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What happened in the US Senate yesterday? (Hint: They’re not trying to overturn Citizens United anymore.)

Money Corrputs by Light Brigading via Flikr
Money Corrputs by Light Brigading via Flikr

photo by Light Brigading via flikr

Yesterday, the Senate GOP voted to block any further consideration of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

That means the amendment won’t go over to the House of Representatives for a vote.

And it won’t go out to the 50 states for a ratification vote.

The proposed amendment would have explicitly authorized Congress and state legislatures to set campaign finance limits. (Read more about Citizens United and the resulting “unprecedented amounts of outside spending” in the 2010 and 2012 elections here.)

So… those 16 states that have already voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United? Sorry, folks.

All those other states – including New Hampshire – whose state Legislatures have shown interest in a constitutional amendment? Sorry, folks.

Those 80% of ordinary Americans – including 72% of ordinary Republicans – who oppose Citizens United? Sorry, folks.

The Senate GOP knows better than you do.

So you don’t get a vote on this.

Who to thank, for taking the states’ vote away? The 42 GOP Senators who voted to block the amendment yesterday.

citizens_united_switched_votesOr, more bizarrely, the 25 Senators who on Monday night voted to let the amendment proceed – but by Thursday afternoon, had changed their votes to block it. (And yes, that would include New Hampshire’s own Senator Kelly Ayotte.)

If those 25 Senators had voted the same way on Thursday as they voted on Monday, the constitutional amendment would be going to the House. And then, maybe, out to the 50 states for ratification votes.

So… what happened during those 68 hours, to make those 25 Senators change their votes?

Can’t tell for sure, from out here in the hinterlands. The news is full of the Oscar Pistorius case… 9/11 remembrances… the Ray Rice case… ISIS and the spectre of terrorism. But there’s relatively little press coverage of this attempt to amend our Constitution.  The 80% of Americans who oppose Citizens United probably don’t even know that the Senate took a vote yesterday.

Here’s my best guess: I think Mitch McConnell happened. I’m guessing that the Senate GOP Leader told them how to vote… and the 25 Senators did. (Even Arizona Sen. John McCain, one of the sponsors of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, more commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Act.)

That’s just a gut-instinct guess, but there are two things behind it.  First, during Committee consideration of the amendment, the GOP members marched in lockstep to oppose the amendment. Every recorded Subcommittee and Committee vote was strictly along party lines.

Second reason: GOP Leader McConnell has opposed campaign finance limits since… well, it seems like forever.

Take some time and listen to the GOP Leader’s speech at a June “retreat” for billionaires organized by the Koch Brothers.

In his remarks, GOP Leader McConnell tracks the history of campaign finance reform efforts “back to the beginning of the 20th century” … and how they “petered out” during “the great prosperity” of the 1920s. (Do you think he remembers how the 1920s ended?)

He reminisces about his own efforts to block passage of campaign finance reform:

We had filibuster after filibuster, which in my first term in the Senate I was leading. And then it came back again in the first two years of Clinton. The bill would pass the House, the bill would pass the Senate, and then it would go to conference. And I was so determined, I came up with a new filibuster. That’s all I’d ever done before was filibuster and go in, go into conference. We had to do it all night long. Under (inaudible) procedure every senator had an hour, and if you didn’t show up right on time, you were out of luck.

Everybody rallied together. This was about two months before the great fall election of 1994. Everybody rallied together. We went around the clock. Everybody showed up on time. And I thought, well, maybe we’re finally through with this nonsense.

He says “The worst day of my political life was when President George W. Bush signed McCain-Feingold into law.”

He talks about his own lawsuit to overturn McCain-Feingold. (You can read the Supreme Court decision here.)

He talks about what has happened since his lawsuit.

So what really then changed the Court was President Bush’s appointment of John Roberts. The most important was Sam Alito because we lost the McCain-Feingold case five to four because of Sandra Day O’Connor. The majority was all liberal. Then she retired, and Sam Alito replaced her, and we now have the best Supreme Court in anybody’s memory… Now, that’s where we are today. I’m really proud of this Supreme Court and the way they’ve been dealing with the issue of First Amendment political speech. It’s only five to four, and I pray for the health of the five.

