Presentation on theme: "The League of Women Voters"— Presentation transcript:
1 The League of Women Voters The League’s mission is to protect and strengthen democracy by urging citizens to be informed voters. The League is non-partisan and doesn’t advocate for or against any politician, candidate for office or political party. The League does develop positions on issues that relate to our core mission, such as transparency in government, voter rights and civic engagement. We work for fair elections by providing objective information to the public.After introduction to audience:“This presentation was developed by the League of Women Voters. The League’s mission is to protect and strengthen democracy by urging citizens to be informed voters. The LWV is non-partisan and doesn’t advocate for or against any politician, candidate for office or political party. The League DOES develop positions on issues that relate to our core mission, such as transparency in government, voter rights and civic engagement. We work for fair elections by providing objective information to the public.”CLICK TO TITLE SLIDE
2 The title of this presentation is Democracy in the Balance. Our democracy was designed to balance the interests of many groups. It is expected that there is a push-pull, give and take nature to creating that balance. As a country, we have a history of situations where the balance of interests tilted representative government significantly in one direction, creating an imbalance. We also have a history of actions taken to address those tilts.Many believe that we are facing a time of serious imbalance now. This presentation is an effort to explain why that concern exists. The information in this presentation provides an overview of the history of challenge to our democracy and our available options today for resetting the balance in our own time of challenge.CLICKLEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF MASSACHUSETTS Money in Politics Campaign Finance Reform Task Force
4 Rebalancing Democracy Responses to Political Influence & Corruption Response to corruption in the Gilded AgeTillman Act (1907)Federal Corrupt Practices Act (1910)Response to growing unionism after WWIITaft-Hartley Act (1947)Response to campaign abuses and WatergateFederal Election Campaign Act (FECA: 1971)Response to unrestricted donations/paid advertisingBipartisan Campaign Reform Act (2002: McCain- Feingold)The people’s anger over political corruption during the Gilded Age persuaded President Theodore Roosevelt and Congress that they must respond.CLICKThe Tillman Act in 1907 made it “unlawful for any national bank, or any corporation …. to make a money contribution in connection with any election to any political office.”This was followed by the Federal Corrupt Practices Act, which established the first public disclosure regulations. CLICKIn 1947, with the rise of union strength after World War II, Congress reacted to business concerns and passed the Taft-Hartley Act banning unions from contributing to political campaigns.In the early 1970’s, in response to campaign abuses and the Nixon-Watergate campaign scandal, Congress passed the most unprecedented and sweeping campaign finance reforms in history - the Federal Election Campaign Act, or FECA.The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 – better known as the McCain-Feingold Act, was a response to Supreme Court decisions that were causing an increase in often inflammatory advertising by 3rd party groups – so-called 527 organizations – 30 or 60 days prior to an election.Also, because the Supreme Court had ruled that a person could contribute unlimited amounts to one’s own election, McCain-Feingold sought to balance the playing field by adding safeguards to make a publically financed candidate competitive.
5 Slide from video developed by Larry Lessig: Republic Lost Slide from video developed by Larry Lessig: Republic Lost. Creative Commons:Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/legalcode. NO CHANGES WERE MADE TO THIS IMAGE.But while legislation attempted to reduce undue influence and corruption, over the last 40 years the Supreme Court has whittled away this legislation bit-by-bit to the point where money reigns in our political system yet again. Today just a handful of funders determine the candidates and the issues.CLICKCourtesy of Larry Lessig, Republic Lost Video, Creative Commons
6 Supreme Court Decisions Overturning Campaign Finance Reforms 1976: Buckley v ValeoLimits on candidates’ contributions to own campaigns overturnedLimits on expenditures overturned1978: 1st National Bank of Boston v. BellottiBan on spending to influence ballot referendums overturned2008: Davis v FECPublic financing to “level playing field” overturnedSupreme Court decisions since 1976 have:CLICKoverturned the limits on candidates’ contributions to their own campaigns;overturned limits on campaign expenditures by candidates and PACs:(1976 Buckley v. Valeo)overturned the ban on corporations’ spending to influence referenda and ballot questions;(1978 First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti)And in 2008, overturned the provision in the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Act that allowed publically financed candidates to compete on a “level playing field” with well-backed or wealthy competitors.
