This Month's Hot Topics in the FAQ
(If an area of interest to you is not listed, we are most likely updating it. Check back the following week, or send us your question through the FAQ system or here).
Existing Ideal Amendment Language:
What is the ideal language in bills calling for a Constitutional amendment that requires sobriety in our election system?
There is no exactly perfect language.
Because of several Supreme Court rulings, any satisfactory amendment language or process today must first abolish corporate personhood in order to then require legislatures to regulate campaign finance. However, many additional principles complicate the possible amendment language.
(See: Permitted vs. Required Regulation in FAQs).
To name only a few of these bedeviling notions, free speech and freedom of the press
*in influencing elections, the State's rights to regulate their own elections, the regulation of the window of time in which money can be legally raised for elections, or the now-related issues of "money-as-speech" stemming from "corporations-as-people", have each made much of the debate very complex. Thus, it is difficult to conceive of an absolutely perfect bill.
(See: Free Speech and Freedom of the Press in the FAQs).
However, the Official National Intervention Sobriety Test (NIST) allows for a variety of concepts to fulfill the guarantee that campaigns are controlled and owned by the public interest, not the private interests (often intoxicated by wealth and power). It does so by explicitly stating that sponsored amendment proposal language can be "equivalent in effect".
For instance, the effect of making all campaigns only publicly-financed is to make any private interests' monetary contributions virtually insignificant. Many very intelligent people have wrestled with how to best accomplish this
*. Banning all money other than public funds is one way to get this result. Constitutionally requiring lawmakers to guarantee there will be no unfair advantages creates the same outcome, making this latter concept "equal in effect" to that of a complete ban on all non-public money in elections.
(See: "Are Elections a Public Utility?" in FAQs).
House Bill Concepts:
Here are two US House bills that, when compared, provide an equivalent effect for elections:
Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich's (D-OH-10) bill here from 2012:
Bill "A": https://www.congress.gov/bill/112th-congress/house-joint-resolution/100/text
(NOTE: This bill has already passed in 3/4 of the required US states to trigger the next step in making it the 28th amendment).
Or, in Rep. Pramila Jayapal's (D-WA-7) bill from 2019, seen here:
Bill "B": https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-joint-resolution/48/text
(NOTE: This bill covers the effect of both criteria in the Sobriety Test.
In Bill A, only "entirely public funds" may finance a federal campaign, guaranteeing that no candidate has an unfair advantage and that the People always know who is funding a federal campaign; we are.
In Bill B, Congress is required by the Constitutional amendment to guarantee "that no person gains, as a result of that person’s money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure". The outcome of one bill's language on federal election finance is the "equivalent in effect" of the outcome of the other bill's language on federal elections. (Here we will not review the other differences in these bills, but see below for Q&A on "Federal, State, and Local" campaign finance considerations).
Senate Bill Concept:
A bill introduced to the US Senate by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), S.J. Res. 11, provides for an amendment to the US Constitution to explicitly abolish corporate personhood, but does not require congress to eliminate advantage or influence from money in politics:
This language eliminates the foundational basis for corporate money in the election process. The US Supreme Court has used the notion that corporations are persons, and their money is the equivalent of protected "free speech" in politics. A critical first step in free and fair elections is this exact elimination of the concept that corporations are people with any rights to influence elections. However, this bill simply returns regulation of money in politics to the US Congress; stronger language would also require that elections in the US are publicly-financed, or, alternatively explicitly prohibit any money in politics that could create any outsized advantage or influence compared to that of any other citizen.
So, if the two criteria in the NIST are met, or their equivalent in effect, the test-taker will still pass our sobriety checkpoint.
Continue on to "Does National Intervention Do the Actual Amendment Work, Too?" or other FAQs.
Sobriety as a Test
Does National Intervention do the political work to actually get amendment language ratified, or only use it as a test to verify who is too "under the influence" of corporate power & money in politics?
We do nearly 100% fieldwork, knocking on doors in our congressional districts and organizing non-voters who typically would never trust anyone who would run for office.
