PEOPLE FOR BLOG

PFAW & Allies Send Open Letter to RNC Chair: “Where Does the GOP Stand on Gay Bashing?”

In anticipation of this weekend’s annual Values Voter Summit, a multi-day event where GOP elected officials and presidential hopefuls rub elbows with Religious Right leaders, People For the American Way President Michael Keegan joined the leaders of the Southern Poverty Law Center and five other civil rights and LGBT organizations in an open letter calling on Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus to ask members of his party to disassociate themselves from the summit.

The letter, printed in the Washington Post and The Hill this morning, highlights the repeated and vicious demonization of LGBT people by the groups responsible for the summit, including its host, the Family Research Council:

Its president, Tony Perkins, has repeatedly claimed that pedophilia is a “homosexual problem.” He has called the “It Gets Better” campaign — designed to give LGBT students hope for a better tomorrow — “disgusting” and a “concerted effort” to “recruit” children into the gay “lifestyle.”

… Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, a summit sponsor, has said the U.S. needs to “be more like Russia,” which enacted a law criminalizing the distribution of LGBT “propaganda.” He also has said, “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine, and six million dead Jews.”

By participating in the summit, Republican Party leaders risk legitimizing this kind of virulent extremism. Given that reality, the letter asks a simple question: where does the GOP stand on gay bashing? Reince Priebus himself has said, “People in this country, no matter straight or gay, deserve dignity and respect.” But will he walk the talk and, as the letter asks, “tell the members of your party to shun groups that demean other people and deny them dignity?”

You can read the full letter here.
 

PFAW

Mike Boggs' Record Catches Up to Him

This post was originally published at the Huffington Post.

This is a good day for Americans who care about our federal courts. According to press reports, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy has said that Georgia federal district court nominee Mike Boggs lacks majority support on the committee and that he should withdraw. The New York Times calls the nomination "dead."

Federal judicial nominees routinely - and appropriately - assure senators that their personal feelings and political positions will play no role in their judicial decisions. But this particular nominee did exactly the opposite when running for election as a state judge in 2004. That's when then-Rep. Boggs told voters at a judicial candidates' forum, "I am proud of my record. You don't have to guess where I stand - I oppose same-sex marriages. I supported and authored the Child Protection Act to protect children from predators. I have a record that tells you exactly what I stand for."

This connection - that Boggs himself made - between how he would approach judging cases to his views as a legislator on the legal issues that would be before him as a judge, compelled the Senate Judiciary Committee to examine Boggs' legislative record.

And what a disturbing record that was: He sought to amend the state constitution to forever lock gays and lesbians out of the promise of equality and to prohibit the Georgia legislature from ever extending marriage rights to gays and lesbians. He supported anti-choice legislation and even voted for a bill amendment that would have put abortion providers' lives at risk. He voted in support of having the Confederate battle symbol incorporated into the state flag. He sought to use the power of government to promote religion, church-state separation notwithstanding.

Given his 2004 assurance that his legislative record showed how he would rule as a judge, senators could certainly presume that Boggs has a severely cramped view of constitutional Equal Protection, reproductive rights, and church-state separation. LGBT people, religious minorities, African Americans, and women could not be assured that their basic rights would be recognized and fully protected in his courtroom.

To make things worse, his efforts to explain away his record to the Judiciary Committee raised questions about his candor.

For instance, at his hearing, he assured both Senators Mazie Hirono and Chris Coons that statements he made in 2004 while expressing his opposition to marriage equality about "the dangers that we face with respect to activist judges" were views he held as a legislator, not as a judge. Yet he sounded quite different as recently as November 2011, having been a judge for nearly seven years. At that time, Boggs was promoting himself to a different audience, the Judicial Nominating Commission of Georgia, which was considering recommending to the governor his appointment as a state appeals court judge. When asked then how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the legal system, Boggs cited as the problem "judges who abrogated their constitutionally created authority" and "judicial decisions that have ignored and violated the basic tenets of the judiciary."

