Corporations Have Seized the State - We Need Global Tools to Fight Them

2017-02-01-1485924718-7044605-170123donaldtrumpexecutiveorder1215p_cdb7ca295c323a8378a2104e4f574567.nbcnewsux28801000.jpg

Donald Trump's presidency is the inevitable outcome of giving corporate money unbridled access to government, and represents nothing less than a Corporate Coup d'État in America. In a Democracy Now interview on Inauguration Day, Naomi Klein recently said as much.

"It takes the mask off, right? Because these companies... I mean, they already had a huge amount of influence, but now it's almost like they're tired of playing the game, they're tired of the cajoling and the bankrolling and the legalized bribery, and they're just going to do the job themselves--you know, cut out the middleman."

We began the Knowmore.org Project in 2005, in the aftermath of a brutal presidential campaign. The premise was simple: create an ethical profile of every major multi-national corporation, easily searchable by brand, product, or company. When your vote doesn't count, vote with your wallet.

Curious about the labor practices of a shoe company? Enter a name in the search bar and see a summary of the company's history and rating across five categories: Worker's Rights, Human Rights, Environmental Concerns, Political Influence, and Business Ethics.

As we began profiling companies, it became necessary to branch out and begin covering widespread issues of corporate misbehavior. We found ourselves reporting on predatory lending practices three years before the "unforeseeable" financial crisis of 2008. We talked about the dangers of Corporate Personhood, PACs, and corporate money in politics five years before Citizens United vs. FEC. A decade ago we were talking about privatization of water rights and Rex Tillerson's Exxonmobil funding climate change denial, and we were far from the first!

Again and again, we followed the threads of far-reaching social justice issues back to corporate abuse. From attacks on net neutrality and privacy, to the school-to-prison pipeline, to the military industrial complex and the money in militarized policing, remarkably few companies openly profit from the many crises people face at every level around the globe.

Over the past decade, Knowmore.org covered the entire Global Fortune 500 and then some. We created an award winning browser extension that displayed company ratings while you shopped online. We also produced definitive research on companies and unearthed previously unseen evidence and information.

Most importantly, we learned that when even a relatively small group of people act on companies via boycott or divestment, they can make them change their behavior or lose their business. There is important grassroots power in that. The most recent examples that come to mind are Greenpeace UK's targetting of Shell (via Lego, brilliantly) which caused Shell to abandon Arctic Drilling. In another inspiring victory, The Afrikan Black Coalition recently pushed the University of California to terminate $475 million worth of contracts from Wells Fargo over that company's business in private prisons.

The deep corporate ties of Donald Trump's billionaire cabinet have been well documented. Trump is himself a brand and a company few of us believe has been properly insulated from conflicts of interest. We find ourselves looking to Democrats for leadership, when they themselves have taken millions from the same Defense, Pharmaceuticals, Investment Banks and Insurance Companies. Coincidentally, both of my Democrat Senators have voted "Yes" on all of Trump's appointees so far.

I still believe we need global tools like Knowmore.org, to document our common enemies and provide us with their names and phone numbers, while giving us the history and coordination to resist with. The same companies poisoning water in India are abusing workers in Columbia; the same banks invest in pipelines and private prisons. We need more Corporate Whistleblowers. More strategizing. More tracking and independent reporting, as our traditional failsafes are disassembled and our world is privatized.

If you agree, please share this article and the crowd-sourcing campaign to fund the website for a year. Our $100,000 goal is meant to hire a director for the organization and re-launch the website.

For more information and backstory on the project, watch the video below: