The People Power Newsletter - January 2015

On January 19th, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we honor his struggle and the changes that the civil rights movement brought, but even as we do so, it's important to remember that the vote for equality at the ballot box continues in many ways. New voting laws meant that millions faced greater limits on voting last year, restrictions that are often similar to poll taxes of King's era. The cost of campaigns and outside spending reinforce racial inequalities by making candidates dependent on rich, primarily white donors. Post Citizens United, this has only exacerbated the fact that "old white men" retain power in places like Ferguson even when they are in the minority. It's up to each generation to protect equality in the electoral process, both for voters and for candidates. 

Fifth Anniversary of Citizens United - Month of Action

On January 21 - the 5th anniversary of Citizens United - Public Citizen is working with a broad coalition of allies to organize a rally at the Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC. After the most expensive mid-term election in history, and with a U.S. Congress even more dominated by the corporate agenda, hundreds of activists will gather to shed light on the Chamber of Commerce's attacks on our democracy, our jobs, and our environment. It's time to call the Chamber out. It represents the largest multinational corporations while claiming to represent small business. It hides its election spending while supporting policies to export jobs and gut laws that keep markets fair and competitive and our air and water safe and clean. If the Chamber is bent on drowning us out, it's time we raised our voices. If you're in DC, join them at noon in Lafayette Park on January 21 to raise your voice for democracy! If you're in New Hampshire - join the NH Rebellion March for Democracy Year 2. Check out this map to find an event near you. Don't see one nearby? It's not too late to organize! Also join us online - January 14th 3-5pm EST/12-2pm PT, a REDDIT AMA (AKA an online chat) We're Working to Overturn Citizens United - Ask Us Anything


Party Leaders Secretly Negotiate Deal that Greatly Expands Party Contribution Limits

This has been a rough month for campaign finance reform advocates, with Congress secretly negotiating a major rollback of campaign finance reform laws, opening new floodgates for big donors to influence candidates and parties. Party leadership on both sides made sure they got what they wanted at the expense of we the people. Moreover, the financial reform rollbacks provide a clear example of the influence of money and pay to play in the modern era. PACs gave an average of $9,979 to Representatives who voted for the new rollbacks, nearly three times the average donated to Representatives who voted against the bill.


Third State Calls for Constitutional Convention to Overturn Citizens United

On December 3, 2014, Illinois became the third state to call for a Constitutional Convention under Article V of the United States Constitution that would propose amendments to allow elected officials to regulate spending in elections and specifically overturn Citizens United. 34 states are required for a convention, which could propose amendments on any issue to pass with approval of 38 states. Delegates who support using this method attended the third annual Assembly of State Legislatures in Washington DC in December, an event where legislators from both parties discussed the possibility of calling a Constitutional Convention on issues ranging from campaign finance reform to limiting the size of the federal government.


Publicly Financed Candidates Triumph, Face More Competition

Two reports out on public financing programs indicate that strong programs can create successful candidates, more competition and helps create a more reflective democracy. At the state level, Connecticut and Maine's strong public financing programs resulted in 84% and 58% of winning candidates using the program, respectively, while Arizona, which has seen it's program gutted by the courts, resulted in 16% program winners. In the most recent New York City elections, nearly all primary candidates (92%) and 72% of general election candidates used public financing. In CT and ME, winning women candidates were significantly more likely to use public financing than men, while NYC's program has resulted in significantly more competition and diversity on the City Council. Note: It's important to remember that any system is open to exploitation, as seen in two statewide Florida races where hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent without significant competition.


Kochs Sue Over CA Disclosure Law, Federal Agencies Considering New Disclosure Rules

The Koch brothers have filed suit against California for stifling political speech by requiring a nonprofit to disclose all of its donors. Even the Supreme Court in its Citizen's United decision has stressed that disclosure requirements are an important way to inform voters and could be easily done online in today's day and age. Other than the courts, we have three administrative bodies that could take steps to increase disclosure, all of which, unlike the courts, seek and consider public opinion - so here are 3 things you can do to make your opinion public! 1. The FEC wants public input on disclosure and other issues related to campaign finance by January 15; sign a petition here. (They are having a hearing on February 11, 2015) 2. Write to the FCC and demand that they enforce compliance of their current disclosure rules. and tell them you support the decision to broaden disclosure laws. The FCC voted to broaden disclosure laws covering television broadcasters to include cable, DBS systems and radio systems, which would require them to post all public files, including political advertising spending, online. 3. You can join over one million people in telling the SEC to require disclosure of campaign contributions.


Ohio Legislature Submits Gerrymandering Reform Initiative to Voters

The Ohio legislature approved a plan intended to reduce gerrymandering in the political process by prohibiting partisan consideration when drawing maps. The plan would also expand the state's current commission and hold that if the members of the minority party on the commission did not approve the plan, the districts would only be valid for four years. The legislature approved this plan partly to reduce the likelihood of voters approving a stronger reform plan. This plan does not apply to Congressional districts, however, due to a pending Supreme Court case that could invalidate any voter-approved changes to rules governing the drawing of these districts. Common Cause Indiana is also leading a coalition pushing to take redistricting out of the hands of the legislature. Action: Rootstrikers are calling on the Department of Justice to investigate racially gerrymandered districts under what remains of the Voting Rights Act - sign the petition! Bonus activity: Common Cause is sponsoring a competition to develop a legal standard of partisan gerrymandering to satisfy the Supreme Court - any lawyers or scholars out there should give it a shot!


How Mandatory Voting Would Help Democracy

At Occupy.com, Eleanor Goldfield explores reasons why people do not vote, the impact this has on our system and how mandatory voting could reinvigorate our democracy, especially for young voters. With mandatory voting legislators would be forced to appeal to a broad range of constituents, reducing their reliance on corporate money to get them through an election. And voters, knowing that they will be voting in each election, will pay more attention, hopefully forcing legislators to get more done.


Two Politicians Face the Consequences

Representative Michael Grimm, who recently pleaded guilty to a felony tax charge, resigned from the US House of Representatives. Grimm claimed that in the wake of his prior activity, he would no longer be able to fully commit to his position in Congress. Grimm admitted to failing to report almost $1 million from his 3-year-old restaurant called Healthalicious. Surprisingly, many of Grimm's donors do not regret supporting the felon financially, but are upset by the notion he'll be absent in Congress. And Ex-Governor Bob McDonnell was convicted for corruption charges. He will now face 2 years in prison for trading favors in return for $177,000 in loans, vacations, and gifts. Many argue that 2 years is not enough time for the crime the ex-governor committed. Prosecutor Michael S. Dry, an assistant U.S. attorney, stated: "Corrupt governors are not [a dime a dozen]. But when we find one, the official must be brought to justice."


CALL TO ACTION

Get Money Out groups across the country are working hard to get 5 MILLION SIGNATURES by the 5th Anniversary of Citizens United (They are already close to 4 MILLION!) on the various petitions to Overturn Citizens United. Sign this petition

A huge thank you to Dallas Cole from Democracy Trending for help in putting this together!

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