We do not do all the hard work so many other organizations do to get a meaningful, fundamental, and sustained change to the Law of the Land. See: How to Get an Amendment Ratified
National Intervention uses the lens of addiction and recovery theory to explain how it is that those in power may fall under the influence of that power. Like other intoxicating substances, they may use it wealth and power as substances, abuse them, and/or become addicted to them. This helps explain their actions and choices while involved in one role or another in the addiction system, which is enforced in the entire "household" of our society. That is to say that, addiction is powerful, recovery is difficult, and many who try relapse, even with appropriate support when sobering-up.
So, while important work must continue in drawing strong legislative boundaries to keep the substance from those who abuse it, National Intervention focuses more on our relationship, as individuals and communities, to those who have done harm while using our wealth and power against us, even when they knew better, but couldn't stop themselves. When we are told they can quit anytime, we simply ask them to prove it by committing themselves, as our representatives, to amendment language that eliminates the influence of corporate power and money in politics.
Moving forward the right language, one without loopholes and exemptions, in time, is crucial. While other organizations work to that legislative end, National Intervention's electoral programming focuses on organizing our chapters by talking directly with that half of the country that appears to have quit voting by sharing the results of the Sobriety Test (NIST). In doing so, an average of 65% of all non-voters will turnout to vote in the next election if they speak with an Interventionist volunteer and learn that there is at least one candidate on their ballot who passes the NIST.
Note: As we scale-out our model to statewide Senate operations, from the successes of our of our presidential and congressional programming, feel free to share this explainer video before we premiere it nationally later this year:
We do use amendment language that affirms that corporations are not people and that campaigns are publicly-financed, or language that is the equivalent in effect to these two premises. In this way, the Official Sobriety Test for addiction to corporate power & money in politics is a test (some say a "litmus test") to identify those who cannot affirm their support for the most basic of pro-democracy affirmations. The two most common circumstances in which a candidate is typically unable to affirm their commitment to this amendment language are:
1. Addictive, Co-dependent and/or Enabling relationship to intoxicating wealth & power and/or the wealthy and the powerful:
Candidate fears losing support from (or access to) powerful financial and corporate interests.
Candidate truly believes it is important to allow money in our campaigns, possibly confusing more nuanced concepts of "freedom of speech/free press" issues with a functioning democracy as a public utility without advantages of influence, free from the corrupting influences of wealth, power, privatization, and profit.
In the either case, Interventionists may choose to commit to informing and educating a candidate about the options and the best way for the candidate to participate in recovery.
Why does National Intervention suppress its digital footprint? Why so behind-the-scenes?
Why does National Intervention suppress its digital footprint? Online and on social media, you encourage supporters to avoid the short-term gains of clicktivism and focus on the long-term benefits of analog, not digital, relationships. Why is this your policy?
It's true! We focus on in-person human interactions when possible and safe, and we ask our chapters, affiliates, associates, and members to keep our digital presence rather light. In fact, a driving ethos in our work is that no one takes credit for our accomplishments, which overlaps nicely with both the anonymity of the 12-step traditions and the hope that our relationships can be built with neighborhood-based bonds that are free from any of the troubling consequences of:
-increased screen time
-digital-only movement building
-anti-democratic trends in social media data-mining abuses, cyber-bullying, artificial intelligence manipulations, risks to personal safety, identifying data, mental health, and overall well-being linked to social media or its algorithms,
-digital addiction trends
Other reasons vary. Malcolm Gladwell once claimed, "The revolution will not be tweeted." In today's crowded landscape of constant digital information, National Intervention has experienced the many benefits of relying on digital connections less, and investing in interpersonal, live, and face-to-face connections much, much more.
Our primary constituency has been the sometimes 50% or more of the population who can, but often just won't, vote. People who quit voting don't tend to trust anyone who would run for office. Along with that mistrust is the sense that large, slick organizations pay canvassers to knock on doors and convince the household to again give their money and power to others, to giant orgs who may only be in it for their own aggrandizement. We don't encourage a giant, slick image or organization for our work. Instead, we want our local chapters to actually know their neighbors and those in their precincts, counties, and congressional districts. If the revolution won't be tweeted, it's because it has to be as organized or more organized than the system of greed that runs our lives and world. That means trading the shortcuts of digital "organizing" for the hard, but meaningful, work of building real and lasting relationships and, subsequently, building the chapters of our organization that rely on the infrastructure of those relationships. For us, this approach has been much more durable, reliable, and formidable than feeding data-miners, evermore-shortened attention spans, and clicktivism as viable ways forward.
