WASHINGTON – On Tuesday Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) introduced an amendment to end corporate spending in our elections and permit Congress and the states to protect the political equality of all voters. The “Democracy Is For People” Amendment would overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United V. FEC and related cases.
Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way, released the following statement:
“The Citizens United v. FEC decision opened the floodgates to big money in our elections. This amendment would be a step toward reclaiming our democracy. Democracy is about the voices of everyday Americans, not about which corporations or special interests can spend the most to overpower those voices.
“As we saw in last year’s election – far and away the most expensive in history – corporate and special interest influence in our elections continues to grow. Americans are tired of watching their democracy be hijacked and are calling for change. This amendment is a serious, thoughtful effort that pushes the movement to restore our democracy forward.”
Members of the Task Force on Election Reform introduced three voter empowerment bills at the beginning of the 113th Congress in January. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi created The Task Force to develop electoral reform legislation under the D.A.R.E. initiative (Disclose, Amend, Reform, and Empower).
The objective of the Task Force on Election Reform is to combine the best parts of reform bills into one effective piece of legislation that will help strengthen the voices of average Americans and increase the participation of small-donor contributors in our elections.
The three bills that were introduced are:
The Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 269) was introduced by Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) along with 52 co-sponsors. Among other provisions, the bill matches small-dollar donation 5-to-1 and requires participating candidates to limit contributions to $100. The bill was referred to the House Committee on House Administration on January 15, 2013.
The Grassroots Democracy Act (H.R. 268) was introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) with 36 co-sponsors. The bill matches small contributions 10-1 for candidates who limit contributions to $100 and 5-1 for those that follow the normal contribution limit. The act also provides a $25 tax credit to help voters make small-dollar donations to the participating candidates. The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Communication and Technology on January 18, 2013.
The Empowering Citizens Act (H.R. 270) was introduced by Rep. David Price (D-NC) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) with 13 co-sponsors. The bill matches the first $250 of a contribution 5-to-1 and cuts the contribution limits in half to $1,250 for participating candidates. The legislation also aims to mitigate the effects of Citizens United, by providing a broader definition of coordination so that super PACs and political non-profits cannot function as arms of candidates’ campaigns. The bill was referred to the Committee on House Administration to the Committee on Ways and Means to decide which committee it belongs in on January, 15 2013.
The members of the Task Force on Election Reform are Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards, Congressman Theodore E. Deutch, Congressman John Larson, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Congressman James P. McGovern, Congressman Rush D. Holt, Congressman Adam B. Schiff, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Congressman Ed Perlmutter, Congressman John A. Yarmuth, Congressman Kurt Schrader, Congressman George Miller, Congressman David E. Price, Congressman Robert A. Brady, Congresswoman Susan A. Davis, Congressman Raul M. Grijalva, Congressman Keith Ellison, Congressman John P. Sarbanes, and Congressman Rick Nolan.
All members of the Task Force on Election Reform support amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and related cases.
2,000 Public Officials Have Already Expressed Support for Constitutional Amendment
WASHINGTON – This week People For the American Way and ally organizations applauded the re-launch of the “Declaration For Democracy” campaign. Public officials signing the declaration are proclaiming their support for amending the constitution to limit the influence of money in our democracy and to restore the rights of the American people in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC. Representatives Donna Edwards (D-MD), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Keith Ellison (D-MN), James P. McGovern (D-MA), and John Yarmuth (D-KY) circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter today urging their colleagues to sign the declaration.
By the end of the 112th Congress, 2,000 public officials had expressed their support for a constitutional amendment, including President Obama, 102 Members of the House, and 29 Senators (list visible at http://united4thepeople.org).
The Declaration For Democracy reads: “I, ____________, declare my support for amending the Constitution of the United States to restore the rights of the American people, undermined by Citizens United and related cases, to protect the integrity of our elections and limit the corrosive influence of money in our democratic process.” The declaration can be found here: http://united4thepeople.org/index.html
“The Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United and related cases put our political system on the auction block to be sold to the highest bidder,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “Americans don’t want an auction, they want a working democracy. We are thrilled that these Representatives are inviting their colleagues to join the growing chorus of voices calling for change. We look forward to getting even more public officials on board this year.”
