— by Catherine Cortez Masto, 2016 Candidate for US Senate
As attorney general, I made sure everyday Nevadans knew that my door was open for them, that they could count on me to be working for them when they had a problem.
And that’s precisely why Citizens United gets me so riled up: It shuts the door on average Americans and throws it wide open for corporations and billionaires to influence elections. That’s not how our democracy is supposed to work.
We need to stand up now – all of us – and demand an end to Citizens United. It’s the only way to put our elections back where they belong: in the hands of voters. Please, join me now in calling on Congress to end Citizens United.
The Citizens United decision has been a disaster for our democracy, tearing apart our campaign finance laws and bringing on a flood of anonymous “dark money.” Outside groups spent $500 million in 2014 alone – and 2016 spending is expected to easily pass $1 billion.
We can’t continue to let the voices of everyday Americans be lost in a sea of special interest spending. I’m running for Senate because I’m committed to fighting back against runaway spending that erodes our democracy, but I need you on my side.
Sign the petition today: Tell Congress to overturn Citizens United!
On November 4th Democrats lost big when they ran a candidate but won big when they ran an issue.
In 42 states about 150 initiatives were on the ballot. The vast majority did not address issues dividing the two parties (e.g. raising the mandatory retirement age for judges, salary increases for state legislators, bond issues supporting a range of projects). But scores of initiatives did involve hot button issues. And on these American voters proved astonishingly liberal.
Voters approved every initiative to legalize or significantly reduce the penalties for marijuana possession (Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington, Washington, D.C.) It is true that a Florida measure to legalize medical marijuana lost but 57 percent voted in favor (60 percent was required).
Voters approved every initiative to raise the minimum wage (Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota). Voters in San Francisco and Oakland approved initiatives to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018. The good citizens of Oakland and Massachusetts overwhelmingly approved more generous paid sick leave.
Both Colorado and North Dakota voters rejected measures that would have given the fertilized egg personhood under their criminal codes.
By a wide margin Missourians rejected a constitutional amendment to require teachers to be evaluated based on test results and fired or demoted virtually at will.
By a 59-41 margin North Dakotans voted to keep their unique statute outlawing absentee owned pharmacies despite Walmart outspending independent pharmacist supporters at least ten to one.
The vote in Colorado offers a good example of the disparity between how Americans vote on candidates and how we vote on issues. A few years ago the Colorado legislature stripped cities and counties of the right to build their own telecommunications networks but it allowed them to reclaim that authority if they put it to a vote of their citizens. On Tuesday 8 cities and counties did just that. Residents in every community voted by a very wide margin to permit government owned networks even while they were voting by an equally wide margin for Republican candidates who vigorously oppose government ownership of anything.
Republicans did gain a number of important victories. Most of these dealt with taxes. For example, Georgia voters by a wide margin supported a constitutional amendment prohibiting the state legislature from raising the maximum state income tax rate. Massachusetts’ voters narrowly voted to overturn a law indexing the state gasoline tax to the consumer price increase.
What did Tuesday tell us? When given the choice between a Republican and a Democrat candidate the majority of voters chose the Republican. When given a choice between a Republican and a Democrat position on an issue they chose the Democrat. I’ll leave it up to others to debate the reasons behind this apparent contradiction. My own opinion is that ballot initiatives more accurately take the ideological pulse of the people because debates over issues must focus on issues, not personality, temperament or looks. Those on both sides of the issue can exaggerate, distort and just plain lie but they must do so in reference to the question on the ballot. No ballot initiative ever lost because one of its main backers attended a strip club 16 years earlier.
I am buoyed by the empirical evidence: Americans even in deeply red regions are liberal on many key issues. And I am saddened that these same voters have voted to enhance the power of a party at odds with the values these voters have expressed. The challenge, and in an age where billions of dollars in negative sound-bites define a candidate it is a daunting one, is how to make the next election on issues, not personalities.
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A slew of progressive candidates were elected in Richmond, California on Tuesday night in a resounding defeat of corporate power, after a multi-million-dollar opposition campaign funded by Chevron brought national attention to the race but failed to take control of City Hall.
