Government By the People

PFAW Celebrates Passage of Maine Resolution to Overturn Citizens United

A resolution supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Trade Commission and related cases was passed by the Maine Senate and House today, making Maine the thirteenth state to call for such an amendment.  The vote was bipartisan in both chambers.

“As more and more states call for a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United and related cases, it becomes increasingly clear that the American people are serious about taking back our democracy from wealthy special interests,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way.  “In Maine and across the nation, Americans are working to protect our democracy from the flood of corporate and special interest spending ushered in by the Citizens United decision. The passage of this resolution is an exciting step forward for Maine and for the country.”

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Cuomo Can Fix New York's 'Pay to Play' Reputation and Set National Example

The state of New York has become an embarrassing example of what can happen when money is allowed to rule politics. Earlier this month, for instance, two state lawmakers were arrested on corruption charges. It's a story that has become all too familiar in Albany, where a pervasive culture of corruption has led to the convictions of at least 13 state elected officials in the last ten years.

But New York and its governor, Andrew Cuomo, now have an opportunity to shed the state's pay-to-play image and lead the nation in fighting corruption. Good government advocates are pushing for the state to adopt a public financing system based on one that has met with success in New York City. The plan, which would provide matching funds for small donors, would help give candidates without big party or corporate backing the chance to compete in statewide elections. It would allow more voices to be heard in the political process and ensure that elected offices won't be handed to the highest bidder.

The Syracuse Post-Standard, in endorsing the measure, wrote, "There will always be more pressing spending priorities for taxpayer money. But when those priorities are thrown out of whack by the influence of big money on our politicians, something fundamental has to change." And all too often in New York, the priorities of voters are being superseded by the priorities of big campaign donors.

Shortly after the latest scandal, Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced a bill to increase the penalties on state lawmakers accused of graft. That measure is useful, but on its own is not enough to change the culture in Albany. The public financing proposal, which would provide a meaningful solution to the problem of big money in New York politics, needs the governor's active support. So far, although supportive, Gov.Cuomo has not expended the energy in support of the measure needed for it to pass. He now has the chance to weigh in more forcefully and distinguish himself as a national leader on clean elections. With his full-throated endorsement, the measure would have a strong chance of becoming law, and New York could go from being one of the clearest examples of corrupt government to become a national model of reform.

Since the Supreme Court's outrageous Citizens United decision, which unleashed unlimited and unaccountable corporate spending into national politics, Americans have become increasingly wary of big-money influence in elections. A poll late last year found that 90 percent of Americans thought there was too much money in politics -- true bipartisan agreement! 84 percent agreed that "corporate money drowns out the voices of ordinary people." That's a lot of distrust from almost everybody in this country.

As a national movement to overturn Citizens United gains support, states and cities are leading the way with innovative and popular good government measures. New York, with Gov. Cuomo's support, could go from being a symbol of corruption to having some of the strongest clean elections laws in the country. That would be quite an enduring legacy.

This post originally appeared in The Huffington Post.

PFAW

Shedding Some Light on Corporate Political Spending

Today People For the American Way joined with 38 ally organizations and individuals in sending a letter to Congress to ask for support of the Shareholder Protection Act.  The Act – sponsored by Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) – would, among other measures, require that publicly traded corporations pre-approve their annual political expenditure budgets with shareholders and promptly disclose those expenditures to the public. 

The letter highlights the need for this type of legislation in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which “brought a flood of new and secretive money into elections.” Since that decision, corporate officers have been able to spend unlimited amounts of corporate treasury funds to influence elections, often under the veil of ‘dark money’ groups that do not disclose their donors.   In essence, this means that millions of Americans who have invested in corporations are having their money used to engage in partisan politics – without their knowledge.

Unsurprisingly, this post-Citizens United landscape of secret spending  is not popular with the public. The letter notes:

A 2012 survey conducted by Bannon Communications for the Corporate Reform Coalition found that more than 8 in 10 Americans (81%) believe that the secret flow of campaign spending is bad for democracy, and 87 percent agree that prompt disclosure of political spending would help voters, customers and shareholders hold companies accountable for political behavior.