“Companies ought to be competing in the marketplace with the best products and services, not in our elections for unfair influence of the decisions that will impact our economy by those with the deepest pockets,” said David Levine, CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council. “This money is better spent by investing in growing our businesses, creating jobs and building a stronger economy.”
“Voters across the country have demonstrated overwhelming support for a constitutional amendment that clarifies that unlimited campaign spending has never been free speech,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “Congress must respond to that.”
“Our electoral process should be about the rights of individuals to participate in our nation's politics,” said Larry Cohen, President of Communications Workers of America. “That's what democracy looks like. The Communications Workers of America commends elected officials at every level of government who are fighting to restore fairness to our political process. The role of money in politics must be completely overhauled. Today it dwarfs everything else and is distorting our democracy. Working with other progressive organizations, CWA is committed to stopping the flow of secret cash to political campaigns and making it clear to all dollars are not speech. This effort will require constitutional changes and other measures to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for secret spending and today enables billionaires to buy our nation’s elections. We also will work for the public financing of elections, because without these very real changes, the one percent will continue to control our politics.”
“The first post-Citizens United presidential election confirmed our fears that the new campaign finance system allows well-heeled special interests and secret spenders to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens,” said Blair Bowie, Democracy Advocate at U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “There is, however, a silver lining: unprecedented public support for real reforms to ensure that in our democracy every citizen is a political equal, regardless of the size of her wallet. We applaud members of Congress who commit to achieving this end.”
“We can’t both maintain Citizens United as the law of the land and maintain a functioning democracy,” said Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen. “A mounting public movement is demanding a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and restore our democracy. The legislators leading the way to winning a constitutional amendment are carrying out the grandest American traditions to defend and expand our democracy.”
“Americans who are wondering why it's tougher to get ahead in today's economy should look to big money politics for answers,” said Adam Lioz, Democracy Counsel for Demos. “When just a few billionaires and special interests can counter the voices of millions of ordinary citizens in the public square, these big donors get to set the agenda in Washington and across the country. Now is the time to build a democracy in which the strength of a citizen's voice does not depend upon the size of her wallet—and amending the constitution is a critical step.”
“Our nation today faces the central question of whether We the People or We the Corporations shall govern in America,” said John Bonifaz, the co-founder and executive director of Free Speech For People, a national campaign launched on the day of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling to press for a constitutional amendment to reclaim our democracy. “To defend the promise of American self-government, we must enact a constitutional amendment that overturns our system of unlimited campaign spending and the fiction of corporate constitutional rights and that restores republican democracy to the people.”
“Now is not the time to be timid; rather, we need to seize this moment and overturn Citizens United with a Constitutional amendment that also overturns all Constitutional rights granted to corporations by court-created doctrines. The Constitution is for ‘we, the people,’” said David e. Delk, Co-chair of the Alliance for Democracy.
“After the most expensive election in U.S. history and the history of the world and with more money secretly funneled through tax exempt groups to try to influence who wins office, more and more Americans are demanding that the Constitution be amended to restore the rightful role of ordinary people in our democracy,” said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy and the publisher of PRWatch and ALECexposed, adding, “we applaud these Representatives and urge others to publicly declare whose side they are on: the side of voters or big money.”
“The greatest political reform of our time will be to abolish the legal concept of ‘corporate personhood’ and the inherently anti-democratic equation of money with political speech,” said Bill Moyer, Executive Director of the Backbone Campaign.
25K call on President Obama to use State of the Union to endorse amendment movement
Today, a petition on the White House website urging President Obama to “use the State of the Union to call for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics” exceeded the 25,000 signatures necessary to guarantee an official White House response. The petition, launched by the groups Free Speech For People, Avaaz, People For the American Way, and Demos on January 8 took less than two weeks to cross the threshold.
