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Ben & Jerry’s Launches Campaign Against Citizens United

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday February 21st, 2012 | 34 Comments

The 2010 Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ushered in an era of unfettered spending on elections by corporations. In its five-to-four decision, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations could spend unlimited amounts on elections. Not every corporation is happy with that decision. The iconic ice cream company, Ben & Jerry’s sure is not. The founders of Ben & Jerry’s, Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield launched their “Get the Dough Out of Politics” campaign on February 13 on the MSNBC’s, Dylan Ratigan Show.

Ben & Jerry’s is using its considerable clout as a beloved ice cream company to raise awareness about the Citizen’s United decision, a Supreme Court decision that, in my opinion, guts democracy. While appearing on the Dyland Ratigan Show, Greenfield said, “We have to get massive grass roots activation.”

The campaign is definitely doing what it can to get such activation. There is a website, GetTheDoughOut.org, which asks people to sign up to campaign against Citizen’s United. Information about the campaign appears on the Ben & Jerry’s website as well. The campaign will have “Scoop Trucks” this summer at the Bonaroo Music Festival, which, in addition to serving ice cream, will ask people to sign postcards.

The launch of Get the Dough Out occured on the fifth anniversary of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor, AmeriCone Dream, a flavor inspired by late-night talk show host, Stephen Colbert. The Get the Dough Out message will be featured on AmeriCone Dream containers.

“We feel that the time is now, during an election year, and that this is the major issue to highlight as the NEW American dream,” said said Ben & Jerry’s CEO, Jostein Solheim. “We’re speaking on behalf of the 99%, using our pulpit as an activist company to highlight the fact that things are topsy-turvy,” added Solheim.

Two Supreme Court justices seem to disagree with Citizens United

The Supreme Court blocked a Montana Supreme Court decision on February 17 that upheld the state’s 100 year-old ban on corporate spending. The responses of two Supreme Court justices, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer indicate they might be rethinking the decision. Ginsburg wrote:

“Montana’s experience, and experience elsewhere since this court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

“A petition for certiorari [from those challenging the Montana court’s decision] will give the court an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates’ allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway.”

50 organizations deliver letters to Congress

Alternnet reports that 50 organizations presented letters to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees last week that requested hearings on amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United. Organizations that signed the letter include People For the American Way, Public Citizen, Common Cause, MoveOn.org, Free Speech For People, Move to Amend and African American Ministers In Action.

“As activists have mobilized and protested across the country,” the letter states, “it is time for Congress to explore in earnest the range of resolutions that have been introduced to undo the harmful effects of the court’s decision.”

Photo credits: Flickr user, laffy4k


▼▼▼      34 Comments     ▼▼▼

Categorized: Policy & Government|

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  • F.L.

    Why do you put that apostrophe in “Citizens?” Sorry to be this way, but… it’s wrong.

    • GmaIowa

       Citizen is United. Who is Citizen and who has he/she united? Yep, you’s rights. LOL

      • jenboynton

        Thanks for the catch, post is updated!

    • http://twitter.com/gmcheeseman Gina-Marie Cheeseman

       Thanks for catching my error! Everyone needs an editor as an old boss, who was an editor, once said. Typos are so easy to do, and it’s equally easy to repeat them. It’s amazing what I can catch while reading work done by others, but not see in my own work.

  • 4thdimensionfound

    I’m about to start eating ice cream again.  Ben & Jerry’s is one of the only socially responsible institutions in Amerika.

    • Star4

      Ben & Jerry’s is owned by Unilever – nothing responsible about them.

      • http://www.facebook.com/nettleship Kevin Nettleship

        Unilever owns Ben & Jerry’s, but B&J’s operates independent of Unilever.  Before accepting the Unilever bid, the company received guarantees their socially conscious approach would continue.