At his Senate confirmation hearings just a few years later, Sen. Coons asked Boggs to name three or four examples of cases that he'd had in mind when he expressed those concerns in 2011. Boggs admitted that as a legislator in 2004, he considered cases recognizing marriage equality as a state constitutional right as fitting this category, but didn't say what cases he'd had in mind in 2011. In her written follow-up questions, Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Boggs if he could name any decisions that he believed abrogated the judiciary's constitutionally created authority (using his words). He responded that he could not recall any cases that he had been thinking of at the time.

Yeah, right. Based on what Boggs told the state Commission, he viewed this as extremely serious, going to the very legitimacy of the courts. Yet just a few years later, even after being given additional time to think about it, he could not recall even one case that he'd had in mind. One could be forgiven for believing instead that he actually had in mind the same cases he'd referred to in 2004, and that he was telling the commissioners - and ultimately, Georgia's governor - what he thought they wanted to hear.

His efforts to explain away his votes endangering abortion providers and supporting the Confederate battle symbol were equally not believable, and apparently they were not believed by a majority of committee members. Good for them.

Boggs' disturbing record showed he was unqualified for the federal bench. Today's news shows that a majority of the Judiciary Committee agrees.

PFAW

A State-by-State Round-Up of Voting Rights Today

More than a year ago, the Supreme Court dealt a major blow to voting rights when they struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in their Shelby v. Holder decision. In the wake of this decision, nine states and many other counties that once had to have their voting law changes approved by the federal government before they took effect — what’s known as “preclearance”— no longer have to do so. With the midterm elections rapidly approaching, where does that leave voters in the preclearance states and in other states where legal battles over voting laws are raging?

Yesterday ProPublica published a great round-up of the current landscape of voting rights across the country. Some of the lowlights included:

• Seven preclearance states have announced new restrictions since the Supreme Court rolled back the Voting Rights Act.
• [In 2012], a federal court called Texas's photo ID law [the] “most stringent in the country.” Now, it’s in effect.
• Two months after the Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act, North Carolina cut early voting and eliminated same-day registration.

ProPublica notes that while glaringly discriminatory barriers like literacy tests are behind us, these legal changes matter a great deal. As voting rights advocates have demonstrated, voter ID laws, limitations on early voting, and voter roll purges disproportionately harm communities of color and other marginalized groups. Rather, Americans agree that no one should be facing barriers to casting a ballot and participating in our democracy.

You can read the full article here.

 

PFAW Foundation

PFAW and Allies Deliver Half a Million Signatures Calling on Congress to Restore the Voting Rights Act

On Wednesday, PFAW joined representatives from a number of organizations similarly concerned with civil rights and the cornerstone of American democracy – the right to vote – on Capitol Hill to present Speaker John Boehner with the signatures of more than 500,000 Americans demanding that Congress move forward in restoring key provisions of the landmark Voting Rights Act.

Today, access to the voting booth has become an increasingly imperiled right for many Americans, thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision last year in Shelby County v. Holder. Across the country, states and localities are making changes to voting laws that make it more complicated and onerous to carry out a fundamental civic duty, especially for ethnic and racial minorities, the elderly, and student voters.

However, the Republican leadership in the House does not seem to share the public’s sense of urgency on compromised voting access. Tellingly, neither Speaker Boehner nor his staff acknowledged the coalition’s attempt to deliver the signatures in-person. The office that he keeps for his congressional district was locked, and knocks went unanswered, shutting out the American people, including his constituents, in the middle of a workday while Congress is in session.

In a press conference following the attempted delivery of the petitions, lawmakers and representatives from the #VRA4Today coalition of more than 50 advocacy groups spoke of the need to strengthen the rights of voters and restore the critical protections of the Voting Rights Act. Marge Baker, executive vice president of People For the American Way, said:

Repairing the damage done by the court majority in Shelby is a critical test of whether Congress can put partisanship behind to protect our democracy. The will of the people is clear: we will not tolerate voting discrimination in our country, we will not turn back the clock.

Joining in this sentiment was House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who urged his colleagues to support the rights of Americans to participate in their government. “The right to vote is the most fundamental right in a democracy,” he said. “It is the right to have one’s voice heard.”
 

