Remarks to the Allegheny County Council on April 3rd, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen of the council:

My name is Thomas Dufour and on Tuesday, March 27th in a collaborative effort with other residents of this county we had published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette a Letter to the Editor asking for this body to take up the issue of passing a resolution similar to the city of Pittsburgh’s which would express this county’s support for a constitutional amendment to reverse the implications of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision on the people of this country.

Councilmen and councilwomen, I’m sure those of you who already support this resolution do not need a history lesson in the effects of the Citizens United decision. And to those of you who are already decided against it, I’m sure you have your reasons for doing so which we can only hope are founded in reason rather than the fear that supporting this resolution might bring on an onslaught of anonymous contributions against you in your upcoming election. But to those of you who are undecided – or to those of you who might need brought up to speed on the effects of the decision – or to those of you questioning why it is imperative this county pass such a resolution, allow me to address you for a moment.

One of my favorite historical texts happens to be a letter written from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams in late October, 1813. In this letter, Jefferson writes lengthly regarding what he considers a natural aristocracy and expresses how he believes that it, being created from virtue and talents, should rule the country rather than the pseudo-aristocracy which is founded from wealth and birth.

Council members, that is what this is about.

What we have before us because of this decision is a country potentially being governed, not by the merit and talents of individual citizens by their well informed intelligence and logic, but by the brute force of monetary influence which to these corporations and organizations is nothing more than an investment risk, which inevitably governs our democracy by instilling in our leaders the fear of losing their jobs through a massive monetary campaign against them, rather than by their disservice to their constituencies. What chance does the virtuous who promote the public good with honesty and integrity stand against the backlash of well funded interest groups and misinformation when we’ve known for years that the press, being bound to their ratings and shareholder interest, is no longer in condition to correct the erroneous and spun statements which tend to be bought with this endless stream of cash? What chance does an individual voice stand when it is drown out by carefully crafted political speech which dominates our air waves? This decision is dirt in the face of American values, and to vote against this motion is to cast a vote against our democratic heritage. The decision is simple. If every person is intended to have an equal voice in government, money cannot be speech.

Council Members, I ask you to do the virtuous thing, and vote in the affirmative to lend our voices to the cause of restoring political power where it rightfully belongs, not in deep pockets, but in the voice of this nation’s citizens.

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