PFAW continues to advocate against corporations being able to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections.  Legislation requiring shareholder approval for, and public disclosure of, corporate election spending will help end some of the abuses made possible by Citizens United.

The full text of the joint letter is below.
 

April 25, 2013

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C.  20515

United States Senate
Washington, D.C.  20510

RE: Support the Shareholder Protection Act

Dear Member of Congress:

We write to you to encourage your support of the Shareholder Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

Our organizations come from diverse backgrounds, with concerns ranging from constitutional rights to corporate governance to protecting our air and water. We have many different priorities, but we all agree that the unprecedented 2010 Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, requires a strong response.

We are troubled for several reasons by the Supreme Court’s decision to give corporations the right under the First Amendment to spend unlimited funds from their corporate treasuries to support or attack candidates.

In the electoral arena, this decision has brought a flood of new and secretive money into elections, ratcheting up the cost of campaigns and increasing the time and resources needed for fundraising. Spending by outside groups funded largely by corporate interests and intended to influence the 2010 elections was more than four times as high than in 2006, the last mid-term cycle. Outside spending increased another four-fold again in the 2012 election cycle. The sources of much of this new money swamping our elections remains undisclosed, as corporations and other special interests launder their campaign funds through non-profit groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce, which are not required to disclose their donors. The ads funded by unaccountable corporate interests fueled massive attacks that compounded the negative tone of campaigns and added to the public cynicism of our elections.

In the legislative arena, the mere threat of unlimited corporate political spending gives corporate lobbyists a large new club to wield when lobbying lawmakers, and makes it harder for legislators to vote their conscience.

In corporate governance, unless a company sets its own internal policies otherwise, there are no rules or procedures established in the United States to ensure that shareholders – those who actually own the wealth of corporations – are informed of, or have the right to approve, decisions on spending their money on politics.

The Shareholder Protection Act provides a framework to rein in some of the damage in this troubling, new political landscape.

Specifically, the Act would:
  • Mandate prior approval by shareholders for an annual political expenditure budget chosen by the management for a publicly held corporation.
  • Require that each specific corporate political expenditure over a certain dollar threshold be approved by the Board of Directors and promptly disclosed to shareholders and the public.
  • Require that institutional investors inform all persons in their investment funds how they voted on corporate political expenditures.
  • Post on the Securities Exchange Commission web page how much each corporation is spending on elections and which candidates or issues they support or oppose.

American business leaders are concerned about the pressure on business to donate to political campaigns, and the influx of large, undisclosed donations to third party political organizations that are not required to disclose their sources of funding. In a Zogby International poll commissioned by the business-led Committee for Economic Development (CED), two-thirds of business leaders polled agreed with the statement: “the lack of transparency and oversight in corporate political activity encourages behavior that puts corporations at legal risk and endangers corporate reputations.”

In addition to business leaders, the general public at large believes in transparency and giving shareholders a voice. A 2012 survey conducted by Bannon Communications for the Corporate Reform Coalition found that more than 8 in 10 Americans (81%) believe that the secret flow of campaign spending is bad for democracy, and 87 percent agree that prompt disclosure of political spending would help voters, customers and shareholders hold companies accountable for political behavior.  Huge majorities of Americans across the political spectrum condemn corporate political spending and support strong reforms. For example, requiring corporations to get shareholder approval before spending money on politics is supported by 73 percent of both Republicans and Democrats, and 71 percent of Independents. About 84 percent of Americans agree that corporate political spending drowns out the voices of average Americans, and 83 percent believe that corporations and corporate CEOs have too much political power and influence.

Responsible corporate governance requires the involvement of informed shareholders and is not a partisan issue. We believe that holding management accountable and ensuring that political spending decisions are made transparently and in pursuit of sound business is important for both the market and for democracy.

We urge you to support the reasoned response that is the Shareholder Protection Act.

Sincerely,

Brennan Center for Justice at N.Y.U. School of Law
Center for Media and Democracy
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Citizen Works
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
Coffee Party USA
Common Cause
Corporate Accountability International
Corporate Ethics International/Business Ethics Network
Democrats.com
Demos
Free Speech for People
Friends of the Earth
Greenpeace
Harrington Investments, Inc.
Holy Cross International Justice Office
Illinois Campaign for Political Reform
Krull and Company, Peter W. Krull, President & Founder
League of Conservation Voters
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
National Consumers League
New Progressive Alliance
North Carolina Center for Voter Engagement
NorthStar Asset Management, Inc.
Ohio Citizen Action
People For the American Way
Progressive States Network
Public Campaign
Public Citizen
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Social Equity Group, Ron Freund and Duncan Meaney
Strategic Counsel on Corporate Accountability, Sanford Lewis
Sunlight Foundation
Torres-Spelliscy, Ciara
U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG)
United Food and Commercial Workers
West Virginia Citizen Action
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Zevin Asset Management, LLC

PFAW

PFAW Foundation Statement on the Passing of Bob Edgar

People For the American Way Foundation president Michael Keegan released the following statement on the passing of Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause:

“All of us at People For the American Way Foundation are saddened to learn of the passing of Bob Edgar, a true progressive hero. Bob devoted his life to public service, as a member of Congress, a leader for progressive people of faith and a tireless advocate for our democracy. His kindness, good humor and commitment to holding our nation up to its highest ideals were an inspiration to all who were fortunate enough to work with him. He will be sorely missed.”
 

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New Poll Shows New Hampshire Voters’ Strong Support for Limiting Money in Politics

More than two-thirds of New Hampshire adults support a constitutional amendment to limit campaign contributions and spending, new polling data released today reveals. The statewide poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center on behalf of People For the American Way, Public Citizen, Free Speech For People, and the New Hampshire Coalition for Open Democracy, found that 69% of the state feels that such an amendment should be in place – including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

The poll also found that 72% of respondents oppose (62% strongly oppose and 10% somewhat oppose) the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows corporations to spend an unlimited amount of money to influence elections. The full results of the poll can be found here

This new data comes on the heels of the recent bipartisan passage in the New Hampshire House of HCR2, a resolution calling on Congress to amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United by re-establishing the authority of the states and Congress to regulate corporate and special interest election spending.  The resolution has moved to the Senate side of the General Court but is being stopped by a new Senate rule requiring a 2/3 supermajority vote to consider House resolutions. Release of the data also coincides with the Coalition for Open Democracy and Public Citizen’s Democracy In Motion Tour, a speaking tour through New Hampshire to get money out and voters in.

“These numbers make it clear that the political will exists to reclaim democracy from corporate and special interest spending – in New Hampshire and around the country,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way.  “Voters across the state are speaking out to insist that our democracy is truly of, by, and for the people.”

“This poll shows New Hampshire voters, like most Americans, are fed up with the Citizens United anything-goes approach to money in politics. Six in 10 New Hampshire Republicans, nearly three out of four independents, and nearly eight in ten Democrats support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. That's why 10 Republican Representatives joined Democrats in passing HCR 2 at the State House last month, and why the state Senate should now also heed the will of the voters,” said Peter Schurman, campaign director at Free Speech For People.

“Across party lines, people in New Hampshire and across America agree that corporations have too much political power, that Citizens United was wrongly decided, and that we need a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and restore democracy,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Senior Organizer of Democracy Is For People at Public Citizen. “The only question is: Are the politicians ready to follow the will of the people, rather than the giant campaign spenders?”

“New Hampshire Senators need to pass HCR 2 in the bipartisan way that the House did last month,” said Olivia Zink, Program Director at Coalition for Open Democracy. “This poll shows overwhelmingly that voters support an amendment that will stop the flood of special interest money pouring into New Hampshire.”


