Major legislation to counter Citizens United / Big Money in elections

Political life in the US is being distorted by the hidden big money interventions enabled by the US Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.  Many efforts are underway or proposed to address this further degradation of American democracy.  The latest is an initiative by members of Congress themselves – House Resolution 20 – that enhances the capacity of candidates to support their campaigns with small donations if they accept restrictions on big donors.  It has widespread support.

Dear friends,

As readers of my blog and mailings know, I am very concerned about the degradation of “democracy” to the point where it arguably doesn’t even deserve the name.So I am delighted to see efforts to restrain special interest manipulation that buy us some time to develop and promote the deeper changes that are needed.

One such effort is the new and well-supported H.R. 20, the Government by the People Act, created by Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland and cosponsored by the House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, as well as 100 other Congresspeople and dozens of major advocacy groups that promote healthy democracy.  H.R. 20 supports citizens making small donations to candidates and also supports candidates who are willing rely on those small donations rather than on funds from wealthy corporate interests.

I am further encouraged by Sarbanes’ and Pelosi’s support for a Constitutional amendment to reverse the disastrous Citizens United decision by the US Supreme Court.  These and many other initiatives can provide us with some leverage to impede the ongoing special interest attempts to take over America’s politics and governance.

Below you’ll find an op-ed by Sarbanes and Pelosi, followed by a list of the Congressional and organizational endorsements and a link to the actual text of H.R. 20 for your consideration (as well as a John Stewart interview with Pelosi that mentions it and Citizens United).

Coheartedly,
Tom

PS:  This is an election year.  Since the overwhelming majority of big money political interventions are supporting the Republican side, I don’t doubt that Democrats Pelosi and Sarbanes see efforts to counter all that money being in the interests of the Democratic Party.  We can only wonder if they would be so concerned about Citizens United if most of the hidden contributions were benefiting Democrats.  After all, for decades big money in politics has greased the campaigns of Republicans and Democrats alike.  Be that as it may, it is worth catching the waves of current events that happen to benefit the common good, while we can, even if they are rolling in under one partisan banner or another.

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Reversing the grievous error of Citizens United

By Nancy Pelosi and John Sarbanes

Published in the Washington Post  February 4, 2014

Americans have seen it on their televisions and heard it on their radios: political ads backed by unnamed sources; the work of so-called advocacy groups backed by undisclosed donors; damaging policy agendas orchestrated by special interests; endless money muddying the waters of our debate with confusion and voter suppression.

This has been the impact over the past four years of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The narrow court majority, overturning decades of precedent, opened the floodgates to millions of dollars in secret, special-interest spending on elections. Indeed, Citizens United shook the foundation of our democracy: the principle that, in the United States of America, it is the voices of the people, not the bank accounts of the privileged few, that determine the outcome of our elections and the policies of our government.

Our Founders established a government of the many, not a government of the money. That’s what the American people deserve.

Most people who run for public office do so out of a sincere desire to help others and make a difference in their community and in our country. Many of us are deeply frustrated at the huge amounts of money it takes to run for office and the distorting effect money has on the functioning of government.

We know that if the role of money in our elections were reduced and the level of civility in our politics increased, the result would be the election of more women, more minorities, more young people and more people dedicated to serving the public interest, not special interests.

Most members of Congress would leap at the chance to fund their campaigns without having to turn to a familiar cast of big donors and entrenched interests. Today, that’s virtually impossible.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can and must break the grip of special interests on our politics. Those of us inside and outside the Capitol who support this kind of major change are rallying around H.R. 20, the Government by the People Act, which is to be introduced Wednesday [Feb 5, 2014]. This sensible, straightforward legislation would:

  • Encourage the participation of everyday Americans in the funding of campaigns by providing a refundable $25 My Voice Tax Credit. This would bring the voices of the broader public into the funding side of campaigns and democratize the relationship between money and speech.
  • Establish a Freedom From Influence Matching Fund to boost the power of small-dollar contributions. To be eligible for these matching funds, a candidate would have to agree to a limit on large donations and demonstrate broad-based support from a network of small-dollar contributors. Amplified by the Freedom From Influence Matching Fund, the voices of everyday Americans would be as powerful as those of big donors.
  • Provide candidates with an opportunity to earn additional resources in the homestretch of a campaign so that the voices of the people are not completely drowned out by super political action committees and other dark-money interests. In the wake of Citizens United, this kind of support is critical to ensuring that citizen-backed candidates have staying power.

