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Same question, different problem: WHERE did the money come from?

truth-257159_640It’s not just the questions about the Federal Elections Commission investigation and where the money came from.  It’s actually worse than that.  It’s what happened afterward – because like so much else in government these days, it involves political fundraising.

At the end of last year, Rep. Frank Guinta’s campaign reported less than $19,000 cash-on-hand.

Yet the FEC enforcement agreement signed by Guinta’s lawyer last month obligated the campaign to pay a $15,000 administrative fine and repay $355,000 in loans dating back to 2010. (Hat-tip to the Union Leader for posting the agreement online, where we can all read it.)

Like most Congressmen, Rep. Guinta is a practiced fundraiser.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Guinta raised about $4.5 million dollars during his last three campaigns.

And just in the first quarter of this year – presumably while his lawyer was negotiating the FEC settlementGuinta’s campaign raised more than $300,000.  

Koch Industries PAC gave $5,000.  The Chicago Board Options Exchange PAC gave $5,000.  Independent Insurance Agents PAC gave $5,000.  New York Life Insurance PAC gave $5,000.  National Beer Wholesalers PAC gave $5,000.  The Boeing Company PAC gave $1,000.  The Turkish Coalition PAC gave $1,000.

Jeb Bush’s brand-new “Right to Rise” SuperPAC gave $5,200 — before the PAC was even two months old.

The Leadership PAC affiliated with House Speaker John Boehner gave $5,000, and Boehner’s campaign committee gave another $4,000.  The Leadership PAC of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy gave $5,000; his campaign gave another $4,000.  Ways & Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s Leadership PAC gave $5,000.  The Leadership PAC of Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise gave $5,000.  The Leadership PAC of Oregon Rep. Greg Walden gave $5,000.  The Leadership PAC of Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling gave $5,000.  Ribble for Congress gave $1,000.  Latta for Congress gave $1,000.  Jeff Miller for Congress gave $1,000.  Andy Harris for Congress gave $1,000.  Rick Allen for Congress gave $1,000.  Friends of Sam Johnson gave $1,000.  Rep. John Kline’s Leadership PAC gave $1,000.  Rep. Steve Stivers’ Leadership PAC gave $1,000.  The Leadership PAC of Rep. John Shimkus gave $1,000.

And the list goes on, for almost 75 pages.

Sort of like “Go Fund Me” – except that the money is coming from special interests and Guinta’s fellow congressmen, who also have an interest in how he votes.

Given that list of donors, would Rep. Guinta consider fighting House Leadership over the latest raid on Medicare?  Or is he going to vote exactly how the Speaker wants him to?

What does Jeb Bush expect, in return for the SuperPAC contribution?

What does Koch Industries expect?  The Chicago options traders?  Boeing?  The Turkish Coalition?

And what can Guinta’s constituents expect, after the campaign solicited almost enough money to pay the cost of the FEC agreement?  

How many of these donors knew that the FEC agreement was coming?  

Solicit more campaign contributions, to meet the conditions of a campaign finance enforcement agreement.  It’s so ironic, it should be funny – except, it’s not.  It’s totally screwed up.

When politicians go begging to big money donors, everybody else loses.

That’s why two-thirds of New Hampshire voters want a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

It’s why hundreds of people have been walking across the state with the New Hampshire Rebellion, drawing attention to the need for campaign finance reform.

It’s why tens of thousands of people across the country are legally stamping US currency with messages like “Not to Be Used for Bribing Politicians.” Every stamped dollar bill is seen by about 875 people.  Get a stamp at StampStampede.org.  Stamp four bills each day for a year, and you’ll help convince a million people that it is possible to take our government back – if enough of us work together to do that.

It’s why small businesses are hosting Stamp Stampede stamping stations – more than 100 of them across New Hampshire – so their customers can stamp money and learn more about money in politics.

It’s why grandmothers and middle school students and people from every political persuasion are working together to reclaim our government from Big Money campaign donors.

Because when you read about a FEC enforcement action, you shouldn’t have to wonder whose money will be used to pay the fine, and what they’re going to expect in return.

And you really shouldn’t have to worry whether all the fundraising that happened, just before the agreement was signed, is going to do more damage to our democracy than the original violation.

 

Warning: More Campaign Fundraising Ahead

warning extreme danger

Photo by Paul Klintworth via Flikr

Some thoughts on the news that Rep. Frank Guinta has reached an agreement with the Federal Elections Commission to pay a $15,000 fine and repay $355,000.

First thought: this is a really big deal. Fifteen thousand dollars is a pretty big fine for the FEC.  In fact, it’s apparently the 24th-biggest fine the FEC has issued since 2000.  It’s more than three times the fine for failing to return excess campaign contributions issued to the campaign committee for House Speaker John Boehner earlier this year.

Second thought: it’s a minor miracle this happened at all.  The FEC has been mired in partisan gridlock for a long time now.  As FEC Chairwoman Ann Ravel told the New York Times a couple of weeks ago, “The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim.”  FEC fines are at record lows.  If the FEC was able to agree on this enforcement action, that says something about how serious it was.

Third thought: repay $355,000?  How?   According to the *ahem* latest FEC report, Guinta’s campaign only has $312,432 cash on hand.  Which – I’m just guessing here – probably means the campaign is going to have to do some fundraising.

Fourth thought: the FEC itself has some real transparency issues.  I spent quite a while trying to find this enforcement agreement on the FEC website – and never found it.  I would have expected that large a fine would have merited a press release, but apparently I was wrong.

Fifth thought: does Guinta’s campaign even care about federal campaign laws?  Earlier this year, news broke that Guinta’s campaign was in trouble with the FEC over 2014 campaign violations.  Put this in context: even while the campaign committee was under FEC investigation, it didn’t pay close attention to the laws.  That’s sort of like running a red light when you know there’s a police car pursuing you for speeding.  Who does that?  And, what does it say about respect for the laws?

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A few other random thoughts:

Congratulations to the citizens of Newport!  Yesterday, Newport became the 69th New Hampshire municipality to pass a local resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and limit #MoneyInPolitics.   (See the complete list here.)  Special recognition to Robert Seavey and Robert Naylor for their work on the resolution.

If your town isn’t on that list – and you want it to be – click here for more information about how to pass a local resolution to #GetMoneyOut of politics.

Did you think 2012 was bad?  This presidential election is shaping up to be a real doozy.  In January, The Hill was predicting that the 2016 elections would cost about $5 billion (with a B) – or, about twice what was spent on the 2012 election.  Now they’re guessing it will be $10 billion (with a B).  How high will it go?  Nobody knows.

Worth reading: Why are Corporate Lobbyists the Only Ones Heard?  “Corporations and organizations representing corporations spent $2.6 billion on lobbying last year and labor unions spent $45 million.”  That’s almost a 60-to-one spending ratio.  When it came time to issue regulations to prevent another Wall Street meltdown, “among the lobbyists who had contacted the agencies, 78.2 percent represented financial institutions, 7.9 percent were law firms representing financial institutions, and 7.2 percent were financial trade association. Only 4.1 percent represented public interest and labor groups.”

I’m feeling old this morning.  I’ve been working on #MoneyInPolitics since the 1980s, when we were all concerned about PACs.  That seems positively quaint, in retrospect.

A quick trip down memory lane: 1984 was the first year that any presidential candidate raised the maximum contributions under the public financing system spending limits.  That candidate was Ronald Reagan.   That amount was about $10 million (with an M).  The spending limit was $20.2 million (with an M).

Lessee.  Accounting for inflation, that campaign spending limit that Ronald Reagan agreed to would be equal to about $46 million in today’s dollars.

And yes, that sea change in campaign spending is why “The US government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country’s citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful.”

There is some light on the horizon.  People around the country are working toward a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United – and there has been a lot of progress made in a remarkably short time (particularly given the resistance from federal elected officials).

There are a whole lot of groups working on this.

And people are even having fun doing it.  Watch this, from the “1% News Network”:

An organizing pitch: these days, I’m working for the Stamp Stampede — and I hope you will join us in our campaign to help #StampMoneyOut of politics.

The Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.  Join the #MoveToAmend!

The Rest of the Story @ the #NHGOP #FITN Summit

2015-04-18 Rebellion arrivalThe national media logged thousands of stories about last weekend’s #FITN #NHGOP Summit – but they missed two.

The first story – overlooked by almost all of the national media but covered by the Concord Monitor, Bloomberg Politics and a bit by WMUR – was the #NHGOP treatment of the NH Rebellion.

The Rebellion was originally a sponsor of the #FITN Summit.  The group paid a sponsorship fee and expected to have a table inside the Crowne Plaza, so they could speak to the assembled presidential candidates about the #GetMoneyOut movement.

Three days before the event, their sponsorship was revokedThe explanation?

The reason that the FITN event organizers told us was that they believed NH Rebellion had given money to oppose Republican candidates. This is incorrect.  The NH Rebellion has not spent any money to oppose — or support — Republican candidates, or any candidates for that matter. We are a project of Open Democracy, based in Concord, N.H. which is a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and cannot legally contribute to the campaigns of candidates.