        • http://twitter.com/gmcheeseman Gina-Marie Cheeseman

          Thanks for clarifying that.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZDKNOV3L7OOK43ZO63QBUY3PQE Kevin

          “socially conscious” however, can mean anything you want it to. Pat Robertson, Mugabe, Hitler all were socially conscious-they just had different consciousness than you and I

    • R R

       Pretty simple minded.  Really – one of the only socially responsible institutions in America?

    • http://twitter.com/gmcheeseman Gina-Marie Cheeseman

       I have a weakness for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Now I can eat one of my favorite flavors, Stephen Colbert’s is one of them, and feel good about supporting Ben & Jerry’s.

    • Sentinel

      I wouldn’t buy B&J’s now if you paid me

  • NuriaRodriguez

    If the courts give in, and allows corporations to have “person” status, then our pets should cease to be known as just property!11

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/XZKHBJ6K2FY5J3PO7BP55ARO7A Christa

       Courts already have… that’s why they are fighting against it.

  • BenDoubleCrossed

    Why should “protecting the public from the appearance of corruption”, a phrase not found anywhere in the Constitution, trump the prohibition “Congress shall make no law”, found in the 1st Amendment to the Bill of Rights?

    Amendment 1
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    Before cursing Citizens United and insisting on more people muzzling campaign laws watch these videos:

    http://www.ij.org/freedomflix/33-sampson
    http://www.ij.org/freedomflix/15-camppolitics
    http://www.ij.org/freedomflix/39-azcleanelectionsvideo

    And read the Citizens Guide to participating in Federal elections. http://www.fec.gov/pages/brochures/citizens.shtml.

    • http://www.facebook.com/nettleship Kevin Nettleship

      Supreme Court Decides Money Is Free Speech, Middle Class Left Speechless!

    • BigJared

      Ben works for the Kochs.  Money isn’t speech and corporations are not people.

      • R R

         Luckily Soros is never involved in giving money to influence elections and policy. /sarc

        • BigJared

          There’s only one Soros. Most politically active billionaires are rabid conservatives. Bringing up Soros in this context is a tired card that only resonates with Foxbots. It’s almost as dumb as equivocating the political influence of unions with that of corporations.

    • RP Siegel

       ”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
      prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
      speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably
      assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
      They meant people, not corporations. The founding fathers were very clear about this (yes they had corporations back then). Corporations are not people. So I will continue to curse Citizens United as will millions of others until it is overturned.
      What possible benefit does this decision have to anyone except the very wealthy who want to continue taking  control of this country?

    • OccupiedOphelia

       Having a very difficult time understanding how it’s ok to prevent protesters from assembling but it’s alright to spend millions of dollars in election advertising as speech.

  • BenDoubleCrossed

    Super PACs can be used by groups of everyday people to pool their money and make their voices heard.For a different view of Super PACs I recommend:

    SuperPac Launches 250 Million Dollar Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama
    ABO 2012SuperPac announced the start of an unprecedented juggernaut to unseat President Obama. According to the ABO2012SuperPac.com website, “for the first time in America, thanks to the Citizens United decision (which allows unlimited individual and corporate campaign contributions), individuals and small and medium size businesses have the freedom to have their voices heard, and to have an impact on the presidential election.”
    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/superpac-launches-250-million-dollar-220000086.html

    The Credo super PAC will be different from other super PACs in key ways. Instead of relying on wealthy donors – such as Newt Gingrich’s super-PAC patron Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate whose family has contributed $10 million in support of Gingrich – Credo’s super PAC will focus on small donors. So far, the average contribution from its 20,000 donors has been $20, Bond said.
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/02/13/MNDN1N67VU.DTL&tsp=1

    And most of the donations to comedian Stephen Colbert’s Super PAC were under $250.
    http://www.kfvs12.com/story/16644573/stephen-colbert-super-pac-raises-1-million

    http://ij.org/freedomflix/64-superpacvidoped
    http://soundpolitics.com/archives/015244.html

    • http://twitter.com/gmcheeseman Gina-Marie Cheeseman

       That much money flowing into elections is never good. There’s nothing about Citizen’s United that gives more power to people because it minimizes their campaign contributions by allowing corporations to give so much.

