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Exclusive Audio: Brothers embark on walk across America to fight corporate personhood

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Two brothers in their late sixties are setting out on a journey they hope will “restore democracy to America.” Starting out from San Francisco, Robin and Laird Monahan have begun a 3000-mile hike that will take them across ten states to Washington, DC.

Along the way, the Monahans hope to rally opposition to the controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Citizens United v. FEC. As the Times-Standard pointed out in a short piece on the Monahan brothers, the decision overturned sections of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, and ruled that corporations are entitled to some of the same rights as people.

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RAW STORY caught up with them on foot outside Sacramento after they were interviewed on Davis Community Television.

“The Citizens United decision was just a hammer blow to me,” Laird Monahan told RAW STORY. “Frankly, I was despondent for a couple of days. I just thought the end of my country had come to pass.”

After long talks with his wife, Laird was only growing angrier. “I just said, I gotta do something. I gotta do something physical, I gotta make a physical sacrifice to restore democracy to America.”

The hike will total more than 3000 miles and the brothers plan to descend on the Lincoln Memorial before election day in November.

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“The idea that appealed to me greatly was the idea of seeing the United States a much slower pace, perhaps three miles per hour as opposed to seventy miles per hour,” said Robin. “For the most part, our route will follow very closely Highway 50. It goes through ten states, through middle America, and it gives us an opportunity to talk to people from the smaller towns in hopes of raising their awareness of the necessity of reducing corporate power by passing a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood.”

“The tipping point for me, as was for my brother,” he added, was that the decision “not only recognized corporations as persons, but also identified money as speech.”

In an interview with their childhood hometown newspaper, the International Falls Daily Journal, Laird clarified, “Let me say at the beginning, I think freedom of speech is one of our greatest achievements in democracy, and corporations are an essential part of our economy, but corporations are creations of people. And originally, they were chartered with the obligation of existing for the public good.”

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“They have gained more power over the years and influenced our Congress, all of our legislators, to pass laws,” Laird told RAW STORY. “They wrote their own regulations and then they appointed their own regulators. So the American people have no real control over any corporation.”

Slowing to make his point clear, Laird issued a resolute call to action in his smoky baritone. “What really needs to happen is for the American people to rise up, get off our knees and say we’ve had enough and we’re going to elect people who represent us,” he said.

Stopping completely, his eyes began to well up and he added, “It may take several elections, and maybe not in my lifetime, but I hope it does and I hope it happens soon that we’ll have enough elected representatives to pass an amendment to the Constitution to abolish corporate personhood. And then it has to be ratified by the states. All of our legislators should promise to represent us in this effort.”

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Cheerfully, Robin talked about his youngest son, who supports Dad’s decision. “He sacrificed his stash of Tootsie Rolls to speed us on our walk,” he laughed.

“And they were good too,” Laird chimed in. “Right now the only contributors to our fund are ourselves. We’re hoping that Exxon will come in with a half a million bucks.”

“And Nike will come across with new shoes,” Robin chirped back, sarcastically.

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The Monahans are documenting their travels on Facebook and Twitter, as well as on their own blog, which included a note about their toe-dipping visit to the Pacific Ocean on day one of the walk across the country.

They have been endorsed by Move to Amend, a joint project of more than 50 organizations dedicated to overturning the Citizens United decision. Though the Monahan brothers went to boot camp together in 1964, and Laird served in Vietnam, neither belongs to VFW, Veterans for Peace or any other veterans group.

“I feel as though I’m back in service with my country, for my country,” Laird stated unequivocally. “I was a volunteer from 1964 to 1968, I served in the Navy. Now I’m volunteering to save my constitution from corporate interests. I’m doing this because I’m tired of writing letters that don’t get answered and signing petitions that have no effect.”

This audio is from RAW STORY’s Gavin Dahl, uploaded May 23, 2010.

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