The Network for Responsible Public Policy Presents
American Elections: The Challenge of Dark Money and Voting Machines
Thursday, October 20, 2016
7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Rose Memorial Library Lecture Hall*
36 Madison Avenue
Madison, NJ 07940
The integrity of our American electoral process is being challenged from both outside and inside the voting machine. When large sums of dark money are funneled into state or local elections by special interests having an immediate economic stake in the outcome, the impact on state legislation and regulations can be even more influential than at the federal level. At the same time, because the majority of voting machines in use today are perilously outdated, their potential security and reliability flaws create significant risk of machine failures or loss of data. The speakers will discuss these two distinct challenges and recommend reforms to improve the fairness and security of our elections.
Douglas Keith is an attorney and the Katz Fellow in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. He has co-authored the Brennan Center report Secret Spending in the States. Prior to joining the Brennan Center, he worked on voting rights litigation as a Ford Foundation Public Interest Law Fellow at Advancement Project and trained poll workers for the New York City Board of Elections.
Christopher Famighetti is a Voting Rights Researcher at the Brennan Center specializing in the impact of laws and policies on access to the polls. Chris is co-author of the Brennan Center report America’s Voting Machines at Risk. He also contributes research on campaign fundraising and spending for the Center’s Money in Politics program.
SEATING IS LIMITED
PRE-REGISTER TODAY at www.nfrpp.org
Network for Responsible Public Policy is a non-partisan, 501c3 organization committed to providing authoritative information on key public policy issues to its network and to the public.
* Building 16 on Campus Map at http://www.drew.edu/map/DrewCampusMap.pdf
From Route 124 (Madison Avenue) turn onto Lancaster Rd. and
drive to parking lot on right
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.
By Susannah Newman (posted by administrator)
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.