GetMoneyOut! – New York joins 16 other states

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New York has become the 17th state to formally call for a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United.

Just look at all the states that support overturning Citizens United:

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

That’s nearly 40% of the U.S. population.

But we can’t stop now.  Fully 80% of Americans believe we must overturn Citizens United.

Having a constructive debate on the most important issues of our time requires a working democracy.  That idea requires a sensible campaign finance system and a government without a revolving door to and back from the lobbying industry.

Public Citizen was key to the successful campaign we waged in New Jersey in 2012 and Public Citizen was again important in New York.  We applaud everyone’s efforts.  Next up are Washington, Arkansas and New Hampshire, among others.

 

How far the movement has come!

mapamendmentjune152016

Public Citizen is not the only group committed to a 28th Amendment.  There are also these:

Money Out Voters In

http://www.moneyoutvotersin.org

America Promise

http://www.americanpromise.net

 

Please Note, UPDATE:  Soon after our victory in NY State, Rhode Island became the 5th state to call for an Amendments Convention to overturn Citizens United.  So you can add a 5th “V” to the map above.

NY becomes the 17th State – More of the story:

http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6400-new-york-becomes-17th-state-to-call-for-constitutional-overturn-of-citizens-united

 

Call on the President to take executive action

It is reasonable, constitutional and appropriate for the president in his duties to the American Public as the ‘Administrator-in-Chief’ to make those companies seeking federal contracts disclose their political spending.  We have a right to know how they spend money politically.  Even the Citizens United v FEC majority decision cites DISCLOSURE as the first remedy.

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The president is expected to administer the government effectively. This disclosure is one of the simplest ways, not involving a constitutional amendment or the passage of new laws, to make governance more accountable. But it does still require the president to make the call and administer his spending programs with this requirement going forward.

You may have previously signed a petition on this matter.  If so, THANK YOU.  Petitions have been delivered from several organizations to the White House over the last year and they have moved the debate closer to victory.  But now we are approaching a moment of truth.  The president is expected to decide soon.  It’s time to make a direct appeal.

Like most of the ‘Clicktivism’ campaigns we have suggested to you before, this one is really quite easy.  You call a number; you’re routed to a Comments Line at the White House.  You speak your mind free form or simply read from the script.  For the author of this blog it took about two minutes to get through and then say, “I want the president to sign an executive order demanding that federal contractors disclose their political spending.”

Common Cause explains the Action Here.  <–Click the link

Common Cause will guide you through the action and help you then spread the word for others to join our effort.  Please note that the action STARTED on June 8th, but will remain active for the remainder of this week and into next week.  But the sooner you call, the more obvious our coordinated effort will be to those in White House.  It’s easy, so why not do it now?

 

 

Money Control of Politics: The Broken American Promise and How to Fix It

Just a quick blog today to mention an event in Morristown, NJ on Thursday evening of this week. These speakers are excellent and will take you to the heart of the money in politics question. I strongly recommend making this event. New Jersey Get Money Out groups will have people there as well.  Don’t miss it.

Details and Registration here.  NJPPN Money Control Program – or check out the details below:

CthenK
Thursday, April 28, 2016

7:30pm – 9:30pm

CONVENT OF SAINT ELIZABETH

2 Convent Rd *
Morristown, NJ 07960

 

The Citizens United decision has led to an unprecedented influx of money in our elections, causing a shift of political power away from ordinary citizens and toward the large money donors. Witnessing growing governmental dysfunction and the non-responsiveness of elected officials, too many Americans no longer trust the political process. Our democratic system includes powerful mechanisms for repair, but fixing the broken American promise will require concerted citizen action.

Speakers:

 

Timothy K. Kuhner is associate professor of law at Georgia State University and author of Capitalism v. Democracy: Money in Politics and the Free Market Constitution. He will discuss how the Supreme Court went wrong in applying a market-based analysis to the political sphere of our Constitution, and how this has caused the effective transformation of our form of government from a democracy to a plutocracy.

Jeffrey D. Clements is president of American Promise, co-founder of Free Speech for People and author of Corporations are Not People: Reclaiming Democracy from Big Money and Global Corporations. He will speak to how the political transformation has resulted in major legislative changes that benefit special interests rather than the public interest, and how this can be remedied by passage of the 28th amendment and other citizen action.

