Press Center

Common Cause Testimony

 

Common Cause Comments to the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service on Proposed Guidance for Tax-Exempt Social Welfare Organizations on Candidate-Related Political Activities

 

February 28, 2014 

Common Cause commends the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service for initiating their Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to clarify the rules governing 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations and political campaign intervention. Common Cause shares your recognition that “both the public and the IRS would benefit from clearer definitions” of social welfare activity and campaign intervention. This action is overdue but critically important to the health of our democracy. We also write to respectfully recommend some changes to the proposed regulations. Common Cause urges Treasury and the IRS to continue this critical process because amending the social welfare regulations is vital in a post-Citizens United environment of unlimited independent spending. We respectfully request that Treasury and IRS enact revisions to the proposed rules.
 

Download the full comments (PDF).

 

 



 

Testimony by Miles Rapoport, President of Demos and Incoming President of Common Cause
Government Administration and Elections Committee
Connecticut General Assembly

 

February 24, 2014

My name is Miles Rapoport, and I am the President of Demos, Demos is a public policy organization working for an America where we all have an equal say in our democracy and an equal chance in our economy. On March 10th I will be leaving DEMOS to begin my tenure as President of Common Cause, a nonpartisan, nonprofit citizen lobby that works to improve the way Connecticut’s government operates. I am here to testify in favor of House Bill 5126, AAC An Agreement Among the States to Election the President of the United States by National Popular Vote.

As you have heard in previous testimony before this committee, the National Popular Vote proposal — or “NPV” — would establish a compact among states to guarantee that the presidency would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes across the 50 states and District of Columbia. NPV addresses a problematic barrier to a more fully involved and counted electorate — the winner-take-all system — under which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in that state.





 



Common Cause Statement to Hearing at the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights - “‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws: Civil Rights and Public Safety Implications of the Expanded Use of Deadly Force”

 

Oct. 29, 2013

 

Common Cause is a national nonpartisan advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for ordinary citizens to make their voices heard in the political process. On behalf of our 300,000 members and supporters, Common Cause appreciates the opportunity to submit this statement to this Committee regarding insider trading and congressional accountability. 

 

Common Cause commends Senator Durbin and the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights for holding a hearing today to examine the many implications of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-backed “Stand Your Ground” laws. In addition to documenting the laws’ impact on civil rights and public safety, it is important for the public to fully understand the process by which such legislation was introduced, debated, and ultimately enacted in various jurisdictions around the country. While ALEC recently disbanded the task force that promoted “Stand Your Ground” bills, more sunlight needs to be shed on how it is that the nation’s largest gun lobby can team up with a tax-exempt group to pass such controversial legislation in more than two dozen states without any meaningful oversight or legal consequences.


 



Testimony of Karen Hobert Flynn before United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary -- From Selma to Shelby County: Working Together to Restore the Protections of the Voting Rights Act 

 

July 17, 2013
 

The Supreme Court’s radical and shameful Shelby County1 decision, striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, dealt an immeasurable blow to crucial voter protections that took decades to secure and enjoyed nearly universal bipartisan support.

Since 1965, the Voting Rights Act, with Section 4 intact, has served as America’s most effective weapon against voter discrimination, preventing communities and states with a demonstrated history of racial and ethnic discrimination from impeding minority participation in our democracy.

The preclearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act is not the "perpetuation of racial entitlement" suggested by Justice Scalia earlier this year, but a reaffirmation of our commitment to the core value of
American democracy: that every citizen has the right to participate in the political process and make his or her voice heard.

 



Common Cause Letter to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration

 

June 21, 2013

 

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that is dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard in the political process. We appreciate the opportunity to submit this testimony in connection with the efforts of the Commission to address voting issues in our country.


Common Cause is uniquely situated to assist in your efforts as we have a robust election protection and voting rights program, and significantly, we have staff, volunteers and members on the ground in 35 states that are actively engaged in monitoring elections as they occur. In addition, Common Cause works with local election officials, state legislatures and state election officials, as well as local and national civic engagement groups, to monitor, reform and implement improvements to the voting laws and processes in states throughout the country on a year-round basis.  


 



Statement by Common Cause Committee on House Administration Markup of H.R. 94, H.R. 95 & H.R. 1994

June 25, 2012

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that is dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard in the political process.

