Meeting of Political and Electoral Reform Group November 13, 2011
60 Wall Street, 3 p.m.
Attendance: Tim, Meg (from Occupy LA – hopes to make connections with people interested in Move to Amend), Brian, Steve, Ed (from Small Business & Entrepreneurs working group), Jesse, Kerry, Anne, Francis, John, Mike, Karen, Scott
As facilitator, Tim reviewed procedure guidelines.
Tim speaking – Summary of group activity for newcomers:
We have a number of subgroups, one of which is the electoral reform subgroup. Last sunday we consensed to the Recommendations document.
Other subgroups: constitutional convention, voting experiment, process subgroup (how to make our meetings more transparent & fluid), 99% candidates…
Anne- report back on interview with constitutional scholar, Occupy Wall Street Journal article
Scott- Delegation to Egypt
Jackrabbit- report-backs on House Party, inter-group political support, inter-occupation communication
Tim- How to move forward with 99% candidate subgroup
Jesse- report back on corporate personhood subgroup
Kerry – discussion of popular vote legislation in New York
Ed- co-facilitator for small business & entrepreneurs working group- interested in working with process subgroup.
Steve- report back for process subgroup
Meg- report back on Move to Amend
REPORT ON CORPORATE PERSONHOOD SUBGROUP
* There are loopholes that are exploited (campaign finance)
Our goal is to figure out how to build momentum within OWS movement to support a constitutional convention, and how to work with groups like ‘Move to Ammend’
* very close to having a finalized mission statement
* discussing what a constitutional convention would look like.
Meg: Point of Information- Move to Amend is a grassroots effort
Jesse: There are two different ways to introduce a constitutional amendment, either at the state level, calling for a constitutional convention, or by pressuring congress to enact the legislation on its own.
REPORT ON ANNE’S INTERVIEW
Anne – conversation with Sonia Jarvis (“distinguished lecturer”/ constitutional scholar, on the board for center for responsive politics).
* Discussed Citizens united. Sonia says that there is a difference of opinion among experts on whether Citizens United can be addressed using statutory means, or if it required a constitutional amendment.
* Sonia has offered to speak to our working group.
* Sonia thinks that a movement for a constitutional amendment would be difficult/take a long time. Says first step is to build public support.
Says that ERA (equal rights amendment) did not pass because it lacked public support.
Over $1 billion to be spent on 2012 election.
“the court has continued to rule in favor of corporate interests 90% of the time”
* In Citizens United, Supreme court could have ruled on specific issues, but instead ruled on general issues to prevent congress from legislating against it.
Tim – suggests having Sonia give presentation for us/ OWS.
Kerry- asks how to address goals without constitutional amendment (since Sonia says it requires a lot of time/ effort to do so).
REPORT ON PROCESS SUBGROUP
* We proposed guidelines establishing a quorum using body of permanent members. Some PaER members objected, so we moved to a more fluid definition of a quorum (one based on average attendance, not on permanent membership).
* Today they decided to change the structure of the proposal. We will keep the quorum rule (with perhaps minor changes).
* Steve welcomes online comments.
Meg – what is decided online vs. in physical meetings?
Steve explains that we want people to contribute online, but that we have all binding decisions made in physical group meetings.
Tim – one reason we can’t make decisions online is the possibility of people using multiple aliases/ accounts
Ed – mentions a new security procedure whereby your network of contacts represents your electronic signature.
REPORT ON ‘MOVE TO AMEND’
Meg- used to work with “Democracy Unlimited” in northern California.
* Many among Move To Amend are committed to consensus/ direct democracy.
* Corporate personhood affects political issues, including (for example) influence on legislation limiting the ability of workers to join unions or to bargain collectively
* Move To Amend is not trying to work at the federal level. Instead, they are working locally to assert the ‘right law at the local level’.
* _______ County passed a law that prevented corporations from donating to election campaigns.
* Even when local laws are unconstitutional (by prohibiting campaign contributions), we can create a ‘crisis of jurisdiction’ where the local laws conflict with the federal law (eventually, hopefully, changing the federal law).
* While the laws remain in place (before they are challenged in court/ repealed)- they have benefits for local elections.
* ‘Occupy the Courts’ actions in January (in federal courts across the country).
* Amendment- Corporations are not people, money is not speech.
Anne- what would Occupy the Courts look like?
Meg- every action/ location will look different. We hope that actions will speak to criticism of courts’ preference to rule in favor of businesses/ corporations. Hope for actions to have both civil disobedience components as well as non-arrestable components.
Ed- What is Move To Amend’s position on corporate personhood?
Meg- Strongly against.
Ed- Do you all talk about multi-stakeholder decisions?
Meg- in a way
Ed- Our company adopts multi-stakeholder model. A ‘C-corporation’, we reject the notion that the only fiduciary duty is to shareholders. (point of process- off topic)
John- do you think Move To Amend would ever be politically feasible?
Meg- There has been progress. A few years ago I had to spend a lot of time just explaining to people what the issues were. Now, people recognize what we’re talking about.
