Last week New York became the 17th state to formally call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United. This landmark achievement came as the result of a multiyear collaborative campaign involving several advocacy groups including People For the American Way.
On behalf of the 156,000 PFAW members who live in New York, Government By the People Campaign Manager Rio Tazewell spoke at the state capitol in Albany on Wednesday to help commemorate this significant victory. After remarks from activists, organizational leaders, and lawmakers, a strategy session was held to discuss what comes next for democracy reform organizing in the state of New York.
Over twenty municipalities from across the state including Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, Mt. Vernon, Ithaca and New York City have passed resolutions supporting an amendment to the constitution. Moreover, since 2010 — the year of the Citizens United decision — nearly 700 cities and towns nationally have passed resolutions calling for an amendment and more than five million petition signatures have been gathered in support.
People in this country want a government that represents them and their interests. In New York and across the nation, poll after poll shows that reforming our big money system is a top priority for Americans. Not only does this win help affirm the hard work and value of partnerships on the ground between activists, organizations and lawmakers, it helps drive a national narrative that the days of Citizens United are numbered.
As the Democratic and Republican platform drafting committees gear up in advance of the party conventions, PFAW joined other national democracy organizations this week in submitting letters calling for the committees to include a comprehensive package of reform measures to fight big money in politics in the platforms.
Specifically, the groups called for the policy reforms outlined in the “Fighting Big Money” agenda — which was released by 13 reform organizations last year — to be incorporated. These measures include: a constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United, small donor public financing, a restoration of the Voting Rights Act, increased disclosure of political spending, and stronger enforcement of existing campaign finance rules.
The letters note that the presidential candidates have talked about the need to reform our big money system throughout their campaigns, and polling consistently shows that voters of all political backgrounds agree. With an overwhelming majority of Americans frustrated with our out-of-balance political system, incorporating a comprehensive reform agenda within the party platforms is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.
President Obama is Right to Use His Bully Pulpit to Highlight Money in Politics Issues; Should Take Concrete Action By Issuing an Executive Order
President Obama returned to Springfield, IL today, nine years after he announced his presidency, for a speech about “fixing our broken politics.” In the speech, the president emphasized his support for reforms to reduce the influence of big money in politics – including a constitutional amendment – as well as reforms to make it easier, rather than harder, to vote.
People For the American Way executive vice president Marge Baker released the following statement:
“We celebrate that President Obama is using his bully pulpit to call for expanded access to the voting booth and a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. Our democracy today isn’t working, and he’s right to call for change on a national stage.
“At the same time, the president’s legacy on this issue hinges on his willingness to move from calling for change to making change happen. Time is running out for President Obama to heed the call of more than a million Americans to issue an executive order on secret money. He should listen to the voices of people across the country and turn inspiring words into real reform.”
People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.
Following reports today that GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush supports overturning Citizens United but wants to allow unlimited contributions to candidates, People For the American Way executive vice president Marge Baker released the following statement:
“The vast majority of Americans oppose the Citizens United decision, including eight in ten Republicans, so it’s understandable that any candidate would want to go on the record opposing it. But replacing unlimited outside spending with unlimited contributions to candidates’ campaigns would not be real reform – not even close. The bottom line, which Bush still seems to miss, is that billionaires and wealthy special interests should not be able to pour unlimited money into our elections, period.”
It’s no secret that the Supreme Court’s misguided Citizens United decision in 2010 opened the floodgates for an influx of money into our elections. But a new report released today by PFAW and six other organizations highlights what else it did: energize a movement to fight big money in politics that’s made real progress in the six years since the decision was handed down.
As the report notes, since 2010:
As the 2016 presidential race sees an increasing focus on the problem of big money in politics, the magnitude of our country’s current crisis can make progress seem unlikely, or even impossible. But as this report outlines, change is already happening in cities and states across the country, as people organize in their own communities for solutions to make sure that our democracy is working for everyone – not just for billionaires and corporations.
You can read the full report here.