7 Citizens United v Federal Election Commission 2010 This brings us to January 2010 and the Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizens United v the Federal Election Commission.Citizens United is important for three reasons:First, the decision reaffirmed the 1976 Supreme Court decision that the expenditure of money is a form of free speech.Second, it narrowed the definition of corruption. Prior to 2010, and as recently as 2003 (McConnell v FEC), the Supreme Court held that government had a legitimate interest in preventing "corruption threatened by large financial contributions, and…the appearance of corruption that might result from those contributions." With the Citizens United decision, the Court reduced the meaning of corruption to a simple “quid pro quo” - direct bribery.Third, the Court declared that corporations have the same protected First Amendment political speech rights as humans. As a direct result of the Citizens United decision, corporations, unions and other entities are now permitted to openly, legally, and secretively spend unlimited amounts of money to influence the political process. With the Citizens United decision, the Court overturned a century of legislation and judicial decisions limiting the corrupting influence of money in politics.CLICK
9 This graph offers a case in point. Chart courtesy of OpenSecrets.org: https://www.opensecrets.org/bigpicture/; accessed August 12, Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/legalcode. NO CHANGES WERE MADE TO THIS IMAGE.This graph offers a case in point.The horizontal bars represent total spending on federal elections from in billions of dollars.The light green bars show Congressional spending, the dark green segments show spending in presidential elections.The amount of spending in campaigns was relatively stable from 1980 to 2000.The uptick began after the 2000 presidential election with the influx of money from a new source – 527 groups. MoveOn.org and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were major players in the 2004 presidential election.Because 527s are regulated under IRS rules and not the Federal Election Commission, there are no limits on contributions to 527s and no spending limits imposed on these organizations.Campaign spending surged along with negative advertising.CLICKChart courtesy of OpenSecrets.org: Creative Commons
10 57% = 47 People 0.000015% of population Chart courtesy of Mother Jones. Andy Kroll and Tasneem Raja; Charts: Just How Small is the Super-Pac Gazillionaire Club? Mother Jones; August 3, 2012: accessed August 14, 2014.With its 2010 decision, the Supreme Court opened the money spigot even further by overturning the ban on corporations using corporate funds to influence elections.Today corporations and big money donors can contribute and spend unlimited amounts to support or oppose candidates and ballot initiatives through Super PACs.This slide illustrates that 57% of all individual donations to Super PACs in the 2012 campaign came from just 47 people, each of whom gave over $1 million.The orange section of the pie chart represents the money from the 47 donors. The smaller grey area represents all the rest of the donations.CLICKThose 47 individuals represented 0 POINT % of the U.S. population in 2012.57% =47 People% of population
11 Slide from video developed by Larry Lessig: Republic Lost Slide from video developed by Larry Lessig: Republic Lost. Creative Commons: Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/legalcode. NO CHANGES WERE MADE TO THIS IMAGE.But 527s and Super PACs have a serious disadvantage to big donors and corporations – disclosure requirements. Fearful of a backlash from name recognition, big money donors seek completely anonymous ways to influence candidates and elections. One work-around has been a loop-hole in the IRS tax code for 501(c)4 social welfare organizations.Lack of clarity in the IRS guidelines related to 501(c)4 has allowed corporations and individuals to filter money to support or oppose a candidate or ballot question, without disclosure. CLICKCourtesy of Larry Lessig, Republic Lost Video, Creative Commons
