Category: Campaign Finance Reform

Post-Citizen’s United Confessions of a retiring member of the House

| January 10, 2016 | 1 Reply

“A fund-raising consultant advised that if I didn’t raise at least $10,000 a week (in pre-Citizens United dollars), I wouldn’t be back.”

There it is: the most important task for members of the house of representatives, according to this NYT article by Steve Israel. It gets even worse:

There were hours of “call time” — huddled in a cubicle, dialing donors. Sometimes double dialing and triple dialing. Whispering sweet nothings and other small talk into the phone in hopes of receiving large somethings. I’d sit next to an assistant who collated “call sheets” with donor’s names, contribution histories and other useful information. (“How’s Sheila? Your wife. Oh, Shelly? Sorry.”) . . . I’ve spent roughly 4,200 hours in call time, attended more than 1,600 fund-raisers just for my own campaign and raised nearly $20 million in increments of $1,000, $2,500 and $5,000 per election cycle. And things have only become worse in the five years since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which ignited an explosion of money in politics by ruling that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in elections.

Title of the article: “Confessions of a Congressman.”


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Bernie Sanders sticks to the issues

| September 1, 2015 | Reply

It’s extraordinary the extent to which “news” personalities are trying to bait Bernie Sanders to abandon the issues and engage in personal attacks or horse-race politics.   This recent interview with Andrea Mitchell is a good example of this approach by a interviewer and Bernie Sanders’ approach to bringing the discussion back to concrete issues.


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Public opinion has “near-zero” impact on U.S. law.

| August 4, 2015 | Reply

Here’s the bottom line of a Princeton study, “Does the Government Represent the People?”:

Gilens & Page found that the number of Americans for or against any idea has no impact on the likelihood that Congress will make it law.

“The preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

One thing that does have an influence? Money. While the opinions of the bottom 90% of income earners in America have a “statistically non-significant impact,” Economic elites, business interests, and people who can afford lobbyists still carry major influence.

The study found that nearly every issue we face as a nation is caught in the grip of corruption. Industries given special attention are those who provide the most funding to politicians: Energy, Telecommunications, Pharmaceuticals, Defense, Agribusiness and Finance.


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The relevance of military service in preparation for political service.

| July 19, 2015 | 3 Replies

I’m sitting back, rather indifferent to the Trump/McCain feud. What relevance does soldier experience have to being a politician? Truly, does experience firing a weapon, flying a plane or following orders in a bureaucratic hierarchy make one a better visionary or leader? I wondered these same things when presidential candidates John Kerry, George W. Bush and McCain all trotted out their actual and alleged military backgrounds as though that type of work would make for a better politician, rather than possibly a worse politician. For that matter, what does being rich, being a real estate developer, or being an entertainer have to do with being a good politician? If only the pushback against Trump were really about honoring military service rather than the GOP’s attempt to soften some of its embarrassing official and unofficial positions.

In our current highly corrupt elections system, I would think that better foundations for being a politician would include 1) an indifference to acquiring money above and beyond an amount necessary to support a truly modest lifestyle, comparable to that of those earning the median American household income, 2) a long-documented history of refusing to be bought off by big money, and 3) a humble reluctance to assume a position of great power. My suggested qualifications would disqualify almost every member of Congress, many of whom are borderline psychopathic.


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Alan Grayson’s new Declaration of Independence

| July 4, 2015 | Reply

I received this new Declaration of Independence in a mass emailing from Alan Grayson:

We need a new declaration of independence. FDR took a stab at this, with his “Four Freedoms.” Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Freedom from want. Freedom from fear. That’s a good start.

But now, eight decades later, we need to declare our independence from other forms of oppression.

We hereby declare our independence from bigotry, in all its evil forms. We declare our independence from racism, sexism, homophobia, language discrimination and chauvinism. Everyone has equal rights, no matter where you’re from, what you look like, what language you speak, and whom you love. Everyone deserves respect.

We hereby declare our independence from narrow-minded, extremist or violent religious fundamentalism. We live in a land where church and state are separate. Religious belief, no matter how sincere, is no license to dictate to others whether to terminate a pregnancy, whether to use contraception, or whom to marry. Earlier this year, I placed my hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution; I didn’t place my hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.

