With Obama in Town, Protesters Rally to Fight Big Money in Politics

A rally in Beverly Hills seeks to raise awareness of the influence large donations have in political campaigns.

Demonstrators gathered at Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills Wednesday to protest the role that large private and corporate donations and SuperPAC funds are playing in political campaigns.

"We're very disappointed, of course, that [President] Obama, who called SuperPACs 'a threat on democracy,' has recently decided that he will encourage his donors to give to SuperPACs once they've maxed out of giving to his campaign," said event organizer and Occupy Los Angeles Food Committee member Lauren Steiner. "This is going to be $2 billion raised in this presidential election, and that money could be spent far better on the human needs of the 99 percent instead of allowing one-percenters to buy a dinner with the president."

The park where the protest was being held is located on Sunset Boulevard between North Crescent and Benedict Canyon drives. The Occupy 90210 group, which organized the protest, chose the site because of its proximity to Holmby Hills, where Obama was attending a campaign fundraising dinner at the home of soap opera producer Bradley Bell. Attendees at the dinner were being charged $35,800 a plate. According to Steiner, that amount could buy dinners for 17,000 people from one of Los Angeles' food banks.

"We think it's unconscionable that these people are here spending this kind of money just to hobnob with the president," Steiner said.

In addition to protesting campaign financing, Wednesday's rally was also planned to raise money for Hunger Action L.A.'s Veggie Voucher program, which doubles the purchasing power of food stamps at farmers markets. 

Linda Holter, co-organizer of the West L.A. Council of MoveOn.org, participated in the rally and said she wanted to bring awareness to the influence that money has in political campaigns.

"I'm not as outraged at Obama taking the money, persoanlly, because that's the reality of our times," Holter said. "That is how money is raised. The issue for me, and for us: Get the big money out of politics altogether and then it won't be something that [candidates] have to do in order to survive."

Barry Levine, a member of Move to Amend, came out to protest the large donations that corporations can legally make to campaigns. Move to Amend rejects the U.S. Supreme Court's January 2010 Citizens United ruling that the government cannot ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections. 

"I would like to see the Constitution of the United States amended to state that corporations don't have the rights of human beings and that money is not equal to free speech," Levine said. "I am a very big believer that we need to change the law constitutionally so that the Supereme Court's ruling in Citizens United won't stand, and they can't make any other foolish decisions because the law will be very clear like most people can understand, not legalese drawn up by lawyers who work as lobbyists."

Protester Nigel Mitchell, wearing a sign on the back of his jacket that read "Greed Kills End Wars," said he has attended multiple rallies in the area to spread a message of love and peace.

"It's time to say enough's enough," he said.

During the rally, an Occupy 90210 protestor was hit by a car and taken to Ceders-Sinai Medical Center.

For updates on the protester's condition and the event itself, follow @OccupyLA on Twitter.

Wendy February 16, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Federal Job growth is not real Job Growth. Losing manufacturing positions and getting a job at Wendys Hamburgers in return can be debated.
Marie Cunningham February 16, 2012 at 08:03 PM
"Federal Job growth is not real Job Growth." Why is that not real job growth again?
Wendy February 16, 2012 at 10:03 PM
If Obama creates more Federal Jobs that is not real Job Growth. That is just stealing from the taxpayers and creating fake jobs to check permits. They take away what you used to be able to do on and give somebody a fake job where they have to rubber stamp you permission. Marie why do the 1 percenters want Obama in office? He is their guy. That should scare the hell out of the ordinary person. It makes no sense that they want to pay double taxes. The people of Beverly Hills are cheap are they not? If you look in their garages you will find junk that is not worth ten dollars that they cannot part with. Part of being the president is that you get to control the numbers that are put out for job growth. Those stats are like reading the 5 o'clock follies. Figures do not lie but liars figure.
Marie Cunningham February 16, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Nothing in the link I provided says anything about federal job growth. It refers to payroll jobs added. So whatever point you are trying to make...you missed the mark completely. And to call Beverly Hills residents "cheap" is a rude assumption on your part. And who said that one-percenters want Obama in office?
Liberty Jackson February 16, 2012 at 10:40 PM
aww so cool that you reported this, thanks Marie!!


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