Money is the driving force behind every political decision- every election, every Supreme Court ruling, and every trade deal. Redacted Tonight created a trailer for a hypothetical movie in which money would no longer sway politics, and instead, democracy would be returned to the people. (It happens to star Jean Claude Van Damm.) A Princeton University study found that the United States is now an oligarchy, not a democracy. Whether you are championing marriage equality, protecting the environment from dangerous pipelines, preventing secret trade agreements from widening the wealth gap or reducing the police state- imagine how different politics would be if money was no longer the bottom line.
Money As Speech
On the anniversary of the Citizens United decision the US Supreme Court was interrupted by a series of protests decrying the corruption of government made worse by the decision. Reuters reports: Activists staged a rare protest inside the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, shouting denunciations on the fifth anniversary of a ruling that lifted limits on corporate spending in elections as police rushed to corral them, knocking over chairs and causing a ruckus in the normally staid chambers. While the protests were ongoing they report "Chief Justice John Roberts tried to begin business but kept being interrupted by shouts." The New York Times described the protests reporting: The disruption came shortly after the justices took their seats on the bench at 10 a.m., when a woman rose in the back of the courtroom and yelled, “Overturn Citizens United.” Chief Justice Roberts showed a public cool and tried to use humor, SCOTUS blog reports: "The Chief Justice was heard to mutter, 'Oh, please.'"
With just days to go until the midterm elections, a new poll indicates that billionaires are likely to retain control of the United States government. The poll, conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute, shows that the proxy candidates of billionaires are likely to win ninety-eight per cent of next Tuesday’s races, with the remaining two per cent leaning billionaire. Although the poll indicates that some races are still “too close to call,” the fact that billionaires funded candidates on both sides puts the races safely in their column. Davis Logsdon, who supervised the poll for the University of Minnesota, said that next Tuesday should be “a big night for oligarchs” and that both houses of Congress can be expected to grovel at the feet of their money-gushing paymasters for at least the next two years. Calling the billionaires’ upcoming electoral romp “historic,” Logsdon said, “We have not seen the super-rich maintain such a vise-like grip on the government since the days immediately preceding the French Revolution.”
When a billionaire wants your old time civil rights organization, your historically black college, your morning drive-time deejay, or your black congressman, there ain't nothin' you can do. These Janes and these Joes who make up the current black political class, from the preachers to the so-called civil rights leaders to the Congressional Black Caucus, they just ain't loyal to the masses of African Americans they purport to represent. The current black political class, with the Congressional Black Caucus at its highest level, was raised up in the wake of our people's historic Freedom Movement against racial segregation and domestic apartheid. Fifty years ago, most of us imagined that having more black faces in high places would mean a better life for all of us. We were wrong. We've gone from six or seven black members of Congress to a crew of 42, from few or no black behinds in the big chairs of City Halls, the speakers of state houses, and few in the leadership of big county governments to more than 13,000 black elected officials, and thousands more in appointed offices. At the same time, relative black unemployment hasn't moved an inch, black family wealth has fallen off a cliff, gentrification is still the only urban economic development policy, and the nation's black 13% accounts for over 40% of its prisoners. Far from representing our people's urgent needs, wants and desires in the halls of power, the supposedly powerful black political class has nothing but contempt for ordinary black people and excuses for its impotence.
Voters across party lines overwhelmingly oppose the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling and strongly support a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision and curb the influence of money in politics, a new bipartisan poll shows. When provided a short description of the amendment, which is scheduled for a Senate vote on Sept. 8, Republicans support the amendment by a roughly two-to-one margin. Notably, voters reject arguments against the amendment by wide margins. The poll was commissioned by Public Citizen and conducted by Lake Research Partners, a Democratic polling firm, and Chesapeake Beach Consulting, a Republican polling firm. The firms conducted a live telephone survey of 800 likely voters between July 26 and July 29. The numbers of Democrats, Republicans and independents polled reflected the proportions of projected likely national 2014 voters from each of those parties. The poll’s margin of error is +/- 3.5 percent. “It’s time for Congress to act on the people’s demand for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and restore our democracy,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “This poll shows that the public, including Republican voters, forcefully rejects arguments from Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Ted Cruz in defense of the status quo.”
