PEOPLE FOR BLOG

Louisville Activists Protest McConnell's Vote Against Amendment to #GetMoneyOut

On Friday, PFAW members and local activists came out to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s West Louisville campaign office to hold him accountable for his support of big money in politics and for voting against the Democracy For All Amendment during this week’s Senate vote.

The rally included PFAW Regional Political Coordinator Scott Foval, along with MoveOn Council’s Ann Hardman, University of Louisville’s College Democrats President Connor Allen, and local activist Bonifacio “Flaco” Aleman. Activists had a giant “King Mitch” holding fake money and signs saying “Money Is Not Speech” and “Mitch: Go Filibuster Yourself!” and more.

McConnell led the fight to block the Democracy for All Amendment during Senate debates this week. As a leading voice against efforts to get big money out of elections, McConnell has fought hard for years to protect billionaires’ and millionaires’ influence in our elections instead of protecting the average Kentuckian’s interests.

This rally along with over 15,000 signatures on a petition delivered to McConnell last week should make it clear to “King Mitch” that Kentuckians support an amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United and #GetMoneyOut. Polling also shows that three in four voters support the measure nationally.

There were not sufficient votes to pass the proposed amendment this week, but a majority of the Senate did vote on Thursday in support of the Democracy for All Amendment despite “King Mitch’s” best efforts.
 

PFAW

Final day of Senate debate to #GetMoneyOut

Yesterday a majority of the Senate voted in support of the Democracy for All amendment. Though there were not sufficient votes to pass it, the vote itself represents a historic step forward for the movement to restore the power in our democracy to the people.

The opposition lobbed a few final blows, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senators David Vitter of Louisiana and Mike Lee of Utah, repeating the same specious arguments made all week, but Democracy for All supporters stood firm.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont:

Posterity vindicates the moments in our Nation’s history when Congress simply did what was right. We honor those who voted to ensure that the right to vote cannot be denied based on race, color, previous condition of servitude or gender. We honor those who voted to ensure that a poll tax could never again prohibit an American from voting for their own representatives. I urge my colleagues to act in this tradition, to simply do what is right, and to join me in supporting this proposed amendment to the Constitution.

Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, lead sponsor of the Democracy for All amendment:

The First Amendment has already been hijacked by billionaires and special interests. Our amendment rescues it.

Here’s the bottom line. Billionaires want to stay at the head of the table and our amendment will not let them. Let’s be clear, they oppose any restriction. Any reform. Today’s vote may have been along party lines, but I will leave it to the American people to judge why.

We will continue this fight. The momentum continues to grow, and we will eventually win. The American people hate the influence of money on our elections. They want elections to be about the quality of ideas, not the size of bank accounts. They want us to fight for the middle class, not the moneyed class. They want us to spend our time raising hopes, instead of raising cash.

Senator Udall once again quoted “The First Amendment, According to Mitch McConnell” by PFAW President Michael Keegan and also recognized the work of People For the American Way and its fellow United For The People organizations.

Senator Charles Schumer of New York:

We are going to keep fighting until we get this done. The only way really to cure the Supreme Court’s misguided ruling, whether it is in Citizens United or McCutcheon, is with a constitutional amendment. Our day will come. We are not giving up.

You can find these passages and more from Thursday's debate here.

Follow @peoplefor and check out our blog for more coverage of Democracy for All.

PFAW

Across the Country Activists Support Amendment to #GetMoneyOut

 

While billionaires and corporations have been busy buying airtime to influence midterm elections, average Americans have been active in letting politicians know that they are sick and tired of big money in politics. As the Democracy for All amendment gets debated and voted on in the Senate this week, an ongoing grassroots push has helped shape the conversation.

On Monday over 3.2 million petition signatures calling for a constitutional amendment were delivered to Congress, gathered by more than two dozen progressive organizations. This diverse coalition includes groups such as the Communications Workers of America, MoveOn.org, Sierra Club, Daily Kos, CREDO Action, Common Cause, Corporate Accountability International, Public Citizen and People For the American Way.

More than 25 local actions have happened across the country, delivering petitions to the district offices of target senators in key states. These events have been hugely successful, with solid attendance at a small spirited event at Senator Murkowski’s office in Juneau, Alaska to a large rally at Senator Kirk’s office in Chicago, IL and a marching band that showed up to help provide support for an event at Senator Ayotte’s office in Portsmouth, NH.