The petition can be found here: http://wh.gov/P9j7
Fixing our campaign finance system has long been a cause President Obama supports, though he failed to make progress on it during his first term. During his re-election campaign, President Obama told supporters that: "Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United . . . . Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change."
The petition calls on the President to reiterate and strengthen this call in the State of the Union, and comes just days after President Obama delivered an inaugural address that many believe reflected a renewed willingness on his part to fight for core goals he has long supported even in the face of challenges.
"Americans everywhere are asking President Obama to take the lead on the one issue that unlocks all the others: getting big money out of our political system, to restore our government of, by, and for the people," said Peter Schurman, Campaign Director at Free Speech For People. "'We the people' means all the people, not just the wealthy few, and not the corporations."
Ian Bassin, Campaign Director at Avaaz, said: "We the people have spoken and the message is clear: We're sick of oil industry money setting our energy agenda, the Wall Street dollar determining our economic policy, and gun company cash dictating how we protect our kids. We need elections not auctions and we're counting on President Obama to lead us there, starting with his State of the Union."
The petition may also be the last White House petition to garner a response after receiving 25,000 signatures. It also may be the most serious of the latest round. Last week, after responding to petitions to deport Piers Morgan and to build a Death Star, the White House upped the threshold for guaranteeing a response to 100,000. But petitions like this campaign finance one that were launched before the change were grandfathered at the 25,000 threshold.
“This petition provides more evidence for what we already know – that Americans want a solution to the corrupting influence of big money in our democracy,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “We saw massive amounts of money pour into last year’s elections, much of which was undisclosed. Using the megaphone provided to them by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, corporate special interests are drowning out the voices of ordinary voters. President Obama calling for a constitutional remedy in the upcoming State of the Union Address would draw attention to this critical situation and mobilize even more Americans into action.”
"This is the moment President Obama should take a strong and decisive step toward ending big money's stranglehold on our politics and our economy, and cement his legacy by leading the effort to finally forge a democracy in which the strength of a citizen's voice does not depend upon the size of her wallet," said Demos Counsel Adam Lioz.
After the coalition involved in launching this petition posted it to the White House website, its growth came from citizens expressing their frustration with the flood of money infecting our political system. Much of this public frustration stems from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC that corporations have a constitutional right to spend unlimited sums to influence elections. In the wake of that decision, more than $6 billion was spent in the 2012 elections, much of it by corporations and anonymous billionaires. Congress responded by proposing amendments to reverse that decision and eleven states and nearly 500 cities and towns have joined this call.
This petition tees up for President Obama the key question of what he’ll do next to deliver on a core, unfulfilled promise of his first campaign: to change the way Washington works. The groups behind the petition will continue to campaign until he does.
Out of State Money Floods Contests in 2012
Washington, DC – Today People For the American Way Foundation unveiled new state-by-state fact sheets detailing outside spending in U.S. Senate and House races in 21 states. Each report analyzes the outside spending totals from Super PACs, dark money groups, and out-of-state spenders in the down ballot federal races from the 2012 election cycle. The fact sheets reveal that, on average, a majority of outside election money in these states came from Super PACs. And in every case, a vast majority came from organizations registered outside of the state.
The release of the “Outside Spending, Outsized Influence” reports coincide with the weekend marking Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the third anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC to draw attention to the dual threats of voter suppression and unlimited corporate and special interest money in politics. The reports – a partnership between PFAWF and U.S. PIRG – are part of the Money Out/Voters In campaign. As part of that campaign, People For the American Way Foundation, its affiliate People For the American Way, and other organizers across the country are hosting “Day of Action” events in more than 76 cities in 33 states this weekend. Members of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council will be leading Money Out/Voters In events in Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia.
“Last year’s elections were far and away the most expensive in history,” said People For the American Way Foundation Executive Vice President Marge Baker. “A major reason was the influx of outside, special interest spending in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision. When big money floods our elections, it dwarfs the ability of individual Americans to have their voices heard. Just as important, when politicians push laws to suppress the vote, we turn back the clock on decades on progress to expand and improve our democracy. We need to pursue the full range of remedies to address the problem of too much money in politics, including amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United, and we need to stand up against the growing threat of voter suppression. This weekend we are joining with allies across the country to call for a democracy that gets Money Out and Voters In.”
