Money Out Voters In rally participants
Citizens United is wreaking havoc in American politics. If it were a kid it would be running through the halls of the U.S. Capitol screaming “Fire”, demanding treat-rewards for abhorrent behavior and threatening to call child services if not placated. Luckily the 2010 SCOTUS decision is not a child, so a large coalition has come together on the fifth anniversary of the decision to discuss how to beat it : )
The day's events began at 10:00 am with the Press Conference on Citizens United Anniversary to Highlight Range of Solutions to Big Money in Politics, Unity of Democracy Movement where several Democratic Senators and Representatives spoke on the legislative package they are introducing on the anniversary to tackle key problems that Citizens United as well as the McCutcheon decision have created for America’s democracy.
At noon the Money Out Voter's In rally drew a crowd of around 200 people to Lafayette Square. Leaders from a variety of organizations spoke directly to and led chants directed at the Chamber of Commerce. Rally participants then marched to the Chamber, led by members of We Sharp Brass Band. The march then continued to the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church where a lunch and forum took place discussing where the money in politics fight stands this year.
The overarching message of the days events were clear. If you think the problem of money in politics is too large to fix, you are the problem. Hundreds of organizations, have enlisted over 60 elected officials at the federal level (up from 4 elected officials a mere 4 years ago) to introduce several bills addressing this five year old menace to society. Over 5 million Americans have signed petitions demanding it be overturned. Yes, Citizens United may turn 6, but this brat doesn’t stand a chance of making it to 10. For pictures and details of the days events and the legislation introduced go below the fold.
Press Conference on Citizens United Anniversary to Highlight Range of Solutions to Big Money in Politics, Unity of Democracy Movement
Sen. Jon Tester (MT), Rep. John Sarbanes (MD), Sen. Tom Udall (NM), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD), Rep. David Price (NC), Rep. Ted Deutch (FL) at Press Conference on Citizens United Anniversary
The most powerful statements made were those addressing the current Republican majority and the lack of any Republicans involved in the effort to get money out of politics.
Rep Van Hollen (MD) produced quotes from the three most powerful Republicans at the moment, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker John Boehner and Whip John Cornyn, all in support of disclosure within the past 10 years. He then asked the simple question: why the sudden change of heart? The answer is obvious, their corporate funders.
Senator Whitehouse then went on to explain that the legislation he is introducing was strategically chosen for the 114th Congress as it is almost identical to disclosure legislation that had the support of 11 Republicans in 1993. Two of those 11 are still in office -- Senator John McCain (AZ) and Senator Thad Cochran.
The request of both Van Hollen and Whitehouse was simple -- while discussing the horrors of Citizens United the media needs to talk about the solutions that are achievable now. Disclosure legislation is one of the solutions and it is entirely possible with a little help from the American people.
Rep John Sarbanes (MD) had a very good point, and one that can not be made about most issues in this country, “Only in Washington is getting money out of politics a partisan issue”. Countless polls show that over 80% of Americans want to see campaign finance reform and the majority of those support an amendment to the constitution. It would stand to reason then that the 5 million petition signatures number -- proudly announced today -- already gathered on this issue will only grow in the coming months as this newly formed coalition continues the fight it is kicking off today.
More pictures of the press conference can be found at the end of the write up.
People for the American Way sent out a media advisory which summarizes the event and legislation introduced very well:
ADVISORY: Members of Congress and Advocacy Groups to Celebrate Reintroduction of Pro-Democracy Legislation
Money out Voter’s In Rally
Press Conference on Citizens United Anniversary to Highlight Range of Solutions to Big Money in Politics, Unity of Democracy Movement
On the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision which paved the way for unlimited corporate political spending, 15 Senators and Representatives will join with a diverse set of democracy groups to mark the reintroduction of legislation covering a host of solutions to the problem of big money domination of our elections. These reform measures include small donor public financing, disclosure, a constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United, and stronger enforcement by federal agencies. The full list of legislation is below.
The growing support for a full range of money in politics solutions is reflected in a newly-released Unity Statement of Principles, signed by 126 organizations, which highlights each individual reform measure as an integral part of the overarching solution.
