As the Senate begins debating the Democracy For All Amendment that would overturn decisions like Citizens United, NPR’s Peter Overby highlighted the strong, bipartisan public support for reforming our campaign finance system in a radio segment this morning.
“When pollsters ask Americans about the political money system, overwhelming percentages basically say they hate it. So why doesn’t Congress do something?” he asked.
Overby spoke with Bob Carpenter, a Republican pollster who helped conduct a recent poll — commissioned by Public Citizen and partially underwritten by People For the American Way — on Americans’ attitudes toward a constitutional amendment like the one being debated this week. Carpenter emphasized that the data is clear: Republicans, Democrats, and independents all agree that Citizens United needs to be overturned. And while Republicans in Congress are pushing the myth that the amendment would gut free speech protections, Carpenter said that according to the poll, most Americans aren’t buying their arguments.
Overby’s segment highlights the fact that, in PFAW President Michael Keegan’s words, “Washington is the only place where campaign finance reform is a partisan issue.”
You can listen to the full segment here.
Participate in the photo petition at http://www.demanddemocracy.org/
Curtailing the corrupting influence of money in politics may be the most pivotal issue facing our country. Unfortunately, many people see campaign finance reform as an abstract, boring issue that doesn’t resonate with their immediate priorities. In fact, as we’ve seen as the Democracy for All amendment is debated in the Senate this week, the dangerous threat to our democracy posed by big money in politics is absolutely fundamental to every issue Americans care about: student loan debt, paycheck equality for women, the stagnant minimum wage, climate change and sound energy policies. By addressing the countless ways that unlimited money in our elections impedes progress, it’s not hard to show how addressing the challenge of money in politics is relevant to every American.
To show how money in politics affects all of us, progressive organizations including People For the American Way, Public Citizen and Rethink Media have launched a photo petition and messaging campaign to help activists all across the country show why they care about getting money out of our elections. The goal of the One Person One Vote #GetMoneyOut photo petition is simple: to show that democracy is about equal representation – one person one vote – without special privileges granted to a few. Special interest spending in elections has disrupted the balance of one person one vote by amplifying the voices of those who can afford to spend hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in elections.
For the photo petition take a picture of yourself holding your pointer finger in the air (to represent one person one vote) while holding a sign that says #GetMoneyOut. You can be alone, or with a group. You can be in front of a Town hall, or at home in your house. We want as many pictures as possible of people, in as many places as possible, demanding the same thing… to #GetMoneyOut. If you want to get creative and incorporate additional props/signs into their photos… go for it!
Submit your photo at DemandDemocracy.org, along with the state you’re submitting it from. By uploading these photos to one central location, we can generate a trove of images showing activists speaking out on this issue.
We’ll also use your photo to tweet members of Congress dozens, hundreds or thousands of pictures of their constituents demanding that they #GetMoneyOut – and standing up for the core democratic principle of One Person One Vote. Your picture can help remind our elected leaders that money in politics is ultimately about people.
On Monday afternoon People For the American Way joined partner organizations, Senators, and Representatives in a rally outside the U.S. Capitol in support of the Democracy For All Amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United and get big money out of politics. As the Senate begins debating the measure, PFAW and ally organizations teamed up to deliver more than three million petitions in support of an amendment.
The rally was kicked off by People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker (pictured speaking above) and Public Citizen President Robert Weissman. Speakers included Sen. Tom Udall (N.M.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Sen. Al Franken (Minn.), Rep. Ted Deutch (Fla.), and Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.) Rally footage was featured on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell and in the Huffington Post.
Sen. Tom Udall (N.M.)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.)
Sen. Al Franken (Minn.)
Rep. Ted Deutch (Fla.)
Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.)
At the rally, PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker said, “Today, more money than ever is flooding our democracy. But something else is also happening: everyday Americans are fighting back. Americans are no longer willing to settle for elections auctioned to the highest bidders.” You can watch her speech here.
The massive number of petitions delivered is just one of many indicators of the broad support for an amendment to get big money out of politics. Sixteen states, more than 550 cities and towns, and public figures including former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and President Barack Obama have already voiced support for an amendment. Recent polling found that nearly three in four voters (73 percent) favor it.
Organizations contributing petitions included People For the American Way, MoveOn.org, CREDO, Daily Kos, Public Citizen, Public Change Campaign Committee, USAction, Common Cause, Democrats.com, Free Speech For People, Coffee Party, Center for Media and Democracy, Brave New Films, Progressive Democrats of America, Sierra Club, US PIRG, Communications Workers of America, Wolf PAC, Move to Amend, Food and Water Watch, Corporate Accountability International, Greenpeace, Public Campaign, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the League of Conservation Voters, and the Story of Stuff Project.
