Last month, Texans United to Amend set up an exhibition table at the Texas State Republican Convention in Ft. Worth (thanks to Mike Badzioch). On one of the days, I helped out. We were all glad to hear that Republican delegates shared the same concerns we had about the influence of too much money in politics. It’s hard to say what percentage of all the delegates agreed with us, but of the delegates who stopped at our table to talk, 95% of them agreed with us on the 2 issues that we discussed with them.
Besides the issue of too much money influencing our political process, the other issue we discussed with them was our belief that corporations are not people and should not have the same constitutional rights as individuals. From what I could tell, none of them had heard of a constitutional amendment to solve these 2 issues. However, those in agreement with us, did not seem adverse to a constitutional amendment.
None of this should be too surprising. Republicans and Republican leaders, past and present, have spoken out against money in politics, the Citizens United decision, and corporate personhood. Here is a sampling: Continue reading
Posted in campaign finance reform, Citizens United, Corruption, Money in Politics
Tagged anonymous attack ads, campaign finance reform, Citizens United, corporate personhood, corporations are not people, money in politics, Newt Gingrich, Senator Barry Goldwater, Senator John McCain, Senator Warren Rudman, Super PAC, Texans United to Amend, Theodore Roosevelt, Trevor Potter
According to Lawrence Lessig of Rootstrikers, the biggest obstacle that we face in fighting big money’s influence in our political system and government is not organized opposition from the other side. It is the pervasive feeling that we are powerless to change this. People think that there isn’t anything they can do to make a difference. If we think like this, nothing will ever change. There were many in the beginning who thought that the civil rights and gay rights movements in the U.S. and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa would fail. Every successful movement that has ever taken place in the world started out with many people feeling powerless to change things.
Sometimes it is a matter of not knowing what to do to effect change. In this post and the next, there will be 8 initiatives discussed in which action can be taken to reduce the influence of big money on our political system and government. National groups are leading some of these efforts. These initiatives include amending the U.S. Constitution, reforming campaign finance, placing limits on lobbying, disclosing corporate political spending, and enforcing existing campaign finance laws.
1. The American Anti-Corruption Act
One initiative is being led by Represent.us to place limits on lobbying, political donations, and PACs. The details of this initiative are encompassed in the American Anti-Corruption Act. The Act is a citizen-sponsored bill that will be introduced in Congress once one million Americans have signed up to co-sponsor the bill. Click here to read and co-sponsor the Act. Continue reading
Posted in Money in Politics
Tagged amend the U.S. Constitution, American Anti-Corruption Act, campaign finance reform, Citizens United, Fair Elections Now Act, Government for the People Act, grassroots contributions, initiatives to fight big money in politics, Lawrence Lessig, New Hampshire Rebellion, public financing of elections, Rep. John Sarbanes, Rootstrikers
After the Supreme Court overturned several of the major campaign finance reforms that had been put into place by the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and its amendments (see Part 1), another attempt was made to reform campaign finance in 2002. This time Senator John McCain and Senator Russ Feingold worked together to amend FECA once again with the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), also known as McCain-Feingold. The two main issues that were addressed were the contributions of soft money to political parties and the proliferation of political ads that were disguised as issue advocacy ads. Continue reading
Posted in BCRA, Citizens United, FECA
Tagged campaign finance history, campaign finance reform, Davis v. FEC, electioneering communications, FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, issue ads, McCain-Feingold, McConnell v. FEC, McCutcheon v. FEC, millionaires amendment, soft money, SpeechNow.org v. FEC
John McCain with Naval Academy midshipmen
Republican Senator John McCain recently called the Citizens United decision the “worst decision ever.” This isn’t the first time that he has spoken out against the decision. In a PBS interview in June of this year, McCain called it “the most misguided, naive, uninformed, egregious decision of the United States Supreme Court in the 21st century.” He continued, “To somehow view money as not having an effect on elections, a corrupting effect on elections, flies in the face of reality.”
In reference to the five Supreme Court justices who voted in favor of the decision, McCain added, “I just wish one of them had run for county sheriff.” He said that “we need a level playing field and we need to go back to the realization that Teddy Roosevelt had: that we have to have a limit on the flow of money and that corporations are not people.” McCain is predicting huge scandals in future elections due to the influence of unlimited money in the political process. Continue reading
Posted in Citizens United, Senator John Cornyn, Supreme Court
Tagged campaign finance reform, Charles Keating, corporations are not people, deregulation of S&L industry, Keating Five, Lincoln Savings and Loan, McCain-Feingold, political scandal, savings and loan crisis
Jamie Raskin, a constitutional law professor, recently wrote a very interesting article on the Citizens United decision. The irony of the Citizens United case is that the plaintiffs only wanted a ruling stating that the electioneering provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law didn’t apply to them. “But the conservatives sent the parties back to brief and argue the paradigm-shifting constitutional question they were so keen to decide. As dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens observed, the justices in the majority ‘changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.'”
Raskin states that the influx of money spent by super PACs and dark money 501(c)4 groups in the 2010 election changed the focus of that year’s election from the continuing effects of the subprime mortgage crisis, the BP oil spill, and the Massey Energy coal mine disaster to the urgent importance of deregulating corporations (and, of course, repealing Obamacare). He discusses how, after 200 years of precedent, the Supreme Court changed its views of corporations from an “artificial entity” and “mere creation of the law” to one of personhood.
image courtesy of reuters
Raskin describes how corporations are now actually more protected than individuals and small businesses. Defenders say that “corporations should be free to keep their political spending secret because they may face intimidation and even — God forbid — boycotts from consumers who dislike their politics.” Small businesses are at a disadvantage since they don’t have the kind of money to spend that large corporations do in order to have their voices heard.
In another ruling against democratic principles, the Supreme Court overturned a provision of Arizona’s law on public campaign financing, a law that was passed by referendum by its citizens. “The Court ruled that privately financed candidates backed by wealthy interests not only have a right to spend to the heavens to win office but also a right, in states with public financing laws, to lock in their massive financial advantage over publicly financed candidates, whose campaign speech may not be even modestly amplified by public funding when they get outspent. The First Amendment becomes not the guardian of democratic discussion but the guarantee of unequal protection for well-born and wealth-backed politicians. Today corporations can saturate the airwaves and billionaires can spend to their hearts’ content, but government cannot create even a modest megaphone to help poorer candidates be heard.”
Here are excerpts from the article: