HELP US GET MORE SIGNATURES!

There are nearly two hundred NM candidates who have yet to be asked to sign the Pledge. 

Even though most of us are sheltering in place, we can still work on the 28th Amendment Pledge drive.

Step 1: Go to the list of all candidates for elected office on the Secretary of State’s website here. Choose from the list of candidates those other than judicial candidates (because they can’t take positions on matters that might come before them) you would like to contact to sign the Pledge.

Step 2: Contact Charlotte Schaaf, our Pledge Drive Coordinator by email at charlottesantafe@gmail.com.  Tell her the names and offices of the candidates you would like to approach to sign the pledge. Charlotte keeps a database that lists the candidates, which ones have already signed the Pledge and which our volunteers have already selected to work on to sign the Pledge. If someone else has already chosen one of your names, Charlotte will tell you and you may select someone else. The purpose of this step is to avoid the duplication of effort and perhaps annoying a candidate or his or her campaign staff. Charlotte will record your information and your selection of candidates.

Step 3: Contact the candidate. Send an email to the candidate asking him or her to sign the Pledge. This is a suggested email/letter that you may use that describes the Pledge and asks the candidate to sign. If there is no email shown on the SOS’s list, you can either go to the candidate’s website and make the request using the contact form there or you can contact the candidate by the phone number listed. The email explains how the candidate or his or her staffer can complete the Pledge process online through the American Promise website.  It also says that you would be glad to assist by sending the signed pledge, photo and personal statement from the candidate if he or she has difficulty completing it directly on line through the American Promise site.

Step 4: Follow up in a week or so with the candidate if the candidate or a campaign staffer doesn’t respond to your email. Ask if the request was received and if you can help answer any questions. If you still do not receive a written response, try calling the candidate’s campaign office.  Persistence is the trick. Keep it up as long as you feel comfortable until the candidate signs the Pledge.

Step 5 :Thank the signer in an email or telephone call after he or she has signed and provide follow up materials, inviting them to stay actively involved with the 28th Amendment movement, American Promise, and NMMOP. Getting a candidate or elected official is a beautiful beginning to developing an ongoing relationship, in preparation for future collaboration and partnering on common goals. For this, you can use or adapt the form email/letter.

Step 6:  Report back to Charlotte the results of your effort. She will then update the database with your information.

This kind of grassroots effort is really not very difficult or time consuming. But the significance of it is monumental. Most advancements that have been achieved in civil rights didn’t begin at the federal level. Change typically starts from the ground up, at the local level first, and then the state level.  When a certain number of cities, towns and states have signed on, a tipping point is reached and change is finally made on the federal level. Women’s suffrage, interracial marriage and intersex marriage all took this path.

So please,  join us in this effort!

 

BLUMENTHAL, WARREN, JAYAPAL, AND SARBANES LAY OUT OVERSIGHT, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND ANTI-CORRUPTION PROVISIONS FOR NEXT CONGRESSIONAL COVID-19 RESPONSE PACKAGE

(This announcement is from Declaration for American Democracy, the national coalition of  over 100 nonprofit activist organizations to which NMMOP belongs)

BLUMENTHAL, WARREN, JAYAPAL, AND SARBANES LAY OUT OVERSIGHT, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND
ANTI-CORRUPTION PROVISIONS FOR NEXT CONGRESSIONAL
COVID-19 RESPONSE PACKAGE

Read their letter to Congressional leadership here

Read white papers detailing some of their proposals here and here

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and John Sarbanes (D-MD), Chair of the House Democracy Reform Task Force, laid out strong oversight, accountability, and anti-corruption provisions to be included in the next Congressional COVID-19 response package. They sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging their proposals be included.