These events have earned a great deal of  media coverage, so much so that most of the five remaining Democrats who have not cosponsored the Democracy for All amendment have now made commitments to vote for it – in large part as a result of the events in their states. Four even put out public statements in connection with the events.

Additionally more than 15,000 calls have been made this week to Senators’ offices asking them to support the Democracy for All amendment. These are only the reported calls, many more have likely been made without being counted. This is an average of over 300 calls per Senate office.

Perhaps most exciting of all – things are just getting started – this first milestone vote on the Democracy for All amendment marks the beginning of what will be a truly historic push to protect the promise of American democracy.

PFAW

Third day of Senate debate to #GetMoneyOut

While America's foreign policy challenges and other critical issues dominated the Senate floor on Wednesday, debate on the Democracy for All amendment continued for a third day.

Those opposed to getting money out of politics are even sounding like they're on our side.

Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri

But if people are paying attention, the points that will be scored will be scored by those defending the Bill of Rights and those defending the Constitution . . . For those who want to defend the Constitution, count me on their side.

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa:

[P]olitical speech is essential to the American way of life.

They ignore the fact that their points are very much among those that inspired Democracy for All in the first place.

Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, lead sponsor of the Democracy for All amendment:

Changing the Constitution is a big step not to be taken lightly. In the Federalist Paper No. 49, James Madison argued the Constitution should be amended only on ‘‘great and extraordinary occasions.’’ I agree. I also believe we have reached one of those occasions.

Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts:

Our democracy is based on the fundamental principle that all voters, and each and every vote cast, are created equal. People, not dollars, are the true currency of our Constitution and democracy.

Senator Jon Tester of Montana:

[M]y wife and I still farm, and for part of August I had the pleasure to be able to be on the tractor and have some quality time to think about what makes our Nation great. There are many reasons, but one of them is the belief that everyone has a say in the decisions we make in this democracy, that each of us—from the richest to the poorest—has an equal stake in electing our leaders and impacting how we govern. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has not figured that out.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont:

So of all of the issues out there— whether you are concerned about education, health care, the environment, the economy—the most important issue underlying all of those issues is the need to end this disastrous Supreme Court decision which allows billionaires to buy elections. That is not what people fought and died for in the name of democracy. That is called oligarchy. Abraham Lincoln talked about a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, not a government of the billionaires, by the billionaires, and for the billionaires, and that is where we are today.

I hope the American people are watching. The media has not paid, for interesting reasons, a lot of attention to this issue, but there is no domestic issue that I can think of more important for the future of this country.

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio:

If it were not for the political pressure, the money that just rolls across the political landscape, that washes across the candidates for the Senate, the candidates for the House, we could pass the minimum wage. But Members of the Senate, when they think about voting on this, they think about the big money that might come in against them if they vote for the minimum wage.

Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado:

We can see this corruption in the difficult decisions we avoid. It is the tough vote that we will not take. It is the bill we can’t pass even in the face of urgent need. It is the deal that can’t be reached. It is the speech that is never made. It is the story of the do-less than the do-nothing Congress.

You can find these passages and more from Wednesday's debate here.

Follow @peoplefor and check out our blog for more coverage of Democracy for All.

PS – A special shout-out to Senator Udall for quoting “The First Amendment, According to Mitch McConnell” by PFAW President Michael Keegan.

A good rule of thumb in politics is that the scarier someone sounds, the more you should doubt what they're saying.

PFAW

Second day of Senate debate to #GetMoneyOut

When Senators returned to the floor on Tuesday for the second day of debate on the Democracy for All amendment, supporters continued to build a strong case for getting money out of politics, while the opposition ramped up its hyperbole.

Senator Mike Lee of Utah would have us believe that the amendment is an un-American attack on "outside intruders" like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

That is who the authors of this amendment believe are outside intruders whose speech somehow needs to be regulated, needs to be restricted by Congress—people with ideas that are ‘‘unreasonable,’’ people such as Thomas Paine or Thomas Jefferson and Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas proclaimed:

I guarantee there is no one in this country who truly believes money is not speech. It is a talking point[.]

Well, Senator, sixteen states and more than 550 counties, cities, and towns have called for an amendment, including many seeking to establish that money is not speech.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota:

It is no wonder a George Washington University Battleground poll found that 70 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track.

