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Is The NH Legislature Listening To Voters’ Anger When It Comes To Money In Politics?

Several hundred people attended the January 29, 2015 rally at the State House in Concord, in honor of Granny D.           Image By Liz Iacobucci

Several hundred people attended the January 29, 2015 rally at the State House in Concord, in honor of Granny D. Image By Liz Iacobucci

By Paul Brochu and  Liz Iacobucci

“It’s almost impossible to exaggerate how angry, frustrated and even disgusted people are with the flood of money” into political campaigns.

That’s what Joe Magruder told the state Legislature last week, during hearings about Citizens United. Joe spent more than three decades covering New Hampshire for the Associated Press. He worked as an impartial observer through eight presidential primaries. He’s seen it all. And he thinks this year’s anger level is so far off the scales that “it’s almost impossible to exaggerate” just how bad it is.

Last week’s House hearing was packed to overflowing. So many people came to testify that there wasn’t enough time for everyone to speak, before the Senate hearing started across the street. (See our live-tweets from the hearings at @NHStampede)

We’ll find out whether the Legislature was listening this afternoon, when the first of the bills is expected to be reported out of committee.

Both the House and Senate bills are pretty mild, compared to the emotion outside the hearing rooms. The bills would allow the Legislature to study the issue of money in politics through a statewide series of public hearings. Then New Hampshire’s Legislature could decide whether to join 16 other states – including New Mexico, Montana and West Virginia – calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

That’s all the bills would do: create a series of opportunities so people around the state can tell the Legislature what they think about the flood of Big Money into political campaigns. Give the people a chance to have their voices heard.

The Stamp Stampede's new mobile billboard circled the State House in support, during the Committee hearings.   Image provided by Stamp Stampede NH

The Stamp Stampede’s new mobile billboard circled the State House in support, during the Committee hearings. Image provided by Stamp Stampede NH

It’s ironic that the Legislature needs to create a hearing process in order to hear the voices of ordinary citizens over the voices of special interest lobbyists.

But right now, the system is set up to hear lobbyists, not ordinary citizens. The first thing everyone noticed, when they came to testify on the bills last week, was that the House hearing room had only eight seats.

Two weeks ago, hundreds of people walked across the state to draw attention to the issue of Big Money in politics. The NH Rebellion organized 300 miles of marches – from the four corners of New Hampshire all the way to the State House – in honor of Granny D.

We walked with the group between Nashua and Concord. We talked with people, as we walked along, and Joe Magruder is right: everyone is angry, frustrated and disgusted.

Angry enough to take time off work, walk through snowstorms, cross icy bridges, sleep in strangers’ homes.

Frustrated enough to keep going, mile after mile, even after reporters asked whether walking across the state could possibly make any difference.

Disgusted enough that it didn’t matter what party you belong to, what generation you belong to. Republicans and Democrats, Free Staters and progressives, middle school students and great-grandparents: everyone walked together.

That’s how badly people want their government back. “It’s almost impossible to exaggerate.”

Days after our State House rally, two businessmen announced plans to “invest” almost $1 billion in the 2016 presidential campaign. That’s more than both parties spent – combined – in the 2012 campaign.

How do Granite State voters feel about the fact that presidential candidates are being selected by high-dollar donors in invitation-only “conferences” – more than a year before the “First in the Nation” primary?

How are ordinary citizens supposed to have their voices heard, over all that money?

At StampStampede.org, we’ve created a petition on steroids to give voice to that frustration. We’re working with thousands of Granite State voters to rubber stamp $3.8 million dollars with messages like “Stamp Money Out of Politics.” Every stamped dollar bill is seen an estimated 875 times; together, the message will be seen over 3 billion times. Enough to ensure that our representatives cannot ignore us.

Poll after poll reports that people believe their elected officials care more about special interests than constituents. Here in New Hampshire, according to a 2013 Granite State poll, almost four out of five people agree that special interests get more attention than citizens. That’s bipartisan agreement, in its purest form.

Last week, an overflow crowd turned out to explain to the Legislature the depths of their disgust. “It’s almost impossible to exaggerate.”