The Securities and Exchange Commission just received a million comments, by far the most they've ever received, demanding that they protect investors and the public interest by requiring corporations to disclose their political spending. This mandate comes as corporate dark money is flooding into our system, empowering the donor class at the expense of the rest of us. Millions of dollars from publicly traded companies have already been spent in federal and state elections since Citizens United. Unions are required to disclose their political spending to the Department of Labor but there's no similar rule covering the new corporate political spending. The SEC has broad authority to act on corporate disclosure when doing so is in the public interest or in the interest of investors.
Americans who have taken advantage of the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year to toss aside overall political contribution limits are one in a million. Actually, they’re slightly fewer than one in a million. Of the 318 million people in the U.S., a whopping 310 donors have given more than the total $123,200 they were allowed to contribute to candidates, parties and PACs before the April McCutcheon v. FEC ruling, a new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics shows. This gilded group of donors favors Republicans over Democrats by a two-to-one margin: The GOP has pulled in $33.3 million from the group, Democrats just $15.6 million. That said, there are major funders on both sides of the aisle. The No. 1 donor is philanthropist and retired speech-language pathologist Marsha Z. Laufer, who has given $384,900 to Democrats. Sitting at No. 2 is Charles R. Schwab, founder of the investment firm, who has given $338,900 exclusively to Republican recipients. Many of them believe the Supreme Court got it right. “Anything that opens up the right of citizen to contribute to his or her choice of a candidate for public office… is basically a good thing,” Roy Pfautch, a public affairs consultant from St. Louis, told OpenSecrets Blog. “I now have the opportunity to support whom I want.” Pfautch has donated $165,800 so far this cycle, all of it to Republican recipients, and ranks 97th on the list of individual hard money donors in this midterm election.
While it's easy and almost safe to assume that most of today's politicians take large donations from dubious corporate interests—given the fact that we live in an oligarchy and all—inquiring minds still want to keep track of who's taking money from big oil, big pharma, big defense contractors, you name it. Seattle teenager Nick Rubin recently made keeping track of the money trail a whole lot easier with his creation Greenhouse, a browser plug-in that operates under the motto "Some are red. Some are blue. All are green." (Get it? Green House?) His website describes Greenhouse like this: "A free browser extension for Chrome Firefox, and Safari that exposes the role money plays in Congress. Displays on any web page detailed campaign contribution data for every Senator and Representative, including total amount received and breakdown by industry and by size of donation. Puts vital data where it’s most relevant so you can discover the real impact of money on our political system." Said to be surprisingly easy to use, the app shines a light on dark money, and helps you deepen your understanding of why your representatives vote the way they do.
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a resolution to amend the US Constitution to allow greater regulation of political spending, on a 10-8 party line vote. This clears the way for a vote by the full Senate later this year. The proposal, sponsored by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), is intended to reverse recent Supreme Court rulings that have deregulated the campaign finance system, such as Citizens United and McCutcheon v. FEC. It states that both Congress and the states would "have power to regulate the raising and spending of money" on elections. Specifically, it would allow limits on outside spending in support of candidates, which the Court has struck down. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, "Since we banned child pornography — which I imagine my colleagues support — a limitation on the First Amendment, has free speech been hampered in any way? Absolutely not." And he said the measure would limit spending from both liberal and conservative funders: "The Soroses and the Steyers will be just as banned as the Kochs and the others. And they should be."
The Rolling Rebellion is now halfway through its one-week debut and has a lot to show for it. From coast to coast, grassroots activists have taken their creative zeal to the streets in a myriad of ways promoting peaceful and artful activism in the name of real democracy. On July 1, activists in Washington, D.C., staged a musical theater performance outside the Federal Communications Commission, entitled “Which Side Are You On, Tom?” In the name of Net Neutrality, protestors sang, danced and enacted a game of tug-o-war between the people and the telecom giants. Rally-goers even performed a rendition of Queen's “We Will Rock You." In San Diego, the aptly named Artful Activists have used graphic and theatrical means to engage and interact with citizens at various locations, from the Civic Center to La Jolla Cove. “It's street theater,” Brain Frazier explains. “We have a dunk tank and we get people in the crowd to pick blocks that have different grievances and throw those blocks to 'flush' the politician.”