12 Chart courtesy of Open Secrets: https://www. opensecrets Chart courtesy of Open Secrets: https://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/disclosure.php; accessed August 13, Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/legalcode.As you can see in this graph, these new politically active 501(c)(4) groups have well outspent the usual campaign funding sources, giving rise to the term “secret” or “dark” money.And this increase in spending reaches beyond presidential and congressional elections, creeping into “down-ballot” races and local ballot referenda as we saw in California’s 2012 GMO labeling ballot initiative.1 Also in 2012, Chevron spent $1.2 million in a campaign backing three candidates, friendly to the fossil fuel industry, for city council in Richmond, CA.2, 3CLICKAmy Westervelt; Forbes 8/22/12; Monsanto, DuPont Spending Millions to Oppose California's GMO Labeling Law: accessed August 13, 2014.Tawanda Kanhema; Richmond Confidential; 11/5/12; Citizens Outspent: Inside Richmond’s $4m Election Campaign:https://richmondconfidential.org/2012/11/05/citizens-outspent-inside-richmonds-4m-election-campaign/; accessed August 13, 2014.San Francisco Business Times Staff; 10/9/12; Chevron spends on Richmond council election: accessed August 13, 2014.Modified slide based on Open Secrets: Creative Commons12
13 Based on graphic from OpenSecrets Based on graphic from OpenSecrets.org and The Center for Responsive Politics; “Outside Spending by Nondisclosing Groups, Cycle Totals, Excluding Party Committees”; February 2014: https://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/disclosure.php; accessed 8/02/14. Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/legalcode. Modification: addition of ? for 2014; removal of 2014 bar graph of totals at date of publication.This slide charts the escalation in undisclosed money from 1999 to How high that total will go in 2014 is anyone’s guess.CLICKSUPPLEMENTAL NOTES as background information for PRESENTERS: THE FOLLOWING IS NOT MEANT TO BE READ AS PART OF THE PRESENTATION.SLIDE: Outside Spending by Disclosure, Excluding Party Committees February 2014OpenSecrets.org: https://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/disclosure.php; accessed February 2014.“While some outside groups -- like Super PACs -- are required to disclose their donors, others -- such as 501(c)(4)s -- are not. These non-disclosing organizations can engage in a number of activities, including buying ads that advocate for or against a candidate, running phone banks and making contributions to Super PACs. Outside groups that didn't make their donors' names publicly available, together with groups that received a substantial portion of their contributions from such non disclosing groups accounted for nearly 44 percent of outside spending in the 2010 election cycle. Though spending by these groups was lower as a percentage of overall outside spending in 2012, the total spent by non-disclosing groups more than doubled from $127.1 million in the 2010 cycle to well over $300 million in 2012.”Thomas B. Edsall; In Defense of Anonymous Giving; March, , New York Times: accessed June 2014.“The explosion in secret financing of political advertising has turned tax-exempt nonprofit organizations into the weapon of choice for those who want to influence elections without leaving fingerprints. Campaign spending by these groups, which do not disclose donors, has grown from a modest $5.8 million in the election cycle to $310.8 million in , an increase of more than 5000 percent, with further growth expected in 2014 and The accompanying chart (Figure 1) illustrates the increase in contributions from undisclosed donors between 1999 and the present. The cycle has just begun. Most of the money raised from undisclosed contributors flows through nonprofits claiming tax-exempt status under Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code, a frequent subject of this column. The most common tax-exempt organizations are 501(c)(4) “social welfare” groups, although there is also substantial political cash channeled through 501(c)(6) groups, which are nonprofit trade associations like the United States Chamber of Commerce.”Based on graphic from OpenSecrets.org and The Center for Responsive Politics