And then he talks about some other things of interest to his audience of billionaires: like minimum wage… environmental regulation… regulation of the financial services industry. And he promises to use federal spending bills to “go after” those issues.

And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board (inaudible).

And – in response to a mostly-inaudible question from David Koch about “free speech” and amending the Constitution – GOP Leader McConnell says:

Having, having struck out at the Supreme Court, David, they now want to amend the Constitution. … These people need to be stopped, and believe me, something that I thought to do (inaudible) what is spent (inaudible) independent coordination?
(Laughter.)
(Applause.)

Yeah, read that again: “These people need to be stopped.”

THAT’s why I’m guessing “Mitch McConnell happened” to those 25 Senators who switched their votes between Monday and Thursday.

What can we do about it, now? What can we – the 80% of Americans who oppose Citizens United – do, now that the Senate GOP has blocked the amendment?

We can make it a campaign issue.

Scott Brown in 2010 Image by Wiki Commons

Scott Brown in 2010
Image by Wiki Commons

Starting here in New Hampshire, with Scott Brown… who, as Massachusetts Senator, helped block the DISCLOSE Act back in 2010. Here in New Hampshire, 69% of us want a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Even among Granite State Republicans, six out of 10 want a constitutional amendment. (Sen. Ayotte: who were you listening to, when you voted yesterday?) How do you think Scott Brown will vote on this, if he is elected in November?

We need to make Citizens United an issue in the 2014 campaigns.

There’s not all that much else we can do, at this point.

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If you want to wander through Leader McConnell’s campaign finance disclosure records – including $14.8 million in “large individual contributions” – click here. Remember: that’s just contributions to his official campaign.

“Outside spending” is much harder to track. So far, during this election season, McConnell has also “been boosted by $2.2 million in positive ads, mainly by the [U.S.] Chamber. Outside Republican PACs have already spent $7 million on ads attacking his Democratic challenger, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.”

A running tally of money that “non-profits” have spent on electioneering so far in the 2014 campaign is available here.

—–

More information about grassroots efforts to support the “Democracy for All” amendment is available here.

Tuesday’s NHLN story about the amendment is here.

Can We Overturn Citizens United? US Senate will vote again later this week.

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(FLICKR LIght Brigading

(FLICKR LIght Brigading)

Last night, the proposed constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United moved one tiny step forward. By a 79-18 vote, the US Senate invoked cloture to end a GOP filibuster of the measure.

That means the Senate will actually be able to vote on the amendment, probably later this week. But will it pass? One Hill reporter says, “The amendment is almost certain to fail.”

That’s because constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote in the Senate – and until last night, the Senate GOP had been working in lockstep to defeat (or undermine) the measure. Every recorded Subcommittee and Committee vote was strictly along party lines: with the Democrats in favor of moving the proposal forward; and the Republicans trying to keep it from seeing the light of day.

So even though some GOP Senators (including NH Sen. Kelly Ayotte) voted to end the filibuster last night, it’s quite possible they will be pressured into voting against the amendment when it comes up for a vote.

If the Senate approves the amendment, it will still need to be approved by the House and ratified by two-thirds of the states. (Read more about the process here.)

Cash Bribe Politician MoneyWhat’s at stake: The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission helped unleash unprecedented amounts of outside spending in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. (Read more here.)

It has led to billionaires like Sheldon Adelson wielding incredible personal influence.

It led to Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell making a pilgrimage to a “secret strategy conference of conservative millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers” where he promised to block debate on “all these gosh darn proposals” like increasing the minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits, and allowing students to refinance their college loans.

Now, Mitch McConnell may believe – as he told those prospective donors – that “all Citizens United did was to level the playing field for corporate speech…. We now have, I think, the most free and open system we’ve had in modern times. The Supreme Court allowed all of you to participate in the process in a variety of different ways.”

But America is seeing through that spin.  

Sixteen states have already endorsed the idea of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

More than 500 local governments have already supported such a change. (Here in the Granite State, the list includes: Alstead; Amherst; Andover; Atkinson; Barnstead; Barrington; Bradford; Bridgewater; Chesterfield; Conway; Deerfield; Eaton; Exeter; Francestown; Henniker; Hampstead; Hudson; Kingston; Lee; Lyme; New Boston; Northwood; Rindge; Tilton; Wakefield; Webster; and Windham)

And the public? America is united on this issue. There is more agreement on overturning Citizens United than on just about anything else. 80% of Americans – and 72% of Republicans – oppose Citizens United. Here in New Hampshire, 69% of Granite Staters support a constitutional amendment like the one the Senate will finally be voting on. (Amendment supporters include six out of every 10 NH Republicans, and almost three-quarters of NH independents.  Senator Kelly Ayotte, are you listening?)

So this past weekend, the GOP tried out some new spins, trying to rationalize why they will be voting against something that eight out of 10 Americans support.

New Spin #1: It’s the Democrats! “‘Senate Democrats have long been funded by a group of billionaires bent on maintaining their power, yet they pretend to be outraged’ by the spending of the Koch brothers and their allies. …In advance of Monday’s floor debate, Senate Republican staffers circulated a chart showing the reach of Democracy Alliance…”

(No, this spin does not explain why Republicans want to maintain the Citizens United status quo. If the Republicans and the Koch Brothers are truly outraged by Democratic big-dollar contributors – why don’t they vote to approve the constitutional amendment?)

New Spin #2: Guns! (Yes, really.)

Here’s how the National Rifle Association described Citizens United: “The court declared unconstitutional the parts of the law that had been enacted for the explicit purpose of silencing the NRA and its members. Of course, the gun-banners in the White House and Congress opposed the decision because it thwarted their plans.”

Here’s how the NRA described the amendment to overturn Citizens United: “As the title of the proposed constitutional amendment suggests, S.J.R. 19 is intended to allow anti-gunners in Congress to silence their critics and to control the gun ‘debate.’”

(The actual title: “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections.” And: while the NRA may be #5 on the list of non-profits that spend money on electioneering… the proposed amendment isn’t actually about guns. It’s about allowing Congress and the states to “regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.” It’s about “protect[ing] the integrity of government and the electoral process.”)

Does the GOP really think either of these spins is going to stick any better than the “Citizens United leveled the playing field” spin?

Why is this such an important issue for those of us in the Labor movement?

Reason 1: “Whatever slice [of political contributions] you look at, business interests dominate, with an overall advantage over organized labor of about 15-to-1. Even among PACs – the favored means of delivering funds by labor unions – business has a more than 3-to-1 fundraising advantage. In soft money, the ratio is nearly 17-to-1.”

Reason 2: Mitch McConnell, shilling for those billionaire donors: “In late April, Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, successfully filibustered a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a widely popular measure that would increase wages for at least 16.5 million Americans. Earlier in the year, McConnell also led a filibuster of a three-month extension of unemployment insurance to some 1.7 million Americans.”

Is our government really for sale to the highest bidder?

The 2014 campaigns are breaking fundraising records set in the 2012 and 2010 elections.

Isn’t it time to send this constitutional amendment to the states for a ratification vote?

Activists Hold Portsmouth “Democracy is For All” Rally

Senator Kelly Ayotte Official Portrait

Activists from National Organizations Will Urge Sen. Ayotte to Back Constitutional Amendment Curbing Money in Politics – Vote Is Sept. 8

Portsmouth, NH — Activists representing nationwide organizations, including Public Citizen, MoveOn.org Political Action, People For the American Way, CREDO Action and Common Cause, will deliver 10,500 petitions from New Hampshire’s residents to U.S. Sen. Ayotte (R – NH) office on Sept. 3 asking her to back a constitutional amendment to curb the flood of money in politics.

Fifty U.S. senators support the Democracy For All constitutional amendment (S.J. Res 19), which would establish that Congress and the states have the power to regulate and limit election spending. However, Ayotte has yet to add her name to the list, and is the only New Hampshire congressional delegate to not already pledge support for such an amendment, although just this year 54 New Hampshire towns, mostly in Republican areas, have officially declared their support and asked her to do the same. Activists will urge the senator to become the 51st supporter and to support the amendment on September 8 when the Senate considers it.

The amendment is in response to the U.S. Supreme Court rulings in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) and McCutcheon v. FEC. In Citizens United, the court gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited sums to influence elections. As a result, spending by outside groups – those not affiliated with campaigns – skyrocketed. In McCutcheon, the court struck down the aggregate campaign spending limits, allowing the super-wealthy to contribute millions of dollars directly to candidates, political parties and joint fundraising committees.

Dozens of organizations nationwide have collected approximately 3 million signatures calling for Citizens United to be overturned. Sixteen states, approximately 550 cities and towns, and more than 160 former and current members of Congress and President Barack Obama have indicated support for the amendment. It’s time Ayotte gets on board.

WHEN:          11:00 am, Wednesday, Sept. 3

WHERE:       Kelly Ayotte’s Portsmouth office, 14 Manchester Square, Portsmouth, NH 03801

VISUALS:     Leftist Marching Band, Signs, Boxes containing the petitions

Dozens Of Activists Gather To Walk In “Granny D’s” Footsteps For Change

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Daniel_Weeks

Daniel Weeks speaks to the crowd

Over 50 NH reformers Walk in “Granny D’s” Footsteps from Dublin to Hancock to celebrate “Revive Democracy Weekend”

Dublin, NH — On Saturday, August 23rd, dozens of activists converged on Dublin, NH near the former home of legendary reformer Doris “Granny D” Haddock (1910-2010) to continue her long walk democracy. The 6-mile walk was the latest in a series of Granny D marches across the state being spearheaded by the nonpartisan Coalition for Open Democracy and its NH Rebellion campaign to inspire public action for reform.

The walk was led by NH Rebellion founder Professor Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School, who on Friday night delivered the final Amos Fortune Forum lecture of the season to a packed hall in Jaffrey, NH to launch the “Revive Democracy Weekend.” Lessig’s theme was the cause to which Granny D devoted the final decade of her life, including a cross-country walk at the age of 90: campaign finance reform.

Professor Lawrence Lessig speaks to the crowd.

Professor Lawrence Lessig speaks to the crowd.

In his address, Lessig cited recent polling data showing that 96 percent of Americans believe that private funding of elections has a corrupting influence on politics, while 91 percent have little hope the system will ever change. He called on attendees to join the walk and “give hope” to fellow citizens who have all but given up on Washington.

The walk concluded with a public celebration in Hancock center, where over 60 walkers and onlookers from NH, MA, VT, NJ, DC, and TX were treated to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream donated by the company’s co-founder, Ben Cohen. At the celebration, Lessig and Daniel Weeks, Executive Director of the Coalition for Open Democracy, addressed the crown about the importance of democratic reform to end the system of corruption in Washington.

Family_of_walkers“Today more than ever, American democracy is under assault from wealthy special interests spending billions of dollars to fund campaigns and lobby the government to advance their own self-interest,” said Daniel Weeks. “We may not have the money to match them, but can put on our walking shoes and take the streets and peacefully demand a government that is of, by, and for the American people,” Weeks said. He also shared how Granny D inspired him to join the reform movement as a student when he heard her speak at ConVal High School in 2000.

Former state senator Jim Rubens, a contender for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, was also on hand to signal his support for citizen-funded elections as a means of ending the corruption of special interest money in Washington. Rubens is facing a difficult primary contest against former Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts and former Senator Bob Smith.