  • BenDoubleCrossed

    And if you are really concerned about the voice of the 1%
    drowning out your voice consider; employees of media corporations are exempt
    from campaign laws. I would appreciate if broadcast talking heads and print
    journalists would explain why their audiences should not enjoy the same
    exemption?

     

    From 1791 to 1886 1st Amendment freedoms applied only to flesh
    and blood citizens.

     

    From 1886 to 1973 citizens and media corporations enjoyed
    equal freedoms of speech and the press.

     

    From 1974 to present only commercial media enjoy
    unrestricted freedoms. Congress amended FECA in 1974 to set limits on
    contributions by individuals, political parties and PACs.

     

    2 USC 431 (9) (B) (i) The term “expenditure” does
    not include any news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the
    facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, or other
    periodical publication, unless such facilities are owned or controlled by any
    political party, political committee, or candidate;

     

    But what is the difference between slanted news stories or
    editorial opinions and political ads?

     

    The 1st Amendment is not a loophole in campaign
    laws.

     

    Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of
    speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and
    to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

     

    To restore equal protection under law the press exemption
    must be extended to citizens and groups!

     

    The NRA bought a radio station. Should citizens have to buy
    a radio station to speak or a newspaper to print their views?

     

    Lovell v. City of Griffin SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
    303 U.S. 444 Argued February 4, 1938 Decided March 28, 1938

     

          The liberty of
    the press is not confined to newspapers and periodicals. It necessarily
    embraces pamphlets and leaflets. These indeed have been historic weapons in the
    defense of liberty, as the pamphlets of Thomas Paine and others in our own
    history abundantly attest. The press in its historic connotation comprehends
    every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion.
    What we have had recent occasion to say with respect to the vital importance of
    protecting this essential liberty from every sort of infringement need not be
    repeated. Near v. Minnesota, supra; Grosjean v. American Press Co., supra; De
    Jonge v. Oregon, supra.[note 2]

     

          Whatever
    differences may exist about interpretations of the First Amendment, there is
    practically universal agreement that a major purpose of that Amendment was to
    protect the free discussion of governmental affairs. This of course includes
    discussions of candidates, structures and forms of government, the manner in
    which government is operated or should be operated, and all such [384 U.S. 214,
    219] matters relating to political processes. The Constitution specifically
    selected the press, which includes not only newspapers, books, and magazines,
    but also humble leaflets and circulars, see Lovell v. Griffin, 303 U.S. 444 ,
    to play an important role in the discussion of public affairs.

     

    If corporate media won’t defend natural people’s 1st
    Amendment rights they may lose their own:

     

    Newspapers Have No First Amendment Exemption from Political
    Spending Reporting Requirements

     

    Eugene Volokh • September 8, 2011 5:46 pm

     

    Because of this, it generally hasn’t been clear whether the
    media exemption was constitutionally mandated — whether a legislature could, if
    it wanted to, regulate newspapers’ expenditures related to political campaigns
    the same way it regulated other expenditures. But Olson v. City of Golden (D.
    Colo. Sept. 1, 2011) held that such an exemption is not constitutionally
    mandated.

    http://volokh.com/2011/09/08/newspapers-have-no-first-amendment-exemption-from-political-spending-reporting-requirements/

    • Jkirk3279

      Your entire argument is based on the lie that money = speech.

      Money is not speech, or when you run out of money you would be unable to speak.

      It’s true that the Founders made use of “broadsides”, printed flyers.  And anyone who wants to, can still do so without let or hindrance.

      But the Founders had no conception of radio, or television.   They would not have automatically extended the right to print campaign ads should be the unlimited right to broadcast speeches into the homes of American Citizens.

      Consider what they DID have.  They had Town Criers.   These were people that stood in the public square and recited the news of the day.

      I challenge you to find any instance of the Founders hiring Town Criers to go into people’s homes and harass them with stump speeches on behalf of, or in attack on any candidate.

