Government By the People

Support for Amending the Constitution to Overturn Citizens United is Now One-Third of the Way There

Support Growing in U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and State Legislatures

WASHINGTON – Advocates are celebrating a significant milestone in the campaign for a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United that opened the floodgates of money from corporations and the ultra wealthy into our political system. Support for the campaign now stands at one-third of what is needed for victory.

The Constitution can be amended by votes of a supermajority of each chamber of Congress, followed by ratification by three-quarters of the states. Support for an amendment now stands at one third of each of those thresholds:

Share required Number needed Number today %
2/3 Senators 67 27 sponsors and co-sponsors 40%
2/3 Representatives 290 99 sponsors and co-sponsors 34%
3/4 States 38 16 official resolutions, ballot measures or official calls for an amendment 42%

“This milestone represents important progress toward a goal that’s critical to preserving the integrity of our democracy,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president of People For the American Way. “Amending our country’s constitution should be difficult.  But this isn’t the first time Americans have encountered a serious problem that needs a serious solution. Citizens United and other cases that paved the way for big money to flood our elections have given us one of those moments. As more states and elected officials go on record in support of an amendment, the clearer it becomes that the American people will not stand to have their voices overpowered by wealthy special interests.”

“In just three years since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, we have come one third of the way to amending the US Constitution to reclaim our democracy and to ensure that people, not corporations, shall govern in America,” said John Bonifaz, co-founder and executive director of Free Speech For People.  “Americans across the political spectrum are standing up to defend that fundamental promise of government of, by, and for the people.”

“Sixteen states representing tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of cities and towns, from Los Angeles to Boston, have passed resolutions and ballot measures in support of a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United," said Karen Hobert Flynn, senior vice president for strategy and programs at Common Cause. “Voters and legislators are justifiably outraged at the way Citizens United has created a system of legalized bribery around our elections, and are building the momentum we need to make a change.”

“Fast gaining momentum, the movement for a constitutional amendment aims to reassert popular sovereignty and return America to the founding constitutional principle embodied in the phrase, We, the People,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “We, the People of the United States are fast on our way to winning a constitutional amendment to ensure our government works for us, not JP Morgan, Pfizer and Walmart.”

Citizens United set a dangerous precedent by opening the floodgates for special interest money in our elections,” said Emma Boorboor, Democracy Associate, U.S. PIRG. “Yet, as a nation we overwhelmingly value the idea that the size of your wallet should not determine the volume of your voice in our democracy. The fact that we are already a third of the way to passing a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics clearly demonstrates the building momentum and the desire of Americans to stand up for our democratic values.”

Sixteen states have formally called for an amendment by ballot measure, resolutions passed by the legislature, or official letters signed by a majority of state legislators:

California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Hawaii
Illinois
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Montana
New Jersey
New Mexico
Oregon
Rhode Island
Vermont
West Virginia

In addition, nearly 500 cities, towns, and counties, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia have called for an amendment, and more than 2,000 elected officials nationwide are on record supporting one.

A 2010 Peter Hart poll found that 82% of Americans support congressional action to limit corporate spending on elections (which Citizens United unleashed), and that 79% support a constitutional amendment to accomplish this. This past September, an Associated Press poll found that 83% of Americans favor limits on the amount of money corporations, unions, and other organizations can spend on our elections.

Public support is also bipartisan. The 2010 Peter Hart poll revealed that 68% of Republicans, 82% of independents, and 87% of Democrats support an amendment.  The 2012 AP poll showed that 81% of Republicans, 78% of independents, and 85% of Democrats want to limit corporate, union, and other outside spending.

Free Speech For People works to challenge the misuse of corporate power and restore republican democracy to the people. The group advances the movement to amend the U.S. Constitution to overturn Citizens United v. FEC, an earlier case called Buckley v. Valeo, and the fabricated doctrine of corporate constitutional rights. For more on Free Speech For People, visit: www.FreeSpeechForPeople.org.

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest, and accountable government that works for the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard.

People For the American Way engages in lobbying and activist mobilization to support local, state and federal initiatives to ameliorate the impact of, and eventually overturn via constitutional amendment, the effects of Citizens United and other court cases that have opened the floodgates of unlimited corporate and special interest spending to influence elections.  PFAW activates its membership, its youth leadership networks (the Young Elected Officials Action and Young People For Action programs) and its African American Ministers in Action network for money-in-politics work. PFAW co-leads coalition efforts to confirm judges and justices who respect the progressive ethic of the Constitution and has a dynamic political arm engaged in electoral strategies to hold money-in-politics obstructionists accountable.

Public Citizen is national non-profit membership organization. Since 1971, we have fought for corporate and government accountability to guarantee the individual’s right to safe products, a healthy environment and workplace, fair trade, and clean and safe energy sources. Public Citizen is deeply invested in limiting the damaging effect of money in politics and passing an amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling and related cases. www.DemocracyIsForPeople.org

U.S. PIRG is a citizen's group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society. For decades, we’ve stood up for consumers, countering the influence of big banks, insurers, chemical manufacturers and other powerful special interests. www.uspirg.org

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PFAW Releases New Toolkit on Getting Money Out and Voters In to Our Democracy

We believe in a democratic system where all Americans have equal access to the voting booth and can express their views on a level playing field.
PFAW

Money Out, Voters In: A Guide to Democratic Reform

Americans today face twin threats to the integrity of our democracy: unlimited spending to influence elections and voter suppression. Find out what you can do.