When our volunteers meet nonvoters at their doors, they affirm their choice to look for ways to end their otherwise toxic, abusive, co-dependent relationship with politicians and their corporate sponsors. Instead of shaming our neighbors and fellow citizens for feeling overwhelmed with political ads and election choices ranging from bad to worse, we want them to see that we understand the powerless feeling among those who don't feel inspired to participate in our system. We want to show them we understand the symptoms experienced by those living under the control and abuses of an addiction system, and then show them exactly why we now test candidates running for office for the addiction to corporate power and money in politics. When non-voters avoid elections because they don't know who to trust, the Official Sobriety Test gives them a way to support recovery from the onslaught of money in politics.
Money & Power
There has been a five-fold increase in political add spending in just the past three general elections. Fewer and fewer voters are afforded the the time, energy, and resources required to properly investigate what is true and what is false. Amid the multi-billion deluge of election information, disinformation, misinformation, and mass for-profit media (which is only required to drive up stock value via advertising dollars, not necessarily report all the facts), one natural effect is that would-be voters cannot possibly know what to believe is real, and so they are inclined to skip voting rather than make the wrong choice. We have known for years that pro-democracy advocates must find a way to undermine the power of all this money dumped into the industry of our elections.
National Intervention has found, that --across the board, across all demographics of nonvoters, and across all our chapters' regions in the United States-- the single most effective way to undermine virtually all of the mess, manipulation, and confusion sown by our massive elections industry, is to knock on a door and talk about who may be bought, for sale, or vulnerable to the control of corporate power and money that intoxicates and addicts far too many of those behind the wheel of our democracy.
The investigative mission of the folks at The Center for Humane Technology (CHT) and their podcast, Your Undivided Attention, has corroborated or influenced our approach to digital vs. analog organizing options. One episode, "Rock the Voter", focuses on the harmful role digital participation can play in the public discourse, discusses social media's addictive and manipulative underbelly, and how imbalances of power and the concentration of data for nefarious or for-profit interests can overwhelm democratic institutions. More recent investigations also imagine scenarios in which online interactions with AI could aggregate massive sums of potential voters unaware of the manipulation, or the agenda behind it.
In addition, another episode from the CHT goes into detail about the many ways addiction in general has taken root in our system and some methods for recovery, which we aim to replicate wherever possible.
We encourage other organizations and change agents to help us search for ethical and uncorrupted means to work with the best of social media and digital organizing without the negative effects. One way to participate is to enroll in the Foundations of Humane Technology course at CHT. We'll see you there!
For us, the goal is to replace the internal personal void that initially invites all addiction with the kind of connection to one another that science has shown eliminates our vulnerabilities to addiction, the need for its intoxicating substances, and its eventually disastrous control of everything and everyone it touches. More on these practices of connection in place of addiction can be found in the work of leading addiction and recovery scientist, Gabor Maté.
National Intervention is almost entirely membership-funded, by small donors across the country. We do understand the frustration of our chapters and members who want to use a large-scale digital presence to raise more money from many more potential members. It's of course attractive to raise more resources to support more chapters succeeding in their recovery work. For now, we remain committed to building our organization in real time, with real people, in real communities, neighborhoods, workplaces, and precincts. Despite the draw of the virtual, the personal and interpersonal realm has been where virtually all our most transformative power has been concentrated. So support your volunteers here and start knocking on doors!
Our Relationship to Greed
Is this politics, or is this work that compassionately seeks to support recovery for people suffering from the grip of addiction? Which is it?
Some see our work as "political". We see it as taking responsibility for our relationships to those who might use or abuse our power against us, might do so openly, or who are perhaps in denial (as people who suffer from addiction or serve it as enablers often are), and with whom we may have to draw strong boundaries in order to make the healthiest choices.
