Jeb Bush's version of #GetMoneyOut more like #SaveItForLater

According to The Washington Post, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who has yet to officially announce a presidential run, is trying to keep the biggest of the big money from too quickly overwhelming his anticipated bid.

The move reflects concerns among Bush advisers that accepting massive sums from a handful of uber-rich supporters could fuel a perception that the former governor is in their debt. The effort is also driven by a desire to build as broad a pool of donors as possible among wealthier contributors.

So even as Bush is headlining a series of high-dollar events for a super PAC backing his bid, fundraisers have been instructed not to ask donors to give more than $1 million per person this quarter.

Apparently receiving just $1 million from a donor wouldn’t lead anyone to assume that Bush is indebted to them.

The money spigot, of course, will eventually flow far past this limit. And to call it a limit at all shows just how outsized an influence money holds over our democracy, and what a tiny, unrepresentative sliver of society Bush is catering to.

A minimum wage worker earning $7.25 per hour would have to work full-time for more than 66 years to make $1 million. That's before taxes. And food. And lodging. Raising kids? No room for that, either. That's an entire gross income for what could be an entire working life just for a single political contribution.

Say you're lucky and you make four times that amount, $29 per hour. Making a Bush-style contribution would still consume your entire income for more than 16.5 years.

As Public Campaign's Adam Smith puts it:

#GetMoneyOut is about a lot more than telling the super-rich to #SaveItForLater.

Grassroots activists have been pushing for money in politics reform to make clear that we want a democracy that’s run by the people, not millionaires and billionaires. In just five years since the Supreme Court ruling, 16 states and more than 600 cities and towns have officially called for a constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United, and five million Americans have signed their name to a petition calling for such an amendment. There's also a "Defending Democracy" legislative package that can take critical steps forward while the amendment movement grows even stronger.

There are many solutions working together toward the same end goal: a democracy in which everyone participates, everyone’s voice is heard, everyone knows who is trying to buy influence, and everyone plays by commonsense rules and is held accountable to those rules.

PFAW

PFAW and 50+ Allies Ask Obama to Require Government Contractors to Disclose Political Spending

Yesterday People For the American way joined more than fifty other organizations in sending a letter to President Obama asking him to issue an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose all of their political spending.

Right now, corporations with government contracts are able to funnel unlimited sums of dark money to influence the elections of those who can put pressure on the officials deciding who is awarded future contracts. Contracts should be awarded to those best for the job, not those who can shell out the most political cash.

But with the stroke of a pen, President Obama could require that government contractors disclose their political spending. This would increase transparency and accountability in our democracy and bring us closer to the “better politics” the president called for in his State of the Union address – a politics in which we “spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter.”

And we are indeed drowning in dark money. In 2014's ten most competitive Senate contests, more than 70 percent of outside money spent in support of the winner was from dark money groups.

As the letter notes,

Six years into your presidency, and five years after the Supreme Court issued its tragically misguided ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, we’re now living in a Wild West campaign spending world… Against this backdrop, it is imperative that you act.

You can add your name to the chorus of voices calling on the president to issue an executive order and read the full text of the letter here.
 

PFAW

Chicagoans Overwhelmingly Approve Resolution for Cleaner, Fairer Elections

On Tuesday night, Chicago residents approved a ballot initiative in support of limiting  the influence of big money in politics by an overwhelming margin of 79 percent to 21 percent. The measure, titled the Fair Elections Illinois ballot initiative, calls on the Chicago City Council and the Illinois state legislature to establish small donor matching fund systems for local and state campaigns. Activists worked with local organizations to coordinate phone banks, robocalls, and distribution of campaign literature in an attempt to reach thousands of voters. The measure was also endorsed by over a dozen organizations, several city alderman, all mayoral candidates, and the Chicago Sun-Times.

People For the American Way is proud to have fought alongside the activists who worked hard to get this measure passed in Chicago, in addition to the thousands of other leaders all across the country pushing to get big money out of our political system.

PFAW

President Obama Underscores His Support for an Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

In an interview with Vox released today, President Obama expressed his support for constitutional remedies to our country’s worsening money in politics problem.

The president said:

I would love to see some constitutional process that would allow us to actually regulate campaign spending the way we used to, and maybe even improve it.

This isn’t the first time the president has weighed in on the push for a constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United. In 2012 during a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session, President Obama made a splash when he said that “over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United.” As the Vox article notes, today’s comments go a step beyond his previous remarks.

