Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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.

 

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.

What Can’t Be Said

In what will possibly be a landmark decision in the history of American democracy, reality is strictly off limits.

More Pols Taking Cash

Back in early October of 2013, activists rose together briefly to decry an expected court reversal of campaign finance limits.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The Supreme Court took on a new case that argues in favor of more money in our election process.  3 ½ years after the Citizens United decision; after the emergence of Super-PACs; after a money-fueled roller-coaster ride through the Republican primaries, after Sheldon Adelson’s help and hindrance to Mitt Romney, after a $2B+ presidential race; and even after the longest, most sustained, and most well-organized effort ever mounted AGAINST the corrupting influence of money in politics; we were watching the Supreme Court now questioning long established donor limits – limits that Citizens United had not touched.  We were going backwards.

Contribution (donor) limits were found constitutional in Buckley v Valeo in 1976.  The reasoning in Buckley was that giving money to a candidate looks a lot like a bribe.  So far so simple.  Even if the donor has no such designs, the appearance of corruption is treated as corrupting of trust.  So, to avoid actual and apparent bribes, the amount that a donor may give to politicians may be limited by law.  The reasoning is clear.  With limits on each donor, no donor can stand out as deserving of political favors.  Importantly, campaign donations were not held to be expressions of free speech.  To campaign for office, the candidate expresses his or her own opinions.  There is no assumption that the donor’s views will be expressed at all.  So while a candidate can give to her own campaign and spend without limit, the donor has rules.  The current limits for each donor are $2600 per candidate per election cycle and $123,000 dollars total per election cycle.

Alabama businessman, Shaun McCutcheon (along with the Republican National Committee), thinks that limiting the total amount he can give in any election cycle is unconstitutional.  His reasoning is that if he can give $2600 to any one politician, and that is not considered corrupt, then he should be able to give that amount to as many politicians as he likes and not be considered corrupt.  McCutcheon has said that he is not arguing with the dollar limit per candidate, only with the number of candidates (or total dollars).  But in his written arguments, he questions the relevance of contribution limits in a campaign finance landscape so altered (broken) by Citizens United.  When donors can give unlimited money to a PAC that campaigns for a candidate openly, and the total dollars reach stratospheric heights, is McCutcheon a victim of government censorship for following the direct candidate contribution rules?

The simple answer is “No,” but before exploring this twisty bit of nonsense, let’s back up and look at the reality of American politics under Buckley v Valeo, Citizens United and SpeechNOW.  Currently, the average Senator wakes up every morning needing to find another $20,000+.  By various estimates a congress person spends from 30 to 70% of her time beating the bushes for money.  Money is essential for continued political survival.  Congress people depend on money and that money comes from a tiny sliver of citizens.  According to Lawrence Lessig a mere 0.26% (roughly one quarter of one percent) of Americans give $200 or more to any candidate.  A smaller five one-hundredths of a percent give the maximum allowed to any candidate.  And only one one-hundredth of a percent give more than $10,000 total.  A mere 132 people provided 60% of all the (Citizens-United-SpeechNOW-enabled) PAC funding in the last election.  None of this reality was discussed on McCutcheon’s day in court.

Instead the court listened to assertions on both sides, and then repeatedly asked how this or that specific funding transaction might alter an election outcome or buy a favor.  Lyle Denniston on SCOTUS Blog asked, “If the Supreme Court really does not understand how money moves around in American politics, how can it fashion constitutional rules to prevent abuses?”  A good question.  But even more importantly, if the Supreme Court does not understand the basic concept of systemic corruption, the idea that the democracy is not representative of its people, then almost all of the detailed legalese is useless.  According to Jeffrey Toobin in New Yorker magazine, Justice Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion in Citizens United, reduced the discussion of all corruption to the purchase of political favors – a giving of this for that (quid pro quo).  Systemic corruption cannot be mentioned.

McCutcheon’s arguments fail on several accounts.  Firstly consider his cynical question about the post Citizen United America of SuperPACs.  The legal argument used for allowing independent entities, not coordinating with a candidate directly, to solicit and spend unlimited amounts of money is that they are speaking freely as protected in the First Amendment.  Conversely, giving money directly to a politician has been held to not be free speech and it can look like a bribe.  But why limit the number of candidates – McCutcheon’s original question?  Because it takes more than one congress person to pass a bill.  And because one donor can stand out among all donors in precisely this way.  This is mind-numbingly simple.  Mr. McCutcheon wants to buy himself a congress or a party or a caucus or a committee.  Every day that his protégés meet to discuss the course of the democracy, they are nagged by their financial dependence on their patron.  There will be at least one and probably many situations where they will consider the impact of their actions on their patron ahead of the public at large and perhaps even ahead of their own specific constituency.

We the People are not obliged to prove that this system of wrong dependencies serves only quid pro quo corruption, but frankly, there’s absolutely no reason to think it doesn’t.  One gives the money.  Another gives the outcome.  The only question is really ‘how much corruption’ results.  And the answer, unfortunately, is ‘plenty,’ because it ALL looks like corruption.  Remember that the appearance of corruption has already been determined to be corruptive.  In study after study, the American people have voiced that they see the system as corrupted.  They disagree with Citizens United and expanded corporate personhood.  They distrust moneyed-interests.  They think there’s too much money in politics.  More than 2/3 of nearly every identifiable group in politics has some if not major issues with how things work, from self-identified Republicans, Democrats, Tea Party advocates, members of MoveOn, union workers to small business owners there is a basic mistrust of financially dependent politicians.  Our system is corrupted.

