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Paul Gallegos, Humboldt County District Attorney (6 mins)
Kaitlin-Sopoci-Belknap, Campaign Co-Manager for Measure T (19 mins)
John Bonifaz, Attorney and Founder of the National Voting Rights Institute (17 mins)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 6, 2007
Contact: Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County, (707) 269-0984 or kaitlin@DUHC.org
Organizers Offer Workshop to Encourage Other Communities to Follow Suit
EUREKA, CA – One year ago today voters of Humboldt County, California passed the Ordinance to Protect Fair Elections and Local Democracy by 55% of the vote. Known locally as Measure T, the groundbreaking citizens initiative forbids out-of-county corporations from making political contributions in local elections.
Communities from across the country have expressed interest in passing similar measures, inundating Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County (the organization that wrote the ordinance) with inquiries and requests for help.
Measure T received national attention because it includes a direct challenge to "corporate personhood," which is the legal doctrine that allows a corporation to claim constitutional rights. "Money does not equal speech, and corporations should not be allowed to claim First Amendment rights - we the people have an obligation to challenge unjust laws," said Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, Executive Director of Democracy Unlimited. "Measure T follows in the footsteps of the suffragists, the abolitionists and the Civil Rights activists who fought against segregation. Humboldt County has taken a stand for the rights of people and communities over the so-called rights of corporations, and we invite other communities to stand with us."
“We have received so much attention for passing Measure T that we’ve decided to hold a training this summer for organizers who want to learn how they can pass a similar campaign to assert local control in their communities,” said Sopoci-Belknap.
The group’s “Community Organizing for Deep Democracy Retreat” is a three day workshop on August 10-12 that will offer activists “tangible strategies for to effectively organize in their own communities to reclaim the constitutional promise of a sovereign citizenry.”
“We’re very excited to be offering this event in Humboldt County. Participants in the workshop will have the opportunity to be our guests for the weekend – staying in host housing offered by our members and meeting the local citizens who have worked hard for the past decade to make Humboldt County a model for the rest of the country,” said Sopoci-Belknap. “This event will provide an opportunity for activists from across the country to strategize together about how to take more effective action in their own communities.”
Presentations and discussion at the Retreat will focus on the history of people’s struggles for democratic self-governance in the U.S., and analysis of how corporations, courts and legislators have manipulated law and culture to empower corporations with the constitutional rights intended for natural persons.
Although no lawsuit has yet been filed, Measure T opponents repeatedly threatened to sue to overturn the law if it passed. Billionaire financier Robin Arkley Jr, who is one of Governor Schwarzenegger's largest contributors, sent a memo to the County Board of Supervisors during the campaign warning them of a lawsuit if Measure T passed.
"The people of Humboldt County sent a powerful message that our confidence in the integrity of our own elections is undermined by corporate money," said Sopoci-Belknap. "Corporate leaders should respect the will of the people, but if a corporation tries to deny our community's right to local control of our elections then we are prepared to offer the County assistance in defending the people's will," she continued.
Measure T was backed by the county's Democratic and Green parties, as well as labor unions, local businesses and many elected officials. The initiative’s passage last year was covered by the LA Times, Nation Magazine, Tribune Media Services, Yes Magazine, Common Dreams, Adbusters Magazine, and community radio stations and newspapers across the United States.
The Measure was tested last November in the first election after its passage. “We were pleased to see that the ordinance was followed. We helped candidates understand how to follow the law and they complied. We had our first County Supervisor election in several years that was free of outside corporate influence,” said Sopoci-Belknap.
The Humboldt County initiative has been closely followed by lawyers and campaign finance reform advocates from across the country. Robert Benson, Professor of Law at Loyola University in Los Angeles, defended the rationale for Measure T. "Citizen activists play a vital role in our society when they challenge the courts to justify judicial doctrines that have lost touch with fundamental democratic values. Measure T does just that," he said. "If I lived in Humboldt County I would have proudly voted for it," he concluded.
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Humboldt County Leaders Endorse Measure T!
Democratic Party of Humboldt County
Green Party of Humboldt County
Central Labor Council of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local #1684
Building and Construction Trades of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties
Carpenters Union Local #751
Operating Engineers Union Local #3 AFL-CIO
Paul Gallegos, Humboldt County District Attorney
Peter LaVallee, Eureka Mayor
Chris Kerrigan, Eureka City Council
Dave Meserve, Arcata City Council
Harmony Groves, Arcata City Council
Paul Pitino, Arcata City Council
Bob Ornelas, Former Arcata Mayor
Connie Stewart, Former Arcata Mayor
Elizabeth Conner, Former Arcata City Council
Julie Fulkerson, Former Humboldt County Board of Supervisors
... and hundreds of other individuals and local businesses! Join us today!
Learn more about Measure T in a Pros and Cons Video, produced by Eileen McGee (51 mins)
Humboldt Coalition for Community Rights