WASHINGTON – In a new report released today, “Our Voices, Our Democracy: Victories Since Citizens United and the Road Ahead Empowering Voters Over Wealthy Special Interests,” People For the American Way and six other national organizations leading the effort to empower voters over wealthy special interests document a national movement gaining steady momentum since the Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in Citizens United.
“Citizens United did more than usher in unprecedented outside spending – it also invigorated a national movement to ensure democracy for all that’s seen some real wins in the past six years,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president of People For the American Way. “Heading into the 2016 election, it’s critical that we continue to build on that momentum across the country.”
As the report notes: “Opportunities to reduce the influence of big money in elections are everywhere – in local towns and communities, in city halls and state legislatures, and in the White House and in Congress.”
According to the report:
In addition to outlining a strong, coordinated plan of action that will make 2016 a critical year for ensuring a government truly of, by, and for the people, the report summarizes the range of nationwide victories building momentum for change.
According to the report:
The organizations that authored the report – Center for Media and Democracy, Common Cause, Demos, Every Voice, People For the American Way, Public Citizen, and U.S. PIRG – conclude, “The debate about the problem of money in politics is over. The question is not ‘if’ but ‘when and how’ we will reform our democracy. The movement for common-sense, winnable solutions is paving the way forward – to a government truly of, by, and for the people.”
Americans Speak Up about Big Money in Politics as Part of Competition
to Produce Public Service Videos
WASHINGTON – Today the winners of the Democracy For All Video Challenge were announced at an event aimed at putting the issue of big money in politics front-and-center and creating a platform for people to express themselves and take action to support the Democracy For All Amendment. Two advocacy organizations, Say No To Big Money and People For the American Way, created the video challenge that encouraged Americans to produce public service announcements supporting the proposed Democracy For All Amendment.
Speaking at the National Press Club event was U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and U.S. Representative Ted Deutch (FL-21), who are lead cosponsors of the Democracy For All Amendment (H.J.Res.22, S.J.Res.5). The winning videos were announced by Academy Award-nominated actress Kathleen Turner, with Say No To Big Money president Jeff Haggin and People For The American Way president Michael Keegan and executive vice president Marge Baker also speaking.
The grand prize video, “Voters, assemble!” was created by Bryan Warner – a nonprofit communications director from Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina – and uses animation to depict a secret meeting between a group of villains who are plotting to nefariously influence politics by using big money. The video illustrates how easy it is for corporations and special interest groups to buy their way into Washington and influence policy in their favor. As the grand prize winner of the video challenge, Warner will receive $25,000.
“Americans are fed up with millionaires and billionaires pumping money into shadowy Super PACs to buy our elections,” said Sen. Udall. “And thanks to the Supreme Court’s flawed decisions, including Citizens United six years ago, Congress is powerless to pass common-sense campaign finance laws. That’s why I’m pushing for a constitutional amendment to overturn those bad decisions so we can get big money out of politics. Millions of Americans nationwide have joined this grassroots push, and the Democracy For All video challenge has been a creative way to amplify our cause. Each video speaks to the core of our message – voters should have the loudest voices in our democracy, not wealthy special interests.”
Congressman Deutch added, “A democracy for sale is not a democracy for all. Until we overturn Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United, corporations and a handful of billionaires will continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying our elections and setting the agenda in Washington. Like the Democracy for All Amendment, the Democracy for All video contest is about elevating the voices of everyday Americans who may not be able to afford their own Super PACs but who have every right to be heard.”
Awards were also given to five other videos, with the creators receiving $5,000 each. The winners were: “The Most Influential Man” (funniest video), “Voice of the 99” (most dramatic video), “American Show” (best original song), “Why Our Democracy Needs to be Changed” (best student video) and “Our Democracy is Not For Sale” (most creative video). All the winning videos can be viewed at www.democracyforall.com/winners.
“The Democracy For All Video Challenge was created to tap into the creative potential of Americans who support a constitutional amendment that allows for reasonable limits to be set on money in elections,” said Jeff Haggin, president of Say No To Big Money. “Instead of hiring an advertising agency to produce spots promoting campaign finance reform, we decided to enable the true voice of Americans to be heard and give people across the country a chance to earn money for their efforts.”