The aptly-named “Granny D Memorial Walk” was also an opportunity for citizens to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Monadnock Region and reflect on the personal sacrifice made by previous generations of reformers in pursuit of a stronger democracy for all. After conducting high-profile walks across the state in January and along the NH seacoast on July 5th, Open Democracy and the NH Rebellion decided to walk the very same route from Dublin to Hancock that Granny D herself often walked while “training” for her cross-country trek in 1999-2000.

Revive Democracy Weekend was sponsored by PACE, Coalition for Open Democracy and its NH Rebellion campaign, and by Stamp Stampede. For more information, visit www.opendemocracy.me

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In The Steps Of “Granny D” (via InZane Times)

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A quiet country road from Dublin to Hancock, New Hampshire was the site of the New Hampshire Rebellion’s latest “Granny D Walk” to end the influence of money in American politics.P8230046 (2)

Granny D was the public moniker for Doris Haddock, a long-time Dublin resident who set out from California a few days short of her 89th birthday to walk across the USA and publicize the need for campaign finance reform.  She had just turned 90 when she reached the nation’s capital on February 29, 2000. 

The path of today’s walk was one she used to train for her historic pilgrimage, which ended at the US Capitol on February 29, 2000, a month after she turned 90.

Few people reflect the strength of conviction demonstrated by Granny D, observed Larry Lessig, the writer and Harvard Law School professor who launched the Rebellion last year.  The group conducted a winter march from Dixville Notch to Nashua in P8230054January and another along the New Hampshire seacoast in July. 

Today forty people, aiming to make breaking the money-politics link a central issue of the 2016 presidential nominating contest, continued Granny D’s quest.  Walking through a wooded area with no pedestrians and barely any cars, there weren’t many people to educate and convince.  But perhaps that wasn’t the point. P8230045

There’s a long history of walks, marches, and pilgrimages intended to bolster movements for social change.  Gandhi’s march to the sea, the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, the United Farm Workers Union’s 300-mile march from Delano to Sacramento, and the regular peace walks led by the Nipponzan Myohoji monks come to mind as examples.  Yes, they are expressions of political views, but they also embody spiritual power. 

When we sing “we won’t let nobody turn us around,” we aim to capture that same spirit.  When musicians Leslie Vogel and Fred Simmons treated us to “Just a P8230063Walk with Granny D” before the march, I felt the spirit in motion. 

Part of the point was also to get to know new people, Dan Weeks said at the walk’s outset.  Dan, who was recently appointed as Executive Director for theNH Coalition for Open Democracy (NH COD), says his own activist inclinations began when Granny D visited his high school.  At that time the impressionable 15-year old learned from his elderly neighbor that companies which profited from selling tobacco had a heavy hand in writing the nation’s laws through their political involvement.  Children were dying because of the nation’s twisted approach to campaign finance, Granny D explained.  Dan was hooked, not on cigarettes, but on money & politics activism.  “The systemP8230109excludes so many of our people,” he says. 

To put it another way, if money is speech, then those with the most money get the most speech.  And as the distribution of wealth becomes increasingly skewed, inequality of speech becomes a profound political problem for a country where government of the people, by the people, and for the people is supposed to be imperishable.

From Dan’s perspective, a walk in the steps of Granny D is a statement that we have not given up hope.

Two hours after setting out, clusters of walkers arrived in the center of Hancock, a town with a population of fewer than 2000 people.  There we were greeted by volunteers and treated to ice cream donated by Ben & Jerry’s.  The crowd had grown to about P823011760 people, now including Jim Rubens, a Republican candidate for the US Senate who has made campaign finance reform a plank in his platform (and who says he’s the only Republican in the race who is speaking out against the third Iraq war).  

When the ice cream had been eaten, Dan Weeks introduced Professor Lessig for a short speech by the gazebo on the Hancock Common.  Lessig apparently didn’t feel a need to educate the assembled dozens about the corruption caused by the billions of dollars in the political system, nor did he choose to restate the strategy of the NH Rebellion.  He chose instead to exhort the small crowd about the importance of action, something he says our country has become unaccustomed to taking. 

“We’ve just gotten through a century of very passive politics, where we were told to shut up and listen to the commercials and just show up to vote,” Lessig said.

“That’s the only thing we were to do. We weren’t to organize or to get people out in P8230104the streets.  We weren’t about ordinary citizens trying to lead.  We weren’t practiced in that kind of politics.”

“But that’s the kind of politics this will take,” he continued.  “Neither the Republican nor the Democratic Party leadership like this issue.  Neither of them are going to make this transition happen on their own.  It will only happen if we force them.”

Plans are already being hatched for another walk next January, timed to coincide not only with Granny D’s birthday but also with the fifth anniversary of the Citizens United court decision.

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Kuster Helps Introduce Constitutional Amendment to Reform Campaign Finance System

Ann kuster head shot LG

Democracy for All Amendment would restore state and federal authority to limit money in political campaigns

Ann kuster head shot LGWASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), has helped introduce a constitutional amendment that would reform the campaign finance system by giving Congress and state governments the right to pass legislation to limit the influence of money in federal elections. H. J. Res. 119, the Democracy for All Amendment, would largely overturn the controversial Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC., which ruled that corporations and Super PACs can spend unlimited amounts of money to benefit political campaigns.

“The Citizens United and McCutcheon Supreme court decisions made a bad situation much worse by opening the floodgates for even more outside spending and undue influence on our elections,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “For our democratic government to be truly accountable and responsive to the American people, we must reform our electoral system so that every American can play an active and equal role in our elections. This amendment will go a long way towards restoring the voices of everyday people in our democracy.”

“I additionally urge Congress to pass the Government by the People Act, which would help return the power to the people by implementing a number of initiatives to boost the voices of small, grassroots donors. Together, this bill and the Democracy for All Amendment would help return us to the days when individuals, not corporations, had the greatest sway over our election results,” Kuster continued.

The Democracy for All Amendment is the House companion to S. J. Res. 19, an amendment that passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 10, 2014, and is scheduled for a vote in the U.S. Senate later this year.

In January, 2014, Congresswoman Kuster helped introduce the Government by the People Act, legislation that would amplify the voices of individuals by creating a number of public financing alternatives for grassroots donors and candidates. As part of her commitment to curbing special interests in the electoral system, Congresswoman Kuster also hosted a roundtable earlier this year with Rep. John Sarbanes (MD-03) and other stakeholders to discuss the importance of campaign finance reform.

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Bernie Sanders: Progressives are the Majority (InZane Times)

Bernie Sanders (Arnie Alpert)

 

“The views that most of us hold are not minority views”

Bernie Sanders (Arnie Alpert)

Image by Arnie Alpert

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in Warner, New Hampshire, and Bernie Sanders didn’t need much time to warm up the sympathetic crowd outside Bookends.

“I think that old fashioned politics, I think the politics of big money dominating what goes on in Washington, the old status quo is not good enough,” began the Vermont Senator.  “In my view, and I say this very seriously, we need a political revolution in this country.”  The audience of perhaps one hundred people applauded enthusiastically.

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Image by Arnie Alpert

Senator Sanders would sign copies of his book, The Speech, afterwards, but this is no more a standard book tour than are the recent appearances of Hillary Clinton.  Bernie, as he is commonly known, is considering a run for President, and this was his second campaign-style trip to the state that hold the nation’s first primary election.

Sanders’ speech, like one he delivered at the NH Institute of Politics a couple months ago, ran through a menu of issues he referred to as the “progressive agenda.”  The growth of economic inequality and its pernicious effects, the threat of global warning, the need to end wasteful military spending, the need for universal health care, and the importance of free, public education each received a couple paragraphs of stump speech, as did the importance of political reforms to take the government back from the 1 percent and the corporations they own.

“Last year alone the Koch brothers saw a $12 billion increase in their wealth struggling under the despotic Obama administration,” he said with more than a touch of sarcasm.  Going on about the Kochs, he said, “When you have an extreme

ideology and you are prepared to spend as much as it takes you can buy the political system. And that is what this disastrous Supreme Court decision in Citizens United has enabled them to do.”

“Here’s what I think,” Sanders continued in his characteristic conversational style.  “Number One we have to overturn Citizens United,” the Supreme Court decision that

Image by Arnie Alpert

Image by Arnie Alpert

solidified Court precedents behind the notions of corporate personhood and protection for corporate rights to spend money to influence elections.

“Second issue, equally important, we need to move toward public funding of American elections,” Sanders said.

A week before the NH Rebellion’s next gathering, in which hundreds of local residents are expected to walk from Hampton Beach to New Castle to protest the corrupting influence of big money on our political system, Sanders’ comments were affirmed by the audience.

“We are part of the vast majority.”

As a positive example, Sanders described how efforts to cut Medicare benefits and weaken or privatize Social Security have been rebuffed by organized citizens, despite the propaganda of the deficit hawks.  “The reason we have a deficit today is two huge wars were not paid for and tax breaks for the rich,” he said, again getting approval from the audience.

The job of progressives, according to Bernie Sanders, is to educate people about what is really going on in the economic and political systems.  And that means going outside of our comfort zones to talk to people with whom we don’t always agree.  The right-wing specializes in division, he said.  Progressive need to bring people together.

“One point I want to reiterate today — the views that most of us hold are not minority views,” Sanders said.  “They are not strange views. Our views are what the vast majority of the American people believe in. It is the Koch brothers and right-wing Republicans who have the fringe ideology.”

“Our job politically is to rally the American people around an agenda which speaks to the needs of the vast majority. And we are part of the vast majority.”

A veteran of who knows how many dozen town hall meetings in Vermont, Bernie Sanders is clearly comfortable with the type of give and take that can animate a New Hampshire Primary campaign.  Of course, he would have to join the Democratic Party in order to compete in that arena.   But he’s already been to Iowa once, and when he left Warner yesterday he was headed for a fundraising dinner for the Hillsborough County Democrats

 

12 GOP Senators Stand With Corporate Funders Over Granite Staters

Public Citizen Logo

Shameful: 12 New Hampshire Senators Stand Against New Hampshire Residents, Kill Bill Calling for a Constitutional Amendment to Curb the Influence of Money in Politics

Statement of Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Campaign Director, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

It’s shameful. Today, because of roadblocks put up by 12 Republican New Hampshire senators, the Committee of Conference killed a measure (SB 307) calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and to curb the influence of money in politics. This violates the will of New Hampshire residents.

On two previous occasions, the same 12 Republican senators defeated proposed language calling for an amendment. Instead, they repeatedly tried to move forward a hollow version of SB 307 that would merely create a committee to examine the impact of the Citizens United ruling and make recommendations to the New Hampshire congressional delegation. Last year, they refused to even take a vote on a similar resolution that had passed the House.

In contrast, the New Hampshire House of Representatives on May 15 voted by a 2-to-1 margin – 183 to 87, with a strong bipartisan vote – to move forward a version of SB 307 that would have made the Granite State the seventeenth state to call for a constitutional amendment.

Fifty-four New Hampshire towns have passed resolutions (52 this year) directing the state Legislature to call for a constitutional amendment, and a poll in support of a constitutional amendment was overwhelmingly supported by a 3-to-1 margin across party lines.

Today’s vote was only a temporary setback for those of us who do not want to pay the price when our government is bought and sold by wealthy interests. The fight continues across the state, and the issue will come up again in the next session.

The People Of NH Want The Senate To Do The Right Thing On SB 307 (Citizens United Amendment)

Jonah Head Shot
Jonah Head Shot

Jonah Minkoff-Zern Campaign Director, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

The people of New Hampshire and across the nation are outraged at corporate and wealthy interests, including individuals from the left and the right, spending billions of dollars to control the politics of our state and our nation. They are understandably opposed to having no right as a state to prevent this money from flooding our elections.

That’s why when polled, they support a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics by a 3 to 1 margin across party lines. And that’s why 54 New Hampshire towns have called for you, the New Hampshire Legislature, to join 16 other states and call for a constitutional amendment.

These individuals did not call for a study committee. They called for action from the Legislature.

SB 307 was written with a clear directive: The New Hampshire Legislature calls for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and related cases. It then creates a study committee to review the 16 different amendments that have been introduced in Congress to decide which ones of those, if any, are the right ones to recommend to the New Hampshire delegation (they can be viewed at www.united4thepeople.org).

SB 307 was not written to do what the Senate amendment does: simply study the issue. There is no doubt among the people of New Hampshire and our nation that our democracy is severely corrupted by the influence of big money and that the only way to reduce that influence is for a constitutional amendment to allow government regulation. There is no other way to address this problem, as there is no other way to undo what the Supreme Court has done in releasing a flood of money into our elections with Citizens United  v. FEC and more recently McCutcheon v. FEC.

Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that this amendment would attack or undermine the First Amendment. It would make clear that our founders intended to protect speech, not money that amplifies that speech. Further, even if campaign spending were a form of speech, our nation allows all sorts of regulation of speech. I cannot come into a legislator’s office with a megaphone and yell until she or he listen to me. I can’t get up and interrupt a Senate session. I cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theater. I am not free to threaten any one. And the ultra-wealthy and mega-corporations should not and cannot spend literally billions of dollars to buy influence and power over our nation. That is not a democracy. In fact, a Princeton study just showed that we are now literally living in an oligarchy.

This week, when SB 307 comes to conference committee, New Hampshire senators should heed the will of the House who voted by a two to one margin, the 12 senators who voted for language calling for a constitutional amendment, the hundreds of New Hampshire residents who organized and passed 54 town resolutions, and so many others to be heard. This has not been such a partisan issue in other states, such as Maine, which passed a resolution with overwhelming bipartisan support and was sponsored by a Republican senator who is passionate enough about the issue to have written New Hampshire legislators testimony asking for their support. It is not a partisan issue when New Hampshire residents are polled or when they vote in town meetings. There is no reason this should be a partisan issue in the New Hampshire Senate.

This week’s conference committee should vote for language that calls for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics and restore democracy to the people. There have been hearings, marches, town meeting discussion and overwhelming votes, op-eds and letters to the editor. There has been ample time to study. It is time to act.

Sincerely,

Representative Bob Perry, Strafford

Ellen Read, Newmarket

Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Campaign Director, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

New Hampshire House Responds to People’s Call for a Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

NHhouse

Written on May 15, 2014

Note: Today, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted with bipartisan support to pass by a 2-to-1 margin an amended version of SB 307 that calls for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and related cases.

Statement of Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Co-Director, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

Lawmakers in the New Hampshire House of Representatives are finally responding to the people’s call to rein in the torrent of money that is flowing into our political system. We applaud them for it, and we urge Senate lawmakers to follow suit.

In March, the state Senate moved forward SB 307 as a hollow bill that created a committee to examine the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling and make recommendations to the New Hampshire congressional delegation. But it did not explicitly recognize the need for a constitutional amendment. Citizens United gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.

Today, the House voted to pass a version of SB 307 that includes language specifically calling for a constitutional amendment. This is in line with what the people of New Hampshire have been calling on their elected officials to do.

In March, residents made it crystal clear that they want to free elections from corporate influence and mega-donors when they overwhelmingly passed warrants at 48 town meetings calling for the state Legislature to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 Citizens United ruling. And the momentum is still building. On Tuesday, both Hanover and Peterborough passed town resolutions calling for the Citizens United ruling to be overturned. On Wednesday, New London and Sanbornton passed similar resolutions. This brings to 52 the number of New Hampshire towns calling for a resolution this year.

The bill will head to conference committee where the Senate now has a chance to follow the will of their constituents and pass the amended language. If passed, New Hampshire would become the 17th state to call for an amendment to stop the flood of money from corporations and the ultra-wealthy into our elections.

View more information about the efforts to pass a constitutional amendment in New Hampshire.

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