Government By the People

Second day of Senate debate to #GetMoneyOut

When Senators returned to the floor on Tuesday for the second day of debate on the Democracy for All amendment, supporters continued to build a strong case for getting money out of politics, while the opposition ramped up its hyperbole.
PFAW

No, Ted Cruz, The #GetMoneyOut Amendment Wouldn’t Censor SNL

Sen. Ted Cruz has been known to make some pretty outlandish comments about the Democracy for All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment being debated in the Senate which would overturn decisions like Citizens United, but his latest may take the cake. “Lorne Michaels [of Saturday Night Live] could be put in jail under this amendment for making fun of any politician,” Sen. Ted Cruz claimed on the floor of the Senate this week.

Luckily, a number of more grounded voices were able to set the record straight about Cruz’s wild and inaccurate remark. Last night, CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin said:

I think [Cruz] is wrong… This amendment is simply about restoring the old status quo about campaign contributions… I think his point…really has very little, if anything, to do with the constitutional amendment that the Senate is debating.

Amendment sponsor Sen. Tom Udall clarified that “[n]othing in the amendment would permit the arrest of anyone for engaging in political speech,” and pointed out that the proposal intends to bring the country’s campaign finance rules back to what they were in 1975, when Saturday Night Live began.

Other responders were a little more fiery, including former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, who on Monday published an op-ed with Sen. Udall in support of the Democracy for All Amendment. Simpson called Cruz’s remarks about Saturday Night Live “outrageous,” and urged Sen. Cruz to “read the damn amendment. That would be a wonderful thing.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders also joined the conversation on The Ed Show last night, noting that Sen. Cruz “sounds like he is on Saturday Night Live. It’s a very funny skit.” He pointed out that “Citizens United is a little over four years old; Saturday Night Live has been on the air for decades. And I don’t recall too many people on Saturday Night Live going to jail for making fun of politicians.” Sen. Sanders added that it’s a “preposterous argument” and “just another scare tactic.”

Indeed, as Sen. Udall said in a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, quoting People For the American Way President Michael Keegan:

‘A good rule of thumb in politics is that the scarier someone sounds, the more you should doubt what they’re saying.’ We heard some scary things in the last couple of days. Lorne Michaels is going to jail. And he’s sharing a cell with the little old lady who put up a $5 dollar political yard sign. Books and movies are banned. The NAACP, Sierra Club, and Moveon.org have been prohibited from speaking about politics. Scary stuff. But none of it is true. [emphasis added]

Here’s what is true: the proposed amendment is supported by 73 percent of voters, including a growing body of grassroots activists who have pushed for hundreds of state and local resolutions and who are making senators’ phones ring off the hook this week with thousands of calls expressing their support for fixing our democracy.

So if the best that amendment opponents like Sen. Cruz can do is to push wild-eyed myths about comedic producers being thrown in jail, it’s clear that the American people are winning this fight.
 

PFAW

Campaign Finance Reform Key to Confronting Climate Change

The science is settled – climate change is here and is already happening. For the past three decades climate scientists have warned that we must dramatically reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to avoid catastrophic climate destabilization. And yet the United States has yet to pass the legislative framework needed to shift away from a carbon-based economy.  

With the threat of climate change staring us in the face, it’s not hard to understand why there has been so little progress on this issue: enormous political spending by the fossil fuels industry, which has prevented the passage of CO2 regulation. As our friends at Common Cause recently pointed out,  since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, political debate around climate change has changed significantly. Prior to the Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to corporate spending in  elections, there was legislation with bipartisan support to put a market-wide cap on carbon dioxide pollution. The House of Representatives even passed a “cap and trade” bill in 2009. In 2000, even George W. Bush campaigned on climate change, although he reneged on his promise as soon as he got elected. Fast forward to 2014 – climate change is rarely mentioned by many members of Congress – and sometimes denied outright.

"The polluters give and spend money to keep polluting," says U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), quoted in a recent article by Public Citizen president Robert Weissman. "Not truth, not science, not economics, not safety, not policy, and certainly not religion, nor morality ‒- nothing supports climate denial. Nothing except money. But in Congress, in this temple, money rules; so here I stand, in one of the last places on Earth that is still a haven to climate denial."

Fortunately there’s a solution. The Democracy for All Amendment would give Congress and state legislatures the ability to set reasonable limits on the amount of money that can be spent in political elections. To date, over three million Americans have signed a petition calling for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics, and dozens of organizations have begun collaborating around the need for campaign finance reform.

To deal with global challenges like climate change – the United States must be able to pass laws and lead with the best interests of the people in mind – not the best interests of multinational corporations. As many environmental groups now realize, the best way to combat climate change may be to pass campaign finance reform. 

PFAW

Ted Cruz’s Favorite List of Political Donors is Missing One (Huge) Thing

In the ongoing Senate debate on the Democracy for All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment that would overturn decisions like Citizens United, Sen. Ted Cruz has taken to waving around a list of top political donors that ranks Koch Industries as the 58th largest donor. But what Cruz has not been saying is that this list, compiled by our friends at the indispensable Center for Responsive Politics, has — by its own admission — a big piece of the puzzle missing.

The list details “heavy hitters,” organizations that have sent large amounts of money to candidates, parties, and PACs between 1989-2014. But the list points out that it doesn’t include dark money or other outside spending, such as money given to a super PAC. In the article’s own words:

It's also important to note that we aren't including donations to politically active dark money groups, like Americans for Prosperity, a group linked to the Koch brothers, or the liberal group Patriot Majority — because these groups hide their donors; see a list of top donors that we've been able to identify to such groups. We are working to revise this list to take into account the new realities of campaign finance created by the Citizens United decision, but as it currently stands, there are significant omissions.

When you do take into account outside spending, which exploded in the wake of the 2010 Citizens United decision, the picture changes dramatically. For example, the Koch-backed network raised more than $400 million in 2012 alone — a figure that towers over the $19.7 million in Koch Industry’s direct contributions over a 25-year period to candidates, parties and leadership PACs noted on the list Cruz references. In fact, the $407 million they funneled into 2012 political activity alone is more than the top six organizations on the list have sent to candidates, parties, and PACs in the past 25 years combined. And as Washington Post reporter Matea Gold noted earlier this year, “[T]he network of politically active nonprofit groups backed by the Kochs and fellow donors in the 2012 elections financially… matched the long-established national coalition of labor unions.” To put it simply: when you look at the full landscape of political spending, it would be difficult to argue that the Koch-backed network is not among the top “heavy hitters” in our democracy.

Sen. Cruz can continue to cherry-pick the stats he finds most convenient for his quest to block meaningful Congressional action on big money in politics, but the American people know better.

PFAW

Money in Politics Fuels Student Loan Debt

Wall Street has found another way to make money at the expense of our future: student loan debt. The amount of debt held by recent graduates increased an astonishing 20 percent from 2011 to 2013, reaching a total of more than $1.2 trillion. Meanwhile, big banks and financial institutions that profit from student loan debt are spending more than ever to influence political elections and to prevent policy solutions from being are enacted. Wall Street companies rake in an estimated $45 billion off higher education each year, with a significant portion derived from student loans.

One measure to deal with the student loan crises, proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, would allow over 25 million students to refinance their loans at a better rate. Senator Warren’s bill has stalled, along with similar proposals, due to gridlock and obstructionism fueled by special interest spending. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, between 2008 and 2012 the amount of money Wall Street institutions funneled into Congress through political donations nearly doubled, from $55.9 million to over $108 million. That’s a direct result of the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which lifted restrictions on corporate spending to influence elections. 

The overwhelming increase in outside political spending is taking a toll on young Americans, as the weight of their debt limits their options post-graduation. Recent graduates are already faced with a daunting reality — with more than half of them currently unemployed — while the job market is flooded with people who have years of experience. If young Americans are fed up with special interest money robbing them of opportunity, their frustration can best be directed toward passing campaign finance reform… and supporting the Democracy for All Amendment.

This proposed amendment, which is being debated and voted on in the Senate this week, would allow Congress to regulate of the out-of-control spending in political elections. It currently has the support of 50 senators.  While not sufficient to secure the 2/3 of the Senate needed for passage, this weeks’ vote on  the Democracy for All Amendment is a historic  step towards passing the 28th amendment, and a major milestone in the fight to for better federal policies regarding student debt.

PFAW

First day of Senate debate to #GetMoneyOut

Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois was there to set the record straight, about the true reality of this debate, and about the seriousness with which Democracy for All supporters have approached this historic step forward in the movement to take back our democracy from powerful corporations and billionaires.
PFAW

PFAW Members Rally Outside Sen. McConnell’s Louisville Office

LOUISVILLE, KY — People For the American Way (PFAW) members and other activists rallied outside of Sen. Mitch McConnell’s state office on Tuesday afternoon to protest “King Mitch’s” role in supporting big money in politics. Activists held a giant “King Mitch” and signs that highlighted how Sen. McConnell supports millionaires over ordinary Kentuckians.
 