“This contest, like the amendment itself, was all about restoring the true spirit of the First Amendment,” added Marge Baker, executive vice president of People For the American Way. “There’s so much creative energy in the movement to get big money out of politics, and we wanted to put the voices of everyday Americans front and center.”
The Democracy For All Amendment, currently being considered by Congress with 144 cosponsors in the House and 41 supporters in the Senate, would overturn cases such as Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court case that paved the way for unlimited political spending by corporations and the super wealthy.
People For the American Way (PFAW) is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.More information is available at www.PFAW.org.
Say No To Big Money is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation for the public benefit with the mission of supporting the ratification of the Democracy For All Amendment that will regulate campaign contributions. Say No To Big Money is nonpartisan and does not promote or take sides on any political issues nor endorse candidates or elections. More information is available at www.SayNoToBigMoney.com.
NOTE TO MEDIA: Photography is available at: https://goo.gl/JX79zB.
# # #
We just won an important victory in our fight to create a democracy that is of, by and for the people. Earlier this week, Initiative 735, calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn cases like Citizens United and get big money out of politics, was certified by the Washington Secretary of State, meaning that after months of petition gathering the people of Washington state will be able to officially weigh in at the ballot box come November on the influence of big money in politics.
PFAW members were among those that played a decisive role in this effort, participating in phone banks, sign-on letters, and signature gathering efforts that led to this exciting accomplishment. Getting Initiative 735 on the ballot was no small feat; as recently as December more than 50,000 signatures remained to be collected. Yet due to the hard work put forth by the WAmend coalition, along with support from PFAW members and many allies, we collected enough signatures so that Washington has the opportunity to become the 17th state to support a constitutional amendment overturning Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United. Such an amendment is critical to getting big money out of politics, and members of Congress, major reform groups and millions of Americans agree.
Public opinion is clear: voters support campaign finance reform, and when given the chance to vote in favor of it, they do. Just this past November, voters in Seattle and Maine passed measures that put in place or strengthened programs to amplify the voices of ordinary people in elections, and to provide opportunities for candidates who want to be competitive in fundraising without being beholden to a few big donors. On the amendment front, more than 680 towns and cities have passed resolutions supporting an amendment to the Constitution, in addition to the sixteen states that have already done so.
While getting Initiative 735 on the ballot is a significant breakthrough, the work is far from over. We need to win this at the polls in November. Voters in Washington state now have the power to be next in line when it comes to taking a stand for our democracy. While big money continues to pour into the 2016 elections, initiatives like this one remind us that our system is ultimately still accountable to “We the People.”
At Mass Convergence on Washington, D.C., People Will Demand That Policymakers Address Barriers to Voting, Curb the Influence of Wealthy in Elections
WASHINGTON, D.C – Thousands of people will converge on Washington, D.C., this spring as part of an unprecedented movement to demand a democracy that works for all Americans, one in which everyone has an equal voice and elected officials are accountable to the people, not the wealthy.
The landmark three-day mobilization, called “Democracy Awakening” and scheduled for April 16-18, brings together two advocacy communities in one movement. Together, they will press for reform proposals focused both on restoring and expanding voting rights protections, and curbing the influence of wealthy interests and corporations on elections. Polls show that the public overwhelmingly agrees on the need for reforms in both arenas, but this will mark the first mass demonstration calling for change on both these fronts.
More than 100 groups representing a diverse array of issues are organizing Democracy Awakening. Lead organizations include the American Postal Workers Union, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, Democracy Initiative, Every Voice Center, Food & Water Watch, Franciscan Action Network, Greenpeace, NAACP, People For the American Way, Public Citizen, Student Debt Crisis and U.S. PIRG. A list of all endorsing organizations is available here.
Democracy Awakening will feature a rally and march on Sunday, April 17, as well as targeted actions at the “Congress of Conscience” on Monday, April 18, that will call for voting rights protections, measures to curb the influence of money in politics and more. Democracy Awakening will include teach-ins and cultural events throughout the weekend.
