Ice Cream Icon Tries to Stamp Out Corporate Politics

Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's is leading a campaign to amend the constitution to put limit politcal spending.
Oct 1, 2012
Megan Bedard is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.

Watch your money in the next several months—your dollar bills could have a message for you. That message will come to you courtesy of Ben Cohen, cofounder of Ben and Jerry's, and no, it won't be news of the next new ice cream flavor on the docket.

The businessman and vocal social activist is rallying support to put politically loaded phrases on American currency. With the help of Americans willing to lend a hand (and purchase a stamp), Cohen is putting phrases like "Corporations Are Not People" and "Money Is Not Free Speech" on bills, with the goal of reversing the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. On the basis of First Amendment rights, the 2010 Citizens United decision removed limits on independent spending by corporations and individuals for political purposes.

Allowing corporations to act as people in their political donations, Cohen says, is "opposed to the general benefits of the society and the world."

To get his message out, Cohen is selling rubber stamps at cost on, which people can buy and use to help spread the word. The Stamp Stampede estimates that if 100 people stamped 10 bills per day for one year, the bills could reach 300 million people through circulation. That's the entire population of the U.S. 

Cohen will also head out on a "shakedown" tour, reports the Huffington Post, riding in a van dubbed the "Amend-O-Matic" from San Francisco to Florida. On the way, he'll be spreading awareness and handing out stamps.

Though Cohen is the owner of a food company, it's not just food he's worried about.

"No matter which issues you care about—the environment, education, poverty, the mortgage crisis, student debt, Wall Street banks—the root cause of the problem can be traced back to corporations and the wealthy bribing politicians," Cohen said in a recent press release.

Though some are sure to react negatively to a political message on paper none of us can avoid, Cohen says that's part and parcel for anyone who tries to get a message out to the public, noting "usually some people are pissed off."

Besides, if he reaches the scale he hopes to, that will mean at least a good chunk of people are on board, volunteering their time and energy to share his message. And that could mean change from above.

"As more and more stamped currency spreads," says a statement on Stampstampede, "so will the movement to amend the Constitution."

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