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Tell the SEC: Make Corporations Disclose Political Spending

The SEC can and should require that all publicly traded corporations disclose how they're spending money to tilt elections.

West Virginia Becomes 12th State to Call For Amendment Overturning Citizens United

The West Virginia Legislature has approved a resolution calling on Congress to propose a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC and related cases.  This makes West Virginia the twelfth state to call for such an amendment.

People For the American Way has been working with activists in West Virginia to help rally support for the resolution.  As PFAW Legislative Representative Calvin Sloan noted in a recent action alert, many West Virginians already understood the need to get big money out of politics:

“West Virginia has already seen the drastic need for a constitutional amendment to enact free and fair elections. In 2010, West Virginia’s congressional races attracted more than $15 million from outside groups such as American Crossroads and FreedomWorks, organizations that can, in the wake of Citizens United, raise and spend unlimited amounts of money in our elections.”

As a West Virginian, I am especially proud to see this resolution pass in my home state.  While the states that have called for an amendment are diverse – stretching from Hawaii to Rhode Island – protecting the integrity of our democratic process is a core American value.  As one West Virginia delegate pointed out,

“One of government's roles within this great democracy is making sure everyone has a voice.”

West Virginians are now formally joining the proliferation of voices across the country calling for a democracy of, by, and for the people.

PFAW

Delaware General Assembly Members Send Letter to Washington Urging Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

Earlier this month, members of the Delaware General Assembly began gathering signatures for a letter to be sent to Senator Carper, Senator Coons, and Representative Carney urging them and their colleagues to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and related cases.
PFAW

Turning Up The Heat: PFAW Canvass in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Republicans’ strategy to rig the Electoral College rests on their pushing their plan through quietly, without voters realizing what they’re up to. They know they can’t win if people are paying attention, because rigging the game isn’t fair, it isn’t popular, and it isn’t right for Pennsylvania. We’re not going to let their deception defeat Pennsylvanians’ democratic rights. We’re turning up the heat on the State Senate Majority Leader, Dominic Pileggi, who introduced the bill to rig the Electoral College. Last weekend, we led 14 Pennsylvanians on a canvass in Pileggi’s district to show him that Pennsylvanians know what he’s up to, and that he can’t get away with these underhand tactics. 

Our volunteers knocked on over 1500 doors and talked to hundreds of voters- but we’re just getting started. More canvassing and phonebanking shifts are scheduled this week, and we’ll keep this up as long as state Republicans keep trying to rig the game. We’re showing Dominic Pileggi that Pennsylvanians know what he’s up to, they know what his plan would do to their state, and that they won’t stand for it. 

Sign our petition to GOP lawmakers in PA and other states telling them to abandon their efforts to rig the Electoral College>>

If you can, donate to our campaign here>>

PFAW

New Hampshire Moves Forward With First Steps to Overturn Citizens United in Bipartisan Vote

In a bipartisan vote yesterday, the New Hampshire House passed a bill calling for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of our elections and overturn Citizens United.
PFAW

GOP Report Shows Party is Out of Touch With Americans on Threats to Democracy: Money in Politics and Voter Suppression

WASHINGTON – The Republican National Committee released a report today reviewing its losses in the 2012 election cycle and laying out a roadmap for the future of the party.  People For the American Way Vice President Marge Baker released the following statement:

“This report highlights what we already knew: that the Republican party is out of touch with America. Instead of addressing the party’s anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-worker policies that voters resoundingly rejected in 2012, today’s report calls for a complete gutting of campaign finance reform – in essence calling for even more big money to be poured into our elections.  If the Republican party were listening to Americans, they would know that the country supports finding systemic solutions to the problem of unregulated money in our political system.  The answer is certainly not to gut the regulations we already have in place.  Instead, we need to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC and related cases so that we can create more effective regulations to get big money out of our democracy. 

