PFAW and Allies Urge New Hampshire Governor to Veto Attack on Voting Rights

On Thursday, People For the American Way members and supporters in New Hampshire joined local election authorities, lawmakers, civil rights groups, and affected voters to call on Governor Maggie Hassan to veto SB 179 and end the rollback of voting rights.

The bill, SB 179, would require voters to live at the same address for 30 days before registering to vote, chipping away at the state’s same-day registration law, and also open up public access to private voter information at the local level.

Over 80 people packed the lobby of the Legislative Office Building, including many state legislators.  Speakers included State Senator David Pierce; Gilles Bissonnette, legal director for the ACLU; State Representative and Plymouth State University student Travis Bennett; moderator for the town of Freedom Don Johnson; and Manchester moderator and president of the Manchester NAACP Woullard Lett. They addressed the unconstitutionality of the 30 day waiting period, the fact that there is no evidence of a problem with “drive by voting,” and the bill’s disproportionate effects on students, the poor, and people of color.



GOP targets Latinos’ ability to vote

This piece by People For the American Way Political Coordinator Carlos A. Sanchez originally appeared in Fox News Latino.

Even as a diverse coalition of Americans unite around the principle that voting rights are an essential American principle that needs to be protected, the Republican Party remains firmly committed to doing the opposite. Their continued push for policies that make it more difficult for people to vote disproportionately affects minority and young voters.

Republicans – including leading Presidential candidates – have for years been pushing initiatives that make it harder to vote. Jeb Bush supports states’ efforts to enact voter ID laws, and as governor, he restricted early voting and infamously purged 12,000 eligible voters before the 2000 presidential election. Marco Rubio asked, “What’s the big deal?” with voter ID laws. Scott Walker enacted what has been described as “one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country.”

Voter ID laws systematically target Latinos’ and other minorities’ ability to vote. In 2012, measures to restrict voting could have affected over 10 million Latino voters. A Brennan Center for Justice study reported, “In Colorado, Florida, and Virginia, the number of eligible Latino citizens that could be affected by these barriers exceeds the margin of victory in each of those states during the 2008 presidential election.”

And it’s no accident that these laws disproportionately affect Latinos. A separate study from last year found “a solid link between legislator support for voter ID laws and bias toward Latino voters, as measured in their responses to constituent e-mails.” And yet another study that was released earlier this year found that even in states without voter ID laws, Latinos were targeted: “Election officials themselves also appear to be biased against minority voters, and Latinos in particular. For example, poll workers are more likely to ask minority voters to show identification, including in states without voter identification laws.”

Some Republicans have explicitly made known their intentions of suppressing Latino and African-American voters in order to win elections. Over 30 years ago, ALEC-founder and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation Paul Weyrich spoke plainly:  “I don’t want everybody to vote…As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” Republican after Republican has continued in his footsteps: An Ohio GOP County Chair stated he supports limits on early voting because, “I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban – read African-American – voter-turnout machine.” Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai believed voter ID laws would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” Former GOP Precinct Chair Don Yelton used the “n” word as he tried to deny that a voter ID law in North Carolina was racist (and he explained that “the law is going to kick the Democrats in the butt”). Conservative activist and notoriously anti-immigrant Phyllis Schlafly said, “The reduction in the number of days allowed for early voting is particularly important because early voting plays a major role in Obama’s ground game.” Schlafly’s Eagle Forum endorsed Marco Rubio in his run for Senate (here’s a lovely picture of the two of them) and applauded Scott Walker for his opposition to legal immigration.

The Republican response to the growing power of minority voters could not be clearer: shut them out of the election process. Under the guise of fighting voter fraud, despite a striking absence of evidence that fraud exists, Republican-led chambers across our nation have moved in concert to restrict access through the polls for political reasons. It’s that simple.

What’s even more upsetting is to hear a group who claims to represent the best interests of a community choose to ignore the facts in favor of their funder’s agenda.  Daniel Garza, executive director of the Libre Iniative, said he’s fine with voter ID laws and that he doesn’t think Republicans are trying to suppress the Latino vote. Libre is a Koch-funded GOP shadow group that time and again turns its back on the Latino community – for example, Libre supported Republican candidates who opposed immigration reform in 2014. Garza’s support for voter ID laws is yet another instance of him and Republicans supporting a policy that’s devastating to Latinos.

It’s time for the Republican Party to end their campaign against voting rights—and for people like Daniel Garza to stop giving them cover when they do it.

Carlos A. Sanchez is the Coordinator of Political Campaigns for People For the American Way.


North Carolina Pastor Speaks Out About Discriminatory Marriage Law

In response to a bill authorizing public officials to refuse to perform same-sex marriages becoming law in North Carolina this morning, Dr. Terence K. Leathers – a pastor at Mt. Vernon Christian Church in Clayton, North Carolina and a member of People For the American Way's African American Ministers In Action – released the following statement:

“Shame on our legislature for making this harmful and unnecessary bill become law. As a pastor, I believe this is not only a blow for the dignity of all North Carolinians but also a blow for true religious liberty.

“Governor McCrory did the right thing when he vetoed this bill, and the fact that our legislature overrode it shows just how far they will go in misusing the principle of religious liberty in order to discriminate. This is a sad day for our state.”

Last week, Dr. Leathers published an op-ed in The Huffington Post calling on the legislature not to misuse religious freedom to license public officials to discriminate.


Fifth Circuit Upholds Extreme Abortion Restrictions in Texas

On Tuesday the Fifth Circuit federal appeals court upheld most of Texas’ stringent anti-abortion law, which could leave as few as seven clinics open in the nation’s second largest state. The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked these restrictions in October; however, the Fifth Circuit’s ruling allows the law to stand, ushering in a likely wave of clinic closings for the Lone Star State.

The Associated Press explains how the law works:

 The decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allows Texas to enforce Republican-backed restrictions that require abortion clinics to meet hospital-level operating standards, a checklist that includes rules on minimum room sizes, staffing levels and air ventilation systems.

This decision represents an endorsement of a long series of right-wing initiatives to chip away at the rights protected by Roe v. Wade. By pushing unnecessary laws targeting abortion facilities, the Right can mandate costly renovations that create a needless economic strain on clinics. For example, the Texas law requires abortion clinics to abide by the same standards as hospital surgical centers, despite the fact that many clinics solely provide medical abortions, which do not involve surgery. The Supreme Court has said that states may not pass laws with the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion. But the court yesterday turned a blind eye to the obvious in order to further the Right’s anti-choice agenda.

A panel of three judges, all appointed by George W. Bush, delivered the decision, which will force facilities across the state to shut their doors and leave women hundreds of miles away from a licensed abortion provider. Verdicts from the ultra-conservative Fifth Circuit bench, like the decision in October letting Texas enforce strict voter ID laws, highlight the importance of who sits on our nation’s courts.  Although Fifth Circuit has two longstanding vacancies, Republican obstruction has prevented the filling of these seats. Tuesday’s decision further exemplifies the critical need for fair and just courts, particularly as right-wing legislators continue their relentless attack on the rights established by Roe.


Late Night Host Draws Attention to Campaign Finance Issues

On June 4, Seth Meyers vocalized the growing frustration among Americans about the delayed candidacy announcement of Jeb Bush. On his talk show, Late Night with Seth Meyers, the host poked fun at Bush and the dysfunction of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), drawing attention to issues surrounding campaign finance.


Meyers is not the first to scrutinize Jeb Bush for his lack of clarity. A recent article in the New York Times explores the federal laws around candidacy, noting that “federal law makes anyone who raises or spends $5,000 in an effort to become president a candidate, and thus subject to fundraising, spending, and disclosure rules.” Yet because Bush has not declared as a candidate, he is not limited in the amount of money he can raise, and can continue to coordinate with his super PAC, Right to Rise, which he would not be able to do otherwise.


Jeb Bush’s antics are a good demonstration of the need for campaign finance reform. The majority of Americans agree that big money has too much influence on politics. But, as Seth Meyers indicated, the FEC is “dysfunctional,” even according to its own chairwoman, who has created a petition calling for new rules to regulate political spending. The FEC is meant to be a bipartisan organization, but that is also what causes its gridlock: the three Democrats and three Republicans cannot seem to agree on much of anything.

Two partner campaign finance reform groups, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, have filed formal complaints with the FEC challenging the legality of Bush’s tactics. Regardless of whether or not the FEC takes action as a result of these complaints, Governor Bush plans to officially announce his candidacy on June 15th. Either way, our broken campaign finance system will no doubt continue to serve as punchlines leading into 2016, hopefully setting the stage for real reform.


Toomey Can Protect 3rd Circuit from Having Two Vacancies

Tomorrow’s hearing for Judge L. Felipe Restrepo’s Third Circuit nomination is occurring shortly before another vacancy opens on that same court, yet precedent shows that he can be confirmed in time to protect that court from having two vacancies at the same time.

When President Obama nominated Restrepo way back in November, it seemed unlikely that he would have to wait seven months just for his committee hearing. Unfortunately, Republican control of the Senate has caused the confirmation process to move slowly for all judicial nominations.

As a result, when the hearing occurs this Wednesday, it will be a mere three weeks before another vacancy opens on the same court on July 1. Considering that the vacancy that Judge Restrepo would fill has been formally designated as a judicial emergency, senators should be bending over backwards to confirm him before the next vacancy opens.

Fortunately, precedent shows that this can be done. Restrepo is helped by the fact that he is a known quantity – the Senate unanimously confirmed him to his current position just two years ago – and he has the bipartisan support of his home state senators.

Such an efficient process going forward would hardly be unprecedented. While no Obama circuit nominee has advanced from committee hearing to confirmation within three weeks, nine of George W. Bush’s circuit court nominees did. Notably, half of these nominations from the most recent GOP president were considered by a Senate controlled by Democrats.

  1. Roger Gregory, Fourth Circuit: 9 days (2001)
  2. William Riley, Eighth Circuit: 9 days (2001)
  3. Michael Melloy, Eighth Circuit: 18 days (2002)
  4. Jeffrey Howard, First Circuit: 12 days (2002)
  5. Consuelo Callahan, Ninth Circuit: 15 days (2003)
  6. Richard Wesley, Second Circuit: 20 days (2003)
  7. Michael Chagares, Third Circuit: 21 days (2006)
  8. Milan Smith, Ninth Circuit: 21 days (2006)
  9. G. Steven Agee, Fourth Circuit: 19 days (2008)

(The first one, Roger Gregory, was a unique case, since he had originally been a 2000 Bill Clinton nominee and recess appointee who was renominated by Bush.)

Fast forward to today: The clock is ticking toward July 1.

Just as Democrats and Republicans alike worked to confirm a number of President Bush’s circuit court nominees within three weeks of their committee hearings, Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey can work together to make this happen again. They both expressed strong support for Restrepo when he was nominated last year, and they can both see the harm to their constituents if the court has a second vacancy added to the already-existing judicial emergency.

Toomey has gotten a lot of bad in-state press criticizing him for his role in delaying Restrepo’s hearing for more than half a year. That delay is the reason there are only three weeks left before the next vacancy opens.

But with the Senate under Republican control, Toomey now has an opportunity to showcase his ability to influence Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and protect Pennsylvanians’ access to justice. A public statement by Toomey at the hearing on the pressing need for the Senate to act quickly to prevent a second vacancy on the court would send an important signal to his constituents, as well as to his Senate colleagues.

Ten of George W. Bush’s circuit court judges were confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate in his last two years in office, three of them by this same point in 2007. The count for the current Senate is zero. But with Toomey’s help, there could be a Third Circuit confirmation before Independence Day.


