Tag Archives: Citizens United

Upholding Power of the People, Court Says Voters Can Weigh In on Citizens United

‘Are we a democracy of, by, and for the people, or are we to be ruled by an elite, moneyed class?’

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-5-2016

The California high court decision paves the way for the state legislature to put the ballot measure before voters statewide in 2016. (Photo: hjl/flickr/cc)

The California high court decision paves the way for the state legislature to put the ballot measure before voters statewide in 2016. (Photo: hjl/flickr/cc)

When it ruled Monday that California lawmakers can ask for voters’ opinions on campaign-spending laws, the state Supreme Court underscored “that the ultimate power of our government is vested in the people,” Common Cause senior vice president Karen Hobert Flynn declared in the wake of the decision.

By upholding the legality of Proposition 49—which would ask voters whether Congress should propose an amendment overturning the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Citizens Unitedthe court spoke “directly to the question we have faced since the Citizens United ruling,” Hobert Flynn continued. “Are we a democracy of, by, and for the people, or are we to be ruled by an elite, moneyed class, where the power of government rests in the hands of a few wealthy special interests?” Continue reading

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Happy Holidays, Super PACs: FEC Removes Yet Another Block Against Dark Money

Little-noticed rule allows candidates to solicit money for super PACs as long as it’s done in a small meeting

By Nadia Prupis, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-25-2015.

Activists rally for a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court decision on Friday, January 21, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Brendan Hoffman)

Activists rally for a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court decision on Friday, January 21, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Brendan Hoffman)

The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) has quietly released a new advisory opinion that will make it even easier for candidates and their staffers to solicit for super PACs donations.

The opinion states that candidates can ask for funds from donors as long as they are meeting in small groups—as small as three people, according to the Washington Post, which first reported on the story Thursday. Continue reading

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Amid Flood of Dark Money, Groups Make Simple Request of FEC: ‘Do Your Job’

Existing regulations are “woefully inadequate to address today’s political environment”

Written by Deirdre Fulton for Common Dreams. Published 10-28-15.

"Today's flood of dark money in federal elections is almost wholly the creation of the Federal Election Commission," says the coalition, "and the Commission should take responsibility for correcting this problem." (Photo: 401(k) 2012/flickr/cc)

“Today’s flood of dark money in federal elections is almost wholly the creation of the Federal Election Commission,” says the coalition, “and the Commission should take responsibility for correcting this problem.” (Photo: 401(k) 2012/flickr/cc)

Decrying the unprecedented flow of so-called “dark money” into the U.S. political process, a coalition of civic and religious organizations, environmentalists, and academics on Tuesday submitted comments to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), calling on the agency to—put simply—do its job.

“Since the 2010 Citizens United decision, each election cycle has seen dramatic changes in the campaign finance environment,” the groups declared in comments (pdf) that press the FEC to address critical regulatory shortfalls. “Yet, the rules and regulations of the Federal Election Commission have not kept pace.”

In fact, they continued, “Today’s flood of dark money in federal elections via both electioneering communications and independent expenditures is almost wholly the creation of the Federal Election Commission and the Commission should take responsibility for correcting this problem.”

While Citizens United undoubtedly “opened a floodgate of outside spending,” the groups wrote, the FEC’s failure to update its rules accordingly—or, in the case of disclosure rules, to actually defy both the law and the Supreme Court decision itself—has only intensified the problem.

Noting that the cost for the 2016 election cycle is expected to exceed $10 billion, the coalition—which includes Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth, and the Center for Media and Democracy, among others—specifically calls for the FEC to update its rules in order to:

  • reestablish the excellent disclosure regime that had existed prior to recent erroneous rulemaking by the Commission;
  • strengthen its rule to require that foreign nationals receive written assurances from any organization that conducts electioneering activity that the foreign funds will not be used for campaign purposes;
  • update its coordination rule to ensure that unregulated super PACs and other outside electioneering groups are truly independent of candidate and party committees.

On that last point, the groups stated that the FEC’s existing regulation “is woefully inadequate to address today’s political environment.”

While super PACs—which can solicit unlimited donations and have thus far raised $211 million in this election cycle—are ostensibly independent from the candidates and campaigns they support, watchdogs say the reality tells a much different story.

“Frequently, the coordination between super PACs and their candidates is laughable and the subject of televised comedy acts,” the coalition wrote, making it “indisputably obvious” to both the public and election experts that “the lax coordination rules enable candidates to evade the contribution limits by setting up a closely coordinated super PAC.”

Furthermore, by essentially throwing up its hands—FEC chief Ann M. Ravel told the New York Times in May that the agency’s internal gridlock made it “worse than dysfunctional”—the agency is only inviting further wrongdoing.

To that end, separate comments also filed Tuesday by pro-democracy groups Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center call on (pdf) the FEC to reject a request from two Democratic PACs that are seeking guidance from the agency itself on how to follow the lead of a number of GOP super PACs “in breaking a variety of laws through coordinated activities with candidates.”

“These super PACs are seeking FEC permission to break the law, as other candidates and committees have done, knowing full well that the Commission will deadlock on the questions, and announcing that they will break the law if they do not get a yes or no answer from the FEC,” said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, in a press statement.

But, Ryan warned, super PACs “are mistaken…in implying that an FEC deadlock amounts to approval of their proposed lawbreaking. The laws passed by Congress are the laws of the land despite the complete breakdown of campaign finance law enforcement at the FEC and we will not hesitate to urge the Department of Justice to criminally investigate what would be knowing and willful violations of the law if these groups proceed with their plans.”

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There Goes the Neighborhood

By respres (http://www.flickr.com/photos/respres/2539334956/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

By respres [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

About 3 months ago, two properties adjacent to ours were put on the market.

The first house was a foreclosure, currently owned by Fannie Mac. We expect this property to be on the market quite some time, as it has not been updated since the original owner bought it in the early 1960s. We have nicknamed it the squirrel condo, as the 15-foot rotted facia along the roof line has been chewed by the little tree rats, and they have gained access to the attic. We also call it a beehive, as the siding is so damaged and rotten that bees have infested all accessible areas and chase any lawn mower away from their protected territory.

The first time a contractor came to mow this property after it was listed, they damaged our lawn with an eighteen foot arc that cut through our sod and destroyed our lawn up to a foot and a half over the property boundary. We estimate the actual value of this home to be about half the listed price, and pray any potential buyer has the wisdom to have an independent inspector check it over before signing a purchase agreement. We have reported the roof line to the city environmental officer, who is supposed to enforce codes that would require repair.

The other property, an identical house to ours without some of the add-ons this house received, just sold. I met my new neighbors today. Continue reading

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Corporate Media Blacks Out Coverage of Bill to Overturn Corporate Personhood

Written By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: Published May 4, 2015 in WallStreetOnParade.com. Reprinted here with permission.

ThanksCorporateNewsLast Wednesday, the grassroots organization, Move to Amend, held a press conference at the National Press Club to announce that six members of the U.S. House of Representatives were introducing legislation to overturn Citizens United v FEC to make free speech and all other rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution available only to “natural persons,” not corporations or limited liability companies. The legislation would also give Federal, state and local governments the ability to limit political contributions to “ensure all citizens,  regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process.” Continue reading

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A Worthwhile Target

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Citizens United v Federal Election Commission decision. In this landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled that independent political expenditures by non-profit corporations are protected under the First Amendment and not subject to restriction by the government. The ruling has also extended to for-profit corporations, unions and other organizations.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean that corporations can contribute directly to candidate campaigns; that is still illegal under Federal law. What it does do is prohibit the government from restricting political expenditures by corporations and unions other than direct contributions to individual campaigns.

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Grassroots Pro-Democracy vs. Corporate Control

Published on Friday, October 24, 2014 by Common Dreams

Bill Moyers: Grassroots Pro-Democracy Movement Must Rise to Challenge Corporate Control

By Jon Queally, Common Dreams staff writer

Ahead of final sign-off, veteran journalist tells viewers that reaching out to their fellow citizens and neighbors is the essential task in creating the transformation so desperately needed

Bill Moyers 2005. Photo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bill Moyers 2005. Photo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In late September, veteran journalist and public television host Bill Moyers, now eighty-years old, announced he was finally retiring (and yes, this time he means it) after more than forty years as one of the nation’s most trusted voices in news, politics, and culture.