“The GOP report’s recommendations on voting rights also underscore a continuing focus on keeping certain voters from the polls.  After an election cycle overflowing with examples of discriminatory voter suppression efforts aimed at historically disenfranchised communities, the report recommends an ongoing focus on so-called  ‘ballot security training initiatives.’  This is simply another phrase for the same voter intimidation tactics used in the name of preventing supposed ‘voter fraud.’  It’s baffling that the GOP thinks it can improve its image with people of color while still working to block their access to the ballot box.

“This report is yet another example that the GOP’s ‘soul-searching’ hasn’t gotten them very far.  It’s time to refocus our efforts on getting the big money out of elections and the voters into the voting booth.”

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RNC Calls Upon ALEC to Dismantle Campaign Finance Reform

The powerful right-wing organization, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has long claimed that it “respects diversity of thought” and that it is a “non-partisan policy resource for its members,” Democrats and Republicans alike.  Indeed, in a television interview with FOX news, an ALEC spokesperson once stated, “we have legislators of all political stripes coming together to talk about the most critical issues facing the states,” and adamantly defended the non-partisan nature of the organization.

It does not take much examination of ALEC policies, funders, or public-sector membership rolls to put these claims into true perspective. ALEC’ s right wing policies are so extreme that over 43 corporations – from Wal-Mart to General Electric – have cut ties with the organization.  As documented by the Center For Media and Democracy, more than 99% of ALEC’s public sector leaders are Republican lawmakers.  And a quick perusal of ALEC funding reveals that the same funders who back the network are also major sponsors of many Republican initiatives.

Yet what may be the most telling evidence of ALEC’s ties to the GOP emerged just this morning. Today, the Republican National Committee (RNC) released its wide-ranging “autopsy” report in response to the party’s disastrous 2012 elections. The report, entitled “Growth and Opportunity Project,” outlines a variety of policy recommendations including, among other base ideas, abolishing campaign spending regulations and contribution limits. In the report, the RNC specifically calls on ALEC to help develop and implement model legislation to “improve” these campaign finance laws.

The RNC places ALEC alongside the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC)  and the RNC as an organization that is well-suited to “improve” campaign finance laws and propagate them nationwide:

The RNC has called upon ALEC to do its bidding because it knows that ALEC is 100% in support of its anti-democratic agenda.  Beyond pushing for Voter ID laws and adopting restrictive registration requirements – like the registration requirements that ALEC adopted years ago as model policy and that today are being argued over in the Supreme Court – ALEC has a history of opposing campaign finance reform.  The organization has consistently opposed public financing of elections and even issued a resolution in favor of the Supreme Court’s disastrous 2010 Citizens United decision.

If ALEC and the GOP were truly interested in “improving” campaign finance laws, they would be pushing for greater oversight, not trying to dismantle what little there is left of campaign finance regulation in America.  If they really cared about American democracy, they would join the growing chorus of voices who are calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and enact free and fair elections.

Yet ALEC and the GOP care more about gaming the system and rewarding their corporate constituents than empowering the American people.  As today’s report makes perfectly clear, their pro-corporate and anti-voter agendas unmistakably go hand in hand.

 

** Public Policy Intern Kyler Geoffroy contributed to this blog post

PFAW Foundation

PFAW Calls Newly-Introduced “Democracy Is For People” Amendment Important Step Forward

WASHINGTON – On Tuesday Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) introduced an amendment to end corporate spending in our elections and permit Congress and the states to protect the political equality of all voters.  The “Democracy Is For People” Amendment would overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United V. FEC and related cases. 

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

“The Citizens United v. FEC decision opened the floodgates to big money in our elections.  This amendment would be a step toward reclaiming our democracy.  Democracy is about the voices of everyday Americans, not about which corporations or special interests can spend the most to overpower those voices. 

“As we saw in last year’s election – far and away the most expensive in history – corporate and special interest influence in our elections continues to grow.  Americans are tired of watching their democracy be hijacked and are calling for change.  This amendment is a serious, thoughtful effort that pushes the movement to restore our democracy forward.”  

