Government By the People

Wisconsin Republicans Rally Against the Recall

Over the weekend, Republicans and right-wing activists gathered for a rally in Oshkosh, WI. The Oshkosh Northwestern filmed the event, and our friends at We Are Wisconsin PAC clipped some highlights (below).

The rally seems to have consisted of right-wing politicians spewing one distortion after another about the Walker administration’s policies and their opponents’ intentions. The interviews with the audience members unfortunately show a typical “tea party” misunderstanding of the issues, and that Republicans’ talking points about collective bargaining and teachers’ health benefits have taken root with at least the party’s avid supporters.

Some of the highlights included in the video above show U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde angrily railing against public unions (and completely rewriting the history of Scott Walker’s union busting in the process), a downright bizarre song-and-dance number mocking the protests against the Walker administration’s anti-middle class policies and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch noting the national importance of the recall elections. (Kleefisch begins 1:54 into the video.)

You can support PFAW’s Recall the Right campaign to send Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his right-wing cronies packing on June 5 here >>

 

 

 

PFAW

Political Spending Resolutions Filed at 3 Corporations

Thanks to Citizens United, corporations have been spending unprecedented sums for political purposes. Short of a constitutional amendment to overturn that flawed decision, good government advocates are pressing a variety of strategies to minimize the undue influence corporations currently hold over our electoral system.

Requiring disclosure of corporate political expenditures is one powerful way to return some of the balance of influence to the American people. Activists are pressing for the passage of the DISCLOSE Act and the Shareholder Protection Act, and also submitted a record-setting action to the Securities and Exchange Commission calling for a rule requiring publicly-traded companies to disclose their political spending.

This week, the Corporate Reform Coalition is taking this call to the true owners of public corporations: the shareholders. This coalition of organizations, which includes People For the American Way, Public Citizen and others, is supporting first-time “political spending” resolutions and helping to organize rallies at the annual shareholder meetings of 3M and Bank of America, which are taking place this week, and also at Target Corporation, which will meet on June 14th.

The message is simple: Leave democracy to the people. Corporations should stop spending money on influencing our elections and focus on what they were created to do: make a profit for their shareholders. And if these corporations refuse to cease using their vast treasuries for political purposes, they at least should disclose their activities so that shareholders can make informed decisions.

These reforms speak to many Americans because so many people are shareholders. If you’ve ever bought a stock, had a 401(k) account or a pension, then you’re a shareholder – and it is your money might be spent on a candidate, cause or attack ad you don’t support, without your knowledge. We all have a right to know if our money is being spent to influence our democracy, and we should have the power to say no.

PFAW

Walker's Millions and the Right's "Special Interests" Lie

On Wednesday, PFAW president Michael Keegan sent the following message to PFAW members:

Scott Walker is truly the worst governor money can buy. In 2010, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision, Walker shattered state fundraising records in his campaign to be Wisconsin’s next governor. Now, faced with a recall election, he’s doing it again -- and then some.

It was reported this week that in the last three months, Scott Walker raised $13.1 MILLION to beat back his recall challenge. And that figure does not include the money being spent by right-wing Super PACs to support him and bash his opponents. To put this feat in perspective, Walker’s two leading Democratic challengers, Kathleen Falk and Tom Barrett -- currently locked in a primary in which they are spending resources against each other -- have raised $977,000 and $750,000 respectively.

Walker has milked his “golden boy” status among the ideological mega-funders of the right-wing movement. His aggressive attacks on workers’ rights, funding for important social programs and equal rights protections have made powerful corporate interests like Koch Industries and activists like Grover Norquist eager to host fundraisers for him around the country, from Oklahoma to New York. Amazingly, the Right continues to accuse our side of being fueled by “special interests” (as always, mischaracterizing “special interests” as people willing to stand up for their rights).

Many have called the Wisconsin recall election the second most important election battle of 2012 (second only to the presidential race), and it’s certainly shaping up to be the most emblematic of the crossroads at which America finds itself post-Citizens United. This recall battle is definitively one of Big Money vs. the People.

Mark Hanna, William McKinley’s right-wing millionaire campaign manager in 1896, famously said, “There are two things that matter in politics. The first is money and I can’t remember what the second one is.” We MUST prove him wrong in Wisconsin ... we must prove that People Power can win the day.

With the help of Hanna and the robber barons of the era, McKinley won his race with only 51% of the popular vote after outspending his Democratic opponent 23 to 1. It’s up to us to make sure 2012 is not a repeat of 1896.

We won’t be able to outspend them, but what we do have we will spend smarter to help turn out the people’s vote. With your help, we’ll outwork Walker and his billionaire allies and RECALL THE RIGHT in Wisconsin.

