At the onset of the first reality show presidency, who better to talk about the influence of corporate money in politics than one of the men who brought us Chunky Monkey?
But actually, Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, has been politically active for years. He's used his position to help candidates like Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders, and has fought to overturn the Citizens United decision. In the wake of Donald Trump's election, the ice cream company wrote an open letter to the president-elect imploring him to represent all of his constituents, not just his base.
On March 24, Cohen brings his thoughts on the role of corporate money in democracy to Stetson University College of Law for a daylong symposium titled “Can Corporations Be Good Citizens? How Corporate Law, Litigation, Lobbying and Money in Politics Intersect.”
The event explores the influence of monied interests on elections and policymaking compared to the power of individuals and entities that can't afford to pour money into campaigns or hire lobbyists.
And who better to talk about it than a vocal critic of the Citizens' United decision whose company could've gone the way of other dairy product manufacturers (i.e. using its influence to ensure environmental, animal or public health regulations don't get in the way of profits) but instead chose the more ethical route?
Cohen is set to speak at 1 p.m. March 24 at Stetson's Gulfport campus. But compelling speakers are scheduled to talk throughout the day, and on compelling topics.
“The role of corporations in our democratic form of government has become a hot topic of debate since the Supreme Court granted corporations more power to spend money in our elections in Citizens United v. FEC. This topic is particularly salient given the potential conflicts of interest presented by the new administration. Speakers at the symposium will tackle this topic from interdisciplinary vantage points,” said Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, an expert in election law who teaches at Stetson.
At a time when our nation's secretary of state is a former oil company CEO, its secretary of education is a major Republican Party donor who knows nothing about education, and our president refuses to recuse himself from a number of ethically troubling business ventures during his presidency, events like this are all the more important.
Other scheduled speakers include Kathy Kiely, a journalist formerly of Bill Moyers & Co., who will moderate a discussion about the legal and constitutional role of corporations in democracy; the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation's Keesha Gaskins-Nathan, who will moderate a panel about study of corporations and the political system; and The Intercept's Lee Fang, who is slated to moderate a panel on possible reforms.