To Understand GOP Government Shutdown Threats, Follow the Money

If you’re curious why many House Republicans are on board with an unhinged plan to threaten a government shutdown or default over demands to “defund” Obamacare, you should follow the money.  That’s what the New York Times editorial board argued in a compelling op-ed Tuesday. 

Far-right groups such as the Club for Growth are striking out at Republicans who refuse to take this reckless stance, wielding their considerable funds to “inflict political pain” on those who do not share their extremist position. And they are titillating their Tea Party supporters with political fantasies in order to get them to send in even more money, so they can ramp up their attack on Republicans who don’t toe the line. In “The Money Behind the Shutdown Crisis,” the editorial board wrote:

These groups, all financed with secret and unlimited money, feed on chaos and would like nothing better than to claim credit for pushing Washington into another crisis. Winning an ideological victory is far more important to them than the severe economic effects of a shutdown or, worse, a default, which could shatter the credit markets.

[…] Brian Walsh, a longtime Republican operative, recently noted in U.S. News and World Report that the right is now spending more money attacking Republicans than the Democrats are. “Money begets TV ads, which begets even more money for these groups’ personal coffers,” he wrote. “Pointing fingers and attacking Republicans is apparently a very profitable fund-raising business.”

And as more money pours into these shadowy groups, their influence – and thus their potential for inflicting further damage on our democracy – grows.  With fewer effective campaign finance regulations left standing in the post-Citizens United landscape, there is little that can stop these groups from using their money to bully elected officials.

But the functioning of our government is not a game.  And though for these fringe groups making an ideological point may seem more important than keeping our government from shutting down or defaulting, Americans are tired of having our basic economic security called into question over political posturing.

As the Times editorial board put it:

It may be good for their bank accounts, but the combination of unlimited money and rigid ideology is proving toxic for the most basic functioning of government.

PFAW

The Most Important Conservative Funder You’ve Never Heard Of

It was a big week for lifting the veil – at least a little – on the secretive world of conservative groups funding political campaigns. On Wednesday we wrote about new reports on two of the Right’s shadowy front groups which have been able to disguise the transfer of large sums of money to organizations supporting Republican causes and candidates. 

Then Politico brought us a look inside what they call “the Koch brothers’ secret bank,” a previously unknown group called Freedom Partners which gave a quarter billion dollars in 2012 to sway public debate further to the right. Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei report:

The group, Freedom Partners, and its president, Marc Short, serve as an outlet for the ideas and funds of the mysterious Koch brothers, cutting checks as large as $63 million to groups promoting conservative causes, according to an IRS document to be filed shortly…

The group has about 200 donors, each paying at least $100,000 in annual dues. It raised $256 million in the year after its creation in November 2011, the document shows. And it made grants of $236 million — meaning a totally unknown group was the largest sugar daddy for conservative groups in the last election, second in total spending only to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which together spent about $300 million. [emphasis added]

Though you likely have not heard of Freedom Partners before, you’ve heard of the groups it funds – including the NRA, Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Action for America, and Tea Party Patriots. According to their newly-launched website, Freedom Partners is “promoting the principles of a free market and free society” by advocating against scourges like “cronyism in America.” 

This, from one of the biggest spenders in the last election.

Other than the Koch brothers, who are the donors behind this massively influential group?  At this point, it’s hard to know. Despite the group’s president’s insistence that “our members are proud to be part of [the organization],” Freedom Partner’s membership page does not list a single one.  It’s yet another example of the need for legislation like the DISCLOSE Act, which would shed light on the major donors behind the secretive outside groups attempting to shape our elections – and our country.
 

PFAW

How Big Money Bought North Carolina for Extremists

In the years since Citizens United, North Carolina has provided a clear example of what happens when a small number of corporate interests, allied with a far-right base, are allowed unbridled influence over elections.

McConnell's Defense of Money in Politics Is Hurting Him With Voters

Mitch McConnell sure can pick the issues he takes a stand on. Despite being a true master of gridlock and inaction, he’s been very willing to take steps to erode campaign finance regulations: in May, he continued his long-standing opposition to sound campaign finance regulation by filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court arguing for fewer federal limits on campaign donations, and last month the court granted him permission to participate in the upcoming oral argument of the case, McCutcheon v. FEC. Given that 90% of voters think there’s already too much money in politics, one might ask why McConnell’s advocating such an unpopular position so strongly.

