The results of a recent PFAW and unPAC produced art contest are in: a panel of experts (including such luminaries as Shepard Fairey, designer of the famous 2008 ‘Hope’ poster and Jesse Dylan, creator of the ‘Yes We Can’ music video) chose the piece ‘Monopolistic’ by 21-year old Tennessean Landon Wix as winner of a $3,000 prize.
Titled ‘Art > Money,’ the contest’s purpose was to find a piece of art to serve as an iconic image for the need to keep big money out of the American electoral process. Art can play an important role in such a campaign: as Shepard Fairey says, “It’s about using art to push back against the existing power structures in our society and inspiring real change.” In this instance, the American people agree: 80% oppose the infamous Citizens United decision and favor restrictions on the amount of money corporations can spend on elections.
PFAW alerted and encouraged our members to promote the winning image, and as a result of our and other’s efforts, Wix’s image was shared across the country and on the internet by thousands of activists as part of a larger effort to spread awareness about this important issue.
But it turns out there’s one group that Romney thinks should be prohibited from spending money to influence elections: teachers’ unions. Speaking at a forum in New York, Romney expressed his wish for one specific campaign finance restriction:
The bigger problem, Romney said, is that "the person sitting across the table from them should not have received the largest campaign contribution from the teachers union themselves ... [It's] an extraordinary conflict of interest and something that should be addressed."
He later added that "we simply can't have" elected officials who have received large contributions from teachers sitting across from them at the bargaining table "supposedly" to represent the interests of children."I think it's a mistake," Romney said. "I think we have to get the money out of the teachers unions going into campaigns. It's the wrong way for us to go. We've got to separate that."
Romney’s absolutely right that large campaign contributions and expenditures can improperly influence elected officials. But if he’s going to apply that standard to teachers, he needs to apply it to corporations as well.
People for the American Way is proud to announce a cluster of new Young Elected Progressives endorsee primary victories this week:
On 11 September, Bryan Townsend won the Democratic primary for the state senate seat in Delaware's 11th District; he defeated incumbent Anthony Deluca and will run against Republican Evan Queitsch on 6 November.
Meanwhile, in New York's 13 September primaries, Micah Zellner won the Democratic primary for the state assembly's 76th District and Andrew Gounardes won the Democratic primary for the state assembly's 26th District; both ran unopposed and will face Republican opponents on 6 November.
Once again, PFAW congratulates these young progressive leaders on their important success this week!
The YEP Endorsee Highlights series is dedicated to informing readers about the wide variety of progressive candidates on the YEP endorsee list. This entry in the series contains a new batch of young progressives from across the country, including a Florida state senate candidate responsible for sponsoring the DREAM ACT and a former mental health counselor in Arizona’s public school system running for a senate seat in that state.
Colorado native Dominick Moreno is running to represent his home district in the state House of Representatives. Raised in a working class family, he worked hard and earned a scholarship to Georgetown University. During college, Moreno worked to help others in his community, including tutoring children in low-income schools during college. He continued to serve others when he became the youngest city councilmember ever in Commerce City. There he earned the respect of his colleagues and was promoted to Mayor Pro Tem. Read more about Dominick here.
Dwight Bullard is running for State Senate this year after having served in Florida’s House of Representatives since 2008. He is a high school teacher by trade and has shown great leadership in his field as well as constantly fighting for education reform in the state legislature. He is the Democratic ranking member in the education committee and the preK-12 education policy committee. Bullard has been recognized often for his work receiving numerous awards; most recently, he won the Barbara Jordan Leadership Award. Bullard also sponsored the Florida DREAM Act, a bill which creates a pathway for undocumented immigrants to get in-state tuition.
Ed Ableser is running for election to the Arizona State Senate. He is currently serving as the 17th district’s Representative, but is running in the newly formed 23rd Senate district this year. He also works as a mental-health counselor for the public school system in Tempe and is the Democratic Party committeeperson. As a Representative, Ableser has fought hard against public education cuts and hopes to build a more equitable public education program.
Erin Molchany is running to represent the 22nd District in Pennsylvania’s state House. Molchany began serving her community at the Emergency Services Department of the Red Cross, parlaying this experience into position at the Coro Center for Public Leadership, where she led the Emerging Leaders in Public Affairs and Women in Leadership programs. More recently, Molchany was elected Vice President of the board of Directors for the Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation, where she served her community by promoting economic development and public safety. Read more about Erin at http://erinmolchany.com/.
The YEP Endorsee Highlights series is dedicated to informing readers about the plethora of quality progressive candidates on the YEP endorsee list. This entry in the series contains a new batch of young progressives from across the country, including the first openly gay man in the Montana Legislature and a man who will become one of the youngest politicians in the country if elected.
Brian McGrain is running for reelection to the Ingham County Board of Commissioners in Lansing, Michigan. Originally elected in 2008, Lansing won reelection in 2010 and continues to serve as the associate director of Community Economic Development Association of Michigan, a nonprofit organization committed to rebuilding neighborhoods. He serves on the Board’s Human Services and Finance Committees and is involved with several other commissions. To learn more about Brian, click here.
Bryce Bennett is running for reelection to the Montana House of Representatives. He was originally elected in 2010 and currently works for a non-profit organization called Forward Montana -- which he helped found in 2004 -- that engages young Montanans in the political process. Bennett was appointed to the Education and State Administration committees and is the first openly gay man to serve in the Montana Legislature. Click here to learn more.
Chris Clark is running for a City Council seat in Mountain View, California. Possessing a degree in political science from Stanford and previously serving on Mountain View’s Environmental Planning Commission and Community Healthy Awareness Council, at age 25 Clark will be one of the youngest politicians in the country if elected. Clark hopes to represent the 18-36 year old demographic group, a key constituency in Mountain View without representation. Click here to learn more about Chris.
Dar’shun Kendrick is running for reelection to the Georgia State House. She was first elected in 2010. Representative Kendrick is the only freshman to Co-Chair Committee, as she does for the Economic Security and Development Committee. Additionally, she serves on the Children and Youth, Interstate Cooperation and Special Rules Committees. She has recently received endorsements from Planned Parenthood and Georgia’s WIN List. Click here to learn more about Dar'shun.
Diane Russell is running for reelection to the Maine House of Representatives. She has served two terms in the 120th district. She serves on the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee and is a proven progressive champion advocating for working families and the immigrant community of Maine. She is a founding board member of the Opportunity Maine Campaign, which fights to make college more affordable. Click here to learn more about Diane.
PFAW takes an expansive approach when looking for endorsees, selecting progressive candidates running for a variety of elected positions across the country. Here is just a small sample of our endorsee list that we’d like to highlight today. These candidates have advocated for progressive causes in their respective communities and represent the future of the country; it is thus important that you and I show them our support.
Adam Goode is running for reelection to the Maine House of Representatives. Goode currently serves on the Joint Standing Committee on Insurance and Financial Services and is a member of the Worker Rights Board of Eastern Maine. He has proven to be a leader in engaging Mainers in the decision-making process as well as fighting for health care reform. Learn more about Goode here.
Adam Lawrence is running for election to the Michigan House of Representatives in the 99th District. Currently, Lawrence serves as a community organizer and recently graduated and received his master’s degree from Central Michigan University. He hopes to greatly improve public education funding and help veterans and seniors receive entitlements. Click here for more information about Lawrence.
Andrew Gillum is the National Director of People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network and is running for reelection to the Tallahassee City Commission. Since being first elected in 2003, Andrew has been a leading progressive voice, fighting for working families and small businesses, forming community partnerships, and improving youth academic, personal, and professional development. For more information on Gillum, click here.
Andrew McLean is running to represent Gorham in the Maine House of Representatives. He has worked in education at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham. McLean is a progressive champion and has been endorsed by Victory Fund and will lead on education and economic opportunity for Gorham and for Maine as a whole.
Ben Allen is the current School Board President in Santa Monica, California and is running for reelection. He is also an adjunct professor at UCLA. He was unanimously voted in as President by his fellow School Board members. He is fighting to receive more government funding from the state as well as improving race relations between the students within the Santa Monica and Malibu area schools. Click here to learn more about Allen.
