Tourists LOVE Pennies For Democracy…

The funniest part of today is that people LOVED Pennies For Democracy. More than I realized. Five minutes into setting up for our little video shoot, Ryan and I were furiously drawing signs and organizing pennies on the sidewalk. A couple walked by and put some pennies in our jar.

“Isn’t that what you want?” she smiled.

Um, yeah! That’s great!

Where y’all from?

Nebraska.

What made you decide to donate?

I agree with the cause. People need to have a voice in government.

Wait, do you want to be in our video?

No, that’s okay. They walked off.

Not long after, another person spontaneously donated. And another. Catching on, we began handing out flyers and asking people to donate.

The Supreme Court police then came over and asked us not to solicit donations.

The irony: The Supreme Court decided that mega corporations can donate as many millions of dollars as they like to threaten, bribe or buy off as many public servants as they like. But we can’t collect pennies to restore democracy.

Biggest regret: We should have started earlier, made it bigger, and asked for more help. I wish we’d had a camera person just to get the reactions of the many tourists and families from all over America who stopped to talk to us, support the cause and donate. Our video will be fine, but it won’t even begin to capture the hundreds of people who stopped by or commented. We got tons of supportive comments and no negative ones. People got it immediately. We had to ask more than a dozen people NOT to donate so we didn’t get in trouble with the Supreme Court police.

A good problem to have!

We are considering whether to do it again bigger for the 6 month anniversary of Citizens United on July 21. And whether it will be ready to spread around the country in the coming weeks.

First try, we raised over $200. We’re waiting until we get to $1000 or so before we start giving it out.

Huge thank yous to Ryan and Julia who helped out and brought their friends, Tanene who donated the camera, and Josh who made the logos. Go team!

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RSVP now for June 21

PLEASE RSVP for Noon June 21 and let us know how many pennies you can bring: billywimsatt@gmail.com 646-346-0248 cell

Bring Your Jars of Pennies to the Supreme Court Building: Noon, Monday, June 21, 2010

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That’s right!

Bring your jars of Pennies.

The Supreme Court decided in Citizens United that corporations like BP can spend unlimited millions of dollars buying political ads –buying elections, buying politicians.

That’s right. Legalized corruption.

I’m just one person. But I have a jar of pennies. And I say enough is enough!

Our country is not for sale. Our democracy is not for sale.

They may have their millions.

But we’ve got jars of pennies.

Our pennies are tired of this bull crap.

Our pennies are hopping mad. They’re ready to fight back.

Our pennies are powerful.

Our pennies say: “In God We Trust.”

Our pennies say: “E Pluribus Unum” –from many, one.

Our pennies say: “Liberty”

Our pennies have a picture of Abraham Lincoln, a great President from Illinois who worked hard to re-unite our beloved country (they didn’t like him either).

Monday, June 21 is the five month anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. An absolutely terrible decision made by, let’s be honest, the 5-4 Republican majority on the Supreme Court (the four Democratic Justices wrote a blistering dissent).

At High Noon on Monday June 21, We will gather peacefully and legally with our jars of pennies on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court. We will make a short, hopefully viral, video. And we will organize everyone we know to put our pennies together to fight back.

The Vision

Pennies For Democracy will spread across the country. We will organize Local Teams to collect pennies. We will collect pennies at festivals, through social media, and through Pennies For Democracy collection centers at participating local businesses (look for the sign in the window).

We will collect pennies on the steps of hundreds of Congressional offices on Thursday, August 19 when Congress is back home for recess.

We will collect pennies through national days of action at strategic moments throughout the year.

We will collect millions of pennies and use them to support grassroots organizations and to find creative ways  to hold our politicians accountable in November for cleaning up the legalized corruption of our political system.

(We are chartering as a corporation so apparently now there are no traditional political limits on how we can spend the money).

So bring your jars of pennies. Put in your two cents!

Bring your friends and parents and grandparents…

Watch our pennies add up!

This isn’t a partisan thing. No one wants to see a company like BP controlling US elections.

Make no mistake. Pennies For Democracy has the potential to be huge and long term and to raise millions of dollars for democracy and change. We know because we are modeling it on  Penny Harvest, a great organization which has raised millions of dollars with school children –in pennies.

There’s no reason why we can’t do the same thing.

Abraham Lincoln is about to have some fun, y’all.  And we are too.

How to Get Involved

Step 1: Let your friends in the DC area know to show up in front of the Supreme Court with their pennies at High Noon on June 21.

Step 2: Start saving your pennies and talking to your friends about how you want to collect pennies locally.

Step 3: Friend us on Facebook. Look up: “My Jar of Pennies vs. The Supreme Court”

Step 4: Check back here in July and we’ll have a clear plan with next steps.

How will the money be handled?

A sack of pennies is worth about $50.