We hereby declare our independence from the greedy. Malefactors of great wealth have no right to buy and sell elected officials thorough the legalized bribery of “independent expenditures.” They have no right to despoil our land and our water, the air we breathe and the food we eat. They have no right to manipulate or gut our laws in order to increase their lucre. They have no right to jack up the price of what we buy, or determine what we see on TV or on our computer screens.

We hereby declare our independence from “1984”-style surveillance. Neither the Government nor a private company has any reason to monitor the activities of innocent people, without their express, informed and freely given consent. Who I’m with, what I say, what I buy, what I read; that’s none of anyone else’s business. Privacy – the fundamental right to be left alone – is an essential part of what it means to be a human being.

We hereby declare our independence from exploitation. Bad bosses are today’s King George. They want to work employees as hard as they can, and pay them as little as possible in return. They call the difference profit. If workers are organized, they can fight back. But if not, then they need legal protection from exploitation. If you have a job, you should have a living wage, and time-and-a-half for overtime. If you have a job, you should have health coverage. If you have a job, you should have paid sick leave. If you have a job, you should have a pension. As John Mellencamp would say, “Ain’t that America?”

We hereby declare our independence from misinformation. Fox News is a lie factory. Special interests used to lie to us about the dangers of smoking; now they lie to us about the dangers of pollution and climate disruption. They claim a right to “free speech,” but we have a right to honest speech. We have to be part of what a Reagan aide once dismissed as the “reality-based community.”

We hereby declare our independence from hubris. No, we can’t bring peace through war. No, we can’t force our way of life or our way of thinking on seven billion other people. No, we aren’t going to end the 1200-year-old civil war between the Sunnis and the Shia. No, we aren’t going to go and kill everyone everywhere in the world who harbors some harsh views of us. And no, they won’t greet our soldiers with flowers, bake apple pies for them, and salute the American flag with a hand on their hearts. They want to be them, not us. We can care for victims, protect ourselves and help our friends without sticking our nose into every else’s business.

We hereby declare our independence from a rigged system of fake trade. We buy their stuff, creating tens of millions of jobs in other countries. But they don’t buy an equal amount of our stuff. Instead, they buy our assets — $11,000,000,000,000.00 of our assets. They not only rob us of our jobs, but they drive us deeper and deeper into debt. When did Uncle Sam become Uncle Sap? If we don’t declare independence, the endgame is national bankruptcy.

And me? I hereby declare my independence from the corrupt system of campaign finance. I will not carve up the law into little pieces, and sell it to the highest bidder. I will not make “friends” with lobbyists and special interests and the minions of multinational corporations, and then “help” those “friends.” I will not forsake my real job – doing something good for the 700,000 people who chose me to be their Congressman – in favor of begging millionaires and billionaires for a few crumbs from their tables.


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About the Fourth of July

| July 4, 2015 | Reply

It’s Fourth of July and our democracy on life support. Regardless of your political leanings, this would be a great day for everyone to declare that it is not acceptable that big money is buying elections and dictating the way of discussing and deciding important issues across this nation. Instead of celebrating the distant past with each other today, let’s take a long painful look at the ubiquitous corruption of our government and declare that this is the perfect year that we will bring back the kind of country that the Founders would appreciate. If you truly believe in family values, do it for the nation’s children. Let’s start with a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizen’s United so that we are better able to have meaningful conversations and candidates. Here’s one place to begin today’s journey.

Alternatively, this is a good day to celebrate the Anti-Fourth-of-July.


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On the notion that Bernie Sanders in “unelectable.”

| June 2, 2015 | Reply

I agree with FAIR that it is outrageous that any news outlet could be announcing what candidates are “serious” or “electable” prior to any vote being cast. Bernie Sanders is being attacked whenever a media outlet concerns itself with money rather than a candidate’s ideas. FAIR considers Sanders’ views on many big issues, pointing out that his views are far more popular than those of conservative Republicans, whose “electability” is rarely questioned, merely because they have lots of wealthy supporters. Here are some examples from the FAIR article, “NYT Reports Large Crowds for Sanders in Iowa–but Isn’t He ‘Unelectable’?”:

It sounds like it’s the New York Times that’s hoping to persuade Democrats that Sanders is unelectable.

As we’ve noted (FAIR Blog, 4/20/15), the idea of raising the taxes of the rich is quite popular with the US public. Gallup has been asking folks since 1992 how they feel about how much “upper-income people” pay in taxes, and 18 times in a row a solid majority has said the rich pay too little. For the past four years, either 61 or 62 percent have said the wealthy don’t pay enough; it’s hard to figure why Iowans would conclude that Sanders is “unelectable” because he takes the same position on tax hikes for the wealthy as three out of every five Americans.

Meanwhile, the position that upper-income people pay too little in taxes has never been endorsed by more than 15 percent of Gallup respondents—and it’s usually 10 percent or less. Yet you won’t see the New York Times declaring Republican candidates “unelectable” for advocating tax cuts for the wealthy.

Cutting the military budget isn’t as popular as taxing the rich, but it’s by no means unpopular. It’s not a question pollsters often ask about—almost as if levels of military spending aren’t seen as a fit subject for public debate—but in 2013 Pew asked which was more important, “taking steps to reduce the budget deficit or keeping military spending at current levels.” Fifty-one percent said reducing the deficit; only 40 percent chose maintaining the military budget.

In February 2014, the last time Gallup polled on whether spending “for national defense and military purposes” was “too little, about the right amount, or too much,” a plurality of 37 percent picked “too much.” Only 28 percent said “too little”–but again, you’re never going to see the New York Times declare a candidate to be “unelectable” for proposing to raise the Pentagon’s budget.

As long as the commercial news media keeps focusing on money instead of a candidate’s ideas, the claim of “inelectability” will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The failure to cover a candidates ideas, exploring them seriously, and instead trying to harpoon a candidacy based on how much money they’ve accrued is journalistic malpractice at the best. I am convinced it is FAR WORSE than that, however, and it is strong evidence that the media is taking sides based on where rich people are putting their money.


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Hillary Clinton: Friend of Big Banks

| June 2, 2015 | Reply

Hillary Clinton is working hard to present herself as caring for ordinary people, but this article by Nomi Prins of Truthdig makes it clear that she will never cut the cash pipeline from her banker friends, and she will never stop doing whatever is necessary to keep those same bankers happy. Here is an excerpt from “The Clintons and Their Banker Friends, 1992-2016”:

When Hillary Clinton video-announced her bid for the Oval Office, she claimed she wanted to be a “champion” for the American people. Since then, she has attempted to recast herself as a populist and distance herself from some of the policies of her husband. But Bill Clinton did not become president without sharing the friendships, associations, and ideologies of the elite banking sect, nor will Hillary Clinton. Such relationships run too deep and are too longstanding.

To grasp the dangers that the Big Six banks (JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley) presently pose to the financial stability of our nation and the world, you need to understand their history in Washington, starting with the Clinton years of the 1990s. Alliances established then (not exclusively with Democrats, since bankers are bipartisan by nature) enabled these firms to become as politically powerful as they are today and to exert that power over an unprecedented amount of capital. Rest assured of one thing: their past and present CEOs will prove as critical in backing a Hillary Clinton presidency as they were in enabling her husband’s years in office.

In return, today’s titans of finance and their hordes of lobbyists, more than half of whom held prior positions in the government, exact certain requirements from Washington. They need to know that a safety net or bailout will always be available in times of emergency and that the regulatory road will be open to whatever practices they deem most profitable.

Whatever her populist pitch may be in the 2016 campaign—and she will have one—note that, in all these years, Hillary Clinton has not publicly condemned Wall Street or any individual Wall Street leader. Though she may, in the heat of that campaign, raise the bad-apples or bad-situation explanation for Wall Street’s role in the financial crisis of 2007-2008, rest assured that she will not point fingers at her friends. She will not chastise the people that pay her hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop to speak or the ones that have long shared the social circles in which she and her husband move. She is an undeniable component of the Clinton political-financial legacy that came to national fruition more than 23 years ago, which is why looking back at the history of the first Clinton presidency is likely to tell you so much about the shape and character of the possible second one.


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Lee Camp Compares Elections in the U.K. and the U.S.

| May 24, 2015 | Reply

Once a person can clearly state the problems, the solutions becomes clear. With regard to the corrupt bread and circus elections in the United States, Lee Camp makes the problems crystal clear. Note, especially the short campaign season in the U.K. (a matter of weeks) and the fact that in the U.K. TV and radio political ads are banned.


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