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LOD: Mr. Jones v. Citizens United

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr., Republican member of Congress from eastern North Carolina, is again stepping up to sponsor legislation to reign in the power of big money in politics. In 2010, he co-sponsored the Fair Elections Now Act, which would provide a much-needed alternative path for candidates to finance their campaigns. Yesterday, he’s joined Kentucky Democrat US Rep. John Yarmuth in introducing a Constitutional amendment to overcome the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The amendment would say that political spending is not protected by the First Amendment and may be regulated to protect the common good. “Corporate money equals influence, not free speech,” says Yarmuth. The amendment would also establish a system for public financing and make Election Day a federal holiday. If you’re having trouble keeping track of all the proposed amendments to elevate your voting rights over a corporation’s right to buy an election, here’s a handy guide from United Republic: “Idiot’s Guide to the Amendments.”


LOD: Sizing Up Small Gifts

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

The recent Supreme Court decision knocking down rescue funds is pushing advocates of public campaign financing to look at alternative models that meet many of the goals of the Voter-Owned or Clean Elections approach. In a new report, the Campaign Finance Institute has applied its favorite model to state legislative elections in six Midwestern states. Its model matches on a five-to-one basis the first $50 an individual donor gives a qualified candidate; i.e., a $50 donation earns the candidate $250 in public funds. (The model follows a six-to-one matching program that has worked well in New York City and a variation is used in the federal Fair Elections Now Act.) The new CFI report points out that small donors typically account for only 3% to 12% of the money raised in state legislative campaigns. That share would rocket up thanks to the public funds triggered by small donations – and it would make small donors more important to candidates thanks to the matching funds. Rather than restrict opposition or outside spending, which the Roberts’ Court abhors, the model focuses on providing incentives that empower small donors and increase their influence in campaigns.


LOD: Supremes Veto Rescue Funds

Monday, June 27th, 2011

The US Supreme Court issued its expected 5-to-4 rejection of the matching or rescue funds provision in Arizona’s public campaign financing program. Some worried that the activist justices would overreach (as they did in the Citizens United decision) and find some means to outlaw public financing altogether. That didn’t happen; maybe the public’s outrage over the CU decision had an effect. In his opinion for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts proclaimed that public financing programs are indeed constitutional and their “wisdom” is “none of our business,” i.e., not a question for the courts to settle. The dissenting opinion on matching funds, written by Justice Kagan, is especially worth reading – beginning on page 37 of the ruling. Here’s one link to the ruling, highlights of Kagan’s dissent and a number of statements about the impact of the case. Other models of public financing, particularly the multiple match for small-dollar donations (as used in New York City and the proposed Fair Elections Now Act), will likely get a boost from the decision. Statements from the NC Center for Voter Education and Justice at Stake suggest that rescue funds in programs for judicial elections may be viewed differently by the Supreme Court, but even if not, a public financing option can and should be offered to protect us from the consequences of justice for sale.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Former Sen. Alan Simpson, a conservative Republican from Wyoming, uses a supply-and-demand market analysis to dissect why governance in Washington is broken. It’s broken because the campaign finance system is a private monopoly controlled by wealthy special interests. Everything favors their private agenda, not the public interest, and as a result the nation is going broke. Simpson says there’s no substitute for providing a new, publicly accountable source of campaign money to undercut the supply-side monopoly of special interests.  If you want better government, change the campaign financing system.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

The federal Fair Elections Now Act was introduced in Congress on Wednesday, followed by a press conference featuring actor Alec Baldwin calling for an alternative to politics dominated by special-interest fundraising. The bill provides a path for ordinary community leaders to become viable candidates and national policy makers, thanks to a program that matches small donations from local voters with the release of public funds to the candidate’s campaign. You can read a summary of the bill, and become a Citizen Co-Sponsor, and also learn other ways to spread the word about this important approach for transforming politics. Imagine the debate about the federal budget, or the Clean Air Act, or tax reform, or a federal jobs program, or regulating Wall Street – if big money from special interests didn’t distort the vision of our lawmakers.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday, March 25th, 2011