The states featured in the reports are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.
For links to each report, please visit: http://www.pfaw.org/issues/outside-spending-outsized-influence-big-and-s...
For more information about the Money Out/Voters In campaign or the Days of Action, please visit: http://www.moneyout-votersin.org
Washington, DC – This week People For the American Way joined with ally organizations to mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the third anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC with events drawing attention to the dual threats of voter suppression and unlimited corporate and special interest money in politics. Under the banner of Money Out/Voters In, organizers are hosting “Day of Action” events in more than 76 cities in 33 states on and around the weekend of January 19.
Additionally, two reports highlighting new data on spending in the 2012 election season were released today. A report by Demos and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund provides a wide-ranging analysis of the role of money in the 2012 elections, and a report by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Center for Media and Democracy examines the role dark money nonprofits and shell corporations played in 2012.
“Voter suppression and unlimited corporate and special interest money in politics serve as barriers to full civic participation, transparency, and accountability,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way. “Both stand in the way of democracy. We are excited to come together with our allies on this important weekend to signal our intentions to confront the multi-faceted assault on the voices of everyday Americans in our political system.”
“Big Money over Voters, or Voters over Big Money. The Kochs and Roves have made their choice, and they're in it for the long-term. Now We, the People are rising up to announce our choice: Money Out, Voters In,” said Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen. “With the actions on January 19, a growing movement calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, a guarantee of voting rights and a restoration of our democracy is announcing that we're in it for the long haul also, and we aim to win.”
“We are facing a dual attack on our democracy – everyday voters are being disenfranchised while corporations are being hyper-enfranchised,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “We need to fix the fundamentals of our political system if we want to get down to solving our long-term problems.”
“Our reports found clear evidence of what the vast majority of Americans already understand: political power in America is concentrated in the hands of an elite few,” said U.S. PIRG Democracy Advocate Blair Bowie. “It’s time for our leaders in Washington and across the country to take concrete action to build a democracy in which every citizen is truly a political equal. It’s time we make good on the promise of government of, by, and for the people.”
“Getting big money out and more voters in are two critical fronts in the ongoing fight for true political equality in America,” said Demos Counsel Adam Lioz. “We all deserve a meaningful voice in shaping the decisions that affect our lives, and we won't stand for being blocked by red tape at the polls or drowned out by millionaires and billionaires in the public square.”
“Big, secret money is corrupting our democracy. This was the most expensive election year in the world and one of the least transparent in decades, with nonprofit groups having more influence than ever before while keeping CEO and corporate donors secret,” said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy and a former Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department.
“Since the Citizens United decision three years ago, voters have been clear in their disdain for this decision,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “The big question is whether our elected representatives will listen to those voices. Our goal is to build a wave of grassroots support so strong that they cannot ignore it.”
For more information about the Money Out/Voters In Days of Action, please visit http://www.moneyout-votersin.org.
Groups supporting the Money Out/Voters In effort include 350.org, African American Ministers in Action, Campaign for America's Future, Center for Media & Democracy, Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Coffee Party, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, Consumer Action, CREDO Action, Demos, Free Speech for People, Friends of the Earth, Global Exchange, Hip Hop Caucus, League of United Latin American Citizens, Move to Amend, MoveOn, NAACP, National People's Action, National Women's Health Network, Oil Change International, Organic Consumers Association, People For the American Way, Public Citizen, Rootstrikers, Stamp Stampede, Sierra Club, Story of Stuff, U.S. PIRG, United for a Fair Economy, United Republic/Represent.Us.
The following video featuring Congressman Keith Ellison and People For the American Way's Marge Baker was recorded on December 15th, 2012 and live-streamed to host parties across the country.
On and around the weekend of January 19, 2013 - the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the third anniversary of the Citizens United decision - activists across the country will be mobilizing to demand that draconian voter suppression measures are overturned, that we get big money out of politics, and that real democracy flourishes in America.
