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Can 'Occupy Wall Street' really get money out of politics?

While 'Occupy Wall Street' has avoided specifying demands, money in politics is a clear target. Supporters of campaign-finance reform hope the movement gives their cause momentum.

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It was a Canadian magazine, Adbusters, that may have lit the fuse for the Wall Street protests. The magazine, built around an anti-corporate message, called on Americans to adopt the spirit of the Arab Spring protests and "occupy Wall Street for a few months," focusing on "one demand."

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The magazine didn't try to dictate what the demand should be, but suggested that one promising idea would be to call for a presidential commission on ending the influence of money over elected officials.

To date, the Wall Street protesters haven't coalesced around specific demands. They have voiced a range of concerns, from a desire to reduce bank foreclosures on homes to the goal of a tax system in which the wealthy pay more. Many are young people who are mainly worried about the dearth of jobs and the size of their student loans.

If the protests continue and gather focus, it could be that several policy ideas – not just campaign finance reform – draw new strength from the movement.

But if the protests do currently have a central theme, it's the notion that a few – the "1 percent" (which appears to stand for both rich people and the corporations and banks they help control) – have an undue amount of power and have abused it.

For many of the protesters, this concern about the political system coincides with their everyday economic concerns.

Richard Coates is one of the people who recently attended a march against banks and corporations in Boston. He's a construction worker who's been mostly jobless since the housing downturn began during 2006.

After seeing videos of Occupy Wall Street on youtube, he says, he decided to show up for the Boston protest, because "I totally agree with what they're fighting for." In his view, the problems in the economy and with government policy all go back to a system in which corporations have too much influence.

"What's the difference between a bribe and a campaign contribution?" he asked, as he prepared to demonstrate outside Bank of America in Boston.

That sentiment may be emerging most strongly now on the political left, but political analysts see similar frustrations on the right.

A key challenge is that the two ends of the political spectrum also have mutual mistrust. Many on the right, for example, see the "Occupy" crowd as embracing big government at the expense of free-market liberty.

Some voices, however, have emerged recently in support of political change that transcends traditional political labels.

"This is a right-left issue if there ever was one," blogger Josh Silver wrote recently, supporting the idea of reforms that would revoke the legal notion that corporations are persons, and "reverse the January 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision that lifted the flood gates to unlimited corporate money in elections."

It's far too soon to know whether those who are pushing for a constitutional amendment will gain the steam they would need for passage. The discussion has just become more audible, though.

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