14 Chart courtesy of Washington Post and Center for Responsive Politics. Matea Gold; Washington Post; “Koch-backed political coalition, designed to shield donors, raised $400 million in 2012”; published on January 5, 2014: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/koch-backed-political-network-built-to-shield-donors-raised-400-million-in-2012-elections/2014/01/05/9e7cfd9a-719b-11e ; accessed August 6, 2014.Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/legalcode. No modifications were made to this image.How does secret money flow into and through the system? The next two slides provide graphic illustrations of how the money moves.This slide is from a Washington Post article published on January 5, 2014, entitled: Koch-backed political coalition, designed to shield donors, raised $400 million in 2012.Based on research by investigative reporters from the Post and Center for Responsive Politics, the chart shows the “. . . network of politically active nonprofit groups backed by the Kochs and fellow donors to shield donors,” in the 2012 election.Quoting from the Post article, “The resources and the breadth of the Koch backed organization make it singular in American politics: an operation conducted outside the campaign finance system, employing an array of groups aimed at stopping what its financers view as government overreach. CLICKCourtesy of Washington Post and The Center for Responsive Politics: Creative Commons
15 This chart of the Koch funding network is from OpenSecrets.org. OpenSecrets Communications; “The Koch Network; a Categorical Guide”; January 7, 2014: accessed August 6, 2014.Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/legalcode. No modifications were made to this slide.This chart of the Koch funding network is from OpenSecrets.org. If you are finding that seeing the details of these charts is difficult, getting closer or making them larger won’t help. Both charts are examples of the funding mechanisms currently allowed under law.The network is deliberately complex by design, but is highly coordinated. Members of the coalition target different constituencies but together have mounted attacks on the new health-care law, federal spending and environmental regulations.Even though disclosure was upheld in the Supreme Court Citizens United decision, more and more secret money is flooding the system because Congress has refused to enact disclosure regulation. Knowing where the money is coming from is now more difficult than ever CLICK
16 McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission April 2, 2014 And the assault on the few remaining safeguards is not over.Citizens United was decided in 2010, in time for the 2012 elections.With the 2016 elections fast approaching, the Court, in its April 2014 McCutcheon decision, has added even more money to the deluge by lifting the aggregate limits on contributions going DIRECTLY to candidates and campaign committees, from $123,000 to $3.6 million.1Donors may now give the maximum permissible amount to each and every candidate and party committee they choose.Many believe that the Court is well on its way to eliminating all limits in a quest to completely deregulate American political campaigns.As attorney and legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin has stated:“If you believe that money is speech as the Supreme Court majority does then most campaign finance limits become unconstitutional.”League of Women Voters President, Elisabeth MacNamara, describes the decision in stark terms:“This is yet another irresponsible decision on money in politics by the Roberts Court. The Court has used the McCutcheon decision to continue dismantling the wall of protection against corruption – case by case, brick by brick.“. . . In this decision, as in previous decisions, the Chief Justice ignores the corruption he is turning loose in America’s election system.In this decision, the Court opens another loophole by allowing our political parties to be further corrupted by big-money contributions from special interests. The party and Political Action Committee systems now become a huge funnel for corrupting elected officials across the country. . .The McCutcheon decision simply means more power for big money, more corruption for the rest of us. The Roberts Court is saying that big money is worth more than the voices of individual citizens.3” End quote.CLICKEditorial; New York Times, The Court Follows the Money, April 2, 2014: accessed August 13, 2014.Jeffrey Toobin: CNN Opinion, High court gives rich more say in elections, April 2, 2014: accessed August 13, 2014.Elisabeth MacNamara, LWVUS President; “Court: Big Money Worth More than Citizens’ Voices”; April 2, 2014; LWVUS website: Accessed June 2014.Money = speechVoids aggregate limits on contributions
