Say No to Big Money and PFAW Launch Contest With Prize Money Awarded Weekly for User-Generated Videos Encouraging Action on a Constitutional Amendment to Get Big Money Out of Politics
Today Say No to Big Money and People For the American Way, with the backing of more than 150 organizations, are launching the $64,000 Democracy For All Video Challenge, a contest seeking to tap into the creative potential of Americans of all political stripes through short videos in support of a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. From today until December 2, contest entrants can submit a 30-90 second video that includes a call-to-action in support of the Democracy For All Amendment for a chance to win thousands of dollars in prize money.
“With money already flooding into the 2016 campaigns, we know that Americans get the problem,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president of People For the American Way. “They’re ready to talk about solutions. We want everyday Americans to use their creativity to support getting big money out of politics. We want ordinary people to have a voice, which is why this contest, like the Democracy For All Amendment, embraces the true spirit of the First Amendment.”
“When enough Americans work together in pushing Congress to act, that’s when we’ll repair our broken democracy,” said Jeff Haggin, president of Say No to Big Money. “This contest asks those entering not only to speak out, but to encourage others to take action, too. The contest is designed to cause a chain reaction. When we activate enough constituents, the power of grassroots action will prove greater even than the power of big money.”
The Democracy For All Amendment is a proposal being considered by Congress, currently with 137 cosponsors in the House and 41 supporters in the Senate, that would overturn decisions like Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court case that paved the way for unlimited political spending by corporations and the super wealthy.
Say No to Big Money, the official sponsor of the contest, and People For the American Way are partnering with Act.TV, Agenda Project, American Family Voices, Coalition to Restore Democracy, Coffee Party USA, Courage Campaign, Common Cause, Free Speech For People, National Priorities Project, PF Pictures, People’s Email Network, Public Citizen, and US PIRG in this effort, with the support of more than 140 other organizations.
Full contest details and rules are available at www.DemocracyForAll.com. Marge Baker and Jeff Haggin are available to speak with press. To arrange an interview, please reach out to Layne Amerikaner at email@example.com.
Today PFAW and 11 other organizations released “Fighting Big Money, Empowering People: A 21st Century Democracy Agenda,” a money in politics reform agenda directed at 2016 presidential candidates. The memo details a specific set of policies and encourages candidates to commit to supporting them.
Goals of the agenda include amplifying the voices of everyday Americans through meaningful contribution limits, real-time disclosure of political contributions, overturning cases like Citizens United through the Democracy For All constitutional amendment, and enforcing existing campaign finance laws to help ensure that money is not allowed to overshadow the priorities of the people.
According to the agenda:
The size of your wallet should not determine the strength of your political voice. But, in a long series of decisions beginning with Buckley v. Valeo and escalating with Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC, the Supreme Court has cemented a flawed reading of our Constitution that strips the ability of We the People to impose common sense limits on election spending.
"Fighting Big Money, Empowering People” has been distributed to every announced 2016 candidate, many of whom have already voiced their support for fighting big money in elections. It’s time to move from rhetoric toward a commitment to specific, comprehensive solutions.
You can share the graphic below to show your solidarity with getting big money out of politics and returning power to everyday Americans. Together we can make a democracy where everyone participates, everyone’s voice is heard, and everyone plays by fair, common-sense rules.
12 Organizations Call on All Candidates to Sign onto Comprehensive Agenda
WASHINGTON – Today People For the American Way joined 11 other organizations in releasing “Fighting Big Money, Empowering People: A 21st Century Democracy Agenda,” a comprehensive policy platform for reducing the corrosive influence of big money in our political system. The organizations called on every presidential candidate to endorse this set of policies and to incorporate them into their campaign platforms.
“It’s encouraging to hear candidates speak out about money in politics, but there’s a big difference between talk and action,” said People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker. “We want to see candidates commit to a comprehensive set of policy solutions to address the influx of big money in our elections. Polls show that Americans overwhelmingly want to see an overhaul of our campaign finance system. If candidates are listening to their constituents, they know it’s in their best interest to get on board with this agenda.”