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Three Voter Empowerment Bills Introduced in the House

Members of the Task Force on Election Reform introduced three voter empowerment bills at the beginning of the 113th Congress in January. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi created The Task Force to develop electoral reform legislation under the D.A.R.E. initiative (Disclose, Amend, Reform, and Empower).

The objective of the Task Force on Election Reform is to combine the best parts of reform bills into one effective piece of legislation that will help strengthen the voices of average Americans and increase the participation of small-donor contributors in our elections.

The three bills that were introduced are:

The Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 269) was introduced by Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) along with 52 co-sponsors. Among other provisions, the bill matches small-dollar donation 5-to-1 and requires participating candidates to limit contributions to $100. The bill was referred to the House Committee on House Administration on January 15, 2013.

The Grassroots Democracy Act (H.R. 268) was introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) with 36 co-sponsors. The bill matches small contributions 10-1 for candidates who limit contributions to $100 and 5-1 for those that follow the normal contribution limit. The act also provides a $25 tax credit to help voters make small-dollar donations to the participating candidates. The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Communication and Technology on January 18, 2013.

The Empowering Citizens Act (H.R. 270) was introduced by Rep. David Price (D-NC) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) with 13 co-sponsors. The bill matches the first $250 of a contribution 5-to-1 and cuts the contribution limits in half to $1,250 for participating candidates. The legislation also aims to mitigate the effects of Citizens United, by providing a broader definition of coordination so that super PACs and political non-profits cannot function as arms of candidates’ campaigns. The bill was referred to the Committee on House Administration to the Committee on Ways and Means to decide which committee it belongs in on January, 15 2013.

The members of the Task Force on Election Reform are Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards, Congressman Theodore E. Deutch, Congressman John Larson, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Congressman James P. McGovern, Congressman Rush D. Holt, Congressman Adam B. Schiff, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Congressman Ed Perlmutter, Congressman John A. Yarmuth, Congressman Kurt Schrader, Congressman George Miller, Congressman David E. Price, Congressman Robert A. Brady, Congresswoman Susan A. Davis, Congressman Raul M. Grijalva, Congressman Keith Ellison, Congressman John P. Sarbanes, and Congressman Rick Nolan.

All members of the Task Force on Election Reform support amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and related cases.

PFAW

Supreme Court to Consider Allowing Even More Money into Campaigns

The Roberts Court says it will consider a case challenging aggregate campaign contribution caps.
PFAW Foundation

Washington State Moving Forward With First Steps to Overturn Citizens United

Earlier this month, a group of state legislators, led by Sen. Adam Kline and Rep. Jamie Pedersen introduced companion bills requesting that Congress pass a constitutional amendment to return the authority to regulate election spending to Congress and state legislatures.
PFAW

Don't let the Right fix the next presidential election!

Recent proposals by some lawmakers to apportion electoral votes in presidential elections based on congressional district rather than being awarded in the current winner-take-all fashion by popular vote is outrageously undemocratic and would ignore the will of the voters in these states.

PFAW and Allies Applaud Re-Launch of ‘Declaration For Democracy’ Campaign to Overturn Citizens United

2,000 Public Officials Have Already Expressed Support for Constitutional Amendment


WASHINGTON – This week People For the American Way and ally organizations applauded the re-launch of the “Declaration For Democracy” campaign.  Public officials signing the declaration are proclaiming  their support for amending the  constitution  to limit the influence of money in our democracy and to restore the rights of the American people in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC.  Representatives Donna Edwards (D-MD), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Keith Ellison (D-MN), James P. McGovern (D-MA), and John Yarmuth (D-KY) circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter today urging their colleagues to sign the declaration. 

By the end of the 112th Congress, 2,000 public officials had expressed their support for a constitutional amendment, including President Obama, 102 Members of the House, and 29 Senators (list visible at http://united4thepeople.org). 

