Democracy Surges in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s stunning vote deepens China’s conundrum

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from The Washington Post, Monday Nov. 25, 2019

by Ishaan Tharoor

For months, millions of Hong Kongers have taken to the streets in defense of their unique political freedoms, clamoring for greater democratic reforms while waging street battles with the city’s increasingly brutal police forces. On Sunday, they delivered the same message in a different format: the ballot box. Backed by record voter turnout, pro-democracy politicians swept Hong Kong’s local district elections, seizing control of more than 80 percent of the contested seats. The verdict was unmistakable and another stinging riposte to China’s authoritarian leadership in Beijing.

 

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan to Introduce New Campaign Finance Reform Package

November 05, 2019

LUJÁN ANNOUNCES CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM PACKAGE TO BOLSTER TRANSPARENCY IN ELECTIONS

Nambé, N.M. – Today, Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the U.S. House Assistant Speaker, along with U.S. Representatives John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Peter Welch (D-VT), announced that they will reintroduce a campaign finance reform package this week to bolster transparency and accountability in elections. The legislation is being introduced one year ahead of the 2020 elections.

This package would hold special interests accountable and ensure transparency in political advertising. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling opened the doors to unlimited money in politics, and during the 2018 elections, $175 million in dark money was spent to influence the American people’s vote with little-to-no accountability and transparency.

The package includes:

The Fair and Clear Campaign Transparency Act would require that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) maintain broadcast stations’ public files about political time sold or given away in a machine-readable format. Currently, this information is not made available in an accessible way, presenting a major barrier for the public to know who is funding political advertisements.

The Honest Campaigns Act would increase transparency in political advertising by making it easier to determine who is paying for political advertisements. Currently, the FCC has the authority to require the on-air disclosure of the “true identity” of the people and groups buying campaign and political advertisements, but the FCC has thus far failed to act. This legislation would require the disclosure of the actual people behind anonymous ads.

“With the rise of dark money in politics, it is past time that Congress acts to make political advertising more transparent and accountable for the American people. Our communities have the right to know which organizations and donors are funding political advertisements,” said Luján. “I’m proud to spearhead this effort to pull back the curtain on dark money in politics and restore transparency in our elections.”

The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United opened a spigot of opaque special interest spending in American elections,” saidWelch.  “Voters have the right to know who is behind the wall-to-wall political ads flooding the airwaves before an election. Our legislation will bring transparency and accountability to elections by putting a bright spotlight on the dark money funding these ads.”

“The American people have a right to know the identity of those who spend millions and millions of dollars to blanket the airwaves with political ads trying to influence their vote. For far too long, lax laws have allowed for next to no transparency in political advertising, leaving voters subjected to a constant stream of often dishonest claims and accusations from otherwise nameless, faceless organizations. I’m proud to join in introducing these two important pieces of legislation to provide voters with a level of accountability that is long overdue,” said Yarmuth.

“With special interests, multi-national corporations, and hostile foreign actors spending hundreds of millions of dollars in secret money to try to influence our elections in recent years, all Americans deserve to know who is trying to influence their voices and their votes,” said Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs with the nonpartisan government watchdog group Common Cause. “Common Cause commends Representative Luján for introducing these common-sense bills to promote transparency and accountability in our democracy.”

“There’s no reason a group that wants to spend millions to influence an election should be able to conceal the identity of its special interest backers from voters,” said Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United Action Fund. “The lack of transparency and disclosure for political ads leaves Americans in the dark about who’s trying to influence their vote and their government. These common-sense bills would shine a light on the unlimited, secret special interest spending that’s corrupting our elections. End Citizens United applauds Representatives Luján, Yarmuth and Welch for their leadership, and we will fight vigorously in support of these bills.”

PRESS CONTACT

Adan Serna (202) 225-61

Campaign finance constitutional amendment gets a GOP presidential backer

The Fulcrum

October 31, 2019

by Sara Swann 

Bill Weld is now the most prominent Republican candidate in favor of amending the Constitution in order to slow the torrent of big money in American politics.

The former Massachusetts governor is the longest of long shots as he runs against President Trump for the GOP nomination. And a constitutional alteration to permit much tighter campaign finance regulation has essentially no near-term shot of getting through Congress with the necessary two-thirds majority and then getting ratified by the required 38 states.

But those who view such a 28th Amendment as the most consequential aspiration of democracy reformers can nonetheless point to Wednesday’s announcement as a symbolic milestone: The idea can now claim a measure of bipartisan support in the presidential field.

“Democracy reform has become a top theme of the 2020 presidential election cycle with campaign finance issues taking the stage. As citizens continue to voice their displeasure with the current pay-to-play system, many candidates are addressing big money in politics in their platforms,” read a statement from American Promise, a leader of those advocating the constitutional approach and the group that persuaded Weld to sign a pledge to push the cause once in the White House. “The pledge is a meaningful way to hold our elected officials accountable on this issue.”

Weld did not issue any statement about his decision to sign the promise.

A dozen of the Democratic presidential candidates have also signed — including two of the leading candidates, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., have not signed.

Many advocates for stricter campaign finance rules say plenty can be accomplished, and withstand judicial challenges, without altering the Constitution. American Promise and its allies contend that such a hard-to-achieve goal is necessary to permanently reverse the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which deemed unlimited political spending by big corporations, nonprofit organizations and labor unions a protected form of speech under the First Amendment.

Such an amendment has been proposed in Congress every year since the Citizens United ruling. It’s only received a vote once, five years ago, when the 54 Democratic senators endorsed the amendment — 13 shy of the supermajority needed for success. This year the amendment has the support of 47 members of the Democratic caucus and 176 members of the House — all Democrats except Republican John Katko of New York.

While Trump promised to “drain the swamp” during his campaign, he has yet to spend any political capital on efforts to regulate money in politics or lobbying.

The other Democrats who have signed the pledge are Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, billionaire investor Tom Steyer and author Marianne Williamson.

American Promise says eight 2020 congressional candidates have also signed their pledge — six of them Democrats and two from minor parties.