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.

American Promise kicks off new Youth Campaign

Law and Crime

9:02 am, October 26th, 2019

‘”We Need a Fundamental Change’: Advocates Renew Push for Overturning Citizens United Via 28th Amendment”

by Colin Kalmbacher

A nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to overturning the controversial Citizens United decision launched a college-based campaign to do exactly that earlier this week.

American Promise kicked off “The Cause of Our Time” at the third annual National Citizen Leadership Conference–the largest national event dedicated to the passage of a 28th Amendment keyed toward revoking the exceedingly unpopular Supreme Court precedent.

The advocacy group describes their campaign as an effort to “educate and engage young people on college campuses and beyond in how to become leaders calling for democracy reform through a constitutional amendment to get money out of politics.

Jeff Clements is American Promise’s president and spokesperson. Clements and several student leaders who attended the three-day conference in Arlington, Virginia offered commentary to Law&Crime about the group’s ambitious new campaign.

“The unchecked political spending by corporations enabled by the Citizens United decision has stolen citizen’s power to govern our own democracy,” said Devin Hiett, an international studies and journalism senior at the University of Oklahoma. “I often hear my peers say they don’t see the point of engaging in the political system because they don’t feel they have the power or ability to make a difference because they lack financial capitol, which I find to be a gross miscarriage of justice. America was founded on the notion that ‘we the people’ not ‘we the corporations’ govern our democracy and classifying political spending by corporations as ‘free speech’ is disingenuous and threatens the very core of the democratic system.”

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down Citizens United v. F.E.C., a landmark ruling that deleted several key provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, typically known as McCain-Feingold.

In that voluminous and harshly argued 5-4 decision, the high court’s conservative majority held: (1) the government cannot restrict the speech of state-created entities like corporations and non-profits or state-sanctioned entities such as unions; (2) that spending money is a form of free speech; and therefore (3) the government cannot limit spending in the political arena by such organizations.

Since that decision was handed down, outside expenditure groups have injected nearly two billion dollars worth of corporate largesse into American politics. And, nearly half of that overall total has come via undisclosed and effectively untraceable so-called “dark money.”

University of Missouri-Kansas City political science major Isabelle Pekarsky said she hoped the current Citizens United regime was not long for this earth–and that she would work to overturn it.

“Although I love my major, it is clear we need a fundamental change in our system to restore our democracy to what it should be,” Pekarsky said in an email.” As a student learning politics and government, it is obvious the problematic role big money plays in hindering our democratic process. I look forward to graduating and entering the political workforce to a government with a 28th amendment and true representation of individual citizens.”

Clements evoked the youth-dominated course of American history:

“Young Americans have always stepped up in our national hour of need. Alexander Hamilton and Betsy Ross were in their early 20s during the American Revolution. Frederick Douglass was 23 years old when he took the stage at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. Alice Paul through her 20s led the fight for the 19th Amendment and women’s voting rights. And millions of young Americans successfully demanded the right to vote with the 26th Amendment. Now once again, a new generation of Americans is rising to redeem the American promise, combat corruption and secure equal rights. We will be there with them every step of the way.”

“The campaign is being taken on by attendees and asks young Americans to sign on to a statement of principle demanding an amendment, to be delivered to their representatives at next year’s Citizen Lobby Day,” a press release issued by the advocacy group noted. “Campus chapters are being organized across the US with the goal of 20 by the November 2020 election.”

Law and Crime previously reported on efforts by American Promise to amend the U.S. Constitution in order to replace the ruling in Citizens United with language that allows for stringent campaign finance reform and dismisses the controversial notion that corporations are people entitled to the protections offered by the Bill of Rights.




Over 120 Groups Call on Congress to Back Constitutional Amendment Overturning Citizens United

EDITOR”S NOTE: New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics is proud to have been one of the over 120 organizations that participated in yesterday’s National Call in Day to support the Democracy for All Amendment.  THANKS to all of you who helped by calling your MOCs in response to our request.  You make a difference!  Read the article below: it’s about YOU!

Published on Thursday, September 05, 2019 by Common Dreams

Over 120 Groups Call on Congress to Back Constitutional Amendment Overturning Citizens United

by Jessica Corbett, staff writer

“America needs to be responsive to the people, not to corporations and special interests, or it is no longer a democratic republic.”

Danielle Greene and Jennifer Vassil attend a rally calling for an end to corporate money in politics and to mark the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, at Lafayette Square near the White House. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

More than 120 organizations on Thursday urged members of the U.S. House to support a constitutional amendment that aims to reverse the damage done to American democracy by Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that effectively enabled corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence political elections.

Major civil rights, environmental, labor, LGBTQ, and good government groups sent a letter (pdf) to lawmakers, which coincided with a national call-in day for constituents to pressure their representatives in Congress support the measure.

The letter to House members says, “We are writing to urge you to cosponsor H.J.Res. 2, the bipartisan Democracy For All Amendment, which would restore the authority of Congress and the states to set commonsense rules for the raising and spending of money on elections to advance political equality for all Americans.”

Constitutional amendments should only be pursued “in the rarest of circumstances,” the letter continues—but the high court’s widely opposed 2010 ruling in Citizens Unitedand related moves “have pushed America to a tipping point in which big-moneyed interests exert control over all levers of government.”

“If the wealthy individuals and concentrations of capital can drown out the voices of ordinary Americans in elections, we cease to be a representative democracy,” declares the letter. “America needs to be responsive to the people, not to corporations and special interests, or it is no longer a democratic republic.”

Highlighting the significant public opposition to the Citizens United decision, supporters of the letter promoted the call-in campaign on social media with the hashtags #CitizensUnited#28thAmendment, and #DemocracyForAll:

Introduced in January by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), the amendment is co-sponsored by 138 other members of the House. All but one, Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), are Democrats. The measure was introduced in the upper chamber by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) in July and is backed by the other 46 senators who caucus with the Democrats.

“Thanks to Citizens United and other disastrous court decisions, our electoral system—and as a result, our democracy—have reached a crisis point,” Udall said in July. “Ever since the Supreme Court ruled to open the floodgates for unlimited corporate spending in our elections, secret special interest money has poured in—and drowned out the voices of the American people.”

“Now, citizens are losing faith in our institutions because they have every reason to believe that their government no longer answers to them,” he added. “It’s time to restore the power of the American people to regulate the out-of-control, secret spending in our elections, and make sure that our elections aren’t put up for sale to the highest bidder.”


Small Donor Donations are are a Real Alternative to Big Money

Sanders, Warren raking in cash with small donors”, Santa Fe New Mexican, October 5, 2019 edition on page A-6

WASHINGTON — There’s big money in thinking small.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren raked in more cash over the past three months than any of their rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination. And it’s not because they’ve been working the big-donor fundraising circuit.

The Vermont and Massachusetts senators have upended the way Democratic presidential candidates can raise tens of millions of dollars. Rather than spending time — and considerable financial resources — traveling the country to schmooze with wealthy donors, they’re raising money through small donations made online.

For Democratic activists who revile the influence of money in politics, the third quarter numbers from Sanders and Warren are powerful reminders of the influence progressives hold in the primary.

But the small dollar phenomenon may be overstated because many of the biggest Democratic donors haven’t taken sides in the crowded primary. And the ultimate nominee will still likely need to turn to traditional ways of raising money to compete against President Donald Trump who, along with the Republican National Committee, has already raised hundreds of millions of dollars to support his reelection.

“The biggest problem that we as Democrats have to face is that this is a war — and I don’t believe in unilateral disarmament,” said Bakari Sellers, a Democratic commentator and top surrogate for California Sen. Kamala Harris. “Trying to beat Donald Trump with small dollar donations? That’s about as good as an ashtray on a motorcycle.”

Third quarter fundraising numbers don’t need to be reported to the Federal Election Commission until Oct. 15 and not all candidates have released theirs. But most have, including all of the top tier contenders.

Sanders leads the field, so far, pulling in $25.3 million, with Warren’s $24.6 million close behind. Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, came in third with $19.1 million.

From there, the drop off is steep. Former Vice President Joe Biden pulled in $15.2 million, while Harris raised $11.6 million. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker raised about $6 million. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock brought in $2.3 million while Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet pulled in $2.1 million.

Warren and Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, have run unabashed progressive campaigns, energizing the grassroots base by championing free health care and forgiveness of college debts. The centrist candidates, meanwhile, have tried to put a damper on that, warning that it would cost too much or lead to a massive tax increase.

While Biden and Harris spent much of the summer courting big donors, Warren and Sanders kept up intense campaign schedules where they communicated directly with voters. After a campaign rally, Warren poses for selfies with supporters, who often lined up for hours waiting a turn.

The fundraising numbers suggest that Sanders and Warren are doing well because they’ve tapped into the party’s progressive fervor. But some longtime Democratic finance leaders caution that the numbers are less about policy differences and more about which candidates have connected most effectively with voters.

Many of the centrist candidates come across as “boring,” said Rufus Gifford, the former finance director for Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign.

“The firebrand narrative can certainly raise you money, but it’s about more than centrist vs. lefty,” Gifford said. “It’s the way you talk about your idea and whether people feel it’s real.”

Tom Nides, a Democratic donor and former deputy secretary of state under Hillary Clinton, said the dynamic could change as the field winnows and big donors who have held back decide to choose a candidate to support.

“There is an enthusiasm gap with high-end of fundraisers. Many have torn loyalties,” said Tom Nides, a Democratic donor and former deputy secretary of state under Hillary Clinton. “They support one candidate, but like the other and there’s not a clear front-runner.”

Biden’s third quarter total is about a $6 million drop from what he raised after entering the race in April. He’s kept up a steady schedule of high-dollar fundraisers, but his small-dollar operation sputtered after a promising early start, an analysis of campaign finance data shows.

“One shouldn’t get tied up in a knot about the money today. Joe Biden’s success or failure will not be determined by the amount of money he raises,” Nides said.

“Establishment candidates generally don’t do particularly well online. It’s not dissimilar to who does well on Twitter,” he added, referring to the social media platform of choice for some of the party’s most outspoken progressive voices.

Still, Warren and Sanders’ success has equipped the populist candidates with a massive cash advantage just months before voting begins in Iowa.

“While the media and political pundits spent the last several months casting doubt on Sen. Sanders’ chances at winning the White House, the working people of this country are ignoring conventional wisdom from Washington” said Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir.

(NOTE; NMMOP is a nonpartisan organization that works cross-partisan to achieve its goals.  It does not endorse, support or oppose any candidate for elected office.)


U.S. Senate Candidate (and current NM SOS) Toulouse Oliver signs American Promise Pledge


(Sitting, Maggie Toulouse Oliver;  standing left to right are NMMOP’s Bruce Berlin, Charlotte Schaaf, David Burling, John House and Ishwari Sollohub)

On Friday, August 31, 2019, candidate for the U.S. Senate and current New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver signed the American Promise Candidate and Elected Official Pledge.   Sponsored by New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics and its national partner, American Promise,  the pledge seeksCongress to adopt  an amendment that would 1) secure fair, free elections by limiting the undue influence of money in politics; 2) protect the rights of all Americans to equal participation and representation, rather than overrepresentation of donors and special interests; and 3) protect the unalienable liberty of people rather than new privileges for the largest corporations, unions, and special interests. The pledge confirms the signor’s commitment and dedication to  use her office to advance this 28th Amendment in any and all legal ways, including, but not limited to: sponsoring or cosponsoring bills, resolutions, or other legislation advancing proposal or ratification of the 28th Amendment; voting in favor of such bills and resolutions in committee, subcommittee, or floor votes; working to build cross-partisan support; and publicly advocating for the necessity of this Amendment.

“I’ve signed the The American Promise Pledge marking my commitment to keep special interest money out of politics.  As a candidate who is refusing corporate PAC money, I affirm my pledge and hope that others will also vow to prioritize the needs of citizens over corporations.”
– Maggie Toulouse Oliver

For more information about the pledge and how you can help the effort to pass the 28thAmendment, please go to  28thAmendment or contact New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics at 505-231-1697.