SEATING IS LIMITED

 

PRE-REGISTER TODAY at www.njppn.org or info@njppn.org

* Directions from Rt. 124/Madison Ave: turn off Madison Ave onto Convent Rd, cross tracks, make first right at guard station and park in front of large building w/portico.

 

North Jersey Public Policy Network is a non-partisan, 501c3 organization committed to providing authoritative information on key public policy issues to its network and to the public.

The State of Money in Politics – Star Panel at Lipton Hall

The Brennan Center for Justice presents

The State of Money in Politics

 

Thursday, May 7, 2015
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

 

6:00 p.m. Registration and Reception
6:30 p.m. Program

 

Lipton Hall, NYU School of Law
108 West Third Street
New York, NY 10012

 

featuring:

 

Jeff Clements
Board Chair, Free Speech for People
Author, Corporations Are Not People

 

Zephyr Teachout
Associate Professor, Fordham Law School
Author, Corruption in America

 

Ellen Weintraub
Commissioner, Federal Election Commission

 

moderated by:

 

Daniel Weiner
Counsel, Brennan Center for Justice

 

The Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Citizens United v. FEC reshaped the American political landscape, giving the wealthy more power to influence elections than at any time since Watergate and opening the floodgates for dark money in U.S. elections. Five years after the Supreme Court decision that set these trends in motion, what is the state of money in politics today? What are the emerging issues and paths for reform going forward?

 

**Attendees will receive 1.5 CLE credits in the Areas of Professional Practice. Credit will be both transitional and non-transitional.**

 

Please RSVP at http://www.brennancenter.org/event/state-money-politics#RSVP

 

If you have any questions, please contact Brennan Center Events Manager, Jafreen Uddin, at jafreen.uddin@nyu.edu or 646.292.8345.

Join the fight with your Clicktivism

Sometimes ACTIVISM is EASY. You click on stuff and make your opinion known. It’s known as clicktivism and WE ARE CLICKING here at New Jersey for the Overturn of Citizens United. JOIN US!

 

First off – are you on Twitter? Please follow us on Twitter!
www.twitter.com/njocu

Or on Facebook? We’re there too.
www.facebook.com/njocu

 

You may have seen that Common Cause is petitioning Obama to use an Executive Order to make Federal Contractors disclose their political spending. At NJOCU we are hopeful that THIS particular petition can garner 100,000 signatures over the next three weeks. Please CLICK now – and sign.
Whitehouse Dot Gov Petition to the President

 

Oh and by the way, if you’re ambitious, you can sign Common Cause’s petition too.
Common Cause Petition to the President

 

Now admit it. That was pretty easy, eh? Yeah, there will be hard stuff later. But it’s always easier when we stand together.

 

Ann Rea takes the reigns at NJOCU

Here at New Jersey for the Overturn of Citizens United (NJOCU) we are happy to introduce Ann Rea as our new State Coordinator. Ann has for several years been steadily engaged in the issue of money in politics. She is a founding member and the current leader of Restore Democracy, a working group within the North Jersey Public Policy Network. Restore Democracy strives to get money out of politics by calling attention to the issue and studying what would be the best legislative remedies.

Ann has also worked to get out the vote in numerous local, state and federal elections, with a special initiative for the 2013 ballot question to raise the minimum wage in New Jersey, and in 2014 for paid sick leave in Montclair. She has been coordinator for BlueWaveNJ’s Electoral Reform Working Group and a member of Democracy for America-NJ.

Early to recognize and address this issue, in 2007, Ann was part of a coalition that included BlueWaveNJ, Citizens Action NJ, the Brennen Center for Justice and the NJ Chamber of Commerce. Through their efforts, a pilot program was enacted to publicly finance elections in that year’s NJ Legislative elections. While the pilot program was not made permanent in New Jersey, this finance system is now used successfully in New York City as well as in state elections in Connecticut, Maine and Arizona.

Professionally, Ann Rea enjoyed a career in the garment industry designing textile prints and overseeing fabric production for Jones New York. After the 2004 presidential election she realized that voting was not enough, and that she had to do more.

Why is it important to get the money out of politics? Ann: “Until our Legislators are beholden to the voters for their office, they will keep representing the wishes of the donors and not the American people. The question is: do you want an oligarchy or a democracy? The more money in our elections, the less democracy in our government.”

 

We would also like to wish Susannah Newman, our fearless founder, the best in her upcoming move to the Washington DC region, where she will be closer to family and closer to the action for her continued activism. Susannah plans to remain engaged in NJOCU. It will be great to have a direct ally in the nation’s capital.

The Media Continue to Overlook the Biggest Story

By Tony Giordano    (posted by administrator)

What would you say is the nation’s most significant news story of the year? Of the decade?

If you’re like most people your answer would be highly influenced by the stories given the most attention by the news media—Ebola, ISIS, conflicts overseas, political polarization—to name a few.

In prior years I felt that climate change was the most significant story, and one that has been under-reported by the media. Although climate change is finally getting some attention, it’s not nearly enough considering the magnitude of the problem coupled with the inadequacy of the actions being taken.

But there’s another story that is perhaps of equal significance, albeit of a different nature, and continues to receive surprisingly little attention by most of the mass media. That is the story of the huge growth of money in politics and how it is destroying our democracy– by causing politicians to be preoccupied with their big campaign donors and lobbyists and to neglect the problems of everyday Americans.

Research is confirming what many have suspected—that our once proud democracy is being turned into oligarchy by all the big money flowing into politics as a result of recent Supreme Court decisions. One study found that economic elites and groups representing business have substantial impacts on government policy while average citizens have little or no influence. Another study looked at the U.S. Senate and similarly found that only the wealthy have an influence on policy.

For most of my lifetime I did not think it possible that something as precious and central to the American way of life– democratic government– could ever disappear from this land of Jefferson and Lincoln. For one, what I presumed would be such total, unmitigated outrage from the people and our elected representatives at even the slight prospect of declining democracy would surely prevent any further decline.

But sadly, there has not been much outrage, nor broad attention from the media or anywhere else, and nothing seems to be stopping the demise of our democracy. When elected representatives work primarily for the interests of their big donors and ignore everyday Americans, that’s not democracy.

The implications of this situation are many and far-reaching. The broad middle class now faces a multitude of grave problems that are largely being ignored by politicians. If you look at the political agenda that polls show most Americans support, you see that Americans want such things as climate change action, higher wages and protection of worker rights, stronger social safety net programs, higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy, an end to corporate welfare, and tighter gun control.

However, when you look at what our elected representatives are doing or proposing, you find that they are not only ignoring the wishes of most Americans, they’re actually taking the opposite approach on many of these issues. That’s right– our elected representatives are doing the opposite of what most Americans want from their government!

A prime example is tax policy for corporations and the wealthy. While most Americans want these taxes raised, numerous loopholes and tax subsidies continue or have expanded, so that one in four large corporations paid nothing in federal income taxes in 2005, the last year for which data are available. Sixty years ago corporate taxes accounted for 1/3 of federal tax revenues compared to only 1/10 today. And tax rates on the wealthy have been greatly reduced over the same time.

This totally unacceptable state of affairs results from the huge sums of money entering politics through campaign finance and lobbying, primarily from large corporations and the wealthy. It is essentially legalized corruption.

Could the reasons for the lack of media attention to this situation have anything to do with the fact that the great bulk of the mass media in our nation— e.g. television, cable and radio outlets, internet services, magazines, newspapers– are owned by a small number of giant corporations, which themselves are major players in the big money game? They use campaign donations and armies of lobbyists to obtain government policies favorable to their business interests.

Apparently media companies don’t want to call attention to the system of legalized bribery that allows them to profit and dominate their industry, despite the fact that it is their duty to report something that so threatens our democracy.

It’s all about making money, then using it to buy politicians and make yet more. Meanwhile, millions of Americans quietly struggle to make ends meet and sustain a minimal quality of life.

To begin restoring democracy we need to completely overhaul campaign finance and institute public financing of elections. Ask your representatives to take a stand on the issue of money in politics.

This Story is a Re-post from Reader Supported News (RSN) with permission of the author.

Ten Brief Arguments for AMEND and REFORM

By Susannah Newman    (posted by administrator)

A&R

Recent SCOTUS decisions:

In 2010, Citizens United equated money with free speech under the 1st Amendment and restated in stronger terms that a corporation is the same as a natural born person with regard to campaign spending. A few months later, the Speech Now decision created the SuperPAC and this year the McCutcheon decision removed aggregate contribution limits by an individual from campaign finance laws. Finally, with the Hobby Lobby decision, SCOTUS has conferred corporate religious rights for bosses over the rights of employees.