What does Citizens United have to do with women’s health care? According to a decision last week from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, perhaps more than you may think.
Just a week after the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Hobby Lobby’s petition to prevent enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage provision, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals made a ruling at odds with that decision. Last Friday the panel granted a motion for an injunction pending appeal to plaintiffs Cyril and Jane Korte who run Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, a construction company. The Kortes had argued that the contraception mandate of the ACA violated their right to religious freedom.
In other words, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decided that – at least temporarily – the company does not have to comply with the Obama Administration’s rules that most employer-provided health care plans must cover birth control.
ThinkProgress’s Ian Millhiser points out that the Appeals Court cited Citizens United in their reasoning, a move that he finds “ominous.” Millhiser highlights a line from the decision – “That the Kortes operate their business in the corporate form is not dispositive of their claim. See generally Citizens United v. Fed. Election Comm’n, 130 S. Ct. 876 (2010)” – before arguing that:
As a matter of current law, this decision is wrong. As the Supreme Court explained in United States v. Lee, “[w]hen followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity.” Lee established — with no justice in dissent — that religious liberty does not allow an employer to “impose the employer’s religious faith on the employees,” such as by forcing employees to give up their own rights because of the employer’s objections to birth control.
Nevertheless, the Seventh Circuit’s citation to Citizens United is an ominous sign. Lee was decided at a time when the Court understood that corporations should not be allowed to buy and sell elections. That time has passed, and the precedents protecting against corporate election-buying were overruled in Citizens United. It is not difficult to imagine the same five justices who tossed out longstanding precedent in Citizens United doing the same in a case involving whether employers can impose their religious beliefs on their employees.
Circuit Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner also raised issues with the decision. In her dissent, she addressed the corporation issue head-on. She noted that:
...it is the corporation rather than the Kortes individually which will pay for the insurance coverage. The corporate form may not be dispositive of the claims raised in this litigation, but neither is it meaningless: it does separate the Kortes, in some real measure, from the actions of their company.
Similarly, our affiliate People For the American Way Foundation’s Paul Gordon noted last month in reference to the Hobby Lobby decision that the question of where to draw the line in terms of government regulation of religious institutions and individuals is a tricky one. Still, he pointed out:
The requirement to provide certain health insurance for your employees – not for yourself, but for people you hire in a business you place in the public stream of commerce – seems a reasonable one.
Both Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the 3rd anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC will take place this year on the weekend of January 19, 2013, and activists are preparing to draw attention to the appropriate juxtaposition of two of the most pressing issues facing our country. Progressives understand that the dual threats of money in politics and voter suppression are interrelated and threaten the foundations of American democracy, and that taking on one of those issues means taking on both. That’s why people are rallying together under the banner of “Money Out, Voters In” on and around January 19th to raise awareness to these threats and jumpstart 2013 campaigns that will address them.
To launch these efforts, People For the American Way hosted a webcast with co-chair of the Progressive Caucus Representative Keith Ellison that was viewed by activists across the country who had assembled in organizing meetings to strategize for their January 19th action.
The results of a recent PFAW and unPAC produced art contest are in: a panel of experts (including such luminaries as Shepard Fairey, designer of the famous 2008 ‘Hope’ poster and Jesse Dylan, creator of the ‘Yes We Can’ music video) chose the piece ‘Monopolistic’ by 21-year old Tennessean Landon Wix as winner of a $3,000 prize.
Titled ‘Art > Money,’ the contest’s purpose was to find a piece of art to serve as an iconic image for the need to keep big money out of the American electoral process. Art can play an important role in such a campaign: as Shepard Fairey says, “It’s about using art to push back against the existing power structures in our society and inspiring real change.” In this instance, the American people agree: 80% oppose the infamous Citizens United decision and favor restrictions on the amount of money corporations can spend on elections.
PFAW alerted and encouraged our members to promote the winning image, and as a result of our and other’s efforts, Wix’s image was shared across the country and on the internet by thousands of activists as part of a larger effort to spread awareness about this important issue.
To see more of Wix’s work, visit http://www.landonwix.webs.com/