PFAW

Rhetoric on ISIS Shows the Right Wing Is Out of Touch with Reality

It’s not hard to understand that the Right Wing is out of touch, but sometimes it is hard to recognize just how out of touch its leaders really are.

Take, for instance, ISIS, the group of radical militants committing atrocities across Iraq and Syria, recently beheading two American journalists among many others. It’s a scary organization, but to the Right, it’s not as scary as, say, comprehensive immigration reform.

To Pat Buchanan, the threat of immigration and the “decomposition of this country” is significantly greater than that of ISIS. William Gheen of the anti-immigrant group Americans for Legal Immigration (ALIPAC) also claimed that undocumented immigrants are a greater threat to America than ISIS since, according to Gheen, “ISIS could cut off the heads of journalists once a month for the next five years and that’s not going to destroy America, but Obama’s pumping of illegal immigrants into the country will.”

Nor is immigration the only domestic issue the Right thinks bears a resemblance to a vicious foreign threat.

Vic Eliason and Mat Staver last week linked same-sex marriage in the U.S. to the beheadings by ISIS. According to Eliason and Staver, gay rights advocates are destroying morality and biblical values and creating an anything-goes society where people do whatever they need to—killing or beheading—to get what they want, just like ISIS.

What’s terrifying about these comments isn’t that they’re extreme, but that these right wing figures aren’t speaking in a vacuum. Their audience continues to represent an important part of the GOP base, and in some cases these speakers have a direct line to Republican politicians.

As progressives, we can’t ignore this extremism just because it seems disconnected from reality. For the far right, that’s never been an obstacle at all.

PFAW

Atlanta in Support of Constitutional Amendment to #GetMoneyOut

On Monday city council members in Atlanta overwhelmingly passed a resolution (12-2) in support of the Democracy for All amendment, joining the list of more than 550 towns and cities across the country that have called on Congress to address our broken campaign finance system. Last week 54 senators voted in support of the proposed amendment, which would overturn decisions like Citizens United and allow legislators to set reasonable limits on money in election. One additional cosponsor of the bill was unable to attend the vote, so the total number of U.S. Senate supporters is 55.

The recent votes in Washington and in Atlanta indicate a clear trend: people are tired of big money buying influence in our elections. Local and state victories are a key step toward the passage of a 28th amendment, which requires approval of 2/3 of Congress and ¾ of the states. A growing coalition of organizations are mobilizing their members around this issue, with groups now working together on the local, state and national level.  

Passing a constitutional amendment is no easy feat, though with concerted effort and determination history has proven it can happen, as it has 27 times thus far. In less than five years since the Citizens United v. FEC decision was handed down, the progress that has been made in enacting a solution is substantial: 3.2 million people, 55 senators, 16 states and over 550 municipalities have all called for a constitutional amendment. Through the continued leadership of cities such as Atlanta, the will of the people can be made unmistakably clear to those in Washington. This is a debate, and an amendment, that the American people are willing to fight for.

 

PFAW

Voting Developments in Ohio and Wisconsin Show, Again, Why #CourtsMatter

The past week held both good news and bad news for voting rights, depending on your part of the country. On Friday in Ohio, an appeals court declined to put on hold a ruling that expands early voting in the state, a win for those of us who believe that voting should be fair and accessible for all people. But on the same day, an appeals court gave the okay to Wisconsin’s voter ID law — a law that had been blocked months ago by a federal judge who noted that it disproportionately affects Latino and black communities.

Commentators have noted that instating the new voter ID law in Wisconsin so close to an election could cause real confusion for voters, and advocates are asking for a re-hearing. As election law expert Rick Hasen said, “It is hard enough to administer an election with set rules — much less to change the rules midstream.”

Beyond the practical implications for voters, it’s also important to connect the dots back to how these decisions happened and who was making them. As The Nation’s Ari Berman wrote on Friday night:

[A] panel of Democrat-appointed judges on the Sixth Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction from a Democrat-appointed district court judge striking down Ohio’s cuts to early voting. Two hours earlier, however, a trio of Republican-appointed judges on the Seventh Circuit overturned an injunction from a Democratic judge blocking Wisconsin’s voter ID law.