Ten Brief arguments against these decisions to be taken together, in combination or separately:

The problem of money in politics can only be fixed by grassroots pressure on politicians to pass 1) a constitutional amendment, which will lay the path for 2) unchallengeable campaign finance reforms. 87%-90% of voters across the spectrum agree that overturning the above decisions is A MUST.

Big money has become deafening and drowns out the voices of the ordinary citizen, whose single vote cannot compete with the voting power given to the billionaire or the large corporation or unions through unlimited campaign donations.

A Constitutional Amendment giving Congress the power to limit election spending will RESTORE the 1st Amendment by amplifying the voices of ordinary citizens to a more equitable level; i.e. government by the people, not by the money. With such an amendment in place, necessary campaign finance reform laws, such as the Government by the People Act and the DISCLOSE Act) will be safe from a SCOTUS challenge.

While corporations are composed of people, they are NOT, in fact, people, but LEGAL ENTITIES created by the state. Nowhere in the Constitution is the word “corporation” even mentioned. (The founding fathers’ fear of corporate and moneyed power is well documented.) Today corporations are global and through these recent SCOTUS decisions, foreign interests can influence elections and therefore policy.

Who has more access to a congressional office: the one who gave $300,000 or the one who gave $30 to the campaign? Unfortunately, candidates must now go after the big money: one $100,000 donation is easier to get than ten thousand $10 donations. Good public servants are made complicit in this corrupting system.

For example, why is it that 90% of the American people want background checks on gun ownership, but Congress has NOT passed any common sense legislation to control gun violence? FOLLOW THE MONEY and its accompanying OVERT POLITICAL INTIMIDATION.

The greatest fear that any candidate has is that just before the election, some anonymously funded SuperPAC will drop $1 million in ads, etc… against him/her. To become insulated from this tactic, BIG MONEY donors are sought who, in turn, insist the candidate agree with the donors’ politics. This is a corrupting reality.

In 2012, 132 Americans funded 60% of SuperPAC money. By 2014, that number will represent only .01% of America, which clearly makes our governmental system no longer a representative democracy. Our current Congress is not dependent “on the People alone”, but on the Funders. This is corruption. Not bribery, but corruption. We need only look to the days of the Robber Barons to know how money in politics corrupts and, sadly, destroys lives.

While there is rarely actual, legally verifiable, quid pro quo corruption (politicians and plutocrats are too careful for that), evidence of implied corruption and policy-by-money is seen by voters all over the country. This has contributed to unparalleled cynicism and distrust of government; BIG MONEY is responsible for this.

Time is running out. We are quickly becoming a plutocracy and losing our democracy. Power now comes from money and public policy is driven by corporate interests over the long-term best interests of the People. We must AMEND the CONSTITUTION and then REFORM CAMPAIGN FINANCE.

SJR19 – a reasonable bill to amend our constitution – Time for a Push

OverturningAfter three years of the NJOCU coalition actively pursuing an amendment-to-overturn, We Finally Have a FULL SENATE VOTE SCHEDULED for MONDAY, 9/8!  It is a vote on cloture, i.e. to close debate on S.J.Res.19.  It is not yet the vote to pass the amendment proposal.  But the cloture vote is significant (particular in this era of fillibusters in the Senate).  We see a vote for cloture as a show of support for the amendment outlined in S.J.Res.19.  Once debate ends, the actual bill may be voted on.

 

Despite broad voter approval of an amendment to overturn Citizens United, the two-party system has managed to divide on this bill.  Democrats are running on the issue in November, while Republicans with a pro-money faction led by Senator McConnell are fretting over the implications.  In this case, we have to side with Democrats.  SJR-19 is a narrowly written and very reasonable amendment proposal that enables Congress to regulate its own elections and thereby limit the corrupting influence of money in politics.  This is a reinforcement of Article 1 Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution.  While the amendment could have done more than that, its sponsors decided to proceed with care.  There is plenty of room for bipartisan support of SJR19.