The Declaration For Democracy reads:  “I, ____________, declare my support for amending the Constitution of the United States to restore the rights of the American people, undermined by Citizens United and related cases, to protect the integrity of our elections and limit the corrosive influence of money in our democratic process.”  The declaration can be found here:  http://united4thepeople.org/index.html

“The Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United and related cases put our political system on the auction block to be sold to the highest bidder,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way.  “Americans don’t want an auction, they want a working democracy. We are thrilled that these Representatives are inviting their colleagues to join the growing chorus of voices calling for change.  We look forward to getting even more public officials on board this year.” 
 
“Companies ought to be competing in the marketplace with the best products and services, not in our elections for unfair influence of the decisions that will impact our economy by those with the deepest pockets,” said David Levine, CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council. “This money is better spent by investing in growing our businesses, creating jobs and building a stronger economy.”

“Voters across the country have demonstrated overwhelming support for a constitutional amendment that clarifies that unlimited campaign spending has never been free speech,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “Congress must respond to that.”

“Our electoral process should be about the rights of individuals to participate in our nation's politics,” said Larry Cohen, President of Communications Workers of America.  “That's what democracy looks like. The Communications Workers of America commends elected officials at every level of government who are fighting to restore fairness to our political process. The role of money in politics must be completely overhauled. Today it dwarfs everything else and is distorting our democracy. Working with other progressive organizations, CWA is committed to stopping the flow of secret cash to political campaigns and making it clear to all dollars are not speech. This effort will require constitutional changes and other measures to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for secret spending and today enables billionaires to buy our nation’s elections. We also will work for the public financing of elections, because without these very real changes, the one percent will continue to control our politics.”

“The first post-Citizens United presidential election confirmed our fears that the new campaign finance system allows well-heeled special interests and secret spenders to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens,” said Blair Bowie, Democracy Advocate at U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “There is, however, a silver lining: unprecedented public support for real reforms to ensure that in our democracy every citizen is a political equal, regardless of the size of her wallet. We applaud members of Congress who commit to achieving this end.”

“We can’t both maintain Citizens United as the law of the land and maintain a functioning democracy,” said Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen. “A mounting public movement is demanding a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and restore our democracy. The legislators leading the way to winning a constitutional amendment are carrying out the grandest American traditions to defend and expand our democracy.”

“Americans who are wondering why it's tougher to get ahead in today's economy should look to big money politics for answers,” said Adam Lioz, Democracy Counsel for Demos.  “When just a few billionaires and special interests can counter the voices of millions of ordinary citizens in the public square, these big donors get to set the agenda in Washington and across the country.  Now is the time to build a democracy in which the strength of a citizen's voice does not depend upon the size of her wallet—and amending the constitution is a critical step.”

“Our nation today faces the central question of whether We the People or We the Corporations shall govern in America,” said John Bonifaz, the co-founder and executive director of Free Speech For People, a national campaign launched on the day of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling to press for a constitutional amendment to reclaim our democracy.  “To defend the promise of American self-government, we must enact a constitutional amendment that overturns our system of unlimited campaign spending and the fiction of corporate constitutional rights and that restores republican democracy to the people.” 

“Now is not the time to be timid; rather, we need to seize this moment and overturn Citizens United with a Constitutional amendment that also overturns all Constitutional rights granted to corporations by court-created doctrines. The Constitution is for ‘we, the people,’” said David e. Delk, Co-chair of the Alliance for Democracy.

“After the most expensive election in U.S. history and the history of the world and with more money secretly funneled through tax exempt groups to try to influence who wins office, more and more Americans are demanding that the Constitution be amended to restore the rightful role of ordinary people in our democracy,” said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy and the publisher of PRWatch and ALECexposed, adding, “we applaud these Representatives and urge others to publicly declare whose side they are on: the side of voters or big money.”

“The greatest political reform of our time will be to abolish the legal concept of ‘corporate personhood’ and the inherently anti-democratic equation of money with political speech,” said Bill Moyer, Executive Director of the Backbone Campaign.