Agree with the president? Share our graphic and show your support:

You can watch the full interview with President Obama here:

PFAW

PFAW and Allies Advocate for Amendment to #GetMoneyOut in New Hampshire

PFAW activists joined with allies from Public Citizen, Open Democracy, and others last Thursday at public hearings on New Hampshire House and Senate bills calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United.

About 50 supporters of a constitutional amendment attended each hearing, creating standing room only and overflow in the small room reserved for the House bill hearing.

Speakers included small business owners, activists who passed local town resolutions in favor of an amendment, and high school students.  Not a single person testified in opposition to the proposed legislation, underscoring the deep support among Americans of all backgrounds for fixing our big money system.

The bills (HB 371 and SB 136) call for the state legislature to recommend a constitutional amendment to the state’s congressional delegation, as well as for public hearings in geographically diverse areas across the state to decide the exact language for such an amendment.

A committee in the New Hampshire House will vote on the bill in an executive session on Wednesday afternoon, while the appropriate Senate committee has not yet set a date for a vote. PFAW activists and allies will be back at the state capitol next week for a lobby day to meet with key representatives and senators on Wednesday, February 4th.

Interested in joining us? For more information and to RSVP, email Lindsay Jakows at ljjakows@gmail.com.
 

PFAW

#DemandDemocracy Video Blog: Businesses Against Big Money in Politics

Sixteen states, 600 towns and cities, dozens of nonprofit reform organizations, and more than five million Americans are not the only ones calling for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. This installment of our #DemandDemocracy video blog features Bryan McGannon with the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) discussing how big money in politics is bad for competition and bad for small business.

As Bryan points out:

“Our campaign finance system subverts competition by allowing powerful industries and corporations to influence legislation that pampers them and hampers small business.”

According to a report published by the Mainstreet Alliance and ASBC, 88 percent of small business owners believe that money in politics is having a negative impact on our democracy, and a strong majority (66 percent) say that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision has been bad for small businesses. Since a vast majority of the money that flows into elections comes from a tiny fraction of mega-wealthy donors, most businesses and individuals alike get priced out of participating in the electoral process.

PFAW’s #DemandDemocracy video blog series is a collection of short videos that highlight how big money in politics affects — and often stalls progress on — a range of other critical issues.

PFAW

Democracy For All Amendment to #GetMoneyOut Becomes Bipartisan Bill

On Monday the push for the Democracy For All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment that would overturn decisions like Citizens United v. FEC and allow legislators to put reasonable limits on money in elections, became a bipartisan effort in Congress when Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) signed on as a cosponsor of the legislation.

While this is a historic step that deserves celebration, in many ways it is long overdue. Washington is the only place where the fight to get big money out of politics is a partisan issue, and it hasn’t always been that way.

Similar amendments proposed in the past have found bipartisan support in Congress, including from Rep. Jones. Republican elected officials across the country have been advocating at the local and state level to get big money out of politics. In fact, a recent report from Free Speech For People highlights the more than 100 Republican officials nationwide who favor an amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United.

Among voters, it’s also a bipartisan movement, with Americans of all political stripes speaking out against a democracy unduly influenced by corporations and billionaires. A 2014 poll found that in Senate battleground states, almost three in four voters favor a constitutional amendment to undo the harm of decisions like Citizens United, including majorities in “even the reddest states.” This support did not waver among Republican voters polled: amendment supporters outnumbered opponents by a 26 percent margin.

Still, Rep. Jones’ decision to become a cosponsor of the Democracy For All Amendment is an important step forward. Money in politics is an issue that affects all of us, and one that Americans of all political backgrounds feel strongly about. It’s only fitting that our federal elected officials in both parties listen to the voices of their constituents and join the movement to take our democratic process back from the grips of wealthy special interests.

PFAW

Unbelievable Nerve - Republicans Finally Discover Income Inequality

Have you noticed the Republicans’ latest central talking point -- evident in their multitude of goofy “responses” to the president’s State of the Union Address this week?

It’s this: America has a major problem with income inequality, the middle class is being squeezed and … wait for it … it’s all the fault -- somehow, although they don’t clearly say how -- of President Obama and Democrats.

Well, look who decided to show up! Republicans from Ted Cruz and Joni Ernst to Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney are all finally acknowledging the crisis-level problems America faces with economic inequality and wage stagnation, but only because they think they can somehow flip the blame onto their political opponents.

It’s their new favorite tactic. The same one that worked for them in the 2014 elections. Create a big problem and when frustration with that problem becomes widespread enough, blame it on President Obama. Leading up to 2014, the GOP on Capitol Hill was responsible for unprecedented obstruction and gridlock -- very intentionally, as their political strategy. They then used Americans dissatisfaction with Washington to achieve a “change” election, which went against the president’s party, because the president’s party is inherently the one seen as “in control.”