Last week PFAW delivered petitions from more than 15,000 Kentuckians urging Sen. McConnell to support an amendment overturning decisions like Citizens United. This week, McConnell led the effort to block the Democracy For All Amendment, which would have limited the influence of billionaires and corporations in our elections.

“‘King Mitch’ only pays attention to the millionaires and billionaires that fund his campaigns, and ignores the average Kentucky constituent,” said PFAW Regional Political Coordinator Scott Foval. “He not only supports big money in politics, ‘King Mitch’ fights against policies that don’t benefit his ‘court’ of lobbyists, donors, and friends like the Koch brothers. He wants a government where only the most privileged have a voice.”

For more information on People For the American Way’s work to get big money out of politics, please see our Government By the People webpage.

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NPR Highlights Poll Showing Bipartisan Support for Amendment to #GetMoneyOut

As the Senate begins debating the Democracy For All Amendment that would overturn decisions like Citizens United, NPR’s Peter Overby highlighted the strong, bipartisan public support for reforming our campaign finance system in a radio segment this morning.

“When pollsters ask Americans about the political money system, overwhelming percentages basically say they hate it. So why doesn’t Congress do something?” he asked.

Overby spoke with Bob Carpenter, a Republican pollster who helped conduct a recent poll — commissioned by Public Citizen and partially underwritten by People For the American Way — on Americans’ attitudes toward a constitutional amendment like the one being debated this week. Carpenter emphasized that the data is clear: Republicans, Democrats, and independents all agree that Citizens United needs to be overturned. And while Republicans in Congress are pushing the myth that the amendment would gut free speech protections, Carpenter said that according to the poll, most Americans aren’t buying their arguments.

Overby’s segment highlights the fact that, in PFAW President Michael Keegan’s words, “Washington is the only place where campaign finance reform is a partisan issue.”

You can listen to the full segment here.

PFAW

Yet Another Way Activists are Raising the Issue of Campaign Finance Reform: Photo Petition!

Participate in the photo petition at http://www.demanddemocracy.org/

Curtailing the corrupting influence of money in politics may be the most pivotal issue facing our country. Unfortunately, many people see campaign finance reform as an abstract, boring issue that doesn’t resonate with their immediate priorities. In fact, as we’ve seen as the Democracy for All amendment is debated in the Senate this week, the dangerous threat to our democracy posed by big money in politics is absolutely fundamental to every  issue Americans care about:  student loan debt, paycheck equality for women, the stagnant minimum wage, climate change and sound energy policies. By addressing the countless ways that unlimited money in our elections impedes progress, it’s not hard to show how addressing the challenge of money in politics is relevant to every American.

To show how money in politics affects all of us, progressive organizations including People For the American Way, Public Citizen and Rethink Media have launched a photo petition and messaging campaign to help activists all across the country show why they care about getting money out of our elections.  The goal of the One Person One Vote #GetMoneyOut photo petition is simple: to show that democracy is about equal representation – one person one vote – without special privileges granted to a few. Special interest spending in elections has disrupted the balance of one person one vote by amplifying the voices of those who can afford to spend hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in elections.

For the photo petition take a picture of yourself holding your pointer finger in the air (to represent one person one vote) while holding a sign that says #GetMoneyOut. You can be alone, or with a group. You can be in front of a Town hall, or at home in your house. We want as many pictures as possible of people, in as many places as possible, demanding the same thing… to #GetMoneyOut. If you want to get creative and incorporate additional props/signs into their photos… go for it!

Submit your photo at DemandDemocracy.org, along with the state you’re submitting it from. By uploading these photos to one central location, we can generate a trove of images showing activists speaking out on this issue.

We’ll also use your photo to tweet members of Congress dozens, hundreds or thousands of pictures of their constituents demanding that they #GetMoneyOut – and standing up for the core democratic principle of One Person One Vote. Your picture can help remind our elected leaders that money in politics is ultimately about people.

