It’s fun to dress up for Halloween – but here’s five threats to our democracy that keep up their masquerade year-round -- and they’re a lot scarier than werewolves or vampires…
1. ALEC masquerading as a charity
The American Legislative Exchange Council claims to be a charity under section 501(c)3 of the tax code. That lets ALEC’s corporate donors deduct their membership dues from their taxes as long as ALEC doesn’t lobby – but what else would you call bringing lawmakers and corporate executives together behind closed doors to rewrite our laws?
2. Big spenders dressed as “social welfare” groups
Section 501(c)4 of the tax code lets groups that work for social welfare avoid paying taxes. But since Citizens United opened the door for unlimited political spending by outside groups, it’s also been used by dark money groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity. To do that, they have to pretend to be “social welfare” organizations too – but when most of their budget goes towards political ads to influence elections, it’s pretty easy to see through their costumes.
3. Proposition 1 NY pretending to be real redistricting reform
We need a serious reform of our redistricting process, but Proposition 1, which New Yorkers vote on this year, isn’t it. It would amend the state constitution to put party insiders in charge of drawing legislative districts and make prison gerrymandering easier. If we want real reform, we should take redistricting out of politicians’ hands and let an independent citizens’ panel drive the process.
4. Political money taking the place of free speech
The First Amendment protects the rights of people – real people – to speak freely without government reprisal. But in cases like Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United, the Supreme Court has used it to let corporations spend millions to influence our elections – even when it drowns the rest of us out.
5. Voter ID feigning support for election integrity
Voter ID supporters say they’re trying to stamp out fraud, but the cure is worse than the disease. A recent Loyola University study found that voter impersonation occurred only 31 times out of over a billion ballots cast since 2000 – compared to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters disenfranchised each year. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said of Texas’s photo ID law, “The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law”
Office: Common Cause National