Just don’t try to tell that to the Supreme Court.

And that is the most painful aspect of this case.  Almost everyone who has considered this case, seeing that the obvious real corruption cannot be mentioned in arguments, presumes that the overall contribution limits are about to fall.  The system will tilt further off its axis.  The activists who complained on the steps of the Supreme Court building back in October – they meekly wait.  A decision is imminent, but there is no media campaign to shine a light on the issue.  The McCutcheon case needs public discourse that the SCOTUS might actually recognize.  But sadly it seems that if the people want to be heard, they’ll need to first find some very wealthy patrons.

McCutcheon is more of the same, and that’s a bad thing

Short version: Watch the video.

Happening today, October 8th 2013, the Supreme Court takes up the case of McCutcheon v FEC. If you hear anything about this in the broader media (mainstream or otherwise), it will probably make an ambiguous comparison the Citizens United v FEC case. Both Citizens United and McCutcheon attack components of the current campaign finance law of the land, known as the McCain-Feingold Bi-partisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) of 2002. Back in 2010, Citizens United gutted some aspects of the BCRA, mainly those things having to do with ‘independent’ organizations spending money to influence elections.

In Buckley v Valeo 1976, the SCOTUS determined that politicians could spend whatever amount of money they wished to espouse their views.  This holding was a key component of the argument in Citizens United, that independent political groups should not econounter limits on either spending or collecting funds.  But Buckley v Valeo also found that giving money to a politician, even to help with the costs of campaigning, was very much like bribing him or her.  The larger the donation, the more logically this conclusion might be drawn. It is worth noting here that the courts have held in numerous decisions that the appearance of corruption is just as damaging as corruption itself. So in essence, the SCOTUS affirmed the authority of Congress to set the maximum donation levels. Per person, per year, the maximum donation is $2,600 (per 2-yr election cycle of Congress people) (double this number for married couples). They can also give to various political party committees, who can then route the (soft) money to each politician.

Finally the Congress sets an ‘aggregate’ per person (per donor) maximum. Each individual can donate a combined total of $123,000 to all of the politicians and parties they support. McCutcheon argues that if the amount he can donate to any one politician is limited, then the matter is settled and there can be no appearance of a bribe, regardless of how many politicians he supports. The obvious counter-argument is that McCutcheon wants the aggregate limit struck down simply so that he can corrupt a wider pool of players. Why own just one politician or a few, when you can own the whole Congress. If the plaintiffs in the McCutcheon case win, the wealthiest Americans could spend $3.6 million per election to shape America’s laws.

One of the most disappointing aspects of this case is that Republican National Committee has decided to openly flaunt its predilection for money-based politics and is named as a co-plaintiff in this new case along with McCutcheon. Thus the RNC stands in direct opposition to what Republican voters in numerous polls have said they believe on the topic of money in politics – that it is wrong and leads to cronyism.

But in fact, there have always been ‘money-is-good’ Republican politicians. Tom Delay was open about his belief that the wealthy should control the game. In Delay’s view, those who could pay to play were inherently worthy of his time. To the victor (in the private sector) rightly go the spoils. To Delay’s credit he did also believe that such a system should be transparent. Alas, his subsequent actions in that area did not demonstrate a real commitment to the ideal.

Then there’s Mitch McConnell, who in 2003 was among the first to argue against the constitutionality of the BCRA. McConnell’s case had no major impact on the enforceability of the act, but subsequently Citizens United did. In Citizens United, the SCOTUS attacked any effort of the BCRA to control the spending side of campaigns. Since the Citizens United case, McConnell has been one of the nation’s most outspoken supporters of the decision, pointing out that for-profit corporations have seemed well-behaved under the new rules. But as we all can see, campaign financing has expanded enormously and a handful of wealthy people have at times been able to direct the political discourse. Today, McConnell is again on the scene with McCutcheon. This time we’re not talking about independent campaign expenditures. Now we’re talking about handing money over to politicians. This article offers a clear explanation:
http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/323503-putting-our-elections-in-the-hands-of-a-few
Note that McConnell sees McCutcheon as an opportunity to convince the SCOTUS to look beyond the plaintiff’s arguments on aggregate limits and question the very foundation of campaign integrity, i.e. that campaign donations look like corruption and therefore can be treated differently than expenditures. In his view – it’s all protected by the free speech clause in the First Amendment. McConnell’s odds are slim by most accounts, but understand that he has filed an Amicus Brief and HAS BEEN INVITED to the hearings to argue his case in full. If he were to succeed, virtually every campaign finance law in the country would fall. Inequality of financial success in the private sector would translate directly to political and therefore in time legal inequality.

Alas, even if McConnell’s more extreme argument is ignored now, it may still win eventually. The court can hear his argument, give it some life, but then not really decide on his case either way. The first step in an incremental attack on campaign finance regulation is to end the aggregate limits on donors such as Mr. McCutcheon. From that precedent, new cases can gain a foothold. It’s not as though such plaintiffs will ever lack for the financial resources to argue such cases.

 

Buckey v Valeo
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckley_v._Valeo

Citizen United v FEC
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._Federal_Election_Commission

Campaign finance in the United States
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campaign_finance_in_the_United_States
Jeffrey Toobin writing for the New Yorker
On Citizens United
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/05/21/120521fa_fact_toobin?currentPage=all

On McCutcheon
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/07/supreme-court-another-citizens-united-but-worse.html