Outside Money, Local Elections

In 2010, 74 Senate and House races changed hands.  According to Public Citizen’s analysis, in almost every case the outside electioneering was significantly higher on the winning side.

Think that through:  that’s OUTSIDE money controlling the vote.

This spending isn’t just a risk for undermining local control–it’s already done it.

Read the report .

Then take a look at this fascinating autopsy of money in a 2010 municipal race. The point, here, isn’t to demonize this candidate or her backers or the author of the piece.

Instead, consider the paradigm money and/in elections in this way is really a system of buying influence. And how when it is virtually unlimited, as it is with Citizens United as the law of the land, the local autonomy of every town and burg is under threat.

 Something struck me as unusual. Ninety percent of the money Ms. Roberts raised is from a small group of people who earn their livelihoods buying, selling, and developing land, and belonging to organizations with names like The North Coast Citizens for a Better Economy, headquartered in Petaluma, and The California Real Estate Political Action Committee, located in San Diego. Furthermore, the financial backing for this campaign was uncomfortably familiar to me. (I have been here since 1972).

It appears to me that Ms. Roberts is being financed by the very people who fought against legalizing owner built homes in the 70’s, were for off-shore oil development in the 80’s, were for developing the Ukiah Masonite property by outside developers, were for GMO’s and now, against a modest sales tax increase to help us save much needed county services to the unfortunate amongst us. The list of players in this financial backing is impressive and has the appearance of being orchestrated for a purpose. I made a chart to help me understand the conservative side of Ms. Roberts support a bit more clearly, and I am sharing it with you here in the interests of fair and honest disclosure.

A case for principled conservatives to support an amendment

excerpts from “Abolish Corporate Personhood” blog; read the full text here.

There are many reasons why a principled conservative would want to have the Citizens United v FEC Supreme Court decision reversed by abolishing corporate personhood and ending the doctrine that money is a form of speech. Whereas an unprincipled conservative will put the interests of corporations (property) ahead of the interests of citizens no matter what the consequences, a principled conservative would be concerned about the common good of the Republic.

Conservative Reasons to Abolish Corporate Constitutional Rights

The American Revolution was explicitly anti-corporate, and the revolutionaries made sure that corporations were tightly controlled.
The word corporation does not occur in the Constitution. Corporations had to use unelected, unaccountable judges to give them rights.

According to Thomas Jefferson, judges, who grant corporations rights, are “playing God” because he claimed in the Declaration of Independence that men — not property — are “ordained by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”

Judge-made law is not democratic. We did not elect the Supreme Court justices, but they get to decide who does and does not count in our democratic order. Congress and the People should decide those issues.

This is not about opposing business or capitalism, and we recognize that corporations play an important role in society. Continue reading

NEWS: Lobbying Group Asks Supreme Court Not To Use “Empirical Evidence”

From Republic Report:

Late last year, the Montana high court, citing the state’s long history of corporate money corrupting politics, defied the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and continued enforcing the state’s 100-year old law banning corporate involvement in state elections. The Supreme Court has blocked the Montana court’s decision pending on its own determination as to whether to formally hear the case this fall. Allowing a full argument in matter could allow the Court to  reconsider the merits of the Citizens Uniteddecision, which opened the doors to unlimited corporate and union involvement in American elections.

Now, attorneys for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a 100%-corporate funded lobbying group that has used the Citizens United decision to pump tens of millions of undisclosed dollars into federal elections over the last two years, is fighting to maintain the status quo. And they don’t want the justices to consider the evidence that the Citizens United decision, along with prior examples of corporate involvement in campaigns, causes corruption.

At the heart of the issue is whether the Citizens United decision has increased corruption. Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a statement about the Montana decision, said the court must make clear if “Montana’s experience, and experience elsewhere since this Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.’”

Interest groups and politicians are lining up to offer briefs to the Supreme Court. Some, like Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and John McCain (R-AZ), have submitted a brief urging the court to overturn Citizens United.

Boston Herald: 56 Mass. towns urge Congress to reverse Citizens United

Amherst, Boston and Cambridge are among 56 cities and towns across Massachusetts that are calling on Congress to pass an amendment overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which has opened up new opportunities for unlimited amounts of corporate and union funds to influence elections around the country.

The court, in a 5-4 ruling two years ago, ruled that restrictions on corporate expenditures in elections violate constitutionally protected free speech rights.

According to the Democracy Amendment Coalition of Massachusetts, they hit the 50-community milestone on May 14 when town meetings in four communities approved resolutions calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment overturning the court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.

