Posts Tagged ‘money’

PRICELE$$ – the movie

From the Fourth of July to the halls of Congress, PRICELE$$ is a filmmaker’s personal journey across America to answer a burning question: why are some of our government’s most basic policies, like food and energy, so out-of-date, and can anything be done about it? Sharing the suspicion of fellow-citizens, including a class of young civics students, that campaign money is involved, the filmmakers set out on a spellbinding—at times hilarious—ride from rural America to the halls of Congress to learn more, because democracy is a precious resource, PRICELE$$ even!

PRICELE$$ airs on November 4 in Austin, TX @ 9:30 pm on KLRU-Q.  The award-winning documentary is a FUN and compelling film about the need for a new way to elect lawmakers without the help of billionaires, lobbyists and SuperPACs.  A winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Washington DC Independent Film Festival PRICELE$$ has received big thumbs up from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who are fed up with the money chase and the entanglements. 


Check out the trailer above and watch the full film on Sunday, November 4th before election day.  And check out the reviews from elected officials below.  If you live in other parts of the country, contact your local PBS station to see if they intend to air it in the near future.

The USA is the greatest nation in world history, but it is not as good as it could be.  This film tells us how we can be all we should besimply, but not simplistically.

-Former Governor of New York, Mario Cuomo (D)

I would urge every single Member of Congress (or their fine staff!) to watch this movie. It’s high time that our leaders bring an end to the corrupting and stifling influence of special interest money on our democracy.  This just isn’t about right and left.  It’s really about right and wrong.

-Former Senator Alan Simpson (R)

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As early as the time of Socrates, people have identified money as a corruptive influence in politics, specifically in democracies.  Elections now cost double and triple what they used to, which means more and more of our Senators’ and Representatives’ time is spent dialing for dollars.  The average member of the House of Representatives will want to raise and spend over a million dollars (that’s $1,000,000) to insure victory on Election Day.  In a competitive race, it can be much, much more than that.

So why do we subject our leaders to this grueling and wasteful misuse of their precious time and energy? And why are we surprised when Big Money holds more sway than the Common Good and Reasoned Argument? Ultimately, we get the government we deserve- because we force our politicians to raise money this way, and so we shouldn’t be surprised when campaign “donors” think that their “donations” mean that they should get special favors or special access.  More than ever, voters feel dissillusioned and cynical about government and feel disconnected from their leaders. (And can you blame them?)

So what is the answer? Why not allow those who represent us to circumvent this whole process?  One piece of legislation designed to do this is the Fair Elections Now Act.

What is the Fair Election Now Act? This bi-partisan bill was introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (IL) and Arlen Specter (PA) in the Senate, and by Representatives John Larson (D- CT) and Walter Jones, Jr. (R- NC)  in the House of Representatives. It will provide public funding for office seeking political candidates who qualify, in addition to small private donations up to $100 dollars. Also, all qualifying candidates get a reduction rate on media fees for campaigning purposes, as well as media vouchers that they can exchange for cash if they prefer.

This bill will provide an equal playing field for political candidates, as money differences will play less of a role in the campaign, and therefore provide lesser-known candidates a more fair chance to compete in political races. Public Funding has already been successfully tested in several states, and it can hopefully achieve the same success on a federal level.

Who will qualify for Public Funding? The amount of public funding that each individual candidate receives will depend on the office they are seeking or holding, but each candidate must first qualify by raising a set amount of small donations. For example, House Members running for office must receive 1,500 contributions from their state, and $50,000 altogether. All candidates must therefore prove that they have the ability to raise money for their campaign and thereby demonstrating their competitive ability in the race before they can receive public funding.

Why you should support this bill and how to help get this bill passed! Simple: the status quo is broken. Everyone understands that lobbyists and corporate institutions (PACs, bundlers, etc)  benefit from the current system where big money buys big access.

Voters will first and foremost benefit, because they can be sure their Representatives are ONLY representing them, and basing their votes on what is best for their constituents, not what makes their donors happy.  Furthermore, we will have a fair and wide range of politically qualified candidates to choose from in each election– areas that have enacted public financing, such as Maine and Arizona, have seen a more diverse group of candidates run, resulting in representation that looks more like the population.

The candidates themselves will also benefit, because they can focus more on policies that their constituents favor and their political message instead of constantly raising money for their campaign. In addition, the main contributions are increasingly coming from big donors that come with strings attached. With the Fair Election Now Act, the people have the chance to take back the power of democracy and away from corporate interests!

It is the responsibility of each citizen to ensure our freedom and democracy,and YOU can help the pass this bill for the sake of those crucial values. If you are interested in supporting this bill, you can take one easy step and click here to sign up for a petition. For more detailed information about the bill, please click here.