Measures outlined in the agenda include, among others:
• The Democracy For All constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United v. FEC;
• Increased disclosure of political contributions and expenditures;
• Public funding support to encourage the participation of small donors in elections; and more.
In addition to People For the American Way, organizations signed onto the agenda include: Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, Democracy 21, Democracy Matters, Demos, Every Voice, Issue One, Mayday, Public Citizen, Represent.Us, and U.S. PIRG.
PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker is available for interviews. To arrange one, please contact Layne Amerikaner at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-467-4999.
Last week the fight against big money in politics received renewed, and passionate, support from Vice President Joe Biden. During a speech to young activists at the Make Progress summit on July 16th, Biden issued a call to action:
"We can do something about the corrosive impact of massive amounts of money. We can demand that the people we support don't yield to millionaires and billionaires. [Instead, they can] take their money in limited amounts, but what are we doing?"
The Obama administration has already declared its support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United (2010), but the Vice President called for a more immediate form of action: holding candidates accountable. "Folks, we ought to start in our own party. You ought to be demanding of all of us, all of us, because at least in our own party fights among ourselves, in primaries, that we adhere to a policy that doesn't rest on millionaires and billionaires."
This was a speech tailored to mobilize activists who have been part of a slow fight since 2010. Although progress has been made, with over 650 cities, 16 states, and 73% of Americans in support of a constitutional amendment, we have yet to see any real change in the way campaigns are funded. The 2016 presidential race is already seeing the effects of Super PAC funding and that influence will only continue to grow.
Biden clearly intended to inspire a new generation of activists by focusing on what the attendees themselves could do to help fix the system, saying, “If you're ever going to be involved in public service this is the time to do it, because things are changing.”
Hopefully the Vice President’s passion and optimism is an indication of the change that is coming in our campaign finance system. As Vice President Biden put it, the current system of auctioning our elections to the highest bidder is “a hell of a way to run a democracy."
Yesterday 130 senators and representatives urged President Obama to issue an executive order requiring companies that receive government contracts to disclose their political spending. A letter signed by more than one hundred representatives highlighted the lack of transparency in our current system and the important steps the president can take to help fix this:
Taxpayers have a right to know where their money is spent and you have the power to ensure that the American people can obtain this information. With public funds come public responsibilities, and any company receiving federal tax dollars should be required by executive order to fully disclose their political spending in a timely and accessible manner.
A letter signed by 26 senators echoed this call, arguing that an executive order would help restore confidence in our political system:
In our view, campaign finance disclosure is another issue that demands immediate action to restore the public’s faith in our democracy.
It’s not just members of Congress who are calling on the president to act. More than 83,000 PFAW members and supporters have signed our petition to the president urging him to issue an executive order. Several thousand more contacted their members of Congress asking them to sign on to the letters sent yesterday.
Right now corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections, and they can do so in secret by funneling that spending though “dark money” groups. But if President Obama were to issue an executive order, some of the nation’s biggest corporations – like Exxon Mobil, Lockheed Martin, and any other government contractor – would have to disclose their political spending.
President Obama himself has called for a more transparent and accountable democracy. In his State of the Union address in January, he criticized “dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter” and called for a “better politics.” Now is the president’s chance to help create that “better politics.”
This week Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge rejected a proposed 2016 ballot initiative that seeks to increase disclosure in election spending and support an amendment to overturn Supreme Court cases like Citizens United. Groups leading the effort, including the Arkansas Democracy Coalition, People For the American Way and other national allies, plan to resubmit the ballot initiative language today, as the objections given by the attorney general are minor and can be easily addressed. Once submitted the attorney general will have ten business days to respond with her decision.
The rejection has generated a flurry of media attention and comes in the wake of a series of events in support of the initiative held last week in Little Rock. As PFAW and allies prepare to potentially launch a full-scale ballot initiative campaign, the decision of the Arkansas Attorney General remains an obstacle in the path of making Arkansas the 17th state to pass a resolution in support of a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics.
