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(Rancho Mirage, CA) -- Here in sunny Rancho Mirage, it’s a typical progressive gathering–lots of energy, but the wifi in the conference room was kaput. Oh, well, we still heard a great panel to kick off the rally against the Koch Bros. not-so-secret political gathering at a posh resort East of Palm Springs. In a nutshell: We must fight against Citizens United, the Supreme Court travesty that allows the Kochs and other megabillion corporations take over our political system in secret with unlimited and hidden political money.

Get the background on all of this in my previous post here.

The Koch-buster panelists were UC Irvine law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky, a chief constitutional law expert; Van Jones, whose groundbreaking work in Oakland showed the path to a green-jobs economy for the working class, Lee Fang, a hard-charging investigative journalist and Koch expert from Common Cause, and DeAnn McKeon, co-president of the California Nurses Association, a take-no-prisoners union.

The panel, sponsored by Common Cause, also fought back against the wimp factor in progressive politics. The short version: We can make inroads against the Kochs and their democracy-destroying buddies, but not by being depressed.

Here are a few of the key excerpts, in paraphrase, from Chemerinsky, who had the most specific statements. More to come later, with pictures from the rally:

The effect of Citizens United will be to distort our entire political system., and Citizens United is not the end of the anti-democratic campaign in the courts. Since 1907, the law has said corporations could not contribute directly to corporate office. Once Citizens United said that corporations are individuals, that it is speech under 1st amendment, there is every likelihood that this Supreme Court will allow corporations to contribute directly to candidates in unlimited amounts.

If judicial activism means anything, it means not overruling precedent. For the Tea Party, it means not following the words of the framers. In 1993, the Supreme Court held up the very provision that the Citizens United decision struck down. The difference? In 2010, Joseph Alito had replaced swing vote Sandra Day O’Connor.

The framers never intended to protect corporations, however. The Consitution is all about protecting individuals.

Sen. Charles Schumer has the best idea:

Prohibit corporations that do business with the federal government from spending on elections, taking as a model the laws that prevent federal employees from political contributions. State legislators should adopt such laws as well. It’s a way to start the fight and win it at the state and local level.