Perhaps it’s unsurprising, then, that McConnell’s views are catching up with him. A poll released Tuesday by the Public Campaign Action Fund highlights what a terrible strategy this is for a candidate already facing a tough path to reelection: 53% of Kentucky voters had “very serious doubts” about his support for unlimited contributions, with 46% supporting his opponent Alison Lundegran Grimes to McConnell’s 40%. It was already clear that spending by wealthy special interests in politics is extremely unpopular, but it’s very encouraging to see indications that those who support unlimited spending might pay an electoral price for it. McConnell might think it’s worth it to continue taking these unpopular positions if corporations will keep spending on elections like his, but maybe he’s miscalculated here. It’s up to Kentucky voters to prove him wrong. 

PFAW

New Insights Into the Right’s Big Money Shell Game Highlight Need for the DISCLOSE Act

In today’s legal landscape, “following the money” is tricky – but a new report released yesterday shows why this work is critical to anyone who cares about progressive change. The latest digging from the Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets blog has uncovered new information about a multi-tiered money laundering operation through which tax-exempt groups funnel millions to groups supporting right-wing causes and candidates. 

Operating behind a thick veil of secrecy, groups like TC4 Trust and the Center to Protect Patient Rights – which Open Secrets describes as “‘shadow money mailboxes’ – groups that do virtually nothing but pass grants through to other politically active 501(c)(4) organizations” – are able to hide both their donors and their recipients.  By funneling grants through “sub-units,” which are owned by the larger groups but have different names, groups like TC4 Trust put millions into the pockets of 501(c)4 organizations supporting Republican causes in the 2012 elections, such as the advocacy arm of Focus on the Family.

As Open Secrets reports,

[T]heir financial ties run far deeper than previously known.  The groups, TC4 Trust and the Center to Protect Patient Rights – both of which have connections to the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers – have been playing a high-stakes game of hide-the-ball, disguising transfers of millions of dollars from one to the other behind a veil of Delaware limited liability corporations.

The source of political advocacy matters.  This latest example of dark money donor groups obscuring the links of their money trail underscores the urgent need for legislation like the DISCLOSE Act.  This act would bring some basic transparency to the electoral system and require outside groups spending money in elections to disclose their donors – including the original source of donations.  The measure, which was blocked by Senate Republicans in both 2010 and 2012, is a common-sense solution that would help the American people understand who is trying to influence their political opinions and their votes.

PFAW

Pat Robertson Marks 9/11 By Blaming Separation Of Church And State For Inviting Radical Muslim 'Fifth Column' Into America

Two days following 9/11 terrorist attacks, televangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell blamed the attacks on “the pagans, the abortions, the feminists and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way.”

Today, Robertson remembered 9/11 by attacking former president George W. Bush for calling Islam a “religion of peace.”

“They believe that anybody who doesn’t submit is at war with them and they are prime targets, and for the Western nations to welcome this fifth column into their midst is just committing suicide,” Robertson claimed.

“The reason is they have lost their faith in God, they have lost their faith in Jesus Christ, they don’t believe in what the Bible says and the core values of our society have gone away,” Robertson continued. “We’ve done it here in America, we’ve abolished prayer in the schools, we’ve taken out Bible-reading in the schools and little by little by little we’ve eroded the rights—we keep talking about separation and this that and the other.”

Watch:

Robertson made the remarks following a report by Dale Hurd which linked radical Islamic groups to liberals. “Muslims and the European left continue their strange political partnership; while they’re polar opposites when it comes to women’s rights, abortions and homosexuality, Muslims vote for the left while the left grows its constituency by encouraging Muslim immigration and the spread of Islamic values,” Hurd claimed. “America too has been knowingly trying to advance the cause of Muslim radicals in Syria and Egypt.”

Warren Warns of ‘Corporate Capture of Federal Courts’

At an AFL-CIO convention this weekend, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren called out the increasingly pro-corporate lean of the U.S. Supreme Court. Politico reports:

On the opening day of the AFL-CIO’s convention, Warren — the highest-profile national Democrat to address the gathering here — warned attendees of a “corporate capture of the federal courts.”

In a speech that voiced a range of widely held frustrations on the left, Warren assailed the court as an instrument of the wealthy that regularly sides with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She cited an academic study that called the current Supreme Court’s five conservative-leaning justices among the “top 10 most pro-corporate justices in half a century.”

“You follow this pro-corporate trend to its logical conclusion, and sooner or later you’ll end up with a Supreme Court that functions as a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Business,” Warren said, drawing murmurs from the crowd.

The study that Warren was referring to is a Minnesota Law Review study that found that the five conservative justices currently on the Supreme Court have sided with corporate interests at a greater rate than most justices since World War II. All five were among the ten most corporate-friendly justices in over 50 years. Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts were the top two.

The Supreme Court majority’s consistent twisting of the law to put the interests of corporations over those of individuals is one of the main characteristics of the Roberts Court, but it is not the only extremely influential court with such a pro-corporate bent. In fact, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to which President Obama has nominated three highly qualified candidates, has been following the same trend, also because of the influence of judges named by George W. Bush.  This is the court whose ultra-conservative justices declared that cigarette label warning requirements violate the free speech rights of tobacco companies and that requiring that employers inform employees of their right to unionize violates the free speech rights of the corporations.

While there is not currently a vacancy at the Supreme Court that could affect its balance, there are three at the DC Circuit.  That is why Senate Republicans are working so hard to keep them empty.