What’s at Stake in the Supreme Court’s Fair Housing Case?

Although the case hasn’t gotten as much mainstream press attention as the forthcoming blockbuster rulings on marriage and on the ACA, the Supreme Court will be issuing a crucial decision on fair housing in the next few weeks in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project. A bad decision would reverse decades of positive decisions and progress in  fair housing.

As our nation learned during the riots of the 1960s, and is tragically re-learning today, segregation in housing is both a major cause and effect of our urban problems and inequality. Partly in response, Congress enacted the Fair Housing Act in 1968, with the explicit purpose to “provide, within constitutional limitations, for fair housing throughout the United States.” For almost four decades, every appellate court that has considered the issue and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under both Republican and Democratic administrations have interpreted the Act to prohibit conduct that has a discriminatory effect based on race, color, religion, gender, disability, or familial status without a good justification. The issue in Texas Department is whether the Court will overturn that standard and rule that you don’t have a case under the Fair Housing Act unless you can prove specific intent to discriminate.

Why is this important? On a practical level, requiring proof of intent will make fair housing enforcement much more difficult; as one court noted, “clever men may easily conceal their motivations.” More broadly, discrimination and segregation often result from policies that may not be motivated by specific bad intent but that build on historic and systemic patterns of discrimination and lock out racial and other minorities. The “disparate impact” test, which is the legal term for the standard based on unjustified discriminatory effects, has helped combat that problem.

For example, in one case a building policy that imposed a limit of two people per bedroom resulted in the effective eviction from a one-bedroom apartment of a young couple who had just had a child. The policy was challenged based on disparate impact. It turned out there was no good business justification for the policy, and 150 units were opened up for families with children as a result. Similar challenges to policies that excluded disabled veterans by requiring residents to have full-time jobs or zoning restrictions that excluded racial minorities by requiring large lot sizes have helped break down long-entrenched problems of discrimination and exclusion.

All eleven federal courts of appeal that have considered this issue since the 1970s have approved the disparate impact standard. As explained in a brief to the Supreme Court by former Republican and Democratic HUD appointees, HUD has also followed this standard for decades. As a former HUD official and career-long civil rights attorney, I know the importance of the disparate impact test. As I wrote in a law review article more than 35 years ago, “only by concentrating on effect can the issue of discrimination be realistically addressed at all.”

If the Supreme Court overturns the long-accepted disparate impact standard, the continuing problems of discrimination and segregation in our country will only get worse in the years to come. The outcome of this case will have an enormous impact on millions of people throughout America, and on the nature of who we are as a nation.

PFAW Foundation

Courts: An Opportunity for Mitch McConnell to Show He Can Govern

Late last week, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt excitedly tweeted out a headline guaranteed to excite the far right Republican base:

@SenateMajLdr rules out … confirming any more President Obama circuit or SCOTUS judges.justices

But what Mitch McConnell had actually said was more ambiguous than that tweet (and the headlines it generated) suggested. In fact, it was not at all clear what he meant.

His spokesperson said over the weekend that McConnell had "said nothing of the sort." But the words of a spokesperson don't mean anything until they are matched by actions from the senator.

If the headlines were accurate, it would be a dramatic escalation in the GOP's partisan war against the efforts of Democratic presidents to fulfill their constitutional duty to fill the federal courts with qualified, fair judges. Indeed, it would make the 114th Congress the first and only one since the creation of the modern circuit court system in the 1890s not to confirm any circuit court judges.

The headlines said exactly what the radical base wants to hear. As Senate Minority Leader, McConnell clearly played to the base and used the Senate rules masterfully in order to significantly obstruct the confirmation process for all of President Obama's judicial nominees, regardless of what court they were nominated for, regardless of their record, and regardless of support from most or even all senators. McConnell damaged both the Senate and our country during this time.