 

SIGN THE PETITION in support of SJR19 to amend the constitution:  http://tinyurl.com/m9856ow

 

Acknowledging the partisan politics, we would hope to see ALL Senate Democrats vote YES for cloture on S.J.Res.19 on 9/8.  NJOCU gives a hat-tip to Sen. Menendez (202-224-4744) and Sen. Booker (202-224-3224) who have already cosponsored this bill.  We encourage you to thank them by phone or by email.  We also suggest that you call the remaining 5 Democratic Senators who have not yet gone on the record and ask for their support in some form.  Or call a friend in that state and ask them to get involved.  Some senate offices will accept input honestly presented as coming from a national constituency.  As a member/supporter of any national pro-amendment organization such as Public Citizen, Common Cause, Free Speech for People, People for the American Way, Rootstrikers or Wolf-PAC you have many voters in every state standing behind you.  Here are the non-sponsoring Democrats:

 

Pryor, Mark L. – (D – AR)

255 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-2353

Contact: www.pryor.senate.gov/contact

 

Donnelly, Joe – (D – IN)

720 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-4814

Contact: www.donnelly.senate.gov/contact/email-joe

 

Landrieu, Mary L. – (D – LA)

703 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-5824

Contact: www.landrieu.senate.gov/?p=contact

 

Kaine, Tim – (D – VA)

388 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-4024

Contact: www.kaine.senate.gov/contact

 

Warner, Mark R. – (D – VA)

475 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-2023

Contact: www.warner.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Contact

 

For Democrats not ready to co-sponsor – fine.  Ask them to commit to voting for cloture and then for the bill.  Remind them: You can’t stand for the little guy, as Democrats claim to do, if you can’t even run without the big guy’s money.  And we all know how that works.  End the arms race of money.  Many voters also see the gridlocked Congress as a product of dark money-driven, fear-based negative advertising.  And even while the ads assassinate character and work the wedge issues, the parties are amazingly indistinguishable where moneyed interests are concerned.

 

—–

 

For Republicans, the arguments are remarkably similar.  Four quick points:

1) 80-90% of all voters want ALL the money out of politics

2) Small businesses want Citizens United overturned a disagree with money in politics almost 9-to-1

3) Congress’s do-nothing reputation is a direct result of the interference of BIG MONEY IN POLITICS

4) Most young voters, women and people of color believe the system is rigged against them, in large measure because they see how money corrupts the debate.  They want an amendment and reforms.

 

McCain, John – (R – AZ)

241 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-2235

Contact: www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact-form

 

Murkowski, Lisa – (R – AK)

709 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-6665

Contact: www.murkowski.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Contact

 

Kirk, Mark – (R – IL)

524 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-2854

Contact: www.kirk.senate.gov/?p=contact

 

Paul, Rand – (R – KY)

124 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-4343

Contact: www.paul.senate.gov/?p=contact

 

Collins, Susan M. – (R – ME)

413 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-2523

Contact: www.collins.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email

 

Cochran, Thad – (R – MS)

113 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-5054

Contact: www.cochran.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email-me

 

Heller, Dean – (R – NV)

324 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-6244

Contact: www.heller.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact-form

 

Coburn, Tom – (R – OK)

172 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-5754

Contact: www.coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contactsenatorcobu

 

Portman, Rob – (R – OH)

448 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-3353

Contact: www.portman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact?p=contact

 

Alexander, Lamar – (R – TN)

455 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-4944

Contact: www.alexander.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Email

 

Ayotte, Kelly – (R – NH)

144 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-3324

Contact: www.ayotte.senate.gov/?p=contact

 

Republicans voters support reform.  Perhaps you’re one of them.  While some Republican members of Congress stand with their constituency on this issue, many seem better schooled in excuses for why addressing the problem should not be attempted.  A common narrative is that NOTHING will work.  Without ANY political leadership, they have a point (albeit a circular one).  Another argument is that we should wiggle and squiggle a partial fix into place.  Some of these ideas are remarkable good, but without an amendment to the constitution, new campaign reforms may be undermined with the next court case.  Stranger things have (already) happened.  WE MUST BOTH AMEND AND REFORM.