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How To Buy The Senate

Last Thursday, six days before the elections here in the US, a story broke that completely slipped underneath the radar of the national media. While that in itself isn’t surprising considering our media’s proven track record in ignoring important stories, we’re really surprised that this one didn’t make headlines.

Last August, Colombian inspectors found 40 kilos of cocaine aboard the Ping May, a cargo vessel that was about to sail to Europe. While this is a fairly common occurrence these days, the ownership of the vessel is what makes this newsworthy. The vessel is owned by the Foremost Maritime Corporation. Foremost was founded and is owned by James Chao. Who is James Chao? He’s the father-in-law of the man who will more than likely be the next Senate Majority Leader; Mitch McConnell. Continue reading

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Vote “as if” your life depends on it

By occupostal for Occupy World Writes

By Minnesota Historical Society [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

1956 Window display promoting voting, Dayton’s, Minneapolis. By Minnesota Historical Society [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

My first impulse was to exhort you to vote in our upcoming American elections on November 4. Yes, it matters. In a number of ways. Just Google “importance of voting”  and you’ll get a litany of useful reasons that can be generalized no matter where you stand politically. Many of them will fall within this framework: (1) You and your vote are crucial to the democratic process that our government depends on—we don’t govern ourselves directly, but we need representatives who reflect our concerns and needs and can improve our lives. (2) The more local the election, the greater your impact in voting—and the greater the impact that the reps who get elected will have on your day-to-day life, because you live right here, not just in the “nation at large” or in your “virtual life” online. (3) Finally, if you don’t vote in an informed way you’ll wind up with a government of reps that answer to lowest common denominator partisanship and the big money that promoted those reps and to which their governing will inevitably (given human nature) answer. So if you don’t have the single hobbyhorse issue that extreme partisans tend to, or the deep pockets of the 1% elect, you had better vote and vote smartly informed.

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We Hoped For The Best, But…

Last Friday, we ran a piece on the The Democracy for All AmendmentThis wasn’t the first time we’ve touched on Citizens United and its impact on our politics and policies; we ran a piece back in January proposing that our Congressthings wear the logos of their “sponsors” at all public engagements and while conducting the business of politics. But, last Friday’s post was especially timely, considering that a procedural vote was scheduled for Monday.

We pointed out the inherent flaws in the bill that went before the Senate, especially when compared to HJ Res 29, which is a comprehensive resolution introduced at the behest of the grassroots organization Move to Amend.  First of all, the bill didn’t address transparency in the campaign contribution process. Secondly, it was designed to be passed with a companion bill, The People’s Rights Amendment, that defined the legal status of a corporation as far as constitutional rights went. We questioned whether the two bills instead of the one all-encompassing bill strategy was a smokescreen – pass one and we’d be so happy that one got through that we won’t notice that the other’s going nowhere, when both are needed the way that they’re written.

Monday’s procedural vote almost gave us reason to be hopeful; the Senate voted 79-18 to let it advance to the floor. However, then the corporate and big money spin machine went to work, and we heard such absurdities as a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United was an attempt to repeal the First Amendment. Our favorite psychopath from Texas, Ted Cruz, went as far as to claim “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels could be thrown in jail if the amendment passed, as according to him, the amendment would outlaw political speech by corporations. Of course, Teddy knows it does nothing like that at all; yet that and other such absurdities were spouted as gospel by those on the right to ramp up the paranoia among their followers. Then came yesterday’s vote.

via Facebook

via Facebook

We hoped that we would be wrong in our prediction of what would happen, but alas, it was not to be. In a completely partisan voice, the Senate voted 54-42 to pass this amendment. However, since this is the modern Senate where everything besides confirmation of nominees to various posts requires 60 votes to pass instead of a simple majority, the bill won’t go forward to the House. Once again, the Republicans in the Senate paid more heed to the corporations putting lobbyist money in their pockets than to listen to the American people.

We could not help but note this vote was taken on 9-11, when most media outlets would be paying very little attention to what the Senate was doing. So, once again, while we were distracted, our elected officials did their utmost to screw we the people out of having any say in our government.

So, what can we do? Is it game over – have they won? Absolutely not! 

Be an active participant in the process, and not a passive watcher. Get involved with Move to Amend. Let your Congressthings in both the House and Senate know that you’re watching; remind them that they work for you, and not the other way around. Get out and vote in November. Just do it.

America’s future generations will thank you…

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