PFAW

PFAW and Allies Rally, Deliver 3 Million Petitions in Support of Amendment to #GetMoneyOut

On Monday afternoon People For the American Way joined partner organizations, Senators, and Representatives in a rally outside the U.S. Capitol in support of the Democracy For All Amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United and get big money out of politics. As the Senate begins debating the measure, PFAW and ally organizations teamed up to deliver more than three million petitions in support of an amendment.

The rally was kicked off by People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker (pictured speaking above) and Public Citizen President Robert Weissman. Speakers included Sen. Tom Udall (N.M.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Sen. Al Franken (Minn.), Rep. Ted Deutch (Fla.), and Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.) Rally footage was featured on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell and in the Huffington Post.


Sen. Tom Udall (N.M.)


Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.)


Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.)


Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.)


Sen. Al Franken (Minn.)


Rep. Ted Deutch (Fla.)


Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.)

At the rally, PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker said, “Today, more money than ever is flooding our democracy. But something else is also happening: everyday Americans are fighting back. Americans are no longer willing to settle for elections auctioned to the highest bidders.” You can watch her speech here.

The massive number of petitions delivered is just one of many indicators of the broad support for an amendment to get big money out of politics. Sixteen states, more than 550 cities and towns, and public figures including former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and President Barack Obama have already voiced support for an amendment. Recent polling found that nearly three in four voters (73 percent) favor it.

Organizations contributing petitions included People For the American Way, MoveOn.org, CREDO, Daily Kos, Public Citizen, Public Change Campaign Committee, USAction, Common Cause, Democrats.com, Free Speech For People, Coffee Party, Center for Media and Democracy, Brave New Films, Progressive Democrats of America, Sierra Club, US PIRG, Communications Workers of America, Wolf PAC, Move to Amend, Food and Water Watch, Corporate Accountability International, Greenpeace, Public Campaign, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the League of Conservation Voters, and the Story of Stuff Project.

Get more information on PFAW’s Government By the People work here.

PFAW

Republicans are Making Campaign Finance a Partisan Issue, But it Shouldn’t Be

In observing the steep partisan divide on the Democracy for All amendment – with all 55 Democrats in the Senate supporting and not a single Republican – one might conclude that campaign finance reform is a completely partisan issue. Historically speaking, however, this is far from the case. The current amendment, which is in the process of being debated on the Senate floor, closely resembles other proposals that have been introduced and had bipartisan support in nearly every Congress since 1983, when Republican Sen. Ted Stevens (Alaska) introduced similar legislation. Up until recently, these proposals have had support from numerous Republicans in Congress, including Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Thad Cochran (Miss.), in addition to many Democrats. Polling shows that Americans of all political persuasions are outraged by the amount of money flooding our political system and support remedies including a constitutional amendment to fix the problem.

Money in politics is not a partisan issue; it has an impact on the lives of all Americans, regardless of party affiliation. The ability of outside interests to influence political debate has fueled an explosion of spending in both primaries and general elections, creating a toxic situation where candidates are forced to cater their views to the whims of donors with the biggest bank accounts, regardless of whether those individuals are even their constituents or not. By allowing for limits on the amount of outside money spent in elections, political leaders can spend less time worrying about how they will raise enough cash to win their reelection campaigns and more time addressing the concerns of their constituents.

An overwhelming majority of Americans are in favor of limiting the influence of big money in politics, often by margins of three or four to one. The fact that the Democracy for All amendment currently has no Republican support in Congress is not representative of Republican viewpoints outside of Washington.  As made clear in a recent report put out by Free Speech for People numerous Republicans currently serving in office on the state and local level are on record in supporting campaign finance reform – to combat the corrosive political environment created by Supreme Court case decisions such as Citizens United. These destructive decisions handed down by the high court threaten the foundation of our democracy, and misrepresent the will of the people. For the time being the Democracy for All amendment may appear partisan, but if politicians listen to the people, campaign finance reform will become bipartisan once again.

PFAW

The First Amendment, According to Mitch McConnell

This post was originally published at the Huffington Post.

Have you heard that Senate Democrats are working this week to repeal free speech?

I did, yesterday morning, from Mitch McConnell.

Have you heard that Democrats are going to go out and "muzzle" pastors who criticize them in the pulpit?

We did, from Ted Cruz.

Did you hear that Democrats are going to shut down conservative activists and then "brainwash the next generation into believing that this is how it should be"?

We did, last month, from the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins.

A good rule of thumb in politics is that the scarier someone sounds, the more you should doubt what they're saying. Another good rule in politics is not to trust what Mitch McConnell says about money in politics.

