For Immediate Release

Contact: Dale Eisman

April 16, 2014

(202) 736-5788

 

 

 

 

Common Cause Hails New York's Adoption of National Popular Vote Plan

 

 

Action this week in New York has brought Americans an important step closer to ensuring that the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in November takes the oath of office in January, Common Cause said today.


“With the Empire State’s adoption of the National Popular Vote compact, and solid prospects for a similar victory in Connecticut, we’re nearly two-thirds of the way toward establishment of a truly democratic system for choosing our Presidents,” said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature on Monday of a bill passed earlier by the state legislature made New York the 10th state (plus the District of Columbia) to adopt the compact. Participating jurisdictions agree to cast their electoral votes for the candidate who amasses the highest popular vote nationwide on Election Day; the compact will take effect once it’s adopted by states with 270 electors, a majority.


States with 165 electors, 61 percent of the total needed, are now part of the agreement.


Four of the nation’s 44 Presidents took office after elections in which they were outpolled on Election Day but gained a majority in the Electoral College. The most recent of those contests came in 2000, when Democrat Al Gore narrowly prevailed in the popular vote but was defeated in the Electoral College.


“With National Popular Vote in place, candidates will have an incentive to campaign everywhere, not just in the swing states that are the focus of today’s presidential contests,” Rapoport said. “The President is the only elected official answerable to all of the people. He or she should be the person who receives the most votes on Election Day.”


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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact: Mary Boyle

April 15, 2014

(202) 736-5770

 

 

 

 

Common Cause Disappointed by Appeals Court's Rejection of Filibuster Suit

 

 

Statement by Stephen Spaulding, Common Cause policy counsel, on today’s DC Circuit Court ruling in Common Cause v. Biden.

“We are disappointed by today’s DC Circuit ruling, and believe that it is wrongly decided. If the court is correct, there is no imaginable recourse for an unconstitutional Senate rule, no matter how egregious. That cannot be the right outcome in our democracy. Our attorneys are reviewing the court’s opinion before deciding on a future course of action.

“It’s important to note that the court’s decision was strictly procedural; the judges did not rule on the merits of our claim that the filibuster rule and its 60 vote requirement for Senate action is unconstitutional.”


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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact: Mary Boyle

April 15, 2014

(202) 736-5770

 

 

 

 

On Tax Day, IRS Chief Delivers Some Good News

 

 

The Internal Revenue Service can do the nation a service on this Tax Day by moving ahead with a re-write of proposed rules regulating the political activity of non-profit “social welfare” organizations, Common Cause said today.

 

“Americans rarely have anything good to say about the tax collector, particularly today,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs. “But Commissioner John Koskinen’s announcement Monday that the IRS intends to continue working to establish clearer rules for politically-active social welfare groups is welcome news.

 

“Since the Citizens United decision in 2010, political operatives have used the social welfare tax exemption to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into our elections while hiding the identity of the donors. It’s past time to bring that dark money into the sunshine,” Hobert Flynn said.

 

Common Cause is among many non-profits that have serious reservations about the original IRS draft -- it would categorize important voter engagement activity, like nonpartisan voter registration, as candidate-related political activity. But the agency can easily modify those proposed rules to focus on the type of major political spending that requires groups to register as a Section 527 political organization and disclose their donors without burdening groups engaged in legitimate, non-partisan work, she asserted.

 

As political committees, current social welfare groups like Republican strategist Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and Priorities USA, a prominent supporter of President Obama, would retain their tax-exempt status. “The only thing that would change is that voters would be able to see who is funding those groups and using them to influence our elections,” Hobert Flynn said.

 

“Although most groups that submitted public comments about the proposed rules favored fixing them, a chorus of hard-edged partisans who’ve prospered under the agency’s existing, outdated rules and lack of enforcement generated a flood of comments against the proposed change. Some of them clearly hoped to bully the IRS into ignoring its responsibility to uphold the law; it’s nice to see Commissioner Koskinen stand up to them,” Hobert Flynn said.

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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact: Mary Boyle

April 9, 2014

(202) 736-5770

 

 

 

 

400,000 Join Chorus of Protest Against Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger

 

WASHINGTON — As the Senate Judiciary Committee began scrutinizing the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger on Wednesday, 400,000 Americans already had signed petitions urging Washington to reject the deal.

The petitions, organized by public interest groups Common Cause, Consumers Union, Daily Kos, Demand Progress, Free Press and Working Families, will be delivered to the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice, which are charged with reviewing the deal.

If the merger is approved, Comcast will become the dominant cable company for two-thirds of the country and will control over half of the nation’s next-generation broadband customers.

“Comcast has unleashed an army of lobbyists in Washington to win approval of this deal,” said Craig Aaron of Free Press. “But the cable giant can’t fool the American people, who are tired of sky-high prices, lousy customer service and too few companies controlling what they can watch or download. Combining the two largest cable companies would be anti-competitive, anti-consumer and just plain bad for America.”

“Consumers are fed up with Comcast and Time Warner Cable, which already rank toward the bottom when it comes to customer satisfaction,” said Delara Derakhshani of Consumers Union. “This merger is a bad deal for consumers that would give Comcast even greater control of the market and little incentive to improve prices or customer service. It’s no wonder so many consumers are voicing their opposition to this mega-merger."

"Our country lags behind the rest of the developed world on Internet service, speed and affordability,” said Dan Cantor of Working Families. “We should narrow the digital divide by investing in infrastructure — but this mega-merger would only threaten to make that gap worse."