Get more information on PFAW’s Government By the People work here.
In observing the steep partisan divide on the Democracy for All amendment – with all 55 Democrats in the Senate supporting and not a single Republican – one might conclude that campaign finance reform is a completely partisan issue. Historically speaking, however, this is far from the case. The current amendment, which is in the process of being debated on the Senate floor, closely resembles other proposals that have been introduced and had bipartisan support in nearly every Congress since 1983, when Republican Sen. Ted Stevens (Alaska) introduced similar legislation. Up until recently, these proposals have had support from numerous Republicans in Congress, including Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Thad Cochran (Miss.), in addition to many Democrats. Polling shows that Americans of all political persuasions are outraged by the amount of money flooding our political system and support remedies including a constitutional amendment to fix the problem.
Money in politics is not a partisan issue; it has an impact on the lives of all Americans, regardless of party affiliation. The ability of outside interests to influence political debate has fueled an explosion of spending in both primaries and general elections, creating a toxic situation where candidates are forced to cater their views to the whims of donors with the biggest bank accounts, regardless of whether those individuals are even their constituents or not. By allowing for limits on the amount of outside money spent in elections, political leaders can spend less time worrying about how they will raise enough cash to win their reelection campaigns and more time addressing the concerns of their constituents.
An overwhelming majority of Americans are in favor of limiting the influence of big money in politics, often by margins of three or four to one. The fact that the Democracy for All amendment currently has no Republican support in Congress is not representative of Republican viewpoints outside of Washington. As made clear in a recent report put out by Free Speech for People numerous Republicans currently serving in office on the state and local level are on record in supporting campaign finance reform – to combat the corrosive political environment created by Supreme Court case decisions such as Citizens United. These destructive decisions handed down by the high court threaten the foundation of our democracy, and misrepresent the will of the people. For the time being the Democracy for All amendment may appear partisan, but if politicians listen to the people, campaign finance reform will become bipartisan once again.
Have you heard that Senate Democrats are working this week to repeal free speech?
I did, yesterday morning, from Mitch McConnell.
Have you heard that Democrats are going to go out and "muzzle" pastors who criticize them in the pulpit?
We did, from Ted Cruz.
Did you hear that Democrats are going to shut down conservative activists and then "brainwash the next generation into believing that this is how it should be"?
We did, last month, from the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins.
A good rule of thumb in politics is that the scarier someone sounds, the more you should doubt what they're saying. Another good rule in politics is not to trust what Mitch McConnell says about money in politics.
Because, yes, that's what we're talking about here. Not a secret new Orwellian regime. Not a new anti-pastor task force. What we're talking about is simply limiting the amount of money that corporations and wealthy individuals can spend to influence our elections.
This week, the Senate is debating a constitutional amendment that would overturn recent Supreme Court decisions that have paved the way for an explosion of big money in politics. In those decisions, including Citizens United and this year's McCutcheon, the Supreme Court radically redefined the First Amendment to allow corporations and the wealthy to drown out the speech of everyday Americans with nearly unlimited political spending. The Democracy for All amendment would restore to Congress and the states the power to impose reasonable restrictions on money in politics, just as they had before the Supreme Court started to dismantle campaign finance laws.
So, what are Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz so scared of?
In fact, it wasn't that long ago that Mitch McConnell supported the very laws that he is now dead-set on blocking. Back in 1987, McConnell said he would support a constitutional amendment to allow Congress to regulate independent expenditures in elections -- just as the Democracy for All amendment would. And then he introduced that very constitutional amendment. Either McConnell has dramatically changed his mind regarding what constitutes a threat to the First Amendment, or he's motivated by something more cynical.
So, if Mitch McConnell doesn't actually think that limiting the amount of money that wealthy interests can spend on elections is a violation of the First Amendment, what is he up to? Could it be that he now finds it more useful to court the dollars of major donors than the votes of his constituents?
Washington is the only place where campaign finance reform is a partisan issue. A poll this summer found that 73 percent of voters support a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. Americans know that our First Amendment is about protecting the speech of citizens, not the interests of wealthy campaign donors.
Faced with a large, bipartisan grassroots movement that threatens their big-spending friends, the only arguments that Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz have left are wild accusations, flat-out falsehoods, and outlandish interpretations of the Bill of Rights.