For both money in politics and voting rights, the U.S. Supreme Court has eviscerated laws that once protected the voices and votes of everyday Americans. Congress has solutions in front of it, but has failed to pass them into law or even hold a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“That’s why it’s time for us to fight back on a scale that’s never been done before,” announces a video about Democracy Awakening created by Brave New Films.
City by city and state by state, a national movement is growing to ensure voters are fully heard. In communities throughout the country, voters have turned back efforts to impose discriminatory barriers to voting, won measures for public financing of local and state elections, and passed resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and other rulings.
Solutions being sought as part of Democracy Awakening include legislation to restore the protections against voting discrimination that were struck down by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County, modernize voter registration, prevent deceptive practices that keep people from the ballot box and ensure equal access to voting for all.
Activists also will call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and allow elected representatives to set commonsense limits on money in elections. They will press for increased disclosure of the source of election spending and public financing of elections.
Democracy Awakening will follow a march and demonstrations organized by 99Rise and Avaaz as part of a separate event called “Democracy Spring.” The march will go from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., in early April.
Why It Matters
Representatives of some of the organizations participating in Democracy Awakening explain why they are involved:
“We’re not talking about the nostalgic disenfranchisement of 1965. Once again, states with the worst histories of discrimination are pushing for new barriers to block the young, the poor, the elderly and minority voters from the ballot in 2016,” said Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP. “We must answer the call for action.”
“Americans’ frustration – and despair – is reflected in countless polls that show staggering majorities of our citizens believe the system is rigged to favor the rich and powerful,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “These views transcend party, region, race and gender. The American people know the system is not working for them, and that a broken system is blocking us from addressing our great challenges.”
“Protecting voting rights and pushing for money in politics reform are two sides of the same coin,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president of People For the American Way. “When people face barriers to casting a ballot, and when wealthy special interests can overpower the voices and priorities of everyday Americans, our democracy simply isn’t working.”
“A handful of wealthy and corporate donors are hijacking our political system through mega-contributions and a systematic assault on voting rights that can only result in a breakdown in democracy and the belief by the average person that her or his vote doesn’t matter,” said Christopher Shelton, president of Communications Workers of America. “This spring, CWA members are ready to join the millions of others in this movement and to do what it takes to win back our democracy.”
”Americans across the country are demanding a democracy where everyone has an equal voice and our elected officials are held accountable to the voters,” said Marissa Brown, executive director of the Democracy Initiative. “Thousands of people will join together in Washington, D.C., for a Democracy Awakening – a call to conscience for our elected officials.”
“People are fed up with a political system that too often works for big donors at the expense of everyone else,” said Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Every Voice Center. “And at the Democracy Awakening this spring, in Maine, in Seattle, and in cities and states across the country Americans are coming together to demand a democracy in which one’s influence isn’t determined by the size of their wallet.”
“As long as our government is controlled by corporate interests, we’ll never be able to protect our food, ban fracking, or prevent disasters like we’ve seen in Flint,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Our democracy is broken, and for the sake of our food, water, and climate, it’s time for us to fix it.”
“The Democracy Awakening mobilization will galvanize the emerging movement that’s challenging America to live up to its promise of government of, by, and for the people,” said Annie Leonard, executive director at Greenpeace USA. “That promise means politicians putting people first by supporting voting rights and rejecting the campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies which manipulate our political system.”
“Student Debt Crisis wholeheartedly believe that borrowers, students and young people are facing an uphill battle when it comes to higher education reform due to the influence of billionaires and corporations on our political system,” said Natalia Abrams, executive director of Student Debt Crisis. “Until we get money out of politics and restore voting rights, our voices will not have the power that we, the people, deserve. It is our hope that once we get rid of the corporate stronghold on our democracy we will see reforms such as free college and some form of student loan forgiveness.”
“As Franciscans and people of faith, we're working to remove the road block of unchecked money in politics as issues such as immigration, care for creation, and gun safety are not moving on Capitol Hill,” said Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network. “As we continue to advocate for these core issues, we must also work to alleviate the root of the problem in order to see real progress.”
