Friday, July 6, 2012

POCLAD: Death of Ward Morehouse / Rasmussen article on Public Law #1

RIP Ward Morehouse, co-founder (with Richard Grossman)
of POCLAD, Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy.

PS: Speaking of Grossman, NY Fractivists should also check out
the article below "Citizens Rally to Self-governance in New York" by Virginia Rasmussen,
which talks about SPAN, Frackbusters NY, and Public Law #1.

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Date: Fri, Jul 6, 2012 at 11:56 AM
Subject: POCLAD: Death of Ward Morehouse / Updates
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We are saddened to share the news that Ward Morehouse, co-founder of POCLAD, died suddenly on June 30 swimming laps, one of his favorite activities. He was 83. His death comes less than nine months after POCLAD's other co-founder, Richard Grossman, passed away. A collection of reflections on Ward are on our website from his past and present POCLAD colleagues, who Ward liked to call "POCLADistas."


National Effort to End Corporate Rule/Money as Speech
David Cobb

Over a decade ago POCLAD first proposed the idea that corporations were not merely exercising power, but that they were ruling us.  At the time the phrase "corporate rule" seemed shocking to many people, and some even accused us of using extreme language in an effort to make a point.

Recent events have underscored just how brazen corporate rule has become. The oligarchs and plutocrats are destroying the planet we depend upon for life itself, and creating a racist, sexist and class-oppressive world with the plunder.

In 2010, the Supreme Court literally legalized corporate bribery of political candidates in Citizens United vs. FEC. We are proud that POCLAD and several allies filed an amicus brief in that case directly challenging "Corporate Personhood," the ridiculous legal doctrine that allows corporations to overturn democratically enacted laws.

Because we know what you know-- the problem goes beyond corporate money in elections. The reality is that there are solutions to every single problem facing our country--and we are certainly facing many. But these solutions are not being implemented because "We the People" do not control our own government!

Courts have overturned literally thousands of laws enacted to protect elections, workers, health and safety, and the environment.  Unelected and unaccountable judges claim that these exercises of democratic authority are illegitimate, claiming that such laws violate the constitutional rights of corporations.

But there is hope!

The day the Supreme Court issued it's opinion, POCLAD and several key allies launched Move To Amend—a multi-racial and multi-ethnic coalition of groups and individuals from across the country to demand an amendment to OUR Constitution to make it clear that:

1) Only human persons have inherent and inalienable human rights protected by the Constitution, and

2) Money is not speech, and We the People have the right to pass campaign finance laws to protect the integrity of elections.

POCLAD was instrumental in launching the coalition, and continues to provide key support. POCLAD principals David Cobb and Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap both serve on the National Leadership Team, Greg Coleridge is helping to coordinate efforts in Ohio while Mary Zepernick is instrumental in MA.

Here is our quick report to keep you abreast of just how broad—and deep—this movement has become in just two short years:

•    Over 208,000 folks have already joined us at, and more join every day. If you have not done so, we ask that you do so now!

•    Over 400 groups are either have endorsed the coalition or are actively participating. Get your group to endorse at

•    Over 250 communities have already passed a Resolution in support of our effort, and 9 communities have successfully placed the campaign on the ballot. We have won every election by overwhelming majorities, including in areas where conservatives dominate. To see a map of all this activity, go to

•    Move To Amend hosts a monthly skills building webinar, and participation is open to anyone and everyone! These trainings are an opportunity for folks to connect with Move to Amend nationally, to learn about  organizing tools and campaign opportunities, and to connect with other MTA community organizers across the country. To get plugged in, go to

•    We have published editorials, created videos, been interviewed on television and radio stations, and are  traveling the country helping folks plug in to the effort POCLAD principal David Cobb travels tirelessly, and is on the road over 1/2 of his life. If you want him to come to your community, please contact him directly at

•    We are collaborating with Ben Cohen (of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream) to construct and operate The  Stampede, a giant traveling Rube Goldberg machine that will travel the country as a public art spectacle, an information center, and a money stamping machine where people insert their dollar bills and receive them back imprinted with messages like "Corporations Aren't People and Money Isn't Speech" and "Not to Be Used for Bribing Politicians" and "The System Isn't Broken, It's Fixed." Pre-order your own rubber stamps now at

Let's learn a lesson from our sister and brothers in Latin America (and from the Tea Party folks here). True social movements do not ask, "What is possible within the existing political and economic power systems?" They articulate their demands clearly and boldly, organize themselves, and force the existing power structure to address them.

We are under no illusion that a constitutional amendment will fix everything that is wrong with our social,  political, economic and legal systems.  But we think this is the sort of concrete and tangible action that can help spur the systemic change the country needs.


Citizens Rally to Self-governance in New York
Virginia Rasmussen

In New York State a resolute cadre of activists is standing up against corporate power and its political partners in a way that gets to the core of our problem: the criminality of corporate actions and denial of citizen authority.