With all the attention being paid to which-side-of-the-line legal technicalities these days, one might think that the #NHGOP would be more careful about their “reason” for revoking the sponsorship.

2018-04-18 NashuaPDBut the #NHGOP didn’t just tell the Rebellion that the group couldn’t have a table.  They decided the group had to be kept out of the building.  And then they called the cops.

The Rebellion walkers had organized a 15-mile “Patriots Day Walk” for Democracy that started in Lowell, Massachusetts with the ringing of a Paul Revere bell.  When 80 or so Rebellion walkers arrived at the #FITN Summit, the walkers were met by police and told to “keep on moving.”  Walkers were literally escorted from the hotel grounds by the police.

And when “Paul Revere” impersonator Ellen Read was given legitimate event credentials – and actually got in the door – she was almost immediately forced back out.

There’s a clear message here, for anyone who’s listening: leadership of the #NHGOP does not want to hear from the #GetMoneyOut movement.

Wondering why?  First rule: Follow the Money.  Which, luckily, the National Institute on Money in State Politics is making easier and easier.  Pull up their database of “contributions to Republican party committees” in New Hampshire, click to sort the data by “election year” and guess who’s on the list? Astrazeneca…  Centene Corp… Comcast… CVS Caremark… Deloitte & Touche… Express Scripts… General Electric… International Franchise Association… Merck & Co…. Pfizer… Verizon… Altria… Waste Management… Choice In Healthcare Cmte…  NE Cable and Telecommunications Association… NH Automobile Dealers… NH Dental Society… NH Independent Pharmacy Assoc… NH Society of Eye Physicians… Select Management Resources (haven’t heard of them?  click here)… B J Alan Co… Seabrook Station…

Hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporations and business associations.

And Ellen Read got “escorted” out the door.

The second story that got missed: the depth of the anger about Citizens United, and the public support for fixing the problem.

All along the 15 miles of the Rebellion’s walk, motorists tooted their horns, gave us thumbs-up and shouted encouragement.

Two women grabbed the flag off their porch and joined the walk as we went by.

One woman was putting her own leaflets on cars outside the hotel, when we got there.  She wasn’t a part of the Rebellion or StampStampede, she’s just sick and tired of #MoneyInPolitics and wanted to let everyone at the #FITN Summit know she’d had enough.  (She was really glad to hear she’s not alone!!)

2015-04-18 StampMobileA few reporters wandered across the street to take a closer look at the Amazing Amend-O-Matic Stampmobile.  They all seem surprised by the statistics about grassroots support (61% of NH Republicans support amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United68 NH municipalities have passed local resolutions calling for a Constitutional amendment… 80% of NH Republicans think Congress cares more about special interests than its constituents).  But none of the reporters wrote about it.

Here’s why that’s important:

Dave Weigel of Bloomberg got a very different explanation, when he asked #NHGOP Chair Jennifer Horn why the NH Rebellion had gotten tossed from the #FITN Summit. “This summit is an event for Republican activists to hear from our potential presidential candidates,” she told him, “not a platform for the self-absorbed antics of a liberal Harvard professor.”

If Horn truly thinks that #MoneyInPolitics is just an issue for one “Harvard professor”… then who is she listening to?  Certainly not the pollsters at UNH.  Certainly not the people driving down Route 3A last Saturday.  Or the woman with the flyers in the parking lot.

Is she listening only to those “corporate people” on the list of donors to NH Republican Party Committees?

#NHGOP voters deserve to have their voices heard.  Not just by “potential presidential candidates” – but by their party officials, too.

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The Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

“Party for the Planet” this Wednesday at Redhook Brewery!

Party_for_Planet_BenStampStampede.org founder Ben Cohen will “Party for the Planet” with the Green Alliance at Redhook Brewery in Portsmouth this Wednesday, April 22 from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

The party follows an “Earth Day Clean Up” organized by the Green Alliance, which will be held earlier in the day.

The Green Alliance represents over 100 green-certified Business Partners and 4,000 community members, working to increase the profits of companies that have the least impact on the environment.

Redhook has been a green-certified Business Partner with the Green Alliance since 2011.

Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, is the founder and “Head Stamper” of the Stamp Stampede.  The Stampede is a grassroots movement now including more than 30,000 Americans who are legally rubber-stamping anti-corruption messages onto US currency.  The stamped bills become “miniature billboards” supporting a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.  Each stamped dollar bill is seen by an estimated 875 people as it circulates through the local economy.