We urge Members of Congress to reject H.R. 94, 95, and 1994. The Presidential Funding Program and the EAC are important components of an honest and fair election system that suffer from congressional neglect and gridlock, not from any inherent flaw, Instead of eliminating these important democracy reform tools, members of this Committee and both parties in Congress need to work together to strengthen and expand our public financing system for presidential elections to provide the Election Assistance Commission with the resources it needs to perform its duties.




Testimony by Common Cause
House Ways and Means Hearing
Internal Revenue Service Targeting of Conservative Groups

 

May 17, 2013


Thank you for the opportunity to submit written testimony for today’s hearing on Internal Revenue Service treatment of 501(c)(4) organizations and their political spending. Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest, and accountable government that works for the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard.

 

All organizations, regardless of political affiliation and ideological leaning, deserve to be treated fairly, justly, and equally under the law. The IRS did not use these standards in its review of 501(c)(4) applications, and the employees and those with knowledge of what was happening should be held accountable.

 





 



Common Cause Testimony for the Senate Committee on the Judiciary


December 19, 2012

 

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that is dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard in the political process. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony on the state of the right to vote after the 2012 election.

It should not be an endurance sport to vote in our country, yet tens of thousands of Americans from every political stripe faced lines up to 6 hours long because of inadequate planning, unfair rules and restricted access to the ballot box. Voter suppression became a catch-all name for the many restrictive voting laws and policies underlying the 2012 election cycle.[1] The resulting impact on voters during the 2012 election was profound – long lines, hundreds of thousands of provisional ballots, confusion over ID rules and intimidation frustrated our right to vote. What we learned from voters at polling locations across the country makes a compelling case for significant changes to our elections process.




Testimony to the Subcommittee on The Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights of the United States Senate Committee

July 24, 2012

Common Cause is a national nonpartisan advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for ordinary citizens to make their voices heard in the political process. On behalf of our 400,000 members and supporters, we appreciate the opportunity to submit this testimony to this Subcommittee about the proliferation of Super PACs and the call for an Amendment to the Constitution to restore the voices of average, ordinary Americans in our elections once and for all.

Mr. Chairman, Super PACs have transformed our elections into the sport of kings. Billionaires and corporations are pooling unlimited sums of money into joint accounts, pledging astronomical sums in support of or opposition to candidates, and recklessly drowning out the voices of the American people. These corporations and mega donors are motivated by an expectation of influence and access, often at the expense of the public interest. We cannot afford to auction off our vibrant democracy to the highest bidder.






Testimony of Jenny Flanagan on Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation

June 25, 2012

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that is dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard in the political process.

Voter suppression has become a household phrase in recent months, and that is nothing to be proud of. The single most fundamental right of every American citizen is to cast a ballot in an election and be counted in our democratic process. It is disheartening that in the 21st century we are here today to address a crisis in our elections where partisan operatives utilize trickery and deceit to change election outcomes.





Common Cause Statement to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

 

Dec. 1, 2011

 

 

Common Cause is a national nonpartisan advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for ordinary citizens to make their voices heard in the political process. On behalf of our 300,000 members and supporters, Common Cause appreciates the opportunity to submit this statement to this Committee regarding insider trading and congressional accountability. 

 

Recent press reports concerning Congressional insider trading raise serious questions about the strength of our nation’s laws that guard against profiting or trading on material nonpublic information.[1]  Under current law, individuals are prohibited from trading on the basis of material nonpublic information in violation of a duty of trust and confidence.[2] However, the state of the law is far from a beacon of clarity, and its nuances are absent from the United States Code.[3] In the wake of thin statutory guidance, insider trading law has largely taken shape in court decisions interpreting Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10-b5.[4] 


 



Common Cause Statement to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

 

Dec. 1, 2011

 

 

Common Cause is a national nonpartisan advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for ordinary citizens to make their voices heard in the political process. On behalf of our 300,000 members and supporters, Common Cause appreciates the opportunity to submit this statement to this Committee regarding insider trading and congressional accountability. 