PFAW

McCutcheon v. FEC Activist Toolkit

McCutcheon v. FEC is a money in politics case with huge implications for our democracy.

PFAW’s Money Out/Voters In Work Highlighted in CNN Article

Yesterday Ben Cohen (co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s) and Edward Erikson had a great op-ed at CNN.com connecting the student debt crisis with the broader issue of big money’s influence in our political system:

But the education system isn't broken -- it's “fixed.” If we're serious about tackling the issue of affordable education and student debt, we need to strike at the root of the problem -- the influence of money in politics.

Private corporations like Sallie Mae -- which own 15% or $162.5 billion dollars of total student debt -- rake in private-island-purchasing profits while students suffer.

Indeed, from student debt bills to workers’ rights legislation to environmental protections, policies that protect everyday Americans will continue to face uphill battles until we can limit the influence of wealthy special interests in our democracy.

Cohen and Erikson point out:

It's time to dam the deluge of cash and corporate influence in Washington once and for all….Thanks to the leadership by groups like People for the American Way, Move to Amend, Common Cause, Free Speech for People and Public Citizen, 16 states have passed referendums calling on Congress to take action and over 150 members of Congress support the amendment strategy.  (emphasis added)

And with so much amendment momentum at the state and local level, PFAW and allies are shifting our focus to Congress. As part of our “160 Summer” campaign, money in politics groups are working toward a goal of getting 160 members of Congress to sponsor an amendment resolution limiting the deluge of big money pouring into our elections by overturning Citizens United.  Has your representative already voiced their support?

As Cohen and Erikson put it, “This is our future and our fight to win.”

PFAW

Justice Ginsburg Speaks Out Against Citizens United

With little over a month before the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC, a money in politics case that some are calling the next Citizens United, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke out this week on the damage that Citizens United v. FEC continues to cause to our democracy. 

Discussing the infamous 2010 Supreme Court decision that paved the way for unlimited corporate spending to influence our elections, Ginsburg told Greg Stohr of Bloomberg News:

“You take the limits off and say, ‘You can spend as much as you want,’ and people will spend and spend,” she said. “People are appalled abroad. It’s a question I get asked all the time: Why should elections be determined by how much a candidate can spend and why should candidates spend most of their time these days raising the funds so that they will prevail in the next election?”

It’s a great question, and one with a clear answer – they shouldn’t.

Justice Ginsburg is not alone in her concerns about the damage done to our democratic system.  A 2012 Brennan Center national poll found that nearly seven in ten respondents agree that “new rules that let corporations, unions and people give unlimited money to Super PACs will lead to corruption.” 

And this is not the first time Justice Ginsburg has publicly commented on the Citizens United decision. Early last year, Justices Ginsburg and Breyer released a statement in conjunction with a Court order in a campaign finance case out of Montana stating that:

Montana’s experience, and experience elsewhere since this Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm’n, make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”  A petition for certiorari will give the Court an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates’ allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway.

It is also not the first time she has commented on the Roberts Court more generally.  In an interview with the New York Times this weekend, Ginsburg called the current court “one of the most activist courts in history.”

In October, the high court will hear arguments in a case considering similar issues, McCutcheon v. FEC, for which People For the American Way Foundation submitted an amicus brief.  In this case, the Supreme Court could take the damage of Citizens United one step further by eliminating the caps on how much money an individual can contribute – in total – in each two-year campaign cycle.  It other words, the court would be striking down another protection against wealthy special interests overpowering our political system, allowing even more big money to flow into our elections.

Just what our democracy needs.  PFAW Foundation Executive Vice President Marge Baker noted last month:

Protecting the legitimacy of our political system, and restoring the faith of the American people in that system, is vital to a working democracy.

And as Justice Ginsburg highlighted this week, elections shouldn’t be determined by who has the biggest wallet.
 

PFAW Foundation

Keeping ALEC In The Spotlight

When the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council recently held its 40th annual meeting in Chicago, thousands -- including PFAW activists -- crashed the party.
PFAW

Durbin Questions Potential ALEC Backers on Stand Your Ground Laws


As the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meets in a swanky Chicago hotel for its 40th annual summit this week, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) has raised some important questions for the corporations that may be funding the group.

Roll Call reports that Sen. Durbin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee’s civil rights subcommittee, has reached out to more than 300 corporations that are possible ALEC funders to ask for their positions on “Stand Your Ground” laws.  Durbin announced last month that he will hold a hearing on these laws in the fall.

Because ALEC operates behind closed doors, it can be a challenge to expose the corporations, corporate trade associations, and corporate foundations backing its damaging work.  Durbin’s letter notes:

Although ALEC does not maintain a public list of corporate members or donors, other public documents indicate that your company funded ALEC at some point during the period between ALEC’s adoption of model “stand your ground” legislation in 2005 and the present day.

Despite the potential roadblocks, Durbin’s letter shines a spotlight on the clear link between ALEC, an organization that connects corporate lobbyists with state legislators, and the “Stand Your Ground” laws it helped to get on the books in over two dozen states.   And this is a critical connection to highlight, because as PFAW President Michael Keegan wrote last month, these are laws which “help create a climate like the one that encouraged George Zimmerman to use lethal force against an unarmed teenager.”