In this way, its personal, not political, work. Most of us work within a culture at National Intervention in which it is ok to admit that our elections and government are largely privatized now, and that a seemingly insatiable addiction to wealth & power is the reason why.
We understand our political, economic, and electoral systems to be no different than any other system ruled by an addiction. Likewise, we consider almost all of us to be part of the problem as well, simultaneously feeding the addiction (which we simply call, "Greed") and suffering from the effects of it. We also acknowledge that most of us may be in denial about any or all of this analysis, and that without an intervention that is more well-organized than the addiction system, it will likely kill us, like many addictions do.
We treat wealth and power, particularly the heavily imbalanced and amassed concentrations of corporate wealth and power, as addictive substances.
We recognize the ingredients of wealth and power in our society as:
a) labor and consumption, which produce wealth, and
b) votes, which allocate our political power
When we screen elected officials and candidates with the Official Sobriety Test for addiction to power & money in politics, it serves as a "sobriety checkpoint" for those who may be too "under the influence" of their corporate sponsors while behind the wheel of democracy.
You may review our framework or get a more in-depth analysis of each of our roles in supporting the addiction system, or, alternatively, you could also read this summary:
A Brief Summary of Corporate Greed as Our Addiction System:
Corporations are not people, but the people who run them are real human beings. Too many of them cannot seem to stop themselves from making destructive choices in the blind pursuit of wealth and power. A well-organized intervention becomes necessary when our relationships of any kind are with people who have become a threat to themselves and to others.
Corporations operate as kingpins of the cartels that run our system. Without producing wealth for the cartels, most believe they themselves could not survive. Under this duress, most workers agree to sell the wealth they produce with their labor for a fraction of its real value. The cartels add the muscle of political parties to make sure that the substances of economic power (money and wealth) and political power (votes and legislation) are always distributed and redistributed to them, the cartels, their managers, and the kingpins.
Elected officials, while as vulnerable to intoxicating substances as all people, are often serving in a more co-dependent role as enablers, on which the addiction depends to be fed and to survive. The entire household serves the master addiction; addicts may fear they will lose access to their substance and enablers may fear the wrath of an unsatisfied addiction. Sadly, in this household, run by those struggling with their addiction, we manufacture all of the ingredients of the substance of greed: As workers and consumers we produce all wealth. As voters, we produce all political power. So, it is ultimately up to us to refuse to provide any more of our wealth and power until the addiction is managed and elected officials can safely get behind the wheel of democracy.
Today, most of us are told to give more and more for less and less, or we'll be punished by the consequences, or worse: our children will suffer those consequences. This is the essence of what calls us to intervene with invitations of support for sobriety, draw strong boundaries, build our support groups, and leave our abusive partners if they cannot choose a commitment to recovery. If they can quit anytime they want, we only ask that they prove it while under our roof and in this relationship with us, before the addiction has devoured everything we need to survive and thrive.
When People Know Better, but Cannot Stop Themselves
In the aftermath of the 2008 financial collapse and the ensuing crises, both major parties endorsed a massive bailout of public money to support the financial industry that caused the collapse, before they too fell with it. CEOs of banks soon lined-up to testify to Congress, making this sobering point:
"We cannot stop ourselves. We need Congress to stop us. Your job is to regulate us."
In 2010, the Supreme Court (5-4) asserted that, because corporations are considered persons in the eyes of the Law, but have no biological "voices," their money will be considered their protected, unlimited "free speech" in our elections. Exactly four months later, the BP oil catastrophe became the world's worst industrial disaster of its kind at the time, killing 11 workers, decimated the local economy, devastating the ecological systems there and for miles all around, and exposing local cleanup crews and residents to volatile toxins and carcinogens. Nearly four months after that, the oil gushing from the ruptured seafloor well had still not be sealed-off. Yet, in the time between the explosion and when the rupture was finally sealed, it was the President Obama's EPA that quietly permitted nearly 2,000 other off-shore drilling permits, virtually identical to the one that wreaked this unprecedented havoc on workers, residents, the environment, and the industries dependent on its health.