 

Recent press reports concerning Congressional insider trading raise serious questions about the strength of our nation’s laws that guard against profiting or trading on material nonpublic information.[1]  Under current law, individuals are prohibited from trading on the basis of material nonpublic information in violation of a duty of trust and confidence.[2] However, the state of the law is far from a beacon of clarity, and its nuances are absent from the United States Code.[3] In the wake of thin statutory guidance, insider trading law has largely taken shape in court decisions interpreting Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10-b5.[4] 


 



Common Cause Testimony to the Subcommittee on Elections of the Committee on House Administration Hearing on the Federal Election Commission: Reviewing Policies, Processes and Procedures

 

Nov. 3, 2011

 

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. FEC overturned decades of well-settled law and opened up the floodgates to unlimited corporate and union spending in our electoral process. In the most recent 2010 elections, over $3.6 billion in political spending influenced the vote -- a historic high for a midterm election.[1] Of that sum, $133 million funded independent expenditures and electioneering communications by groups that never disclosed the source and/or donors of their money.[2] With the 2012 presidential election well undearway, Super PACs and other so-called independent groups have announced their plans to shatter outside spending records. For example, American Crossroads announced its goal to raise and spend $240 million, doubling its original aspirations.[3] A former political operative of President Obama is leading a Super PAC that hopes to raise close to $100 million.[4] 

 

Distressingly, at precisely the time when a deluge of secret money is inundating our political system, inaction at the Federal Election Commission has resulted in a vacuum around the enforcement and administration of campaign finance laws. The 2010 midterm elections provided a mere glimpse of a new and rapidly changing campaign finance regime that is riddled with loopholes and flush with secret cash. Shadow political organizations headed by candidates’ well-known political associates are exploiting weak coordination rules, directly threatening contribution limits and dismantling the confidence of the American people in their representative democracy. While an individual may lawfully contribute up to $2,500 to a candidate per election -- those same individuals, along with corporations and unions, are now free to contribute an unlimited amount of money to parallel but “independent” Super PACs, which are then entitled to spend an unlimited sum of money supporting or opposing candidates. 



Reply Comments in the matter of Framework for Broadband Internet Service (net neutrality), filed at the FCC by Common Cause

 

 

Common Cause respectfully urges the Commission to classify the Internet connectivity portion of broadband Internet service as a telecommunications service in order to protect the public interest, and establish enforceable rules that will keep the Internet open and non-discriminatory.  "Net neutrality" is critical to preserving the free flow of information that enables us as a society to solve problems, innovate, and most importantly, self-govern.
 

Download the full comments (PDF).

 

 



Written Testimony of Bob Edgar, President, Common Cause, Presented to the Committee on House Administration on H.R. 5175, the DISCLOSE Act

 

May 6, 2010

The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC served as a wake-up call to elected officials and average citizens alike. Members of Congress look out on the prospect of elections marked by an onslaught of special interest money that is now truly unlimited. Average citizens look out onto a country that seems even more thoroughly dominated by corporations, labor unions and Wall Street. The pessimism the decision created is by itself enough to spur us into action. The Court’s holding, however, compels us to answer an even more fundamental question: “Who was our government established to protect?”

The DISCLOSE Act is a clear statement that it is the individual, and the individual’s right to participate in democracy, that must be protected. This legislation is needed not only to safeguard the democratic process in the 2010 elections but to blunt the aggregate impact of dangerous and ideological decisions. The Roberts Court’s rapid succession of activist decisions has effectively dismantled a generation of post-Watergate campaign reforms and removed the prohibition on political spending from corporate and union treasuries in place since 1947. Indeed, the impact is not limited to federal law. Countless state laws have been either directly or indirectly nullified by these same decisions.

 

Read the complete testimony.



Testimony of Emmet J. Bondurant, Esq., Member of the Common Cause National Governing Board, sumbitted to the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration - Hearing on "Examining the Filibuster: History of the Filibuster, 1789-2008" - April 22, 2010

 

On behalf of Common Cause, our members, and our supporters across the United States, we thank the Committee for the opportunity to provide this written testimony on the history of the filibuster. Common Cause strongly supports reform of the filibuster to put an end to obstruction and minority vetoes in the United States Senate.


Filibusters, as a parliamentary tactic, were unknown at the time the Constitution was adopted. Nor was there any “right” of unlimited debate under the rules adopted at the first sessions of both the Senate and the House of Representatives immediately after the ratification of the Constitution in 1789.i A majority of either house could end debate and bring a measure to a final vote on a motion for the previous question.


Since 1789, the rules of the House have consistently provided for a limitation on debate by moving the previous question. Under the current Rules of the Senate, debate cannot be limited without (a) unanimous consent or (b) the adoption of a cloture motion, which requires a vote of a supermajority of at least 60 Senators.   Download the full testimony (PDF).