But since becoming Majority Leader, McConnell has wanted to persuade Americans that he can actually run the Senate effectively and responsibly. However, making the Senate dysfunctional is not the mark of a responsible and effective Senate Majority Leader. The timely confirmation of federal judges is one of the most important tasks the Senate has, since the entire Third Branch of the U.S. government relies on the other two branches to keep it functioning. A dysfunctional Senate that will not confirm qualified judges in a timely manner threatens the American ideal of equal justice under law.

So after the headlines of the past few days, the eyes of the country are on McConnell, waiting to see if he will cater to the rabidly anti-Obama base and prevent votes on any circuit court nominees, or whether he will – as his spokesperson suggested – govern more responsibly.

Fortunately for him, he can make that clear quite easily, by scheduling a vote on Kara Farnandez Stoll, nominee to the Federal Circuit. Stoll was cleared by the Judiciary Committee without opposition more than six weeks ago, on April 23. No circuit or district court nominee has been waiting for a floor vote longer.

Another circuit court nominee – Pennsylvanian L. Felipe Restrepo, for the Third Circuit – will have his hearing before the Judiciary Committee this week. With the bipartisan support of his home state senators and having been confirmed to a district judgeship two years ago, Judge Restrepo is another clear consensus nominee. He should be approved quickly by the Judiciary Committee and sent to the Senate floor, where McConnell should schedule a timely vote for him, as well.

It would be the mark of a Senate Majority Leader who is willing and able to govern.


#Democracy4All Reaches Important Milestone

People For the American Way and its pro-democracy allies have been working in Congress and the states to boost House and Senate cosponsorship of the Democracy for All constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens Unitedand get big money out of politics.

This week we watched as Democracy for All reached an important milestone – it now has as many House cosponsors, 130, as it did at the end of the previous Congress.

27 of them have come during the last six weeks alone, since we first launched the campaign:

Representative Pete Aguilar [CA-31]
Representative Joyce Beatty [OH-3]
Representative Robert Brady [PA-1]
Representative Kathy Castor [FL-14]
Representative John Delaney [MD-6]
Representative Suzan DelBene [WA-1]
Representative Marcia L. Fudge [OH-11]
Representative Tulsi Gabbard [HI-2]
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee [TX-18]
Representative William R. Keating [MA-9]
Representative John Lewis [GA-5]
Representative Ted Lieu [CA-33]
Representative Doris O. Matsui [CA-6]
Representative Betty McCollum [MN-4]
Representative Jim McDermott [WA-7]
Representative Gregory W. Meeks [NY-5]
Representative Grace Meng [NY-6]
Representative Seth Moulton [MA-6]
Representative Grace F. Napolitano [CA-32]
Representative Donald Norcross [NJ-1]
Representative Bill Pascrell Jr. [NJ-9]
Representative Scott Peters [CA-52]
Representative Collin C. Peterson [MN-7]
Representative Tim Ryan [OH-13]
Representative Robert C. Scott [VA-3]
Representative Albio Sires [NJ-8]
Representative John A. Yarmuth [KY-3]

The next step is 155 – if Democracy for All gets to 155, then it will have as many cosponsors as all House amendments from the previous Congress combined.

Click to find out if your Representative has signed on to Democracy for All.

And check out United For The People for ongoing coverage of the far-reaching amendment movement.


We're Finally Talking About 2016's Most Consequential Issue

This piece was originally published in The Huffington Post.

Yesterday, in a speech in Texas on the importance of voting rights, Hillary Clinton made one of the most important remarks of her campaign so far: "We need a Supreme Court who cares more about the right to vote of a person than the right to buy an election of a corporation." It wasn’t the first time she’d made similar statements, and to let us know she meant it, her official twitter account posted the line a few minutes later.

She’s not the only Democratic candidate to talk about what she’s looking for in a Supreme Court Justice. Bernie Sanders said last month that he’d appoint judges who would overturn the Court’s decision in Citizens United. Martin O’Malley made a similar statement just this week.

