Category Archives: Campaign finance

United States Doesn’t Even Make Top 20 on Global Democracy Index

Nation classified “flawed democracy”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-11-2019

Statue of Liberty through the morning fog from the Staten Island Ferry. (Photo: Brian Angell/flickr/cc)

A new index released this week offers a sobering look at how democracy is faring in the United States.

According to the 2018 edition of The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, the U.S. doesn’t even make the list of top 20—its demonstrably “flawed democracy” notching it the 25th spot.

The ranking is based on 60 indicators spanning five interrelated categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture. Each category gets a 0-10 score, with the final score being the average of those five. Continue reading

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‘No-Brainer for Anyone Who Actually Cares About American Democracy’: House Democrats’ HR 1 Praised as Real Plan to Drain the Swamp

“It’s time to unrig our broken political system. Our political leaders have been most responsive to the interests of their wealthy donors for too long while the needs of normal Americans go unaddressed.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-4-2018

Unlike President Donald Trump’s campaign trail vow to “drain the swamp” that never came to fruition—in fact, he has somehow managed to make Washington even swampier—House Democrats on Friday officially introduced sweeping legislation that progressives celebrated as a plan to actually confront the deep-seated corruption that has long pervaded the American political system.

Formally titled the For the People Act—or H.R. 1—and sponsored by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), the far-reaching bill would promote public financing of elections, reduce the influence of corporate dark money, strengthen ethics and financial disclosure rules, and bolster voting rights, which are under severe attack from the Republican Party, the Trump White House, and the right-wing Supreme Court. Continue reading

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With Power to Kneecap Bold Demand, Incoming Democratic Tax Committee Chair Says Medicare for All ‘Not Realistic’

“Two decades of generous donations apparently gets you a powerful congressman willing to throw up roadblocks in front of universal healthcare.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-6-2018

Ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) speaks during a news conference on Republican plans to end the state and local tax deduction, on Capitol Hill, October 12, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Photo: C-SPAN screenshot

As progressive House Democrats strategize and push for a vote on Medicare for All legislation as soon as possible, surging congressional and grassroots momentum for single-payer could soon run into a serious obstacle in the form of incoming Ways and Means Committee chair Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), who has denounced Medicare for All as “not realistic” and will soon be in a position to tank healthcare plans that are unacceptable to his insurance industry donors.

“Neal will have near total control over what tax-related policies come to the House floor, including legislation that would create a Medicare for All healthcare system,” noted investigative reporter Eoin Higgins in a piece for Sludge on Wednesday. “Having Neal at the helm of the committee, rather than a more progressive member, makes it much less likely that the House of Representatives will vote on universal healthcare measures.” Continue reading

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‘A Staggeringly Bad Idea’: Outrage as Pelosi Pushes Tax Rule That Would ‘Kneecap the Progressive Agenda’

“This is a very bad idea, House Democrats. It makes no sense whatsoever to give Republicans veto power over progressive legislation.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-16-2018

Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr

Nearly three-quarters of the American public and a historic number of Democratic lawmakers support Medicare for All, but the House Democratic leadership is considering using its newly won majority to impose a rule that would “recklessly betray” the grassroots forces that put them in power by making single-payer and other progressive priorities impossible to enact.

According to a list of Democratic proposals obtained by the Washington Post, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—who is currently fighting back against efforts to prevent her from becoming House Speaker—is pushing for a rule that would “require a three-fifths supermajority to raise individual income taxes on the lowest-earning 80 percent of taxpayers.” Continue reading

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‘Actions Speak Louder Than Words’: Prominent Group ‘End Citizens United’ Called Out for Backing Democrats Drowning in Corporate Cash

“If their organization only supported candidates who firmly pledged no PAC money, their contributions could breathe much-needed life into grassroots campaigns. Instead it looks more like an intentional obfuscation.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-5-2018

At first glance, the prominent political action committee End Citizens United (ECU) appears to be dedicated to channeling widespread grassroots anger at corporate money in politics into promoting candidates who reject cash from big business and support bold campaign finance reform.

But a closer look at the candidates ECU endorses and funds reveals that the organization frequently uses its vast resources to reinforce the poisonous status quo. Continue reading

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What Facebook’s New Political Ad System Misses

Facebook announced a new system to make political ads more transparent. It’s got holes.

