money in politics

Lester Holt, Let’s #FirstDebateDemocracy

Of the many pressing issues this election cycle, there is one that must be addressed first in order to accomplish much of anything else: the issue of democracy itself. Without fundamental reforms to how our political system operates, complex problems like climate change, racial injustice and economic inequality will only worsen as our elected officials continue to cater to wealthy donors rather than serving the interests of “We the People.”

People For the American Way joins our allies in calling on Lester Holt, the moderator of the first presidential debate on September 26, to ask Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump about their respective plans to deal with the issues of unchecked money in politics, efforts to undermine the functioning of the Supreme Court, and attacks on voting rights. The American people deserve to know what their next president will do to deal with these structural problems that hinder progress on countless issues facing our nation.

Take money in politics as an example. Hillary Clinton has made reforming the current campaign finance system a key pillar of her campaign ever since she announced her candidacy. She has called for a constitutional amendment overturning Supreme Court cases such as Citizens United, a small-donor matching system, and increased disclosure of political contributions. Furthermore, while she would prefer to reach bipartisan agreement with Congress, Clinton has said that absent such agreement, she will use her legal authority to issue an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has yet to offer any proposed solutions. While he consistently rails against a ‘rigged’ system, he has failed to explain how he would address this issue. If anything, he has boasted about how much money he has donated to politicians in the past, and how they were always “there for me.” Bragging about participating – and benefitting from – pay-to-play politics is hardly a case for reform, let alone an agenda to implement reform.

On September 26, the nation will tune in to watch the first presidential debate of this cycle. Democracy issues have already been cemented as a pivotal theme this election cycle, particularly given the quest for reform that fueled the campaign of Bernie Sanders, educating an entire generation of voters on the perils of Citizens United and our country’s big money system. If Lester Holt and NBC want to set the course of conversation in the right direction, and strike at the root of many problems that are of great consequence to the American people, they should commit to ensure that we #FirstDebateDemocracy.

PFAW Foundation

People For the American Way Statement on Hiring of David Bossie

In response to Donald Trump hiring David Bossie as deputy campaign manager, People For the American Way (PFAW) Executive Vice President Marge Baker issued the following statement:

“During the primary, Trump railed against everything he’s now doing when it comes to money in politics: He has welcomed Super PACs and he’s actively courting special interests. To top it all off, he’s now hired an ardent foe of campaign finance regulation, the man who helped open the floodgates for unlimited corporate political spending as  the president of Citizens United.

“This is just the latest addition to the mountain of evidence that as president Donald Trump would give free reign to special interests and appoint Supreme Court justices who will protect the privileges of the wealthy and powerful, but not the rights of ordinary people.”

To schedule an interview with Marge Baker, please email media@pfaw.org.

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.

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A Big Week for #Demcoracy4All

We reached a major milestone in the House and also made progress in the Senate.
PFAW

Big Win for Democracy in New York

This piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

Today the people of New York scored a significant victory for democracy in the United States by officially becoming the 17th state on record in support of a constitutional amendment to overturn disastrous Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United. This decision, among others, has created an out-of-balance system that allows powerful corporations and other wealthy interests to spend unlimited amounts of money to buy access and influence to advance their political agenda at the expense of everyone else.

This landmark accomplishment in New York comes as the result of a multi-year effort to encourage legislators in the state Senate and Assembly to sign onto a formal letter calling for such an amendment. Because of the work of dedicated activists and a broad coalition of organizations, lawmakers from both parties, representing a majority of each house of the legislature, have joined to represent the will of the people. Over twenty municipalities from the state of New York 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.

This victory represents the results of collaborative campaigning, with a diverse coalition of organizations coming together to educate, organize, and apply the political pressure necessary to win. On behalf of our more than 156,000 New York members,  People For the American Way is proud to have been one of several national organizations to play a role in advancing this effort. Since the start of this campaign several years ago, our members have signed petitions, written letters, called their legislators and shown up to advocate and protest in person.

