I received an email four weeks ago. The conversations that resulted from the email felt important enough at the time to share. With Brett Kavanaugh set to be the next justice of the Supreme Court, I think it’s now even more important. The email was about Citizens United, the ruling that established, in essence, that corporations in America have the same rights as the individual. Citizens United is one of the factors that brought us Donald Trump, and eventually, mark my words, it will bring this nation to its knees.
The email came from a marketing firm; they were asking if The Clyde Fitch Report would accept a purchase of sponsored content, either written by us or by the client. CFR does, in fact, publish sponsored content, labeled as required by the Federal Trade Commission. I asked the marketing firm to furnish details. That’s when they told me that the client would be a political action committee, End Citizens United. You’re probably aware of them. And if you’re a reader of CFR, you probably support their goals.
Let me be clear as to where I personally stand. On the list of the most pernicious decisions ever made by our Supreme Court, Citizens United ranks with Dred Scott, Bush v. Gore and Plessy v. Ferguson. The notion that “corporations are people” remains obscene to decency. We know it provided the gasoline that lit our toxic Trumpster dumpster fire. Looking back and changing the metaphor, the recipe now seems evident: bake your corporatocracy long enough to inflate the worst disparity between rich and poor in recorded history, marinate in a sauce of nationalism, and, for a side, drench your kakistocracy salad with a corruption vinaigrette. Serve a la flambé. If American democracy dies — and don’t think that’s so very unlikely, please — it will die in part from the cancer unleashed by Citizens United. A political action committee devoted to overturning it is just the thing I would support.
I asked the marketing firm for a direct quote from anyone at End Citizens United. The office cat, the third intern from the left, the anthropomorphic hacky sack. What I was really after, of course, was a quote from Tiffany Muller, President and Executive Director, previously the Deputy Political Director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Chief of Staff to two members of Congress. She has attracted some three million members to End Citizens United’s cause and raised over $25 million with an average give of $14. Also, she was the first openly gay public official to serve on the Topeka (as in Kansas) City Council. Or maybe Scott Fay, Action Fund Director; Adam Bozzi, Communications Director; Anne Feldman, Press Secretary; Courtney Corbisiero, Director of Digital; Andrew Laskar, National Finance Director; Jordan Wood, Political Director; Rajan Narang, Director of Policy and Non-Federal Strategy.
I told the marketing firm that my goal, frankly, isn’t to sell content in this case, helpful as it is to CFR’s pinched bottom line. Citizens United is one of the primary infections causing our nation’s terminal illness, its psychotic political dystopia. Here at The Clyde Fitch Report, our ambition is to bring together the arts world with the political world in a direct, focused, get-off-your-ass manner. Arts and culture can be a change army. It needs organizing.
The marketing firm was polite, but firm: no original quotes. I asked what on earth End Citizens United could be afraid of. But that wasn’t the problem: it’s the marketing firm’s charge to find outlets like CFR and simply pitch them, they told me. I could simply pitch End Citizens United directly; it’s just not what they do. So I sent this email to the staffers of End Citizens United:
I don’t know how often you think of the world of arts and culture and how to activate it to end Citizens United, but recently I received an email from a marketing firm of yours who caused me to think more deeply about it.
…I replied to your marketer, and briefly we discussed a little sponsored content about End Citizens United. I requested an original quote from your organization… The publicist, who is very nice, said she couldn’t ask you about that herself, but I should approach you directly. Thus, this email.
…I ask how often you look at arts and culture as a sector that you can activate. US arts and culture supports 4.9 million jobs. And drives $760B in economic activity. I’d like to run a story on End Citizens United designed to start a conversation to inspire this sector. We don’t want payment for that. We want to join with you to generate change…
The purpose of this piece is not to rant because I never heard from the cat, the intern or the anthropomorphic hacky sack. Given the vibe, not to mention the slow-simmering civil war going on in the Democratic Party between the corporatists and the anti-corporatists, I didn’t think I’d hear anything back from them anyway. And therein lies a more meaningful, less self-serving point. In activism, I find, few people think of arts and culture as a change army waiting to be called up. I cited these two statistics up above, but they’re worth re-emphasizing: arts and culture in the US supports 4.9 million jobs and generates $760 billion in annual economic activity. The sector is surely not homogenous when it comes to progressive politics, but it is overwhelmingly disposed in that direction. What wise political movement — especially one soon to be checkmated and outfoxed by an opposing political movement — would thus knowingly dismiss such a sector? End Citizens United faces some profound and grave fights. Indeed, given the combustibility of our national temper, Citizens United could very well be the least of our worries when, in a year or two, the wire-hanger business may be poised for a back-alley upsurge. Why leave artillery on the table when you’re fighting a war?
There’s bigger fish than CFR out there — fair enough. So here’s what I want. If you look at Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, do you see anything on the horizon at all that will end Citizens United? I don’t. What I see is a national capitulation to a corporatist–fascist state. Which means that End Citizens United needs a summoning of the national will, now more than ever. With or without CFR’s fingers being paid to clackety-clack on the keyboard, I want the wrong here to be righted and the right-wingers to be routed. Is there anything you can do, anything you can say, anything you can give, anyone you can press or leverage to help End Citizens United end Citizens United? I’m just one guy, but I won’t stop sounding the bugle until more of us come to attention. And to their attention, too.