 

It’s okay to call on Monday.  We want a Thunderclap of activity to hit senate offices on the 8th. Join the Thunderclap:  http://bit.ly/1tOvyY0

 

Trans-partisan Opposition to Citizens United

http://freespeechforpeople.org/node/733

 

Everyone needs to understand that ALL other issues are being held hostage this issue, BY BIG MONEY.  Good governance is nearly impossible.  Voters have no confidence that their voices can be heard over the media volume of big money flooding elections at every level.  Each Senator needs to stand up and be counted on the right side of this issue and of history.  And all of our congress people need to stand with ordinary citizens, not with big money, to ensure a functioning democracy and free speech for ALL.

 

S.J.Res.19 and H.J.Res 119 (full text):
http://freespeechforpeople.org/node/526

 

If you live in New Jersey,

SIGN OURPETITION supporting SJR19 to amend the constitution:  http://tinyurl.com/m9856ow

 

WHEVER YOU LIVE

Several national groups have started new SJR-19-specific petitions.  We suggest you sign any and all.  Here’s one at CREDO Action:

http://act.credoaction.com/sign/sjres_19

 

The Daily Kos gives some background on its petition and that of other groups as well, showing that several groups are working together.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/09/04/1327179/-Senate-to-vote-on-repealing-Citizens-United-Monday-Something-you-can-do-that-will-take-5-minutes

Here’s the Daily Kos petition.

https://www.dailykos.com/campaigns/788

 

 

Susannah Newman contributed significantly to this article.

We Have Answers from U.S. House Candidates in New Jersey

Okay – the quick and easy version of this blog.

 

We’ve got info from New Jersey candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives about their views on money in politics and amending the constitution to save the Republic.

 

See the NJOCU U.S. House candidate “Ask” Results

 

…or even quicker and easier, See the Summary

 

And now for the detailed version of this blog, in which we brag about how much work this was and how cool we are to have taken it all on!

NJOCU recently contacted candidates for the House of Representatives in the state of New Jersey.  We asked for the candidate’s views on money in politics as well as the candidate’s strategy, if any, for fixing the problem.  Formed in the wake of Citizens Untied, NJOCU has always seen a constitution amendment to overturn at least portions of that decision as necessary. For us, without an amendment, campaign finance regulation, lobbying reform, closing the revolving door, safeguards against cronyism, and a government of, by and for the people will always be under threat from politics and the courts.  There’s just too much evidence that the lure or possession of power will draw out the exploiters and the misguided.

We attempted to reach all the candidates; six were un-findable.  We sent them background information on the issue and an “Ask.”  We pointed out that the NJOCU coalition represents 27 statewide business associations and community and political organizations, and over 17,000 New Jersey petition signers determined to get big money out of politics.  NJOCU successfully spearheaded the passage of amendment resolutions in 13 NJ municipalities along with resolutions on both sides of the NJ legislature.  In other words, the New Jersey Legislature has already asked Congress for an amendment.

We asked each candidate for an endorsement of a constitutional amendment (by bill number if possible) or at least some legislative alternative that the candidate preferred.  If they didn’t see a solution or the need for a solution, then we respectfully asked them to explain that position.

We had to treat a non-response to our Ask as a non-endorsement of the amendment campaign and indeed of any other approach to fixing the problem of money’s corrupting influence over democracy.  How much we were able to offer our own knowledge of this far reaching topic to candidates, who are undoubtedly considering many issues right now, depended mostly on the availability and responsiveness of the candidate.  We are 100% volunteer-based so we could only reach out as far as the schedule and our resources allowed.

Our volunteers did attend in-person meetings with some candidates (our thanks to the candidates as well).  We also offered dialog over the phone and by email.  We made a real effort to show the candidates other solutions when they weren’t sure about the amendment idea.  In many cases we showed them the American Anti-Corruption Act (AACA) and the Government By The People Act (GBTP).  And finally we offered, upon request, the roughly 17,000 signed petitions in paper or PDF form.  Or if they wished, we showed them petition signers from only their relevant district.

THE RESULTS

 

BACKGROUND:

Every candidate was shown What’s Wrong with Money in Politics, three examples of amendment bills now in Congress, the list of states requesting an amendment proposal from Congress and the formal Ask document.  Beyond that, the background information varied according to what feedback the candidate provided to us.  Here’s an example of our Pitch.

What’s Wrong with Money in Politics is a list of effects that spring reliably from the moneyed approach to political campaigning and the effects of money aggregators like unions and lobbyists.  Note that the effects of money are counter-productive for both sides of the political spectrum.

