The People Power Newsletter - February 2015

Hundreds of protesters came together across the country on January 21st, marking the fifth anniversary of Citizens United.  Even as we protest this anniversary, it is important to remember how money in politics affects everything we care about.  Defense contractors and private prison operators contribute profits from public contracts to get more contracts even as they use their influence to push policies that favor them, such as increased troop deployment or tougher sentencing guidelines.  

 

America Speaks Up

The FEC closed its comment period on campaign finance reform and disclosure in January with over 32,000 comments submitted. This should prove once and for all how important this issue is to the American people.  Way to go!


Key Civil Rights Victory Under Threat

New court decisions, lack of federal action, and racially biased implementation of state voting laws all impede access to the ballot box, which makes income inequality worse as the poor are already significantly less likely to vote .  The president continues to push on the Voting Rights Act, however, and Rand Paul leads a related fight by pushing to restore felon voting rights in Kentucky.


No Play for Criminal Companies

A Minnesota Congressman has an innovative idea of banning contributions from criminal corporations – including any companies that were convicted of crimes and companies who agreed to settlements of one million dollars or more in relation to criminal activity.


Chicagoans Overwhelmingly Vote for Public Financing

A Maine legislator, elected three times as a publicly financed candidate, appreciates the system for freeing him from the stress and dependency of fundraising and creating a more diverse group of candidates in both parties.

Activists in Maine are working on an initiative to address a Supreme Court decision that prohibits automatic matching grants to candidates facing well-funded private opponents, resulting in significant drops in participation for programs in Maine, Arizona and other states.  Connecticut and San Francisco, meanwhile, are exploring options to counter outside spending against publicly financed candidates.


It Isn’t Corruption if It’s For Your Inaugural Bash & We Don’t Know About It

Incoming or reelected governors across the country are raising millions of dollars for their inaugural celebrations, often in large contributions from corporations they regulate and generally without telling us who is funding them.  [Also, see what Stephen Colbert’s lawyer learned about secret SuperPACs and check out what Vermont is doing on electronic disclosure – even as US Senators file their reports on paper.]


Independent Redistricting Gaining Steam in Some States

A Virginia Senate committee recently passed legislation to create an independent redistricting commission, while the Senate majority leader in Indiana, where similar legislation died without a vote in the previous session, is calling for reforms.   OneVirginia2021 is working for a constitutional amendment to end gerrymandering even as another Virginia group is filing suit against the current gerrymandered districts.


Citizens United: Corporate Gift that Will Keep on Giving

What happens when corporations take the arguments that they used to win Citizens United and apply it to other areas of law? Let’s hope we don’t have to see that world fully come to fruition.  

Wisconsinites may get the chance to join other states and municipalities in voicing their opposition to Citizens United and corporate personhood via a referendum supporting a constitutional amendment similar to the one US Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced.


Scandals Spark Pushes for Ethics Reform

Former New York Speaker Sheldon Silver’s fall from grace over using his public position to enrich himself illustrates a common theme in state, local and often even federal politics: intentional failure by legislators to pass strong, clear ethics laws and a failure to create an effective enforcement agency for whatever laws do exist in order to protect activity that should be illegal.  Often, these stories coming out spark calls for reform, as is happening in New York and several other states that have recently seen scandals.  Will these go anywhere if public attention dies down?


ACTION

A group from 99Rise called the Supreme Court 7 interrupted the Court’s deliberations to remind them that the American people do not accept that decision - and were then arrested, charged and held overnight.  Sign the petitionshowing your support for the Supreme Court 7 protestors, who go to trial this spring.

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