In today's polarized political climate, there are a few things on which American voters overwhelmingly agree. For all our disputes, we can find common ground in this: we're completely fed up. About 80 percent of us don't think Congress is doing a good job. Only aboutone third of us view the federal government favorably. In a precipitous drop, less than half of Americans have a favorable view of the Supreme Court. Across all political lines, 75 percent of Americans say there is too much money in politics, and about the same percentage think this glut of money in politics gives the rich more power than the rest in our democracy.
Interestingly, another thing that most Americans have in common is that 80 percent of us have never heard of Citizens United v. FEC, the case in which the Supreme Court ruled that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. Our feelings of frustration with Washington are deeply connected with the widespread, and entirely founded, suspicion that our elected officials aren't representing voters, but are instead indebted to the wealthy interests that pay for their campaigns. This distrust has only deepened as politicians and the courts have handed over more and more power to those with the deepest pockets.
Citizens United is only the most famous of the recent spate of Supreme Court decisions aimed at eliminating hard-won campaign finance regulations. In fact, shortly before Citizens United, the George W. Bush-created right-wing bloc of the Supreme Court issued major rulings that had already begun to undermine decades of federal clean election laws.
And we are only partway down the slippery slope. It keeps getting worse as the Supreme Court gradually dismantles state-level clean elections laws, as it did in Arizona, and clarifies that its sweeping decision in Citizens United applies to states as well, as it did in Montana. Indeed, it won't be long before this or some future right-wing Supreme Court cuts to the chase and lifts the century-old ban on direct corporate contributions to political candidates, one of the most basic checks we have against widespread corruption.
Believe it or not, this November, we'll have the chance to vote on whether this slippery slope continues, or whether we stop it and roll it back. Each of these regressive campaign finance rulings has had a monumental impact on our democracy. It's easy to forget that they have been made by one-vote 5-4 majorities of the Supreme Court. That means we're just one Supreme Court vote away from stopping the trend in its tracks -- and even reversing it. Although Mitt Romney has flip-flopped on many issues, he's crystal clear about how he feels on this issue and exactly what kind of judge he would appoint to the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts. He has said he believes "corporations are people" and he means it. He's promised to nominate more Supreme Court justices like the ones who handed down Citizens United. And his chief judicial adviser, former judge Robert Bork, is legendary in his opposition to individual voting rights while advocating expansive corporate power. On this issue in particular, President Obama has been very clear and comes down unambiguously on the opposite side. Look no further than his Supreme Court picks so far. Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor have consistently resisted the right-wing court's radical transformation of our democracy. In fact, his nominees now represent half the votes in the High Court who are standing up for democracy against "government by and for" the highest bidder.
Some 2008 Obama voters may not be thrilled by the last four years. Some may even be considering giving Mitt Romney a chance, despite their misgivings. But no matter who your candidate is, what issues you care about or on what side you come down on them, most importantly your vote this November will likely determine the Supreme Court for a generation. If Romney has the opportunity to replace one of the more moderate Supreme Court justices, the Court's far-right majority will not remain narrow. The votes will be there to dismantle any remaining limits of money in politics for the foreseeable future. Conversely, future Obama appointments give Americans the chance to halt this downward spiral and the opportunity to reclaim our democracy.
Whatever the issues you most care about, this November's election will be a choice between two Supreme Courts. And the two alternatives could not be more different. Quite simply, this is the chance that the overwhelming majority of Americans -- who recognize that there is too much money in politics and that it is corrupting our government at every level -- finally have to vote on it.
Two days ago, President Obama sat down for a live “Ask Me Anything” session on the popular social news website Reddit. Of the ten questions President Obama was asked, one pertained to money in the politics:
What are you going to do to end the corrupting influence of money in politics during your second term?
Although not specifically asked about the amendment strategy, President Obama raised the issue in his answer:
Money has always been a factor in politics, but we are seeing something new in the no-holds barred flow of seven and eight figure checks, most undisclosed, into super-PACs; they fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens. We need to start with passing the Disclose Act that is already written and been sponsored in Congress - to at least force disclosure of who is giving to who. We should also pass legislation prohibiting the bundling of campaign contributions from lobbyists. Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn't revisit it). Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change. [Emphasis added]
President Obama already had, through spokespeople, acknowledged his support of constitutional remedies to overturn Citizens United; he had not however done so himself, until now. The very fact that the sitting U.S. President is speaking seriously about the use of constitutional remedies to overturn Citizens United shows how far the movement has come. The movement has clearly made its move to the mainstream.
