HR 1, the For the People Act, is an omnibus voting reform bill that has many progressive measures concerning voter registration, voter roll purges, voter-verified paper ballots, early voting, no-excuse absentee ballots, presidential candidate tax returns, gerrymandering, and more. According to reports, the Democratic leadership will whip their members hard to pass the bill through the House and Senate in March. But progressives should say not so fast. Buried in the middle of the bill is a public campaign finance program that is merely a public funding palliative that fails to stop the overwhelming domination of big private money in federal elections. Progressives should be demanding full public funding based on equal grants for all qualified candidates and a constitutional amendment to end the US Supreme Court imposed doctrines that limit public regulation of campaign funding in public elections.
Dozens of large corporations are stopping all donations to the political parties and their politicians in the wake of the right-wing storming of the Capitol last Wednesday. In many cases, they’ve targeted specifically the 147 Republicans who refused to certify the Electoral College vote. The latter group includes MasterCard, American Express, Dow Chemical, and others Even Blue Cross Blue Shield, whose PAC has supported Republicans in every election since 1996, withdrew money from members of Congress who challenged the election results. And it’s going even further: an internal email reveals that the PAC will pull its yearly donation to the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Republican National Committee.
Americans are a competitive lot, eager to prove skill and determination in everything from the Olympics to the space race of the 1960s. But there’s one contest in which the U.S. has been ranked in first place on the international stage among the major developed nations– one where the top prize is certainly not coveted. Many broadly disparate sources rank the United States at the head of the pack among major developed nations when it comes to economic inequality. The World Bank’s 2018 ranking places the U.S. as 52nd worst in economic inequality out of 149 countries – between Uganda and Haiti. Meanwhile, the CIA’s World Factbook places us at 39th worst of 157 countries in the inequality of distribution of family income –between Peru and Cameroon.
By Liz Essley Whyte for the Center for Public Integrity. Despite massive losses for Democrats in races from the White House to governors’ offices Tuesday, those on the left celebrated some significant victories with state ballot measures. From marijuana to minimum wage to gun control laws, they won many key initiatives among the 162 statewide measures — part of a concerted plan put in motion more than a year ago to circumvent Republican-led legislatures and take policy questions directly to voters. Progressive advocates appeared to lose major healthcare initiatives in California and Colorado, however. The Center for Public Integrity tracked how those fighting over these measures shaped their messages with TV ads, typically an expensive yet far-reaching endeavor. Media tracker Kantar Media/CMAG estimates that more than $384 million was spent through Monday just to air TV ads about such measures this election.
By Andrea Germanos for Common Dreams - Campaign finance reform advocates have rallied against super PACs' ability to influence elections since their creation in 2010, and new reporting by the Washington Post puts a spotlight on how "ghost corporations" are pumping money into these committees, with their big money contributors hiding behind a veil of secrecy. As the Center for Responsive Politics explains: "super PACs may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates,"...
By Kenneth P. Vogel and Isaac Aarnsdorf for Politico - The 100 biggest donors of 2016 cycle have spent $195 million trying to influence the presidential election ― more than the $155 million spent by the 2 million smallest donors combined — according to a POLITICO analysis of campaign finance data. The analysis found that the leading beneficiaries of checks from the top 100 donors were Jeb Bush’s floundering campaign for the GOP nomination (a supportive super PAC received $49 million from donors on the list), Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton (super PACs dedicated to her raised $38 million from top 100 donors) and Ted Cruz’s insurgent GOP campaign ($37 million).
By Staff of Common Cause - A citizens’ movement to break the power of big money in politics with tougher disclosure laws, financing systems that elevate small dollar donors, and other reforms is winning important victories in states and localities across the country, Common Cause and several allied groups advocates argue in a report released today. “Our Voices, Our Democracy,” highlights calls by voters, state legislatures and local governing bodies in 16 states and more than 680 localities for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC
Zephyr Teachout for MayDay.US - Six years ago today, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Citizens United vs. FEC. It is not a happy anniversary. I remember waiting for the ruling and opening it up on my computer: when I finally read it, I didn't want to believe that the Court had gone as far as it had and been so careless with our democracy. Citizens United was bad history, bad logic, bad law. It was a major overreach on the part of the Court (the issue hadn't even been raised initially). In his majority decision that day, Justice Kennedy allowed billionaires and big corporations to spend limitless amounts of money to influence politicians.