That may be true, but Americans also think that we need an amendment like Democracy for All.

One option we tested is a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling. Voters support such an amendment by an overwhelming 73 to 24 percent margin, including majorities in even the reddest states.

Other highlights from day two:

Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada:

At one time the Republican leader was rooted in the principle that the wealthy shouldn’t be able to buy public office whether for themselves or for others. Even as recently as late in 2007 he was preaching donor disclosure. What has changed in the last few years?

Over the last several years we have witnessed the Koch brothers trying to buy America, to pump untold millions into our democracy, hoping to get a government that would serve their bottom line and make them more money. The news today says they are out promoting themselves, and that is easy to do because they are worth $150 billion.

So we are watching the corrupting influence that the Republican leader foretold 27 years ago and many years thereafter before our very eyes. He switched teams. What could have possibly convinced the senior Senator from Kentucky that limitless, untraceable campaign donations aren’t really that bad after all?

Senator Al Franken of Minnesota:

I find this whole thing incredibly disturbing, this idea that a handful of superwealthy corporate interests in effect can buy our democracy—or in this case one guy. That is not how it is supposed to work. Everyone is supposed to have an equal say in our democracy regardless of his or her wealth. The guy in the assembly line gets as many votes as the CEO—one. You don’t get extra influence just because you have extra money—or you shouldn’t. The government should be responsive to everyone and not just the wealthiest among us.

Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon:

This premise is so well-known to citizens that when you say: What are the first three words of our Constitution, they will say, together: ‘‘We the People,’’ because that is what animates our system of government—‘‘We the People.’’ Those who came to argue for the government by and for the powerful are simply trying to destroy our Constitution and our vision of government.

Citizens United, a court case that absolutely ignores the fundamental premises on which our Nation is founded, is a dagger poised at the heart of our democracy. It is a decision by five Justices that this framework doesn’t matter.

Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island:

I believe fixing the campaign finance system through this constitutional amendment will provide a foundation so we can have reasonable debate that is responsive to the interests of the American people and not responsive to the interests of a narrow class of Americans.

Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii:

The vast majority of the American people disagree with the Supreme Court’s unprecedented interpretation of the First Amendment. The Court has left us with the option we are pursuing today—amending the U.S. Constitution. When the Supreme Court said that women did not have the right to vote, Congress and the people passed the 19th Amendment. So amending the Constitution to protect our democracy is not some new or radical idea. When the Supreme Court said States could impose poll taxes on the poor, Congress and the people passed the 24th Amendment, and the list goes on. Why? Because the Supreme Court is made up of human beings, and as human beings they sometimes get it wrong, as they did in the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions.

Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, lead sponsor of the Democracy for All amendment:

This debate is crucial. This debate is absolutely crucial to the future of our country, and I believe the American people are not only listening, they are demanding to be heard, because every voice counts, and that is why the majority of Americans support reform. They know the system is broken.

Senator John Walsh of Montana:

Passing this amendment is vital if we are going to begin to roll back the coercive influence of money in our democracy. Because of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, political power has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of corporations and modern-day copper kings. In fact, less than 1 percent of Americans provide over two-thirds of the money spent on elections. The voices of everyday Americans are simply being silenced.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island:

Frankly, I have great reverence for the First Amendment, and I think it is extremely unfortunate that an argument would be made that is really nothing more than a rhetorical trick and does not respond to the gravamen of the dispute, which is whether the First Amendment should protect unlimited corporate spending when in the history of this country—until the decision by Citizens United—it never had.

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio:

To restore voters’ faith in the political system, to ensure voters that their voices are being heard, one man, one woman, one American, one vote, that is what we stand for. Those are our values. That is why this is an important issue.

You can find these passages and more from Tuesday's debate here.

Follow @peoplefor and check out our blog for more coverage of Democracy for All.

PFAW

No, Ted Cruz, The #GetMoneyOut Amendment Wouldn’t Censor SNL

Sen. Ted Cruz has been known to make some pretty outlandish comments about the Democracy for All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment being debated in the Senate which would overturn decisions like Citizens United, but his latest may take the cake. “Lorne Michaels [of Saturday Night Live] could be put in jail under this amendment for making fun of any politician,” Sen. Ted Cruz claimed on the floor of the Senate this week.