Read More at this link

How does Citizens United affect our town?

The text below is excerpted from Public Citizen; PDF of full document can be seen here.

The federal impact of Citizens United is well publicized, but it is also important to understand the effect this ruling has on local towns and cities throughout the nation.

Corporate Spending Can Have an Even Greater Impact Locally

The egregious levels of outside spending on the federal level are well documented. In the 2010 Congressional elections, spending by corporations and wealthy individuals totaled almost $300 million.

The super-rich are dominating the 2012 election cycle, with over one-third of all contributions to Super PACs coming from just ten individuals. In comparison to these mammoth sums of money, it only takes a modest amount of money to have a transformative impact on a local election.

If multi-million dollar Super-PACs can buy the victory of even presidential candidates,

then what’s stopping them from influencing local political elections?

Consider This: In the April 2012 elections for Oklahoma City Council the Super-PAC “Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum” spent $400,000 on four candidates. The annual salary for an Oklahoma City Council member is $12,000 annually. Three of these four candidates won their campaigns. The only candidate who was able to defeat one of these Super Pac candidates noted deep concerns he saw with the democratic implications of a Super-PAC spending large sums on campaign ads without disclosing its donors.

Or This: Durham County in North Carolina is also experiencing the effects of SuperPACs. The SuperPAC “Durham Partnership for Progress” – funded by a developing firm – spent thousands of dollars on a mailer supporting four council people who support a controversial development project the that the firm, Southern Durham Development, plans to build. The SuperPAC’s support helped elect two of those council people into office in elections held on May 8, 2012.

Click here to read more from this information sheet from Public Citizen.

Boston.com: Needham Town Meeting Calls for Constitutional Amendment

Boston.com: Needham Town Meeting calls for constitutional amendment on campaign spending

Lois Sockol, who spoke at Town Meeting in favor of Article 23

Many argued that though the article ostensibly deals with a national issue, the issue of possible political corruption could have local effects.

“None of us, none of us, unless we hide under a rock, can not be influenced by the electoral process and the people in power,” said Lois Sockol.

Citizens United, she said, tore the fabric of American democracy.

“Big money has a powerful fist, more powerful than any individual.

Nowhere in the equation of big money and the individual is there basic equality.

By this very inequality, unlimited contributions undermine the basic American creed,” she said.

“We are a government of the people. By the people. And for the people.”

BREAKING! Article 23 PASSES at Needham Town Meeting

After robust and impassioned discussion, Needham Town Meeting voted with a strong majority to pass Article 23, advising The Legislature and Congress to begin the process of Amending the US Constitution to overturn ‘Citizens United.’

This was a true grassroots effort, and the People spoke loud and clear.

Stay tuned for details in the coming days.

Needham Citizens Tell Town Meeting: Vote YES on Article 23

As part of our preparation to present our citizens petition to Town Meeting, we asked Needham residents to weigh in. At a small number of community gatherings (including LWV Candidates’ night) and online, over 100 people signed their names in support of passing Article 23.

Town Meeting Members, these are comments from your constituents:

We need to do all we can to eliminate Super PACS. Thank you.

Thanks for doing this.

The US is teetering toward democracy and welfare for the corporations and very rich–with the rest of us left in the dust.

We need to restore some sanity and some equanimity to the election process. This is a first step–let’s take it together.

Free speech belongs to the citizenry.  A corporate entity does not enjoy the same rights as citizens and should not be given this overwhelming financial advantage over each individual voter.

In a democratic republic, politicians should serve the people – all the people, not just the highest bidder.  Corruption is bad enough without letting businesses looking for favors fund candidates to do their bidding; or worse, pay off both sides with funds to ensure they can’t lose.

Since Congress won’t take action, the people need to. This is one of the most important issues of our time. Thanks for doing this.

A terrible hurt has been thrust upon the public by the indefencible decision made by our Supreme Court-it’s a licence to buy elections for those with the most money.

Corporations are not citizens because their decisionmakers’ first loyalty is to their shareholders’ interests, not those of the nation, even if those interests conflict.  If they were citizens, they would be traitors. Corporation members already have the rights and responsibilities of citizens as individuals; they should have no added power to influence public affairs as corps. Incorporation protects them from personal accountability for their actions as a corp. No accountability, no rights.

Town Meeting is my voice, representing real people–not corporations. Let’s use the people’s voice –Town Meeting–to return our democracy back to the people!

I fully agree with the warrant article. 

Town Meeting Members can request the list of names by emailing WethePeopleNeedham@gmail.com. Continue reading