Thank you for standing with us in this fight. Please stay tuned for more important information about the Wisconsin recall elections and People For the American Way’s campaign the Recall the Right.

Sincerely,
Michael Keegan, President

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was in Wisconsin this week campaigning for Scott Walker and said, “For the next five weeks, America is going to find out the answer to what is more powerful, the people or the money and special interests from Washington, D.C. Wisconsin will answer that question."

Republicans are really going all in on the claim that the big money being spent in the recall election is coming from the Walker’s opponents. Jaw-dropping chutzpah considering Walker has already spent $20 million in his own defense, has another $25 million on hand and is being supported by outside groups with limitless funding from wealthy corporate interests. Meanwhile, the amount of money raised and spent both by the Democratic candidates and outside groups opposing Walker (including unions – the so-called ‘special interests’ to which Chris Christie was alluding) is hardly a fraction of Walker’s behemoth war chest. Oh, and for all the Republicans' handwringing about out of state money fueling the recall effort, it was reported a few days ago that two-thirds of Walker's money has come from outside of Wisconsin.

There's no question this race is a question of the grassroots versus big special interest money, but Scott Walker isn't the on the side of the grassroots.

PFAW

PFAW Wisconsin Recall Round-Up - May 4, 2012

The national media is focusing its gaze once again on Wisconsin, and this week it was all about the money.  Monday, April 30th, was the filing deadline for pre-primary election fundraising totals.  Wisconsin’s embattled Republican Governor Scott Walker turned in a filing that, on the surface, blew his Democratic rivals away, reporting $13 million in money raised during the January to April reporting period.

An in-depth analysis by The Huffington Post, however, revealed that approximately two-thirds of Walker’s money raised was donated by individuals and entities from outside Wisconsin.  This draws a stark contrast to his nearest Democratic rivals filings, with Tom Barrett reporting $750,000 in donations in 25 days, and Kathleen Falk reporting $1 million.  99% of Barrett’s donations came from inside Wisconsin.  Falk only had $25,862 in her account at the end of 2011.

News analysis also revealed that Walker transferred $60,000 to his legal defense fund during the pre-primary period, according to his campaign finance report.  This revelation drew criticism from One Wisconsin Now and others, as it appeared to many Wisconsinites that Walker’s campaign is using nuances in Wisconsin GAB reporting requirements to avoid revealing who donated to the legal defense fund.

Mid-week, Marquette University released polling data that indicates the public’s perception of the Governor has not improved, despite his campaign spending $21 million dollars to bolster his image and fight against a recall from office.  The situation left prominent pundits and reporters alike referring to his numbers as “almost freakishly fixed in place,” with rivals using grassroots support and a focus on issues to prepare for next Tuesday’s primary elections to take on the Governor for the recalls.

Looking forward, next Tuesday is Primary Day!  Follow our Facebook page and Twitter feed for the latest information on where to find your polling place.  Exercise your duty to Fight The Right and vote!

PFAW

Educators Ditch ALEC's Corporate-Schools Agenda

Who has ditched ALEC so far?

The rolling tally: 14 Corporations, 33 State Representatives.

A major component of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s agenda to transfer the public’s resources to a few private hands revolves around privatizing our public school systems. From model bills that sanction “Virtual Public Schools” run by for-profit companies to subsidizing private school vouchers with taxpayer money, ALEC places corporate profits above children’s needs.

Perhaps this is why the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), the national certifying body for teachers in the United States and an organization that is ostensibly dedicated to serving children’s educational needs, announced that they are severing ties with ALEC:

Given recent events, the new NBPTS President and CEO decided to discontinue engagement with ALEC. As a result, NBPTS terminated its membership as an Education Task Force Member of ALEC effective April 18, 2012, and also withdrew from participating in the upcoming ALEC conference....The decision to participate in ALEC had been made by previous NBPTS leadership.

–NBPTS spokesperson Brian Lewis

NBPTS is a non-profit organization, but they take positions on many aspects of education policy, including teacher-certification regulations. Before their departure, the organization sat on ALEC’s Education Task Force, which, as the Center for Media and Democracy reports, boasts private-sector members such as the James Madison Institute of Florida and the Pioneer Institute of Massachusetts, both members of the Koch-funded State Policy Network.

ALEC is too toxic even for some for-profit education companies. Last week, Kaplan announced that they are declining to renew their ALEC membership. 

PFAW Foundation

The Partisan Advantages of Citizens United

 

Just how much has Citizens United altered the electoral landscape? While the overall amount of outside money in politics has risen dramatically with each passing election cycle, the Citizens United decision eliminated restrictions on corporate and special-interest spending to influence or elections. The result shows that the new rules have stacked the deck in favor of Republicans.