Luckily, a number of more grounded voices were able to set the record straight about Cruz’s wild and inaccurate remark. Last night, CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin said:

I think [Cruz] is wrong… This amendment is simply about restoring the old status quo about campaign contributions… I think his point…really has very little, if anything, to do with the constitutional amendment that the Senate is debating.

Amendment sponsor Sen. Tom Udall clarified that “[n]othing in the amendment would permit the arrest of anyone for engaging in political speech,” and pointed out that the proposal intends to bring the country’s campaign finance rules back to what they were in 1975, when Saturday Night Live began.

Other responders were a little more fiery, including former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, who on Monday published an op-ed with Sen. Udall in support of the Democracy for All Amendment. Simpson called Cruz’s remarks about Saturday Night Live “outrageous,” and urged Sen. Cruz to “read the damn amendment. That would be a wonderful thing.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders also joined the conversation on The Ed Show last night, noting that Sen. Cruz “sounds like he is on Saturday Night Live. It’s a very funny skit.” He pointed out that “Citizens United is a little over four years old; Saturday Night Live has been on the air for decades. And I don’t recall too many people on Saturday Night Live going to jail for making fun of politicians.” Sen. Sanders added that it’s a “preposterous argument” and “just another scare tactic.”

Indeed, as Sen. Udall said in a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, quoting People For the American Way President Michael Keegan:

‘A good rule of thumb in politics is that the scarier someone sounds, the more you should doubt what they’re saying.’ We heard some scary things in the last couple of days. Lorne Michaels is going to jail. And he’s sharing a cell with the little old lady who put up a $5 dollar political yard sign. Books and movies are banned. The NAACP, Sierra Club, and Moveon.org have been prohibited from speaking about politics. Scary stuff. But none of it is true. [emphasis added]

Here’s what is true: the proposed amendment is supported by 73 percent of voters, including a growing body of grassroots activists who have pushed for hundreds of state and local resolutions and who are making senators’ phones ring off the hook this week with thousands of calls expressing their support for fixing our democracy.

So if the best that amendment opponents like Sen. Cruz can do is to push wild-eyed myths about comedic producers being thrown in jail, it’s clear that the American people are winning this fight.
 

PFAW

Campaign Finance Reform Key to Confronting Climate Change

The science is settled – climate change is here and is already happening. For the past three decades climate scientists have warned that we must dramatically reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to avoid catastrophic climate destabilization. And yet the United States has yet to pass the legislative framework needed to shift away from a carbon-based economy.  

With the threat of climate change staring us in the face, it’s not hard to understand why there has been so little progress on this issue: enormous political spending by the fossil fuels industry, which has prevented the passage of CO2 regulation. As our friends at Common Cause recently pointed out,  since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, political debate around climate change has changed significantly. Prior to the Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to corporate spending in  elections, there was legislation with bipartisan support to put a market-wide cap on carbon dioxide pollution. The House of Representatives even passed a “cap and trade” bill in 2009. In 2000, even George W. Bush campaigned on climate change, although he reneged on his promise as soon as he got elected. Fast forward to 2014 – climate change is rarely mentioned by many members of Congress – and sometimes denied outright.

"The polluters give and spend money to keep polluting," says U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), quoted in a recent article by Public Citizen president Robert Weissman. "Not truth, not science, not economics, not safety, not policy, and certainly not religion, nor morality ‒- nothing supports climate denial. Nothing except money. But in Congress, in this temple, money rules; so here I stand, in one of the last places on Earth that is still a haven to climate denial."

Fortunately there’s a solution. The Democracy for All Amendment would give Congress and state legislatures the ability to set reasonable limits on the amount of money that can be spent in political elections. To date, over three million Americans have signed a petition calling for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics, and dozens of organizations have begun collaborating around the need for campaign finance reform.

To deal with global challenges like climate change – the United States must be able to pass laws and lead with the best interests of the people in mind – not the best interests of multinational corporations. As many environmental groups now realize, the best way to combat climate change may be to pass campaign finance reform. 

PFAW

Ted Cruz’s Favorite List of Political Donors is Missing One (Huge) Thing

In the ongoing Senate debate on the Democracy for All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment that would overturn decisions like Citizens United, Sen. Ted Cruz has taken to waving around a list of top political donors that ranks Koch Industries as the 58th largest donor. But what Cruz has not been saying is that this list, compiled by our friends at the indispensable Center for Responsive Politics, has — by its own admission — a big piece of the puzzle missing.