PFAW

PFAW Crashes ALEC’s Party at Biggest Anti-ALEC Protest to Date


All photos by Scott Foval.

Bill Moyers once called ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) the “most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of.”  Today, PFAW is helping to change that – coming out in full force to shed some light on the harm ALEC’s extreme agenda causes to everyday Americans.

As ALEC holds its 40th annual meeting in Chicago, PFAW is there – along with ally organizations, labor groups, and advocates from around the country – to crash their party.  The protest happening now outside Chicago’s Palmer House Hilton is the biggest anti-ALEC protest to date. 

The mass of people at the rally underscores the growing momentum to expose and fight back against ALEC, which connects corporate lobbyists with state legislators to pass special interest legislation in all fifty states.  For four decades, ALEC has worked behind closed doors to get laws harmful to everyday Americans on the books – working against paid sick days, pushing tax policies favoring the rich, and helping “Stand Your Ground” become law in more than two dozen states.  As our signs say, “ALEC corporations write laws, real people suffer.”

And today, we’re calling them out.

PFAW

"160 Summer" Citizens United Amendment Update

We're working to get 160 members of Congress to sponsor one of the fourteen "Money Out" amendment resolutions that have been introduced so far in the 113th session.
PFAW

Tell Legislators to Say NO to ALEC

State Legislators must sever existing, and avoid future, ties with the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council.

Activist Toolkit: Confronting ALEC on its 40th Annual Meeting

 

 

Table of Contents:

Taking Action in Chicago

Social Media Tools

Submitting Letters to the Editor

ALEC Primer

ALEC on the Issues

Further Reading and Acknowledgments

 

Background:

On August 7-9th, the American Legislative Exchange Council will be holding its annual policy meeting at the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago, Illinois.  Over the course of three days, following standard ALEC protocol, state lawmakers from across the country will be wined and dined by corporate lobbyists; “educated” by climate change deniers and free market doctrinaires; and instructed on what corporate-backed bills they should bring back to their respective statehouses.

In Chicago, ALEC will be celebrating its 40th year of existence.  ALEC was founded in the city by a coterie of conservative activists in 1973, and has decided to come back to its roots for its 40th annual celebration.  For forty years, ALEC has worked behind closed doors to push its extreme agenda, one that harms the American people and weakens our democratic institutions. 

That is why activists are rallying to make sure ALEC receives the proper “welcome” it deserves, and that ALEC lawmakers, ALEC corporate sponsors, and ALEC supporters across the country are called out  for backing such a reactionary group.  

We hope the following toolkit helps you in your efforts to expose ALEC in Chicago.

 

Taking Action In Chicago:

On August 8th at 12:00 PM outside the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago, thousands of concerned citizens are holding a protest against ALEC.

 

[Click HERE for a map]

Palmer House Hilton

17 East Monroe Street

Chicago, IL 60603

 

People will be driving in from across Illinois and neighboring states to rally against ALEC.  If you do not live in the area, please pass this information along to anyone you know in the Chicago-area who may be able to attend. Turnout will be high and every person who can make it should come.

If you can attend the protest, please let us know!  Send an email to People For the American Way’s Midwest Coordinator Scott Foval at sfoval@pfaw.org, who will be on site attending the rally and will give you up-to-date information about the event. You can follow him on twitter at @scottfoval.

 

Taking Action Across The Country:

ALEC’s Chicago meeting provides activists across the country the unique opportunity to raise awareness in local communities about ALEC, ALEC supporters, and the extreme ALEC agenda.  People For the American Way is here to help facilitate that advocacy. Below you will find activist tools for amplifying ALEC exposure via social media and drafting and submitting Letters To the Editor.

 

Amplifying ALEC Exposure via Social Media:

The ALEC Exposed campaign has utilized social media effectively to encourage lawmakers and corporations to drop ALEC.  With the upcoming event in Chicago, PFAW has designed the following social media tools to keep up the pressure.

 

Facebook Shares

Click here to share this toolkit on Facebook. 

Click on the following images to share them on Facebook:

 

Tweets

ALEC Exposed activists have used and will continue to use the hashtag #ALECexposed on all tweets related to ALEC.  For the Chicago event, activists will also be using the hashtag #ALECinChicago.