This chart from the Center for Responsive Politics shows how, while spending by outside groups has been on the rise since the 90’s, it was not until 2010 Supreme Court decision that conservatives saw a sudden, major advantage in outside-expenditure spending on their behalf:

Total Liberal vs. Conservative Outside Spending, Excluding Party Committees

As Ian Milllhiser at Think Progress notes, the much of the 2012 spending on Republican candidates went to intra-party contests during the primaries, though it will likely continue through the general election. But the overall trend is clear: As a result of the Citizens United, Republicans will continue to enjoy outsized spending on their behalf by corporations.

PFAW

Leaked ALEC Documents Show Extent of Influence

The American Legislative Exchange Council’s influence over state legislative bodies is well documented. We’ve seen countless examples of corporate lobbyist-drafted model legislation, developed at exclusive retreats at fancy resorts out of the public’s eye, make its way to the statehouse floor, bringing disastrous results to working families, public education, the environment, voting rights and much more.

Last week, Common Cause released a bounty of ALEC’s internal documents as part of an official complaint to the IRS, claiming that ALEC has abused its tax status as a 501c3 organization. As a result, a new window was been opened into the processes responsible for creating these pro-special interest bills, revealing just how much power ALEC’s corporate members enjoy.

One such document, the minutes from ALEC’s 2011 Telecommunications & Information Technology Task Force meeting in New Orleans, reveals how the private sector (ALEC-speak for “corporations”) has equal – and often greater – policy-making power than elected officials through their influence in developing model legislation that can become law. The document describes how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce offered a resolution regarding federal efforts to curtail internet sites that sell counterfeit products, and after discussion amongst the public and private sector members, the resolution was defeated:

The Task Force then proceeded with a vote on the motion to amend by Mr. Castleberry, which was adopted by the private sector 8-1 in favor and by the public sector 19-3 in favor. On final passage of the resolution as amended, the public sector voted 17-1 in favor of the resolution, but the private sector voted 8-8 in favor; thus, the resolution failed on final passage because it failed to achieve a majority of support from the private sector.

In this case, the will of 94% of our elected representatives participating in the discussion was trumped by just half of the task force’s corporate members. To put it simply: unelected corporations are voting as equals with elected officials on model bills that become our laws.

This is how ALEC accomplishes its stated mission to “advance the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise”: by helping free market enterprises literally vote on public policy.

[H/T Republic Report]

PFAW Foundation

Top Lobbyist and ALEC Members Host Emergency Meeting with Arizona Legislators and Staff

Phoenix, AZ – Today, at the request of House Majority Whip Debbie Lesko and the top lobbyist for SRP, a major Arizona utility company, state legislators and their staff held a closed-door meeting to provide an “update on the fight that ALEC is waging in the media against its detractors.” SRP and Lesko are both members of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has come under intense media scrutiny and public criticism for its role in advancing extreme legislation in Arizona and around the country.

On Tuesday, Russell Smoldon, SRP’s Senior Director of Government Relations and a member of the ALEC Private Enterprise Board, sent out the following invitation:

Debbie Lesko and other ALEC legislative members both present and past would like to invite you to a meeting this Thurs. (April 26th), 11:00am at AGC to get the latest update on the fight that ALEC is waging in the media against its detractors. We would really appreciate your attendance.

Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way Foundation, issued the following statement:

“Now that ALEC’s agenda is out of the shadows, they are scrambling to justify their extreme policies to the public. It’s telling that SRP and Representative Lesko promoted this meeting to defend ALEC, which advances policies that benefit corporations’ bottom line at the expense of individual workers and consumers. This meeting demonstrates how the people’s representatives, with ALEC as facilitator, are at the beck and call of corporations and special interests. It’s time to expose those who do ALEC’s bidding and restore the public interest as our elected officials’ top priority.”

People For the American Way Foundation has released two reports in conjunction with Common Cause, Progress Now and the Center for Media and Democracy detailing ALEC’s influence in the Arizona legislature through side-by-side analysis of ALEC model bills and actual Arizona legislation. Following the release of the second report, Arizona Public Service Company (APS), Arizona’s largest utility in the state, announced it was severing ties with ALEC.

###

 

 

 

ALEC Confirms Shift to Economic Focus Just a PR Move

Responding to pressure from consumers who don’t want the companies they do business with to support an extreme agenda, 13 major corporations have withdrawn their membership from ALEC. The organization has been under pressure from activists outraged at ALEC’s support for draconian immigration policies, vote-suppressing legislation and gun laws like “Stand Your Ground."