In New York and across the country, poll after poll shows that reforming our big money system is a top priority for Americans. And with this historic win, the people of New York have contributed to the momentum of a growing national movement calling for a constitutional amendment to remedy a system that is tilted in the favor of wealthy special interests. If history is any guide, it’s not a  question of whether unaccountable money in politics will be addressed, it’s a question of when. Since our founding, this country has been on an uneven but ultimately forward-moving path towards creating a government that is truly of, by and for all the people. New York has just helped the nation take yet another step in making this promise a reality.  

PFAW

PFAW and Allies Call on Platform Committees to Incorporate Money in Politics Reforms

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.

You can read the letters to the DNC and RNC platform committees here and here.
 

PFAW

Democracy Awakens in Historic Mobilization Weekend

This past weekend something truly historic was set in motion. The 2016 Democracy Awakening was a first-of-its-kind event, uniting multiple movements working to promote voting rights and  money in politics reform as well as advocating for fair consideration of the president’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Environmentalists, social justice advocates, organized labor, and communities of faith all came together to demand a government that works for everyone, not just those with the biggest bank accounts who can buy access and influence at the expense of everyone else.

democracy awakening

The Democracy Awakening began on Saturday, April 16, with a day of workshops, trainings and film screenings and concluded on Monday April 18th with a Congress of Conscience where hundreds of people were arrested on the steps of the capitol as a massive crowd rallied alongside in solidarity. The Democracy Awakening peaked on Sunday afternoon, with a rally with thousands in attendance on the National Mall followed by a march in front of the Capitol and Supreme Court. Chants of “Money Out, People In” and “Do Your Job”  could be heard reverberating off federal buildings as marchers took over the streets.

democracy awakening

More than 300 organizations came together to participate in the Democracy Awakening and promote it to their members, demanding that Congress pass four particular bills, two that promote voting rights and two that promote money in politics reform. Additionally the Democracy Awakening demands that the Senate give fair consideration to the President’s Supreme Court nominee, which means hearings and an up-and-down vote.  Many of the organizations that collaborated on this event had previously never worked together, and there is a collective sense that things are just getting started, and that we won’t stop until we have a government that is of, by and for the people.

PFAW

‘Democracy Awakening’ Rally Brings Thousands to the Capitol to Demand a Better Democracy

Speakers including Rev. William Barber II, Cornell William Brooks, Dolores Huerta, Kathleen Turner call for money in politics reforms, filling the Supreme Court vacancy, protection of voting rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, thousands of people from across the country joined the Rally for Democracy at the U.S. Capitol, as part of the three-day ‘Democracy Awakening.’ The rally featured national leaders, celebrities, and performers, all sending a message to Congress to reform democracy to ensure that every voice is heard.

Rally speakers called for money in politics reforms, filling the Supreme Court vacancy, and the protection of voting rights. Key speakers included Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP; Rev. William Barber, pastor and Moral Monday architect; Dolores Huerta, civil rights leader; Kathleen Turner, award-winning actress and advocate; Ellen Weintraub, Federal Election Commission Commissioner; and many other leaders and activists from across the country. Key statements from these and others are below.

After the rally, attendees marched around the Capitol and past the Supreme Court, ending at Columbus Circle for a faith vigil. Faith leaders told the story of “The Golden Calf” and explained how idolatry of money in the United States today is stifling our democracy and underscores why we must get money out of politics

In addition to today’s events, ‘Democracy Awakening’ events included teach-ins on Saturday. On Monday, hundreds of people – including 60 organization leaders and high-profile individuals – will risk arrest while others participate in a day of advocacy urging members of Congress to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, protect voting rights, and curb the influence of corporations and the wealthy in politics.

More than 300 organizations have endorsed the landmark mobilization. It is a broad coalition of organizations representing the labor, peace, environmental, student, racial justice, civil rights and money in politics reform movements. People are coming from throughout the country, by bus (19 states), air, van and car. They are coming from such states as Michigan, Kentucky, Florida, Connecticut, Tennessee and California.

Key statements from today’s events:

Marge Baker, executive vice president of People For the American Way: “This is a movement moment. Americans feel enormous frustration towards a system where voters have to stand in lines for hours, where every day Americans can’t be heard over the roar of big money, and where some members of Congress are trying to prevent our courts from functioning. Congress has solutions in front of them, and we’re going to keep making noise until our elected leaders take action to create a democracy that works for all of us.”