 

Relevant Twitter Handles and Links:

@peoplefor – People For the American Way’s Twitter handle

@PFAW_WI – People For the American Way Midwest’s Twitter handle

@scottfoval – People For the American Way Midwest Coordinator Scott Foval’s Twitter handle

@ALEC_states  – ALEC’s Twitter handle

@ALECexposed – the Center for Media and Democracy’s ALEC Exposed Twitter handle

tinyurl.com/ALECinChicago – the link to the August 8th Chicago protest

 

Sample Tweets

 Check out this activist toolkit for taking on #ALECinChicago #ALECexposed blog.pfaw.org/issues/ALEC

 Don’t want #ALECinChicago? Show up Aug 8, 12 PM at the Palmer Hilton to protest #ALECexposed tinyurl.com/ALECinChicago

 @ALEC_states of the corporations, for the corporations, by the corporations #ALECinChicago #ALECexposed tinyurl.com/ALECinChicago

 @ALEC_states wants #ClimateChange denial to be taught in public schools #ALECinChicago #ALECexposed tinyurl.com/ALECinChicago

 @ALEC_states wants #ClimateChange denial to be taught in public schools #ALECinChicago #ALECexposed tinyurl.com/ALECinChicago

 @StateLawmakerX is heading to Chicago to wine and dine with ALEC and ALEC corps? #ALECinChicago #ALECexposed tinyurl.com/ALECinChicago

 

Submitting Letters to the Editor:

Writing a Letter To the Editor (LTE) is an effective way of raising awareness on an issue.  The following tips and “talking points” will guide you through your ALEC LTE submission. 

 

LTE Submission Logistics

- As a rule of thumb, you will want to keep your LTE under 200 words.  However, be sure to find out the LTE guidelines of the paper[s] you are submitting to beforehand to double-check that 200 words is an acceptable length – generally, guidelines are posted online, however you can also find out by calling the newspaper’s office.

- Do not feel obligated to only submit LTE’s to large newspapers.  Your local paper is a great place to start the discussion.  At the same time, do not feel hesitant to submit to bigger papers even if the chances of acceptance are slimmer.

- To increase your chances of acceptance, submit your letter using two methods – standard mail and email.  Writing your letter by hand or printing out your letter and then sending it via the mail shows that you have been intentional about your submission and that you really care about the issue.  At the same time, sending your letter via email offers Newspaper Editors – who are already pressed for time and content – a quick way to get material into their publication.  So if you have the time, please submit using both methods, and acknowledge in both that you are doing so.

- Be sure to include your contact information in your submission.  Many newspapers will require their employees to contact an LTE submitter before publication.  If you do not feel comfortable sharing your information publicly in the newspaper print, be sure to specify that stipulation at the bottom of your letter.

 

What To Write About

- Provide background information on what ALEC is, and what ALEC the agenda is all about.  Keep in mind your audience will most likely have never heard of ALEC before, so your LTE should primarily be educational. For information on ALEC and the ALEC agenda, see the Talking Points section below.

- Try to identify a target for your LTE.  This could be a particular ALEC lawmaker or an ALEC corporation.  By identifying a local target, you can make your LTE relevant to your community.

o   To find out which members of your state legislature are in ALEC, cross check these two lists here and here; come up with your own list of ALEC public officials of local interest; and call their offices to see if they are attending the Chicago event and/or if they support the organization. Please note that 1) despite much effort, the two lists are incomplete and that 2) some states have stronger ALEC delegations than others.

o   To find out which corporations are ALEC members, click here.  Look for corporations that have a large presence and/or headquarters in your community.

- Identify timely information in your LTE, particularly that:

o   ALEC is having its annual meeting on August 7-9th in Chicago

o   Lawmakers, including ALEC lawmakers in your state, will be traveling to the meeting

o   ALEC will also be celebrating its 40th year of existence

- Conclude with an opinion and/or call to action, possibly something along the lines of:

o   Asking why State Senator/Representative X cares more about the interests of ALEC’s corporate backers, and not her/his constituents

o   Identifying the problem of corporate power in American democracy

o   Calling for real democracy in America, not ALEC pay-to-play politics

 

After Submitting Your LTE

- If your LTE has been printed, PLEASE let us know.  We’ll work to amplify your message and will make sure your public officials see it.

- If your LTE is not accepted, do not be deterred.  There are many way you can contribute to the movement.  A quick way you can make sure your hard work does not go to waste is by repurposing what you wrote and mailing it in to your state representative and state senator.

If you have any questions about the process or content of your LTE, feel free to reach out to us by emailing Calvin Sloan at csloan@pfaw.org.

 

Talking Points

ALEC background info

- The American Legislative Exchange Council is an organization that connects corporate lobbyists with state legislators to pass special interest legislation in all fifty states.  The organization has roughly 2,000 legislative members and 300 corporate members, and has been called by Bill Moyers the “most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of.”

- ALEC operates behind closed doors, and is almost exclusively funded by corporations, corporate trade associations, corporate foundations, and sources other than membership dues.

- Most of ALEC’s model bills are written by corporate lawyers, and all of them are pre-approved by corporate lobbyists in ALEC Task Force meetings before becoming ALEC model policy.  ALEC model bills are distributed to ALEC lawmakers, who introduce the legislation in statehouse across the country without disclosing their source. 

- ALEC is a registered 501c3 charity, and thus ALEC’s corporate donors receive tax deductions for their contributions to the organization.

- To date, 49 corporations, 6 non-profits, and 74 state legislators have publicly cut ties with ALEC.

 

ALEC in Chicago

- On August 7-9th, ALEC is holding its annual meeting in Chicago, IL.  State lawmakers from across the country will be flying into Chicago for three days of wining and dining with corporate lobbyists.  The organization will also be celebrating its 40th year of existence.