 Last week, ALEC released a statement saying that it was disbanding the Public Safety and Elections Task Force responsible for turning these extreme policies into law, instead claiming that the organization would be shifting its focus back to economic issues:

“We are refocusing our commitment to free-market, limited government and pro-growth principles, and have made changes internally to reflect this renewed focus.

“We are eliminating the ALEC Public Safety and Elections task force that dealt with non-economic issues, and reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy. The remaining budgetary and economic issues will be reassigned.”

We were skeptical that the decision was anything more than a savvy PR move – and now an ALEC member has confirmed it. This move was just a stunt; the Public Safety and Elections Task Force’s whole portfolio will be reassigned to another committee, according Republican State Rep. Jerry Madden of Texas, the Task Force’s former chair: 

Republican State Rep. Jerry Madden of Texas chairs the Public Safety Task Force and although he is disappointed the committee is disbanding, he said many of the issues will be transferred to other committees.

"ALEC's decision won't impact the important issues we've worked on," Madden told The Christian Post"But I will say this, these groups are targeting ALEC because when conservatives get together, we influence state and federal policy in a major way and these groups are scared of us – and should be."

Considering the ever-growing list of corporations and legislators who have deserted the organization in recent weeks, maybe it’s ALEC that should be worried.

One such defector, State Representative Ted Vick of South Carolina told Ed Schultz his reasons for resigning:

“It started moving to the right and getting very extreme…right now if they continue to do the Right-Wing thing they are doing and pushing agendas that have nothing to do with more efficient government, then it doesn’t have a place in politics in my opinion, and that’s why I’m resigning.”

 

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

PR stunt aside, the fact remains that ALEC’s core agenda is just as extreme and dangerous. Somehow, ALEC’s “jobs agenda” still manages to include attacks on working families, the environment, women, public education – the list goes on. As PFAW president Michael Keegan stated,

The true economic consequences of the ALEC agenda – which includes privatizing public resources such as schools and prisons, dismantling unions and stacking the deck against average people who try to seek justice in a court of law – is that wealthy special interests get even richer while the rest of us are left in the dust. ALEC believes in job creation – unless job elimination is better for the bottom line of a few corporations.

PFAW Foundation

The American People Reject Citizens United. Whose Representatives are Listening?

Recent polling indicates the vast majority of Americans believe that corporations and special interests have too much sway in our elections – a whopping 85 % of voters said that corporations have too much influence over the political system, and 93% said that average citizens have too little. Across all parties, a full 62% specifically oppose Citizens United, the deeply flawed 2010 Supreme Court Decision that opened the floodgates to massive corporate and special interest spending in our elections.

This deep disapproval is manifest in the growing grassroots movement taking hold across the country fighting for a constitutional amendment to overturn that decision. While there’s a long way to go, the people represented in these polls are making their voice heard, and our elected officials are taking action.

The 89 members of Congress who have endorsed one of the 13 federal resolutions to overturn Citizens United introduced thus far during the 112th Congress are acting on this sentiment. These proposed amendments are diverse, and are reflective of the robust and serious debate Americans are having across the country on what constitutional approach would best solve the problem. In addition, as significant is the groundswell of support at the local and state level that far transcends this total. To name just a few, the City Councils of New York City, NY, Oakland, CA, Los Angeles, CA, Albany, NY, Missoula, MT, and Boulder, CO have all adopted their own resolutions, as have the legislatures of states like Hawaii, New Mexico and Vermont (and in Maryland, where the state Constitution does not permit the passage of non-binding resolutions, a majority of legislators in both houses have signed a letter calling for a constitutional amendment). When given the chance to vote directly, the citizens of 64 towns across the state of Vermont have passed ballot measures supporting a constitutional amendment.

So far, 91 million Americans are represented by public officials who have declared their support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. 24 Senators, representing 75 million constituents, have sponsored or cosponsored a version of an amendment. Across the Capitol, 65 members of the House of Representatives, representing an additional 16 million people.

Progress is being made, but there’s still more work to do to fill these maps with dark shades of yellow and green. But this is a “movement moment” – and with the ever-increasing support of public officials, advocacy organizations and citizen activists, it can be done.

PFAW

ALEC Update: 12th Corporation Drops Out

Yum! Brands, the parent company of fast food chains such as KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, has decided to leave the American Legislative Exchange Council, according to Color of Change. This makes Yum! The 12th company to disassociate from the organization in recent weeks.

This is a significant decision because it comes after ALEC’s decision to disband the Public Safety and Elections Task Force, the part of the organization responsible for the voter suppression and “Stand Your Ground” laws that exemplify ALEC’s extreme agenda and helped galvanize the recent corporate exodus from the group.