17 Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens“. . . contrary to what decades of political science research might lead you to believe, ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States. And economic elites and interest groups, especially those representing business, have a substantial degree of influence. Government policy-making over the last few decades reflects the preferences of those groups – of economic elites and or organized interests.”A recent study from Princeton professor, Martin Gilens, and Benjamin Page, of Northwestern1, as well as studies from Trinity University2 and UC Berkeley3 corroborate the perception of politics in America today. As this excerpt from the Princeton study points out, the shift in influence is not a recent phenomenon but a fact that has been in place for several decades.However, recent Supreme Court decisions, the excesses of corporate greed, the violations of the public trust, and the Occupy movement have made the situation much more vivid and visible to the public.CLICKSUPPLEMENTAL NOTES as background information for PRESENTERS: THE FOLLOWING IS NOT MEANT TO BE READ AS PART OF THE PRESENTATION.Bill Moyers and Michael Winship; “Government = Protection Racket for the 1 Percent”; April 21, 2014; Accessed June “. . . And now there’s that big study coming out in the fall from scholars at Princeton and Northwestern universities, based on data collected between 1981 and 2002. Their conclusion: “America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened… The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” Instead, policy tends “to tilt towards the wishes of corporations and business and professional associations.”Matea Gold; “Ready for a surprise? Money DOES equal access in Washington”; Washington Post, March 11, 2014: Accessed June 2014.FOOTNOTESMartin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page; “ Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens”. April 9, 2014; Accessed July 2014; Sahil Kapur; “Scholar Behind Viral ‘Oligarchy’ Study Tells You What it Means”; April 22, 2014, Talking Points Memo: Accessed July 2014.Thomas J. Hayes; “Responsiveness in an Era of Inequality: The Case of the U.S. Senate”; Trinity University, San Antonio, TX, USA; Thomas J. Hayes, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269, USA: Accessed July 2014.Joseph Kalla and David E. Brookman; “Congressional Officials Grant Access to Individuals Because They Have Contributed to Campaigns: A Randomized Field Experiment”; March 11, 2014: Accessed July 2014.
18 Courtesy of the Washington Spectator, Public Concern Foundation Graphic courtesy of The Washington Spectator, a publication of the Public Concern Foundation; “Money is Property, Not Free Speech”; accessed 12/04/13. Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/legalcode.With money, once again, looming over and corrupting our political system, where do we go from here?If we agree change is needed, how can change be made?CLICKCourtesy of the Washington Spectator, Public Concern Foundation
19 Resetting the Balance of Influence LEGISLATIVE CHANGEREGULATORY CHANGECONSTITUTIONAL CHANGEThe tools for change in our system of government are: CLICKlegislation; CLICKregulation, and CLICKconstitutional change through the amendment process or reversals of Supreme Court decisions.There is current action in all three of these change sectors.CLICK
20 Above all, we need to keep in mind that action must happen at all levels of government – local, state and national. The inaction of Congress makes action at the state level vitally important.Many states are attempting to enact laws directly related to League of Women Voter positions and advocacy at the federal level such as voting rights, election reform, publicly funded elections, women’s rights and transparency. Be aware of pending legislation at the state level that impacts the structures of our democracy and parallel efforts at the federal level.Working on these issues at the state level reinforces efforts at the national level and builds grassroots awareness and advocacy for reform.Voting is in the top tier of advocacy priorities. Protecting and ensuring voter access to the polls is fundamental to our democracy.The voter is the most powerful antidote to money in our political system, and ensuring voter access and rights is a critical advocacy area for the League at ALL levels.Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters, puts it this way: “In the end, the only reliable response to a flood of money in our elections is a flood of voters at the polls, each voter armed with the kind of reliable, unbiased information that the League provides.”1CLICKElisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters; LWV.org website; “Big Money Wins Again”; April 10, 2014;http://forum.lwv.org/member-resources/article/big-money-wins-again?utm_source=LeadersUpdate&utm_medium= &utm_campaign=LU ; accessed August 4, 2014.
21 What Government Can Do Legislative Action There are multiple bills pending in Congress regarding disclosure, good government, amendments and other campaign finance reforms.But low voter turnout is a serious issue across America. Based on statistics from 1948 to 2012, we know that about 60% of Americans tend to turn out for presidential contests. Midterms garner about 40% of voters. These figures are significantly lower than those for other established democracies, where voter turnout is in the 70-90% range. 1, 2What we don’t need is obstacles to voting, but as you may be aware, a flood of voter restriction laws have been enacted in state after state in recent years – laws sold to the public as combating “fraud” in spite of numerous studies that show fraud is simply not an issue.3However, controlling who votes has tremendous potential in determining winners and losers in elections.4CLICKA modernized election system is also needed. Voter access and convenience need to be enhanced with provisions such as Election Day Registration – key to increasing voter turn out – weekend and evening voting periods, and on-line voter registration.The Federal Government could also create federal standards for state corporate charter law that would level the playing field among states and regulate corporate behavior. And states, today, could actually enforce the provisions already embedded in their corporate charter laws related to responsible corporate behavior.US Census Bureau: accessed June 2014Scholars Strategy Network, January 2014: accessed June 2014.Scholars Strategy Network, January 2014: accessed June 2014.Ibid: August, 2013: accessed June 2014.Repair and restore The Voting Rights ActModernize electionsPass federal and state corporate charter law standards
22 Pass The American Anti-Corruption Act Establish viable public campaign funding systemRequire donor disclosure of all contributions and expendituresProhibit members of Congress from fundraising from interests they most directly regulateEliminate pay to play opportunitiesRequire longer waiting periods between public service and work as lobbyistCongress could also pass The American Anti-Corruption Act.This bill may be new to many of you. It was developed by the former George H. W. Bush-appointed FEC Chair, Trevor Potter, through his organization, The Campaign Legal Center.Jack Abramoff was one of the contributors. Abramoff was particularly qualified for this task given his direct, personal experience with political corruption. He was convicted in 2008 on corruption charges related to his lobbying activities and sentenced to 4 years in prison.2The American Anti-Corruption Act addresses many of the issues discussed in this presentation. It would, among other things:CLICKEstablish a revenue source to fund a viable public campaign funding systemRequire donor disclosure of all contributions and expendituresProhibit members of Congress from fundraising from the interests they most directly regulateEliminate pay to play opportunitiesRequire longer waiting periods between public service and work as a lobbyistThe American Anti-Corruption Act:Neil A. Lewis; “Abramoff Gets 4 Years in Prison for Corruption”; New York Times, September 4, 2008; accessed June 2014.
23 The Empowering Citizens Act HR 270: Representatives Price & Van Hollen Several bills aimed directly at curbing the corruption and abuses of money in the system have been introduced in Congress.The Empowering Citizens Act,1 2 January 2013, is considered the most comprehensive campaign finance reform legislation pending in the Congressional session.This bill would: CLICKend individual candidate Super PACs;CLICKrepair the presidential public financing system;Create a congressional public financing system;strengthen the rules prohibiting coordination between outside spending groups and candidates. CLICKHR270: The Empowering Citizens Act, January 2013: accessed August 7, 2014.HR270: The Empowering Citizens Act, is endorsed by the League of Women Voters; accessed August 7, 2014.End individual candidate Super PACs Repair presidential public financing systemCreate similar financing system for congressional racesStrengthen rules prohibiting coordination between outside spending groups and candidates
24 Government By the People Act HR 20: Rep. John Sarbanes Provides $25 My Voice Tax Credit to empower everyday Americans to participate in campaigns Establishes Freedom From Influence Matching Fund to match small grassroots donationsProvides candidates with additional resources to maintain level playing field through end of campaignThe Government by the People Act,1 was introduced in February 2014 by Representative John Sarbanes of Maryland. As of July 2014, the bill had 157 co-sponsors.The focus of the Sarbanes bill is to create a viable, public funding system for elections. If passed, the law would provide:CLICKa refundable tax credit for citizens to spur small-donor contributions for Congressional office;conditional 2 matching funds for donations up to $150 dollars;conditional3 additional resources to citizen-funded candidates in the home stretch of a campaign to maintain a level playing field.Money is necessary to run for office. The issue is where the money is coming from and the dependency of our politicians on the sources of funding. HR 20 attempts to shift the dependency away from the wealthiest percent of our population – the 1/10th of the one percent – to the 99.9% of the electorate by establishing a public funding system for elections.HR 20: The Government by the People Act, February 2014: accessed August“Small-dollar contributions ($150 or less per election) will be matched from the fund, provided the candidate receiving the contribution forgoes big money special interests and focuses on earning broad-based support from small-dollar donors. Carefully crafted to provide participating candidates sufficient resources to compete, the Freedom from Influence Fund would make the grassroots supporter just as powerful as the big money donor”; accessed August 7, 2014.“In the wake of the Citizens United decision, unlimited outside spending has monopolized the airwaves in the final weeks of elections. Citizen-funded candidates who are able to raise at least $50,000 in additional small-donor donations within the 60-day "home stretch" of the general election would be eligible for additional resources, ensuring the voice of the people is heard”; accessed August 7, 2014.
