By now, most Americans know about Occupy Wall Street.
Some may know that last fall (in October 2011), a couple dozen Occupy protesters were arrested for (technically not yet illegal) passive resistance at Margaret T Hance Park in Phoenix. Those protesters were cited by Phoenix Police, arrested and have been to several court dates for a trial that has not yet been held. Frankly, I wonder why Phoenix city prosecutors are wasting taxpayer money by drawing this out. Nobody was harmed by the protesters and the cases should all be dropped.
Nevertheless, protests did take place and there has been some news coverage to highlight the policy discussions revolving around issues important to OWS.
To me, other recent developments are even more intriguing and hold promise for genuine change. Change to legislative processes in Arizona and in Washington, D.C. that is. Incremental but important changes.
Last month, local attorney and advocate Dianne Post filed informal complaints (the first step) against several public service corporations regulated by the Arizona Corporation Commission. Those corporations, generally investor owned utilities, are known members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
In response to the public pressure being brought to bear on ALEC, a number of corporations have recently cut their ties with the nationwide lobbying group. Those corporations responded, partly as a result of Ms. Post's complaints and partly due to outcry over the role ALEC played in advancing "Stand Your Ground" legislation in a number of states. Stand Your Ground became notorious after Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was killed in Florida.
Anyway, some of the protest activity surrounding OWS has subsided (for now). But the "99 percent" have begun finding more direct and potentially more directly effective avenues to cause change.
Post's complaints, including this one filed most recently regarding Arizona Public Service (and this one filed last week with the Salt River Project Board of Directors) demand response. Last month, APS declared almost immediately after Post first filed the complaint against it, that it would not renew its membership in ALEC.
SRP, however, because of its status as a quasi-governmental organization, is more insulated from public accountability than utilities regulated by the Corporation Commission. SRP also has a reputation at the Capitol for putting on the best lobby day ("free") lunch for lawmakers during every spring legislative session. SRP's chief lobbyist, Russell Smolden, has also been private sector state co-chair for ALEC for a number of years.
Besides Post's complaints dogging public service corporations, a group of private citizens this month filed two complaints with the Internal Revenue Service challenging the tax exempt status -- and demanding a full audit of -- the very aggressive right-wing lobbying organization known as the Center for Arizona Policy.
CAP and its current president Cathi Herrod put a great deal of pressure on the GOP supermajority in the legislature to (very ironically) kill an anti-bullying bill and to pass a draconian anti-contraception bill this spring. The website, StopCAP.org also has copies of CAP tax returns and other news and public documents showing how the right-wing lobby has evaded taxes and effectively gained federal government subsidy of its lobbying actions for many years.
The IRS complaints appear to also have been prepared by very civic minded attorneys. (Who said lawyers were all bad?)
Last, but by no means least, Common Cause filed suit in federal court on Monday seeking to have the US Senate filibuster rule declared unconstitutional. The Senate filibuster has been used effectively and increasingly frequently by GOP members to block Obama adminstration judicial appointments and numerous policy/legislative actions.
Once a rarely used maneuver to allow extended debate, the filibuster is now routinely used to block debate on hundreds of critical issues and nominations. Federal action on the major issues of the day – from tackling the student loan debt crisis, to revitalizing the economy, to requiring disclosure of campaign spending and filling court vacancies – being held up in the U.S. Senate by a filibuster rule that is unconstitutional and was never contemplated by the nation’s founders.
Common Cause believes filibuster abuse is a big reason why most Americans are frustrated with Congress and believe that the “government no longer works” for average citizens. Common Cause has filed a lawsuit charging that the Senate’s filibuster rule violates the core American principle of majority rule that lies at the heart of the U.S. Constitution.
Yesterday in the Washington Post, Ezra Klein sized up the situation:
According to Best Lawyers — “the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession” — Emmet Bondurant “is the go-to lawyer when a business person just can’t afford to lose a lawsuit.” He was its 2010 Lawyer of the Year for Antitrust and Bet-the-Company Litigation. But now, he’s bitten off something even bigger: bet-the-country litigation.
Bondurant thinks the filibuster is unconstitutional. And, alongside Common Cause, where he serves on the board of directors, he’s suing to have the Supreme Court abolish it.
By the way, last month, Common Cause also filed a complaint with the IRS challenging ALECs tax exempt status.
So, despite what the corporate media reports (or fails to report) about recent popular movements and protests, there IS HOPE for enacting more humane public policy in the United States, to benefit ALL Americans, not simply the wealthiest 1 percent. But to get there, we must support these challenges to illegal lobbying and filibustering actions that are used far too often by corporate interests to the detriment of the 99 percent.