-  In Chicago, ALEC lawmakers will receive corporate-written ALEC model legislation to introduce in their respective states, along with tips on what messaging and PR tactics are the most effective in getting that legislation passed.

 

ALEC On The Issues

For more information on the ALEC agenda, please check out the Center For Media and Democracy's ALEC Fact Sheets

On Education

- Climate denial – ALEC has supported "Environmental Literacy Improvement Acts" which would require the teaching of climate denial in public schools as a valid scientific theory. This model bill has been passed in three states, and introduced in seven; with many of ALEC's corporate constituents involved in the fossil fuel sector, the payoff for public skepticism of global warming is clear.

- Privatizing education – ALEC has supported an army of measures to privatize education, including various voucher programs, private school subsidies through parental tax credits, and ideologically contrived evaluations of public schools.

- Virtual schools – ALEC's model bill, "Virtual Public Schools Act", extends state recognition to virtual schools as equivalent to physical public schools, and unreasonably offers for-profit online providers the same per pupil revenue allocation as brick and mortar schools. Educational experts generally regard the value of virtual schools to children with suspicion, and for-profit virtual school companies, which operate for a fraction of the cost of physical schools, comprise a part of ALEC's constituency. 

- Attacking teachers’ unions – ALEC has attacked teachers' right to unionize through prohibiting compensation of time spent on union activities as release time, through requiring teacher unions to disclose how much union staff are being paid, and through pushing a panoply of anti-collective bargaining bills that affect all levels of private and public sector employment.

 

On Healthcare

- Obstructing the Affordable Care Act ALEC has led efforts to resist implementation of state healthcare exchanges, as well as to pass amendments and bills directly contradicting the individual mandate, setting up 10th Amendment court challenges.

- Privatizing Medicare and Medicaid ALEC has led privatization efforts with model bills providing a small cash allowance to disabled Medicaid beneficiaries and Children's Health Insurance Program recipients to purchase private care, as well as with resolutions to urge Congress to directly privatize the programs.

- Minimizing overall provision of careALEC has advocated for bills that would eliminate all state-funded medical assistance not federally required, as well as bills which would require actuarial review of proposals for any new benefits.

 

On the Middle Class and Workers’ Rights

- Right-to-work – ALEC has led the national push for so-called right-to-work legislation, which hurts unions by prohibiting mandatory collection of dues. Right-to-work legislation most recently passed in Michigan, and along with other ALEC measures like prohibiting payroll deduction to collect dues, comprises the thrust of ALEC’s anti-union, pro-corporate campaign.

- No paid sick days – ALEC has organized efforts across the nation to align corporate interests against paid sick days, with bills passed in Wisconsin and Louisiana, and bills introduced in Florida, Washington, Mississippi, Michigan, Arizona, Indiana, and Oklahoma. Studies show a lack of access to paid sick days forces workers to go to work sick, risking both their own and co-workers' health.

- Minimizing wages ALEC has led national efforts to freeze or repeal minimum wage and prevailing wage laws. Minimum wages in many states are so minimal that many residents are forced to work multiple jobs; prevailing wages are those standardly paid by the government in a given field, in accordance with regular payments in the local industry. They are also sometimes called “union wages,” and are typically substantially above minimum wage.

 

ALEC on Taxes and Privatization

- Repeal of capital gains tax ALEC has advocated for the repeal of capital gains taxes. Since three-quarters of all capital gains go to the top one percent of the income distribution, the measure is quite clearly another way to exacerbate the inequality in the nation’s distribution of income and wealth.

-  Permanent Extension of Bush tax cuts – ALEC pushed for making the Bush tax cuts, which largely benefited the wealthy while ballooning the deficit, permanent.

- Repeal of estate tax – ALEC has supported a repeal of the gift and estate taxes, which together tax the giving and inheritance of large sums of money. By securing the fortunes of the rich and powerful, their repeal would substantially increase the rigidity of national wealth inequalities across generations.

- Public spending limitations – ALEC has also supported legislation to limit all public spending increases to the rate of inflation, or by capping revenue to existing levels, or by automatically reducing taxes if revenue rises.

- Other tax policy favoring the rich – ALEC has passed resolutions against "windfall profits" taxes on oil companies, pushed for single, flat-rate business taxes, and led efforts to require super-majorities for tax increases. The last has contributed to California’s budget difficulties, and has also passed in Wisconsin under Scott Walker.

 

ALEC on Democracy

- Voter ID requirements – ALEC was a driving force behind the post-2010 push for Voter ID and other undemocratic measures that made it substantially harder for roughly 5 million Americans to vote in the 2012 election. In June, the US Supreme Court struck down a burdensome, ALEC-endorsed Arizona statue that required “proof of citizenship” for voter registration, and that was subsequently passed, with ALEC’s support, in Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas.

- Citizens United and money in politics – ALEC has supported the Citizens United decision and opposes federal, state, and local level efforts to mitigate its impact via disclosure and disclaimer requirements.  Thus, ALEC supports the use of limitless, corporate “dark money” spending in elections.

