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Coffee Party forum will discuss Citizens United ruling

Independent staff report

As unrestricted corporate money flows into independent political action committees for the 2012 election season, a Port Orchard man is trying to raise awareness of what was unleashed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial decision in the Citizens United case, and what might be done to counter its effects.

Don Manning has organized a West Sound Coffee Party forum for Monday evening to discuss how the Citizens United ruling that gave corporations “personhood” status has affected the electoral process.

The forum will begin at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Kitsap Regional Library branch in Bremerton at 1301 Sylvan Way.

The featured speaker will be filmmaker Eric Byler, the co-founder and president of Coffee Party USA, a grassroots “transpartisan movement” that began in 2010. Byler will speak on “The Mission of the CPUSA; Fighting the Cycle of Corruption.”

Chris Henry of the Kitsap Council of MoveOn.org also will speak at Monday’s forum on “The History of Corporate Personhood,” and Brian Gunn of InvolvedDemocracy.org will speak on what the Citizens United ruling means.

In its landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, and that the First Amendment’s free speech protections prohibit government from placing limits on independent spending for political purposes by corporations and unions. Corporations and unions are not allowed to make direct contributions to candidates, but the court ruling cleared the way for so-called “super PACs” that already are spending millions of dollars to run third-party ads in the 2012 election cycle.

Manning, who got involved with the Coffee Party a couple years ago, said he’s spoken with many people who “don’t understand the impact this is going to have on the election and … on democracy.”

Saturday is the second anniversary of the Citizens United ruling, and a newly formed nonprofit group called Move to Amend is planning an Occupy the Courts national day of protest Friday at federal courthouses across the country, including a demonstration that Manning plans to join in Tacoma.

At the Coffee Party forum, discussions will cover possible strategies for getting the ruling overturned, he said.

Manning emphasized that opposition to corporate campaign spending is not an anti-capitalism approach.

“We want to say that we’re not down on corporations, or making money, we’re not down on big business,” he said. “We’re just down on money buying our constitutional rights right out from under us.”

For more information about the forum, check the West Sound Coffee Party’s Facebook page or call Manning at (360) 710-2893.

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