The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, pastor and Moral Monday architect: “Fifty years after the signing of the Voting Rights Act, we have seen the Supreme Court nullify its preclearance protections while congressional leadership has refused to fix it for more than two years.  This is immoral, an attack on our democracy, and a threat to the furtherance of every other progressive ideal – we cannot stand quietly by. We must now stand up all over the country and reawaken the spirit of true democracy.”

Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP: ““The right to vote is the closest thing we have to a civic sacrament. It is enshrined in our temple of democracy. Yet we are going into the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. When more than 33 states pass new laws requiring a photo ID to vote, but cut back and shut down the government offices where voters can obtain the required cards, the need to act is clear. This is a profound challenge and assault on our democracy. That is why we are here today. An NAACP member by the name of the Rev. James Edmund Prioleau, my grandfather, stood for the right to vote 70 years ago. I stand in his name--and his legacy stands with us.”

Tefere Gebre, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO: “The AFL-CIO is proud to be part of this Democracy Awakening. The unions of the AFL-CIO are committed to broadening our democracy – to having the voices and votes of working people heard. That’s why we will continue to fight the corrupting influence of corporate cash.”

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch: "It’s time to be bold and visionary. Only a massive grassroots movement can build the political power necessary for taking back our democracy and ousting the plutocrats who’ve stolen it. That’s why I’m thrilled to be one of thousands rallying this weekend at Democracy Awakening—supporting calls to restore voting rights and repeal Citizen’s United. I’m proud that Food  & Water Watch is one of the more than 200 groups coalescing to demand that people and the environment are prioritized over profits.”

Jim Hightower, radio commentator and activist: “Democracy Awakening is us – grassroots people rising up to restore our sovereignty over big money. Progress on every one of our issues is hopelessly walled in by corporate bribery funds, K Street lobbyists, crony capitalism, Koch-headed ideology, and nefarious voter suppression. This is the start of something big, and we want you to be there to help make democracy happen again.”

Dolores Huerta, civil rights leader and People For the American Way board member: “Without a strong democracy movement, we won’t be able to make progress on the biggest issues we face: climate change, immigration reform, protecting workers’ rights, raising the minimum wage, empowering women and so much more. I’m coming to D.C. this month to demand that Congress listen to the American people and stop blocking democracy reforms. Si se puede!”

William H. Lamar IV, pastor at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C.: “Now is the time for a new politics to emerge in this nation. Poor and working class Americans now know what Black Americans have always known. The myth that holds America captive is fraudulent. Persons cannot hope to rise by hard work and determination when the political system is rigged to favor big money and highest bidder public policy. Democracy  will not be given to the people by those who have purchased the people’s government. The people must accumulate power – across dividing lines – and demand something new. People power must supplant money power! Money is not speech. Money corrupts speech. Undisclosed money corrupts absolutely!”

Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA: “A functional democracy is a precondition for a healthy environment, economy and society. The daily protests may slow after the Democracy Spring and the Democracy Awakening, but the movement will continue to grow. The people have made it too big and too strong to ignore.”

The Rev. Ezra L. Tillman Jr., pastor of First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Flint, Michigan and member of People For the American Way Foundation’s Micah Leadership Council: “As a father, husband and pastor in Flint, Michigan, I have experienced personally and through the lives of my members and friends, the kind of tragedy that can happen when democracy is threatened. When elected persons place non-elected persons in positions to value cost-cutting budgets above the health and well-being of everyday people, democracy is threatened. I’m coming to D.C. for the Democracy Awakening because democracy is not for some but for all. This is a Humanity Matters issue. We stand united, with a unified message, that it's time to choose the well-being of People over Politics.”

Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen: “Fundamental reform to expand and deepen our democracy, we know from America’s history, follows from one thing and one thing only: mass movements. With our democracy in crisis, now is the time for Americans to mobilize to ensure the right to vote and to get Big Money out of politics. Democracy Awakening is the start of something, not the end, as the democracy movement enters a new phase of intensity, mobilization, aggressive activism and disruption of business as usual.”

For pictures from the event, more information on the ‘Democracy Awakening,’ or to schedule an interview, please email Angela Bradbery (abradbery@citizen.org) or Laura Epstein (lepstein@pfaw.org).