 



Testimony of Bob Edgar, President of Common Cause, to the Subcommittee on Elections of the Committee on House Administration on Modernizing the Election Registration Process

 

October 21, 2009

Common Cause strongly supports the Voter Registration Modernization Act of 2009 (H.R. 1719), a bill which will help encourage voter participation and provide a more streamlined, accurate and cost-efficient voter registration process by utilizing existing technologies to register voters online.

Currently, the voter registration process in most states involves the voter filling out a hard paper copy of the voter registration form. While most states provide downloadable paper forms that a voter can fill out and return, a hard copy must still be printed out so that it can be signed and mailed. This then requires a data entry process on the part of the state or county, which creates opportunities for manual error and adds unnecessary costs, delay and uncertainty.

H.R. 1719 will allow eligible citizens to register to vote in federal elections entirely online as well as to update or correct their existing registrations online. More people of all ages are using the Internet to carry out daily transactions ranging from online banking to making airplane reservations to filing taxes. The ease of this type of transaction should expand to voter registration over the Internet. Several states have already begun this process, with encouraging results.

Download the full testimony (PDF).

 

 

 



Testimony of Arn H. Pearson Vice President for Programs, Common Cause Presented to the Committee on House Administration on H.R. 1826, the Fair Elections Now Act

 

July 30, 2009

Chairman Brady, Ranking Member Lungren, and distinguished members of the Committee on House Administration, thank you for the opportunity to testify. My name is Arn Pearson, and I am vice president for programs at Common Cause.

For almost 40 years, Common Cause has provided a nonpartisan voice for reforms that make government more open, honest and accountable to the American people. In the wake of the Watergate scandal, we led efforts to create the Federal Election Campaign Act in 1974, ushering in the system of campaign finance regulation and presidential public funding that federal candidates have run under for more than thirty years. But times have changed, and that system is in bad need of an upgrade. You have before you today, in the Fair Elections Now Act, a golden opportunity to craft a new framework for the 21st Century that will improve the quality of campaigns, give you more time to serve the public interest, and restore public confidence in the integrity of Congress. 

Download the full testimony (PDF).

 

 

 



Brief of Amici Curiae Filed by Justice at Stake, Common Cause, et al., to the Supreme Court of the United States

 

As part of the broader list of threats articulated by other amici curiae, Justice at Stake and its allies write to emphasize that overruling Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, 494 U.S. 652 (1990), and consequently portions of McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, 540 U.S. 93 (2003), would have a profound and negative effect on the selection of state court judges and could damage the integrity of the judiciary.


Special interest spending on judicial elections - by corporations, labor unions, and other groups - poses an unprecedented threat to public trust in the courts and to the rights of litigants. This has been recognized and discussed by journalists, academics, and leading jurists, including the Conference of Chief Justices. This Court itself held last term in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., Inc., 129 S.Ct. 2252 (2009), that some independent expenditures in judicial campaigns are so excessive that they in fact deny litigants due process under the law. If corporate treasury spending were unregulated in judicial elections, these concerns would only get worse.

Download the full brief (PDF).

 

 

 



Brief of Amici Curiae Filed by Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, et al., to the Supreme Court of the United States

 

For more than a half-century, American elections have been conducted without resort to the immense aggregated wealth in corporate treasuries. The laws effecting this restriction were upheld by this Court in McConnell v. FEC, 540 U.S. 93 (2003), and Austin v. Michigan State Chamber of Commerce, 494 U.S. 652 (1990), and approved as recently as the 2007 decision in FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. (WRTL), 127 S. Ct. 2652 (2007).  Appellant Citizens United requests that this Court now overturn Austin and part of McConnell. Amici respectfully submit that this Court should not take this radical step.

 

First, overturning these decisions would effectively render unconstitutional the 60-year-old federal restriction on corporate and union expenditures in federal elections, see 2 U.S.C. § 441b, as well as the statutes in 24 states that prohibit or limit corporate spending in state elections.  Such action would also controvert the long line of Supreme Court decisions approving restrictions on corporate and union spending in candidate elections.

Download the full brief (PDF).

 

 

 



Reply Comments on Broadcast Ownership by Women and Minorities, filed at the FCC by Benton Foundation, Common Cause, Media Alliance, National Organization for Women Foundation and Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, Inc.