More than 60 small businesses in the Granite State have joined the Stamp Stampede by hosting “Stamping Stations” where their customers can legally stamp anti-corruption messages on their money and learn more about the issue of #MoneyInPolitics.  Almost 1,000 people in New Hampshire have their own stamps to beautify their bucks with messages like “Not to Be Used for Bribing Politicians.”  The Stamp Stampede plans to stamp 10% of the currency circulating in New Hampshire, to bring attention to the problem and make it an issue in the presidential campaign.

“This is where the collaboration really becomes powerful,” says Green Alliance Director Sarah Brown. “A business like Redhook is ahead of the curve when it comes to sustainability and is thrilled to be hosting green business leaders, citizens and Ben Cohen. We want folks to connect the dots between responsible business practices and protecting the environment; all three of our organizations share these values.”

“In order to create a sustainable future, we need to put a stop to pay-to-play culture. Progressive green business leaders are part of that,” adds Cohen. “Too often, big oil and special interest groups use campaign contributions and lobbying muscle to block common-sense pro-sustainability legislation. I’m excited to work with the Green Alliance community to help stamp big money out of politics.”

US government policies on the environment, sustainability and energy are among the issues most affected by special interest spending.

At the grassroots level, there is broad bipartisan support for overturning Citizens United and ending the influence of special interests. Four out of five New Hampshire Republicans think Congress is more interested in special interests than its constituents.  More than two-thirds of New Hampshire voters support a Constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United.

So far, 68 of the state’s cities and towns have passed measures calling for a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

The New Hampshire Legislature is now considering two measures about Citizens United.  Last month, the House passed a bipartisan measure calling for a Constitutional Convention.  The Senate unanimously passed a bill calling for an amendment, and setting up a study committee to recommend which proposed amendment to support.  So far, 16 other states have called for a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and get special interest money out of politics.

Wednesday night’s “Party for the Planet” is open to the public and guests will enjoy live music and complimentary eats. The $5 entry donation and $2 from every beer purchased goes to the local environmental non-profit Hodgson Brook Association. There will also be free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, compliments of Cohen.

The Party tops off a drop-in Earth Day clean-up, which runs from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.  Cleanup participants meet at Redhook to get their collection bags and location, and are urged to pick up as much trash as possible.  Clean-up participants get free raffle tickets for every bag of trash collected.  While Redhook and the Green Alliance encourage folks to participate in both the clean-up and the after-party, they are also separate events and visitors are welcome at either or both.

Redhook has an extensive facility-wide recycling and composting program, reuses water from the brewing process, and sends spent grains to local farmers. Early in 2015 they began purchasing wind energy credits and recently installed an electric car charging station, high-efficiency lights, motion sensors and EnergyStar appliances.

Tietjen Hynes is head of Redhook’s Sustainability Committee, and Operations Project Engineer and has coordinated a cleanup for Pease Tradeport, home to a growing number of environmentally-minded companies. Set up as a corporate participatory Earth Day activity, a number of companies on the Tradeport have already committed employees to the cleanup.

“Lots of Pease companies are participating; many of our neighbors are stepping to the plate. We also welcome individuals and have had some smaller green-minded businesses like Aucella commit to both the clean-up and the party,” says Hynes.

With the help of other Pease Tradeport businesses, Hynes organized the Earth Day cleanup to focus on the Tradeport grounds and nearby Hodgson Brook.  “Hodgson Brook not only runs along the Redhook property, but also throughout the Tradeport and is listed as an impaired waterway,” said Hynes. “Land use and urbanization have degraded the freshwater stream, altered the natural makeup of the brook, and created serious pollution problems. We hope to improve the condition of the brook by reducing the amount of litter.”

Party for the Planet
Wednesday, April 22
6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
REDHOOK BREWERY PORTSMOUTH

1 Redhook Way
Pease International Tradeport
Portsmouth, NH 03801

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The Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

NH House Considers Bill on Amending the US Constitution to Limit Political Spending

2015-04-07 Steve Rand

The NH House Committee on Legislative Administration today held its public hearing on a bill calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.  The legislation, SB 136, was passed unanimously by the state Senate last month.

The House has already passed a resolution, HCR 2, calling for an Article V Constitutional Convention to address Citizens United.

Steve Rand of Plymouth (pictured above) was one of those who testified.  “Everybody knows that we have a corrupt system, a legally corrupt system.  The question really is: if everybody knows this, why do 95% of us Americans think there isn’t anything we can do about it?” he asked.  “What we are trying to do is change people’s minds about the possibilities; and what you can do — as our elected representatives– is to help that process along.”

Corrine Dodge, one of the Stamp Stampede’s “Rebel Grammies” from Derry, also testified. “I feel so passionately that I could no longer sit by and watch what has been happening to our elections, as they became more corrupt, and as I watched Congress become more dysfunctional.”  Corrine worked with her Town Council to pass a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment.  She also testified in favor of an earlier bill, and met with her state Senator about the bill now pending in the House.

“Now it’s your turn,” she told the Committee.  “What will you, the House Committee on Legislative Administration, decide?  Will you vote against your constituents’ will?  Or will you stand this time with We The People?”

Dan Weeks, of Open Democracy and the NH Rebellion, noted “There is specific language ensuring that the First Amendment is protected, in whatever constitutional proposals are supported by New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation.”

“We do believe there is a way to address the concerns raised by Citizens United, which are magnified, as you all know, by our election last fall, where $100 million was spent in New Hampshire, the majority of it outside money,” Dan said.  “You have heard so many times from citizens that something has to be done.”

The Committee is expected to make a recommendation on the bill within the next several weeks.

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The Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

NH Leaders Applaud Senate Vote for Constitutional Amendment to Stop Unlimited Campaign Spending, Urge House to Follow Suit

Open Democracy, the New Hampshire nonprofit committed to transparent and accountable government, congratulated the New Hampshire Senate for unanimously approving SB 136 on Thursday, a bill calling on Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to address the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
 
Open Democracy leaders and activists from both political parties, together with allied groups, simultaneously renewed their calls for the New Hampshire House to approve a similar measure. If adopted by the House, New Hampshire would become the 17th state to call for a Constitutional Amendment five years after the controversial Citizens United decision was handed down.
 
“New Hampshire citizens are frankly disgusted with the amount of special interest money flooding our elections,” said Daniel Weeks, Executive Director of Open Democracy, citing town resolutions adopted by 67 New Hampshire towns in 2014-15 calling for a Constitutional Amendment and the roughly 12,000 citizen petitioners across the state. “It is precisely because the First Amendment is so sacred that we need to protect the rights of ordinary Americans to speak and be heard in the public square, rather than be shouted down by big spenders with an agenda of their own,” Weeks said.
 
“We applaud the full Senate for responding to their constituents’ demands and passing this historic call for a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to rid our democracy of unlimited special interest spending in elections,” said Gordon Allen, co-chair of the Open Democracy Board. “We are especially thankful to Senators Martha Fuller-Clark (D-21) and Russell Prescott (R-23) for leading this important push.”
 
Members of the Open Democracy Advisory Board John Broderick and Brad Cook, the former NH Chief Justice and Republican Chairman of the Election Law Commission, respectively, called on elected representatives in the House to follow the Senate’s lead and pass the “bipartisan resolution opposing the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates to unlimited spending in elections.”
 
“Although we may not agree on some issues, we both believe there is nothing more destructive of good politics and good policy than secret special interest money in elections,” Broderick and Cook wrote. “Left unchecked, it will consume our electoral process and silence the voice of the people.”
 
The issue of money in politics has attracted near-unanimous public sentiment from across the political spectrum, with 96 percent of New Hampshire residents polled believing that money has too much influence over politics. Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of state residents across party lines support a Constitutional Amendment to limit campaign contributions and spending, according to a University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll.
 
As evidence of their frustration with the status quo, approximately 500 citizens took to the streets of New Hampshire this January, walking 300 miles across the state to protest money in politics as part of the NH Rebellion. The Rebellion activists and allied groups plan to continue marching and are also challenging the presidential candidates to support systemic campaign finance reform during the state’s first-in-the-national primary.
 
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The Senate-approved legislation, as amended, asserts “the need for a United States Constitutional Amendment to address the Citizens United ruling and related cases, that protects New Hampshire’s ability to make its own laws regarding campaign finance while protecting the First Amendment.” To bill also establishes a study committee to examine the impact of the Citizens United ruling and related cases in New Hampshire elections; to evaluate the different Constitutional Amendment options being proposed in Congress; and to consider short-term solutions to issues raised by Citizens United.
 
One such measure, disclosure of independent spending in state elections, was approved by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Hassan in 2014. However, insufficient compliance with SB 120 in the 2014 election led Open Democracy to file complaints against both liberal and conservative political committees with the New Hampshire Attorney General. As of March 2015, the Attorney General’s investigations are still ongoing.
 
A forthcoming Open Democracy analysis of the 2014 mid-term election in New Hampshire reveals that approximately $100 million was spent by candidates, parties, and third-party groups – the highest level of election spending in state history. More than half of the total spending came from so-called “independent” groups, with the majority of their funding coming from out-of-state and/or undisclosed sources, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate contest also ranked as the most negative race in the country with over 90 percent of all television ads characterized as attacks. 
 
Although efforts to overturn Citizens United in Congress have stalled in recent years for lack of bipartisan support, liberal and conservative leaders alike have called for state and congressional action to mitigate what they describe as the ruling’s adverse effects on elections and representation. As early as 2010 when the decision was handed down, New Hampshire’s late Republican Senator Warren Rudman wrote in The Washington Post, “Supreme Court opinion notwithstanding, corporations are not defined as people under the Constitution, and free speech can hardly be called free when only the rich are heard.”
 
To mitigate the corrupting influence of money in politics, Senator Rudman went on to urge “Republicans and Democrats in Congress [to] work together to expand political speech for all citizens by replacing special-interest money in politics with small donations and public matching funds.”
 
Open Democracy, a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Concord, advocates for a range of campaign finance and election reforms including citizen-funded elections, overturning Citizens United, election modernization, and full rapid disclosure of campaign contributions and spending. 

NH Senate Unanimously Calls for Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

2015-03-26 Senate Passes SB136 3The New Hampshire Senate just passed a bill supporting the amendment of the US Constitution to overturn Citizens United. The voice vote was apparently unanimous. The bill, SB 136, establishes a study committee to review the various proposed constitutional amendments, and issue a report by November 1st regarding which approach should be supported by the New Hampshire congressional delegation.

“Fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy and the consequences of the Citizens United ruling on our elections must be addressed,” said Senator Martha Fuller Clark.​ “The issue of such large amounts of money influencing our elections is not a partisan one; it affects all of us. That’s why 67 of our municipalities have passed warrant articles calling for action on this very serious issue which threatens our democracy.”

“In 2014 alone, over $49 million was spent on NH Congressional races from outside groups, drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens,” she said. “I’m pleased that my Senate colleagues have finally agreed that it is time to do something about the corrupting influence of such large amounts of out-of-state money on our elections. I urge the House to agree as well.”

2015-03-26 Senate Passes SB136“The Senate’s action today is a huge step forward in the grassroots effort to make New Hampshire the 17th state to call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United,” said Paul Brochu, the Stamp Stampede’s Lead Organizer in New Hampshire.

“We’re very hopeful that the House will also pass this bill.  The House called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United in 2013 and 2014; and earlier this year the House passed a resolution seeking an Article V Constitutional Convention to overturn Citizens United,” he said. “I think we’re all tired of out-of-state special interests trying to buy our elections.  It’s time for some common-sense limits – and that common sense starts by telling the Supreme Court that no, corporations are not ‘people.’ ”

“Today, thanks to the bipartisan leadership of Senators Russell Prescott (R-23) and Martha Fuller Clark (D-21), the Senate at last voted to pass a version of SB 136 that includes language specifically calling for a constitutional amendment,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Co-Director of Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign.  “This reflects what the people of New Hampshire have been urging their elected officials to do in response to the surge of outside money being spent on state and federal elections.”

2015-03-26 Senate Passes SB136 2 (2)“The pressing question before the nation today is whether it is ‘we the people’ or ‘we the corporations and big money interests.’ This not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. This is a deeply American issue. Whatever our political differences may be, we all share the common vision of government of, by, and for the people,” said John Bonifaz, President of Free Speech for People.

“This victory also demonstrates that a sustained people-powered movement can win,” he added. “New Hampshire citizens from throughout the state have repeatedly called on their legislators to take this action. They have rallied. They have marched. They have traveled to their state capitol to stand up and be heard. And, today, the people were heard. When the history of the 28th Amendment is written, it will include the story of New Hampshire citizens demanding their democracy back.”

“All across New Hampshire, people from both parties are saying they’ve had enough of Big Money in politics,” Brochu said.  “In town after town, Town Meeting after Town Meeting, Granite State voters have said ‘no more!’  It’s been amazing to watch all these people – many of whom have never been politically active before in their lives – suddenly step forward and lead their hometowns to take a stand and say the Constitution should be amended.”

“Many of the people who have stepped forward on this issue had never before called or written to or met with their elected officials.  They’re acting as ‘citizen lobbyists’ for the very first time, trying to take back their government from the special interests and Big Money donors,” Brochu added.  “This is what democracy is supposed to be about – and it is beautiful to see.”

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Stamp_StampedeThe Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

The Rest of the Story on Scott Walker’s Visit to Concord

By Paul Brochu, Lead Organizer, New Hampshire for The Stamp Stampede

According to someone who was there Saturday morning:

2015-03-14 Walker protest 1More people were outside protesting against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker than were inside the building, attending the event.

Inside, what was billed as the NH-GOP’s “2016 Kickoff Grassroots Training” quickly devolved into an exercise in political fundraising.  Party Chairwoman Jennifer Horn kept reminding the “Grassroots” participants to donate, donate, donate.  She also encouraged them to volunteer for Americans For Prosperity. (Which is somewhat odd… wouldn’t the Party want its “Grassroots” volunteers to support Republican candidates, not a 501(c)(4) “social welfare organization” founded by the Koch brothers ??)

Inside, party officials were touting Scott Walker as “the only candidate willing to fight the special interests.” (Which is an odd characterization, while there’s an ongoing investigation into “whether Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and conservative groups illegally worked together in recall elections” including “the involvement of Walker’s campaign in raising money” for the Wisconsin Club for Growth.)

Inside, party officials were discussing who would – and wouldn’t – be allowed into the event.  Among those left outside in the cold?  Any and all Republicans from Massachusetts.   Apparently, NH GOP officials thought Massachusetts Republicans had struck some sort of “deal” with labor unions… and because of that, any Republican from Massachusetts was turned away at the door.  Among those left outside the event?  A gray-suited man who described himself as a “Lifetime Member of the National Republican Inner Circle” who happened to be from Massachusetts.

2015-03-14 Walker protest 2(And, yes, there were Republican union members outside the event, too.  Party officials keep forgetting that, in New Hampshire, a large chunk of union members are registered Republicans.  And Republican union members weren’t any happier with Scott Walker than Democratic union members were.)

And also outside the event?  Gov. Walker’s fundraising machine, which reportedly is going full-steam all around the country. Here’s how CNN reported it:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is on an ambitious mission this spring to scoop up major GOP donors ahead of a likely presidential run … Walker’s PAC, Our American Revival, provided CNN with a list of names of reliable Republican donors who have already committed to bundle funds for him or contribute significantly to a Super PAC that would be developed to support him should he run. And Republican fundraisers have told CNN donors are lining up to meet with him as he’s rocketing up in the polls.

New Hampshire used to pride itself on the “First in the Nation” primary.  Only now, we’ve been beaten to the punch by a bunch of billionaires holding their own “interviews” and trying to pre-select which candidates will be able to run for President.

2015-03-14 Walker protest 3That’s why the Stamp Stampede was outside the event, too, Saturday morning.

We remember back in 2011, when Gov. Walker thought he was talking with David Koch. (Frankly, it was kind of embarrassing; governors should be dignified, not fawning.  You can read the transcript here.)

And even before that: the videotape of a billionaire asking him whether he could make Wisconsin a “completely red state, and work on these unions, and become a right-to-work” state.  And Walker replied that his “first step” would be “to divide and conquer” the unions through his “budget-adjustment bill.”

That was after the 2010 elections, in which Walker won the support of Operating Engineers Local 139.

Terry McGowan, the union’s business manager, said the union gave its 2010 endorsement only after getting assurances Walker would not pursue right-to-work legislation. [McGowan said] he was continuing to take Walker at his word given his public statements and conversations he has had with him.  “You don’t hear him say, ‘Yes, I’m going to go after right-to-work legislation,’ ” McGowan said of the video.

But he added that divide and conquer is a phrase that is anathema to those in the labor movement. 

“It means turning worker against worker,” he said.

The billionaire gave Walker a $500,000 donation.

And last week, just before he came to New Hampshire, Scott Walker signed “Right-to-Work.”  Apparently, it’s good for getting donations.  “Even before the Legislature passed the measure on Friday in a fast-track process, Mr. Walker’s political backers were raising money on the issue.”

Let’s be clear: the ability “to scoop up major donors” should not be the #1 qualification to become President.

It’s not something to be proud of.

The willingness to say one thing publicly, and something else to mega-donors – that’s not something to be proud of, either.

Eagerness to embrace divide-and-conquer as a political strategy?  That’s beyond the pale.

Stamp_Stampede
The Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

US is STILL Redistributing Wealth to the Rich

35BillionFriday’s Motley Fool had an eye-opening article about $35.5 billion of stock buybacks recently announced by Big Banks.

That’s $35.5 billion of profits being “returned to stockholders” rather than being used to pay bank employees a living wage. Yes, these days almost one-third of bank tellers receive public assistance (including food stamps, Medicaid, welfare, EITC).

Yes, that’s our tax money at work: “State and federal governments pay nearly $900 million each year to support bank tellers on these programs.”  At the same time Big Banks are “returning” billions upon billions to “stockholders” – including the very same corporate insiders who decide how much money will be spent on buybacks, and how much on wages. (Wondering how many shares these “insiders” own? Click on these links, then scroll down: Citigroup; Bank of America; JP Morgan.)

That’s $35.5 billion going up the economic ladder, rather than being used to pay workers a living wage.

And that’s just from nine banks. Goldman Sachs has predicted that – this year alone – US corporations will spend $707 billion buying back their own stocks.

That’s money that could be used to create jobs. Or pay employees a living wage. Or restore the health insurance and pension benefits that have been stripped away during the past 20 years. Or invest in new factories, or research and development.

Or, gosh. It could wipe out the entire federal deficit. If only corporations were still paying taxes at the same rates they paid in the 1950s, 60s and 70s… rather than “returning” all those billions to investors.

Read more about stock buybacks here.

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Note to readers: you may have noticed, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged here at NH Labor News… and that’s because I’m now working for StampStampede.org. The Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

Stamp_StampedeYou can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

Need motivation to stamp?  Just think about Citigroup, which spends millions of dollars each year on lobbying, and millions more on political contributions (to both parties)… and, oh, wait! There are also 27 members of Congress who themselves own stock in Citigroup. Now, think about last December’s Cromnibus legislation, which included a provision written by Citigroup lobbyists leaving taxpayers on the hook for another Wall Street bailout.

And now… they’re “returning” $7.8 billion of profits to shareholders (rather than, say, rehiring some of those 50,000 workers who were laid off during the last Wall Street meltdown).

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

Canterbury Approves Resolution Against “Citizens United”

p3130011

Money is Not Speech and Constitutional Rights are for Human Beings

Following an unusually placid series of votes approving budget items, Canterbury, New Hampshire’s annual Town Meeting came to life during a debate over a resolution calling for a Constitutional Amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision.

Discussion began with a well delivered speech by Laurie Lockwood, who said that due to the 2010 ruling, “there can now be no effective restraint placed on campaign spending by corporations, Political Action Committees, unions,  or groups of any kind.  If you have a mailbox, a radio, or a TV, you are aware of the results.”

Lockwood explained that the purpose of the resolution is to pressure Congress to act, in accord with Article Five of the US Constitution.  Amendments are rare, P3130042

Laurie Lockwood

but not unprecedented, she said, and it is our duty as citizens to take action.

The resolution was pretty straightforward, calling on the town’s elected officials to support an amendment to the US Constitution establishing that “only human beings, not corporations, are endowed with constitutional rights; and money is not speech, and  therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.”

Without change, according to Lockwood, we will have more “nasty, expensive elections that discourage participation, and we end up with representatives who are indebted to wealthy and powerful interests.”

In a thinly veiled reference to the brothers Koch, Lockwood said “fossil fuel interests have already pledged to spend a billion dollars on the 2016 elections.” 

When she finished, many town residents applauded and it looked for a moment like we might proceed to a vote without further remarks.  But Howard Moffett, a retired attorney who serves as one of Canterbury’s State Representatives, decided to share his reservations.  Although he had voted for similar resolutions at the State House, he said he was concerned that language calling for the end of corporate personhood went too far.  He said he would have preferred the resolution was drafted differently, but that he would support it because “we just have too much money in our politics drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens.” 

Rep. Moffett’s statement elicited a invitation for him to elaborate on his concerns and a request for information about how the resolution had been drafted.  Rep. Moffett spoke again briefly, and I addressed the origin of the resolution and its relationship to others being considered all over the country, which together can create a groundswell of pressure on Congress to act even if they don’t share theP3130015exact same wording.  

Another voter asked about corporate personhood, which brought Laurie Lockwood to the microphone again for a short history lecture. 

Finally Judy Elliott took the floor.  “We want to make it clear that corporations do not have the right to spend unlimited money on elections.”  That was the last word.

Wayne Mann, the town’s Moderator, called for a vote, which in Canterbury is conducted by voters waving a green card for “yes” or a red card for “no.”  There were a few “no” votes, but no doubt that the resolution had the overwhelming support of the citizens present.   

The vote followed weeks of organizing by a small, informal committee of Canterbury residents who worked together to draft the resolution, collect petition signatures, organize an educational program at the library, and talk up the issue in town.   Canterbury now joins dozens of other New Hampshire towns, and hundreds across the country, that are calling for the Constitution to be amended.  

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