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PFAW Hosts Member Telebriefing on the Democracy Awakening

As thousands of activists from around the country head to Washington, DC for the Democracy Awakening, a weekend of marches, rallies, workshops, lobby visits, and – for some – nonviolent civil disobedience, PFAW hosted a member telebriefing Thursday about the upcoming mobilization. Through the Democracy Awakening, Americans are demanding that Congress take action to fix our democracy, from protecting voting rights to getting big money out of politics to giving the president’s Supreme Court nominee fair consideration.

“These are all connected issues,” PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker said on the call. She emphasized that auctioning off democracy “to the highest bidder,” suppressing the vote, or obstructing justice through Republican senators’ “absurd and totally indefensible” position that President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee shouldn’t be given fair consideration are all threats to our democracy.

“We have to take back the engines of our government for the American people,” Baker said.

PFAW Government By the People Campaign Manager Rio Tazewell outlined the schedule for the weekend and noted that even people who can’t travel to DC can still take action in their own towns through letters to the editor, contacting elected representatives, and taking action on social media.

You can listen to the full telebriefing below, and visit www.democracyawakening.org for more information:

PFAW

Washington State moves to #GetMoneyOut

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.” 

PFAW

Young Elected Officials in Connecticut Push Back Against Proposed Attack on the State’s Clean Elections Law

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.”

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Koch Communications Officer Delivers Spin to St. Anselm’s College, Activists Call Out #KochProblem

koch visibility event

It’s not just secret money and front groups for the Koch Brothers this election season. Sometimes, the Kochs are up front in their attempts to sell their toxic agenda — like when they decide to send Koch Industries Chief Communication and Marketing Officer, Steve Lombardo, to St. Anselm’s Institute of Politics to pitch a softer side of Koch.

A group of about 10 activists from People For the American Way and Granite State Progress gathered Tuesday outside the Institute of Politics to hold signs that read “#KOCH PROBLEM” and “PR Stunt” — among other messages.

The event was brazenly titled, “Beyond the Political Spin: How Koch is is Driving Freedom, Fairness and Prosperity."

The Kochs — no strangers to attempting to buy support at college campuses through stipulations about hiring and coursework — are planning on spending up to $900 million in this year’s election cycle through their secretive network of organizations.

When asked if the Kochs will acknowledge that the candidates they back are beholden to them, Lombardo failed to explain a difference between other forms of “crony capitalism” the Kochs like to decry and the political work done by the Koch network.

Question: “In a recent interview with the Wichita Eagle, Charles Koch claimed that politicians are ‘beholden to corporations and cronies who get them re-elected’ and deemed this ‘welfare for the wealthy.’ The Koch network has poured millions of dollars into our political system—do the Kochs agree that the candidates they back are beholden to them?”

Lombardo: “Yeah, that’s a great question. I’m going to answer it the way Charles has recently answered that. And that is – beholden is the wrong word. Charles is frustrated right now, to be honest with you, he’s very frustrated that a lot of the candidates that the network that he’s a part of, along with a lot of other donors, hundreds of donors, thousands…have not done a lot of things that they said they were going to do, okay. And he’s quite frankly very frustrated and we have not at this point in time, supporting any presidential candidate. And Mr. Koch believes- is worried right now that none of them are going to do what they say they’re going to do.  So the folks that we supported in 2014 frankly a lot of them have not lived up to the things that I’ve been talking about in terms of fighting corporate welfare, in terms of supporting criminal justice reform among other things. Beholden is wrong. We all, everybody who votes for someone or contributes money to them, contributes $5 — you’re hoping that they’re gonna do what they said they were gonna do. Now if you call that beholden you can call that beholden, but to me, it’s I give $5 to a candidate because I think — they said they were gonna do something, and I go ‘wow, I agree with that, I want them to do that, I’m giving them $5.’ Now you can call that beholden, or $500 million or whatever it might be…I don’t think it’s the same way but we are expecting them to do the things they say they were gonna do, and frankly a lot of them aren’t.”

The Kochs clearly expect a lot in return for the amount they’re spending on politics — so yes, the candidates that they back are beholden to them, and much more so than they would be to any small donor.  Downplaying their own effectiveness doesn’t change the fact that they are blatantly attempting to buy influence, with their network expected to spend as much as, or more than, either political party.

