Ben & Jerry’s co-founder fights money in politics

Wearing a T-shirt that read “Stamp Money Out of Politics,” Ben Cohen, co-founder of ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s, unveiled a grass-roots campaign in North Hollywood on Oct. 11 denouncing the influence of money in politics.

The campaign, Stamp Stampede, encourages supporters to participate in the guerrilla tactic of stamping currency with messages that argue against money’s use in politics.

“Stamping money is petitions on steroids,” Cohen said. “It’s people saying what they want. … For individuals, this is a way for people to make their money talk.” 

The campaign is a collaboration between Cohen, a member of the steering committee of the Movement Resource Group — which has served as a liaison between funders and the national Occupy movement and is now refocusing its attention on getting money out of politics — and Move to Amend, a national coalition dedicated to amending the U.S. Constitution to say that corporations should not have human rights and money is not free speech.

The move comes in response to a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, in particular the 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which has allowed corporations an increasing role in influencing the electoral process, thereby reducing the power of ordinary voters, according to Ashley Sanders, a community organizer and member of the Move to Amend executive committee.

The Stamp Stampede campaign’s Web site is selling stamps, at cost, with messages such as, “Money is not free speech,” “Not to be used for bribing politicians” and “The system isn’t broken, it’s fixed.” The hope is that people will stamp and then spend the currency, thereby spreading the message. 

The tactic of money-stamping is legal, according to the Stamp Stampede Web site, as long as it does not ruin or deface bills to the extent that they are unrecognizable.