So, after decades of pushing deregulation of rapacious corporate interests, policies favoring no rules for Wall Street, attempts to deny workers a living wage, deny people health care coverage, deny people unemployment insurance and deny opportunity to students at every level of their education, the Right is going to try to blame progressive policies and progressive leaders for the new Gilded Age that they created?

Granted, too many Democrats over the years have pursued and allowed policies that promote rather than rein in Wall Street greed, as well some other speciously labeled “pro-business” policies. But those policies never were the product of a progressive agenda, and always had much backing among Republicans.

Now, as I noted, EVEN MITT ROMNEY is on this new message … Mitt Romney, who himself is a living symbol of opulent wealth and the stark disconnect between the top 1% and the struggles of the vast majority of Americans.

Clearly, Republicans are trying out this messaging tactic as the central theme for their 2016 campaign efforts. And, based on its ongoing proliferation, we can only assume that so far it is working.

Presented with the facts, Americans are undoubtedly smart enough to see through the GOP’s latest hypocrisy. But with the vast millions of corporate special interests and billionaire ideologues fueling their propaganda machine, and a powerful media empire led by Fox News, we cannot afford to take anything for granted.

Please do your part, in your community and among your peers, to call out Republicans’ dishonesty and challenge them to articulate real solutions to economic inequality and strengthening America’s middle class.

Ted Cruz's video response to State of the Union Address:

PFAW

#DemandDemocracy Video Blog: Why Money in Politics is a Women’s Equality Issue

This week, PFAW is pleased to kick off our #DemandDemocracy video blog series, a collection of short videos that highlight how big money in politics affects — and often stalls progress on — a range of other critical issues. The first installment features Linda Hallman, president of the American Association of University Women, who highlights how the dominance of big money in elections makes it harder to make women’s voices heard in our democracy.

Big money in politics tends to reinforce existing inequalities in society. Even though women make up more than fifty percent of our country’s population, “male donors to political candidates outnumber female donors by a ratio of 2.5 to 1.”

The #DemandDemocracy video blog features representatives from various groups explaining how money in politics affects the issues their organization works to address, as well as underscoring their support of a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. Groups featured in this series include those working in the environmental community, organized labor, economic and social justice, and faith-based organizations.

PFAW’s #DemandDemocracy video blog series is a collection of short videos that highlight how big money in politics affects — and often stalls progress on — a range of other critical issues.

Watch the rest of the videos in this series here>>

PFAW

Wall Street Giveaway in Spending Bill is Big Money Political Influence at its Worst

It’s hard to know where to begin when running down the list of harmful special interest giveaways in the omnibus spending bill narrowly passed by the House yesterday. Earlier this week, we wrote about a rider in the bill that would allow the amount of money rich donors can give to political parties to skyrocket. The legislation moving through Congress also includes a provision that would have the effect of allowing mountaintop mining companies to keep filling Appalachian streams with toxic waste. Yet another rider is a “Wall Street giveaway,” actually drafted by Citigroup’s lobbyists, that would repeal a piece of financial regulation and let banks take part in more kinds of high-risk trading deals with government backed money.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren railed against the Wall Street rider on the Senate floor:

[Americans] see a Congress that works just fine for the big guys, but it won’t lift a finger to help them. If big companies can deploy armies of lawyers and lobbyists to get the Congress to vote for special deals that benefit themselves, then we will simply confirm the view of the American people that the system is rigged.

It is, as Sen. Warren says, hard not to think that “the system is rigged” when members of Congress use a spending bill to sneak through major policy shifts that benefit wealthy political donors, Wall Street executives, and big businesses, while leaving the majority of Americans with an even weaker political voice.

This is especially true when you consider that those who voted for the rider-filled spending deal were, by and large, the members who received bigger contributions from the benefitting industries. The Washington Post compared the House spending bill votes with Center for Responsive Politics data on campaign contributions to each representative from the finance, insurance, and real estate industries. What they found is disheartening, but not surprising:

On average, members of Congress who voted yes received $322,000 from those industries. Those who voted no? $162,000.

And that doesn’t even take into account the dark money whose source is unknown to the public (but likely known by the officials who benefit from it).

It’s one more example of the influence that money can buy in our current system, where big gifts from corporate spenders pave the way for corporate political victories. When Wall Street lobbyists can literally write the laws they want, no matter the impact on ordinary Americans, it’s clear that we need serious reform to the rules governing money in politics.
 

PFAW