WHEN: Wednesday, January 21 at 10am
WHERE: Capitol Visitor Center (SVC 214)
Sen. Tom Udall (New Mexico)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vermont)
Sen. Michael Bennet (Colorado)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island)
Sen. Jon Tester (Montana)
Sen. Bob Menendez (New Jersey)
Sen. Dick Durbin (Illinois)
Rep. John Larson (Connecticut)
Rep. Ted Deutch (Florida)
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Maryland)
Rep. Donna Edwards (Maryland)
Rep. John Sarbanes (Maryland)
Rep. David Price (North Carolina)
Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas)
Rep. Michael Capuano (Massachusetts)
Democracy for All Amendment: Provides Congress and the states with the authority to determine reasonable regulations on campaign financing and distinguish between natural persons and other artificial entities under campaign finance laws. Key sponsors: Sens. Udall, Sanders, Tester/Reps. Deutch, Edwards, McGovern.
DISCLOSE Act: Establishes a system of disclosure of campaign spending and the sources of those funds for all entities that make independent expenditures (at any time) and electioneering communications (in calendar year of an election for Congress; 120 days before the primary for presidential elections). Key sponsors: Sen. Whitehouse/Rep. Van Hollen.
Empowering small donors and increasing political participation: Matching public funds for small dollar contributions, and various other provisions. “Government by the People Act” (congressional elections), key sponsor: Rep. Sarbanes. “Empowering Citizens Act” (congressional and presidential elections), key sponsor: Rep. Price. “Fair Elections Now Act” (congressional elections), key sponsor: Sen. Durbin.
4. Prohibit campaign coordination: Clarifies the definition of “coordination” to include the close relationships and ties between a candidate and outside group or super PAC. Key sponsors: Sen. Tester/Rep. Price.
5. Real Time Transparency Act: Requires all political committees, including joint fundraising committees, to disclose electronically within 48 hours all cumulative contributions of $1,000 or more in a calendar year. Key sponsors: Sen. King/Rep. O’Rourke.
6. Sunlight for Unaccountable Nonprofits Act (SUN Act): Makes public the donors who give more than $5,000 to tax-exempt groups that engage in election activities. Key sponsor: Sen. Tester.
Shareholder Protection Act: Requires corporations to disclose to shareholders and the public spending of funds for independent expenditures and electioneering communications, even if such spending is indirectly done through a third party. Key sponsors: Sen. Menendez/Rep. Capuano.
Amalgamated Transit Union Money Out Voters In rally participants.
Public Citizen President Robert Weissman served as MC at the rally which was remarkably snowy. Seriously large snowflakes, that were more celebratory than annoying fell during the entire event, and at really no other time during the day. As Weissman pointed out, “Thank goodness it wasn’t rain.
The lineup of speakers included Walmart employee Fatmata Jabbie who, as an immigrant from Saudi Arabia, had come here for a better life. The wages and benefits she is currently experiencing at Walmart, paired with the minimum wage squashing campaign contributions of the Walton family doesn’t feel very “American dream” to her. Although the unknown name amongst the speakers, her speech was the most courageous. Speaking out against one’s employer is never easy.
Labor speakers included Sarita Gupta of Jobs for Justice and Sandy Rusher of CWA both focusing on of the effect that money in politics has had on American jobs, wages and benefits.
Congressman Keith Ellison (NY) spoke on the legislation he plans to introduce -- Protect Democracy from Corporate Criminal Act. The idea behind it is simple and at least at first glance, brilliant. When individuals are convicted of a felony in this country they lose the right to vote. Following this precedent Ellison’s bill would strip corporations charged with a felony of the right to vote. His example BP --during the federal investigation of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico BP was charged with 14 obstruction felony accounts. They are still allowed to contribute to campaigns and super-pacs, yet SCOTUS has said money equals speech aka one dollar one vote. Ellison wondered “So why can a company with a felony still “vote”, but your cousin who fell on hard times back in the early 90’s can not?”
The best part of this legislation according to Congressman Ellison will be seeing which corporations lobby against the bill. It is hard to see any lobbyist finessing the message “we support corporate criminals and so should you”. Ellison ended by referring to the Progressive Congressional Caucus of which he is a part, and it’s growing numbers. The momentum from where he is sitting is on the side of progress.
Anyone in the audience can contest that the most moving part of the rally was when professional singer, Rochelle Rice, who sings regularly at All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, DC sang Pete Seger’s “All I Want (I don’t want your millions, Mister) encouraging the crowd to sing along at the end.
Then it was time for members of the We Sharp Brass Band to lead the march to the Chamber of Commerce where the group paused for a few moments to chant. White men in snappy suits and hats came out to stare at the crowd, and then quietly walked back in as the march continued to the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church for a lunch and forum on money in politics.
More photos of the march can be found below the write up.