“Voters want to be heard in our elections – they want a government that works for them instead of mega-donors,” said Dan Smith, democracy program director for U.S. PIRG. “As an independent voice for American consumers, U.S. PIRG has made voter empowerment a top priority. Democracy Awakening is a chance for us to push lawmakers for real election reforms.”
“Democracy Awakening is the American Postal Workers Union’s chance to become bigger than ourselves,” said Debby Szeredy, executive vice president of the APWU. “We are a union representing our members and all of America as we fight to provide a Postal Service that is prompt efficient, affordable, with decent living wage jobs and benefits that communities have valued for years. Democracy Awakening connects us to the political revolution that has become crucial.”
“Our democracy faces serious threats. Everyday Americans know our system is out of balance, and what’s worse, our constitutional right to free speech has been reduced to a whisper as a few wealthy special interests spend billions so their voices are heard over everyone else,” said Miles Rapport, president of Common Cause. “This spring, Common Cause’s 400,000 members join with Americans from all walks of life to lift our voices and demand change through a series of important actions during two weeks in April, highlighting the importance of voting rights and reducing money’s influence so together we create a 21st century democracy that works for every American.”
Winning video selected among entries submitted by Americans during nationwide video competition to be announced and used for national campaign to support Democracy For All amendment
WHAT: A panel of celebrity judges including Michael Moore, Norman Lear, Kathleen Turner and Dolores Huerta, selected one video from entries submitted by everyday Americans to raise awareness of big money in politics. The winning video will be announced and used to represent the voice of Americans in a national campaign to support the Democracy For All constitutional amendment currently being considered by Congress.
WHEN: Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, 12:15-1:15 p.m.
WHERE: National Press Club (Murrow room), 529 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20045
WHO: U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)
U.S. Representative Ted Deutch (FL-21)
Kathleen Turner, Academy Award-nominated actress
Jeff Haggin, president, Say No To Big Money
Marge Baker, executive vice president, People For the American Way
Winning video creators
AGENDA: Welcome (Baker)
Amendment/initiative update (Udall/Deutch)
Winner announcement/presentation (Turner)
AMENDMENT: The Democracy For All Amendment, currently being considered by Congress with 144 cosponsors in the House and 41 supporters in the Senate, would overturn cases such as Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court case that paved the way for unlimited political spending by corporations and the super wealthy.
ABOUT: The Democracy For All Video Challenge (www.democracyforall.com) is a project of Say No to Big Money and People For the American Way. People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy. More information is available at www.PFAW.org. Say No To Big Money is a nonprofit corporation with the mission of supporting the ratification of the Democracy For All Amendment that will regulate campaign contributions. More information is available at www.SayNoToBigMoney.com.
CONTACT: Steve Honig, The Honig Company, LLC, 818-986-4300 / email@example.com
# # #
PFAW: Everyone from Justice Scalia to Leader Pelosi Understands the Essential Role of Disclosure
WASHINGTON – Today marks the sixth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which paved the way for unlimited corporate political spending to influence elections. Also this week, The New York Times reported that President Obama is “seriously considering” an executive order requiring companies with federal contracts to disclose their political spending. People For the American Way (PFAW) Executive Vice President Marge Baker released the following statement:
“The anniversary of a decision that unleashed a torrent of secret money into our elections is the perfect moment to take a look at the solutions in front of us that would help repair our democracy.
“President Obama shouldn’t wait another day to take action. He should pick up his pen and issue an executive order on secret money, and allow Americans to see which corporations are trying to buy political influence.
“Even the conservative Supreme Court majority that issued the disastrous Citizens United decision emphasized the importance of disclosure. The Citizens United Court actually upheld a disclosure requirement, explaining that ‘transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions.’ Everyone from Justice Scalia to Leader Pelosi understands the essential role that disclosure plays in an effective campaign finance system. It’s a commonsense action that would be a significant step forward for transparency and accountability in our democracy.”
PFAW has been actively involved in the campaign for an executive order, collecting nearly 100,000 petition signatures in support of such an action. In December, PFAW joined ally organizations in delivering one million signatures to the White House urging the president to issue an executive order on secret money.