 

 

The Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, Inc. (“UCC”), the National Organization for Women Foundation (“NOW”), Media Alliance, Common Cause, and the Benton Foundation (collectively, UCC et al.), by their counsel, the Institute for Public Representation, respectfully submit these reply comments in the above referenced proceedings.


The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) has offered an impressive range of programs and policies designed to increase women and minority ownership. In earlier comments, UCC et al. already addressed many of MMTC’s proposals and urged the Commission to give them serious consideration.1 Thus, these reply comments are limited to a few points. First, because many of MMTC’s proposals involve giving certain preferences to socially disadvantaged businesses (SDBs), the success of these proposals turns on having an appropriately tailored definition of a SDB. Only one commenter—Clear Channel—has proposed an SDB definition, and as detailed below, this proposed definition is too broad and subject to potential abuse. Second, in addition to having an appropriate definition for SDBs, MMTC’s incubator proposal can only be effective if the Commission retains strict ownership limits and adopts clear and meaningful standards for evaluating incubator programs. Third, without having information regarding the number of expiring construction permits, it is difficult to evaluate MMTC’s proposal to allow the transfer of expiring construction permits to SDBs. However, UCC et al. suggest it might be more effective to re-auction expired construction permits in an SDB-only auction. Finally, UCC et al. reiterate the need for the FCC to reform its data collection and analysis of minority and female ownership.

 

Download the full comments (PDF).

 

 

 



Testimony of Common Cause President Bob Edgar for the Subcommittee on Elections of the House Oversight Committee

 

 

Common Cause is a national nonpartisan nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for ordinary citizens to make their voices heard in the political process.  On behalf of our 300,000 members and supporters, we appreciate the opportunity to submit this testimony to the House Subcommittee on Elections regarding absentee voting and voting by mail.

 

Common Cause generally supports making it easier for citizens to cast a ballot and for elections officials to accurately tally the results.  Expanding the opportunities to vote absentee and by mail helps advance both of those goals.  To this end, Common Cause supports bills introduced by Representative Susan Davis to allow all citizens to cast a ballot by mail if they prefer to in a federal election (H. R. 281), track the processing of their mailed in ballot (H.R. 1646), and establish a grant program for vote by mail pilot projects in the states (H. R. 1667).

Download the full testimony (PDF).

 

 



Comments on Digital Radio, filed at the FCC by Benton Foundation, Campaign Legal Center, Center for Governmental Studies, Common Cause, New America Foundation, Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, Inc. and Prometheus Radio Project.

 

 

With the transition to digital radio, the Commission has a rare opportunity to address documented failures in providing listeners with diverse and local programming. The transition to digital will provide broadcasters with additional programming capacity, and the Commission must use this opportunity to promote its goals of diversity, localism, and competition. The Public Interest Coalition supports the Commission’s efforts to ensure that with the additional programming capacity, broadcasters, in return for the exclusive use of the public airwaves, provide meaningful service to the public. Thus, the Public Interest Coalition urges the Commission to adopt rules and policies in which the public will gain substantial benefits from the new technology.

 

Download the full comments (PDF).

 

 

 



Comments on Broadcast Ownership by Women and Minorities, filed at the FCC by Benton Foundation, Common Cause, Media Alliance, National Organization for Women Foundation and Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, Inc.

 

 

UCC et al. submit these comments in response to the Commission’s request for comments on proposals put forth by the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) for advancing broadcast ownership opportunities for women and minorities consistent with constitutional requirements and the Commission’s statutory authority. UCC et al. have already commented at length on MMTC’s proposals, as well as the Failed Station Solicitation Rule (FSSR), in its comments filed in October 2006; therefore, it will not duplicate those points here.


...

 

These comments propose neutral methods that would encourage women’s and minority participation in broadcast ownership without reliance on gender- or race-based classifications. First, we reiterate that tightening and enforcing current ownership restrictions is the single most
effective gender- and race-neutral method of increasing ownership by underrepresented groups. Data show that women and minorities are more likely to own broadcast stations in competitive, un-concentrated markets; as markets consolidate, ownership by underrepresented groups decreases. Limiting station ownership to current or even stricter levels will also enhance opportunities for minorities and women to own broadcast stations by freeing-up additional stations for purchase and by making it easier for them to obtain the capital needed to finance such purchases.