Because, yes, that's what we're talking about here. Not a secret new Orwellian regime. Not a new anti-pastor task force. What we're talking about is simply limiting the amount of money that corporations and wealthy individuals can spend to influence our elections.

This week, the Senate is debating a constitutional amendment that would overturn recent Supreme Court decisions that have paved the way for an explosion of big money in politics. In those decisions, including Citizens United and this year's McCutcheon, the Supreme Court radically redefined the First Amendment to allow corporations and the wealthy to drown out the speech of everyday Americans with nearly unlimited political spending. The Democracy for All amendment would restore to Congress and the states the power to impose reasonable restrictions on money in politics, just as they had before the Supreme Court started to dismantle campaign finance laws.

So, what are Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz so scared of?

In fact, it wasn't that long ago that Mitch McConnell supported the very laws that he is now dead-set on blocking. Back in 1987, McConnell said he would support a constitutional amendment to allow Congress to regulate independent expenditures in elections -- just as the Democracy for All amendment would. And then he introduced that very constitutional amendment. Either McConnell has dramatically changed his mind regarding what constitutes a threat to the First Amendment, or he's motivated by something more cynical.

So, if Mitch McConnell doesn't actually think that limiting the amount of money that wealthy interests can spend on elections is a violation of the First Amendment, what is he up to? Could it be that he now finds it more useful to court the dollars of major donors than the votes of his constituents?

Washington is the only place where campaign finance reform is a partisan issue. A poll this summer found that 73 percent of voters support a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. Americans know that our First Amendment is about protecting the speech of citizens, not the interests of wealthy campaign donors.

Faced with a large, bipartisan grassroots movement that threatens their big-spending friends, the only arguments that Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz have left are wild accusations, flat-out falsehoods, and outlandish interpretations of the Bill of Rights.

PFAW

Senate Overcomes Procedural Hurdle, Will Consider Amendment to Get Big Money Out of Politics

WASHINGTON — Today the Senate roundly defeated a Republican filibuster that had been preventing the Senate from moving to consideration of the Democracy For All Amendment. The Senate is expected to take up the Amendment following the expiration of post-cloture debate time. People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker released the following statement:

“Achieving a full Senate debate on the amendment is a historic step forward in the movement to take back our democracy from powerful corporations and billionaires.

“The American people are angry that their voices are being drowned out by the roar created by massive spending on our elections. They’ve made clear that they’ll no longer settle for elections that are auctioned to the highest bidders, or for a government sold off to multi-national corporations and billionaires. They know that a representative democracy cannot thrive if the force of  peoples’ voices depends on the size of their bank accounts. By passing hundreds of local and state resolutions, by signing more than three million petitions, and by keeping the pressure on their elected representatives, ordinary Americans have shown that they are willing to fight for an amendment to overturn cases like Citizens United and get big money out of politics.

“Americans have also made clear that they aren’t buying the misleading arguments made by opponents of the amendment. Instead, by wide margins voters align with the idea that an amendment is necessary to make sure our democracy is truly of, by, and for the people.”

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PFAW and Allies Rally, Deliver 3 Million Petitions in Support of Amendment to Get Big Money Out of Politics

WASHINGTON — This afternoon People For the American Way (PFAW) joined partner organizations, Senators, and Representatives in a rally outside the U.S. Capitol in support of the Democracy For All Amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United and get big money out of politics. As the Senate begins debating the amendment, PFAW and ally organizations teamed up to deliver more than three million petitions in support of an amendment — up from two million just months ago.



 

The rally was emceed by People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker (pictured speaking above) and Public Citizen President Robert Weissman. Speakers included Sen. Tom Udall (N.M.), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Sen. Al Franken (Minn.), Rep. Ted Deutch (Fla.), and Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.).



 

At the rally, PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker said, “Today, more money than ever is flooding our democracy. But something else is also happening: everyday Americans are fighting back. Americans are no longer willing to settle for elections auctioned to the highest bidders.”

The massive number of petitions delivered is just one of many indicators of the broad support for an amendment to get big money out of politics. Sixteen states, more than 550 cities and towns, and public figures including former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and President Barack Obama have already voiced support for an amendment. Recent polling found that nearly three in four voters (73 percent) favor it.