Again and again, we witness the blind pursuit of wealth and power at all costs, we see the risks manifested in every aspect of our lives, our institutions, and our world.
And it was after the the government's choices in 2010 that we sought to answer the question:
We found this useful answer:
When people know better, but cannot stop themselves, they are mirroring the same traits that mark addiction, enabling, or both.
We do not claim that this is the only circumstance, the only illness, the only cause of all the problems.
We do assert that, whatever other co-morbid conditions may be present and diagnosable --for example, destructive personality disorders, psychopathy, or other unmanaged illnesses-- addiction is not a metaphor for our system, but the model. As a major force in how our system operates, who protects that system at all costs, why, and why it is so difficult to overcome, addiction certainly appears to be a clear lens through which we can describe our economic and political household, even as that system may be responsible for burning down the whole house while we're all in it. If we are to pass on a planet and society worth inheriting, we cannot get around this one fact: Recovery is essential.
And finally, choosing to work within the framework of proven addiction & recovery theory and practice, allows us to practice a different operating system. (Our national director once referenced our alternative operating system as "Love" in this Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute).
For more ways to communicate the need for sobriety and recovery in this special relationship, share this year's Video Valentine, and support getting it to every candidate, the White House, and your elected officials in Congress!...
Is it difficult to pass the Sobriety Test?
Is the Official Sobriety Test for addiction to corporate power & money in politics difficult to pass?
Asserting that our electoral campaigns are:
a) corporations are not people, and that
b) campaigns are not privately-owned (or for sale), but citizen-owned
is about as simple a pro-democracy affirmation there is. A democracy, requires that elections never fall under an influence other than that of the demos, the People, in the word's Greek roots. Allowing any other influence is to fail our democracy.
If a sitting official or candidate is not able to commit to this language, National Intervention members, chapters, and leaders will offer ways to better understand the terms of the sobriety checkpoint.
Permitted vs. Required to Remove Influence
Is there a meaningful difference between the right of lawmakers to regulate campaign finance and an amendment requiring them to do so?
Yes, there is a serious and significant difference.
The difference is between the meaning of the word "may" and the word "must". Many bills to amend the constitution have been proposed that only assert that Congress "may" regulate campaign finance and spending limits. Some bills say that Congress "must" regulate campaign finance and spending.
For example, Rep. Dennis Kucinich's (OH-10) 2012 bill simply stated that no source of funding will be permitted under the law unless it is a public source.
In 2013, Rep. Donna Edwards (MD-4), put forth a bill that simply asserts that nothing shall "prohibit" Congress from regulating money in politics. However, while nothing in this bill is stopping Congresspeople from limiting their corporate benefactors influence, nothing is requiring them to do anything at all, either.
In 2019, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA-7) proposed a bill that insured that no significant influence from private contributors will be permitted under the law, which is the equivalent in effect of banning all sources, and meets National Intervention's requirement of citizen-owned, not privately-owned, elections.
It's a real addiction? Are power and money intoxicating and addictive while under their influence?
Like any intoxicating substances, wealth and power can control and eventually destroy the lives of those suffering from the addiction, as addicts and other affected or controlled by the disease of addiction.
This article, For The Love of Money, and book of the same name, both by recovering Wall Street wealth addict, author Sam Polk, illustrates much of what an addict to wealth and power may experience while suffering the impact of the addiction and seeking recovery.
Resources for sufferers will be available in our 2020 edition of the WAPA Guide, due out this coming election cycle. As always, WAPA Guide orders are always anonymous and free.
Comparing amendment proposals
We are currently updating this section. Meanwhile, please review a simple overview in the Existing Ideal Amendment Language and the What is the difference between requiring and permitting Congress to legislate regulations? sections.
How does a US Constitutional amendment get ratified?
What does it take to get an amendment ratified as the Law of the Land in the United States Constitution?
If the Congress (both the House of Representatives and the Senate) passes the amendment language, then a minimum of 34 States must then move for a Constitutional Convention and vote to ratify the amendment language. Without a ratification vote from the US Congress, a minimum of 38 States is required to move forward with ratification.