PFAW is also one of the leading organizations pushing for a constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United. To date, 16 states and more than 680 cities and towns have officially called for an amendment to get big money out of politics. President Obama, as well as all of the Democratic presidential candidates, have expressed their support for an amendment.
In his last State of the Union address tonight, President Obama said that we need "to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families or hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections.” In response, People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker released the following statement:
“Highlighting the problem of big money in politics in his final State of the Union address was not only the right thing to do, it's also completely in line with the beliefs of Americans. Voters are hungry for a democracy where the voices of everyday people aren't drowned out by an endless deluge of money from wealthy special interests.
“But the president can do more than highlight the problem. He can create real change with just the stroke of his pen, by issuing an executive order requiring companies with government contracts to disclose their political spending.
“Time is running out for the president to define his legacy on money in politics. Will he go down in history as a president who helped expose secret money in our democracy, or as one whose inspiring rhetoric wasn’t backed up by action?”
PFAW New Hampshire Organizer: Elected Officials Failed to Carry Out the Will of the People
Today, after initially voting in favor of the measure, the New Hampshire House ultimately voted against S.B. 136, a bill in support of a constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United and allow lawmakers to set reasonable limits on money in elections. In March 2015, the bill was passed unanimously in the state Senate.
“Today our elected officials failed to represent the 72 percent of Granite Staters who oppose the Citizens United decision,” said Lindsay Jakows, New Hampshire Campaign Organizer with People For the American Way (PFAW). “Instead, opponents of the measure used extraordinary procedural tactics to kill the bill after it had already passed. This was a miscarriage of democracy. But make no mistake: Granite Staters are paying attention, and care deeply about this issue. On Election Day, voters will remember which representatives stood on the side of reform and which stood on the side of wealthy special interests."
People For the American Way has been working with ally groups to organize residents to speak out in favor of S.B. 136, including by encouraging New Hampshire PFAW activists to call their representatives and urge them to support the bill.
Support for overturning decisions like Citizens United is strong both in New Hampshire and across the country. Local activism has pushed 69 towns in New Hampshire to pass resolutions in support of an amendment, more than a dozen of which passed in 2015 alone. Sixteen other states have already officially called for an amendment. A national Bloomberg Politics poll released in September found that 78 percent of Americans believe the Citizens United decision should be overturned.
Local Activists Called on Candidates to Talk About How They Would Implement Plans to Fight Big Money and Corporate Influence in Politics
Manchester, NH – On Saturday evening local activists demonstrated outside of the Democratic primary debate at Saint Anselm College urging the candidates to talk to voters about their plans to fight big money and undue corporate influence in politics.
The demonstration was organized by People For the American Way, New Hampshire Rebellion, and the American Friends Service Committee NH Program. All of the Democratic candidates have endorsed a range of reform measures aimed at getting big money out of elections. At the event, local activists urged the candidates to take action in their first 100 days as president on this issue, if elected.
“Getting big money out of politics is a top issue for Granite Staters and people across the country,” said Lindsay Jakows, People For the American Way’s New Hampshire Campaign Organizer. “Championing reform measures on the campaign trail is not only the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do.”
“While we appreciate the hopeful statements on campaign finance reform from Sec. Clinton, Gov. O'Malley, and Sen. Sanders, we wanted to hear more discussion of what these candidates will do in their first 100 days in office to end this corruption of our democracy,” said Brian Beihl, deputy director of the campaign finance reform advocacy group, NH Rebellion. “Republican candidates must do the same in their upcoming debates, because the anger about Big Money corruption is palpable among both party loyalists and independents.”
“Regular people don’t have the kind of money that giant corporations spend to get their way. That is why people have to stand up and make their voices heard – even on a cold winter night in New Hampshire,” said Eric Zulaski of the American Friends Service Committee’s Governing Under the Influence campaign.
A recent nationwide poll from the New York Times and CBS News found that eighty-five percent of Americans believe that our country’s campaign finance system needs either “fundamental changes” or to be “completely rebuil[t].”
In an interview released last week with Susan Peters of KAKE-TV, the ABC affiliate in Wichita, Kansas, Charles Koch shared his top factor in supporting 2016 candidates:
Koch said, “The number one thing I would look at in supporting anyone in politics: Are they for the first amendment? Are they for freedom of speech?”
“So, do you consider your donations freedom of speech?” [Peters] asked.
“Absolutely, they are,” he said.
That the number one criteria of a man whose network plans to spend hundreds of millions on next year’s elections is whether they are “for the First Amendment” – that is, a radical reinterpretation of the First Amendment to prohibit Americans from effectively addressing the corrosive effect of money on our democracy – speaks volumes about the way the power of those already on top is preserved and expanded in our country. Koch, one of the wealthiest people in the country, already holds unparalleled influence in politics through the extraordinary sums of money flooding our elections from the Koch-led network, Koch Industries, and the Kochs themselves. And now, Koch’s top priority for whether he will bankroll future candidates is, in effect, whether they support his ability to continue to spend unlimited sums of money to buy elections.
This exchange is Exhibit A on the extent to which our campaign finance system is utterly broken. With our lawmakers unable to set commonsense limits on money in elections in the wake of decisions like Citizens United, Charles Koch is free to pour unlimited amounts of cash into our democracy. And he’s free to make a condition of his financial support a commitment to perpetuating that broken system.
It’s no wonder that 85 percent of Americans think we need a complete overhaul of our country’s campaign finance system. Without it, a handful of billionaires can continue to set the agenda for all of us – even when it’s an agenda targeting the rights and interests of most Americans.
Video Urges People to Take Action and Express Their Opinions about Reversing Decisions like Citizens United
WASHINGTON – What does it take for a video to go viral? Comedians Lee Camp and Negin Farsad have created a viral video about viral videos in an effort to educate Americans about what happens when big money mixes with politics. The video was this week’s winner in the Democracy For All Video Challenge, which encourages people to speak out in support of a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. The Democracy For All Video Challenge, spearheaded by Say No To Big Money and People For the American Way, selects a different best video every week from submissions made by people across the country.
The video, created by comedians Lee Camp and Negin Farsad, pokes fun at what it takes for a video to go viral, showing everything from a cute kitten and baby to an exploding soda bottle, with guest appearances including ice cream icons Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (better known as Ben & Jerry) and Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation. The underlying message is the importance of preserving our democracy and removing big money from politics.
All 14 of the weekly winning videos will be judged by a panel that includes Michael Moore, Academy Award-winning filmmaker; Norman Lear, legendary television producer and founder of People For the American Way; and Kathleen Turner, advocate and Academy Award-nominated actress. The grand prize winner will be announced Dec. 16.
"Money in politics is one of the most crucial issues of our time,” said Camp. “Everything you and I care about comes back to money in politics; we must change this system before it's too late."
The video can be viewed at http://democracyforall.com/entries/its-viral-the-movement-to-overturn-citizens-united-swamps-the-internet/. All of the winning videos to-date are available to view at www.democracyforall.com/winners. People can enter the video challenge by submitting 30-90 second videos between now and Dec. 2. Full details are available at www.DemocracyForAll.com.
“We felt the concept of creating a viral video about viral videos was very original,” said Jeff Haggin, president of Say No To Big Money which created the video challenge. “Online videos have become a way for people to receive information and form opinions about important issues of the day, and we are hoping to embrace this to inform the American public about the importance of passing the Democracy For All amendment.”
The Democracy For All Video Challenge was created by Say No To Big Money and People For the American Way to tap into the creative potential of people in the United States who support a constitutional amendment that would allow for reasonable limits to be set on money in elections. A panel of judges selects the most impactful videos with $1,000 being awarded to the best video each week. At the conclusion of the video challenge, five best in category videos will be awarded $5,000 each, with $25,000 being awarded to the best overall video. Rather than hire an advertising agency to produce the spots, the sponsor organizations developed the Video Challenge to enable the true voice of Americans to be heard and give people across the country a chance to earn money for their efforts.
The Democracy For All Amendment, currently being considered by Congress with 140 cosponsors in the House and 41 supporters in the Senate, would overturn decisions such as Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court case that paved the way for unlimited political spending by corporations and the super wealthy.
People For the American Way (PFAW) is dedicated to making the promise of America real for every American. That means equality. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. The right to seek justice in a court of law. The right to cast a vote that counts. The American Way. Our vision is a vibrantly diverse democratic society in which everyone is treated equally under the law, given the freedom and opportunity to pursue their dreams, and encouraged to participate in our nation’s civic and political life. More information is available at www.PFAW.org.
Say No To Big Money is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation for the public benefit with the mission of supporting the ratification of the Democracy For All Amendment that will regulate campaign contributions. Say No To Big Money is nonpartisan and does not promote or take sides on any political issues nor endorse candidates or elections. More information is available at www.SayNoToBigMoney.com.
Following an outcry from a range of local and national leaders, including PFAW president Michael Keegan, Connecticut legislators withdrew a plan yesterday that would have cut funding for the state’s clean elections law.
Connecticut’s landmark program is a model for the country, one that has allowed people to run for office and become elected officials even if they don’t have access to special interest money or wealthy backers. When the proposed attack on clean elections was announced, the pushback was swift. A cohort of young Connecticut lawmakers, many of whom are members of affiliate People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network, spoke out against the proposal in a letter. They highlighted the clean election program’s success in allowing young people to compete in the state’s elections “based on policy positions and ideas” rather than “who has access to the biggest donors.” PFAW members in Connecticut made calls to their state legislators and asked them to reject any plan to undermine clean elections. State groups like Common Cause Connecticut and ConnPIRG rallied against it, and former Gov. Jodi Rell, who signed the landmark reform into law, spoke out against attempts to “turn aside” the program “many of us worked so hard to put in place to prevent political corruption scandals.”
That the proposal was withdrawn after just three days is a win not only for the state of Connecticut, but for the national movement to fight big money in politics. From clean elections victories in Seattle and Maine earlier this month to yesterday’s win in Connecticut, it’s clear that policies to help lessen the influence of big money in politics are popular, valued, and people will fight for them.
WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders has released an agenda for addressing the influx of big money in our democracy. His plan outlines reform measures including a constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United and Buckley v. Valeo, small donor public financing, and increased transparency in political spending. His agenda also includes measures to strengthen voting rights, such as expanding early voting and restoring the protections of the Voting Rights Act, which were gutted by the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision in 2013.
People For the American Way president Michael Keegan issued the following statement:
“Bernie Sanders has been consistently speaking out about the problem of big money in politics throughout his campaign, and he should be commended for releasing a plan highlighting the solutions.
“Americans are of one mind on the issue of money in politics. Across the board, voters think Citizens United should be overturned and want to see elected leaders put policies in place to fix our broken campaign finance system. Sanders should be applauded for putting the issue front and center in his campaign.”
Sanders’ plan includes numerous policies outlined in the “Fighting Big Money” agenda, a comprehensive platform that People For the American Way and 12 other organizations released in July and have called on every candidate to endorse and prioritize.
PFAW Statement in Support of the Legislators Fighting to Protect Clean Elections
This week the Connecticut state legislature proposed a budget that would suspend the state’s clean election law, widely viewed as a model for public financing. In 2014, 74 percent of candidates participated in the state’s clean elections program.
A cohort of young Democratic legislators in Connecticut, several of whom are members of affiliate People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network, are pushing back against the proposal. In a letter, the legislators said the proposal would cause “irreparable damage” to Connecticut’s election process, which in the past has allowed “regular people (and especially young people) to compete based on policy positions and ideas, not who has access to the biggest donors.”
People For the American Way president Michael Keegan released the following statement:
“We stand with the legislators pushing back against the proposed attack on Connecticut’s model clean elections law. The law has helped people without access to big money from wealthy special interests to run for office and become elected leaders in the state.
“Across the board, Americans are calling for solutions to the big money takeover of our democracy, but this proposal does just the opposite. We support the efforts of the young elected officials fighting to protect clean elections in Connecticut.”