This is why elections matter. And the courts are increasingly becoming the arbiters of who does and does not get to participate in them. [emphasis added]

PFAW

Don't Forget: The Courts are on the Ballot this Year!

The fight to keep the Senate blue this November is critical to a slew of progressive issues – from immigration reform to voting rights, women’s health to LGBT equality. But the greatest risk of a Republican Senate could be an issue that gets far less mainstream attention: judicial and executive nominations.

Senate Republicans have a well-established track record of obstructing President Obama’s nominees for judicial and executive branch appointments. This past April, PFAW held a member telebriefing to discuss GOP obstruction tactics, such as delaying confirmation hearings and forcing time-consuming cloture votes. While the Senate made significant progress in recent months in filling critical vacancies, a staggering 153 judicial and executive nominees currently await confirmation votes in the Senate, and judicial vacancies continue to have real consequences for Americans nationwide. Republicans want a federal court system dominated by right-wing ideologues who issue poorly reasoned decisions that cause devastating harm to real people, rather than ones who adhere to the law and our constitutional principles. They have used their power as the minority to engage in unprecedented obstruction. But their ability to keep the executive and judicial branches of the United States government from functioning effectively would be amplified immensely should they control the Senate.

In an article this week addressing this potential threat to the nominations process, Talking Points Memo quoted congressional scholar Norm Ornstein as saying that a GOP-controlled Senate “means the ability of Obama to get any judicial nominations through becomes about zero.” And the people at Talking Points Memo aren’t the only ones to take note. Right-wing talk radio personality and American Family Association spokesperson Bryan Fischer told listeners today that the 2014 election is critical for conservatives because President Obama “is going to try to stack and pack every circuit court in the country.”

“This election in November is huge, because whoever controls the Senate now is going to be in control of every single nomination to the federal bench for the next few years,” said Fischer, who alleged that there is an “overwhelming preponderance of Obama acolytes” on federal courts.

There are countless reasons for progressives to turn out to the polls this November 4, and little doubt in our minds that the fight to keep the Senate blue will be a tough one. But the potential for continued judicial and executive vacancies that could result from a Republican-controlled Senate – and could have serious, negative consequences on the capacity of our judicial and executive branches of government -- is especially onerous.

PFAW

GOP on Immigration: No Wonder Poll Shows Latinos Prefer Democrat-Controlled Congress

A poll released last week by NBC/WSJ/Telemundo showed that Latinos prefer to see a Democrat-controlled Congress over a Republican one by a 2 to 1 margin, even while being frustrated with Washington as a whole. That’s no surprise considering the intolerant rhetoric coming from the Right Wing about immigration.

One need only to look at the last few weeks to appreciate the tenor of rhetoric coming from the GOP and its allies:

PFAW

GOP Blocks Paycheck Fairness Act a Fourth Time

Republican senators again filibustered the Paycheck Fairness Act yesterday, an act that would provide women with additional tools to identify and fight back against pay discrimination. This is the fourth time that Republicans have blocked this bill, despite the persistence of unequal pay for women and men doing the same work.

It’s been over 50 years since the signing of the Equal Pay Act, yet, this unconscionable practice of paying women employees less than men for doing the same job continues to this day.

In Congress, though, Republicans derided the measure as a “show vote” staged by Democrats in an election year. Sen. Mitch McConnell even claimed this bill “threatens to hurt the very people that it claims to help.” But for women working full-time and earning an average of 77 cents for every dollar men earn, this bill would give them the tools to fight back against the pay discrimination that keeps them earning less.

Women are increasingly serving as the primary breadwinners for their households, which means the discrepancy in pay harms not only women’s lives, but also their families. The Paycheck Fairness Act is the best way to start fixing that injustice. Republican senators should stop the unnecessary filibusters so that the Senate can pass this bill and move our country towards equal pay for equal work.

PFAW

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