A car load of pennies is worth about $1,000.

Our system for handling the money is simple. It’s called the honor system. We’re asking people to operate on an honor system and to deposit your pennies at a local bank (some branches accept unrolled coins without charging a fee). Then donate the amount online to http://www.PenniesForDemocracy.org (we’re setting up a secure donation system). We will then strategically donate 100% of the money to causes in the following formula:

  • One third goes directly to under-funded causes like Coffee Party USA and the Public Campaign Action Fund that are working directly to fix the political process and who do the heavy lifting of the pennies.
  • One third goes to participating organizations who email their lists and organize Penny drives.
  • One third will be used strategically to hold our elected leaders accountable for fixing our democracy, leveling the playing field and getting big money (AKA legalized corruption) out of politics and so that every day Americans can have a voice in our government.

At this critical time in history, we need the best people in office representing us at all levels. Not the best fundraisers, not the richest, not the ones who are willing to blow the biggest corporations. We need the best people. We deserve the best. And our kids and grand kids deserve the best.

So break out those pennies. And let’s get to work.

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A few notes about the Pennies For Democracy project:

This site is under construction. We will be adding a donate button, an Organize a local Penny Drive event tool, posting videos, hosting Local Organizer calls, selling t-shirts, etc. If you are serious about getting involved, please check back here in a few weeks or better yet drop  me an email directly at: billywimsatt@gmail.com. 646-346-0248 cell

We will also be accepting non-penny donations so that 100% of the penny donations can go to purposes for which they were intended.

A bit about me, the Founder of Pennies For Democracy, because I have nothing to hide:

My name is Billy Wimsatt. I am an average American citizen, 37 years old. I have a little jar of pennies which I am donating to this cause. I am proud to be an American, born and raised on the South Side of Chicago. I have lived in Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, California, New York, Washington DC. I have hitch-hiked all over this country, made friends with every type of person you can imagine. And I love this country through and through. I am proud to be an author, an organizer, a member of the hip-hop generation, and on most days a supporter of Barack Obama (even though I disagree with him about a lot of things).

I don’t have anything against Republicans as people. I have met too many wonderful, kind, intelligent Republicans who picked me up along the side of the road, fed me, treated me kindly, and gave me a place to stay. But I do get very angry at our current Republican leadership in Congress. And it’s not because I don’t agree with a lot of their critiques. I’m afraid of the national debt too. I think government is inefficient too. But while Republican (and corporate Democrat) politicians and talk show hosts present themselves as the beer drinking friend of the common man, their actual policies like Citizens United are driven more by the short-sighted greed of corporate elites.

I consider myself an independent, although I usually hold my nose and vote for Democrats. I am also mad at most Democrats most of the time. Most of them are afraid to challenge the prison industrial complex which spends $30,000 a year locking up non-violent drug addicts who can’t afford a good lawyer. That’s wrong and it’s a waste of our money. Most Democrats are afraid to challenge the military-industrial complex which gives the Pentagon billions of dollars more than it asks for every year to support more than 700  military bases in 135 countries around the world. Do we really need 700 military bases in 135 countries?  Do ya think we could get by with 300? Rome fell for a reason. It over-extended itself, squandered its national wealth on war and empire, and made too many enemies. I am very afraid that we are headed down the same path. Elitism, arrogance and waste in any form makes my blood boil. I believe that we are all God’s children, that God loves all of us equally and none of us has any reason to think we are better than anyone else. I believe that arrogance clouds good judgment. And waste is something we cannot afford.

Fundamentally, Pennies For Democracy is about core American values like: Liberty, fairness, self-rule; the radical idea that BP should not be in charge of our country; and the radical idea that every one of us matters. Every one of us can be powerful. Every one of our voices and experiences is important. Every one of us has pennies. Every one of us can afford to donate pennies. And every one of us can spread the word.

Every one of us can participate in making our country a better place. From the homeless veteran to the 5-year-old child who will inherit the Earth to the person alone in a nursing home dying of cancer, to the adult with Down syndrome. The prisoner, the drug addict, the investment banker, the high school drop-out, the single teenage mother, and every last one of us. Every one of us is worthy. Every one of us is enough. God loves us all. Even you, Chief Justice Antonin Scalia.

On a deeper level, I tell you my personal story and beliefs humbly because we all have stories worth telling about who we are and why got involved in Pennies For Democracy. As this project develops I look forward to hearing your stories as well. But for now, we need to focus on our purpose:

To organize and collect as many pennies as we can to take back and repair our broken system and our fractured communities. We might even repair ourselves a little bit in the process.

Thank you for listening. Let’s go collect some pennies!

Billy Wimsatt

Founder and Penny-Pincher-In-Chief

Pennies For Democracy

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I only have this one photo of pennies on my floor and I’m going to keep on using it until someone with more tech skills decides to help me out.