“Real accountability demands a watchdog, not a lapdog, to stop the waste, fraud and favoritism pervading this administration. An effective enforcement hammer is essential to deter wrongdoing, preserve resources, and conserve credibility. Strong scrutiny is required to make sure aid reaches the right hands. Getting relief to those who need it – small businesses, struggling families, the working poor and middle class – means keeping an eye on the corporate fat cats who are trying to cut them in line,” Blumenthal said. “The only people threatened by oversight are the ones are the ones trying to game the system, or hide something.”

“President Donald Trump has made clear that he is putting himself and his buddies first during this global pandemic – and he will actively undermine independent oversight,” said Warren. “The next relief package must include our provisions to empower inspectors general, prohibit conflicts of interest, and strengthen oversight and enforcement, and to stop any government-sanctioned profiteering and corruption. The American people need to trust their government is on their side, especially now.”

“Donald Trump has a long and established record of disregarding ethics, integrity, and transparency, and his latest attempts to sideline and dismiss independent inspectors general have raised the stakes during this crisis. It’s unfortunate that we cannot trust the President of the United States and his appointees to properly and ethically distribute billions of dollars in economic relief, but this is the reality we must confront. We must pass aggressive oversight measures in future relief packages to ensure economic aid is delivered to struggling families and businesses in need, keep this President accountable and prevent him and his Administration from misusing and misallocating taxpayer dollars,” said Jayapal.

“We must ensure that federal COVID-19 economic relief goes directly to American families and small businesses who need it most – not to President Trump’s business buddies, corporations or Mitch McConnell’s wealthy donors,” said Sarbanes. “The robust anti-corruption, oversight and accountability standards that we have presented today will prevent the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans from hijacking vital support for hardworking Americans and sending it instead to wealthy and well-connected special interests.”

Last month, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES Act), which provided critical aid to hospitals, small businesses, families, unemployed Americans, and other parts of our economy and society hit hard by this global pandemic. The Act also established a $500 billion bailout for giant corporations, which—without stronger oversight and anti-corruption provisions—could be wasted and misused by the Trump Administration to enrich giant corporations and senior executives, make monopolies worse at the expense of workers and taxpayers, and reward political allies and punish foes.

Other provisions in the CARES Act, including support for small businesses, also lack critical oversight and conflicts of interest protections and are alarmingly vulnerable to exploitation for personal, financial, and political gain. The CARES Act imposes some oversight of these programs, but President Trump began undermining these provisions the moment the bill became law.

President Trump also fired the Inspector General independently designated to chair the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), which Congress established to conduct and coordinate oversight and provide transparency over the federal government’s coronavirus response and management of pandemic response spending.

The President’s actions send a clear signal to Congress that stronger oversight, accountability, and anti-corruption provisions are urgently necessary.

“The gravity of our current crisis demands a responsible allocation of bailout funds. The process must be free from conflicts that favor special interests, and that requires robust oversight. CARES Act implementation to-date has been fraught, with loopholes that have allowed large companies to get cash meant for smaller businesses. We must course-correct, and ensure that taxpayer dollars help the public, workers, and protect our health. Public Citizen strongly supports the reforms proposed by Senators Warren and Blumenthal and Representatives Jayapal and Sarbanes for the next relief package to make sure that this happens,” said Lisa Gilbert, Vice President of Legislative Affairs for Public Citizen.

“Senators Warren and Blumenthal and Representatives Jayapal and Sarbanes have outlined a set of proposals that would address many long standing issues affecting oversight and would drastically improve accountability and transparency around the federal government’s actions in response to COVID-19. We urge Congress to take these issues up quickly,” said Liz Hempowicz, POGO’s Director of Public Policy.

“The funds provided in the CARES Act are critical to an effective pandemic response, which can mean the difference between life and death, but with such massive amounts of money involved, they will be a natural target for fraud and influence. So ensuring these funds go where Congress intended is equally critical.  All members of Congress should want immediate and thorough oversight into whether taxpayer funds are being spent fairly and without fraud or influence; these provisions would be a crucial step toward that needed oversight,” said Noah Bookbinder, Executive Director, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

Read the full details of the proposal here. Summaries of the provisions are below:

  • Prohibit Conflicts of Interest: Strong rules are necessary to prohibit conflicts of interest that may arise in connection with the administration of the CARES Act and any future COVID-19 relief packages. Such rules must address conflicts arising in the selection or hiring of contractors or advisors; the distribution of grants and loans; and revolving door restrictions on government employees and officials involved in the administration of relief funds and programs. All government officials (including members of any White House task force) who advise or work on the pandemic response must file public reports detailing their financial interests. And while the CARES Act already prohibits assistance from the $500 billion bailout fund from going to certain companies affiliated with senior government officials, the scope of those restrictions should be expanded to include all CARES Act funds, additional senior staff and their family members to ensure that relief funds are not funneled to well-connected businesses.
  • Empower Inspectors General: Inspectors general (IGs) should be fired only for good cause. The President should be required to inform Congress when any IG, including an acting IG, is removed from their post. When an IG position becomes vacant, it should be filled automatically by the first assistant to the last IG. Acting IGs must be selected from officials who enjoy civil service protections, ensuring that they have some recourse if they face retaliation. Any member of the staff of an unlawfully fired IG should be allowed to file suit to challenge the firing, as should any member of the public who has been harmed as the result of such action. The President’s decision to fire or otherwise discipline an IG or acting IG should trigger an automatic review by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency Integrity Committee, and the findings of that review should be made public. Read more about this proposal here.
  • Strengthen the Congressional Oversight Commission: The Congressional Oversight Commission which sits beyond the President’s reach, must be granted subpoena authority for testimony and documents, and Congress should expand its jurisdiction to include all COVID-19 relief funding, including the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. Read more about this proposal here.
  • Strengthen CARES Act Executive Branch Accountability & Oversight Entities: Congress should require the Treasury Secretary to submit a weekly list of any instances in which the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Relief (SIGPR) or the PRAC believe they have been unreasonably denied information from the executive branch. If the Treasury Secretary omits or misrepresents instances of wrongdoing to Congress, he should be liable for perjury and prosecuted by the Department of Justice. If the Treasury Secretary fails to provide a required filing, Congress should use its power of the purse to ensure that neither he nor any other senior political appointee in the Department of Treasury be paid. Read more about this proposal here.
  • Protect Whistleblowers: Strong whistleblower protections must apply to government employees, government contractors, and private sector workers (including essential workers) who may witness waste, fraud, or abuse or be victims of misconduct. These provisions must protect all Americans who call out wrongdoing and protect against all retaliation (including criminal or civil prosecution and workplace harassment). These protections must also include contractors, companies, and nonprofits facing improper political pressure or retaliation, and protect such entities when they challenge demands to cover up wrongdoing. Congress should establish a direct channel for whistleblowers to submit complaints directly to the SIGPR, PRAC, and the Congressional Oversight Commission.
  • Restrict and Disclose Lobbying & Political Spending: Congress should require the Department of Treasury to make monthly disclosures on all lobbying related to COVID-19 relief spending or lending. These disclosures must include meetings between companies receiving federal funding and Treasury officials or White House staff, as well as any documents provided by those companies to government officials. Additionally, any company that receives bailout money should not be permitted to engage in political spending or lobbying expenditures for a least a year after any loan is fully repaid.
  • Improve Transparency & Disclosure around Bailout Funds:  Congress should require more transparency about where bailout funds are going. Any recipient of emergency funding or support, including contractors and grantees, must provide regular, public reporting about how that money is being used. While the Federal Reserve Board recently took an important step in announcing they will disclose the names and amounts borrowed for each participant in their lending facilities backstopped with CARES Act money, this does not go far enough. Congress should require these disclosures by law and require recipients to provide a detailed description of how the assistance was used. If we want companies to use bailout funds to maintain their payrolls and pay their workers well, we should require relevant data: recipients should be required to disclose compensation and workforce data, including the mean, median, and minimum wages of all non-executive employees; the number of workers before and after the receipt of assistance; and the salaries of executives, including bonuses and capital distributions. Congress should also require recipients to disclose whether they have been charged with violations of federal law and the nature of those alleged violations. Finally, Congress must ensure the Paycheck Protection Program truly helps small businesses rather than giant or well-connected companies by requiring the Small Business Administration to publicly disclose on its website, on a weekly basis, basic information about lenders and recipients, including loan amounts.
  • Strengthen Enforcement: Anyone harmed by misuse of bailout funds should be allowed to seek recourse through the courts. This will ensure that harmed parties, like workers fired after a company committed not to fire anyone, have the ability to bring private lawsuits against bailout recipients who do not adhere to bailout terms. Senior executives of companies that violate bailout terms should be held personally liable, including by having their executive compensation seized, if necessary.

THURSDAY, APRIL 30 WEBINAR HOSTED BY THE NATION MAGAZINE FEATURED CONGRESSMAN JAIMIE RASKIN

by John House

For those of you who missed it, the hour-long webinar hosted yesterday morning, April 30, 2020, via Zoom focused upon constitutional issues related to the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The featured speaker was Congressman Jaime Raskin (D-Md.) who has been called the House’s top constitutional scholar.

Cong. Raskin likened the initial scattershot response by the federal government and subsequent abandonment of responsibility to the states to the lack of organization that characterized the United States under the Articles of Confederation. According to Raskin, the current health crisis raises an intriguing identity question for this country: can we make Federalism work during such a crisis? How we respond will provide the answer.

He described the need for a new federal agency to be called the Health Equipment Development Board that would act to oversee the speedy and efficient production of necessary medical  equipment and supplies similar to the War Production Board that during World War II oversaw the conversion of industry to production of military equipment, supplies and munitions.  

Cong. Raskin also emphasized  that the President’s refusal to allow oversight by anyone else but him and his administration over the distribution of relief funds has created yet another constitutional crisis. Congress must be able to exercise its constitutional oversight responsibility to review and audit the dispersion of funds, Raskin said.

Responding to question, Raskin agreed with one participant that the abandonment of civics classes in schools has contributed to the present lack of understanding of how government should work and also cited the failure to teach critical thinking. Responding to another question, he emphasized the importance of insuring that the 2020 elections will be “free and fair”, in light of the interference in the 2016 elections and past voter suppression efforts.

John House is the President of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics.

The Challenge and Opportunity of this Historic Time

by Bruce Berlin

We are living in an unparalleled time in our country’s history. While we are in the midst of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, the country, perhaps the whole world, is also on the verge of a second Great Depression. Our lives will never be the same.

I believe the universe, Mother Nature, some supernatural force is telling us to “stop.” Take a “time out.” Go inward and take stock of our lives, as individuals, as a community, as a country, and as a planet. Given the need to stay-at-home to prevent the spread of the virus, this is the perfect time for reflection.

An ancient Chinese proverb offers wise guidance: “In every crisis, there’s opportunity.” While we are a divided nation, the Coronavirus crisis has given us the opportunity to come together to fight this common enemy. People of all backgrounds, political persuasions, income levels and ethnicities — whether they are medical professionals in hospitals or drivers delivering groceries — are risking their lives to provide care and support for all of us.

As we progress in the effort to overcome the Coronavirus, can we use this opportunity to create a new beginning? Can we all come to understand that when we work together, we are all better off?

At this critical juncture in our history, we must not go back to the way things were before the pandemic crisis struck. We must use this singular experience to inspire us. Together we can reshape our country into one that serves the common good, not just the interests of the well-connected and the very wealthy. Let’s seize this opportunity, create a new vision of America and remake our country. Please join New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics in this vital work.

Bruce Berlin is the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics.

Bruce can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com

Subscribe to his blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/