The list details “heavy hitters,” organizations that have sent large amounts of money to candidates, parties, and PACs between 1989-2014. But the list points out that it doesn’t include dark money or other outside spending, such as money given to a super PAC. In the article’s own words:

It's also important to note that we aren't including donations to politically active dark money groups, like Americans for Prosperity, a group linked to the Koch brothers, or the liberal group Patriot Majority — because these groups hide their donors; see a list of top donors that we've been able to identify to such groups. We are working to revise this list to take into account the new realities of campaign finance created by the Citizens United decision, but as it currently stands, there are significant omissions.

When you do take into account outside spending, which exploded in the wake of the 2010 Citizens United decision, the picture changes dramatically. For example, the Koch-backed network raised more than $400 million in 2012 alone — a figure that towers over the $19.7 million in Koch Industry’s direct contributions over a 25-year period to candidates, parties and leadership PACs noted on the list Cruz references. In fact, the $407 million they funneled into 2012 political activity alone is more than the top six organizations on the list have sent to candidates, parties, and PACs in the past 25 years combined. And as Washington Post reporter Matea Gold noted earlier this year, “[T]he network of politically active nonprofit groups backed by the Kochs and fellow donors in the 2012 elections financially… matched the long-established national coalition of labor unions.” To put it simply: when you look at the full landscape of political spending, it would be difficult to argue that the Koch-backed network is not among the top “heavy hitters” in our democracy.

Sen. Cruz can continue to cherry-pick the stats he finds most convenient for his quest to block meaningful Congressional action on big money in politics, but the American people know better.

PFAW

Koch Brothers’ Libre Initiative Aims To Increase Conservatives’ Share of the Latino Vote

While President Obama announced a delay in taking executive action on immigration reform until after the 2014 elections, conservatives are pushing to expand their footprint in the Latino community. As Ed Morales wrote in this month’s The Progressive magazine, the Libre Initiative — which promotes itself as a nonprofit that provides social services and talks about helping Latinos achieve the American Dream, ensuring economic  freedoms, and promoting a “market-based” solution to immigration reform — is making it its mission to build ties between the conservative movement and the Latino community.

“On its website, the Libre Initiative tries to soften its image with a series of gauzy and polished short videos called "Share the Dream." They feature a New Mexico preacher named Pastor Mike Naranjo, who overcame alcoholism with self-reliance and religion. They also feature Libre's national spokesperson Rachel Campos-Duffy and [Daniel] Garza himself.

“With string music playing behind her and a picture of the sun shining on the Washington Monument, Campos-Duffy tells her family's personal story. Then she adds: "I'm worried that government programs that are supposed to help Hispanics are actually doing harm. . . . A sense of entitlement and dependency on government is starting to take over." (Campos-Duffy is married to GOP Representative Sean Duffy of Wisconsin.)

“Garza's three-and-a-half-minute video tells of how he and his family worked in the fields. "My father never took welfare," he says, but got ahead because of self-reliance. Garza warns that folks are "caught in dependency that government offers," which, he says, has "condemned their children to a life of mediocrity and subsistence. This is not the American dream. This is an American nightmare." Garza says: "Advancing economic freedom is the best way to improve human well-being, especially for those at the bottom." Taking an evangelical tone, he concludes: "The Libre Initiative is reaching the Hispanic community before they are lost forever."”

But as Morales also points out, Libre is funded by the Koch brothers, who actively work to prevent the advancement of causes that would greatly help Latinos by fighting against them, like voting rights protections, raising the minimum wage, and expanding access to healthcare.

“And when you look at Libre's funding, you see the tentacles of the Koch brothers, who have spent millions of dollars funding rightwing groups through intermediaries like Freedom Partners and an outfit called the "TC4 Trust." Libre is one of the recipients.

"Libre received $3.8 million from TC4 and Freedom Partners" in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And Yahoo News reported that Libre's Arlington, Virginia, headquarters "also shares a floor in the same office building as Freedom Partners."”

“Robert Maguire of the Center for Responsive Politics says this type of funding arrangement is typical of the Koch brothers. "The Koch network is unique because of the concentration of money and the lengths that they go to make the flows of money as complex as possible," he says.

“Two of the main issues on Libre's agenda are denouncing the Affordable Care Act and opposing increases to the minimum wage. Ironically, Latinos stand to benefit more from expanding access to health care and raising the minimum wage than many other groups.”