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John Kerry Identifies ‘Deluge of Money’ as Threat To U.S. Democracy in Farewell Speech

In his farewell address to the Senate today, newly confirmed Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted three causes of what he called a “dangerous but reversible” decline in our country’s democracy: “the decline of comity, the deluge of money, and the disregard for facts.”

A deluge of money in our democracy, indeed – and often outside, secret money at that.  Twenty one state-by-state reports released this month by People For the American Way Foundation and U.S. PIRG analyzing spending totals from Super PACs, dark money groups, and out-of-state spending in 2012 down-ballot federal races found that on average, a majority of outside election money in these states came from Super PACs.  And in every case, a vast majority came from organizations registered outside of the state. 

John Kerry was right to draw attention to the dangerous influence of money on our democracy.  When big money overwhelms our political system, it is hard to hear the individual voices of everyday Americans.

PFAW Foundation

White House Petition for Constitutional Amendment on Campaign Cash Clears Threshold

25K call on President Obama to use State of the Union to endorse amendment movement

Today, a petition on the White House website urging President Obama to “use the State of the Union to call for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics” exceeded the 25,000 signatures necessary to guarantee an official White House response.  The petition, launched by the groups Free Speech For People, Avaaz, People For the American Way, and Demos on January 8 took less than two weeks to cross the threshold.

The petition can be found here: http://wh.gov/P9j7

Fixing our campaign finance system has long been a cause President Obama supports, though he failed to make progress on it during his first term.  During his re-election campaign, President Obama told supporters that: "Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United . . . . Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change."

The petition calls on the President to reiterate and strengthen this call in the State of the Union, and comes just days after President Obama delivered an inaugural address that many believe reflected a renewed willingness on his part to fight for core goals he has long supported even in the face of challenges. 

"Americans everywhere are asking President Obama to take the lead on the one issue that unlocks all the others: getting big money out of our political system, to restore our government of, by, and for the people," said Peter Schurman, Campaign Director at Free Speech For People. "'We the people' means all the people, not just the wealthy few, and not the corporations."

Ian Bassin, Campaign Director at Avaaz, said: "We the people have spoken and the message is clear: We're sick of oil industry money setting our energy agenda, the Wall Street dollar determining our economic policy, and gun company cash dictating how we protect our kids.  We need elections not auctions and we're counting on President Obama to lead us there, starting with his State of the Union."

The petition may also be the last White House petition to garner a response after receiving 25,000 signatures.  It also may be the most serious of the latest round.  Last week, after responding to petitions to deport Piers Morgan and to build a Death Star, the White House upped the threshold for guaranteeing a response to 100,000.  But petitions like this campaign finance one that were launched before the change were grandfathered at the 25,000 threshold.

“This petition provides more evidence for what we already know – that Americans want a solution to the corrupting influence of big money in our democracy,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “We saw massive amounts of money pour into last year’s elections, much of which was undisclosed. Using the megaphone provided to them by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, corporate special interests are drowning out the voices of ordinary voters. President Obama calling for a constitutional remedy in the upcoming State of the Union Address would draw attention to this critical situation and mobilize even more Americans into action.”

"This is the moment President Obama should take a strong and decisive step toward ending big money's stranglehold on our politics and our economy, and cement his legacy by leading the effort to finally forge a democracy in which the strength of a citizen's voice does not depend upon the size of her wallet," said Demos Counsel Adam Lioz.

After the coalition involved in launching this petition posted it to the White House website, its growth came from citizens expressing their frustration with the flood of money infecting our political system.  Much of this public frustration stems from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC that corporations have a constitutional right to spend unlimited sums to influence elections.  In the wake of that decision, more than $6 billion was spent in the 2012 elections, much of it by corporations and anonymous billionaires. Congress responded by proposing amendments to reverse that decision and eleven states and nearly 500 cities and towns have joined this call.

This petition tees up for President Obama the key question of what he’ll do next to deliver on a core, unfulfilled promise of his first campaign: to change the way Washington works.  The groups behind the petition will continue to campaign until he does.  

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