As part of the StampStampede campaign, Cohen and other activists affiliated with the are selling stamps, at cost, that can beused to put political messages on dollar bills. The goal is to amend the Constitution and reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which removes limits on independent spending by corporations and individuals for political purposes.
The ice cream icon opened up the first Ben and Jerry’s ice cream parlor in Vermont, with friend Jerry Greenfield back in 1977. As Ben and Jerry’s gradually grew into a nationwide business and one of the largest ice cream companies in the U.S., Cohen turned his new-found wealth and prominence toward social causes.
For Cohen, the initial reason for starting a movement like Stamp Stampede was due to previous efforts in shifting money from cold war weapon systems to social needs such as education, healthcare, and housing. The problem was that the efforts weren’t getting anywhere and it all boiled down to political corruption due to influxes of money coming from certain parties, he says. The campaign is a response to the fact that over 80 percent of Republicans and Democrats want to get money out of politics, and yet nothing has been done about it.
“When the Occupy movement started, it showed me that it was possible to have a massive grassroots movement, and that it was necessary in order to pass the constitutional amendment,” Cohen says. “It became clear that the huge majority of grievances that occupy had was due with money in politics.”
The Stamp Stampede estimates that every bill stamped will be seen by 876 people over the course of its life. The inspiration to use dollar bills as a medium for political activism was inspired by previous stamping efforts such as “Where’s George?”, a website that tracks the circulation of bills geographically. Stamping, says Cohen, can be done anywhere and anytime at the convenience of all citizens.
To spread the word, Cohen and his team will be traveling in a van called the “Amend-O-Matic” on a tour that will continue until it reaches Florida in December.
So far, the journey has gone well for Cohen.
“I love San Francisco, it’s my favorite city,” Cohen says. “I used to live in North Beach and had a beautiful view of the bay and the ships going by. It’s great to be here and have the support of so many people, there’s a lot of good folk here in San Francisco. I also finally had the chance to go to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Loved that.”
Tags: Ben and Jerry's, Ben Cohen, Campaign, Ice Cream, Occupy, politics, Stamps