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Posts Tagged ‘citizens united’

The controversial 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United – that gave corporations untold influence in our electoral system and said “money” is “speech” – has created an environment in which millions of dollars in corporate cash is drowning out the voices of Texans.

It is time for Texans to demand the end of unlimited money in our elections and take action on a local level.

We are proud to support a homegrown Texas grassroots movement called Texans United to Amend in their efforts demanding local governments across the state of Texas pass resolutions supporting a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United and declare that only human beings are entitled to rights under our constitution.

We are joining Texas United to Amend to ask for you to make a difference in your community and sign this petition urging your local government to pass a resolution that seeks an amendment of the U.S. Constitution that firmly establishes that money is not speech, and that only human beings, not corporations are entitled to constitutional rights.

Sign the petition today and call on your local government to pass a resolution.

You might be asking – why local governments? Isn’t this a federal issue?

Social change has always come from grassroots groups, with speeches and marches in the street. This has been true of both the direct election of Senators (17th Amendment) and Women’s Suffrage (19th Amendment). The movement for a constitutional amendment to remedy Citizens United is, at its core, a grassroots one. It is driven by real concerns about the health of our democracy that reverberate in each and every community in Texas.

Passing local resolutions at the local level in Texas is the necessary first step toward restoring free and fair elections to the American people, both locally and nationally. Your work, along with coalitions like Texas United to Amend, can make a difference.

Click here and join Texans United to Amend in calling on your local government to pass a resolution that seeks an amendment of the U.S. Constitution that firmly establishes that money is not speech, and that only human beings, not corporations are entitled to constitutional rights.

Across the country, ordinary citizens like you are making their voices heard.  Nine states have already passed resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, and many more states are considering the same. If you want to do more, let us help you set up an organizing meeting the week of October 8.  This will be an exciting way to begin planning for the third anniversary of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling and to prepare to gather petition signatures on election day when millions of potentially interested voters go to the polls.  Click here to get more information and sign up.

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MoveToAmendDavid Cobb, a fiery speaker, and former Green Party presidential candidate, is touring Texas giving his talk “Creating Democracy & Challenging Corporate Rule.”  This presentation is part history lesson and part heart-felt call-to-action!

Cobb is an organizer and national spokesman for MoveToAmend.org, a coalition of over 130,000 people and organizations whose goal is to amend the United States Constitution to end corporate rule and legalize democracy.

Events are free and open to the general public, donations requested, no one turned away for lack of funds.

October 2, 2011
2:00pm – 4:00pm
 Bryan/College Station  Clara Monce Public Library
201 E 26th St, Bryan, TX
October 4, 201
7:00pm – 9:00pm
 Houston  1844 Kipling, Houston, TX
October 5, 2011
6:30pm – 8:30pm
 San Antonio The Radius Center
106 Auditorium Circle in the Gallery
San Antonio, TX 78201
October 10, 2011
7:00p.m. to 9:p.m.
 Corpus Christi  Unitarian Universalist Church
6901 Holly Road, Corpus Christi, TX

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Stephen Colbert and the FEC squared off today in Washington over the fake news anchor’s SuperPAC request. Colbert testified today in an FEC hearing in which he sought a media exemption so he can form his own Super political action committee. The Comedy Central host has been making fun of campaign finance laws for months and today was the moment of truth for the comedian. Colbert has brought attention to the controversial campaign finance laws and has been largely seen as showing how absurd the laws surrounding a SuperPAC can be.

Public Citizen’s Congress Watch (our colleagues in DC) sent a letter to the FEC urging them to deny Stephen Colbert’s request for a media exemption. Public Citizen’s own Craig Holman said that “This would carve out a gaping loophole in campaign finance laws, allowing any company involved in media to foot, in secret and without limit, the electioneering expenses of political committees. If the press exemption were to be so dangerously expanded by the FEC, the next request will be for media companies to directly finance unlimited candidate campaigns under the press exemption – an abuse that is already being advocated in some quarters.”  What does that mean?  Well, it means if Viacom resources can be used to produce ads for ColbertPAC, then Fox could possibly produce ads for their contributors, such as Karl Rove and his SuperPAC, CrossroadsGPS. It would be a terrible slippery slope and stretch our campaign finance laws to the breaking point.

The members of the FEC appeared to take notice of Public Citizen’s request, voting in favor of allowing Stephen Colbert to have a SuperPAC, but with the narrow media exemption we advocated. In a vote of 5-1, the FEC approved a modified version of the Colbert Advisory Opinion request that is fairly narrow and consistent with the current press exemption.

