Last night, The Observer ran into Russell Simmons at a gala for the Somaly Mam Foundation. Wearing a bow-tie and a wide brim Yankees cap, the veteran vegan and Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations waxed political with us before dinner. Although the the fashion/music mogul was being honored at the event for his commitment to combating human trafficking, he spoke to us about another cause he has recently supported: Occupy Wall Street.
“It crystallized to me when I saw a sign, ‘I bought this sign because I couldn’t afford a politician,’” Mr. Simmons explained. “And I just knew…that the lobbyists’ influence, and…corporate money’s influence, in Washington was a deterrent to the real process of democracy,” he said, speaking excitedly, at times almost incomprehensibly. Mr. Simmons has been seen at the Occupy Wall Street protests multiple times in the past several weeks.
“No one wants to believe that the politicians are co-opted by corporations. That’s an American issue, it’s non partisan, that every voter should believe in… and that will really change a lot,” Mr. Simmons continued.
“Every single thing that ill affects the poor has some legislation promoted by some corporation that some politician yielded to. Instead of representing the people, he represented the corporation. And that’s really a major issue. So if we can stop the legal bribery in Washington, we can change the course of this country and get back to a true democracy,” he explained, exhibiting a healthy dose of cynicism.
“Somewhere in the world America is overlooking something because some politician is being paid legally to turn his head,” he said, going meta on us. “We go to war in part, a little bit, because some lobbyist said so. And that lobbyist is for a company whose making money off that war.”
Sensing that he had confused his message, he suddenly paused. “I didn’t say it simple enough,” he said. “We should stop the legal bribery of our politicians. The politicians should work for the people and not the corporations,” he said, consciously articulating each word. At this point, a handler swooped in and whisked Mr. Simmons away to his seat.
Vive la revolution, Monsieur Simmons!