A wind-weary, but determined crowd, arrived at Fort Constitution Saturday afternoon after a 16-mile walk along the New Hampshire coast in support of New Hampshire Rebellion's nonpartisan movement against monetary corruption in the nation's capital. The N.H. Rebellion, founded by Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor, is a movement that considers unrestrained money and the influence it buys in Washington, D.C., to be the root of the nation's current political and governmental dysfunction. The goal of the walk was to bring hope for change, said N.H. Rebellion Executive Director Jeff McLean. Many walkers met at the ending point at Fort Constitution to be bused to the start of the walk at Hampton Beach. A busload of 20 walkers also arrived from the Boston area. Decked out in red, white and blue stars and stripes, Debbie and Garritt Toohey of Rye were among the walkers gathered at Hampton Beach. “We need to bring awareness about what the federal government is and isn't doing,” Debbie Toohey said. “People need to pay attention and listen.”
The “super PAC to end all super PACs” reached its fund-raising goal in just over two months, but now comes the hard part: winning elections. The Mayday PAC, a project begun May 1 by the Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig, seeks to elect a Congress that will achieve “fundamental reform in the way political campaigns are funded by 2016,” beginning with five pilot races in this year’s House elections. In a July 4 posting to supporters after announcing the PAC reached its goal, Mr. Lessig wrote, “You have guaranteed” change. The PAC raised $1 million in its first month and reached another $5 million by Friday. A storm of donors posted on social media on the Fourth of July about getting “big money out of politics” and ending political corruption. The $6 million raised is to be matched by other donors, for a total of $12 million to spend on the midterms. The Mayday PAC’s website says the $12 million will be spent in five House races to be announced on July 15. That amount isn’t insignificant: The reported outside spending so far this cycle in West Virginia’s Third District, one of the more competitive general election contests, is $2 million.
Eleanor Goldfield is a creative activist and writer based in Los Angeles. She works with organizations to create digital content as well as live events to combine pop culture and politics - art killing apathy; her political hard rock band Rooftop Revolutionaries being a primary example of this. As a writer, she writes for several political publications on our corporatocratic government and all the issues stemming from that.
In civics class, we still teach our children that American-style representative democracy is a model for the world to imitate. But in practice, our government has become a broken system of corrupt lawmakers and crony capitalism. It's time to either change the lesson plan or fix the government. Wealthy special interests use lobbying and campaign contributions to buy access and influence in the halls of Congress and they use that access to advance their own self-interest. For example, in 2003 when Congress passed Medicare Part D to provide prescription drugs to seniors, pharmaceutical companies spent over $100 million to ensure the final bill barred the government from negotiating prices with the drug companies. As a result, taxpayers foot the bill for bloated medical costs while drug companies rake in billion dollar profits. Meanwhile, the congressman who sponsored the bill, Rep. Billy Tauzin left Congress for a seven-figure salary with the largest pharmaceutical lobbying firm. The story is the same for defense spending, the financial industry, big agriculture and big energy. Companies invest billions of dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions in order to secure even bigger profits.
Rolling Rebellion actions have begun. Light Projections around the Capitol by Backbone Campaign, Popular Resistance's "Which Side Are You On Tom?" musical asking FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to stand with the people and declare independence from the telecoms, and Money Out of Politics projection actions across Baltimore by the Rolling Rebellion for a Real Democracy Luminous Intervention. The US Democracy Movement is growing. It is creatively Declaring Independence from the oligarchy and their corporate state. Getting Money Out of Politics is one essential component of battling the corruption of our political, legal and economic systems. People around the country are embracing and insisting upon the self-evident,endowed by creator, unalienable rights which the Declaration of Independence celebrated and promised to uphold.