The US Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday about the constitutionality of the matching (or rescue) funds provision in Arizona’s public financing program. We have a similar provision in our North Carolina programs, so the ultimate decision (expected in late summer) will affect us, too.  The Brennan Center has an overview of the issues in the McComish v. Bennett case, plus links to various resources; and Justice at Stake calls attention to the decision’s impact on judicial public financing programs, like the one we have in North Carolina. Even if the Supremes rule against a government program providing rescue funds to qualified candidates, that does not mean the end of public financing. The New York City system and the federal Fair Elections Now Act are models of programs that provide adequate resources for a candidate without relying on that provision.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Republicans in the US House, with support from Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) and few other Democrats, gleefully stabbed the presidential public financing system in the heart, draining its funds for other purposes. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) was the only Republican in the US House to agree that the program is broken but insist that it should be repaired rather than gutted. Today, I followed a truck up a hill with a bumper sticker that read: “WWRD: What Would Reagan Do?” Coincidently, Rep. David Price of NC gave the answer during last week’s debate on the floor of Congress. Price pointed out that Ronald Reagan, the upstart from the West, enrolled in the public financing program during the 1976 primary and it helped him leverage his popular support into a larger platform for a campaign that kept growing; without it, he would languished. No matter. Republicans now want to kill a bipartisan reform program that stands in the way of privatizing another slice of the election process. It’s unlikely the US Senate will go along. Meanwhile, reformers are preparing to introduce legislation to fix the presidential program as well as a new version of the Fair Elections Now Act, even if those bills also fail this term, like the House’s action.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Our friend Gene Nichol at UNC Law School has an op-ed column in today’s News & Observer that not only says democracy is under attack by the money-is-speech ideologues on the US Supreme Court; his words (contrary to his everyday deeds) could even lead you to think it’s time to declare total defeat. Indeed, there is a war going on and it can be framed in many ways. In his opposition to the binge tax giveaways for the super-rich, US Senator Bernie Sanders eloquently describes the assault by mega-millionaires on the working and middle class, common-sense regulations, democracy, and the future of America. His must-see speech parallels Nichol’s description of the Supreme Court majority’s determination to “constitutionalize economic privilege.” But “the war” is not over and this is no time to call it quits. Nichol is right, for example, to say the Supremes will likely gut the rescue funds provision in North Carolina’s public campaign financing programs; that provision helps a publicly financed candidate with an extra boost of matching public funds if the opposition’s spending exceeds a certain amount. But even without that provision, public campaign financing can survive in a new form that still provides qualifying candidates with the funds needed to wage a competitive campaign. Existing programs in New York City and elsewhere and the federal Fair Elections Now Act do this by offering extra funds that match the small donations raised by qualifying candidates rather than the money spent by the opposition. So voter-owned public financing is not dead, and neither is the larger effort, now centuries old, to make real the promise of democracy for a progressive society. It’s okay to feel frustrated and beleaguered, and also good to be armed with analysis and vision, because the battles ahead are many.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

The New York Times blows a hole in the myth that the US Chamber of Commerce represents hundreds of thousands of Main Street businesses across America; in fact, only a handful of big corporations are bankrolling the lobby group and its gigantic electioneering operation. NYT researchers pierced the secrecy around the Chamber’s donors, at least enough to discover that a mere 45 corporations (Dow Chemical, Prudential, Chevron, Goldman Sachs, etc.) provided about half of the Chamber’s $140 million income in 2008. Campaign Money Watch blasted the underlying fraud of the Chamber’s portrayal of itself as a friend of economic prosperity by exposing the number of jobs exported under Chamber-supported federal policies and by calling for passage of the Fair Elections Now Act to challenge the Chamber’s political clout.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

A new poll in swing Congressional districts finds that voters heavily favor the Fair Elections Now Act – the bill to provide Congressional candidates with a practical campaign-financing alternative that orients them to small donors and constituents rather than Washington lobbyists and PACs. How the question is asked in a poll always influences the answer, and you can read the question and response details in Celinda Lake’s release. You can also view a parody of our “cash-ocracy” in a new cartoon video by Mark Fiore.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