In a universe that made more sense, it wouldn’t be news that Presidential candidates are talking about the kind of jurist they’d like to see on our nation’s highest court. It’s oft repeated (and true) that aside from going to war, selecting a Supreme Court Justice is the most important single choice any President makes in office.

Yet Democrats haven’t traditionally spent much time talking about what they’d like that choice to look like.

Certainly, we know what we don’t want in a Supreme Court Justice. We don’t want someone who will overturn Roe. Or someone who would give us a decision like Ledbetter. Or, generally, act like an unelected agent of the Republican Party. Near general election time, Democrats have used the Court as a reminder of the devastating impact that would come from allowing a Republican to place yet another conservative hardliner on the bench.

All of those fears are well founded. But progressives shouldn’t spend the campaign talking only about what we don’t want on the Court—now is the time to talk about what we do want.

For the last three decades, conservative have used presidential primaries to push Republican candidates to articulate a vision of the Supreme Court. Republican candidates have identified sitting Justices (mostly Scalia and Thomas) they’d use as models when choosing a nominee, decried the Court’s supposed liberal tilt, picked apart decisions they don’t like, and, above all, emphasized their commitment to placing “strict constructionists” on the bench. Republican primary voters and conservative leaders, focused on abortion, race, deregulation, law enforcement, and marriage have taken those statements into account when deciding which candidate to support for the nomination—and they’ve reaped substantial rewards for their efforts.

So it’s a welcome relief to see Democrats talking about the Court so much earlier, and better, than ever before. Thus far, that conversation has focused on the need to restore some balance to the Supreme Court and restore the American people’s ability to impose reasonable limits on money in politics, but that shouldn’t be the end. Hillary Clinton has emphasized the Court’s role protecting voting rights. Likewise, we progressives should ask, and hear, about the Court’s role as defender of civil liberties and equal justice. Candidates should share their vision of a court whose doors are open to workers and consumers vindicating their rights, and to environmental activists looking for government agencies to fulfill their commitments to ensure clean air and water.

Decades after our next President leaves office, his or her appointees to the Supreme Court (to say nothing of the lower federal courts) will be affecting our lives in ways we can’t possibly foresee. We should expect candidates to tell us what kind of values they’ll look for when they decide who those people will be—and we should applaud them when they do it well.

We’ve got months left in primary season, and plenty of time for a robust conversation about the Supreme Court. It should play out in debates and town halls and prepared speeches. And we’re already off to a good start.


Reuters Report: Voters Won't Let Billionaires Buy the Next Election

 With the 2016 national elections upcoming, wealthy donors supporting both parties are gearing up to throw hundreds of millions of dollars into the races; billionaires David and Charles Koch have already pledged to spend $889 million. But a report from Reuters shows that Americans, frustrated by the overwhelming influence of big money in politics, are organizing to fight back.

 In the Philadelphia mayoral race, three billionaires spent $7 million to elect Anthony Hardy Williams. In response, unions and community groups rallied around his challenger, Jim Kenney, organizing a march to stop the wealthy donors from “buying [their] next mayor.” Technological developments are making such organization easier: the creators of Crowdpac, an app that lets entrepreneurs gather funding towards donations, say that they want the app to be used to organize small donors to counteract the effects of billionaire spending.

  This is reflective of a wider trend in public opinion. Americans are sick of letting big money influence their elections; 84 percent say that money has too much influence in political campaigns today and nearly 3 in 4 Americans support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision and limit campaign spending.

“There's growing public awareness about rich people trying to buy elections and that makes the task of winning all the more difficult," said Darrel West of the Brookings Institute.

  Americans have organized at all levels of government to get big money out of politics. Activists have held rallies and marches devoted to the cause and demanded that their representatives in Congress take steps to reduce big money’s influence. Five million of them have signed a petition calling for a constitutional amendment to limit the amount of money spent in politics. Sixteen states and more than 650 cities have already called for an amendment.

 President Obama is on board, and presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton, Lindsey Graham, and Bernie Sanders have expressed support for a constitutional amendment. Clinton and Sanders have also emphasized the importance of nominating Supreme Court Justices who would restore balance to the Supreme Court and restore the American people’s ability to impose reasonable limits on money in politics.

  The movement against big money in politics is gaining momentum as the election nears.



ALEC’s Secret Meetings Exposed in Georgia

Last week a local Atlanta television station went to an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference in Savannah GA to expose the secret relationship ALEC legislators have with corporate lobbyists. Watch the investigation unfold as ALEC’s staff scrambled to respond.

This investigation shows us firsthand how ALEC members are working in secret to develop policies that impact average Americans on behalf of corporate special interests without the public’s input. To learn more about ALEC, check out the PFAW Right Wing Watch report, “ALEC: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests in State Legislatures.”


PFAW and Allies Tell Congress to #GetMoneyOut

Last month, as part of a multi-pronged campaign to boost House and Senate cosponsorship of the Democracy for All constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United and get big money out of politics, People For the American Way kicked off a campaign to send letters to Congress.

PFAW’s letter highlighted the grassroots momentum around an amendment:

While amending the Constitution is unquestionably a weighty matter—only warranted in rare and compelling circumstances—this is one of those moments in our nation’s history. The American people and their elected officials are increasingly speaking out about the need for an amendment. As of April 30, H.J.Res. 22 had 108 cosponsors,xvi and S.J.Res. 5 had 40 cosponsors.xvii The building momentum in Congress for an amendment mirrors the robust grassroots organizing taking place across the country at the state and local levels. Since the landmark Citizens United decision, 16 states and more than 650 municipalities, including large cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia, have gone on record supporting congressional passage of a constitutional amendment to be sent to the states for ratification. Transcending political leaning and geographic location, voters in states and municipalities that have placed amendment questions on the ballot have routinely supported these initiatives by large margins.xviii Five million American have signed their names to the amendment support petitions circulated by dozens of reform groups.xix The momentum to address the issue of big money in politics grows stronger by the day.

Since then, eight other organizations have sent their own letters to Congress.


The call for a solution is also clear. To return control of our elections to average constituents, we need an amendment to correct the Supreme Court’s misguided interpretation that money is speech protected under the First Amendment and reestablish the principle of protecting political equality. The drumbeat of support for this amendment has been heard loud and clear. 16 states and over 650 municipalities have gone on record against the flood of big money in our elections and called on their congressional delegations to pass the amendment and send it back to the states to be ratified.

Common Cause:

We cannot fully address the many challenges our country faces—jobs and the economy, energy independence, housing security, and many others—until we solve the root issue of money dominating politics. Passing a constitutional amendment is a critical way to elevate the voices of everyday Americans so that everyone, not just the wealthy few, can be heard.

American Association of University Women (AAUW):

American women fought too hard for their votes to count. Congress needs to get big money out of our elections—and put the focus back on the people—by passing a Democracy for All constitutional amendment. Civic Action:

It's a simple and direct solution to the problems of money in politics that were multiplied many times over by the Supreme Court's decisions in Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC. Since those decisions opened the floodgates of unregulated political spending, we've seen an already fragile system become even further compromised. As spending on elections increases dramatically, a small handful of the wealthiest Americans control a growing percentage of the campaign donations—locking out millions upon millions of regular Americans from our democracy.

Daily Kos:

The flow of money into our political system—and the associated effects on our democratic processes—has reached a crisis level. In the wake of Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), McCutcheon v. FEC, 134 S.Ct. 1434 (2014), and other damaging Supreme Court decisions that have left Congress and the states unable to enact election spending regulations, American elections have grown increasingly expensive.

Public Citizen:

America faces great and serious challenges – putting people back to work, addressing deepening inequality, averting catastrophic climate change, fixing our schools, ensuring quality and affordable health care for all, and much more. Our country has the wealth and wherewithal, and the creativity and conscience, to meet these challenges. But we will fall short unless we repair our democracy.