Money Out Voters In Lunch and Forum
The Forum and lunch was attended by about 50 of the rally participants and was lead by Aquene Freechild of Public Citizen. Speakers included Adam Lios of DEMOS.org, 81 year old Rhana Bazinni who walked over 400 miles to make a statement in support of getting money out of politics and former Montgomery County Councilmember Phil Andrews.
Adam Lios of DEMOS discussed how the current system in our country disenfranchises minority voters in a multitude of ways. His organizations findings on campaign contributions were telling. Minority voters actually give a higher percentage of contributions per capita, they are just in the form of small contributions. White funders give less contributions per capita, but the contributions are much larger. So the myth that it is hard to get minority voters to participate in the election process is just that, a lyth. They are just made insignificant by elite, almost entirely white, voters who have big dollars to throw around, mostly due to systematic forms of oppression that have kept them at the top of the food chain.
Former Councilmember Andrews has been working on reforming campaign financing in Montgomery County Maryland for 13 of the 16 years that he served on the County Council there. With the help of Public Citizen, PIRG the ACLU and other progressive organizations, last year public campaign finance bill 1614 was passed unanimously by the council. Andrews hopes that other counties will run with it because it is, as he puts it, “Supreme Court proof”. That was the major goal of the language, so it does not create spending limits, it just caps the amount that can be matched by public funds. This compromise isn’t really a compromise since the most any one donor can give is $150, so an ever-growing group of $150 donors is really not in danger of giving power to one group, population segment or individual.
The day was basically a kick off for the powerful coalition, currently comprised of 126 organizations that all normally fight on different fronts. Climate change, workers rights, health care for all, womens rights, freedom of speech, voting rights, civil rights… Today they all came together to make it clear that none of their goals will be accomplished until they unite to fight money in politics. Watching and supporting what they do in the months and years to come will be one of the most action packed fights between people power vs corporate interest that anyone could ask ever ask for.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg quote displayed at Press Conference on Citizens United Anniversary to Highlight Range of Solutions to Big Money in Politics, Unity of Democracy Movement. "I think the biggest mistake this court has made is in campaign finance..
Rep. David Price (NC) at Press Conference on Citizens United Anniversary to Highlight Range of Solutions to Big Money in Politics, Unity of Democracy Movement
Sen. Jon Tester (MT) at Press Conference on Citizens United Anniversary to Highlight Range of Solutions to Big Money in Politics, Unity of Democracy Movement.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) at Press Conference on Citizens United Anniversary to Highlight Range of Solutions to Big Money in Politics, Unity of Democracy Movement.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD) at Press Conference on Citizens United Anniversary to Highlight Range of Solutions to Big Money in Politics, Unity of Democracy Movement.
Rep. Ted Deutch (FL) at Press Conference on Citizens United Anniversary to Highlight Range of Solutions to Big Money in Politics, Unity of Democracy Movement.
Rep. John Sarbanes (MD) at Press Conference on Citizens United Anniversary to Highlight Range of Solutions to Big Money in Politics, Unity of Democracy Movement
Rep. Michael Capuano (MA), Sen. Tom Udall (NM) at Press Conference on Citizens United Anniversary to Highlight Range of Solutions to Big Money in Politics, Unity of Democracy Movement
Money out Voters In rally participant holding a sign the says "Donation = Bribe"
Two Money Out Voters in rally participants holding signs that say " $ doesn't = speech" and "Corporations are not people"
Walmart employee Fatmata Jabbie speaking to the Money Out Voters In rally
Large Code Pink Banner at Money Out Voters In rally which reads "$$ Out of Politics"
Congressman Keith Ellison (D-NY) speaking to the Money Out Voters In rally.
Sandy Rusher, Organizing Director of CWA addressing the Money Out Voters in rally.
Sarita Gupta, Executive Director of Jobs for Justice, addressing the Money Out Voters In rally.
Reverend William Lamar IV, Seior pastor at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church addressing the Money Out Voters in Rally.
Professional singer Rochelle Rice, singing Pete Seger’s “All I Want (I don’t want your millions, Mister) to the Money Out Voters In rally.
Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen addressing the Money Out Voters In rally.
Money Out Voters In rally participants holding signs that say "Democracy is not for sale" during a moment of silence.
We Sharp Brass Band members leading Money Out Voters in rally participants.
Money Out Voters In rally participant holding a sign that says "I can't afford a lobbyist so I made this sign" (
Former Montgomery County MD Council member Phil Andrews addressing the Money Out Voters In lunch and forum.
Money Out Voters In lunch and forum participants entering the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church dining hall.