Despite the challenges, Libre’s access to the bottomless bank accounts of the Koch brothers means it’s a player progressives should take seriously — and a reminder that the votes of Latino citizens are not to be taken for granted.
 

PFAW

Money in Politics Fuels Student Loan Debt

Wall Street has found another way to make money at the expense of our future: student loan debt. The amount of debt held by recent graduates increased an astonishing 20 percent from 2011 to 2013, reaching a total of more than $1.2 trillion. Meanwhile, big banks and financial institutions that profit from student loan debt are spending more than ever to influence political elections and to prevent policy solutions from being are enacted. Wall Street companies rake in an estimated $45 billion off higher education each year, with a significant portion derived from student loans.

One measure to deal with the student loan crises, proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, would allow over 25 million students to refinance their loans at a better rate. Senator Warren’s bill has stalled, along with similar proposals, due to gridlock and obstructionism fueled by special interest spending. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, between 2008 and 2012 the amount of money Wall Street institutions funneled into Congress through political donations nearly doubled, from $55.9 million to over $108 million. That’s a direct result of the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which lifted restrictions on corporate spending to influence elections. 

The overwhelming increase in outside political spending is taking a toll on young Americans, as the weight of their debt limits their options post-graduation. Recent graduates are already faced with a daunting reality — with more than half of them currently unemployed — while the job market is flooded with people who have years of experience. If young Americans are fed up with special interest money robbing them of opportunity, their frustration can best be directed toward passing campaign finance reform… and supporting the Democracy for All Amendment.

This proposed amendment, which is being debated and voted on in the Senate this week, would allow Congress to regulate of the out-of-control spending in political elections. It currently has the support of 50 senators.  While not sufficient to secure the 2/3 of the Senate needed for passage, this weeks’ vote on  the Democracy for All Amendment is a historic  step towards passing the 28th amendment, and a major milestone in the fight to for better federal policies regarding student debt.

PFAW

First day of Senate debate to #GetMoneyOut

Monday marked the first day of Senate debate on the Democracy for All amendment. Not only did it clear an important procedural hurdle, but we heard from many strong champions of getting money out and voters in, and from those who, contrary to the views of three fourths of the American public, are satisfied with the democratic imbalance created by Citizens United and related cases.

Senators John Cornyn of Texas, Pat Roberts of Kansas, and Chuck Grassley of Iowa each claimed to know what this debate is really all about.

Senator Cornyn:

In reality what this amendment would do would be to undermine some of our most cherished, most fundamental, and most important liberties.

Senator Roberts:

They want to silence their opponents. The First Amendment does not allow them to do so, so they are going to try and change it.

Senator Grassley:

The amendment being proposed would put those who would engage in political speech on notice that they may be prosecuted for being active citizens in our democracy.

Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois was there to set the record straight, about the true reality of this debate, and about the seriousness with which Democracy for All supporters have approached this historic step forward in the movement to take back our democracy from powerful corporations and billionaires.

Senator Durbin:

Six constitutional amendments, landmark civil rights legislation, and Supreme Court decisions helped make the promise of one person and one vote a reality. We must, in our time, in our generation, be constantly vigilant against threats to these victories which were won through the blood, sweat, tears, and even the lives of many Americans. That is why we are engaged in this debate today, because the right to vote is under siege. It is in peril. A well-funded, coordinated effort has made it harder for millions of Americans to vote and at the same time unleashed a tidal wave of special interest and corporate money into elections to drown out the voices of average Americans . . . During his confirmation hearings, Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court said this of the right to vote. It was ‘‘the right preservative of all other rights.’’ And he pledged to be a neutral umpire, calling balls and strikes when it came to issues such as the right to vote. But because of the judicial activism of Chief Justice Roberts and his four conservative allies, the right to vote of average Americans is now at greater risk than any time since the Jim Crow era.

