House Rep. Deutch has offered an OCCUPIED Amendment to the Constitution which ends corporate personhood, overturn's Citizen's United and bans corporate money from politics. My goal was to take that bill and to go to every Congressmember and congressional staffer we could find and ask them "Whose side are you on, We The People's or the special interests"
But as the week we spent in Washington DC progressed, things became a little more interesting.
More below the fold
We started on Tuesday by visiting OccupyDC's camp at McPherson Square on K Street and then went over to the Capitol. Congressman Rangel's office. Austin (our fellow Kossack Tool) and I entered the House Congressional office buildings for what we thought would be a 10 min meeting with Congressman Rangel. We ended up staying for a half and hour. I will include the video of my conversation with Congressman Rangel at the bottom of this diary.
Next we went downstairs to talk to Speaker Boehner. His office door was shut. A bunch of SEIU folk waited out front to ask Boehner about jobs. Boehner refused to meet with us. I should have brought money or whiskey. I imagine Boehner dressed up in an ugly golf uniform from Caddyshack chain smoking and knocking back shots while us peasants stood outside his office door. Unless you are a lobbyist with a bunch of money to contribute to the GOP John Boehner is useless to you, and I am pretty much the poorest lobbyist on the Hill.
Other occupiers visited Congressman Joe Walsh (Deadbeat dad-IL). He hid in his office and refused to come out, treed like a possum. When finally he did emerge we only saw his lame tweet stating that the protestors had $1,000 laptops and smelled like "vomit". I wonder why working class people smell bad to corrupt members of congress. I guess they are so used to the smell of dirty secret campaign funding that hard work and real life smell offensive to them now. This is why we need to visit these guys where they work more often, if corrupt members of congress want to make life harder for the 99% so they can do the bidding of the 1% and watch out for their own interests then we should return the favor while maintaining the moral high ground. Smile and ask them tough, smart questions. They hate that.
We ran around all day on Capitol Hill, attending meetings with other Occupiers who came down from across the country. We know what is broken and why, it is the money in politics. We want to get the lobbyists out of power and restore our democracy to We The People, not the special interests. Apparently, Speaker Boehner and the Republicans I visited don't want that. Try and act surprised.
Late Tuesday night we walked about the large tents that the Labor Unions had set down on the National Mall. Mud under my boots, I was happy. I grew up in Upstate NY with mud under my boots.
Over at the Washington Monument, we held the first National General Assembly. Around a dozen states were represented, most notably Chicago, Philly and Houston, but there were very large contingents from Boston, St.Louis, Florida and Wisconsin. Michigan, Baltimore, Virginia and Carolina's had lots of folk up here too, but my own New York delegation was small, no larger than a dozen including Austin and Myself.
We spoke among our countrymen at the foot of the Washington Monument in the light rain under the moon and spotlights, watching while on the other side of the monument a crowd of policemen started gathering and talking amongst themselves out of hearing distance. It was very late in the night when we left, and I got little sleep for my troubles, but there was work to do.
I left to go back to NY around 6:30am Weds morning to attend a panel later that night with author Ron Suskind and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil. Van Jones was in the audience. I asked the folks who invited me if they wouldn't rather I sit in the audience so Van Jones could speak instead, but they insisted otherwise.
The next morning I headed right back to DC. On the way back to DC I received a DM tweet from Sen. Sanders office stating that he was offering a bill to overturn citizens united. With that in mind we headed back to the House of Reps office building and started knocking on doors again. Outside thousands of people marched around the Capitol building chanting "ONE, we're unemployed, TWO, we are united, THREE, tell the speaker we're not leaving!"
First we visited Congressman Deutch (D-FL19) to thank him for offering the OCCUPIED Amendment. We asked him how many co-sponsors he had and he told us it was only a handful so far, DeFazio from Oregon, Rep Ellison from Minnesota and a few others, and they told us that Senator Sanders and Tom Udall from New Mexico also supported the bill. With that in mind, we thanks Rep. Deutch's staff and wandered around a bit more, poking our nose into several congressional offices, including Democrats Hank Johnson from Georgia and Republican Nan Hayworth from the district where I grew up, NY-19. We gave support and encouragement to the folks who we thought deserved it, and we were polite but firm with the folks we thought needed to hear from regular working class people instead of lobbyists. Unfortunately, we only really got to talk to staffers, as there was a vote taking place and most of the members of congress we tried to visit were not in their offices, but we did get to talk to one member of Congress, and here is the video.
I apologize for the lack of transcript, but in short, I got to ask Congressman Grijalva about the OCCUPIED Amendment and he said that he supports it and doesn't think it goes far enough, in his opinion he thinks it should include Federally Funded Elections as well. In response to a question about Majority Leader Cantor halting a bill to ban Congressional Insider trading that was scheduled for a vote Rep. Grijalva stated that he thought the committee chairman Rep. Bachus got his hand caught in the cookie jar and was the right person to try and fix this, and he added that not only should there be a ban against insider trading among members of congress, there should be consequences as well. My apologies for this short write up, the video speaks the words better than I can recall them, but we ended the meeting quickly and Rep. Grijalva said thank you for our work before he continued over to the hill to cast his vote on the House Floor.
