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The 99% Movement Has Something for Everyone -- But Is it Occupy?

How will the 99% Spring impact the Occupy Movement?

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For anyone involved in Occupy Wall Street, the menu of upcoming corporate targets is an appetizing lineup, such as Walmart, Bank of America, Peabody Coal, Amazon, WellPoint and Occidental Petroleum. Noticeably absent are politicians, however, which is probably intentional. The 99% Movement employs the ideas and language of Occupy Wall Street towards ends diametrically opposed to it: support for Democratic Party candidates up to and including President Obama. Protesting corporations but not the politicians who work hand in hand with them is a crafty way to redirect Occupy’s energy away from the Democratic Party, which is as much an object of Occupy Wall Street’s ire as the Republicans.

Ruben does not deny this is the strategy. “We are the 800-pound gorilla, and we work very actively on elections, including supporting Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates. If you think that is a terrible idea and you’re worried about energy from the movement that you love going into elections then MoveOn is an obvious target.”

Ruben claims the the  99% Voter Pledge also drew inspiration from Occupy Wall Street, but the pledge is so watered down from the  original OWS Declaration  – “Make the wealthiest one percent pay their fair share,” “Create good jobs now,” “Stop cuts to vital services” and “Represent people, not corporations” – that Obama could endorse them, which again is probably the point.

Van Jones has been leading this push to rebrand candidates. Days after Occupy Wall Street was evicted From Zuccotti Park last November he  claimed the next phase of the movement was “recruiting 2,000 candidates to run for office now under this 99% banner.” (More recently Jones says  we should pitch talk of class war overboard because it is dragging down the movement. He claims, “The real enemy is not the 1 percent,” while skirting the reality that it was class politics from below that filled the sails of the Occupy Wall Street movement, propelling it onto the national stage.)

This unified brand strategy of the 99% Movement is evident in a media advisory dated April 24-25 from  BerlinRosen, a “ communications consultancy” based in New York. Announcing a “New Wave of 99% Activism To Hold Big Corporations Accountable Over CEO Pay, Tax Avoidance, Jobs,” the advisory explains, “protestors in the  99% will risk arrest to disrupt Fortune 100 corporations’ shareholder meetings nationwide in the coming weeks.” The release noted “the protests are being organized by the 99% Spring,” and said, “For more information, visit  www.the99power.org and www.99uniting.org.”

According to its Web site,  BerlinRosen’s clients include SEIU and  MoveOn.org Political Action, which calls itself “one of the largest Political Action Committees in the country.” MoveOn.Org Civic Action is the force behind the 99% Spring, however. As a 501 (c)(4), Civic Action is supposed to avoid activity involving the endorsement of political candidates. Ruben took pains to make this distinction, saying, “Our work through the 99% Spring specifically is done through our C4, and we do almost all of our political work through our PAC, which is MoveOn.org Political Action.” This crossover may cause it problems as a number of people say MoveOn is distinguishing between its two arms to get people on board with the 99% Spring who are otherwise wary of electoral politics. And to top it off, BerlinRosen’s client roster includes Brookfield Properties –  the “owner” of Zuccotti Park.

This double-dealing reeks of inside-the-beltway power brokers who play both sides of the aisle, which stoked the popular outrage that fed the Occupy Wall Street movement. Four years ago Barack Obama vowed to repeal the Bush tax cuts, make union organizing easier and put America back to work. Instead his administration has attacked teacher and autoworker unions, the real unemployment rate is close to  15 percent, social services are being throttled nationwide as non-financial corporations hoard $1.24 trillion in cash,  one in 69 homes was hit with a foreclosure filing in 2011, and not one Wall Street or bank executive has been jailed for perpetrating the biggest economic crime in history.

 
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