In Congress today, a House committee passed the Fair Elections Now Act, an historic achievement for the public campaign movement; however, it is unclear if the bill will be taken up on the floor before the House recesses in a few weeks for election campaigning. Meanwhile, by a vote of 59-39, Senate Democrats failed to gain a single Republican supporter for ending a filibuster against the DISCLOSE Act. The Act would require more information about many of the shadowy groups now spending millions on the election. Because 60 votes were needed for closure, the measure will not be taken up – even though 59% of the 100 Senators favor it.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday, September 17th, 2010

The Fair Elections Now Act (which would provide Congressional candidates with a public campaign financing option) is slated for its first historic vote next week. The Committee on House Administration will “mark up” the bill on September 23 and hopefully vote to move it forward on its journey through Congress. The New York Times, many other newspapers, 160+ members of Congress, and a host of organizations have endorsed the measure, which would be financed with proceeds from auctioning parts of the unused broadband spectrum, not from taxes. The bill’s advance is “a clear sign that members of Congress realize that the American people are fed up with the status quo in Washington. Voters want a Congress that is accountable to them, not corporate and special interests,” says Public Campaign. A new ad illustrating that sentiment from tea party activists to progressive liberals begins airing this week. The reform coalition promoting the bill (now HR 6116, rather than HR 1826) includes Democracy North Carolina and many NC groups.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Check out this Facebook feature about North Carolina’s US Rep. Heath Shuler. He wants to hear something from you.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Want to get a picture of how big money in politics is crushing real people? Watch this short video from Brave New Foundation about a farmer in Iowa, oyster harvester in Louisiana and coal miner in West Virginia. (Explore the Fair Elections website for more Good Stuff.) The message is clear: people suffer when wealthy special interests block common-sense policies and use politicians to get richer at our expense. The public purpose of government is now so distorted that even reducing the Bush tax cuts for multi-millionaires is considered too difficult, too risky. Meanwhile, the notion that this is the “year of the woman” in Congressional races is being busted by men with greater fundraising clout and connections with the rich. Ready to change the abusive role of private money in elections?


It Won’t Happen Without Us!

Friday, August 6th, 2010

We need action in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate during the Congressional recess!

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently told a group of fair elections supporters that it’s “we-the-people” who have to MAKE Congress do the right thing. So that’s our charge and it will not happen without YOU taking action. And now’s a great time to do it: Monday marks the beginning of the long summer recess for U.S. Congress. It’s the perfect time to contact them at their home office about fair elections and other issues dear to you.

If your North Carolina Congressperson has signed on as a co-sponsor for the Fair Elections Now Act (HR-1826, S-752) to provide optional public campaign financing for congressional candidates, please thank him (Jones, Miller, Price, Kissell, Watt, Butterfield have all signed on). If your Congressperson is not listed, please call their office and ask them to co-sponsor the Fair Elections Now Act. Ask them if they are concerned about political money and what they plan to do about it. Insist on a response. Phone numbers and email addresses for the entire NC House of Representatives delegation are included at the bottom of this message.

It is also time to start working the Senate side. Follow this link to ask Senator Hagan and Senator Burr to co-sponsor S-752. It will only take a minute, but it makes a difference. We’ve made it easy for you by providing talking points you can edit.

NC’s House of Representatives delegation; click on the name for an email link:

Rep G. K. Butterfield, Jr. (D – 01) (252) 237-9816
Rep Bob Etheridge (D – 02) (919) 829-9122
Rep Walter B. Jones, Jr. (R – 03) (252) 931-1003
Rep David Price (D – 04) (919) 967.7924
Rep Virginia Foxx (R – 05) (336) 778-0211
Rep Howard Coble (R – 06) (336) 333-5005
Rep Mike McIntyre (D – 07) (910) 815-4959
Rep Larry Kissell (D – 08) (910) 920-2070
Rep Sue Myrick (R – 09) (704) 362-1060
Rep Patrick McHenry (R – 10) (828) 327.6100
Rep Heath Shuler (D – 11) (828) 252-1651
Rep Mel Watt (D – 12) (704) 344-9950
Rep Brad Miller (D – 13) (919) 836-1313

Thanks so much!