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Monday, September 23, 2013

Ben & Jerry’s Co-Founder Fights Money In Politics

One of the stamps offered by Stamp Stampede says "Not to be used for bribing politicians." (Stamp Stampede)

One of the stamps offered by Stamp Stampede says “Not to be used for bribing politicians.” (Stamp Stampede)

Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream fame wants to get money out of politics.

He’s organized a campaign called the “Stamp Stampede,” stamping dollar bills with phrases like “Not to be used for bribing politicians.”

The project is aimed at spreading awareness about money in politics, and boosting support of a constitutional amendment to counter the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

“The amazing thing about stamping a dollar bill is that you change it from just a piece of money to a piece of media. It’s a communication device,” Cohen told Here & Now.

Interview Highlights: Ben Cohen

Why do you think that stamping money will make a difference?

Ben Cohen is pictured in the Here & Now studios, Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. (Jesse Costa/Here & Now)

Ben Cohen is pictured in the Here & Now studios, Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. (Jesse Costa/Here & Now)

“Well this is part of a much larger national movement that involves many nonprofits that are working to overturn Citizen’s United, the Supreme Court decision that essentially opened the floodgates for corporations spending as much money as they want to influence the elections. And so already 16 states have passed resolutions in favor of this amendment, there are about 120 senators and U.S. congressmen that have signed onto an amendment, and we’re helping to build this movement by stamping money with messages like ‘Not to be used for bribing politicians’ and ‘Stamp money out of politics.’”

Is that legal to be stamping money?

“It is totally legal. You know a lot of people grew up to believe that it’s not legal to do this, but if you read law, it actually states that as long as you are not obliterating the dollar bill, as long as it is still obviously money and as long as you are not advertising a commercial business, it’s okay.”

Do you think the message just hasn’t gotten out to people? 

“The message has totally gotten out to people. Eighty percent of Republicans and Democrats want to get money out of politics. They realize that the system is broken, but they don’t know what they can do about it. You know normally, if you feel like you want the government to do something, the only thing you can do is sign a petition. Well, stamping money is like a petition on steroids, because every time you put a stamped dollar bill into circulation, over 800 people see it as it passes hands. If you stamp three dollar bills a day for a year, that creates a million impressions. And that adds up and it’s huge and essentially this becomes ongoing, visual, increasing support for getting this amendment passed.”

Guest


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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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