By Tim Drugan-Eppich, Contributing Writer
The campus Peace and Justice League held an event in partnership with other organizations to raise awareness about money in politics and tactics that can be used to fight its influence in government. The event was held on Saturday in the Memorial Union Building’s Strafford Room.
The issue stems from Supreme Court ruling known as Citizens United in 2010, which ruled that corporations are people and money is free speech. This has become the main focus of the Peace and Justice League because as UNH junior Lisa Demaine said, “Money in politics affects all aspects of life.”
People attending the event reflected this statement. While some were there for issues such as the military industrial complex, or prison industrial complex, Demaine got involved in the issue through her environmental concerns.
“Oil companies have so much money they are able to buy power in Congress,” she said. “And with that power they are continuing to further climate change.”
One of the groups represented at the event was Stamp Stampede, a non-profit with a plan to stamp as many dollar bills as possible with slogans such as “Not to be used for bribing politicians,” and “Corporations are not people.”
“We’re trying to fight money in politics through a grassroots movement,” said Paul Brochu who was representing the Stamp Stampede. “We are reaching out to people from both [political] sides.”
Brochu said that getting money out of politics is essential for everyone to have an equal voice, because right now, “those with more money get to talk a lot more.”
There were more tactics being taught at the event in addition to stamping money. Addy Simwerayi, an intern with the American Friends Service Committee, was there teaching the idea of “bird-dogging.” The name coming from the idea of a dog let loose on birds to scare them into the open, where they can be easily shot down. Except the main weapon against politicians is a well asked question.
Simwerayi said that the point of bird-dogging is to get politicians to stop giving vague answers to important issues.
“We’re trying to get specifics into the conversation,” he said.
The hope is to stop politicians from simply saying the least amount possible. Or as Paul Brochu, who jumped back into the conversation, said, “Stop them from being puppets.”
As for how successful the movement has been, Simwerayi was very optimistic.
“We’ve done over 20 workshops so far,” he said. “Through that we’ve trained over 250 people on how to properly question their representatives.”
Kory Brennman, a member of the Peace and Justice league, brought four of her friends to the conference. She said that she felt fired up about the issue after a showing of “Pay to Play” in the MUB on Wednesday night.
“I didn’t know how much money was being spent on things we don’t have control over,” she said.
Brennman’s friend Julie Hamilton acknowledged that sometimes it seems like the system is so broken it can feel impossible to fix.
“People don’t know how to go about making a difference,” she said. “They think it’s a waste of their time.”
Brennman was hopeful that these facts coming to light would provide a call to action.
“People are going to want to do something if their future depends on it,” Brennman said.