This morning, former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson (Wyo.) and Democratic Sen. Tom Udall (N.M.) published a powerful joint op-ed in The Hill in support of the Democracy For All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment that would overturn decisions like Citizens United and help get big money out of politics.
The authors write that the Supreme Court’s line of decisions overturning common-sense campaign finance laws says to Americans: “the wealthy get to shout, but the rest of you may only whisper.” They debunk the myth that the amendment would repeal First Amendment free speech protections and make clear that it would actually do “the exact opposite”:
The constitutional amendment would make it clear that campaign finance regulations are up to the voters who elect Congress and state legislatures. It would not dictate any specific policies or regulations, but instead it would protect sensible and workable campaign finance laws from constitutional challenges.
Critics have claimed that the amendment would repeal the First Amendment’s free speech protections. But it does the exact opposite – the proposal is an effort to restore the First Amendment so that it applies equally to all Americans. When a few billionaires supporting both political parties can drown out the voices of millions of Americans, we can’t have any real political debate.
Sen. Udall and former Sen. Simpson note that the money in politics situation has gotten far worse over the course of their times in office:
Over the course of our Senate careers, spending on campaigns has gotten out of control. According to a joint study by Brookings and the American Enterprise Institute, outside groups spent $457 million to influence Senate and House races in 2012. In the 1978 election, when Senator Simpson was first elected, outside groups spent only $303,000. There is a deeply troubling trend here, and we simply cannot let it continue.
That former Sen. Simpson has joined the chorus of voices calling for change underscores the broad, bipartisan support for an amendment. A recent poll found that Republican voters support an amendment by a 26-point margin, and 137 Republican officials have called for an amendment to overturn Citizens United.
You can read the full op-ed here.
People For The American Way hosted a telebriefing Thursday evening to update PFAW members on the electoral landscape for 2014. The call, which was kicked off by PFAW President Michael Keegan and moderated by Director of Communications Drew Courtney, featured prominent pollster and political strategist and current President of Lake Research Partners Celinda Lake, as well as PFAW’s Political Director Randy Borntrager and Executive Vice President Marge Baker.
Lake discussed the political climate in Congress and the general frustration voters feel toward both political parties. She emphasized multiple times throughout the call that in this election “the key is voter turnout.” In Kentucky, for instance since most undecided voters are leaning towards Alison Lundergan Grimes, turnout will be critical to help unseat Sen. Mitch McConnell.
Political Director Randy Borntrager discussed the work PFAW is doing to make the biggest impact possible in the most pivotal races to help progressives win this election. Lake and Borntrager emphasized that increasing awareness to voters of what is truly at stake – from reproductive rights to potential Supreme Court vacancies – will help make a difference come November.
Questions from callers also focused on other critical races including gubernatorial races in Florida and Wisconsin, the Senate race in North Carolina, and contests in Alaska and Iowa, among others.
In closing, Drew Courtney noted that the telebriefing shows that “we have some challenges ahead, but we are going to fight hard and push forward, and we’re not going to go back to the way things were before.”
Listen to the full audio of the telebriefing for more information.
Polling evidence has consistently shown that a strong majority of American voters are opposed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for freewheeling spending by corporations to influence elections. Increasingly wary of the shadow big businesses and billionaires can cast on the democratic process, voters also understand the need to curtail the influence of wealthy special interests the Democracy for All Amendment (S.J. Res. 19). Previous polling has shown that nearly three-quarters of voters support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and reduce the influence of big money in elections.
But a new, bipartisan poll of likely November 2014 voters released this week found that not only are Americans fed up with the saturation of money in politics, they are also skeptical of the arguments of those trying to stand in the way of progress by opposing a constitutional amendment. Only 25 percent of voters agree with opponents’ assertions that an amendment would be an assault on our free speech rights. Conversely, more than six out of ten voters agree that an amendment would help restore equal representation to our democratic process and ensure that our government is truly of, by, and for the people. Tellingly, while support of an amendment to overturn Citizens United is divided along largely partisan lines in Congress, public outrage over the amount of money shaping campaigns reaches both sides of the aisles.
“The poll affirms that our message resonates far more strongly than the message of those who oppose the amendment, and that voters do not accept misleading talking points,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president of program and policy at People For the American Way, during announcements of the new polling data. “The American people get that to have real political debate we need to return to core First Amendment values in support of a democracy where all points of view can be considered and all voices heard. The momentum against Citizens United is tremendous and will only keep growing The public is ready for that fight.”
In addition to widespread public support, the Democracy for All Amendment currently has 50 supporters in the Senate, where it is headed for a vote on Monday, September 8.