PFAW

Student Debt Crisis Advocate Wins $1,000 Cash in Contest to Get Big Money Out of Politics

Engaging Video Focused on Student Loan Debt Is Third Weekly Prize Winner in Democracy for All Video Contest

Today Say No to Big Money and People For the American Way announced the third of 14 weekly winners in a new contest tapping 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.

The winner of the $64,000 Democracy For All Video Challenge provides an explanation of the current problems surrounding student loan debt and outlines how changing campaign finance regulations could provide students with much-needed relief.  The winning video was submitted by Natalia Abrams, Executive Director of Student Debt Crisis in Sherman Oaks, California.

Click here to see the video: http://www.democracyforall.com/entries/getmoneyout-of-politics-and-help-student-loan-borrowers-2/

Previously, a spoken-word rap tying corruption in the chemical industry to lobbying and campaign contributions and a student parody video titled ‘Democramole’ won the first two weekly prizes.

From when the contest launched in August 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, including a $25,000 grand prize. Supporters of an amendment to fix the nation’s campaign finance system have already submitted a diverse array of entries.

“Natalia’s video highlights how our country’s broken campaign finance system has far-ranging repercussions – for student loan debt and across the policy spectrum,” said Jeff Haggin, president of Say No to Big Money.  “We’re excited to see the creative and diverse range of video submissions and the broad support for the Democracy for All Amendment.”

“We entered the contest because we feel strongly that we need to get money out of politics in order to fix the $1.3 trillion student debt crisis,” said Natalia Abrams, Executive Director of Student Debt Crisis. “Removing the powerful grip of billionaires and corporations on our political system is the only way we can move on to helping 43 million struggling borrowers.”

Click here to see more about the contest and additional entries: http://democracyforall.com/

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 Alec Saslow at Alec@FitzGibbonmedia.com or 720-319-4948.

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Student Video Awarded $1,000 Prize in Contest to Get Big Money Out of Politics

Parody Video from 9th Grader Marks Second Weekly
Prize Winner in Democracy for All Video Contest

Today Say No to Big Money and People For the American Way announced the second of 14 weekly winners in a new contest tapping 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.

The winner of the $64,000 Democracy For All Video Challenge is a parody video titled ‘Democramole’ submitted by 9th grade student Simon Lundquist from Falls Church, Virginia.  The video highlights the inequity in our country’s campaign finance system by telling the fictitious story of two brothers, one of whom is working to control the price of guacamole through campaign contributions to the disadvantage of the other.

Click here to see ‘Democramole’: http://democracyforall.com/entries/democramole/

Last week, a spoken-word rap tying corruption in the chemical industry to lobbying and campaign contributions that hijack the political system from everyday Americans won the first weekly, 1,000 prize.

From when the contest launched in August 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, including a $25,000 grand prize. Supporters of an amendment to fix the nation’s campaign finance system have already submitted a diverse array of entries.

“Simon’s video boils down our broken and complex campaign finance system in a way that is creative, fun and accessible,” said Jeff Haggin, president of Say No to Big Money.  “Humor and creativity are an important part of this contest - and vital parts of making sure legislators know the public is ready for the Democracy for All Amendment.”

“The videos in this contest have the capability to influence the future of our democracy and give the next generation's activists, innovators, and dreamers a chance to get their voices heard,” added contest winner, Simon Lundquist, who hopes to make videos professionally in the future.

Click here to see more about the contest and additional entries: http://democracyforall.com/

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 Drew Courtney at media@pfaw.org.

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PFAW Statement on Clinton Plan To Address Money in Politics

Today, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton unveiled her agenda for taking on the corrosive effects of money in our democracy. People For the American Way president Michael Keegan issued the following statement.

"Hillary Clinton should be applauded for putting out a comprehensive plan to address the disastrous effects of money in our elections. This is the kind of leadership we need to take on this challenge, and this is the kind of plan that Americans are demanding. I look forward to seeing Secretary Clinton talking with voters about her agenda for reforming our elections as a centerpiece of her campaign.

