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.
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.