The Fight to Restore Democracy Continues

A summary of what is happening with campaign finance reform around the country in regards to the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Electoral Commission court case.

A lot has happened since I wrote my article . This article is to catch readers up on news they more than likely missed since then.

In Montana, for 100 years, there has been a ban on direct corporate donations to either political parties or candidates. However, in June, the Supreme Court decided once again that money is free speech and overturned Montana's law protecting democracy. After the decision, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (D) and Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger (R) responded to the Supreme Court in a YouTube video here. The showed bipartisan support for removing corporate spending from elections, which should be for the people, by the people. They launched a website ElectionsAreForUs.org where you can sign on to demand a constitutional amendment that overturns Citizens United. They also will have I-166 on the ballot in November, an initiative titled "Prohibition on Corporate Contributions and Expenditures in Montana Elections Act." It will do just as the name suggests.

Montana is putting the power back in the hands of its citizens by allowing them to choose whether or not they want to allow corporations to have the power to buy elections. This is more democratic. To read more about I-166, please visit their website, StandWithMontanans.org.

In June, former candidate for the Republican Party 2012 Presidential Nominee, Newt Gingrich was on MSNBC where he stated, "It is fairly hard to compete with a billionaire if — if they get to spend all the money they want and the middle-class candidate's  in $2,500 units. So I think the current system is rigged, frankly, in favor of the wealthy."

In July, Andy Kroll wrote an article called "Follow the Dark Money." The article is about how SuperPACs are secretly funneling money into political elections for State and National elections. The 2012 Presidential Election is the first national election since the Supreme Court overturned a ban that barred Corporations and Unions from spending unlimited amounts of money on elections. This year's election is already the most expensive election in history. Kroll's article warns, "Super-PACs, seven-figure , billionaire bankrollers, shadowy nonprofits: This is the state of play in what will be the first presidential election since Watergate to be fully privately funded."

During a Democracy Now! interview with Andy Kroll and his editor, Monika Bauerlein, Amy Goodman, the host of Democracy Now!, asks Bauerlein how the Citizens United court case changed politics. Bauerlein replied, "It essentially said you cannot regulate political money, because political money is speech, and speech, of course, is protected under the First Amendment," (my emphasis) "[W]e do regulate what people can give to political campaigns directly, but we can no longer, according to the Supreme Court, regulate what corporations and people who are behind corporations spend, outside of directly giving it to a campaign committee." Basically, Citizens United gives corporations unregulated power to spend as much as they want, while the average citizen has strict regulations on how and how much they can give to political organizations or candidates. 

On July 5th, California became the sixth state to call for a Constitutional Amendment that would overturn Citizens Untied v. F.E.C. California has joined the ranks of Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maryland and New Mexico in supporting true democracy.

Just this month, Massachusetts became the seventh state to call for an amendment.

In Rhode Island, they passed the Transparency In Political Spending Act. This act requires SuperPACs and other political groups to report donors. There are no limits on spending but it does allow voters to know who is paying for the ads they are seeing. One should carefully examine who is funding a particular campaign before voting for any candidate. Transparency is how we as voters can make truly informed decisions on how we vote. And this is true about the entire range of the political spectrum.

In Congress The DISCLOSE Act (Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections Act of 2012) is a similar act to Rhode Island's Transparency In Political Spending Act. In SEC 324 (if you click the link above you can read it), it defines donors as groups that make political contributions of more than $10,000 in one election cycle.

In this video Sen. Whitehouse is meeting with Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute, which according to its own website is a think tank that supports limited governments and free markets. The Cato Institute is considered a libertarian group. Sen. Whitehouse makes a point to say (at the 1:20 minute mark, but watch the whole thing) that if we, the citizens of the United States, can send our soldiers to go fight and die, then we can ask billionaires (he specifically names the Koch Brothers) to put up with a little bit of disclosure.

The bill was shot down by Republicans. This link here, is Fox News doing a great job of misrepresenting the bill, taking quotes out of context, and basically saying that the disclosure of who is paying for political advertisements run by SuperPACs is a limit on free speech.

Fox News claims that Unions, social welfare organizations, and not-for-profits (things that their viewers generally disagree with) won't have to disclose. While it is true that the DISCLOSE Act is for SuperPACs, when Unions, social welfare organizations, and not-for-profits donate to a SuperPAC, it would have to be disclosed under the DISCLOSE Act. 

The reason that bills like the DISCLOSE Act are needed is because SuperPACS and funneling massive amounts of corporate money into elections to enable them to essentially buy a candidate that will favor them once elected. Corporations act similarly when State Propositions either benefit or harm them; they use their unthinkable sums of money to buy the outcome they prefer in the election.

At the end of last month, right before the 2012 Republican National Conventions started, Ron Paul supporters held PaulFest. At PaulFest, in Ron Paul's speech he said something that could easily be compared to Eisenhower's farewell speech where he warned of the Military Industrial Complex. Paul said this:

"I do not think that there’s going to be another Marxist come along and restore enthusiasm for Marxism. I don’t think that tomorrow we’re going to have the same thing as a Hitler or Mussolini. But I do think we have to worry about fascism, an expansion of what we already have, which is corporatism, the buddy system between big corporations, big banks, with the government. And that is the reason that we have to be on the side of saying, yes, if you’re big and you made your money because you had special benefits and bailouts and protectionism from the government, that is wrong, but if you’re big because you sold a good product to us and we bought it and you got rich, you have a right to be rich for doing that."

These are extremely wise words in light of the news that billionaires are pledging to spend over $1 billion in the 2012 election and that is just for Romney/Ryan [Great Link]. Where does this leave a average joe who would like to run for office? Can Mr. Smith still go to Washington? The answer is no.

Elections are supposed to be your free speech, but now we have the free speech (money) of Goldman Sachs, the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and Karl Rove, who runs both Crossroads GPS and American Crossroads. Who has more free speech? It is clear   that only the wealthy truly have the power to guide policy choices by politicians.

They are taking the average person out of political decision-making. They are blinding the average citizen who doesn't have time to research every candidate and every proposition and those who can't sort out the paid-for misinformation. They are buying our politicians. No freedom-loving American should stand for that in this country. Our government was designed to be a republic, where we elect people who will execute our will in Washington D.C.. If corporations and unions are funding our politician's campaigns knowing they will be reimbursed with positive legislation, how can we call this country we all love a "Democratic Republic"?

If you believe in freedom, democracy, and one person one vote, you will stand up against the Citizens United v. F.E.C. court ruling and demand that we amend our Constitution.



For More information on these topics:
Democracy Now!'s interview with Andy Kroll
Mother Jones' Dark Money Section
Citizens United vs. FEC: How Did It Happen? (mini-Doc)
Move to Amend
Inside Koch World
Open Secrets List on SuperPAC spendings

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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