Think Progress notes that Yum! held a leadership position on a different committee: Labor and Business Regulation, which fought to repeal laws guaranteeing paid sick leave to workers. The corporation also was a member of the Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force.

Responsible members of the business community are realizing with or without the Public Safety and Elections Task Force, ALEC’s extreme agenda is bad for business.

PFAW Foundation

Romney and Bork, a Dangerous Team: People For the American Way Campaign Exposes Romney’s Embrace of Judicial Extremism

Today, People For the American Way launched a major new campaign – including a website, a web ad and an exclusive report – exposing Mitt Romney’s dangerous agenda for America’s courts.

The campaign highlights Romney’s choice of Robert Bork to lead his constitutional and judicial advisory team. By allying with Bork, a jurist so extreme he was rejected by a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate 25 years ago, Romney has sent a clear signal that he means to drag America’s courts even farther to the right, endangering many of the civil rights, liberties and economic protections won by the American people over the past five decades.

The ad, Don’t Let Romney Bork America, and the report, Borking America: What Robert Bork Will Mean to the Supreme Court and American Justice, can be viewed at www.RomneyCourt.com.

“The debates over health care and immigration have reinforced the importance of the Supreme Court to all Americans,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “However, few are aware of the extreme agenda Mitt Romney has for the High Court – an agenda exemplified by his close alliance with Robert Bork.

“In 1987, People For the American Way led the fight to keep Judge Bork off the Supreme Court,” Keegan continued. “25 years later, we are as relieved as ever that we succeeded. When Bork was nominated, Americans across the political spectrum rejected the dangerous political agenda that he would have brought to the bench – his disdain for modern civil rights legislation, his acceptance of poll taxes and literacy tests, his defense of contraception bans and criminal sodomy laws, his continued privileging of corporations over individuals. Since then, he has dug his heels even deeper into a view of the law that puts corporations first and individuals far behind.

“It is frightening that a quarter century after Robert Bork’s jurisprudence was deemed too regressive for the Supreme Court, a leading presidential candidate has picked him to shape his legal policy.”

People For the American Way Senior Fellow Jamie Raskin, the author of the report, added: “The return of Robert Bork and his reactionary jurisprudence to national politics should be a three-alarm wake-up call for all Americans. In his work on the bench as a judge and off the bench as a polemicist, Bork has consistently placed corporations above the government and government above the rights of the people. The idea that Bork could be central to shaping the Supreme Court in the 21st century is shocking because he wants to turn the clock back decades in terms of the civil rights and civil liberties. His constitutional politics are even more extreme today than in 1987, when a bipartisan group of 58 senators rejected his nomination to the Supreme Court.”

The new report and ad review Bork’s record from his days as solicitor general to President Richard Nixon to his turn as co-chair of the Romney campaign’s committee on law, the Constitution and the judiciary. Highlights of Bork’s career include:

  • Consistently choosing corporate power over the rights of people. As a judge, Bork regularly took the side of business interests against government regulators trying to hold them accountable, but the side of the government when it was challenged by workers, environmentalists and consumers pressing for more corporate accountability.
  • Opposing civil rights, voting rights, reproductive rights, gay rights and individual free speech. Bork disparaged the Civil Rights Act of 1964; defended the use of undemocratic poll taxes and literacy tests in state elections ; disagrees with the Supreme Court ruling that overturned sodomy laws; and believes that the government should be able to jail people for advocating civil disobedience.
  • Advocating censorship and blaming American culture first. Bork promotes censorship to combat what he calls the “rot and decadence” of American society, saying “I don’t make any fine distinctions; I’m just advocating censorship.” He writes that “the liberal view of human nature” has thrown American culture into “free fall.”
  •  Rejecting the separation of church and state. Bork rejects the science of evolution, advocates legalizing school-sponsored prayer and has written that he wants to see the Constitution’s wall of separation between church and state “crumble.”
  • Turning back the clock on women's rights: Bork has argued against Supreme Court decisions upholding abortion rights and decisions upholding the right to contraception for single people and even married couples. He believes that the heightened protections of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause don’t apply to women. As a judge, he authored a decision reversing the Secretary of Labor and holding that federal law permits a company to deal with toxic workplace conditions by demanding that female employees be sterilized or lose their jobs.

Learn more at www.RomneyCourt.com.


###
 

Capitol Hill Summit: Overturn Citizens United!

PFAW joined members of Congress, state and local officials, advocacy organizations and concerned citizens for a Capitol Hill summit to amplify the call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that helped usher in unprecedented levels of corporate spending to influence our elections.

