Originally Published: August 10, 2010 10:30 p.m.
PRESCOTT - More than 30 people gathered Tuesday afternoon at one of the city's busiest intersections to protest corporate influence on elections and the federal government.
They carried placards with messages in all capital letters that included "Take Back America From Corporations," "No! To Corporate Lobbyists" and "The Best Congress Money Can Buy!" near the intersection of Sheldon and Gurley streets. They gathered afterward near the monument at Veterans Memorial Island to hear speeches at an event that lasted an hour.
Participants took part in a national protest that moveon.org had planned six weeks ago to take place Monday, event organizer Bill Swahlen said. He acknowledged the group initially planned to protest outside the offices of Democratic U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick but changed the location and the focus after meeting with Kirkpatrick's staff in Washington, D.C.
"We are protesting unlimited corporation donations to election campaigns," said Swahlen, a retired homebuilder who is organizing a moveon.org chapter in Prescott. Multi-millionaire George Soros bankrolled moveon.org, which relies on social networking to promote its liberal political agenda.
Swahlen, who moved to Prescott from Whidbey Island, Wash., two years ago, said his group has three goals: to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that lifted restrictions on corporate contributions to presidential and congressional candidates; pass a federal version of Arizona's Clean Elections Act; and win approval of lobbying reform.
Congress needs to pass lobbying reform to "slow down the revolving door" between Congress and lobbyists, Swahlen said.
A registered Independent, he described the rally as being nonpartisan while acknowledging several registered Democrats attended.
"Did you know there are 13,000 registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C.?" Swahlen asked the participants.
After he spoke, Karen Carlisle led the crowd in a song from veteran antiwar activist Pete Seeger. Other speakers followed.
"I personally worked on Wall Street for 30 years when it was a respectable business," John Sellers of Prescott told the crowd. He added the Citizens United decision in January "frankly quite shocked" him.
Also referring to the Citizens United ruling, Prescott resident John Fitz-Gerald said he did not serve 21 years in the U.S. Army to "protect the bottom line of corporations."
He said he served in the military in defense of a government for, of and by the people.
The rally concluded with a speech by Ben Furlong, who chairs the Yavapai County Democratic Party.
The protesters drew occasional honks from motorists, and found a sympathetic ear in Michael Beamer, who lives in Yucaipa, Calif., and was staying nearby at the Apache Lodge.
"I enjoyed it," Beamer said as he relaxed on a swing. "I went out and talked to them earlier when they were setting up. I voted for Ross Perot, for God's sake."
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