Other highlights from day one:

Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada:

If spending is speech, where does that leave the rest of the American people? Should their role in democracy be diminished because they are paying a mortgage and sending kids to college? Should a family hard hit by a recession— let’s say they are out of work— does that mean they shouldn’t have any say at the ballot box? Should families hard hit by the recession take a back seat in our government to a couple of billionaires? Right now the answer is yes.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont:

The Court’s radical reinterpretation of the First Amendment contradicts the principles of freedom, equality, and self-government upon which this Nation was founded. The consequence of the Court’s opinions is that a small, tiny minority of very wealthy individuals and special interests are drowning out the voices of hard-working Americans and skewing our electoral process. What they are saying is: I have millions of dollars. I have a voice in elections. You? You are just an average hard-working man or woman, and you do not have any voice.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts:

This is an extraordinary situation. The Supreme Court overturned a century of precedent, voiding campaign finance restrictions passed by Congress and making it far easier for millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations to flood our elections with massive amounts of money. The Supreme Court is helping them buy elections . . . This is the time to amend the Constitution. I urge my colleagues to support this effort. We were not sent to Congress to run this country for a handful of wealthy individuals and powerful corporations. We were sent here to do our best to make this country work for all our people.

Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, lead sponsor of the Democracy for All amendment:

Folks want Congress to get to work and work together so we can find real solutions to real problems and spend our time raising hopes instead of raising cash. That is why Senator Bennet and I have introduced our constitutional amendment and that is what I wish to talk about today.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont:

People do not spend hundreds of millions of dollars on campaigns for fun, for the hell of it; they are spending money because they have an agenda. And the billionaire agenda is not the agenda of the American people . . . I am not saying every Republican adheres to every aspect of this agenda, but [the Koch brothers] are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the political process for a reason, and that reason is to make the wealthiest people in this country even wealthier while they do away with all legislation that protects working families.

You can find these passages and more from Monday's debate here.

Follow @peoplefor and check out our blog for more coverage of Democracy for All.

PFAW

NPR Highlights Poll Showing Bipartisan Support for Amendment to #GetMoneyOut

As the Senate begins debating the Democracy For All Amendment that would overturn decisions like Citizens United, NPR’s Peter Overby highlighted the strong, bipartisan public support for reforming our campaign finance system in a radio segment this morning.

“When pollsters ask Americans about the political money system, overwhelming percentages basically say they hate it. So why doesn’t Congress do something?” he asked.

Overby spoke with Bob Carpenter, a Republican pollster who helped conduct a recent poll — commissioned by Public Citizen and partially underwritten by People For the American Way — on Americans’ attitudes toward a constitutional amendment like the one being debated this week. Carpenter emphasized that the data is clear: Republicans, Democrats, and independents all agree that Citizens United needs to be overturned. And while Republicans in Congress are pushing the myth that the amendment would gut free speech protections, Carpenter said that according to the poll, most Americans aren’t buying their arguments.

Overby’s segment highlights the fact that, in PFAW President Michael Keegan’s words, “Washington is the only place where campaign finance reform is a partisan issue.”

You can listen to the full segment here.

PFAW

Yet Another Way Activists are Raising the Issue of Campaign Finance Reform: Photo Petition!

Participate in the photo petition at http://www.demanddemocracy.org/

Curtailing the corrupting influence of money in politics may be the most pivotal issue facing our country. Unfortunately, many people see campaign finance reform as an abstract, boring issue that doesn’t resonate with their immediate priorities. In fact, as we’ve seen as the Democracy for All amendment is debated in the Senate this week, the dangerous threat to our democracy posed by big money in politics is absolutely fundamental to every  issue Americans care about:  student loan debt, paycheck equality for women, the stagnant minimum wage, climate change and sound energy policies. By addressing the countless ways that unlimited money in our elections impedes progress, it’s not hard to show how addressing the challenge of money in politics is relevant to every American.

To show how money in politics affects all of us, progressive organizations including People For the American Way, Public Citizen and Rethink Media have launched a photo petition and messaging campaign to help activists all across the country show why they care about getting money out of our elections.  The goal of the One Person One Vote #GetMoneyOut photo petition is simple: to show that democracy is about equal representation – one person one vote – without special privileges granted to a few. Special interest spending in elections has disrupted the balance of one person one vote by amplifying the voices of those who can afford to spend hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in elections.

For the photo petition take a picture of yourself holding your pointer finger in the air (to represent one person one vote) while holding a sign that says #GetMoneyOut. You can be alone, or with a group. You can be in front of a Town hall, or at home in your house. We want as many pictures as possible of people, in as many places as possible, demanding the same thing… to #GetMoneyOut. If you want to get creative and incorporate additional props/signs into their photos… go for it!