To date, here is what PFAW and our allies have accomplished:
- 1,951 public officials are now in support of constitutional remedies
- 96 House Representatives; 29 Senators
- 14 amendment resolutions introduced in the 112th Congress
- Over 275 cities and towns have passed resolutions supporting an amendment
- 7 State Legislatures have passed resolutions (HI, NM, VT, MD, RI, CA, and MA)
People for the American Way extends its congratulations to three Young Elected Progressives endorsees who emerged victorious in yesterday’s primary elections.
In Arizona, Ed Ableser, who currently represents the 17th District in Arizona’s state House, won the Democratic primary for state Senate in the 26th District; he ran unopposed. Meanwhile, Stefanie Mach won the Democratic primary to represent the 10th District in the Arizona House.
In Vermont, Kesha Ram, incumbent state representative from Chittendon’s 3-4 District, won her primary contest; she ran unopposed.
The mass exodus from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) continued today, as an additional 13 members of the state legislature cut ties with the corporate bill factory. Progress Texas reports:
As we have written many times before, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a corporate bill factory for model laws. The organization arranges for corporate lobbyists and conservative legislators to hold joint secret meetings to craft cookie-cutter bills that increase the profits of private companies at the public’s expense. Following public pressure from Progress Texas and its membership, 25 legislators have dropped - including every Democrat. A majority of the Texas Legislature – 96 of 181 members – is now no longer a part of ALEC.
32 corporations from across the country have also left ALEC. A complete list can be found here.
The PFAW Foundation has been key in exposing ALEC’s efforts at influencing governmental agendas at the local, state, and federal level.
Yesterday, House Democrats held a press conference highlighting the need to clean up the election system through what they are calling the DARE initiative. (To note, this is the same initiative Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi presented and spoke about in length at PFAW’s 30th Anniversary celebration this past June.) The acronym stands for the following:
D – Disclose
A – Amend
R – Reform
E – Elect
In just a short period of time, the impact of the Supreme Court’s egregious ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which opened the floodgates to corporate and special interest spending in our elections, has been felt nationwide. In response, a growing chorus of activists and organizations are mobilizing to overturn the decision by amending (the A in DARE) the Constitution. As evidenced by the press conference, public officials are responding to this movement. Nearly 2,000 are already on record in support of amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United, including 92 Representatives in the House.
In attendance of the press conference were Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Caucus chairman Rep John B. Larson (D-CT.), U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD.), U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA.), U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), U.S. Rep. James Clyburn (),U.S. Rep Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), as well as Nick Nyhart, President and CEO of Public Campaign.
Nyhart outlined three critical steps needed to remedy this: full disclosure, small donor and citizen-led funding of elections, and the ability to limit donations from large corporate entities.
Recently Republicans and Democrats clashed on the Disclose Act, which would have required the disclosure of all major donors in the election process. Leader Pelosi expressed her concern that dark money is “suffocating the airwaves and suppressing the vote.”
Not so long ago, disclosure was a bi-partisan issue. Congressman Van Hollen made this clear, quoting Senate Minority Leader McConnell’s (R-KT) statement from 2000 endorsing such reforms: “Why would a little disclosure be better than a lot of disclosure?”
Expressing his passion about the issue, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, motioning toward the Capitol building, told reporters, “in post-production you might want to include a ‘For Sale’ sign in front of that.” Kucinich stated, “Let’s be candid, the system is for sale.” The outgoing congressman urged immediate action on removing the corrupting influence of dark money, lest we lose our republic to the influence of special interests. This government must remain in the hands of the people - or as Mr. Nyhart put it, remain “Of, by, and for the many… not the money.”
[Dylan Hewitt, Amelia Coffey, and Michael Jameson contributed to this post]
The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Hobby Lobby says your boss's religion trumps your rights. We need to change the majority on the Supreme Court. But we can't do that if Republicans take over the Senate.