Could the Legislature hear them?

We’ll know, later today.

 

Paul Brochu is the Lead Organizer-NH and Liz Iacobucci is the Press Secretary-NH for StampStampede.org.

Letter To The Editor: Community is Stronger than Corruption

letters to the editor

   Last month nearly 100 residents of the Seacoast area helped complete the NH Rebellion’s Granny D Walk to end systemic corruption in elections.  After marching through the ice and snow for 50 miles down Route 4 from Portsmouth to Concord, they arrived at the State House on January 21st for a day of festivities, joining hundreds of other walkers who had traversed the state from Keene, Nashua, and Dixville Notch.

    I had the distinct privilege of being part of our local walk from Portsmouth to Concord.  This movement is about connecting with our local communities and empowering each other, and I was humbled by the participation of so many dedicated individuals and community-minded local businesses.  Along the four day walk, very many local organizations and businesses participated, either by assisting the walkers or cheering us on from the sidelines.

    Many heartfelt thanks go out to all those organizations that opened their doors to the walkers as we passed by.  Overnight housing for us was graciously provided by the Community Church of Durham, Epsom Public Library, and Northwood Congregational Church–and we were kept well-fed by South Church of Portsmouth, Newmarket Community Church, Bow Lake Baptist Church, and Northwood Advent Church.  And amazingly, all of the students of the alternative school The Penn Program in Newmarket not only walked the whole way, but volunteered in many other roles.  Other local business partners along Route 4 between Portsmouth and Concord include Susty’s Restaurant, Mary’s Dogs Rescue, Country Hills Gifts, Cole Gardens, Emery Farm, Camping World, JW Precision Co Inc, Purdy Funeral Home, and Happy Homes for Dogs.

    We walked to give a voice to everyday people in our communities–so, without the cooperation of the small businesses and organizations in our communities, the walk would not only have been impossible, but meaningless.  Thank you to all of you, for caring about your community, and standing with us!

Ellen Read

Newmarket

State Senator Fuller-Clark and Rep Elliot: Overturning Citizens United Is Truly A Bi-Partisan Solution

(FLICKR LIght Brigading

CC (FLICKR LIght Brigading)

By NH state Senator Fuller Clark and Representative Elliott

As Americans, we take pride in our Democracy and in the notion that in our Government we all have equal voice.  However, the New Hampshire legislature is currently debating the very meaning of this word. The State House and Senate will consider a constitutional amendment that would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling. On January 29th, ordinary citizens, both Republicans and Democrats, argued for its necessity at the Capitol in Concord. They understand that the Supreme Court decision has opened the floodgates to unlimited campaign spending in our State by outside groups, drowning out their voice and that of the average New Hampshire voter.  While an open debate on the best way to rally support for or against individual candidates is important, let it be clear that the citizens of New Hampshire have already overwhelmingly decided on the issue of allowing outside money to influence the outcome of our elections. 

According to a University of New Hampshire Survey Center Granite State Poll, 72 percent of residents have said they oppose the Citizens United ruling, and 69 percent saying that they would support a constitutional amendment that would limit outside campaign contributions and spending from special interest groups and corporations 1. Our citizens understand that the presence of money in politics means that politicians are not necessarily beholden to their citizens, but rather to special interests.

Ignoring the support of New Hampshire’s citizenry for a constitutional amendment, those supporting defeat of HB and SB try to wedge a partisan divide by claiming that this is only a liberal issue. However, the fact remains that this issue is popular amongst voters across party lines – Republicans, Democrats and Undeclared. The average conservative voters understand that when outside money from special interests become the priority for their Representatives, their own voice is diminished. They understand that liberal special interest groups are no less culpable when it comes to big spending. For example, in the 2014 election, the top two highest spending superPACs in the country were both liberal.  What proud conservative voter in New Hampshire would have outside liberal donors such as Mr. Soros and Mr. Eychanar speak louder than any one individual voter does in our state and local elections? 

For any American, whether liberal or conservative, we must face a harsh reality. A recent Princeton study demonstrates that America is no longer a Democracy, when any major policy initiative only gains traction with the Government after wealthy special interest groups fight for them 3. In this day and age, if you want your issue taken seriously, you better have a billionaire on your side. 

Detractors continue to argue that spending unlimited money for or against a politician is a matter of freedom of speech. But, by that logic, why not allow them to give unlimited amounts of money (“bribes”) to a politician and call that freedom of speech? Why not allow lobbyists freedom of speech by allowing them to buy politicians free dinners and cruise trips as a means of gaining votes? Why shouldn’t the voices with the most money be allowed to control our elections? Most of us do not believe that this is what the Founding Fathers intended when they passed the first amendment protecting freedom of speech or what the soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for our county meant when they spoke of freedom.  And that is why it is so important for our democracy that the Citizens United decision be overturned. 

Clearly, if the legislature should represent its people, there is only one outcome possible – the bills are currently being considered in both the New Hampshire House and Senate this week should resoundingly pass in both bodies. How can any politician who votes against this legislation claim to represent his or her constituents?

 

1       Azem Z., and Smith A., Granite State Poll: New Hampshire Coalition for Open Democracy. The Survey Center, University of New Hampshire.April, 2013.

2       2014 Top Donors to Outside Spending Groups. <https://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/summ.php?cycle=2014&disp=D&type=V&superonly=N.>

3       Gilens M and Page B., Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens. Perspectives on Politics. Vol. 12: 03. September, 2014, pp 564-581.

On Fifth Anniversary of Citizens United, Citizens Want ‘Money Out, Voters In’

money-in-politics

Today, on the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision, 5 million citizens are telling Congress: “We want money out and voters in.” Ordinary Americans are signing petitions, contacting their members of Congress and standing against the takeover of our democracy by the 1 percent.

The high court’s Citizens United decision wasn’t the first court action to allow big money to influence our politics, but it did significant harm by enabling a flood of dollars from corporations and the wealthiest Americans to cripple our political process. Add last year’s McCutcheon decision, and the Court now has allowed virtually unlimited political spending. Corporations and the wealthiest now are able to buy our elections, aggressively lobby Congress and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.

The Democracy Initiative, a broad movement of 50 environmental, community, labor and citizen organizations representing more than 30 million activists, sees this flood of money in politics as one of the critical blocks to true democracy and the issues on which progressives want real progress. We support federal legislation that will reform our campaign finance process through small donor public financing. We’re backing a constitutional amendment that makes it clear: corporations aren’t people and money isn’t speech. We are pressing for transparency in campaign funding and full disclosure, along with stronger enforcement of election law. And we’re fighting for these goals on the state and local level too, where there already have been major changes in moving to a fair and open campaign finance system.

The federal elections of 2012, a presidential year, cost $7 billion, the highest to date. Spending in the 2014 mid-term elections broke new records too, at $4 billion.

The danger of allowing corporations and the wealthiest to take away the people’s voice is all around us.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable are pushing a trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that would result in an even bigger corporate power grab. The TPP would place the “expected future profits” of multinational corporations ahead of U.S. citizens, communities, our health and security. Corporations could challenge any laws and regulations that they believe jeopardize their profits in secret, international tribunals.

Forget the Supreme Court’s determination that corporations are people. Under the TPP, corporations get some of the power of national governments.

Today, more than 5 million Americans are on record opposing this corruption of our political process and this number is growing bigger and stronger everyday, as we stand up to get money out of politics and to take back our democracy.

“Democracy in Action” Conference Focuses on Reducing Political Influence of Corporations and Big Money

MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE—Eleven days after the most expensive mid-term election in US history, New Hampshire activists will gather on Saturday, November 15 at Manchester Community College to learn how to make their own voices heard in the run-up to New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary. Sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Open Democracy, and NH Peace Action, the 2014 “Democracy in Action” conference will focus on reducing the influence of corporations and big money on American politics.

“Fifty years after President Eisenhower warned the nation about the unwarranted influence of the military-industrial-complex, the problem has only gotten worse,” said Will Hopkins, Director of NH Peace Action.  “Now, it’s ultra-wealthy individuals and a wide range of corporate interests that are drowning out the voices and votes of ordinary citizens,” said Hopkins, an Iraq war veteran.

“In New Hampshire we have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the candidates,” said Olivia Zink, AFSC’s Grassroots Engagement Coordinator, “and with a bit of training and planning, we can make sure they hear our concerns about corporate influence and big money.”

“It’s no surprise that nine in ten Americans believe special interest money holds excessive influence in politics or that eight in ten Americans support limits on campaign spending,” observed Dan Weeks of Open Democracy, who noted that nearly $50 million was spent just on the recent campaign for the US Senate. “That’s about $100 for everyone who voted, and most of it was spent on negative ads,” Weeks said.

The Democracy in Action conference will take place from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm on Saturday, November 15.  It will include workshops on campaign skills, especially how to communicate effectively with electoral candidates through a process activists call “bird-dogging.”   Other workshops will examine news-media relations, bringing resolutions to Town Meetings, free speech rights, and public speaking.  Topical workshops will focus on corporate influence over foreign policy, health care, and environmental matters, plus others dealing with the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, corporate influence on state policy, and the impact of the money-driven political system on efforts to reduce poverty.

Participants will also learn about AFSC’s “Governing Under the Influence” project, Open Democracy’s proposals for campaign reform, and the NH Rebellion’s plans for “Granny D” walks in January.

Following the conference, attendees will have an opportunity to see a new documentary film, “Pay 2 Play,” which exposes the influence of money on our political system and explores steps to put voters back in control.

Manchester Community College is located at 1066 Front Street in Manchester. Admission is free.  Participants are strongly encouraged to pre-register. Additional information is available at:  http://afsc.org/event/democracy-action-conference.

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization supported by people of many faiths who care about social justice and peace.  It’s NH Primary season project focuses on excessive corporate influence in American politics.

Open Democracy is a New Hampshire organization founded by Doris “Granny D” Haddock to strengthen democracy and stop the corrupting influence of special interest money in politics.

New Hampshire Peace Action is a statewide group working to end wars, eliminate nuclear weapons worldwide, and shift resources from war-making to programs that meet human needs.

In addition to AFSC, NH Peace Action, and Open Democracy, the conference is also supported by People for the American Way, Public Citizen, the Stamp Stampede, NH Sierra Club, Free Speech for People, and Granite State Progress.

Working To Limit Money In Politics, Local Non-Profits Host Democracy In Action Conference

Local New Hampshire Non-Profits Hold Post-Election Democracy In Action Conference Addressing the Influx of Money in the Political System

     The local non-profit groups Open Democracy, NH Peace Action, and American Friends Service Committee, along with other supporting organizations, are holding a free and open to the public Democracy In Action Conference on Saturday, November 15th, at Manchester Community College.

     The groups, in light of the record-breaking spending and negativity of the recent election, are concerned with the influence big money has in corrupting the democratic principles of the republic.

     The granite state has a famously unique opportunity to engage political candidates, especially presidential candidates.  Looking to take advantage of that opportunity, the Democracy in Action Conference seeks to help citizens understand the issues related to the problem of money in politics, and to develop grassroots skills to build a movement that aims to make the primary voting issue of the next election the corruption of money-politics and ensuring all citizens have an equal voice.

     Workshops at the conference will focus on training for candidate interactions, gaining skills in local communities for effective action, understanding how big money in politics affects many of the hot-button issues of the day, and connecting with local grassroot reform campaigns.  The conference will be immediately followed by a free showing of the movie Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes.

      Admission and parking are free and refreshments will be provided.  All are welcome, and asked to register at:

http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50601/c/10502/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=79716,  or call (603) 224-2407.

Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/events/970353576313817/?context=create&previousaction=create&source=49&sid_create=33498377

WHEN:  Saturday, November 15th—8:30am to 3:00pm

WHERE:  Manchester Community College, Main Auditorium Room 100

  1066 Front St.

  Manchester, NH  03102

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

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.

—–

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.

(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

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

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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