25 What Government Can Do Regulatory Action Expand and enforce FCC disclosure requirementsRedefine 501(c)(4) rulesReplace FEC with an independent, non- partisan agency with enforcement teethRegulate corporate political campaigning through the SECWith regard to regulatory action, we saw a vivid example of the power of regulatory agencies in the President’s release of the 2014 Climate Action Plan.1 The plan is closely tied to more stringent standards for carbon-based emissions proposed by the EPA the same year.2In addition to the EPA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the IRS are all regulatory agencies.CLICKAn example of important regulatory action related to money in politics came from the Federal Communications Commission with the requirement, effective as of July 2, 2014, that all broadcast television stations in the country must post online copies of contracts and other information about the political advertisements they are airing, thereby providing easy access for voters interested in knowing who is buying campaign commercials and how much money the ad buyers are spending.3Also on the regulatory front, the IRS is currently reviewing its regulations regarding 501(c)(4)s. The IRS has the authority to clarify and redefine 501(c)(4) rules governing political activities of social welfare organizations that are tax exempt.The concern is that many “social welfare” organizations recognized by the IRS as tax-exempt engage in few, if any, direct social welfare services and instead are primarily involved in actively raising and spending money on elections.The IRS proposed new guidance for 501(c)(4)s in February The League has commented on proposed changes and fully supports rapid action on an update.4The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is responsible for administering and enforcing the 1975 Federal Election Campaign Act, the statute that governs the financing of federal elections. The agency is widely viewed as ineffective because of its partisan composition.5FEC Commissioners are by appointment of the President and confirmed by the Senate.To be effective, the FEC needs to be non-partisan and have enforcement teeth to regulate candidates, political parties, PACs, Super PACs and Hybrid PACs.Finally, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC),6 a federal agency that oversees the stock market, has the authority to adopt a rule governing corporate political expenditures including disclosure of political activities and donations and lobbying, and shareholder approval for political activity. The SEC declined to rule on these changes in 2013.White House Climate Action Plan, June 25, 2014: accessed July 2014.EPA new regulations re emissions from power plants, June 2, 2014 Clean Power Plan: accessed July 2014.New FCC online political ad disclosure rule exposes dark money TV buys. Sunlight Foundation, June 30, 2014: accessed July 2014.League of Women Voters New IRS Proposal for Tax Exempt Groups "Important First Step Against Abuse" Says League, December 3, 2013: Accessed July 2014.Reforming the Federal Election Commission: accessed July 2014.The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, May 11, 2014: accessed July 2014.