The FEC today has made a good decision in the minds of advocates for campaign finance reform. They have drawn a line in the sand between media companies and political action committees. They have also not been hypocritical in their decisions, and thus have allowed for a comedian to create a SuperPAC (much like the ones Karl Rove and Sarah Palin have created), who may as well be comedians because their campaign finance activities make us laugh because without laughing we’d cry. With the Supreme Court’s recent controversial ruling on public financing of elections, it’s nice to have some comic relief in the twisted world that is campaign finance.

Thanks to our friends at CREW who posted this video on their blog:

Colbert makes some good points here, but also does what we think is really necessary: by “kidding on the square“, he’s using humor to point out exactly how ridiculous our campaign finance laws are. Because when he starts running his ads, people will notice. And hopefully they’ll realize the real jokes are not Colbert, but the other superPACs out there.

Colbert put it best: “Some of you have cynically asked “Is this some kind of joke?” I, for one, don’t think participating in democracy is a joke… that wanting to know what the rules are is a joke. But I do have one federal election law joke.

Knock Knock

(who’s there)

Unlimited union and corporate campaign contributions.

(Unlimited union and corporate campaign contributions who?)

That’s the thing, I don’t think I should have to tell you.”

The joke is serious. Colbert is right. The Supreme Court with Citizens United have created the most absurd unintended consequences ever. We need real campaign finance reform, but we hope Colbert’s laughs will bring others to the cause.


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In a recent NPR show, former Labor Secretary and political commentator Robert Reich addressed the potential executive order by President Obama to require government contractors to disclose their political spending. Reich wants to take the executive order a step farther by eliminating all political contributions from government contractors. Reich explains that contractors such as Lockheed Martin get a large portion of their contracts from the federal government and then use that money to lobby members of Congress.

However, not everyone is as much of a fan of the proposed order as Reich. Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling was scheduled to attend a breakfast yesterday morning hosted by a PAC fro Fluor which is a major government contractor. Last week Rep. Hensarling voted in favor of an amendment to counteract President Obama’s executive order. Adam Smith of Public Campaign wrote on his website ” I wonder if Hensarling discussed his concern about the influence of money in our political process with the government contractor lobbyists handing him money this morning.”

In addition, this cycle has left many Congressional staffers feeling as though Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has changed the game in Congress as showed in a recent Public Citizen survey. Furthermore, as Stephen Colbert demonstrated, the Citizens United ruling made it much easier for unlimited funds to flow into politics.

Colbert proves just how dangerous the Supreme Court ruling can become. He jokes about the implications, but in Texas it is very real. In Texas, individuals as well as corporations have always had a major impact in elections and legislation. Most recently, a new Texans for Public Justice report shows that Bob Perry along with two conservative PAC’s gave substantial amounts of money to opponents of the new Home Owner Association Reform bill. Anther report by Texans for Public Justice shows that the Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons gave money to more than 61 percent of the Texas House of Representatives. Of that group, 83 percent of them voted in favor of the out-of-state nuclear waste bill. Public Citizen advocates for the government to serve the voters and not corporate special interests such as Bob Perry’s Homes or Harold Simmons‘ corporations. Public Citizen Texas fights for clean and fair elections through public financing, not corporate funded elections. We also want greater accountability in government. The public should know where political contributions are coming from, especially when corporations are involved. Because as Stephen Colbert said that the American Dream is about people working hard enough so “someday they can go on to create a legal entity which can then collect unlimited funds [for elections].”

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Corporations aren’t people and elections shouldn’t be for sale. 

If you agree, you’ll love “The Story of Citizens United v. FEC,” a new 8-minute animated short by Annie Leonard, of The Story of Stuff fame.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, we have overwhelming evidence of the damage done to our democracy. Leonard explains the ruling, its fallout and why we need to overturn it.

Watch the video then help rescue democracy by clicking here and taking action.

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Cross-posted from our mother blog at CitizenVox. We don’t normally cross-post much because we’d prefer you to read their blog just as much as ours, but if you’re not, please add them to your rss feed now!

Of the $176.1 million spent by outside groups using large, often undisclosed contributions to influence the current elections, just 10 groups are responsible for the bulk of the spending, according to a new analysis released today by Public Citizen.