"All across the political spectrum, Americans are sick and tired of a system that serves the needs of big donors instead of ordinary people. 85 percent of Americans believe we need major reforms in the way money impacts our elections. Republicans, Democrats and independents support taking strong action, including amending the Constitution to overturn cases like Citizens United. And they want judges who will put the rights of individual Americans over the interests of corporations and special interests. Candidates on both sides of the aisle would be wise to follow her lead and speak out for a broad range of solutions that can put voters back in charge of our democracy. “

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Expanding Democracy by Amending the Constitution to Get Money Out of Politics

This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

Ninety-five years ago today, we added an amendment to the U.S. Constitution saying that women have a right to vote in our elections. While today women's suffrage seems like a no-brainer to everyone -- except maybe Ann Coulter -- it was not an inevitability that simply fell into place. Women were not "given" the right to vote. It was an amendment that women fought for, tooth and nail, for more than 70 years in every state across the country

In a 2010 piece about the suffrage movement, New York Times columnist Gail Collins wrote that "behind almost every great moment in history, there are heroic people doing really boring and frustrating things for a prolonged period of time." It was a painstaking process of organizing, state by state, that ultimately led to the 19th Amendment.

It's not a fast process to amend the Constitution -- just ask Susan B. Anthony, who organized for decades and didn't live to see the passage of the women's suffrage amendment. It shouldn't be easy to change our country's guiding document. But we have a history of passing amendments, when necessary, to make our democracy more inclusive, and often to correct serious harm done by the Supreme Court. The women's suffrage amendment overturned a 1875 decision that held women didn't have a right to vote. In all, seven of the 17 constitutional amendments adopted since the Bill of Rights have reversed damaging Supreme Court decisions that threatened popular democracy.

Today we're facing another serious threat to our democracy: Supreme Court rulings like Citizens United. 

In the wake of decisions allowing unlimited spending to influence elections, money has inundated our political system like never before. 2014 was the most expensive midterm in history, but with fewer donors than in past elections. The 2016 presidential election is already on its way toward eclipsing all previous records. We're seeing more and more money from fewer and fewer donors, and it's taking a real toll on the functioning of our system.

There is a nationwide movement pushing for a constitutional amendment that would overturn decisions like Citizens United and take our political process back from the tremendous influence of big corporations and moneyed interests. Like the women's suffrage movement, it's a slow process of building support city by city, state by state, one conversation at a time. So far 16 states and 650 cities and towns have gone on record in support of an amendment, and momentum continues to build

The campaign for an amendment, like the Democracy For All amendment being considered in Congress, is grounded in simple ideas: we should be able to set reasonable limits on money in elections. The size of your wallet shouldn't determine the strength of your voice. Our elected officials should be paying attention to the needs and priorities of everyday Americans rather than following a political agenda set by wealthy special interests.

On Women's Equality Day we celebrate the expansion of political rights almost a century ago. It was an expansion based on the recognition that our political system is for all of us. But as the foundation of representative democracy is threatened by an overwhelming influx of money in elections -- to the point where all of us can no longer be heard in our democracy -- we are called to amend the Constitution again.

PFAW

What Is Citizens United?

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. FEC that corporations have a constitutionally protected right to spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns. Citizens United opened the floodgates to unlimited outside spending in our elections and struck a devastating blow to our democracy. The size of one's wallet should not determine the strength of one's political power.

2016 Candidates and the Fight to Get Big Money Out of Politics

There’s no denying it: the destruction of our campaign finance laws has created an out of control system that poses a serious threat to our democracy. The announcement that Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has raised over $114 million, along with the fact that the Koch brothers plan to spend almost $900 million, feeds into the fears of many that the U.S. is turning into an oligarchy, where the views of wealthy donors are the only ones that matter. A huge majority of Americans think the campaign finance system needs reform, and this is an issue that presidential candidates can’t ignore.

This week, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, an outspoken opponent of big money in politics, pledged to introduce legislation at the start of the next session that would provide public financing for elections. Hillary Clinton has also stated her support for small-donor public financing. A bill introduced earlier this year by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) attempted to level the playing field by providing voters with $25 to spend on elections and to match small individual donations to a candidate  6 to 1 with public money, which would turn into a 9 to 1 match for candidates that rejected large donations altogether.