26 and limiting constitutional rights to human beings Serious efforts to amend the Constitution as a way to confront concerns about money in politics and corporate personhood are also spreading across the country.Seven of the 27 existing amendments to the Constitution reversed previous Supreme Court decisions.Among those amendments reversing a Supreme Court decision was the 19th Amendment, granting a woman’s right to vote.As of June 2014, 12 state legislatures have passed resolutions calling on Congress to pass amendments addressing money in politics and corporate personhood, with similar resolutions pending in 18 more states.The amendment proposals getting the most attention focus on two main areas of concern:restoring the power of Congress and the states to regulate the raising and spending of money for electionsand limiting constitutional rights to human beingsThe League of Women Voters is withholding endorsement of an amendment pending completion of a national study to be completed in 2015.CLICKSUPPLEMENTAL REFERENCE FOR PRESENTERSVictoria Bassetti; “Returning Equality to the Campaign Finance Debate”; accessed 8/02/14.
27 Graphic courtesy of Larry Lessig, Rootstrikers: http://www Graphic courtesy of Larry Lessig, Rootstrikers: . Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/legalcode. NO CHANGES HAVE BEEN MADE TO THIS GRAPHIC IMAGE.Money’s influence in electoral politics and how money has impacted government prior to and since Citizens United have been our focus up to this point, but as the slide shows, Citizens United, while a critical event, is just the tip of the iceberg. The Citizens United and McCutcheon rulings have served as a loud wake-up call to many Americans for the need for change. As the graphic shown says, instead of “Citizens United,” we need “citizens uniting.”The League and other good government organizations are doing the vital work of educating the public on the issues and on the regulatory, legislative and constitutional tools available for change. But the challenges now are much greater than ever before. All of us play a role in the outcomeCLICKGraphic courtesy of Larry Lessig. Creative Commons
28 Follow the Money! MapLight.org Sunlight Foundation.com www.citizen.org Being informed and staying engaged are vital to effective citizen action.Follow the Money. Learn who is funding candidates, sponsoring ads and sending literature, and publicize this information. Web sites likeCLICKOpenSecrets, MapLight, Sunlight Foundation and Public Citizen provide fact-based information showing the money trail.Sunlight Foundation.com
29 Connect! LWV.org BrennanCenter.org CommonCause.org Democracy21.org Remember that there is support in numbers: working within and supporting organizations that are dedicated to fair elections is informative and helpful.Connect with organizations dedicated to fair elections and campaign finance reform like the League of Women Voters. Log onto their websites or subscribe to their online newsletters for current, nonpartisan information about election and campaign finance reform.CLICKDemocracy21.orgRootstrikers.org
30 Act! To the Editor: “Secret donations undermine democracy. In the interest of fair and open elections, the League of Women Voters has long called for transparent accounting of all campaign money regardless of the source ”Attend candidate events for all levels of political office – local, state and national – & talk to candidates and legislators about the issues discussed tonight and your concern as a voter.Ask your representatives the straightforward question: “If elected, what will you do to stop the influence of money in politics?”Lobby your representatives to pass related state and national legislation;Write letters-to-the-editor using templates provided by the League and other good governance groups;Become a citizen co-sponsor of The American Anti-Corruption Act and ask your friends and family to do the same;Share this presentation with an organization you belong to CLICK
31 Vote! Local Elections State Elections Federal Elections Encourage friends, families and neighbors to be informed and active voters, too!And, don’t forget to VOTE and to remind your friends and family to vote! Vote in all local, state and federal elections.Don’t willingly give up your most powerful weapon – your vote!CLICK
32 Rebalancing the System Other generations have faced democracy moments and acted to bring about necessary change.A governing system that was originally designed to be “dependent upon the people” is now dependent on a small minority of anonymous funders.As a nation, we’ve faced critical challenges to our democratic system in the past and have risen to the challenge. We’ve done it before and we can do it again. Remember the Tillman Act, the Federal Corrupt Practices Act, The Federal Election Campaign Act and McCain-Feingold.CLICKLet’s work together again to make democracy work.CLICK Let’s Work Togetherto Make Democracy Work
33 Thank you for your attention and interest! Thank you for your attention and interest!LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF MASSACHUSETTS Money in Politics Campaign Finance Reform Task Force