-  Partisan politicsAs recently as March of 2013, Republican National Committee (RNC) called upon ALEC to help develop and implement model legislation to dismantle campaign finance reform in order to help revive the Republican party through abolishing campaign spending regulations and contribution limits.

 

ALEC on Consumer Rights

- Withholding consumer finance information – ALEC opposed the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  The CFPB promotes financial education for consumers; monitors markets for new risks; restricts unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices that affect consumers; and enforces federal consumer financial protection laws.

-Service charges and interest rates – ALEC has opposed government imposed caps or elimination of ATM service charges on the baseless basis that it violates the principles of free enterprise. ALEC has also opposed caps on credit card interest rates on the basis that it violates the principles of free enterprise. Setting a ceiling on credit card interest rates would protect consumers from sky-high interest rates that could leave them bankrupt.

- Tort Reform – ALEC supports a drove of bills that seek to alter the tort liability system to make it substantially harder – or at times, entirely impossible – for consumers to challenge corporations in court and receive just compensation for corporate malfeasance.

 

ALEC on Guns, Crime, and Prisons

-Stand Your Ground – ALEC adopted and propagated Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which gained national notoriety following the Trayvon Martin tragedy.  The law expands the legal definition of “justifiable homicide,” and was lobbied for and partially drafted by the corporate-funded National Rifle Association.

- Deregulation of gun sales – ALEC has opposed efforts to allow law enforcement to use their purchasing power to pursue public safety ends, specifically requiring a pledge from gun manufacturers that they will not market weapons for dangerous uses (such as “cop killer” guns or bullets).

- Prison privatization – ALEC has pushed model legislation for decades that privatizes the prison industry and that rewards its for-profit prison private sector members.  Private prison companies, unlike state providers, have a financial incentive in “filling beds,” and have utilized ALEC to lobby for the incarceration of migrant workers, for lengthening prison sentencing, and for selling off state run facilities to the private sector.

- Minimum mandatory sentencing – ALEC has advocated for minimum mandatory incarceration sentences for drug offenses, with the severity of these sentences depending on the type and amount of the drug in question and not on whether the case involved the possession and manufacture, sale or distribution of the drugs.

 

ALEC on Energy and The Environment

- Keystone XL Pipeline, the Alberta tar sands, and the oil lobby – ALEC lawmakers have passed ALEC’s “Resolution in Support of Keystone Pipeline” in at least four states since ALEC adopted the resolution in December 2011.  ALEC also facilitated a trip funded by Transcanada, Shell Oil, and other oil-industry players for ALEC lawmakers to visit the Alberta tar sands, the source of the Keystone XL heavy oil.  ALEC later encouraged the legislators to email and thank their corporate sponsors for paying for the trip.

- Renewable energy – ALEC has adopted legislation known as the Electricity Freedom Act that would repeal mandates that electric distribution utilities and electric service companies procure electricity from renewable energy resources.

- Carbon emission deregulation – ALEC has adopted a “model” bill from an oil-industry lobby group that would limit the ability of states to negotiate regional “low-carbon fuel standards.” Low-carbon fuel standards would have a significant impact on the sale of fuels derived from the Alberta tar sands and other “heavy oil” fields.

- EPA deregulationALEC has resolved to oppose the 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA decision which held that the EPA has statutory authority to regulate air pollutants from vehicles that “endanger public health and welfare.” The resolution uses unfounded statistics and flimsy rhetoric to dismiss climate change concerns.

 

Further Reading and Acknowledgments

People For the American Way is indebted to the Center For Media and Democracy for maintaining ALECexposed.org and PRWatch.org.  Both websites provide up-to-date analysis of ALEC, and are integral to exposing it.

 

 

Oregon Becomes 16th State to Join the Fight Against Citizens United

Following the approval of House Joint Memorial 6 by a 17-13 vote in the Oregon Senate today, Oregon became the 16th state to call for an amendment to the Constitution overturning the 2010 Citizens United decision and related cases.

The passage of HJM6, first introduced in January by Representative Brian Clem, is the result of a grassroots mobilization effort by the people of Oregon. In 2012 alone, 12 Oregon cities and counties passed local resolutions urging state and federal legislators to call for a constitutional amendment taking back our democracy from corporations and special interests. The mobilization at the state level was led by Oregonians for Restoring Constitutional Democracy, a coalition that gathered signatures and endorsements in support of HJM6.

The joint memorial urges Congress to propose a constitutional amendment “clarifying the distinction between the rights of natural persons and the rights of corporations” and recognizing “that Congress and state legislatures may regulate all moneys raised and spent for political purposes.”

Rep. Jules Bailey, speaking to the Oregon House last week, urged his fellow representatives to support the measure, saying, “When we confuse the monolith with the individual, then a piece of our humanity dies. Let us ask Congress to undo this mistake.” The measure passed the House by a vote of 48-11 on June 21st before being sent to the Senate.

With each additional state joining the movement to overturn Citizens United and related decisions, the will of the American people becomes clearer. We will not let our elections be bought and sold. We will not let corporate power subvert the will of the people.

PFAW
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