Local politician Tom Butt, a Democrat, was elected mayor with 51 percent of the vote, beating the Chevron-backed candidate, Nat Bates, by 16 points. Richmond Progressive Alliance representatives Eduardo Martinez, Jovanka Beckles, and outgoing Mayor Gayle McLaughlin also won three of the four open seats on the City Council.
Collectively, those candidates became known as Team Richmond.
In a victory speech from his campaign base, Butt said, “I’ve never had such a bunch of people who are dedicated and worked so hard. It’s far away above anything that I’ve ever experienced.”
The sweeping win in the David-and-Goliath story was seen by many as an excoriation of corporate influence in elections after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
Uche Uwahemu, who finished third in the mayoral race, said, “The election was a referendum on Chevron and the people obviously made it clear they did not appreciate the unnecessary spending by Chevron so they took it out on the rest of the candidates.”
Chevron spent more than $3 million funding three political action committees that executed an opposition campaign including billboards, flyers, and a mobile screen, spending roughly $72 per voter in hopes of electing a slate of candidates that would be friendly to the oil giant.
Martinez, Beckles, and McLaughlin have all criticized the company and promised to tighten regulations on it. Chevron has an ugly history in the city, particularly in the wake of a large and destructive fire at their refinery in 2012, for which Richmond sued the company.
Butt spent roughly $58,000 on his campaign—a shoestring budget relative to Chevron’s resources.
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As the Koch brothers spend hundreds of millions of dollars in this election to try and complete their takeover of Congress, the price we are paying for the disastrous Citizens United decision is painfully clear.
Before Congress went on recess for the election, Tea Party extremists killed a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. A majority in the Senate voted in support of the amendment, but it failed to win the needed 67 votes to pass because not one Republican voted to support it.
We need to hold the Republicans who helped kill the amendment accountable and who sold out to the 1%.
It’s incredibly difficult to pass a constitutional amendment, and it usually takes decades of grassroots organizing and pressure on elected officials to amend the constitution. The fight to get money out of politics will be no exception.
So while the Republicans blocking a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United is an enormous disappointment, that a vote happened at all is major step in the right direction. More important, we now know who in the Senate is with us and who is against us, and Senator Heller clearly showed us he’s against the majority of Nevadans.
That means we have to dig in, thank the senators who support getting money out of politics, increase our pressure on the ‘no’ votes, and show that we will hold our elected officials accountable for voting with corporations and the ultra-rich.
We have enormous momentum in this fight. Sixteen states and roughly 600 communities have formally demanded that Congress vote to pass a constitutional amendment making it clear that corporations are not people and money is not speech.
Amending the Constitution is not easy, nor is it a decision that should be made lightly. But it’s clear that if we don’t organize to amend the Constitution, the Supreme Court will go even further in allowing unlimited spending by corporations and rich donors.
In Citizens United, the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to unlimited spending on elections by corporations. And in McCutcheon v. FEC, the court struck down limits on how much money individual mega-donors can give to candidates during a single election cycle. Worse, the court’s conservatives aren’t likely to stop there, but will continue tearing down campaign finance protections that prevent corporations from drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans.
We have a tough fight against us to stop our democracy from becoming a plutocracy ruled by corporations and the ultra-rich. And it starts with shaming senators who voted with their corporate donors instead of with the American people.
Tell Senate Republicans: Shame on you for opposing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
Mr. Yarmuth D-KY (for himself, Ms. Lee of California, Mr. Sarbanes, and Mr. Cohen) introduced the following joint resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures with respect to Federal elections.
That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification:
Financial expenditures, or in-kind equivalents, with respect to a candidate for Federal office, without regard to whether or not a communication expressly advocates the election or defeat of a specified candidate in the election, shall not constitute protected speech, as guaranteed by this Constitution or any amendment to this Constitution.
Congress shall have the power to enact a mandatory public financing system to provide funds to qualified candidates in elections for Federal office, which shall be the sole source of funds raised or spent with respect to Federal elections.
Congress shall have power to enforce the provisions of this article by appropriate legislation.