What’s more, 59.9 percent of the money comes from undisclosed sources. Of those contributions that have been disclosed, nearly two-thirds has come from just 0.12 percent of the contributors. The analysis of data from Public Citizen’s Stealth PACs database shows that:

  • Those groups have spent $176.1 million. Of that, $114.6 million, or 65 percent, was spent by only 10 groups.
  • From the 10 groups, money spent on behalf of Republicans has outpaced money spent on behalf of Democrats $79.4 million to $28.5 million.
  • Five groups have spent money on more than 35 races each. Eleven groups have spent money on more than 20 races each.
  • Eighty groups have not disclosed any information about the sources of their money. These groups have spent $105.4 million of the $176.1 million total. Only $70.7 million of the spending – just 40.1 percent – has come from disclosed sources.
  • Thirty groups have entered the fray for the first time in 2010 in the past two weeks.

“Outside group funding is shaking the foundations of our electoral democracy, but the situation is far worse than it seems at first blush,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “A tiny number of organizations, relying on a tiny number of corporate and fat cat contributors, are spending most of the money on the vicious attack ads dominating the airwaves. The vast majority of donors remain hidden behind a veil of secrecy, in many cases of doubtful legality. The biggest surge in funding will come in the next week. And this election cycle’s spending is merely a prelude to something far worse in 2012. The trigger for all this was the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United; the key to repairing our democracy is a constitutional amendment to undo the decision.”

The analysis includes charts identifying the groups spending the most to influence this year’s elections, the groups engaged in the most contests, the races that have been the subject of the most outside spending and the contests focused on by the independent groups that have sprung up in the past two weeks.

The Stealth PACs site allows users to search the expenditures and limited contribution data of independent groups that are intervening in this year’s elections using contributions of more than $5,000 or undisclosed contributions.

The site also enumerates the outside groups’ expenditures on each race, discloses the vendors and other recipients of expenditures of $1,000 or more, and provides links to the FEC filings on expenditure data.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Where are the torches and pitchforks when we need them? (Or the tar and feathers?)  According to a new poll released today, voters by a margin of 2 to 1 disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v FEC.

LOLCats depiction of who benefits from Supreme Court ruling

Other big results?

Asked if special interests have too much influence, 74 percent of respondents said yes. Asked if members of Congress are “controlled by” the groups and people who finance their political campaigns, a whopping 79 percent said yes.

Only 24 percent of the voters said ordinary citizens can still influence politicians, and just 18 percent agreed with the notion that lawmakers listen to voters more than to their financial backers.

Voters also issued a harsh assessment of President Barack Obama’s promises to change Washington and limit the influence of special interests.

A majority — 51 percent — now believe the clout of corporations and other special interests has increased since he took office, while only 32 percent said their influence has decreased.

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But according to the survey, about 51 percent of Republicans said they opposed the court decision, while 37 percent favored it. The ratio was even more lopsided among Republican voters who backed Republican candidates in 2008. Among those respondents, 56 percent oppose the ruling, and just 33 percent support it.

“It’s important for Republicans to see this research and hear this message,” said McKinnon (an Austin, TX-based Republican political strategist).

Among all voters, 64 percent surveyed opposed the ruling, and 27 percent approved of it.

The survey found that voters supported the Fair Elections Now Act, 62 percent to 31 percent. Among independents, support rose to 67 percent. The poll also found that voters were more likely to support a candidate who backed such reforms.

Support is also strong for a variety of other proposals introduced since the court ruling was issued last month.

A whopping 80 percent of voters back a requirement that corporations receive approval from shareholders before spending money on political activities. About 60 percent back a proposal to ban foreign-owned corporations from spending money to influence elections.

You say you want a Revolution? Go join in the fun over at www.dontgetrolled.org.  Already added your name to the hundreds of thousands of other Americans who want to stand up for our rights?  Tell your friends and family and get them signed up, too.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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This morning on NPR, Congressman Joe Barton (R-Arlington/Ennis) made some statements on how the massive influx of corporate money because of the Citizens United decision might not be so bad after all.  The entire story is worth a listen, and can be found by going here to NPR’s website.

Here’s what he said, and let’s evaluate some of these claims.

“It’s not giving corporate money to the campaign committees or the candidate, it’s using their own money to say ‘Congressman Joe Barton is doing a good job’, ‘Please vote for Joe Barton in the upcoming election, paid for by…. uhhh, I don’t know… Texas Industries.’”

Barton is essentially correct.  Corporations cannot give directly to candidates or committees.  But the general rule in competitive campaigns for the last 20 or so years is that outside actors spend more money than the candidates themselves and that voters often don’t differentiate between candidate sponsored communications and outside groups running their ads. The McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), which Citizens United struck down key portions of, has alleviated some of that confusion in voters minds by requiring candidates to say who they are and that they approve that message.