 

While the Commission must adopt ownership rules that will encourage ownership by women and minorities, it must also assess the impact of its current programs. In particular, the new entrant bidding credit, which was adopted by the Commission in 1998 to help women and minorities acquire licenses in broadcast auctions, has never been evaluated by the Commission. Unfortunately, the credit appears to have been exploited by wealthy incumbent broadcasters and, as a result, “true” new entrants have been edged out and tax payers have been deprived of millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Finally, the Commission must reform its data collection and analysis. The Commission is well aware of the myriad problems concerning its data on minority and women’s ownership levels. Good policy cannot be built upon bad data. Thus, the Commission must cure its chronic failure to collect and analyze information on ownership by underrepresented groups.

 

Download the full comments (PDF).

 

 



Petition for Reconsideration on Digital Audio Broadcasting Systems and their impact on the terrestrial radio broadcast service, filed at the FCC by New America Foundation, Prometheus Radio Project, Benton Foundation, Common Cause, Center for Digital Democracy, Center for Governmental Studies and Free Press.

 

 

The FCC should reconsider its decision to allow incumbent radio licensees to expand into neighboring spectrum without imposing additional public interest requirements. The Second Report & Order is premised on the unexamined and unsupported assumption that the Commission is not assigning new spectrum for mutually exclusive commercial uses to incumbent licensees. Because of this erroneous premise, the FCC completely fails to consider a key question of whether the spectrum should be used for alternative purposes, such as noncommercial low power FM (“LPFM”) or unlicensed uses, or auctioned pursuant to Section 309(j).

 

Download the full comments (PDF).

 

 

 



Testimony of Common Cause, Submitted to the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, House Committee on Energy and Commerce - Hearing on The Future of Radio - March 7, 2007

 

Common Cause, a nonpartisan organization that works to strengthen our democracy, strenuously objects to the proposed merger between XM and Sirius satellite radio. Approval of this merger would not only create an unfair monopoly, but could also spark a tidal wave of consolidation among media companies that would leave citizens’ informational needs behind. Common Cause, and its 300,000 members and supporters, urges this subcommittee to carefully scrutinize this merger. At the very least, if this merger is permitted to go forward, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) must ensure that conditions are attached to ensure that the merger’s potential public interest harms are mitigated.


XM and Sirius received licenses to use the publicly-owned airwaves on the condition that the two companies would not merge. The FCC was presumably concerned then about the hazards of a monopoly in satellite radio service. That concern should be even greater today.  Download the full testimony (PDF).



Testimony of Sarah Dufendach, Chief of Legislative Affairs for Common Cause, Before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties - Hearing on Lobby and Ethics Reform, March 1, 2007

 

Chairman Nadler, Ranking Minority Member Franks, and members of the Subcommittee, Common Cause welcomes this opportunity to testify on ethics and lobby reform. For 37 years, Common Cause has worked for an open, accountable and ethical Congress. This issue matters greatly to our 300,000 members and supporters.

 

It also matters greatly to the American public as a whole. Last fall, voters demonstrated that last year’s Congressional scandals greatly disturbed them. One member of this chamber resigned in disgrace and was recently sentenced to 30 months in prison for making false statements and conspiracy to commit fraud, charges related to his acceptance of lavish trips and other favors from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Another member pled guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from a defense contractor, and is serving a prison term of eight years and four months. A third member made questionable advances to House pages, and left office under an ethical cloud.. Yet another member remains the subject of a federal investigation examining whether he accepted or solicited bribes from a foreign business interest for his efforts to gain them contracts with U.S. firms.

 

There is no mistaking the cumulative impact of last year’s headlines. The public made clear its distaste for what appeared to be a culture of corruption in Washington at the polls last November.  Download the full testimony (PDF).



Testimony of Celia Viggo Wexler, Vice President for Advocacy at Common Cause, Before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform - Hearing on Contributions to Presidential Libraries - February 28, 2007

 

Common Cause appreciates the opportunity to testify before this committee on this issue. Over its 37-year history, Common Cause, and its 300,000 members and supporters, has been concerned about the influence of wealthy special interests on our politics and public policy. While there are disclosure requirements and limits for campaign contributions to presidential candidates, there are few, if any, restrictions, on the fundraising a president does to ensure his or her legacy.


For this reason Common Cause strongly supports legislation now being drafted by Chairman Waxman that would require quarterly, full public disclosure of donations of $200 or more to presidential fundraising organizations. Wisely, this proposal requires disclosure beyond the time a president leaves office, ending only when the presidential library is dedicated and turned over to the National Archives & Records Administration.


This proposal greatly enhances the public’s access to information because it also requires that contribution information be made available in a timely manner on the Internet in a searchable, sortable, downloadable database, without any fee or access charges.  Download the full testimony (PDF).



Testimony of Common Cause President Chellie Pingree on HR 550, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2005

 

Sept. 28, 2006

 

Common Cause strongly supports H.R. 550, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2005, that would require electronic voting machines to produce a voter-verifiable paper ballot.

 

The voting debacle in the recent Maryland primary makes clear that electronic voting machines are not ready for the critical task of casting and counting votes.  But of the many problems in our system of voting, this one is fixable. Congress can move quickly to pass H.R. 550 and require a voter verifiable paper ballot with mandatory random audits for electronic voting machines and help restore voters' faith in our elections system.

 

Since 2003, when Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) first introduced H.R. 550, computer security experts have almost unanimously endorsed his plan for requiring every voting machine in the United States to produce or incorporate a paper record of each voter's ballot that can be checked and verified by that voter, and used in subsequent recounts and audits.Download the full testimony (PDF)



June 7, 2006

Chairman Hastings, Ranking Member Berman and members of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, thank you for the opportunity to testify before this committee as it considers possible changes to House rules governing gifts of travel from private sources.

 

The goal of any changes you recommend to existing travel rules should be to prevent the kinds of abuses that have come to light as a result of the investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff. It is clear that Mr. Abramoff supplied numerous members of the House with things of value, including trips.



Common Cause 2005 Lobbying Disclosure
Uploaded: February 13, 2006

Download PDF of Disclosure Filing



Testimony of Common Cause President Chellie Pingree before the House Committee on Government Reform

February 1, 2006

Chairman Davis, Representative Waxman, and Members of the Committee, Common Cause appreciates this opportunity to testify on legislative efforts to address the recent scandals in Congress and begin to restore the public’s trust in government.Download PDF version



Chairman Davis, Representative Waxman, and Members of the Committee, Common Cause appreciates this opportunity to testify on legislative efforts to address the recent scandals in Congress and begin to restore the public's trust in government.



Eight Election Verification Groups Send Opposition Letter to Congress
Urge Full Compliance of HAVA by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission

October 3, 2005

 

As organizations representing American voters with a vested interest in the process that governs public elections, we urge that you direct the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to adhere to all of the provisions of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) law. In direct violation of the HAVA law, the EAC is attempting to delay a new testing laboratory accreditation process for voting systems used in public elections until 2007. The EAC’s actions could undo HAVA’s goal to create in practice more reliable, secure, accessible, transparent, accurate, and auditable public elections.

 

Specifically, we are very troubled by the decision of the EAC to keep in place the existing voting technology certification process beyond the period designated by HAVA. On August 18, 2005, the EAC announced that the current voting technology certification process will be in place until the spring of 2007, with only one change: instead of the National Association of State Elections Directors (NASED) providing oversight of the three NASED approved laboratories the EAC will perform that function.

 

Read the full letter to the House of Representatives
Read the full letter to the Senate



Statement of Celia Viggo Wexler, Vice President for Advocacy, Common Cause, before the Board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

September 26, 2005

I appreciate having this opportunity to address the board today.

 

This is a time of turmoil for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

 

  • Once again, some members of Congress, in Katrina's wake, are considering zeroing out federal support for public broadcasting.

  • The CPB is the subject of an investigation by its own Inspector General.

  • All the intense focus on "balance" in public broadcasting has jeopardized serious reporting according to those who have been in the public broadcasting family for many years.  This summer, we heard that the environment of fear is "worse than in the days of Nixon," when the President did all he could to eliminate all news and public affairs programs from the public television lineup. 

Particularly in these perilous times, the public has a right to know how you reach the decisions you make to spend their money.  We've called for process reforms because we believe that too much of the real work of the CPB gets done in private, behind closed doors.  Public broadcasting is known for its fine mystery programs.  The workings of the CPB should not be one of them.

 

Read the full testimony (PDF)





 

In California and around the country, we have a broken redistricting system where incumbents are given the power to tailor-make their own designer districts. This system of redistricting turns democracy on its head because it allows incumbents to choose the voters they want to represent. The 2001 redistricting map created safe seats for all incumbents, and even their chosen successors, resulting in two rounds of state elections where not one incumbent lost and not one seat switched parties.

 

Read the testimony (PDF)