Outside Spending, Outsized Influence (PDF) shows a who’s who of outside interests trying to manipulate New Jersey congressional races.  It’s immaterial which side they each represent, because in any election the most influential side can change, depending on which interest groups decide to meddle and for what objectives.  Nor is the problem limited to national politics.  Indeed, it may prove more significant at the state level, where local money is insufficient to turn back big outside moneyed interests who descend on state legislative races.  First we saw an outside group sue the state for having campaign finance laws.  Super PAC sues N.J. over contribution limits.    Then we all watched the money flow in from outside.  As the legal suit demonstrated, New Jersey as a state is forbidden by federal courts from truly regulating its own elections.

The Supreme Court has codified much of the problem by declaring that the expenditure of money is a form of free speech.  We believe that the right to speak one’s true convictions and the privilege of amplifying one’s own views to a level that drowns out all others are two very different things.  The court has also codified the idea that legal fictions, organizations and money aggregators can uniformly claim the same rights as that of a natural person and citizen.  There is already evidence of foreign nationals using their affiliations to inject money into election campaigns in the USA.  There are numerous other pitfalls to the concept.  In the Citizens United case, the court also settled into the view that election and lobbying laws can only address explicit quid pro corruption.  This is not merely wrong, but absurdly unrealistic.  If white collar crime were held to this standard, using a method that didn’t succeed 100% of the time would form a valid defense.

But it gets worse.  Recently the court declared it legal for one donor to give millions of dollars spread over the entire Congress or perhaps more likely over one party.  The court rejected precedent which held that the appearance of corruption IS corruption.  Handing over money to every congress person on a collection of key committees definitely looks like the purchase of influence.  Many voters in our democracy, upon seeing this, deeply question the system’s integrity.  But the court says it’s legal.  Thus the problem worsens even as many are trying to fix it.  For all of these reasons and several lesser concerns, NJOCU and many groups support at least one constitutional amendment to deal with the corrupting influence of money in politics.

In the 113th session of Congress there are two legislative strategies for amending the constitution.   Under the first of these strategies, two bills each propose one of two needed amendments.  One of the two amendments clarifies that persons and people in the constitution refer to actual persons and people, not artificial legal constructs.  The other amendment asserts the responsibility and authority of the people’s government to regulate campaign finance.  The second strategy combines both of these provisions into one bill that proposes one amendment.  As such, these two strategies represent three bills on each side of the congress, i.e. in the House and the Senate, or six bills total.  These two strategies have the greatest support in Congress (the most sponsors and co-sponsors).  For this reason these bills are explicitly mentioned in the NJOCU “Ask.”  We believe in a vigorous debate on how to best amend the constitution, but these bills form a good starting point.  There are other amendment proposals.  United 4 the People provides a complete list.

The New Jersey State legislature in 2012 passed AR86 and SR47 asking Congress for a constitutional amendment to deal with this problem.  15 other states have done similarly and within New Jersey 13 municipalities have joined the chorus.  The current list of local and state entities that have passed such resolutions.

There are also legislative steps that might be taken without a constitutional amendment.  The two most notable are the American Anti-Corruption Act (PDF) and the Government By the People Act (PDF).  The AACA directly regulates lobbying and revolving door practices and funds elections with vouchers.  The GBTP Act allocates public campaign funds that are so substantial that outside moneyed interests are disincentivized from competing.  The formula is still based on citizen support and does not level the playing field artificially.  Both bills have been vetted as constitutional even by current standards.

87% of ordinary people are angry at all the big money coming into our elections.  NJOCU, like so many Americans, wants the SCOTUS decisions that are responsible for this deluge of money overturned.  But even after amending the constitution, the working solution will be implemented as a law.  With an amendment, the law will be simpler and more effective, but it will still be a law.  NJOCU therefore supports the best laws we can possibly implement as soon as is possible, both before and after an amendment is passed.

At least 2/3 of nearly every identifiable political group in America is opposed to the corrupting influence of money in politics including such diverse groups as the Tea Party and MoveOn.org.  Republicans and Democrats both poll in opposition to the increasingly influence of money over policy.  Small business owners are one of the most concerned at 90%.  A recent Gallop poll showed that when money in politics was included among options it polled as the country’s second most important issue behind jobs.  It’s time to start talking, thinking and acting on this long endured distorting influence over our democracy.