some other perk in one hand and a list of wishes in the other, we can smell corruption even if the Court says it cannot.

Justice Stevens wrote in his dissent to Citizens United that the Court's ruling "threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution." He wrote: "A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold."

Stevens argued that independent expenditures were sometimes a factor in gaining political access and concluded that large independent expenditures generate more influence than direct campaign contributions and that corporations could threaten Representatives and Senators with negative advertising to gain unprecedented leverage.

He further claimed that the unique qualities of corporations and other artificial legal entities made them dangerous to democratic elections. These legal entities, he argued, have perpetual life, the ability to amass large sums of money, limited liability, no ability to vote, no morality, no purpose outside of profit-making, and no loyalty. Corporate spending is the "furthest from the core of political expression" protected by the Constitution.

(the full dissent can be found here)

From the 1907 Tillman Act, which said corporations could not make political contributions, each refinement, even with the best of intentions, has accepted that glittery paper was ok.

But it is the glittery paper which gives all advocacy groups greater access to our government than we the public have. Certainly it is understandable that the concerns of a corporation or a union hold greater sway than those of an individual citizen - but not to the extent of exclusivity.

We need to get over the glittery paper. Anything not specific to the argument is extraneous to the argument.

Jack Abramoff, disgraced former lobbyist, has said "...it's not what's illegal that's the problem, it's what's legal that's the problem." What we currently have is legal bribery.

So we should strive toward some very reasonable remedies. Capped campaign contributions from individuals only. No inducements. No promises of future favors. Open transcripts of all communication. Complete revamping of the federal elections and ethics committees - not bipartisan, but apartisan, with mandates that vacant seats must be filled within specific time limits.

The problems are monumental:

Incumbent Congressmen, by their own account, spend 30 to 70 percent of their time raising contributions

94% of campaigns are won by the candidate with the biggest war chest

Due to the Supreme Court Citizens United decision, Super PACs may spend unlimited money on political campaigns AND, in many cases, they can do so anonamously

There are virtually no restrictions on "issue" advertising

There is no penalty for flat out lying in campaign advertising

And if those were not sufficient obstacles, the foxes are in charge of the hen house. All legislation to curb the blatant corruption of our electoral process must pass through - you guessed it - the Legislature where there is more butter than bread. When a majority has become 60%, the numbers are just not there to bell the cat.

The only recourse is for the voting public to become aware and active. On this site are various profiles, articles, information from good guys about bad guys, and (hopefully) seeds to encourage the visitor to follow the threads. This site exists to give increased exposure to the hard work of others. We've lost control and we need to take it back. There is no one lobbying for us.