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Sending a message on money

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Many Vermonters are familiar with Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry's. You've probably walked past their flagship store on Church street. Cohen spent Saturday stamping dollar bills in downtown Burlington. "I think most people probably think I'm trying to get money out of them or I'm trying to get them to sign up for something" Cohen said. The message stamped on each bill reads, 'keep the money out of politics' or 'not to be used for bribing politicians'. He's hoping the currency will begin to circulate and get people asking questions. "I think it'll get people to at least look twice and think about it" Paul Dame of Essex Junction said, after getting his dollar bills stamped.

While the stamping is free and as Cohen's lawyer says, perfectly legal, Ben Cohen is selling something, an idea. "A constitutional amendment that will affirm that money is not free speech and corporations are not people" Cohen said. He's talking about Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that upheld the ruling that corporations have the same rights as people when it comes to campaign contributions, allowing corporations to pump undisclosed amounts of money into political campaigns.

"Politicians find it more efficient to go directly to the corporation to get money to reach the voters so that they can get in and implement their ideas" Paul Dame said. He says as a small business owner he can see the appeal of anonymity in campaign contributions, "if I had the money to combat some of these larger organizations then I would want to use it to get people in politics who care about citizens and the taxpayers".

Cohen is one of the original bank rollers of the occupy movement, as a benefactor of corporate America he says its important to use corporate power for good. "What we tried to do at Ben & Jerry's was to use our power in the interest of the community as a whole, instead of the norm which is for corporations to use their power for their own self interest" Cohen said.

Saturday's event served as a test run before the national kickoff which runs from June 30th to July 4th. That event will take place at the national occupy gathering in Philadelphia.

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