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Ben & Jerry’s Founder in Philly to talk about how corporate money impacts state elections

One of the founders of the famed ice cream company will be in Philly on Tuesday to discuss adding a new amendment to the Constitution.
Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry's, will be in Philadelphia on Tuesday night to talk about getting big money out of politics. (Provided)

Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s, may be best known for what he adds to his frozen treats – like the cherries and fudge in the company’s famed Cherry Garcia ice cream – but, on Tuesday, he will be in Philadelphia to talk about his passion to see something removed from politics: big money.

Cohen will be joined from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Philadelphia Brewing Company, at 2440 Frankford Ave., on Tuesday by state Rep. Frank Dermody (D-33rd Dist.) along with Mike O’Brien, the Democratic state representative representing the river wards' 175th district, as well as state Rep. Brian Sims (D-182nd Dist.) and state Rep. Pam DeLissio (D-194th Dist.) to discuss a resolution recently introduced in Harrisburg.

The resolution – HR 440, introduced by Dermody – calls on Congress to create a 28th Amendment to the Constitution that would clarify “the distinction between the rights of natural persons and the rights of corporations and other legal entities under the First Amendment, and giving Congress and state legislatures the power to regulate political contributions and expenditures.”

"Voters are fed up with big money and special interests pulling the strings in Washington. We need to dramatically reform how we elect our leaders so that people, not money, govern. The 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution will do that. The time to act is now," said Ben Gubits, the associate director of American Promise, the group organizing the event.

Essentially, the resolution would seek to overturn the 2010 Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, which found that the First Amendment – or free speech – prohibits the government from putting limits on how much money corporations can spend to influence political elections.

On Tuesday morning, Cohen was traveling and unable to talk for this article. However, state Rep. O’Brien said that he supports the resolution because corporations might not always have the best interests of the public in mind.

“They don’t always have a solid relationship with the communities that they are located in but will leave at the moment that is of benefit to them,” said O’Brien in an interview Tuesday. “You can see it in Donald Trump’s industries. … When it doesn’t benefit corporate America, they are just going to nail it shut and not give a damn. That’s why something like this is important.”

O’Brien said that by putting a cap on election spending, candidates could be judged by their policy, instead of the promises they have made to corporate donors. The move, he said, would also give a candidate’s potential constituents more power during an election by helping to “keep decision-making with the people who live there.”

“Get the money out of politics. I’d like to see a cap put on it and put everyone on equal footing,” said O’Brien. “Make it a question of policy, you know? What are you going to do?”

According to details provided by organizers of Tuesday’s event, 19 states and over 800 cities and towns have passed 28th Amendment resolutions with cross-partisan support, while in Montana and Colorado, voters have approved 28th Amendment ballot initiatives, both with 74 percent support.

If Dermody’s resolution passes, Pennsylvania will become the 20th state calling for the 28th Amendment.

A discussion on House Resolution 440, which asks Congress to create an amendment to the Constitution to limit corporate donations on state elections, will be held Tuesday, Aug. 22, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Philadelphia Brewing Company, located at 2440 Frankford Ave.