You can also call your member of Congress and ask them to co-sponser this bipartisan piece of legislation.  Click here to get contact info for who represents you.  As of now, six members of the Texas Congressional Delegation have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.  If you’re lucky enough to be represented by one of them, call their offices and express your thanks for standing up to Big Money interests.

Gene Green (Houston)

Sheila Jackson-Lee (Houston)

Eddie Bernice Johnson (Dallas)

Solomon Ortiz (Corpus Christi)

Silvestre Reyes (El Paso)

Lloyd Doggett (Austin)

By Harrison

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Do you need some extra cash? Then Rick Perry’s campaign is the place to “volunteer” these days. Governor Rick Perry of Texas is rewarding his volunteers in the governor’s race, not with the usual candidate goods or an opportunity to meet with the candidate, but with flat-out cash. Though not a common practice, paying campaign volunteers is

Rick Perry hungry for the Governors seat

Rick Perry hungry for the Governor's seat

perfectly legal, as long as all the payments are disclosed in the campaign financial reports. But is it right? Does this type of campaigning encourage people to be more concerned with earning some additional cash than with Perry’s actual political platform?

Perry pays volunteers to sign up 11 other volunteers, who then again sign up to recruit 11 more volunteers, and so forth. Of course, Perry is not guaranteed the votes of the recruits, only their word that they will vote for him. Obviously, Perry’s only goal is to recruit as many voters as possible. But he is also taking a chance by paying his volunteers, because many people will campaign for money incentives, but may not actually vote for him in the primaries. So to encourage the vote, Perry has promised more money to the recruiters who turn out actual voters on Election Day.

But this whole scenario creates a bigger problem: It is very possible that people who are not necessarily usually politically active will now campaign and/or vote for Perry only because they will profit from it, which takes us back to the days of Party Bosses. Under party bosses, people were given money, jobs and other services from politicians essentially buying their votes.

To many people, this is perhaps not a shock coming from Perry, but even the governor’s Republican opponent Kay Bailey Hutchinson has openly criticized Perry’s campaign method. Her spokeswoman Jennifer Baker states: “Typical Rick Perry arrogance, when his failed record can’t earn him support, he’ll just buy it,” adding that Hutchinson’s campaign does not offer money to volunteers.

Ultimately, the problem with paying volunteers is that the process of campaigning, and the incentive for volunteerism and even voting can quickly become more about money than ideology and the meaningful issues at hand. Money for votes, therefore, can ultimately skew the interests of the constituency that the governor will represent. People who are not necessarily usually politically involved will now campaign and vote for Perry only because they will profit from it and not for the real reasons they should be involved in politics, or cast a vote.

Mysteriously, there is no mention of these paid volunteer positions on Rick Perry’s website, but the site states that anyone who signs up as a volunteer will receive “access to inside information.”

By H. Harrison


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, 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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UPDATE: Bill Richardson was cleared of any wrongdoing in this fund raising scandal  and we wanted to briefly comment on it and also resurrect this post, which to this day remains one of our most read blogs ever.

As I commented in response to some of your reader’s comments below, the point was never to drag Gov. Richardson through the mud.  Indeed, considering his eventual vindication, it re-emphasizes the point that if we had a system of public financing, no politician would ever face erroneous charges such as this.

Money muddies the water, both for the good public servant and the bad politician , and anyone we force to raise private campaign cash we are asking them to prostitute their opinions on the altar of political expediency.  And we get the system we deserve because of it.

Original Post: Jan 5, 2009

I’ve heard it said that churches are supposed to make bad men good and good men better.  Our campaign finance system seems to do the opposite: make good men bad and bad men worse (ie, Governors Richardson and Blagojevich, respectively).  As far back as Socrates, outside observers have noticed the corruptive influence of money on public policy.  Our public servants worshiping at the altar of campaign donations is sure path to hell for most of us.  But the fact that we force them to do so by not providing a public financing system begs the question: Are we getting what we deserve?

As Richardson withdraws his name for consideration of being Commerce Secretary, more and more details are coming out about his ethical problems.  Did he take campaign donations that changed his votes?  Possibly, or at least there’s enough of an ethical cloud there that no one can know for sure.

And that’s the problem with how we finance our campaigns.  No one can ever be truly sure that their Legislators, Representatives, Senators, Mayors, Governors, or Presidents are taking a position because of the merits of the proposals themselves, or because someone with deep pockets convinced them that’s how they should vote.  The same can be said of incoming Senatorial appointee Roland Burris.  It’s surely not his fault that Blagojevich is a slimeball, but the public just can’t be certain that he was appointed based on his merits alone and not because Blagojevich had some ulterior motive.

The only way to remove all doubt is by supporting public financing.  We can only hope during this next Congress that we see some real leadership on this issue so that We the People can know that we are, indeed, still the ones in charge of our government and not the other way around.

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