Organizations contributing petitions included People For the American Way, MoveOn.org, CREDO, Daily Kos, Public Citizen, Public Change Campaign Committee, USAction, Common Cause, Democrats.com, Free Speech For People, Coffee Party, Center for Media and Democracy, Brave New Films, Progressive Democrats of America, Sierra Club, US PIRG, Communications Workers of America, Wolf PAC, Move to Amend, Food and Water Watch, Corporate Accountability International, Greenpeace, Public Campaign, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the League of Conservation Voters, and the Story of Stuff Project.

In June, People For the American Way submitted testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the proposed amendment and released an edit memo outlining how the amendment would restore the First Amendment and strengthen our democracy.

PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker is available for interviews with the press. To arrange an interview, please contact Layne Amerikaner at media@pfaw.org / 202-467-4999. For more information on PFAW’s Government By the People work, click here.

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“The Wealthy Get to Shout, But the Rest of You May Only Whisper”: Former GOP Senator Alan Simpson Calls for Amendment to #GetMoneyOut

This morning, former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson (Wyo.) and Democratic Sen. Tom Udall (N.M.) published a powerful joint op-ed in The Hill in support of the Democracy For All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment that would overturn decisions like Citizens United and help get big money out of politics.

The authors write that the Supreme Court’s line of decisions overturning common-sense campaign finance laws says to Americans: “the wealthy get to shout, but the rest of you may only whisper.” They debunk the myth that the amendment would repeal First Amendment free speech protections and make clear that it would actually do “the exact opposite”:

The constitutional amendment would make it clear that campaign finance regulations are up to the voters who elect Congress and state legislatures. It would not dictate any specific policies or regulations, but instead it would protect sensible and workable campaign finance laws from constitutional challenges.

Critics have claimed that the amendment would repeal the First Amendment’s free speech protections. But it does the exact opposite – the proposal is an effort to restore the First Amendment so that it applies equally to all Americans. When a few billionaires supporting both political parties can drown out the voices of millions of Americans, we can’t have any real political debate.

Sen. Udall and former Sen. Simpson note that the money in politics situation has gotten far worse over the course of their times in office:

Over the course of our Senate careers, spending on campaigns has gotten out of control. According to a joint study by Brookings and the American Enterprise Institute, outside groups spent $457 million to influence Senate and House races in 2012. In the 1978 election, when Senator Simpson was first elected, outside groups spent only $303,000. There is a deeply troubling trend here, and we simply cannot let it continue.

That former Sen. Simpson has joined the chorus of voices calling for change underscores the broad, bipartisan support for an amendment. A recent poll found that Republican voters support an amendment by a 26-point margin, and 137 Republican officials have called for an amendment to overturn Citizens United.

You can read the full op-ed here.

PFAW

2014 Midterm Elections: PFAW Holds Member Telebriefing with Political Strategist Celinda Lake

People For The American Way hosted a telebriefing Thursday evening to update PFAW members on the electoral landscape for 2014.  The call, which was kicked off by PFAW President Michael Keegan and moderated by Director of Communications Drew Courtney, featured prominent pollster and political strategist and current President of Lake Research Partners Celinda Lake, as well as PFAW’s Political Director Randy Borntrager and Executive Vice President Marge Baker.

Lake discussed the political climate in Congress and the general frustration voters feel toward both political parties. She emphasized multiple times throughout the call that in this election “the key is voter turnout.” In Kentucky, for instance since most undecided voters are leaning towards Alison Lundergan Grimes, turnout will be critical to help unseat Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Political Director Randy Borntrager discussed the work PFAW is doing to make the biggest impact possible in the most pivotal races to help progressives win this election. Lake and Borntrager emphasized that increasing awareness to voters of what is truly at stake – from reproductive rights to potential Supreme Court vacancies – will help make a difference come November.

Questions from callers also focused on other critical races including gubernatorial races in Florida and Wisconsin, the Senate race in North Carolina, and contests in Alaska and Iowa, among others.

In closing, Drew Courtney noted that the telebriefing shows that “we have some challenges ahead, but we are going to fight hard and push forward, and we’re not going to go back to the way things were before.”

Listen to the full audio of the telebriefing for more information.
 

PFAW

Civil Liberties Experts: Limiting Big Money In Elections Doesn’t Infringe on Free Speech Rights

This morning, six civil liberties experts released a letter emphasizing that reasonable regulations on money in elections do not violate the free speech rights guaranteed in the First Amendment. The authors — academics, philanthropists, and lawyers, all of whom are former leaders of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — make clear that the protection of civil liberties is entirely compatible with commonsense limits on money in elections.