      They could have done so, but did not.  They restricted themselves to the public square, and printed flyers.

      • R R

        You do know that anyone withing earshot could hear the Town Criers “inside the homes of American Citizens”?  As well as anyone on a soapbox.

      • AFREEMAN7

        With respect, I ran for congress as an independent in 1994 and raised and spent a total of $26,000. The Republican and Democrat candidates raised and spent more than a million dollars each.  I was accused of coordinating with someone who independently printed broadsides endorsing me. The investigation continued for four years. The individual was also accused of violating federal election laws. * The complaints were dismissed in 1998 . 

        If an individual spends more than $250.00 distributing or printing  broadsides they are required to report their political activity. If citizens pool money with other citizens to help pay the cost of a broadside or its distribution they will be required to form a political action committee! * the $250.00 amount may have changed since 1994

        Newspapers and broadcast corporations enjoy speech and press ”Rights” as legal persons. They are ”exempt from the definitions of contribution, coordination and expenditure”. If they were not exempted from these definitions favourable news stories and endorsements would be called contributions, expenditures or coordination and campaign finance laws would restrict the use of stockholders money to finance their political commentary! * the exemption is found at 2 USC 431 (9) (B) (i)

        The press exemption also exempts foreign owned newspapers and cable networks operating in the United States from federal election finance laws. No living U.S. citizen, political party or organization is exempt from federal election laws!

        Election finance laws are not designed to protect Democracy or to create a level playing field they protect the Democrat and Republican Parties from competition! 

        • http://twitter.com/gmcheeseman Gina-Marie Cheeseman

          Thanks for your comments. As someone who ran for office, you know what you are talking about.

  • William flohr

    Look out for some new major TAX on Ice Cream, justified because it’s so ” unhealthy” and contributing to the increase in childhood and adult obesity….it shall only remain as a FREE dessert at the congressional kitchens to be only served to politicians…

  • postcarbon

    AMEN!

  • Dave

    howdya hide campaign contributions? put ‘em under the (lever200) soap! but I’m glad their up on their soap box trying to recover any sense of socially conscious responsibility they once had. btw, did you know that volkswagen bugs were manufactured for nazis? and that people have been committing suicide off the building that manufactures apple products? or that hybrids still burn petroleum products? and how much energy is used to manufacture the massive steal columns of one wind turbine? I am a total skeptic of everything and have given up on humanity rectifying itself. (soon) I can’t help but feel that the whole green movement is corporate. and we’re all playing into it. false promises, like those that we as americans are used to in our politicians- as well as anyone who gets politically involved. but hey! if they can reverse this trend of corp. greed and regain the people ownership of the civil-servant whom we elect and give power to… who knows… until then… I guess I’ll have to remain completely fucking cynical. sorry hippies. I do not share your cheerfully ignorant optimism…

    • OccupiedOphelia

       There is money to be made in the ‘Green Movement’, for sure. One SHOULD question everything. But then we must use our ability to analyze critically and then act as responsibly as an individual in a community and a citizen of a place. Cynicism and inaction will only allow the money grubbers of any stripe to get exactly what they want: Control over how we all live.
      I choose to LESSEN my own carbon footprint by choice knowing there are problems with the ‘Green Movement’ (Just look at Whole Foods). I also choose to remain engaged and try to fight international corporate behavior, too.
      Unfortunately, the MONEY they spend on ‘free speech’ frustrates the hell out of me. I will never be able to ‘speak’ as loudly or as long as they will as long as they are allowed to drown out my voice via $$. Fight Citizens United. It’s in your own best interest.

  • Cispa Thrasher

    Pretty hypocritical when their parent company donated almost half a million to defeat prop 37 in California.

    http://vtdigger.org/2013/01/08/ben-jerrys-corporate-parent-unilever-spent-467000-against-gmo-labeling-in-california/

    • Cispa Thrasher

      We are paying attention.