Climate change is a salient example of the outsized influence of special interest money and Congress’ failure to address issues of highest national importance.

Sierra Club:

For at least the last decade, it has been abundantly clear that the people responsible for polluting our air, our water, and our climate with toxic contamination are many of the same ones responsible for polluting our democracy with hundreds of millions of dollars in toxic money. Fortunately, big money campaign donors are not getting away with this corruption of our democracy without the American people putting up a fight.

Click to learn more about Democracy for All and how you can be part of the solution.

And check out United For The People for ongoing coverage of the far-reaching amendment movement.


Jeb Bush Shirks Campaign Finance Laws by Delaying Candidacy Announcement

A number of leading campaign finance lawyers assert that Jeb Bush’s continued refusal to declare himself as a 2016 presidential candidate, despite his robust fundraising, is a blatant evasion of campaign finance restrictions. The New York Times reported  today that campaign experts consider Bush’s activities, such as traveling to Iowa and other swing states and making stump speeches on his vision for the country, to have crossed the barrier into campaigning months ago. Organizations that work to eradicate big money in politics have taken action:

“Last week, two campaign watchdog groups, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, called on the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate whether Mr. Bush had broken election law by evading restrictions on candidates. The groups called his noncandidacy ‘a charade’ and called on prosecutors to intervene because they said the F.E.C. — perpetually gridlocked — was unlikely to do anything.”

Skirting campaign finance restrictions for as long as possible is profitable for Jeb Bush as it allows him to rake in contributions exceeding the $2,700 limit for official candidates and to continue to coordinate with his super PAC. By delaying his official announcement of candidacy, Jeb Bush is able to bring in an exorbitant amount of donations from wealthy backers and corporations, ensuring that big money has a substantial voice in the 2016 election.

Learn more about Jeb Bush with our 2016 Republican Candidates Report.


Money in Politics Survey Shows the Toxic Legacy of the Roberts Court

The New York Times published a poll this morning that reveals - not at all surprisingly - that overwhelming majorities of Americans are thoroughly fed up with money in politics.

Among the findings:

  • Fewer than a third of Americans think all Americans have an equal chance to influence the elections process, while two-thirds say that the wealthy have more influence.
  • 85% said our system for funding political campaigns either needs fundamental changes or, even more, needs to be rebuilt completely.
  • Nearly three in five are pessimistic that changes will be made to improve campaign funding.

So a substantial majority of Americans think that the wealthy few have so much sway over elected officials that changes wanted by 85% of the population will not be made.

Such a lack of faith in the ability of our electoral system to channel popular will cannot be healthy for a democracy. For this, we can thank the Roberts Court, which helped create this situation with decisions like Citizens United and McCutcheon.

The far right conservatives on the Supreme Court have severely narrowed the permissible goals of laws regulating money in politics. They acknowledge that laws can be passed to prevent corruption and its appearance, but they have reduced that concept to little more than outright bribery. In other words, the current 5-4 majority on the Court has ruled that our elected governments cannot pass laws to address the arrogation of political influence and power by campaign funders with vast concentrations of wealth. When a narrow sliver of the nation's wealthiest individuals and families are able to leverage their political spending into special attention and favorable treatment from elected officials, democracy is not harmed in the eyes of the Roberts Court, but is instead working the way it is supposed to. It's simply constituents supporting candidates they support, and elected officials being appropriately responsive to their concerns.

So five years after Citizens United, it is not surprising that so many Americans have so little faith in the ability of our electoral democracy to function properly. This is just another part of the toxic legacy of the Roberts Court.

But it isn't the end of the story. As Americans' level of revulsion at the extent of money in politics continues to rise, elected officials will eventually have to take notice. It will not be the first time that a popular movement has prompted electoral and political changes too strong to be stopped by those who President Theodore Roosevelt once called the malefactors of great wealth. As with movements of the past, the will of the many can overcome the might of a few.

PFAW Foundation