The speakers recounted the toll that Citizens United has taken on our democracy, as their colleagues must contend with the outsized influence that wealthy special interests hold over the political system, and how it is absolutely imperative for Congress to have the authority to regulate campaign contributions and require disclosure. While there are many approaches under consideration, it was clear to all that amending the Constitution is a necessary step to restore our democracy. So far, 13 constitutional amendments have been introduced in the current session.

It’s a long road to ratification, but there is a rapidly growing grassroots movement taking hold across the country to get this done. State Representatives and City Councilmen took to the podium to share their constituents’ enthusiasm for a constitutional amendment, and many states and cities across the country have already adopted resolutions calling for such an amendment.

The summit concluded with a call for public officials to sign the Declaration for Democracy, a simple statement of support for amending the Constitution “to protect the integrity of our elections and limit the corrosive influence of money in our democratic process.”

Here is a video and photos of the event.

 

 

 

PFAW’s Marge Baker opens the Summit as members of Congress, local and state officials and activists look on. “We the people means all the people, not just the powerful and privileged.”

PFAW’s Diallo Brooks introduces several local government officials as Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) signs the Declaration for Democracy.

Maryland State Senator and PFAW Senior Fellow Jamie Raskin describes the Supreme Court’s flawed logic in the Citizens United decision. Quoting Justice White: “The state need not let its own creature [corporations] devour it.”

Rep. Keith Ellison watches as PFAW’s Marge Baker signs the Declaration.

The Declaration for Democracy: “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.”

PFAW

The American People Reject Citizens United. Whose Representatives are Listening?

To: Interested Parties

From: Marge Baker, Executive Vice President, People For the American Way

Date: April 18, 2012

Re: The American People Reject Citizens United. Whose Representatives are Listening?

91 million Americans are represented by one of the 89 members of Congress supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. FEC, according to a new analysis by People For the American Way. To date, a total of 24 U.S. Senators and 65 U.S. Representatives have sponsored or co-sponsored an amendment to the constitution seeking to undo the damage caused by the flawed decision that paved the way for unprecedented levels of corporate and special interest influence in our elections, as tracked by United For the People.

Over 75 million people live in the states represented by pro-amendment senators, according to 2010 census data. In states still awaiting senatorial support, an additional 16 million people live in congressional districts represented by a member of the House who has signed on to a proposed amendment, bringing the total to 91 million. Considered separately, the 65 supporting members of the House represent 42 million Americans.

The Citizens United decision is immensely unpopular among voters, and a majority of Americans support amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United. In fact, a 2010 PFAW poll showed that 85% of voters say corporations have too much influence over the political system, while 93% said that average citizens have too little. More recent polling commissioned by Public Campaign shows that these concerns translate to a full 62 percent across all political parties that oppose Citizens United, with nearly half strongly in opposition. The survey also found that more than three-quarters of voters say that it is important for candidates to make campaign finance reform a key election issue, and two-thirds of voters consider reducing the influence of lobbyists and money in politics to be an important factor in their vote.

The 89 members of Congress who have endorsed one of the 13 federal resolutions to overturn Citizens United introduced thus far during the 112th Congress are acting on this sentiment. These proposed amendments are diverse, reflective of the robust and serious debate Americans are having across the country on what constitutional approach would best solve the problem. In addition, as significant is the groundswell of support at the local and state level that far transcends this total. To name just a few, the City Councils of New York City, NY, Oakland, CA, Los Angeles, CA, Albany, NY, Missoula, MT, and Boulder, CO have all adopted their own resolutions, as have the legislatures of states like Hawaii and New Mexico, and when given the chance to vote directly, the citizens of 64 towns across the state of Vermont have passed ballot measures supporting a constitutional amendment.

The groundswell of support for a constitutional amendment among the American people represents a “movement moment,” and members of Congress who are taking action – on behalf of 91 million constituents so far – are on the right track. A constitutional amendment is a profound but necessary measure to restore the balance of influence in our elections to the American people. The issue of undue corporate and special interests in our democracy is a big problem that requires a big solution. Measures that require more disclosure of the sources of the big money in politics, call for public financing of elections or require greater corporate accountability to shareholders for corporate political spending would all mitigate the problems caused by the Court’s radical decision in Citizens United. But because the Court rested its decision in that case on flawed constitutional grounds, the only way to fully remedy the decision is by amending the Constitution to ensure that Americans’ voices are not overwhelmed by massive corporate and special interest spending in elections.

A broad and diverse group of organizations, under the banner of United For the People, are pressing creative ways for activists and public officials to engage on this issue. Activists are encouraging local, state and federal public officials, even those who haven’t yet decided on specific amendment language, to support these efforts by joining the simple call for constitutional remedies to overturn Citizens United and related cases. Officials can sign the simple declaration of support here. Activists across the country are encouraged to take the declaration to the public officials that represent them and encourage them to sign.

