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Corporate $$$ = Free Political Speech: Two Brothers Can't Take It Sitting Down

September 27, 2010

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Unable to take it anymore, two retired brothers from California are walking across the country to protest court decisions they say have given far too much political power to corporations. They entered West Virginia on Sunday, on their way to Washington, D.C., and are in Charleston today.

Spurred by the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that corporations have the right to free speech in the form of unlimited spending for political advertisments, 67-year-old Robin Monahan and his older brother, Laird, are protesting the court treating corporations like people. Robin says that calling money a form of speech lets big companies overwhelm democracy.

"The Supreme Court has a notion that for the sake of the law a corporation is a person, and they said money is speech. Now I'm sure they wouldn't like if I tried to pay my taxes with speech."

Supporters of the Supreme Court decision say corporations having the rights of people is well-established legal doctrine. They add that all political speech, including ads during campaigns, is too important to restrict.

Monahan says most people he talks to are upset about the decision, although initially few of them knew about it. He makes the point that equating unlimited corporate political spending with the right of free speech is a real threat to democracy.

"The elected official no longer represents 'we, the people;' the elected official represents the corporation. And you and I are left totally out of the electoral process."

The Monahan brothers have spent the last five months on the road, literally. Monahan says they have mostly camped out or stayed with people who have offered them rooms along the way - although he admits walking though Kansas in August did force them to stay a few nights in air-conditioned motel rooms. When walking, they leap-frog each other with the car, he explains.

"I will get out and start walking. When my brother reaches the car I have left, he gets in and drives ahead of me a half a mile, and then he'll get out."

The Monahans will be in West Virginia this week and expect to reach the Lincoln Memorial Oct. 20.

More information is available at www.lairdandrobin.org.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV