Three reasons Republicans should support the 28th Amendment

from The Fulcrum, Sept. 11

While it has garnered widespread support among Americans across the political spectrum for years, the movement for a 28th Amendment to the Constitution to end the domination of big money in our political system now is gaining significant traction in Washington. Thus far 11 current and former 2020 presidential candidates have signed the American Promise Pledge to support a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics, and measures proposing such an amendment have 180 co-sponsors between the House and Senate.

However, only one of those 180 co-sponsors is a Republican: Rep. John Katko from New York’s 24th District. The currently lopsided support for this effort highlights how destructive partisan politics can block individuals from acting on their private convictions.

The idea of limiting big money in politics is actually a bedrock conservative principle, supported by a significant majority of conservative voters. “Draining the swamp” was among the driving forces that led to President Trump’s election. “Cronyism” has been a concern of conservative voters for decades, and Milton Friedman himself sounded the alarm over a system where businesses compete by seeking government favors. And many former Republican elected officials publicly support a 28th Amendment.

We can only imagine many sitting Republicans in Congress agree, but are hesitant to make that support public in the current contentious environment. Here are three reasons why Republican elected officials should set the record straight and reclaim leadership of the principles they have been committed to for so long.

1. Perceived corruption is undermining free-market capitalism

In a recent op-ed for The Hill, Republican former state Sen. Jim Rubens of New Hampshire writes about the reasons the dominance of big money in politics leads to less freedom in the free market: “Business competes by buying influence or submitting to extortion in Washington, rather than by offering better products and services to consumers. Free markets are becoming crony capitalism.”

Surveys show growing numbers are losing faith in free market capitalism and representative democracy. In 2015, the Committee for Economic Development, a nonpartisan, business-led public policy organization, released the report“Crony Capitalism,” which concluded: “The remarkable success of capitalism in the United States has been made possible by widespread public support for that system. Sadly, in recent years, and especially since the September 2008 financial crisis, that support has seriously eroded. Increasingly the public is coming to view the system as unfairly benefitting the few and as favoring Wall Street over Main Street.”

This is true especially among younger Americans and non-white Americans, both of whom will soon be majority voting blocks. Today 61 percent of Americans age 18-24 have a positive view of socialism, according to a recent Harris Poll.

Left unchecked, the report says, crony capitalism will continue to undermine public support for the American model of capitalism — and sap vitality from the economy. “This adds urgency to the task of finding solutions to the rise of crony capitalism.”

2. Political money is undermining economic dynamism and innovation

The United States has seen a long-term decline in business startups and a growth in the economic power of entrenched companies according to The Hamilton Project’s team. According to a report from the Economic Innovation Group, which tracks America’s economic vibrancy, “The entrepreneurial and restless energy that once defined the United States seems to be evaporating as the economy grows more static, top-heavy, and concentrated. The decline of dynamism has been steep, rapid, and pervasive across all states.”

The influx of money into our political system resulting from shifts in the law and Supreme Court decisions has led to skyrocketing election spending, and with it an escalating dependence on fundraising in Washington. This means the biggest players in the economy can increasingly shape the rules to their own benefit — leading to a top-heavy system designed to benefit entrenched players at the expense of competitors. The CED report describes “three interconnected trends responsible for distorting our economic system: a rise in the size and scope of government, campaign costs and lobbying.”

3. The big money system is tipping to favor Democrats

Despite the critical importance of the previous two points, a cynic may argue that being better at playing the big money system gives Republicans the electoral edge. But that argument falters as Democrats begin to overtake Republicans in the big money spending race.

In 2018, liberal dark money groups outspent conservatives, and out-of-state liberal dark money groups have swayed recent state political contests, including Alabama’s special Senate election. The pay-to-play political system is a costly arms race without a positive end for anyone but powerful special interests, who are successfully gaining outsize influence while undermining capitalism and democracy.

As recently affirmed by the Business Roundtable, our country has achieved two centuries of economic and political dominance based in large part on its belief in two revolutionary systems: the free-market economy and representative democracy. These systems have paved the way for our nation to improve the lives of its millions of citizens.

Today, faith in these systems has been shattered by the Supreme Court-sanctioned domination of wealth and concentrated power over our political system. Now is the time for political leaders of every ideological persuasion to align with the people and address the greatest danger threatening the very heart of our great nation: a pay-to-play political system that is rapidly transforming our republic into an oligarchy.

John Wass is board chairman of American Promise, which seeks to limit the power of corporate, union, political party and super PAC money in politics.

News Article by Republican Former State Senator Supports the 28th Amendment

 

“Jim Rubens: 28th Amendment”

Conway Daily Sun, Sep 6, 2019

Two weeks ago, the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), with 46 co-sponsors, including seven presidential candidates. In January, the same bill — to impose reasonable limits on campaign money while protecting free speech rights — was sponsored by 133 House members. Unfortunately, only one of these 180 total members is a Republican, brave and lonely New York Rep. John Katko.

This lack of support leaves congressional Republicans wildly and egregiously out of step with Republican voters, 66 percent of whom support an amendment to address big-money political corruption. This intense anti-corruption sentiment powered Donald Trump’s popular “drain the swamp” message used in the lead-up to his 2016 election.

Tackling corruption is a slow-burn national emergency. Public confidence in two of our nation’s central organizing institutions — free-market capitalism and representative democracy — is approaching failed-state status.

Today, 61 percent of Americans aged 18-24 have a positive reaction to socialism in a recent Harris Poll. By 54 to 40 percent, non-whites (projected to be the majority of voters in a generation) now prefer government rather than free-market control over the economy.

Our form of government, the American constitutional republic, is and was a bold and visionary advance in liberty. Today, only 17 percent of voters trust the federal government to do the right thing all or most of the time. A majority now believes that government corruption — legalized bribery and extortion — is our nation’s biggest crisis, with 87 percent viewing political corruption as “widespread.”

These twin collapses in confidence are joined at the hip. Big government occupies and controls a larger share of the economy and increasingly picks economic winners and losers via tax subsidies, regulatory carve-outs, spending programs and contract awards. Business competes by buying influence or submitting to extortion in Washington, rather than by offering better products and services to consumers. Free markets are becoming crony capitalism. The public accurately views this pay-to-play system as rigged against most of us.

The Conference Board, one of our nation’s leading champions of the enduring virtues of free-market capitalism, singles out today’s big-money, special-interest dominated campaign finance system as suppressing product innovation and market competition and eroding public support for capitalism.

Late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the unanimous Nevada Commission on Ethics v. Carrigan decision, recognized the gravity of the corruption problem and the need for a constitutional solution. As both the House and Senate did by rule a dusty 200-plus years ago, Congress could require all members to recuse themselves, like judges, from voting on any measure where they have a conflict of interest. Such conflicts include campaign contributions, independent election expenditures and personal, business or family-member financial or career interests.In finding mandatory recusal constitutional, Justice Scalia wrote, “the legislative power thus committed is not personal to the legislator but belongs to the people.”

In theory, I love this solution. But it will not happen because today’s complex economy and costly campaigns would place most members of Congress in constant recusal handcuffs.

Fortunately, there is a thoroughly workable solution, one that lays a foundation of defense of free-market capitalism and restoration of public trust in government: a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In addition to this critical foundation, we Republicans have two more solid reasons to back a 28th Amendment.

Big-money players such as billionaires Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg or Sheldon Adelson, unions, Super PACs, dark-money 501(c)(4)s and laundered foreign money sources now routinely target swing districts and Senate seats. These players recruit and screen candidates and flood districts with out-of-state money, determining which candidates are financially viable and get media attention. In New Hampshire, with only 1 million voters, $132 million was spent on the 2016 U.S. Senate election, decided for the Democrat by 1,700 votes. Ninety-five percent of those dollars flowed from out of state.

Swing races have become increasingly nationalized. Preferences of local voters and the specific needs of your state or district are distinctly secondary. Candidate choice, debate and policy innovation are all suppressed. First Amendment rights are monopolized by a tiny number of big money players from New York, San Francisco — and Saudi Arabia.

Finally, Republicans have been operating under the cynical misconception that we are better at the big-money game than Democrats. Reality is that Democrats have recently gotten better than Republicans at the out-of-state, big-money game. For the 2018 cycle nationally, liberal dark money groups outspent conservatives 54-to-31. 

Republicans and Democrats will not usually agree on how to address our nation’s challenges. But we must agree on action to restore public trust in our central economic and governing institutions. Whether you are a more principled or more pragmatic Republican, you have solid reasons to ask your Republican member of Congress to co-sponsor the 28th Amendment.

Jim Rubens was a Republican state senator from New Hampshire and candidate for U.S. Senate in 2014 and 2016. He is New England chair for Take Back Our Republic and board member for American Promise.

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.

 

 

Call to Action: Contact Your MOCs and Urge the President and Senate to Appoint FEC Members

Please call, email, write a postcard and/orletter to Senators Udall and Heinrich  and your House Representative urging them to  put the heat on President Trump to nominate persons to fill the three empty positions on the Federal Election Commission. Contact information for your senators and representative can be found by clicking the down arrow beside the Home tab on this website and then clicking the subtab entitled “How to Contact Your Members of Congress.”

Please read this insightful article by Craig  Holman of Public Citizen about this crisis caused by the current administration’s failure to fulfill its responsibility:

Federal Election Commission Shut Down Ahead of Most Expensive Election in History

As the nation heads into the 2020 election cycle – an election that likely will reach an all-time spending record – the agency that monitors and enforces compliance with campaign finance laws on Saturday will lose the voting quorum to take any official actions due to the resignation of its vice chair. With only three members left on the six-member Federal Election Commission (FEC), the agency cannot meet, adopt rules and regulations, offer formal advice to candidates and committees, or enforce the law.

A Category 6 hurricane of Big Money is barreling toward us in 2020, and now the nation’s first responders are unable to act. Heading into what is sure to be the most expensive election in history, our nation’s campaign finance watchdog, the FEC, is now closed for business. And it won’t reopen until new commissioners are chosen and confirmed.

In ordinary times, we’d call on the president and the U.S. Senate to immediately fill the vacant FEC positions to prepare for the expected $8 billion in political spending in the 2020 elections. But who are we kidding? We already know they won’t – and that U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) will wring her hands in a practiced display of feigned disappointment.

President Donald Trump and many Senate Republicans – chief among them, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) – are openly contemptuous of campaign finance limits or electioneering rules of any kind and have shown they’re eager to lie, cheat, steal and rig elections to keep themselves and their party in power. Anti-government extremists in their party have for decades tried to shut down watchdog agencies and put billionaires and big corporations in charge. Now they’ve succeeded.

The question is whether Senate Democrats, the press and the public will raise holy hell to put a campaign finance cop back on the beat or meekly acquiesce to yet another Republican scheme to shut down a vital public interest watchdog in government and rig the political system in their favor.

Craig Holman is Government Affairs Lobbyist for Public Citizen

States Set an Example of How to Slow the Federal Revolving Door

from The Hill — 08/27/19 06:00 PM EDT 

by Craig Holman

When members of Congress and other elected officials leave federal office, they usually move into highly lucrative jobs, either joining a lobbying firm or working as “strategic consultants” on behalf of business lobbying campaigns. The inside connections into the halls of power by newly retired public officials make them invaluable influence peddlers for those who can afford to hire them. A recent study by Public Citizen found that nearly 60 percent of the 2019 class of retiring members of Congress moved into these jobs. It is not supposed to be this way.

A wave of ethics laws began in the 1970s to restrain former government officials from selling their insider knowledge and access to the highest bidder in a troubling lobbying scheme known as the “revolving door.” At the federal level, the original Ethics in Government Act of 1978 banned former senior executive branch officials for one year from making “any formal or informal appearance before” their former agencies. In 1989, the scope of the revolving door restriction was expanded to include members of Congress and their senior staff. Many states across the country followed suit with their own versions of revolving door restrictions.

There are two solid reasons for reining in the revolving door of officials who turn into lobbyists. The first reason is to ensure that public servants are not influenced in the performance of public duties by the thought of later reaping special benefits from a prospective employer. The second reason is to prevent officials from cashing in on their inside connections. These are noble objectives, but the revolving door restrictions at the federal level remain largely a failed experiment. Congress should look to the states, the laboratories of democracy, to learn from their experiences. A review of state laws by Public Citizen shows that Iowa, Maryland, and North Dakota in particular offer some “best practices” that squarely address the ethics shortcomings found in Washington.

Despite efforts to slow the revolving door at the federal level, it is spinning way out of control. An academic study by Jeffrey Lazarus, Amy McKay, and Lindsey Herbel found that while just roughly 5 percent of lawmakers in Congress became lobbyists in the 1970s, almost half of retiring members become lobbyists today. Why have federal efforts to rein in the revolving door failed so miserably? The problem is threefold.

First, the cooling off period of one year for members of the House during which they are not supposed to be influencing government on behalf of paying clients after leaving public service is far too short. One year does not even cover a session of Congress and involves little turnover among officials and staff. In order to let inside connections fade, the cooling off period must be at least a full legislative cycle or even longer. A public opinion poll found that a solid majority of respondents favored a cooling off period of five years, while nearly half also favored a lifetime ban.

Second, the influence peddling activity prohibited during the cooling off period applies only to making “lobbying contacts.” Former officials are allowed immediately to join a lobbying firm and strategize for a lobbying campaign. They are simply prohibited from picking up the telephone and making the contact. Third, former officials are immediately allowed to make lobbying contacts with other branches or agencies in which they did not serve. This loophole is particularly problematic for elected officials and agency heads who develop strong ties across the government.

More than a dozen states recognize that a cooling off period of two years, enough for a full legislative cycle after which there is significant turnover among officials and staff, better breaks down the connections that makes revolvers so valuable. Florida is about to implement a cooling off period of six years. Importantly, more than a dozen states have expanded the scope of prohibited activity during the cooling off period to include strategic consulting for lobbying campaigns on top of making lobbying contacts. Finally, several states prohibit lobbying any agency or legislative body during the cooling off period, so no lobbying on behalf of paying clients.

What has been achieved at the state level shows what is possible at the federal level. Three key improvements of extending the cooling off period to two years or longer, banning lobbying activity as well as lobbying contacts, and prohibiting senior officials from lobbying any agency or branch of government would transform a system ridden with loopholes into an ethics policy quite capable of slowing the revolving door.

Craig Holman is the government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen.