Campaign Reform

McCutcheon v. FEC: "Citizens United" on Steroids

By Steve Mikulan

Frying Pan News

The U.S. Supreme Court's new term, which began yesterday, could spell a world of hurt for working Americans. People who believe this aren't simply looking at worst-case scenarios -- in which, say, the conservative majority sides on every point with plaintiffs represented by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. No, their view rests on the conservatives' well-established penchant for producing rulings that go far beyond the original cases before the justices - rulings that make laws that didn't previously exist, grant awards that weren't sought and answer briefs that were never filed.

Will Speaker John Perez Keep His Promise to Grassroots Democrats About Passing the California DISCLOSE Act?

By Carole Lutness

Last month there was great news for AB 1648, the California DISCLOSE Act. Speaker John Perez, who is a co-author of AB 1648, stood up in front of a couple of hundred activists at a Los Angeles County Democratic Party meeting and said, to a roaring round of cheers, that “we are going to get the DISCLOSE Act passed!”

This was fabulous news, because the California DISCLOSE Act is crucial to fighting back against Citizens United and unlimited anonymous spending in SuperPACS by making political ads in California clearly show their three largest funders.  Without it voters will be crushed by the Chevron’s and Koch Brothers of the world.

Speaker Perez really has to make it happen because unfortunately, with huge opposition from the California Chamber of Commerce and its big-money corporate allies who would rather keep voters in the dark, it doesn’t look like there’s any Republican Assemblymembers that will vote for it, denying it the 2/3 vote it needs as it currently stands.

Proposition 32: Corporate Billionaires’ Quest to Force Workers to Shut Up

By Bob Balgenorth
State Building and Construction Trades Council

Apparently we union workers are far too successful at affecting public policy in California. Why else would corporate billionaires be gathering and spending huge campaign war chests, for the third time in 14 years, to pass a law that would force us to shut up?

In 1998 it was Proposition 226. In 2005 it was Proposition 75. Now, in 2012, it is Proposition 32 that will silence workers’ voices and destroy our political clout, unless we beat it.

Those previous measures would have prohibited unions from making political contributions with money collected from paycheck deductions. But after voters realized that corporate funds would continue to flow unabated, with workers left powerless to respond, Propositions 226 and 75 were defeated.

CA GOP Continues its Death Spiral, Seeks Help From Prop 32 Supporters

Brian Leubitz

CRP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro in SacramentoCalifornia Republican Party faces fiscal, organizing questions. Banks on Special Exemptions.

The California Republican Party is in something of a desperate situation. They hold no statewide offices, and then they had a story in the New York Times titled "Republican Party in California Is Caught in Cycle of Decline."

That's never a good thing, especially when it is combined with a follow-up from the San Francisco Chronicle with some worrying financial numbers. Without getting deeply into the nitty, gritty, it is pretty bad. They are expected to reveal a deficit of nearly half a million dollars, and are considering closing their Sacramento office.

Proposition 32 Group Was Behind Citizens United

By John MacMurray

Just mentioning the Citizens United case is enough to boil some folks’ blood. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205 (U.S. Jan. 21, 2010) to use its full name, was the 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held that corporations and unions have the same political speech rights as individuals under the First Amendment.

The decision, equating campaign money with speech, opened the floodgates for, as some have put it, turning elections into auctions.

But, although a lot of us know something about the decision, mostly focused on its consequences, not enough of us know enough about the case itself—and some of the truly devious people behind it—and we should know.

But before we can begin connecting the dots, we need to identify the dots.

First Dot: Citizens United

Mitch McConnell And The Corporate War on Transparency

By Donald Cohen
Cry Wolf Project

Senator Mitch McConnell argued in 1987 that we should reject limits on corporate campaign contributions and instead, embrace public disclosure of campaign contributions important “so,” he said, “voters can judge for themselves what is appropriate.” He was right. Telling voters about the sources of political campaign contributions would help them understand about the influences on our elected representatives, and hopefully level the playing field between the powerful and the powerless in society.

But this week, McConnell is leading the fight against the DISCLOSE act that would plug legal loopholes that allow campaigns to keep their donors anonymous.

Like the TEA Party? You'll love the Special Exemptions Act!

By Brian Leubitz

At first blush, some would think that the Special Exemptions Act would be a step in the right direction.  That it would somehow reform our broken campaign finance system.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, the Special Exemptions Act ends up making the system worse, and more biased against working Californians. It leaves open huge loopholes for Billionaires to spend in SuperPACs and Independent Expenditures(IEs), while stifling the voice of labor and working Californians. It's an unbalanced and unfair measure that would just increase the power of the undisclosed and poorly regulated SuperPACs and IEs and their tea party allies in California.

The Special Exemptions Act Would Make It Even Easier For Super PACs to Buy Our Elections

By Brian Leubitz

In 1980, Ronald Reagan spent $29.2mil to win the presidency. The incumbent, Jimmy Carter, spent $29.4mil to lose it.

In 2012, with the nominating convention still two months away, Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate with ambiguous goals has committed, so far, over $35mil to ensure that his voice is millions of times larger than any single everyday voter. Just a few days ago, Adelson committed another $10mil at the Koch Brothers luxury convention. No matter how committed the volunteer, no matter how many phone calls they make, no matter how many doors they knock, no single volunteer will ever approach the impact that Sheldon Adelson will have simply by writing a check.

After Wisconsin, a Movement to Get Money Out of Politics

By Rep. Keith Ellison

Last Tuesday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker kept his job, but with a high price tag. In a state of only six million people, $60 million was poured into the race, $50 million of which went to Governor Walker. And almost half of that was spent by outside groups -- most of them not based in the state of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin was not an isolated event. Since 2010, Super PACs and corporations have spent record amounts of money in elections nationwide. Corporate spending soared during the 2010 election cycle to over $290 million, four times more than the previous mid-term elections in 2006.

The June Primary: This is Democracy?

By Peter Schrag

Contrary to first impressions, there were a few signs of sanity in last week’s Top Two primary election results.

(1) Orly Taitz, the mother of all Birthers, got just over three percent of the vote in her campaign to unseat Sen. Dianne Feinstein – or at least to run against her in the November election.  Elizabeth Emken, one of the 14 Republicans in the race, got 12 percent and will have that honor and spare the GOP the embarrassment of having a Birther as its standard bearer. 

(2) The voters passed Proposition 28, the tweak in the state’s legislative term limits law, though we may never know whether it was because they thought they were liberalizing it by letting legislators serve twelve years in either house or tightening it by reducing the current total of 14 years – six in the Assembly, eight in the Senate.  But we still have the anti-democracy of term limits – in essence a declaration of no confidence in ourselves as voters.