By Jeremy B. MerrillAriana Tobin, and Madeleine Varner. Published 5-24-2018 by ProPublica.

Screenshot: Bloomberg

Facebook’s long-awaited change in how it handles political advertisements is only a first step toward addressing a problem intrinsic to a social network built on the viral sharing of user posts.

The company’s approach, a searchable database of political ads and their sponsors, depends on the company’s ability to sort through huge quantities of ads and identify which ones are political. Facebook is betting that a combination of voluntary disclosure and review by both people and automated systems will close a vulnerability that was famously exploited by Russian meddlers in the 2016 election.

The company is doubling down on tactics that so far have not prevented the proliferation of hate-filled posts or ads that use Facebook’s capability to target ads particular groups. Continue reading

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This Memorial Day, support our troops by stopping the wars

By Kevin Basl. Published 5-25-2018 by People’s World

Vietnam Vets Against the War take part in an antiwar rally – 1970. Photo: flickr

“How do you motivate men and women to fight and die for a cause many of them don’t believe in, and whose purpose they can’t articulate?”

That’s what Phil Klay, author and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, asks in an essay published this month in The Atlantic. Unfortunately, he points out in a recent New York Times op-ed, “Serious discussion of foreign policy and the military’s role within it is often prohibited” by what he calls “patriotic correctness.”

In a well-functioning democracy, Klay argues, citizens must debate and question how their elected officials employ their military, an organization which ought to represent the values of the people. But it seems many Americans remain unconcerned about the wars the United States is currently fighting (at last count, we’re bombing at least seven countries) though they foot the bill both in tax dollars and lives. Continue reading

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Recognizing Powerful Interests Running the Joint, More Than 75% of Americans Back Campaign Finance Reform

“Let’s turn opinion into action by overturning #CitizensUnited and enacting public financing of elections nationwide,” says Public Citizen in response to new Pew survey.

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-27-2018

New findings from the Pew Research Center reveal widespread support for campaign finance reform. (Photo: Backbone Campaign/flickr/cc)

Amidst a widely-shared recognition that the country is effectively being run by powerful special interests, a new poll out Friday shows that more than 3 out of 4 Americans now support serious campaign finance reform as a way to mitigate the corrupting influence of money in the nation’s democracy.

The results of the extensive Pew Research Center survey, released Thursday, reveal Americans “see the country falling well short in living up to” democratic ideals and values, and believe core changes are needed in the political system. Continue reading

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‘Tip of the Iceberg’: Watchdog Files Ethics Complaints Targeting 30 Lobbyists in Trump Administration

One expert estimates that “the real number of potential violations is fourfold.”

By  for CommonDreams. Published 3-26-2018

One ethics expert at Public Citizen said Monday, “These 30 apparent violations of Trump’s own ethics rules are only the tip of the iceberg.” (Photo: jackandfred/imgur)

Underscoring allegations that “ethics do not matter in the Trump administration,” a watchdog group on Monday filed complaints against 30 lobbyists whom President Donald Trump has appointed to his administration without ethics rule waivers—and experts warn this is only the “tip of the iceberg,” positing that the actual number of violations is likely much higher.

The advocacy group Public Citizen has identified at least 36 former lobbyists in the administration who are working on issues for which they recently lobbied, and only six of them have waivers from the ethics rule that Trump issued just days after taking office. Continue reading

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‘This Needs to Happen All Over America’: Applause for Candidate Who Called Out Big Oil Donors

“Why do we need campaign finance reform? This. This is why.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-12-2018

West Virginia House of Delegates candidate Lissa Lucas was hailed as a model for congressional candidates across the nation after she read off the names of politicians taking money from the oil and gas industry. (Photo: Facebook/Screengrab)

When West Virginia House of Delegates candidate Lissa Lucas decided to take a stand against Big Oil’s pernicious political influence last week by rattling off the names of state lawmakers receiving massive campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry, she was swiftly and forcefully silenced.

Now, her story—first reported by journalist Russell Mokhiber in a piece for Common Dreams on Sunday—has become a viral sensation and a model for those looking to challenge the stranglehold corporate cash has on the American political system.

Watch the video of the incident, which has since garnered over 133,000 views on Facebook: Continue reading

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