"A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men
from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."
(Thomas Jefferson)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Represent Us, Not the Money

Over the past few months, been asking myself what I could do in politics without getting involved in candidate campaigns.  Want to make a difference, but fed up with the big money in politics that is corrupting not only political candidates but members of the media.  I really do not want to register as a Democrat as I am lifelong center-right Republican who wants to see the two party system work.  That means something has to be done to move the GOP back to center-right away from the hard right big money, immigration, racist, secession, some militia, and other hateful groups that occupy that hard right today.

Since Republicans went over the edge after the Citizens United ruling with money flowing everywhere, it is time to get the Koch Money and other wealthy donors control not only out of the Republican Party but the Democrat Party as well.  Have to admit in this election the Republican wealthy donors far outpaced the Democrats with their donations to Super PACs including Karl Rove's two groups from which they did not get a very good return.  With all the big money that was spent on Republican candidates, they still lost the White House, the Senate, and shook up the House with Tea Party people going down and Democrats gaining seats.  Looks like the big donor tax rates are going up after all even though they were promised by Romney/Ryan and GOP leadership it would never happen.  The American people spoke in this election that they are tired of the wealthy with their low tax rates and loopholes.

From the beginning, I was against the SCOTUS Citizen United ruling which unleashed the mega donor money of the GOP to Super PACs which in turn spawned the lies and distortion ads to take out anyone who was seen as a threat to Romney.  We saw the effects of that unlimited money in action in Florida against Newt Gingrich in the primaries orchestrated by Romney/Rove which worked.  Those same tactics were deployed in the general but failed miserably against Obama who was ready for their attacks, distortions, and outright lies.  Karl Rove flushed over $300M down the drain with all his losses.  You would think he would have learned his lesson but he is back wanting to get wealthy donors to anti up so he can lobby Congress.  He is what is wrong about elections and lobbyists along with conservative media in this election who were nothing more then part of the Romney campaign.

Today I discovered how all of us can help return elections to the voters away from the big donors as I read about Represent.Us on Mother Jones this morning.  Decided to investigate and discovered it is a bi-partisan effort with a high-profile, bipartisan board of advisors that has been launched to get one of the most important bills passed that will affect our political culture -- the American Anti-Corruption Act which is only 11 pages long and sponsored by the Represent.Us campaign.

When you look at the Board of Advisors, you are struck with the fact that the board is truly made up of bi-partisan, knowledgeable people.  Then you see the perpetrator of one of the biggest scandals to hit Congress, Jack Abramoff, sits on the board.  He has served his time and has been speaking out against all the money in elections.  Perfect choice to restore his reputation is to be a member of this group.  When I saw the name, Trevor Potter, I knew this was a bill that was desperately needed:
The Act was crafted by former Federal Election Commission chairman Trevor Potter in consultation with dozens of strategists, democracy reform leaders and constitutional attorneys from across the political spectrum. Mr. Potter was one of the chief architects of the McCain-Feingold law. The Act would transform how elections are financed, how lobbyists influence politics, and how political money is disclosed. It is a bold, sweeping proposal that would reshape the rules of American politics, and restore ordinary Americans as the most important stakeholders instead of major donors. The Anti-Corruption Act’s provisions enjoy support from progressives and conservatives alike. Constitutional attorneys confirm that the provisions are constitutional. The Act is being championed by the Represent.Us campaign. Click here to support this campaign. 
These are some the first paragraphs I read that made me want to learn more:

Represent.Us is a fresh campaign to pass the American Anti-Corruption Act: a law that would overhaul campaign finance, impose strict lobbying and conflict of interest laws, and end 'secret political money. We are mobilizing millions of Americans — conservatives and progressives, young and old, every issue group fighting K Street, online and offline — to join this campaign. 
Represent.Us is not just building a movement to pass the Act. The campaign will use hard-hitting accountability tactics to unseat politicians who fail to endorse the Act. If passed, the Act will completely reshape American politics and policy-making and give people a voice.
Synopsis of the American Anti-Corruption Act:
Get Money out of Politics:
Stop lobbyist bribery, End secret money & Empower voters. 
1.  Stop politicians from taking bribes
Prohibit members of congress from soliciting contributions from the interests they regulate, and prevent them from benefiting interests that directly or indirectly spend heavily to influence their elections. 
Politicians routinely host fundraisers, and invite lobbyists to contribute to their campaigns. Members of congress who sit on powerful committees get extraordinary amounts of money from interests regulated by those committees. The result is a congress made up of politicians dependent on those special interests in order to raise the money necessary to win reelection. Politicians are forced to create laws that are favorable to those interests, often at the expense of the public interest.
2.  Limit super PAC contributions and “coordination” 
Require Super PACs to abide by the same contribution limits as other political committees.Toughen rules regarding Super PACs and other groups’ coordination with political campaigns and political parties. 
The Supreme Court's Citizens United and subsequent court cases ruled that SuperPACs have the right to raise and spend unlimited money influencing elections, so long as the SuperPACs do not coordinate with the candidate campaigns. Since Citizens United, we've seen tremendous coordination between campaigns and their Super-PACS, making a mockery of the "independence" that the courts thought would exist. SuperPACs have become extensions of the campaigns, and allow mega-donors to exert undue influence on election outcomes.
3. Prevent job offers as bribes
Close the “revolving door” so that elected representatives and their senior staff can no longer sell off their legislative power in exchange for high-paying jobs when they leave office. 7 years for all members and 5 senior congressional staff. (currently 2 years for Senate; 1 year for House; 1 year for senior staff) 
Today, politicians routinely move straight from Congress to lucrative lobbying jobs on K Street, in order to influence their former colleagues and friends. Senior staffers who work for congressmen do the same thing. This corrupts policymaking in two ways: members and their staff anticipate high-paying jobs on K Street, and routinely do favors to their future employers while still in Congress; and once out of congress they enjoy undue access and influence to members of Congress. The biggest spenders hire these influencers, and win policy as a result.
4. Call lobbyists lobbyists
Significantly expand the definition of, and register all lobbyists to prevent influencers from skirting the rules. 
Today, the definition of who is a lobbyist - and who is not - is weak. The result: members of congress and their staff, even when they are in the cool down phase when they may not lobby (1 year for US House members, 2 years for Senators, and 1 year for senior staff) work as "historical advisors" to skirt the law while receiving big money to influence policy.
5. Limit lobbyist donations
Limit the amount that lobbyists and their clients can contribute to federal candidates, political parties, and political committees to $500 per year and limit lobbyist fundraising.Federal contractors already are banned from contributing to campaigns: extend that ban to the lobbyists, high-level executives and government relations employees and PACs of federal government contractors. 
Lobbyists currently must abide by the same contribution limits (to candidate campaigns) as everyone else: $2500 per election. Lobbyists "bundle" these $2500 contributions with other lobbyists, and individuals working for special interests that seek to influence politicians. This adds up to serious money, and serious undue influence.
6. End secret money 
Mandate full transparency of all political money.Require any organization that spends $10,000 or more on advertisements to elect or defeat federal candidates to file a disclosure report online with the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours. List each of the organization’s donors who donated $10,000 or more to the organization to run such ads. This includes all PACs, 501c nonprofits, or other groups that engage in electioneering. 
Elections are being flooded with secret money funneled though "501c" organizations that are not required to disclose the names of donors. 501c's either spend money directly to influence elections, or make unlimited contributions to SuperPAC's. This allows secret political donors to flood elections with money, and influence outcomes.
7.  Level the playing field with a small donor tax rebate 
Empower voters by creating an annual $100 Tax Rebate that voters can use for qualified contributions to one or more federal candidates, political parties, and political committees.In order to be eligible to receive Tax Rebate contributions, candidates, political parties, and political committees must limit the contributions they receive to no more than $500 per contributor per calendar year or contributions from entities that are funded exclusively by Tax Rebates and small-dollar contributions. 
Nearly $6 billion was spent on the 2012 elections, and the vast majority came from big special interest donors. In 2008, less than 0.5 percent of Americans contributed $200 or more, and less than 0.1 percent of Americans contributed $2,300 or more. Politicians become dependent on this tiny percentage of the population. To change this, we need to dramatically increase the number of small donors to politics, so that politicians become dependent on everyday Americans and not moneyed interests. That's how we get politicians who actually fight for the general public.
8. Disclose “bundling”
Require federal candidates to disclose the names of individuals who “bundle” contributions for the Member or candidate, regardless of whether such individuals are registered lobbyists.
9. Enforce the rules
Strengthen the Federal Election Commission’s independence and strengthen the House and Senate ethics enforcement processes.Provide federal prosecutors additional tools necessary to combat corruption, and prohibit lobbyists who fail to properly register and disclose their activities from engaging in federal lobbying activities for a period of two years. 
Federal agencies routinely fail to enforce the anti-corruption rules that already exist because their leadership are appointed by those they are supposed to regulate. The result is a wild-west elections system, where even lax rules can be skirted or broken with impunity.
Sounds tough? It is. But this is why it will work 
Reform will only occur at a moment of crisis. We will harness public anger and demand for change. 
We must start with the people, not Congress, and gather an unprecedented coalition.
We must engage liberals, conservatives and independents. Highly visible spokespeople from all quarters will aid us. 
Politicians will only act if forced to by electoral pressure. We will unseat politicians who don’t cooperate. 
The solution must be comprehensive. Incremental reform won’t work: it has to come as a package. 
But we need your help 
Co-sponsor the Act 
Represent.Us Call to Action:

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