The funding for these changes should come from closing tax and regulatory loopholes that are the decades-old legacy of special-interest influence in Congress. It’s only fair that those responsible for breaking the policymaking machinery in Washington should bear the cost of fixing it.

From Seneca Falls, N.Y., to Selma, Ala., generations of Americans have stood up against seemingly insurmountable status quos that denied their voices and their votes. Today’s generation, too, must have the courage to take back our politics.

We must disclose the sources of the money in our campaigns, amend the Constitution to reverse the grievous error of the Citizens United decision, reform our broken campaign finance system and empower citizens everywhere to exercise their right to vote.

The Government by the People Act would help build a politics and a government that answer to the people. Together, we can reassert the full promise of our ideals and restore confidence in our democracy.

(Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, represents California’s 12th Congressional District. John Sarbanes, a Democrat, represents Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District.)

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SUPPORTERS

ENDORSING ORGANIZATIONS

Alliance for Justice

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)

Americans for Campaign ReformBrennan Center

Campaign for America’s Future

Campaign for Community Change

Common Cause

CREDO Action

CWA

Demos

Democracy for America

Democracy Matters

Food and Water Watch

Franciscan Action Network

Friends of Democracy

Friends of the Earth

NAACP

National People’s Action

NEA

OurTime.org

People for the American Way

PICO National Network

Progressive Change Campaign Committee

Progressives United

Progress Florida

Progress Now

Public Campaign

Public Campaign Action Fund

Public Citizen

Rebuild the Dream

Represent.Us

Roostrikers

Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

Sierra Club

International Brotherhood of Teamsters

United Steelworkers

UAW

USAction

USPIRG

Voices for Progress

Wolf PAC

Working Families

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CONGRESSIONAL COSPONSORS

Lead Cosponsors:
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.)

Other Cosponsors:
Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ)……….Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI)
Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH)……….Rep. John Larson (D-CT)
Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA)……….Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY)……….Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)……….Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA)
Rep. Susan Bonamici (D-OR)……….Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Rep. Robert Brady (D-PA)……….Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)
Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA)……….Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM)
Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA)……….Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM)
Rep. John Carney (D-DE)……….Rep. Dan Maffei (D-NY)
Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA)……….Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-)
Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL)……….Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY)
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX)……….Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA)
Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI)……….Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)
Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) ……….Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA)
Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO)……….Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO)……….Rep. Grace Meng (D-WI)
Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC)……….Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME)
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)……….Rep. George Miller (D-CA)
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) ……….Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI)
Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN)……….Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA)
Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT)……….Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL)
Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY)……….Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD)……….Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN)
Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA)……….Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR)……….Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX)
Rep. John Delaney (D-MD)……….Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ)
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)……….Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ)
Rep. Susan DelBene (D-WA)……….Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ)
Rep. Theodore Deutch (D-FL)……….Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI)……….Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO)
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)……….Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA)
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD)……….Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI)
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)……….Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY)……….Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI)
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA)……….Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO)
Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT)……….Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL)
Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA)……….Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY)
Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL)……….Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL)
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)……….Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA)
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)……….Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD)
Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL)……….Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL)……….Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA)
Rep. Al Green (D-TX)……….Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA)
Rep. Gene Green (D-TX)……….Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY)
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)……….Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH)
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)……….Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA)
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL)……….Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ)
Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT)……….Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY)
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ)……….Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA)
Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA)……….Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA)
Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV)……….Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA)
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD)……….Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA)
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA)……….Rep. John Tierney (D-MA)
Rep. Steven Israel (D-NY)……….Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY)
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX)……….Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY)……….Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA)
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA)……….Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johson (D-TX)……….Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN)
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC)……….Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)……….Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA)
Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL)……….Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT)
Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA)……….Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY)

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The text of H.R. 20

The John Stewart interview

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Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute, POB 493, Eugene, OR 97440
Read EMPOWERING PUBLIC WISDOM …  THE TAO OF DEMOCRACY … REFLECTIONS ON EVOLUTIONARY ACTIVISM
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