With the 6 year anniversary of Citizens United this month, there has been lots of reflection about how our democracy is impacted by wealthy interests and outside spending. We’ve seen huge increases in political spending at all levels of government – but we’ve also seen a reform movement that’s led to people-powered victories in Tallahassee, Maine, Seattle and other cities and states across the country. It may be a long, concentrated fight, but this last year has shown that we will win!
ACTION OF THE MONTH
POTUS Agitates for Change on Elections, Especially Gerrymandering
President Obama used his State of the Union to push for broad election reforms, including fighting gerrymandering with bipartisan commissions, reducing the role of money and making it easier to vote. Obama said he would use his term to push action on these issues across the country.Read more
What a year! So much craziness, both in the presidential primary and with money in politics, specifically. Even now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is continuing his favorite holiday tradition of using the must-pass budget bill to pass campaign finance laws to strengthen political parties, this time by allowing parties to spend unlimited amounts in direct coordination with candidates. This will allow candidates to raise significantly MORE money for their campaigns, using the party as a money laundering machine and giving parties significant more control over candidates. Merry Christmas America, just what we wanted!
ACTION OF THE MONTH:
President to Respond to Requests for Executive Action on Disclosure
Over 110,000 people have signed a petition on WhiteHouse.gov calling for the president to use the IRS, SEC and FCC to act to improve disclosure of elections. This meets the threshold of 100,000 required to receive an official response from the White House. The president has been hit this month for failing to match action to rhetoric on campaign finance reform, This Is His Chance!Read more
This month's off-year elections had some major battles to get money out of our elections, and WE WON BIG! Voters in Maine and Seattle passed major campaign funding reforms that included different forms of public financing, while Ohio voters reformed their redistricting process to prevent gerrymandering for the state legislature. These elections demonstrate what reformers have long been arguing: there's deep bipartisan support for fundamental reform to reclaim our democracy, all that we need is strong reform proposals. When we have those, we win every time!
ACTION OF THE MONTH
A coalition of reform groups has collected an estimated 850,000 signatures calling for President Obama to sign an executive order forcing government contractors to reveal their political spending, which are being dropped off on November 10th! Join a national call-in supporting this effort by dialing 1-888-894-6720 and leaving your message for the president.
CA, WA Voters May Be Heard on Citizens United
Last year, California lawmakers attempted to place a resolution (Prop 49) on the ballot calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, but the measure was delayed by the courts. The CA Supreme Court hearing seemed to go well and, fingers-crossed, it should be back on the ballot in 2016. Meanwhile, Washington residents are working hard to gather signatures to put a similar measure on their own ballot. If both states have initiatives for voters to decide, it should get the country talking...Read more
With Hillary Clinton coming out strong for public financing, the Democratic field has largely reached a consensus that money in politics is a critical issue and that public financing with matching funds is an important tool to address it. Republican voters agree, with 62% of Republicans favoring a system of matching funds, a clear opportunity for a candidate brave enough to seize it. Here’s a great video highlighting key positions from many of the major candidates in both parties.
Study Reinforces that Mandatory Voting would Create More Healthy Democracy
A new Brookings Institute study looks at Australia, which implemented mandatory voting in 1924, and finds that a universal voting requirement would increase participation by groups less likely to vote, increase electoral competition and reduce hyperpolarization. The authors acknowledge this is unlikely, but hope it will spur attempts to ease voting difficulties and restrictions.Read more
Money in politics is taking on a key role in the presidential primaries of both parties. Corruption has already been a major issue in the Democratic primary, even before Lawrence Lessig announced he is exploring a referendum presidential campaign with the promise of passing campaign finance reform and resigning. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is the most explicit in criticizing a system that turns politicians into “puppets” for wealthy interests, but his solution is to elect one of those wealthy interests directly and hasn't ruled out taking money from Super PACs either. Jeb Bush, meanwhile, has proposed a six year lobbying ban for former Congressmembers – an improvement, but short of the lifetime of no lobbying pledge sought by gyrocopter pilot Douglas Hughes. People are organizing a campaign around Doug's trial calling for candidates for Congress to take the pledge.
ACTION OF THE MONTH:
Sign the Money In Politics A To Z Guide Overturn Citizens United Petition and share the contest with artistic friends.
Movement for Reform Amendment Draws from Same Spirit as Women’s Suffrage Movement
Almost a hundred years ago, the United States was in a protracted battle to overturn a Supreme Court decision that harmed our democracy by denying that women had a Constitutional right to vote. It took years of effort, but the People won and our democracy took a step forward. We will do it again.Read more
The biggest political story of June and July has, of course, been Donald Trump. Beyond his bombastic personality, his presence in the presidential race demonstrates many of the inherent problems of making our political system dependent on money. Trump stormed into the race, quickly hired talent away from other conservative groups, and will have the money to make sure that everyone in the country hears his message. Even if he doesn't win, his presence completely reshapes the race and drives up costs for other candidates.
