Ben Cohen’s New Americone Dream
By Raoul Biron, Staff Writer
UNH’s Peace and Justice League welcomed Ben Cohen, the co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s and political activist to the Memorial Union Building’s Granite State Room on Wednesday.
Cohen urged an audience eating his ice cream to act on reducing the role of private spending in politics. The businessman and philanthropist argued that action against modern lobbyism and the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission are necessary to address a wider range of current issues.
“It is the reason why we don’t have any decent environmental laws, why we don’t have a decent energy policy, why student debt and credit cards are at ridiculous levels, why the banks are unregulated, why we’re the only industrialized country that doesn’t have national health-care,” Cohen said.
“The problem is that our legislators are passing or not passing laws that benefit the people that donate to their elections, at the expense of everybody else,” Cohen continued.
In 2012, the ice cream mogul launched a national awareness campaign supporting a constitutional amendment to control the influence of private spending in politics. Cohen described the Stamp Stampede, which encourages the stamping of anti-lobbying messages and recirculation of dollar bills, as a “petition on steroids”.
“This symbolizes the idea that numbers of people are greater than dollars. We’ll never be able to beat out corporations in the realm of dollars, but there’s a whole lot more of us and I’m making my voice heard… That’s how revolutions happen,” Cohen said.
For Cohen, the issue of “legal bribery” must be prioritized, even for people and organizations that traditionally focused on separate issues.
“Organizations that used to be exclusively committed to the environment are getting involved in this issue because they are realizing that if we don’t get money out of politics, they are never going to succeed,” said Cohen, referencing support received from Greenpeace and the Sierra Club.
Cohen outlined the Stamp Stampede’s upcoming campaign in New Hampshire. The organization will focus on spreading awareness within the additional media attention leading up to the state’s 2016 primary.
“We see this as the next battleground. We believe that we can use the primaries as a way of getting this issue into the national debate and forcing candidates to address it,” Cohen said.
Before the primary elections, Cohen hopes to have stamped 10 percent or 3.8 million of the one-dollar bills currently circulating in the state of New Hampshire. The organization also plans to include mobile billboards and stamping stations at traditional campaign stops in the state.
The event also included a presentation from the recurring presidential candidate Vermin Supreme. The activist, satirist and hopeful 2016 candidate (who received 833 votes in 2012 Democratic Primary in New Hampshire) addressed the future of his pony-based platform (if elected, Supreme proposed the distribution of ponies as a form of energy, job creation, currency and social control) while wearing a boot on his head.
Supreme raised serious concerns over the development of militias, development of the military-industrial complex, the privatization of our criminal systems and unregulated banks delivered through dental care metaphors.