99Rise members lock down to NYC billionaires Woody & Suzanne Johnson’s residence after Republicans block “overturn Citizens United” amendment.
New York City, New York – Two citizen activists were arrested on Monday, October 6th at a Republican National Committee fundraiser in an act of civil disobedience protesting the undue influence of big money in American politics. Kai Newkirk and Curt Ries of 99Rise locked themselves to a banister in front of the Trump International Hotel and Tower where the $32,400-per-person reception and dinner was being hosted by New York City billionaires Woody and Suzanne Johnson, owners of the New York Jets and heirs to the Johnson & Johnson Co. The high-dollar fundraiser comes just weeks after Senate Republicans unanimously filibustered a proposed constitutional amendment that would have given Congress the ability to regulate campaign contributions and expenditures.
“We’re here to hold our national leaders accountable for their betrayal of our democracy” said Newkirk, co-founder and organizer of 99Rise. “Elected officials who support the institutionalized corruption of big money in politics have to know that we the people, the 99% who can’t afford $32,000 to have our voices be heard, will not stand idly by while our government is bought and sold to the highest bidder. If they block our democracy, we’ll block their corruption.”
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Political leaders attending the fundraiser included prominent GOP members Mitt Romney (R), Sen. Marco Rubio (R, FL), Sen. Rand Paul (R, KY), Gov. Chris Christie (R, NJ), Sen. Kelly A. Ayotte (R, NH), and John Kasich (R, OH).
Newkirk and Ries were detained by the NYPD shortly after 8:00pm in front of a crowd of student protesters supporting the action with chants and signs, proclaiming slogans like, “Money ain’t speech, corporations aren’t people.” and “One person, one vote, money out of politics”.
Grassroots resistance to money-in-politics corruption has grown dramatically since the U.S. Supreme Court passed down its Citizens United vs. FEC and McCutcheon vs. FEC decisions, essentially legalizing virtually unlimited campaign spending by corporations and wealthy donors to political candidates, parties, and PACs. Last summer, 99Rise organized a 480-mile “California March for Democracy”, which culminated in the passage of two state bills pursuing a constitutional amendment at the federal level to end the influence of big money in politics. In February, Newkirk interrupted SCOTUS proceedings in an unprecedented act of civil disobedience caught on camera.
2012 was the most expensive election in the country’s history, with a price tag exceeding 6 billion dollars, but with only 0.4% of Americans giving over $200 to political candidates and with a mere 132 wealthy individuals donating over 60% of all super PAC money in that cycle.