ACTION OF THE MONTH
A fun and exciting way to participate this month is to join this video contest. Democracy for All is offering thousands of dollars for short, creative videos about money in politics. Submit a video between August 12 and December 2 for a chance at a weekly prize of $1,000 and a variety of larger prizes at the end of the contest.
First Person Ever Sentenced to Jail over Coordination, While WI Supreme Court Dismantles Coordination Rules
Tyler Harber was sentenced to two years in jail for working as a campaign manager for a Virginia candidate while helping create a Super-PAC and directing it to spend $325,000 in attack ads.
However, don't expect this to lead to convictions for 2016 campaigns despite blatant coordination, because two FEC commissioners had to petition their own agency to do its job. Over in Wisconsin, the Supreme Court ended an investigation into whether Gov. Scott Walker illegally coordinated with outside groups, effectively making coordination limits in the state meaningless. Notably, some of these groups also provided millions of dollars in campaigns supporting two of the justices involved in the decision. Walker's support for a publicly-funded stadium owned by a major supporter of his presidential campaigns has also raised questions.Read more
Pressure continues to build to get someone to do something about money in politics – the SEC could easily require disclosure of political spending by public companies, the Treasury Department and the IRS are considering a rule to define political activity by non-profits, and/or President Obama could require all government contractors to disclose their political spending through an executive order.
Many Senators and Congress members are responding to public pressure and signing a letter calling on the President to act, but some are responding in a far different way. Sadly, the House Appropriations Committee approved a provision in the financial services spending bill that would specifically prohibit any of those actions. Defenders of “money as speech” have moved from arguing the right to give unlimited amounts to the right to do so without us knowing anything about it.
ACTION OF THE MONTH
If you find that as disgusting as we do, call the President Obama today asking him to sign an executive order so that all federal contractors must disclose their political spending. The number is 855-980-5638.
Supreme Court Upholds Independent Redistricting Commissions, Lower Court Invalidates Virginia Districts
The Supreme Court rejected an argument that the U.S. Constitution held that only state legislatures could regulate elections including redistricting, protecting independent redistricting commissions created by voters to prevent gerrymandering. Meanwhile, in another case likely to head to the Supreme Court, a U.S. District Court ruled that Virginia legislators did exactly what independent commissions are meant to prevent - illegally packing minority voters into a district in order to help obtain an 8-3 advantage in the Congressional delegation for their party. Similarly, 27 plaintiffs in North Carolina have filed a lawsuit claiming that they and other minority voters were intentionally packed into districts to dilute their impact.
SIGN Common Cause's petition to bring redistricting to more states.Read more
This past Wednesday, grassroots activists in seven cities across the United States held banner drops across the United States calling on the president to sign an executive order that would require government contractors to disclose political spending. Organized by 99Rise, these banner drops are the latest example of acts of civil disobedience taken to spur a national movement on campaign finance reform.
If you haven't, take a moment to sign the half-million strong petition, then check out some of these moving protests!
It’s a crazy time for those of us who care about cleaning up our government. The Race for Money on the campaign trail is dominating the conversation for the 2016 elections, as our current system proves increasingly unable to enforce or create any coherent restrictions. Candidates can't stop talking about the role of money in politics, but they also can't stop driving sixteen wheelers through our campaign finance law loopholes, raising record amounts, developing new ways around coordination limits and, as Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's points out, haven't really proposed any significant reforms.
Courts say we can't restrict corporate spending, but when one of us speaks out with a dramatic act of civil disobedience, he is threatened with NINE YEARS in jail. The FEC is completely stalemated, unable to pursue most enforcement actions. There are even stories about foreign porn companies trying to influence our elections – legally! What is going on?!?!
Fortunately a lot of us are working to fight back. So here's a rundown of the latest.
Hawaii Ban on Contributions from Government Contractors Upheld
As if there weren’t enough reasons to want to live in Hawaii, a federal appeals court ruled that, even in the wake of recent Supreme Court decisions, the danger of pay to play with government contractors is a sufficient reason to ban contributions from them.Read more
This has been an exciting month in the effort to Get Money Out! Not only has our campaign to encourage President Obama to require disclosure of political spending by federal contractors gotten off to a rousing start, but we’ve seen major successes across the country, including a surprise Supreme Court ruling. Meanwhile, presidential candidates of both parties have questioned the current system and proposed reforms.
Executive Order: Call to Action
Since we kicked off our campaign to require contractors to disclose political spending, we have seen support build from every corner - over 600,000 petitions, 6,000 phone calls to the White House in one day and a letter from US Senators calling on Obama to sign the order. The White House is said to be considering the executive order – but that’s been the case since May 2011! We’ve got some major momentum and need to put pressure on them to follow through. Here’s how you can help.
Find your Senator to set up a meeting or call your to tell them why you think it’s important and why they should be a leader on the issue.
Write a letter to the editor (this web site simplifies the process greatly!)
Tweet us about the interactions @Pay2PlayTVRead more