The problem with outside money is that corporations don’t have to identify themselves when they’re running ads, except with some fine print at the bottom of a screen. You may have heard of MoveOn.org, but do you have any idea who gave them money? No, and it’s impossible to find out.  What about the very nice sounding “America’s Power” or “Americans for Balanced Energy Choices”– sounds nice until you find out they are front groups for the oil and coal lobby.  And here’s a telling foreshadowing of what this coming election season are really going to look like from Josh Harkinson:

In strident speech in Washington this morning, US Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue renewed his assault on the Obama agenda and pledged to fight the President’s allies in the 2010 elections. The Chamber will wage “the largest, most aggressive” campaign in it’s 100-year history, he said, to “highlight lawmakers and candidates who support a pro-jobs agenda, and hold accountable those who don’t.” (more…)

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Austin Rally to Protest the Possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court Will Allow Corporations to Unleash Flood of Money Into Elections

Court Is Considering Sweeping Away a Century’s Worth of Campaign Finance Principles

WHAT: Rally to raise awareness about the U.S. Supreme Court re-hearing Wednesday of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The court has signaled it is considering sweeping away a century-old pillar of campaign finance principles: restrictions on direct corporate financing of candidate campaigns. If that were to happen, not only would the nature of elections change fundamentally, but corporations would further crowd out voters and the public interest in policymaking on health care, climate change and other critical issues.

This rally is part of Public Citizen’s campaign to encourage citizen protests throughout the country. To learn about Public Citizen’s campaign and for more information about the case, go to www.DontGetRolled.org.

WHO: Public Citizen staff, members, activists and concerned citizens.

WHEN: 11 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, Sept. 9

WHERE: South Steps of Texas State Capitol, 1100 Congress Ave, Austin, TX

VISUALS: A parody and a protest.

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Overturning Campaign Finance Restrictions Would Allow Corporations to Dominate Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen joined a team of other attorneys in submitting a friend-of-the-court brief to the U.S. Supreme Court today, urging the court to adhere to its precedents and reaffirm the longstanding principle that corporations may not engage in unfettered campaign spending.

The brief filed in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission argues that if the Supreme Court overrules past decisions and strikes down portions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), corporations would be free to mobilize their vast assets as political “war chests” and could soon come to dominate electoral discourse.

Ruling against BCRA would not only condemn its electioneering provisions, but also the decades-old requirement that corporations make campaign expenditures only through political action committees (PACs) funded by individual donations, not from their corporate treasuries.

“This has become one of the most important campaign finance cases of our generation,” said Public Citizen attorney Scott Nelson, who coauthored the brief with former U.S. Solicitor General Seth Waxman and his partners Randy Moss and Roger Witten of the law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP, as well as former Public Citizen Litigation Group Director Alan Morrison, currently on the faculty of the George Washington University Law School.

The case involves the abortive plan of a right-wing group, Citizens United, to broadcast Hillary: The Movie, which a lower court found to be electioneering subject to BCRA. Among other things, BCRA prevents corporations from funding broadcasts containing candidate advocacy except through segregated funds, or PACs, with all money donated by individuals. Citizens United admittedly did not comply with those restrictions.

After hearing argument in the case in March, the Supreme Court announced that it wanted to hear additional argument on whether two of its key precedents allowing limitations on for-profit corporations’ ability to use corporate funds for electoral purposes should be overruled. The brief filed today on behalf of the principal congressional sponsors of BCRA (Sens. John McCain and Russ Feingold and former Reps. Chris Shays and Marty Meehan) strongly urges the court to uphold BCRA’s constitutionality.

Now at issue in the case is whether the court should overrule Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which held that the government can limit for-profit corporations to the use of PACs to fund express electoral advocacy, and McConnell v. FEC, which applied that principle to uphold the constitutionality of BCRA’s “electioneering communications” provisions, which restrict corporate funding of election-eve broadcasts that mention candidates and convey unmistakable electoral messages.

The brief submitted on behalf of the BCRA sponsors urges that “[o]verruling Austin or McConnell in this case would be unwarranted and unseemly” and that the principle of respect for the court’s precedents requires a “special justification” – which is absent here – before the court may take such a drastic step. The decisions, the brief contends, “are vital cornerstones of modern campaign finance”and “[o]verruling them would severely jolt our political system.”

The case will be reargued on Sept. 9. A copy of the complete brief is available at http://www.citizen.org/documents/CitizensUnitedSuppAmicus.pdf.

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