By Paul Blumenthal for The Huffington Post - WASHINGTON -- A district court judge on Monday dismissed four corruption charges against Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and his donor Salomon Melgen, but denied motions to toss out other charges including, notably, the senator’s solicitation of contributions for a super PAC. Lawyers for the senator had asked the court to dismiss charges related to the $700,000 in contributions from Melgen to Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC run by former aides to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that made independent expenditures to support Menendez’s 2012 reelection, which prosecutors allege were made in exchange for official acts. The basis for dismissal offered by Menendez’s lawyers were the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United and 2013 McCutcheon decisions. Those two cases redefined corruption as only explicit bribery, excluding influence and access.
By Bruce Douglas for The Guardian. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Amid a massive corruption scandal which has tarnished Brazil’s political class and driven the country’s president to the brink of impeachment, the Brazilian supreme court has banned corporate donations to candidates and parties in future elections. With eight votes in favour and three against, the court declared late on Thursday that the rules allowing companies to donate to election campaigns were unconstitutional. Around 76% of the over R$3bn ($760m) donated during last year’s election campaigns for the presidency, senate and congress came from corporate entities. Both the ruling leftwing Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) and the main opposition Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB) received over R$1bn each.
By Jon Schwarz in The Intercept - One of the most embarrassing aspects of U.S. politics is politicians who deny that money has any impact on what they do. For instance, Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania’s notoriously fracking-friendly former governor, got $1.7 million from oil and gas companies but assured voters that “The contributions don’t affect my decisions.” If you’re trying to get people to vote for you, you can’t tell them that what they want doesn’t matter. Meanwhile, 85 percent of Americans say we need to either “completely rebuild” or make “fundamental changes” to the campaign finance system. Just 13 percent think “only minor changes are necessary,” less than the 18 percent of Americans who believe they’ve been in the presence of a ghost.
By Laura Weir in 27 East - Highway Behind the Pond in East Hampton was the scene of a large gathering on Saturday as hundreds of protesters were dropped off in busloads from New York City in an attempt to crash what was said to be a $5,000-a-plate fundraiser for Governor Andrew Cuomo at the lavish home of billionaire hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb. The Hedge Clippers, a group critical of the way money and politics collide, was joined for the protest by other progressive organizations, including Strong Economy for All Coalition, New York Communities for Change, Alliance for Quality Education, VOCAL-NY and Long Island Progressive Action Coalition.
By Benjamin T. Brickner in Huffington Post - Americans are fed up with the increasing grip of big money on our politics. This month, a new poll found that 85 percent of Americans -- including more than 80 percent of both Republicans and Democrats -- believe our campaign finance system needs fundamental changes. Nearly as many are also disillusioned and deeply cynical about the possibility of a solution in the near future. Maine is doing its best to change that -- and in the process, providing a model for how states can push back against big money in elections without waiting for a divided and dysfunctional Congress to act. This year, Mainers will vote on a referendum to enhance its first-in-the-nation Clean Elections law, to confront the tsunami of big money triggered by U.S. Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United.
By Nicholas Confessore and Megan Thee-Brenan in New York Times - Americans of both parties fundamentally reject the regime of untrammeled money in elections made possible by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and other court decisions and now favor a sweeping overhaul of how political campaigns are financed, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll. The findings reveal deep support among Republicans and Democrats alike for new measures to restrict the influence of wealthy givers, including limiting the amount of money that can be spent by “super PACs” and forcing more public disclosure on organizations now permitted to intervene in elections without disclosing the names of their donors. And by a significant margin, they reject the argument that underpins close to four decades of Supreme Court jurisprudence on campaign finance: that political money is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment.
Even by the standards of arms deals between the United States and Saudi Arabia, this one was enormous. A consortium of American defense contractors led by Boeing would deliver $29 billion worth of advanced fighter jets to the United States' oil-rich ally in the Middle East. Israeli officials were agitated, reportedly complaining to the Obama administration that this substantial enhancement to Saudi air power risked disrupting the region's fragile balance of power. The deal appeared to collide with the State Department’s documented concerns about the repressive policies of the Saudi royal family. But now, in late 2011, Hillary Clinton’s State Department was formally clearing the sale, asserting that it was in the national interest. At a press conference in Washington to announce the department’s approval, an assistant secretary of state, Andrew Shapiro, declared that the deal had been “a top priority” for Clinton personally. Just two months before the deal was finalized, Boeing -- the defense contractor that manufactures one of the fighter jets the Saudis were especially keen to acquire, the F-15 -- contributed$900,000 to the Clinton Foundation.