Paul Spencer, Chairman of Regnat Populus, a convening organization of the Arkansas Democracy Coalition, said in a news release the group would revise the measure and submit a fifth version.
“The people of Arkansas deserve the opportunity to vote on these important issues,” he said. “We intend to respond to the very few points the attorney general has raised and trust that the office will not find any further reasons to block the campaign to put this on the ballot.”
Last September, a majority of the Senate voted in support of the Democracy For All Amendment, a proposal that would overturn Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United and let lawmakers put commonsense limits on money in elections.
Building off that progress, this week activists in more than 12 states delivered petitions to their House and Senate members asking them to support the Democracy For All Amendment. As wealthy special interests prepare to pour billions into the 2016 elections, ordinary Americans aren’t just shaking their heads. They are signing petitions, organizing events, lobbying their elected officials, and pushing for change.
In California, local leaders delivered 311,950 petitions – all signed by Californians who support an amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United – to Rep. Tony Cardenas. Their raised fingers represent the fight to protect the promise of “one person, one vote.”
In New York, activists did the same at the office of Rep. Yvette Clark.
One Maryland activist even hand-delivered his petitions directly to Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.
A number of local leaders in New Hampshire came out to deliver thousands of petitions to Sen. Kelly Ayotte...
…which caught the attention of local media.
All in all, more than five million Americans have signed petitions in support of a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. Grassroots leaders across the country are going to keep up the pressure on their elected officials until support for the amendment in Congress reflects the overwhelming support among constituents.
This week PFAW staff joined members of the Arkansas Democracy Coalition to kick off a 2016 ballot initiative campaign to increase disclosure in election spending and support a constitutional amendment to overturn Supreme Court cases like Citizens United. The series of events, including a performance showcasing the story of legendary campaign finance activist Doris “Granny D” Haddock and a march for democracy through downtown Little Rock, culminated with a press conference on the steps of the state capitol building.
Speakers included Paul Spencer of Regnat Populus, a convening organization of the Arkansas Democracy coalition; Rep. Clarke Tucker, a member of the Arkansas state legislature; Rhana Bazzini, an 83-year-old woman who has marched hundreds of miles in the tradition of Granny D to promote campaign finance reform; and Rio Tazewell, the Government By the People campaign coordinator at People For the American Way.
The Arkansas Democracy Coalition, in partnership with PFAW and other national allies, has submitted ballot language awaiting approval by the Arkansas Attorney General. Upon approval, a signature gathering campaign will launch to collect the 70,000 names needed to get the resolution on the ballot. If passed, the resolution would make Arkansas the 17th state on record in support of an amendment to get big money out of politics.
Today local activists delivered 12,089 petitions to Sen. Kelly Ayotte in support of a constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United v. FEC and get big money out of politics. The local leaders urged Sen. Ayotte to listen to the voices of her constituents and become a cosponsor of the Democracy For All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment that would restore lawmakers’ ability to set reasonable limits on money in elections. The petitions were collected by national organizations including People For the American Way, Daily Kos, MoveOn.org, CREDO Action, and People Demanding Action and signed by residents of New Hampshire.
“The voice of the individual voter without a million dollar megaphone is being drowned out by the super PACs. That’s not the kind of democracy that people in New Hampshire want to see,” said Madbury activist Nancy Pape, who helped lead the petition delivery.
With the money chase for the 2016 elections already in full swing, local activists believe it is more important than ever for our elected officials to take a stand to make sure that all voices are heard in our political system, not just the voices of the rich and powerful.
Nationwide, more than five million Americans have signed petitions in support of an amendment. In addition, sixteen states and over 650 cities and towns, including 69 cities and towns in New Hampshire, are on record in support of an amendment.
At the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner this weekend, President Obama delivered 20 minutes of his trademark dry humor, working in jabs at Michele Bachmann, Joe Biden, climate change deniers in Congress, and himself, to name a few. Perhaps some of the most pertinent jokes of the evening came about halfway into his speech, when he poked fun at the 2016 GOP presidential field, the Koch brothers and the influence of big money in politics.
“Soon the first presidential contest will take place, and I for one cannot wait to see who the Koch brothers pick,” President Obama joked. “It’s exciting… the winner gets a billion dollar war chest. The runner up gets to be the bachelor on the next season of The Bachelor.”
“I mean, seriously – a billion dollars,” the president continued. “From just two guys. Is it just me or does that feel a little excessive?”
The president making these pointed jokes is the latest example of a growing cultural awareness of the problems stemming from big money in politics. With presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Sen. Bernie Sanders all in support of a constitutional amendment to overturn Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United, this issue is rapidly ripening for broader public discussion.
However, Concerns over Buying Influence Apply to All Elected Officials
In response to the Supreme Court’s decision today in Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar which upheld Florida’s ban on judicial candidates directly soliciting campaign funds, People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker released the following statement:
“The Supreme Court came to the right decision today when it took a step to protect the integrity of our judicial process. Chief Justice Roberts was correct to note that the public can lose confidence in a judge if 'he comes to office by asking for favors.' The same concerns apply to all of our elected officials.
“Just as Americans want judges to be impartial rather than beholden to wealthy donors, we also want our elected officials to be working for the people rather than for their billionaire and corporate backers. In all branches of government, our democracy doesn’t work when it’s auctioned off to the highest bidder.
“The Supreme Court needs to understand what everyday Americans already do: that buying influence undermines our democracy no matter what type of election it is.”
From a mailman flying a gyrocopter to the Capitol to protest big money in politics, to Hillary Clinton making the issue a centerpiece of her campaign, to Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Lindsey Graham being asked about their stances on campaign finance reform at Q&A events, it’s clear that money in politics is shaping up to be a major issue in 2016. Yesterday The Washington Post’s Matea Gold reported on the grassroots push to spotlight the topic of big money’s influence on our democracy:
[F]ive years after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision — which held it was unconstitutional to ban independent political spending by corporations and unions, and helped set off a financial arms race — there are signs that politicians are beginning to confront a voter backlash.
….For those who feel strongly about it, the 2016 primaries and caucuses — and the up-close access they bring to the presidential contenders — offer a ripe opportunity to elevate the topic.
In New Hampshire, nearly 500 people have volunteered to attend public forums and press the White House hopefuls about money in politics, Weeks said.
In an interview aired Friday on National Public Radio, PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker underscored the importance of top candidates elevating this issue:
"When the leading candidate for president says she's going to make reducing the influence of money in politics one of the four pillars in her campaign, you know that that's going to be a major issue in 2016," Baker said. "So this is a very, very big deal."
While there are many issues that divide Americans, addressing the big-money takeover of our political system is not one of them. That both Lindsey Graham and Hillary Clinton expressed support for an amendment to get big money out of politics in the past two weeks underscores the fact that fighting to fix our broken democracy is not only the right thing to do, it’s also good politics – across the political spectrum.
With the movement to take back our democracy from wealthy special interests growing by the day, some of the country’s top political leaders are taking note and bringing the issue of money in politics front and center for 2016.
Yesterday presidential candidate Hillary Clinton expressed support for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics and said that campaign finance reform was going to be one of the four pillars of her campaign.
As PFAW’s Executive Vice President Marge Baker pointed out:
That Hillary Clinton will make the fight against big money in politics the centerpiece of her campaign is indicative of how much Americans care about this issue. She’s tapping into a deep-seated belief among people of all political stripes that we have to reclaim our democracy from corporations and billionaires. Americans are ready for a constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United, and ready for leaders who are going to make it a priority.
Amending the Constitution to overturn cases like Citizens United is a widely popular proposal with cross-partisan support. A July 2014 poll of Senate battleground states found that nearly three in four voters (73 percent) favor a constitutional amendment, including majorities “in even the reddest states.” In the five years since the Citizens United decision, local organizing has led 16 states and 650 cities and towns to support an amendment to overturn the decision and get big money out of politics. More than 5 million Americans have signed petitions in support of an amendment.