In addition, both Sanders and Clinton have expressed their support for a constitutional amendment that would overturn decisions like Citizens United, as has Sen. Lindsey Graham.  These two solutions, public financing of elections and an amendment to get big money out of politics, are both highlighted as measures needed to fix the broken campaign finance system in “Fighting Big Money, Empowering People: A 21st Century Democracy Reform Agenda,” released by PFAW and other campaign finance reform proponents.  As the agenda makes clear, for lasting change we have to move beyond “individual statements or even individual solutions” toward a comprehensive set of policy solutions.

Three out of four Americans are in support of a constitutional amendment, and over 5 million people have signed a petition in favor of it. Many other political leaders at the state and local level from both major parties want to put an end to the post-Citizens United big donor arms race.

 As Sen. Sanders has pointed out:

The need for real campaign finance reform is not a progressive issue. It is not a conservative issue. It is an American issue.

PFAW

Scott Walker's Environmental Woes

At a recent campaign stop, Scott Walker was greeted by two young people who were very excited to see him – just not in the sense he would have hoped. Two activists from 350 Action tricked Governor Walker into holding up a fake check displaying his reliance on the Koch brothers.

When interviewed by reporters, one of the activists, Elaine Colligan, explained that her inspiration stemmed from Walker’s lack of climate change prevention policies. “Scott Walker is the worst on climate change,” she said, comparing him to the other 2016 presidential candidates. Colligan’s complaints are not unfounded, since being elected as governor of Wisconsin, Walker has demonstrated his preference for the fossil fuel industry over efforts to prevent climate change.

To list only a few of Walker’s policies that have led to his current reputation: he signed the no climate tax pledge, prepared a lawsuit against the federal government because of EPA regulations, proposed to cut $8.1 million from a renewable energy research center, and advocated for increased railways carrying frac sand. It is no surprise Walker is being targeted by environmental advocacy organizations like 350 Action.

At the campaign stop, another attendee joined in, saying: “Scott Walker will do anything to get elected! Because that’s what politicians do!” While this comment is particularly pessimistic, it stems from a frustration many Americans feel with our current campaign system. When a man like Scott Walker, who is receiving millions from undisclosed and unregulated donors, is more influenced by those donors than everyday Americans like Elaine Colligan, something is obviously wrong with the system. But there has been recent action calling for reform of this system, including a constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United. Candidates need to be responsive to their constituents on issues like climate change, rather than to the wealthy special interests that can afford to pour money into our elections.

PFAW

Jeb Bush, Of All People, Says He Wants Lobbying Reform

On Monday, July 20th Jeb Bush announced that he wants to curb the influence of lobbyists in Washington, D.C. by setting a six-year moratorium on former members of Congress registering as lobbyists.  Bush said, ““We need to help politicians rediscover life outside of Washington… which — who knows? — might even be a pleasant surprise for them.” His comedic interjection is an indication of the stance he has decided to take on this issue, posing as a Beltway outsider who can see, and wants to reform, Washington’s corruption.

But Bush is anything but a political outsider. His father and brother spent a combined 20 years in the White House and he was Florida’s governor for eight years, after which he became a political consultant. Neither is he rejecting the money that lobbyists are currently collecting on his behalf: he has eight lobbyists working together to raise more than $228,000 for his campaign. That’s on top of his efforts to skirt campaign finance rules by spending months raising millions of dollars for a superPAC that purports not to coordinate with his own presidential campaign. Bush is the ultimate establishment candidate, regardless of whether or not he has spent time on the Hill.

And while this specific proposal is well and good, it’s also glaringly insufficient. The reforms Bush supports would not stop much of the lobbying that does occur in Washington. The six-year ban would only apply to registered lobbyists, a designation easily avoided by not engaging in specific activities or spending less than 20 percent of one’s time actually lobbying. There are simply too many loopholes Bush’s plan would not cover for real reform to occur.

Jeb Bush made this announcement in an effort to capture some of the grassroots anger at the role of money in politics. But, hopefully it will also ignite some real debate and raise public awareness of the reforms we would need to make a meaningful difference.

PFAW

The Vice President Calls for Action to Fight Big Money in Politics

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."

 

PFAW
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