The letter was released following a barrage of misleading arguments pushed by Sen. Ted Cruz and others about the Democracy for All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United that will be voted on in the Senate on Monday. Though opponents have tried to position themselves as defenders of free speech, with Sen. Cruz going so far as to claim that the amendment would repeal the First Amendment and “muzzle” Americans, this letter emphasizes that it is, in fact, the Court’s twisted interpretation of the First Amendment that threatens to leave Americans without a voice:

Rather than interpreting the First Amendment as assuring everyone a reasonable opportunity to be heard, the Court (and the National ACLU) has turned the First Amendment on its head by guaranteeing the wealthy an expensive set of stereo speakers, and leaving the average citizen with a bad case of laryngitis. Most Americans would find it preposterous to allot more time in a debate to the speaker with the most money. Yet, that is precisely how our campaign finance system functions today.

The authors, many of whom signed a similar letter in 1998, note that our country’s money in politics problem has only gotten worse since then. In the wake of decisions like Citizens United and McCutcheon, they write, “American democracy is almost irretrievably broken.” While they do not weigh in on the Democracy for All Amendment specifically, the civil liberties experts close the letter with a call to restore the promise of the First Amendment by overturning these damaging decisions:

We believe that overturning many of the Court’s narrow 5-4 campaign finance precedents and implementing generous, content neutral political spending limits is the best way to fulfill the promise of James Madison’s First Amendment as democracy’s best friend.

You can read the full text of the letter here.
 

PFAW

One Million Americans Submit Comments to the SEC on Corporate Political Spending

WASHINGTON — The one millionth comment urging the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require publicly traded corporations to disclose to shareholders their corporate political spending has now been submitted. It is a record-breaking display of how deeply Americans care about bringing greater light to corporate political spending.

Marge Baker, executive vice president of People For the American Way, released the following statement:

“Disclosing corporations’ political spending is an important first step in taking back our democracy from wealthy special interests. Corporations should not be able to spend unlimited sums to influence elections in the first place, let alone without prior approval by their shareholders. But until that changes, shedding light on that spending is the very least they can do. Americans are demanding greater transparency in unprecedented numbers; we urge the SEC to listen.”

People For the American Way has worked with ally organizations to encourage Americans to submit public comments to the commission.

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Louisville PFAW Activists Deliver Petitions Supporting Democracy For All Constitutional Amendment to Mitch McConnell


On Wednesday, PFAW activists in Kentucky joined other activists representing ally organizations in delivering petition signatures to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s state office calling for amending the Constitution to overturn cases like Citizens United and get big money out of politics. Nationally, more than three million Americans have signed such a petition.

The delivery comes days before the Senate is set to vote on the Democracy for All Amendment (S.J. Res 19), a joint resolution that would amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and related cases. An overwhelming majority of Americans oppose the Supreme Court’s rulings opening the floodgates to unlimited money in our elections, with sixteen states and over 550 cities formally demanding that Congress vote to pass a constitutional amendment to allow common sense campaign finance rules to be enacted.

The event in Louisville is part of a nationwide push to make the Democracy for All Amendment our Constitution’s 28th Amendment. Rallies and petition deliveries also occurred in the state offices of nine other senators throughout the country.

PFAW

Wisconsin PFAW Members Protest Walker Fundraiser

On Friday morning, PFAW members gathered outside the Nakoma Golf Club in Madison, WI to protest a fundraiser held by Scott Walker. Activists held signs calling on voters to “Ship Walker Overseas, Not Jobs,” and letting Walker know that “Time is Up” and Wisconsinites have had enough.

Recent media reports have exposed how Walker’s alleged efforts to garner support for his extreme political agenda violate Wisconsinites’ basic principles of fairness and honesty in the political system. The protest highlighted how Wisconsinites are sick of Walker’s shady practices while campaigning and while in office.

One sign read “Dear Governor Walker: You took my job. You took my rights. You took my money. You took my smile. Now I’m taking them back!!!”

The Progressive’s Rebecca Kemble who was at the protest wrote that with “wit and creativity” PFAW members and other activists wanted to “let Walker and his supporters know what they think of the outsized influence of money in politics and of the inhumane and unjust policies that this influence buys.”

Friday’s protest shows Wisconsinites are paying attention and don’t want Walker’s corrupt practices to continue polluting their government.

PFAW
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