Ashley Sanders calls me from somewhere near Flagstaff, Ariz. She and Renae Widdison, organizers for the Move to Amend Coalition, are on their way from California to Florida, piloting a truck loaded with a giant money-stamping machine that labels bills with big, red slogans like "A corporation is not a person; money is not speech" and "Not to be used for bribing politicians."
They call the machine the "Amend-o-Matic"—a visible manifestation of Move to Amend's underlying goal of limiting the power of money in politics. Specifically, they're raising awareness about the push for a Constitutional amendment stating that "1) A corporation is not a person; and 2) Money is not free speech."
"People have been really excited when we explain it to them," Sanders says. "Everyone we talk to says this is either the No. 1 or one of the biggest problems in our world right now."
The tour started earlier this month in Los Angeles, where Sanders says people wandered up and, upon learning about the project, asked to have their bills stamped.
"We've had the whole range," she says—from the people who run into a store to get as many $1 bills as they can, or the guy in LA who "had 50 $100 bills, and he stamped them all."
Sanders will be in Santa Fe this Wednesday, Oct. 17, to hold a money-stamping event and a workshop on "stamping out corporate rule."
Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, a former Santa Fean who now works out of California as Move to Amend's national field organizing director, says she expects a big turnout in Santa Fe, whose City Council voted unanimously in January to approve a resolution opposing corporate personhood and the US Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v FEC. Still, she warns that the movement is just the beginning of what may be a long, slow process.
"We've been focusing not on Congress, because the current Congress—or even the next Congress—is not who we can depend on to see this through," Sopoci-Belknap says. "This is definitely a long-term effort, and we're in the phase of building support from the ground up."
While the New Mexico Senate also approved a memorial opposing Citizens United earlier this year, Sopoci-Belknap says Move to Amend's goal is a broader one.
"If we're going to actually do all the work to pass an amendment…we need to go further than just overturning Citizens United—and going back to the politics of 2009—and actually lay the foundation to get corporations out of politics," she says.
She also rejects the idea that such an amendment would inappropriately limit free speech: "Basically, if we were to say money is not speech, and the court could no longer use that justification, we could do things like pass expenditure limits in campaigns [and] have publicly financed elections," she says. "We could basically get back control of our elections which goes to the highest bidder."
State Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, voted for the memorial opposing Citizens United and says he supports this latest effort.
“Citizens United is an unmitigated disaster,” Wirth writes in an email. “From my perspective, the sooner the decision is reversed or overturned the better. The best way for this to happen is a fifth vote on the US Supreme Court. Until that occurs, I fully support all efforts at the state and national level to amend the Constitution.”
Move to Amend Money Stamping and Workshop
Wednesday, Oct. 17
3-4:30 pm: stamping (outside Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy, 530 W Cordova Road)
5-6 pm: stamping (outside Whole Foods Market, 753 Cerrillos Road)
6:30-8:30 pm: workshop (Railyard Community Room, 332 Read St., behind SITE Santa Fe)