This morning, six civil liberties experts released a letter emphasizing that reasonable regulations on money in elections do not violate the free speech rights guaranteed in the First Amendment. The authors — academics, philanthropists, and lawyers, all of whom are former leaders of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — make clear that the protection of civil liberties is entirely compatible with commonsense limits on money in elections.
The letter was released following a barrage of misleading arguments pushed by Sen. Ted Cruz and others about the Democracy for All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United that will be voted on in the Senate on Monday. Though opponents have tried to position themselves as defenders of free speech, with Sen. Cruz going so far as to claim that the amendment would repeal the First Amendment and “muzzle” Americans, this letter emphasizes that it is, in fact, the Court’s twisted interpretation of the First Amendment that threatens to leave Americans without a voice:
Rather than interpreting the First Amendment as assuring everyone a reasonable opportunity to be heard, the Court (and the National ACLU) has turned the First Amendment on its head by guaranteeing the wealthy an expensive set of stereo speakers, and leaving the average citizen with a bad case of laryngitis. Most Americans would find it preposterous to allot more time in a debate to the speaker with the most money. Yet, that is precisely how our campaign finance system functions today.
The authors, many of whom signed a similar letter in 1998, note that our country’s money in politics problem has only gotten worse since then. In the wake of decisions like Citizens United and McCutcheon, they write, “American democracy is almost irretrievably broken.” While they do not weigh in on the Democracy for All Amendment specifically, the civil liberties experts close the letter with a call to restore the promise of the First Amendment by overturning these damaging decisions:
We believe that overturning many of the Court’s narrow 5-4 campaign finance precedents and implementing generous, content neutral political spending limits is the best way to fulfill the promise of James Madison’s First Amendment as democracy’s best friend.
You can read the full text of the letter here.
Gov. Scott Walker released an ad Thursday morning promising that he “won’t stop until everyone who wants a job, can find a job.”
This sounds strangely familiar to the empty promise of his 2010 campaign. Back then, Walker repeatedly promised that he would create 250,000 private-sector jobs during his four-year term beginning in January 2011. He even emphasized that this number was “a minimum, not a maximum.”
It’s 2014, and that goal has not been met.
In fact, during his re-election tours, Walker avoided talking about his failure to create the 250,000 jobs altogether.
Protests outside a Scott Walker fundraiser on Friday prove that Wisconsinites are not falling for his empty promises. It’s time for Walker to be held accountable for his shady practices and to be voted out of office this November.
On Wednesday, PFAW activists in Kentucky joined other activists representing ally organizations in delivering petition signatures to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s state office calling for amending the Constitution to overturn cases like Citizens United and get big money out of politics. Nationally, more than three million Americans have signed such a petition.
The delivery comes days before the Senate is set to vote on the Democracy for All Amendment (S.J. Res 19), a joint resolution that would amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and related cases. An overwhelming majority of Americans oppose the Supreme Court’s rulings opening the floodgates to unlimited money in our elections, with sixteen states and over 550 cities formally demanding that Congress vote to pass a constitutional amendment to allow common sense campaign finance rules to be enacted.
The event in Louisville is part of a nationwide push to make the Democracy for All Amendment our Constitution’s 28th Amendment. Rallies and petition deliveries also occurred in the state offices of nine other senators throughout the country.
On Friday morning, PFAW members gathered outside the Nakoma Golf Club in Madison, WI to protest a fundraiser held by Scott Walker. Activists held signs calling on voters to “Ship Walker Overseas, Not Jobs,” and letting Walker know that “Time is Up” and Wisconsinites have had enough.
Recent media reports have exposed how Walker’s alleged efforts to garner support for his extreme political agenda violate Wisconsinites’ basic principles of fairness and honesty in the political system. The protest highlighted how Wisconsinites are sick of Walker’s shady practices while campaigning and while in office.
One sign read “Dear Governor Walker: You took my job. You took my rights. You took my money. You took my smile. Now I’m taking them back!!!”
The Progressive’s Rebecca Kemble who was at the protest wrote that with “wit and creativity” PFAW members and other activists wanted to “let Walker and his supporters know what they think of the outsized influence of money in politics and of the inhumane and unjust policies that this influence buys.”
Friday’s protest shows Wisconsinites are paying attention and don’t want Walker’s corrupt practices to continue polluting their government.
In a discussion at the National Book Festival this weekend about her recent book, The Bully Pulpit, presidential scholar and author Doris Kearns Goodwin used the opportunity to highlight the danger of big money in our democracy and the importance of resisting the despair it can create:
“Without citizens taking on an active role in our country, we despair over what’s happening in Washington…We despair over money-in-politics, which I do think is the poison in the system. If I were younger, that’s what I’d be doing – leading a constitutional amendment to get money out of the system. It’s all up to us – we can’t wait for somebody else to do it.”
Her comments come just days before the September 8 Senate vote on the Democracy for All Amendment (SJ Res 19), a proposal that enjoys broad public support and aims to reclaim our democracy from the outsized influence of big money.
This Friday, PFAW members joined allies at two events in Louisville to hold Sen. Mitch McConnell accountable for his support of big money in politics.
On Friday evening, hundreds of PFAW members and other local activists joined the world’s largest annual Zombie Walk dressed as #ZombieMitch to highlight his zombie-like support of big money in politics. Activists marched with McConnell masks and signs including “Mitch McConnell is a zombie for big money in our elections” and “Need… more…
brains money!” Some of the zombies attending the main event told PFAW members that the McConnell zombies were the “scariest thing I’ve seen all night.”
Earlier that day, members and allies met in front of the local GOP headquarters for a rally organized by MoveOn.org. Activists gathered in response to the tapes leaked last week that caught McConnell speaking at a secret meeting hosted by the Koch brothers. Check out the recordings here.
Sen. McConnell is a leading voice against efforts to get big money out of politics, fighting against a proposed constitutional amendment that would overturn decisions like Citizens United, despite the fact that three in four voters support the measure. For years he has been fighting hard to protect billionaires’ and millionaires’ influence in our elections. The turnout of supporters at both of these events shows that the people of Kentucky are tired of Sen. McConnell’s love of big money in politics.
Early this morning, The Nation published a leaked recording of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's remarks at a secret meeting of major conservative donors put together by the Koch brothers.
While the first reactions to the recording may highlight what this means for McConnell's Senate race against Alison Lundergan Grimes, the story carries deeper implications as well. At its core, this is a story about why we need to reform the way we finance elections.
In the audio recording, Sen. McConnell says everything that the Koch brothers want to hear. At the beginning of his remarks, he gushes to the brothers: "I don't know where we'd be without you." He rails against Senate votes on raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits, and tackling student debt. It's no coincidence that he has received heaps of cash from wealthy special interests that oppose action on those issues. (Reporting today from The Huffington Post shows that at the same Koch retreat, Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and state Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa -- both Republican nominees for U.S. Senate -- "directly credited donors present...for propelling them forward.")
This is increasingly what our political system looks like. Those who can bankroll candidates can help set the political agenda -- even if that agenda looks nothing like what the majority of Americans want it to look like. Research has shown that the wealthy have fundamentally different political priorities than those of everyday Americans, but when the preferences of ordinary Americans conflict with those of billionaire donors like the Koch brothers, it's the rich whose preferences carry the day.
And no one is a more vocal supporter of our broken campaign finance system than Mitch McConnell himself. In the secret tapes, Sen. McConnell says that the Citizens United decision (which paved the way for unlimited corporate political spending) simply "level[ed] the playing field for corporate speech," even calling the proposed constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United "an act of true radicalism" from people who want to "use the power of the government to quiet the voices of their critics."
But Americans know that it's not billionaires or corporations who need the playing field to be leveled. Their priorities are coming through loud and clear in our democracy, thanks to politicians like Sen. McConnell who are fighting to ensure that those with the most to spend can continue to buy our elections. It's ordinary Americans, who increasingly cannot be heard over the roar of big money, whose voices need to be protected. And that "radical" push for a constitutional amendment, which will be voted on in the Senate on September 8, is actually supported by nearly three in four voters.
Maybe if Mitch McConnell weren't so busy pandering to billionaire donors, he'd be able to see the tremendous grassroots call to reform our money in politics system, with 16 states and more than 550 cities and towns already on record in support of an amendment. Then again, with true money in politics reform, maybe our senators wouldn't need to pander to billionaires at all.
Today People For the American Way Director of Outreach and Public Engagement Diallo Brooks was featured in a powerful BET segment on the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.
In the interview, Brooks situates Brown’s death within the larger context of police harassment of and violence toward African American men. “We’ve learned that history continues to repeat itself — that we haven’t healed the old wounds that exist in this country,” Brooks says.
Brooks also underscores the importance of voter engagement in local elections for addressing these issues: “We need to really step up and demand our law enforcement to look like us and to represent us, to be a part of us — to be a part of the fabric of the community.”
Watch the full interview below: