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:
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!
Public Citizen is not the only group committed to a 28th Amendment. There are also these:
Money Out Voters In
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:
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.
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?
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:
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.
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
* 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 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
Board Chair, Free Speech for People
Author, Corporations Are Not People
Associate Professor, Fordham Law School
Author, Corruption in America
Commissioner, Federal Election Commission
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 email@example.com or 646.292.8345.
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.
After 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
Donnelly, Joe – (D – IN)
720 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Landrieu, Mary L. – (D – LA)
703 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Kaine, Tim – (D – VA)
388 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Warner, Mark R. – (D – VA)
475 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
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
Murkowski, Lisa – (R – AK)
709 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Kirk, Mark – (R – IL)
524 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Paul, Rand – (R – KY)
124 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Collins, Susan M. – (R – ME)
413 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Cochran, Thad – (R – MS)
113 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Heller, Dean – (R – NV)
324 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Coburn, Tom – (R – OK)
172 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Portman, Rob – (R – OH)
448 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Alexander, Lamar – (R – TN)
455 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Ayotte, Kelly – (R – NH)
144 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
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
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):
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:
The Daily Kos gives some background on its petition and that of other groups as well, showing that several groups are working together.
Here’s the Daily Kos petition.
Susannah Newman contributed significantly to this article.
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.
…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.
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.
In what will possibly be a landmark decision in the history of American democracy, reality is strictly off limits.
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.
What’s wrong with Money in Politics?
- Moneyed interests are often unconcerned with good government.
- Moneyed interests tend to make laws more complicated by inserting their specific (self-interested) demands. Complex laws make for BIGGER, less efficient government.
- Money interests will often encourage government to ‘pick a winner.’
- Moneyed interests tend to favor privatizing profits and socializing losses.
- Lobbyists, whose expertise is often needed in the legislative process, are now the same people most directly funding the politician’s campaign, thus compromising the objectivity of the exchange.
- Lobbyists gain such continued and familiar access to elected officials that policy focus is shifted away from representation of the actual constituency.
- Policies not related to money, but instead to issues like family values, civil rights, diversity or conservative social ideals, may be overwhelmed by political deal-making that seeks first and foremost to serve moneyed interests.
- Moneyed interests will support incumbent politicians just to gain access to committees or other political allies. This distorts the actual interests of the voters, and makes voter-instigated change much more difficult.
- The job of collecting money is too distracting. Not all of the players in the ‘arms race’ of campaign financing are willing participants. Many are dragged along. Many are rendered ineffective by the demands of constant campaigning and fundraising. This issue goes WAY beyond a simplistic case of ‘quid pro quo.’ This is systemic corruption.
- Money is NOT free speech. Money is just a volume knob on certain speech from certain political special interests.
- Corporate personhood, when combined with America’s treaty law, can actually result in the surrender of the sovereignty of federal, state and local governments to foreign moneyed interests.
- Small businesses, the engine of the Main Street economy, find that they now need to compete not only in the marketplace but in the in political arena. More than two-thirds of all small business owners disagree with Citizens United and even more complain that money in politics is bad for business.
- Money in Politics corrupts the fundamental vision of a democracy by and for the PEOPLE.
While money in politics does not always come from what we might all agree is a “moneyed interest,” it is important to understand that the distorting effects of money can be just as damaging in the hands of those with the best of intentions. The complaint here is not that those with money are wrong. It is the role of money itself that is wrong. Money should not be the final authority in determining what is discussed, what is heard, what is right or wrong or implemented or ignored.
A bit of History. 2012 – New Jersey becomes the 9th State.
In the fall of 2011 The American Dream Movement of Cape May (led by Susannah Newman) discovered that Assemblyman Herb Conaway from Delran had proposed a bill to call on Congress to amend the constitutional to overturn Citizens United. Over the ensuing months these dedicated activists from Cape May showed the bill to their state senator (Senator Jeff Van Drew) and he authored an identical bill for the Senate side of the legislature. They also began the process of resurrecting the bill on the Assembly side of the legislature, where the original bill had actually died in committee. Assemblyman Herb Conaway stepped forward again. The language and intent of the original bill was completely retained in the two new bills ~ AR86 and SR47.
Using SignOn, New Jerseyans were encouraged to join in sending a message to state legislators and to the US Congress calling for a constitutional amendment. The petition caught fire. At last count this petition had the support of just under seven thousand New Jeseryans. By the time that both bills had re-emerged, the NJOCU movement was beginning to form. Several groups were now represented in the coalition. People from the SignOn petition a stayed active. NJOCU walked each bill through each step of the process – first through committees and then through passage in the general session.
On October 4th, 2012, New Jersey’s State Senate passed SR47.
On October 18th, 2012, when the New Jersey Assembly passed AR86, New Jersey became the 9th State in the nation to call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizen United.
You can still sign the petition here to show YOUR support: NJ FOR THE OVERTURN OF CITIZENS UNITED