Anne- Is there a local (New York) Move To Amend group?
Meg- trying to establish a chapter
Anne- Why occupy federal courts when Citizens United was a Supreme Court ruling?
Meg- in general the courts have constantly granted corporations greater rights.
REPORT ON ELECTORAL REFORM SUBGROUP
* Plan is to use our document as the basis for teach-ins, and communication with other Occupy working groups, with GA, and with other occupations.
* First teach-in is today at 5pm.
Brian- how about doing an open forum instead of a teach-in?
Tim- It will be (that’s just a naming issue).
Meg- Has there been pushback from people wanting to avoid representational reforms?
Tim/Jesse- we anticipate there will be.
Tim mentions possible issues that may arise when discussing PaER ideas with other members of OWS.
REPORT ON WEDNESDAY’S ‘HOUSE PARTY’
Jesse – Jared had the House Party. There is an effort for a call-in on January 23rd.
REPORT ON INTER-GROUP POLITICAL SUPPORT
Jackrabbit not in attendance, Tim summarizes the idea-
* we want to work to offer political context/ commentary for other groups as they engage in direct actions
Ed- It’s important for working groups to trade ambassadors.
Ed- At Small Business (working group), we recognize that the interests of other groups intersect our own.
For example, the alternative banking subgroup wants to establish a ‘multi-stakeholder’ banking model; would increase access to capital for small businesses.
Tim- Point of Information- there’s a regular group meeting where people from different working groups meet to find common ground.
(Did not catch Speaker’s Name) – those groups aren’t meeting as much any more
Mike- when & where does alternative banking meet?
Ed- today at Columbia University, next thursday here (at 60 Wall St).
DISCUSSION OF NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE INTERSTATE COMPACT
* will form a subgroup in support of New York State legislation (New York State Assembly bill 489)
* will post National Popular Vote information on nycga.net
PROPOSAL TO SEND DELEGATES TO EGYPT
* NYCGA has approved $29,000 to send delegates/ election observers to Egypt’s upcoming election.
* 9:00 deadline tonight for applications.
* Do we want to pursue sending delegates?
Karen- Is anybody here willing & able to go? (must have valid passport, since delegation leaves in 2 weeks)
Scott- trip is for 5 days.
Anne expresses possible interest
John- Reminder that women are treated differently in Egypt than in the U.S. (catcalls, harassment).
* Do we have volunteers?
(Yes – Brian, Anne, Scott as alternate.)
* Group nominates Brian & Anne to attend. Encourages them to follow-up today.
REPORT ON OCCUPY WALL STREET JOURNAL ARTICLE
* ‘OWSJ’ article could help raise awareness of PaER goals and actions.
* Requests quotes from PaER members via e-mail.
Temperature check- PaER supports the writing of the article.
Tim- Is there a timeline?
Anne- hopefully written within the next week
Tim- if they edit it down, we can use whatever material we have for the Outreach subgroup’s pamphlet.
DISCUSSION ON 99% CANDIDATES SUBGROUP
* Zack has gone back to Oregon
* How do we move forward?
* How to move forward with National Popular Vote subgroup when Kerry leaves on Friday?
Brian- do we have contact with Zack?
Tim- he’s active in the forum and we have his e-mail address.
John- Is anyone here active in that subgroup? (Tim & Anne are on the e-mail list.)
Karen – Is Zack coming back any time? (He does not have plans to)
Scott – We should have a point person for projects/ goals suggested by virtual members. It’s hard to proceed when there isn’t a physical member that strongly supports and can advocate for the proposal.
Anne- Is this seeking OWS endorsement?
Tim- It would have to go to the GA
Anne- what was Zack’s goal?
Meg- There’s a lot of skepticism toward political / electoral reform as a whole. Concern that OWS could be co-opted. We should focus on processes, not candidates.
Karen- founding a political party takes a lot of work.
Anne- Zack wanted a way to endorse candidates that met certain qualifications.
John- expresses interest in the idea
Ed- Can we elect candidates without a political party at all? We need a non-party process.
Anne- Clarification of Zack’s proposal:
The 99% candidate seal of approval would be candidates that refuse PAC/ corporate contributions (no more than $2000 individual contributions). The candidate would have to commit to a consensus/ GA model for decisions.
Meg- That’s what a candidate would be. What was the proposal?
Anne- To give advertisement and support to these candidates.
Kerry- what would the consensus online platform look like? (unclear)
Karen- we have Fusion voting in New York (people can be cross-endorsed by different parties).
Anne- we don’t necessarily need to endorse new candidates, OWS could endorse existing candidates (perhaps those that have expressed support for us, if we can convince them to follow consensus model, etc.).
* Brian & Anne volunteered & were nominated to act as delegates to Egypt.
* Anne will put together an Occupy Wall Street Journal article
* Kerry started the National Popular Vote subgroup & will put information on the website.
* We didn’t resolve entirely how to work with remote member proposals.
* Meg gave a good report back on Move to Amend & will work with Jesse on shared goals.
* There will be an electoral reform teach-in starting right now.