###

Borking America

Many Presidents leave their most enduring legacy to the nation in the Justices that they name to the Supreme Court and the federal judges that they put on the bench. So what inspired former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to name former judge Robert Bork to co-chair his presidential campaign advisory committee on law, the Constitution and the judiciary?

PFAW Vows Continued Vigilance as ALEC Attempts to Whitewash its Extreme Agenda

In response to public outrage, the American Legislative Exchange Council has announced that it is disbanding the “Public Safety and Elections Task Force,” the working group responsible for advancing model legislation like the controversial Voter ID and “Shoot First” gun laws that have proliferated around the country.

“ALEC’s latest move is a transparent effort to stem the recent hemorrhaging they’re facing after the outpouring of grassroots anger over their role pushing extreme legislation that endangers the safety and lives of Americans.” said People For the American Way president Michael Keegan. “They’re right to be worried about public outrage of their support of laws that promote vigilantism, suppress citizens’ right to vote and criminalize immigrants, but this is an empty gesture unless ALEC and its members work to overturn the draconian measures that have caused so much harm to the American people. Their claim that in the future they will only focus on legislation that will ‘put the economy back to work,’ begs the question of how they can use a ‘jobs agenda’ to justify laws that undermine workers’ rights, privatize public education, and make it harder to hold corporations accountable for poisoning our air and water or selling us dangerous and defective products. We will continue to work with our friends to shine a light on ALEC’s agenda and hold members accountable for supporting that agenda.”

Eleven companies, including  McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Kraft Foods severed ties with ALEC under increasing public scrutiny from a number of organizations including People For the American Way, Color of Change, Center for Media and Democracy, Common Cause, and Progress Now. Just this afternoon, Color of Change announced that Blue Cross Blue Shield had also severed its ties with ALEC.

###

Media Advisory: Capitol Hill Summit on Overturning Citizens United

FOR PLANNING PURPOSES                                  

House and Senate Members to Host Activists and Advocacy Groups for Congressional Summit on Amending the Constitution

Washington, DC – On Wednesday, April 18, a number of United States Senate and House members will host People For the American Way (PFAW) and other advocacy organizations alongside local and state government representatives and citizen activists for a summit to explore the need for constitutional remedies to overturn Citizens United. As sponsors of proposed constitutional amendments, the Senators and Representatives are highlighting the growing grassroots movement to restore our democracy and amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and restore government by the people.

Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Tom Udall (D-NM) will join Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL), Donna F. Edwards (D-MD), Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Jim McGovern (D-MA) for the discussion. Other speakers include People For the American Way’s Executive Vice President Marge Baker and Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin.

 

WHAT : Congressional Summit to Overturn Citizens United

 

WHO:

Senator Bernie Sanders                                       People For the American Way

Senator Charles E. Schumer                                 Public Citizen

Senator Tom Udall                                              Center for Media and Democracy

Representative Ted Deutch                                  Common Cause

Representative Keith Ellison                                  Communication Workers of America

Representative Donna F. Edwards                          Move to Amend

Representative Jim McGovern                                American Sustainable Business Council

                                                                       Free Speech for People    

 

WHEN :          Wednesday, April 18, 2012

                      11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

 

WHERE :        Capitol Visitors Center, HVC 215

  

RSVP :           Please click here to RSVP.

 

 ###

 

 

 

 

List of Companies Dropping ALEC hits 10

In the week since the call went out for the corporations on ALEC’s Private Enterprise Board to disassociate from the organization, a whopping TEN companies have publicly announced that they will no longer bankroll the American Legislative Exchange Council’s extreme agenda.

These entities have bid ALEC adieu, and more are sure to follow:

  • Coca-Cola
  • PepsiCo
  • Kraft
  • Intuit
  • Wendy’s
  • Mars, Inc.
  • Arizona Public Service
  • Reed Elsevier
  • American Traffic Solutions
  • McDonald’s

PFAW and other advocacy organizations have launched a petition calling for the remaining companies to leave ALEC, putting increasing pressure on companies like State Farm and Johnson & Johnson to stop funding the organization responsible for so many attacks against workers, public education, the right to vote and so many other fundamental issues.

However, the member-corporations are only one part of the ALEC equation. Slowly but surely, ALEC-member state legislators are beginning to understand that ALEC’s toxic policies are not in the best interests of their constituents, and are backing out of the organization as well:

Missouri State Rep. Mike Colona:

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is not the innocuous, bipartisan organization it purports to be. Their agenda is radical and wrong for Missouri. I was a member and saw firsthand the sort of extreme legislation they push on state legislators around the country. I disagree with ALEC's extremist agenda and encourage my colleagues in the Missouri General Assembly to end their affiliations with the group. If ALEC is too extreme for Coke, Pepsi, McDonald's, Kraft, Wendy's, Intuit and the Gates Foundation, it's too extreme for me and the people of Missouri.