After speaking with Rep. Grijalva Austin and I left the hill for the day, exhausted and hungry. Austin had been quite busy while I was in new york, he marched on K Street and Mic Checked Newt Gingrich with a bunch of our countrymen from all over the place, and knowing Austin I'm sure he had a blast, but between that and marching all over the Hill with me over the last three days he was just as fatigued as I was, and the cold striking wind that had settled in late Thursday Night wasn't helping.
We went back to the camp on the Mall and met up with another Kossack, davidms, whom I had met the last time I visited DC. We went back over to the monument and chatted for a bit, but left early, worn down by the cold weather and a days of walking and travel. With that we said goodbye and Austin and I decided to head back to our friends we were staying with in order to head out early Friday Morning.
Our bus back to New York City was leaving at 1:15 in the afternoon, so we got out early and went to the Senate Office building next to the Capitol. We stated by just heading in and looking for our own Senators from New York, Gillibrand and Schumer. Of course I knocked over my little tray of change going through security and left my wallet behind, sometimes I do things like that. Inside the building, we realized that neither of our Senators were in this building, but Senator Bernie Sanders was, so we decided to pop upstairs and try to say hello.
Now, I didn't know this, but I guess Congress only works 4 days a week. I mean, I knew this, but I wasn't thinking about it when Austin and I headed down to the Hill Friday morning. Unfortunately there were no Senators to speak to, they had all left town, so we spoke to staffers.
Senator Sanders office has a huge wooden cut out of a milk cow in it. It looks like something out of 3rd grade science fair, and it offers a touchingly human feel to his office. There, we spoke to some of Sen. Sanders staff about the need for real campaign finance reform, real Wall Street reform and a number of things. I told his staff that I want to turn the bills offered by Rep. Deutch and Sen. Sanders into the working class version of Grover Norquist's pledge. Sen. Sanders staff thanked us, and then we left and noticed Senator Scott Brown's office nearby. We poked our nose in.
Senator Scott Brown's staff seemed like they were commanded to respond "no comment" to anything we asked. I asked them what they thought of the GOP filibuster of Richard Cordray's appointment to head the CFPA, and they stated that Scott Brown was the only Republican to not vote filibuster Cordray's appointment. I'm sure Elizabeth Warren had nothing to do with that. I then asked what the Senator thought of the folk down at Occupy Boston and how he would help protect their First Amendment right to freedom of assembly. They said "no comment". I guess they didn't get the Frank Luntz memo where they are supposed to say "I get it". Absurd.
Austin and I visited Senators Gillibrand, Lautenberg and Schumer's offices. I joked about running for office and Gillibrand's people said I should run against Republican Bob Turner in Anthony Weiner's old district. Senator Lautenberg's staff was the best we met during the whole week, polite and eager to help, and though we didn't get to spend much time there, we got business cards from everyone. We plan on setting up meetings with Democrats and Republicans, because frankly, they need to hear from We The People more and big money lobbyists less.
When we got to Schumer's office we met with a staffer from the Judiciary Committee, and he spoke to us about Schumer's support for the DISCLOSE Act from the last Congress as well as Senator Sanders's bill. I think this is a no brainer, and honestly, if Dems can't get behind this there is a huge problem. I keep saying this because I mean it, I'm tired of platitudes and empty promises, I want ACTION, I want these guys to stand up and fight for us. If that means I have to go down to DC from NY every week to show up in person and make them do it then I will. Both Republicans and Democrats need to look us in the face and tell us where they stand and why.
Finished for the day and with a bus back to NYC to catch, Austin and I took our leave of Washington DC. I am going to try and set up meetings with as many members of congress as I can, Dem and Rep, because they need to hear the straight truth from a working class person's point of view. We don't have time for petty politics and filibusters, or platitudes and promises, and they need to choose who they stand with, We The People or corporate special interests.
So, that's the wrap up (or the short version) of what we did down on Capitol Hill last week. I will be going back to DC next week on Thursday and Friday because there is still a lot of work to do.
I keep saying it over and over because it needs to be said, we need to change laws. Whether it is campaign finance reform, Wall Street reform, tax reform to make the tax code more progressive, ending the wars, there are a ton of problems that need to be fixed. We love our country and we are here to fix it. Boots on the ground need to translate into political capital that changes the system for the better. Some call it reform. Some call it a revolution of the mind. I call it about damn time.
But to get things started I say we turn the call for Campaign Finance reform into the opposite of Grover's Pledge. Let's make this the People's Pledge. Let's make our elected officials go on record and answer one simple, easy question. Who do you stand with? We The People? Or Corporate Special Interests?
Peace and love to all
You can follow me on Twitter at @JesseLaGreca