Submit your photo at DemandDemocracy.org, along with the state you’re submitting it from. By uploading these photos to one central location, we can generate a trove of images showing activists speaking out on this issue.

We’ll also use your photo to tweet members of Congress dozens, hundreds or thousands of pictures of their constituents demanding that they #GetMoneyOut – and standing up for the core democratic principle of One Person One Vote. Your picture can help remind our elected leaders that money in politics is ultimately about people.

PFAW

PFAW & Allies Deliver 3M Petitions in Support of #Democracy4All

On Monday afternoon People For the American Way joined partner organizations, Senators, and Representatives in a rally outside the U.S. Capitol in support of the Democracy For All Amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United and get big money out of politics. As the Senate begins debating the measure, PFAW and ally organizations teamed up to deliver more than three million petitions in support of an amendment.

The rally was kicked off by People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker (pictured speaking above) and Public Citizen President Robert Weissman. Speakers included Sen. Tom Udall (N.M.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Sen. Al Franken (Minn.), Rep. Ted Deutch (Fla.), and Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.) Rally footage was featured on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell and in the Huffington Post.


Sen. Tom Udall (N.M.)


Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.)


Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.)


Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.)


Sen. Al Franken (Minn.)


Rep. Ted Deutch (Fla.)


Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.)

At the rally, PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker said, “Today, more money than ever is flooding our democracy. But something else is also happening: everyday Americans are fighting back. Americans are no longer willing to settle for elections auctioned to the highest bidders.” You can watch her speech here.

The massive number of petitions delivered is just one of many indicators of the broad support for an amendment to get big money out of politics. Sixteen states, more than 550 cities and towns, and public figures including former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and President Barack Obama have already voiced support for an amendment. Recent polling found that nearly three in four voters (73 percent) favor it.

Organizations contributing petitions included People For the American Way, MoveOn.org, CREDO, Daily Kos, Public Citizen, Public Change Campaign Committee, USAction, Common Cause, Democrats.com, Free Speech For People, Coffee Party, Center for Media and Democracy, Brave New Films, Progressive Democrats of America, Sierra Club, US PIRG, Communications Workers of America, Wolf PAC, Move to Amend, Food and Water Watch, Corporate Accountability International, Greenpeace, Public Campaign, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the League of Conservation Voters, and the Story of Stuff Project.

Get more information on PFAW’s Government By the People work here.

PFAW

Republicans are Making Campaign Finance a Partisan Issue, But it Shouldn’t Be

In observing the steep partisan divide on the Democracy for All amendment – with all 55 Democrats in the Senate supporting and not a single Republican – one might conclude that campaign finance reform is a completely partisan issue. Historically speaking, however, this is far from the case. The current amendment, which is in the process of being debated on the Senate floor, closely resembles other proposals that have been introduced and had bipartisan support in nearly every Congress since 1983, when Republican Sen. Ted Stevens (Alaska) introduced similar legislation. Up until recently, these proposals have had support from numerous Republicans in Congress, including Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Thad Cochran (Miss.), in addition to many Democrats. Polling shows that Americans of all political persuasions are outraged by the amount of money flooding our political system and support remedies including a constitutional amendment to fix the problem.

Money in politics is not a partisan issue; it has an impact on the lives of all Americans, regardless of party affiliation. The ability of outside interests to influence political debate has fueled an explosion of spending in both primaries and general elections, creating a toxic situation where candidates are forced to cater their views to the whims of donors with the biggest bank accounts, regardless of whether those individuals are even their constituents or not. By allowing for limits on the amount of outside money spent in elections, political leaders can spend less time worrying about how they will raise enough cash to win their reelection campaigns and more time addressing the concerns of their constituents.

An overwhelming majority of Americans are in favor of limiting the influence of big money in politics, often by margins of three or four to one. The fact that the Democracy for All amendment currently has no Republican support in Congress is not representative of Republican viewpoints outside of Washington.  As made clear in a recent report put out by Free Speech for People numerous Republicans currently serving in office on the state and local level are on record in supporting campaign finance reform – to combat the corrosive political environment created by Supreme Court case decisions such as Citizens United. These destructive decisions handed down by the high court threaten the foundation of our democracy, and misrepresent the will of the people. For the time being the Democracy for All amendment may appear partisan, but if politicians listen to the people, campaign finance reform will become bipartisan once again.

PFAW