The corporate assault at issue is mining for natural gas using the technology of hydrofracking, short for high-volume, slick-water, horizontal hydraulic fracturing, proven to be destructive of surface and ground waters, air, land, community, public health, local economies, housing affordability, and more. It involves drilling vertically thousands of feet below the surface and then horizontally from 1000 to 6000 feet away from the well.  Millions of gallons of water laced with chemical additives are pumped into the well under high pressure to shatter the rock and release the gas.  The Marcellus Shale Formation is the layer being targeted, a layer that underlies areas in New York, Ohio, Pennsylavania, and West Virginia.

Members of Sovereign People's Action Network (SPAN) of Ulster and Greene Counties and Frackbusters NY, not trusting their protection and governing authority to the state regulatory agency (Department of Environmental Conservation, DEC), conceived and drafted a law that criminalizes hydrofracking and all related activity: "mapping, exploring, developing, drilling, extracting, disposing, processing, storing, and distributing fossil fuels" obtained through drilling.  Criminal activity includes "any water extraction used for these processes and all shipping or disposing of solid or fluid wastes."

This is not a POCLAD initiative, although it was set in motion by the late Richard Grossman, a co-founder of POCLAD, and the language rings of his clear voice and rigorous analysis.

Weary of fighting corporate assaults one-at-a-time without end using corporate-shaped and serving regulatory law, SPAN chose to write its own law, NY Public Law #1, seeking its passage through a democratically elected state legislature. This effort requires the long, deep educational and organizational labor of building a democratic movement and an Albany legislature that truly serves the people.

Taking control of this industry out of the regulatory arena and into criminal law would make fracking and all related activity illegal. Violators would be punished in keeping with the state's penal code.  This movement is about prohibiting fracking, not making it less bad.  It's about stopping harms to life, earth, self-governance and the body politic, not just reducing impacts.

Driving this work and attitude into the communities and electoral districts across New York State has been taken on by SPAN and Frackbusters NY  Their numbers are growing as the educating and organizing efforts take root in county after county.

You can find a copy of the law and a primer that offers background and talking points on the proposed law at http://www.frackbustersnyorg/criminalization-law.html and


The Ongoing Legacy of POCLAD in Ohio
Greg Coleridge

POCLAD principals Richard Grossman and Jane Anne Morris came to Ohio in 1996 to conduct a "Rethinking the Corporation, Rethinking Democracy" workshop on the history and current manifestations of corporate rule. It was one of dozens of "Rethinks" facilitated by them and others in POCLAD over several years across the country. The Ohio Rethink led to publications and audiovisuals on the history of the relationship of corporations and democracy in the state -- as well as talks, articles, our own in-state version of a Rethink workshop, several state-wide coordinated local actions and projects, and regulator phone and email coordination and communication.

The original Ohio Rethink has also paved the way 16 years later for the current education and organization in many communities to promote a 28th amendment to the  U.S. Constitution as proposed by the national Move to Amend (MTA) coalition calling for an end to the legal doctrines that corporations possess constitutional rights and that money spent in elections is equivalent to First Amendment free speech. The MTA amendment  would certainly include reversing the Citizens United vs FEC decision of 2010 but goes much further.

Many campaigns across Ohio are underway at the local level, inspired by POCLAD's work over the years, to pressure city councils to pass a resolution calling for a Move to Amend like resolution or, better, to place the issue on the ballot for direct voter consideration. The latter is tricky since conventional "resolutions" can't appear directly on ballots under state law unless there is an included provision calling for the creation of a new or amendment to an existing local law. This makes citizen initiative campaigns, which bypasses councils altogether, challenging.

Three Ohio cities have already passed resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United…if not more.  More than a dozen other communities are working to pass complete MTA resolutions in their councils. Additionally, two Cleveland suburbs, Newburgh Heights and Brecksville, are pursuing strategies to put these issues directly before voters this November. To get around the local law hurdle, Newburgh Heights calls for the creation of a Mayor's Task Force (the Mayor personally knew Richard Grossman) that would meet 10 times over the next year to examine the influence of corporate expenditures on elections. Meanwhile, the Brecksville initiative calls for establishing a "Democracy Day" (the term taken from POCLAD principal Peter Kellman's Building Unions booklet) each February after every federal election. A public meeting would be held on that day to take public testimony, including from the Mayor and council, on the impact of political spending by corporations, unions, PACs and SuperPACs on their community.

What started out as "far out" concepts and strategies by POCLAD in Ohio (and certainly elsewhere) has in less than a generation become much more normal vernacular and respected — if not essential — work. Richard and others in POCLAD used to say our first goal was not to change the politics or constitution but to change the culture. Once the way people think shifts, changing politicians, laws, rules and constitutions will follow. Our work in Ohio, while certainly seeking to pass resolutions and citizen initiatives is nice and great for morale, essentially seeks primarily to alter the way we think about who we are and the rights and powers we should possess over those of corporations and money.


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