Texas State Rep Alma Allen:

As a legislator, I value the input that non-partisan organizations contribute to various issues. However, I do not believe that the American Legislative Exchange Council is a non-partisan organization. Due to the legislation that ALEC has been involved in forming and promoting, I will not be renewing my membership. I value and listen to all opinions, but ALEC's agenda has become harmful to my constituents, and the people of the State of Texas.

There’s much more work to be done, but the ALEC house of cards is beginning to crumble.

PFAW

PFAW Applauds the Citizens United Resolution Effort of YEO and Newark, Delaware City Councilmember Ezra Temko

Ezra recently put forth a resolution in support of efforts to reverse the Citizens United decision
PFAW

ALEC Holds Tight Grip on Arizona Legislature

Updated Report Documents Intensified Influence of American Legislative Exchange Council and its Out-of-State Corporate Donors

PHOENIX -- Legislators in Arizona continue to advance extremist legislation inspired by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its out-of-state corporate backers, according to a new analysis by People For the American Way Foundation, Common Cause, the Center for Media and Democracy and Progress Now. This report shines a new light on the Arizona Legislature’s unprecedented ties to the secretive organization, which recently drew nationwide fire for its role in implementing radical policies across the country like “Shoot First” laws and voter suppression laws, and anti-worker measures. ALEC’s extreme agenda has recently led companies such as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Wendy’s, KRAFT and Intuit to withdraw from the organization. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Monday also withdrew its support from ALEC.

The comprehensive report found that Arizona’s large concentration of ALEC-member legislators, working hand-in-hand with the corporate leaders who make up ALEC’s membership, are continuing to endorse special interest legislation that harms ordinary people by limiting consumers’ rights, privatizing education and dismantling unions.

The report, ALEC in Arizona: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests in the Halls of Arizona’s Legislature, updated for the Fiftieth Legislature, second regular session is available here.

“Recent polling shows that Arizonans are appalled by the out-of-touch and extremist agenda at their State Legislature. This report shows that agenda is no accident,” said John Loredo, a member of Arizona Working Families and a former Arizona House Minority Leader. “Unfortunately, Arizona has one of the highest concentrations of ALEC legislators in the country, and that makes us a petri dish for anti-worker legislation and a host of other bad ideas.”

“ALEC-member legislators are unabashedly continuing to push legislation straight from corporate headquarters to Arizona’s lawbooks,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way Foundation. “Well-heeled special interests are circumventing the democratic system and bypassing Arizona’s citizens, who can’t match the level of access that ALEC provides. As a result, Arizonans are facing an endless assault from laws that serve the interests of the rich and powerful instead of everyday people.”

“The more Arizonans learn about ALEC, its agenda, and its tactics in advancing that agenda, the more they wonder why their elected representatives and leading corporate citizens would be associated with such an organization,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. “No business has a legitimate interest in limiting the right to vote or in undermining public education; no legislator can reasonably defend laws that protect the manufacturers of dangerous or defective products. In embracing ALEC, lawmakers and business people embrace these and other policies that betray the public interest.”

"ALEC' state chair, Rep. Debbie Lesko, has claimed she gives equal access to ALEC corporation as Arizona citizens about changing the law, but this report shows how special interests outside of Arizona are crafting massive changes to the rights of state citizens behind closed doors," said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy/ALECexposed.org, adding "Public records also document that Rep. Lesko raises funds from ALEC corporations to distribute to ALEC legislators that help advance ALEC's agenda so they can go on resort trips where politicians secretly vote on model bills such as these with corporate lobbyists voting as equals. This is distorting the law in ways that harm Arizona families and should be stopped."

The updated report demonstrates the scope of ALEC’s policymaking influence with a side-by-side comparison of ALEC “model bills” with recently-submitted Arizona legislation, including:

• Anti-worker legislation designed to limit the freedom of public employees to voice their views by making it more difficult to collect professional association and union dues and blocking members from participating in professional association and union functions;

• Bills that make it easier for corporations to get away with wrongdoing and restricting consumers’ ability to seek justice in a court of law; and

• Attacks on public education by replacing real teachers with private, for profit, “virtual classrooms.”

ALEC Exposed, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, has uncovered and analyzed approximately 800 ALEC “model” bills secretly voted on by corporations and politicians in an effort to reveal the undue influence major corporations hold, with the help of ALEC, in our democracy. Click here for more information.

###

Share this page: Facebook Twitter Digg SU Digg Delicious