We use satisfactory language to test candidates' relationship to the intoxicating influence of corporate power & money in politics. We do not conduct the work to approach ratification.
What We Do
Many important organizations work toward these ends. National Intervention, however, uses the satisfactory language in the the Official Sobriety Test (NIST) as a means to understand whether candidates may be too "under the influence" of corporate power & money in politics to be safely behind the wheel of democracy. After sharing the results with the half of the US that quit voting, over 65% of those non-voters will vote in the next election if at least one candidate has passed the NIST and our volunteers were able to contact them with the results of the Sobriety Test. We form national support groups, conduct compassion-centered interventions on those we think need help with their relationship to wealth & power in the addiction system, provide resources for those seeking recovery in their own lives, and
Consider joining or forming your local chapter and supporting those volunteers that make this tremendous success possible.
*As we grow to scale our US presidential and Congressional District operations to new statewide Senate programs, too, you may also want to share this explainer video of our field operations before it officially premieres later this year:
Free Speech and Freedom of the Press
Does making campaigns publicly-financed violate the private rights of freedom of speech or freedom of the press?
For example, if an individual person or organization uses their own resources to share their enthusiasm for or against a candidate or ballot measure, would that be a violation of a Constitutional mandate that all campaigns be publicly-financed?
The short answer: No.
The longer answer:
To clarify this concern, virtually every bill that has been proposed since 2010 has a final section that reads:
"Nothing in this amendment will be construed as an infringement on the freedom of the press."
This is because people are free to use their own money to promote their support or opposition to a candidate, policy, ballot measure, or shoe color, all of which fall under First Amendment protections.
However, before corporate personhood led the Supreme Court to rule that money counts as the unlimited, even anonymous, free speech of corporations-as-people, the government (for, of, and by the biological People) was allowed to limit that spending. It did so in order to protect other freedoms, too, such as the freedom to have a government whose elected officials do not act in the interest of their private supporters when there is no equal way for the members of the public to compete with private interests. In other words, any significant imbalance in access to speech about and influence over candidates, elected officials, or ballot measures runs the risk of violating the freedom speech of those who cannot compete. As Justice Stevens wrote in the dissenting opinion of the Citizens United v. FEC ruling, when private moneyed interests are free to saturate our sources of information, "corporate domination of political speech during an election could impoverish rather than enrich the marketplace of ideas".
That is to say, when it comes to securing the public's good, a private interest's "freedom of speech" is limited, just as it is limited when we say one cannot frivolously "yell fire in a crowded theater". Freedom of speech is limited to provide for other freedoms. The public cannot enjoy its freedoms in the interest of the public good if ordinary voters cannot compete with the imbalance of accommodations for the richer and more powerful investors in elections.
Amendment language for publicly-financed elections seeks to protect the freedom of our electoral and political systems as public utilities or the common sector of the public good. An investment in a candidate or campaign violates rights, overstepping the bounds of free speech. Thus, ending corporate personhood is essential to winning back the right to a government that is , in fact, public, not private. Then, publicly-owned elections, or their equivalent in guaranteeing that no individual interest can outweigh any other in our system, can find their place in the Constitution.
Are Elections a Public Utility?
The things our society agrees should be owned by the public, like electricity and water, are considered to be public utilities and are treated as such. Does National Intervention promote the idea that our electoral process be considered part of the "commons" and therefore a public utility?
Short answer: Yes
Public utilities have been largely privatized in the US. Education, power utilities, telephone communications, the airwaves, the internet, and even water to some extent have all seen more private for-profit transitions over the past few decades. If elections are to be held to a higher standard, or even the highest standard, they must be protected from influence that become greater than that of any one individual member of the public.
If an ordinary citizen, earning minimum wage cannot have the same influence as any other private entity, then how are elections fair for the We, the People? How are elections and the electoral process to be safeguarded from the intoxicating influence of one large donor when compared to an unemployed citizen whose voice is supposed to count equally in a democratic process? There is little room for disagreement, philosophically, politically, ideologically, or legislatively, about whether our electoral process must be wholly secured as a public utility in the commons, one that cannot be compromised by the corrupting influence of private interests.
See Satisfactory Amendment Language
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