"This merger is a bad deal for the American public and should be denied outright,” said Rachel Colyer of Daily Kos. “No conditions will make this agreement acceptable, as we’ve already seen Comcast did not fulfill agency-mandated merger conditions in the recent past.”

“Comcast and Time Warner Cable may have scores of lobbyists, but policymakers in Washington should listen instead to the hundreds of thousands of everyday people who are saying enough is enough," said Todd O’Boyle of Common Cause. “These two firms have abysmal records of customer service and unseemly influence peddling. A merger should be unthinkable.”

“The market for Internet service already has too few players, not too many,” said David Segal of Demand Progress. “That's why Americans already suffer some of the slowest and priciest Internet access in the developed world. We need to be fostering a more competitive environment — not one where a few corrupt behemoths can throw around their political clout and corner the market.”

On Tuesday, more than 50 public interest groups submitted a letter urging the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice to block the deal.

 

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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact: Mary Boyle

April 7, 2014

(202) 736-5770

 

 

 

 

Democracy Advocates Urge Shaheen, Brown to Get Serious About 'People's Pledge'

 

New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate candidates need to stop playing political games and get serious about a joint effort to craft a "people’s pledge" that would limit the influence of secret, big money donors in this year’s campaign, democracy advocates Common Cause and Public Citizen said today.

"We recently reached out to both Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and former Sen. Scott Brown, who seem to be the most likely candidates, and suggested they step back from politics as usual. They could start by adopting a people’s pledge similar to the one that worked so well in the 2012 Massachusetts Senate race," said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport.

"We think the people’s pledge is good for democracy, good for New Hampshire, and good for the candidates," added Public Citizen President Robert Weissman, "and we hope that Brown and Shaheen work in good faith for a win-win deal, quickly."

"Sen. Brown, who embraced the pledge in Massachusetts, has suggested he will not do so again. We hope he will revisit this position. Sen. Shaheen has signed the Massachusetts version of the pledge; now we hope she will work with Scott Brown on reaching an agreement."

The people’s pledge commits candidates to make charitable donations from their campaign treasuries to offset spending by tax-exempt, “independent expenditure” organizations, most of which rely on anonymous donors. "Since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, those groups have assumed an outsized role in campaigns across the country, typically making six- and seven-figure investments in negative TV ads," Weissman noted.

In Massachusetts, the pledge helped limit spending by outside groups to only 9 percent of the overall campaign total, a fraction of what those groups were able to put into contested races in other states. The pledge also brought Massachusetts a campaign with fewer negative TV ads than were seen in contested races elsewhere and elevated the importance of small dollar donations – along with the people who provide them. Common Cause studies on the impact of the Massachusetts pledge are available here.

"We advanced this proposal in good faith, hopeful that the encouragement of our organizations might bring the candidates together for a discussion that would begin their contest on a positive note," Rapoport said. "We still believe something like the Massachusetts pledge would serve New Hampshire voters well and be a model for other campaigns around the country.

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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact: Mary Boyle

April 2, 2014

(202) 736-5770

 

 

 

 

Again, U.S. Supreme Court Decides Against Democracy

 

McCutcheon ruling allows individuals to donate millions per election cycle, further drowning out voters' voices

 

The Roberts Court today continued its drive to give Americans a government of, by and for big money.

"Today’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC is Citizens United round two, further opening the floodgates for the nation’s wealthiest few to drown out the voices of the rest of us," said Miles Rapoport, president of Common Cause.

"The Court has reversed nearly 40 years of its own precedents, laid out a welcome mat for corruption, and turned its back on the lessons learned from the Watergate scandal," said Rapoport. "This decision once again demonstrates the Court majority’s ignorance of the real world of American politics, the one in which big money buys big returns."

Thanks to today’s decision, a politician will be able to solicit a $3.6 million check for party committees and federal candidates from a single donor, consigning to background noise the hundreds of millions of Americans who can’t afford to give more than $5, $10 or even $100 to parties or the candidates of their choice.

"This is a return to the ‘soft money’ era, in which donors could hide six- and seven-figure gifts to individual candidates by donating the money to joint committees or party committees that simply passed it to the intended recipient," Rapoport said. "It’s naïve to think that such vast sums of political money do not buy special access and favors."

Whether in Washington, at the statehouse or at city hall, major donors get major access to the officials their money helps elect; their lobbyists are invited to help write and amend laws that impact their businesses, and they are rewarded with government jobs, contracts and tax breaks. This system already has helped produce economic inequality unlike any seen in America since before the Great Depression; the court today almost certainly made it worse.

"Today’s ruling makes it clear that, with the current Court, the only way to get meaningful campaign reform is by passing a constitutional amendment authorizing Congress and the states to limit campaign spending," said Rapoport.

Common Cause-backed resolutions calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment have been approved by voters, state legislatures or local governments in 16 states and hundreds of localities coast-to-coast. In addition, Common Cause will continue to push for public financing of campaigns at the federal, state and local levels, as well as improved disclosure of political money.

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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact: Mary Boyle

March 31, 2014

(202) 736-5770

 

 

 

 

Common Cause Lauds FCC Moves to Bolster Independent, Local Media

 

The Federal Communications Commission has taken a welcome step to strengthen independent, locally-owned media, issuing new rules that begin closing loopholes broadcasters have used to cut costs and pad their profits by combining newsrooms and other operations, Common Cause said Monday.

 

"We’re hopeful that today's announcement marks the long overdue start of a new era of public interest leadership," said Michael Copps, special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative. The loopholes the commission attacked, "allow one entity to exert operational and even editorial control over multiple stations in the same market," he added.


A former FCC member, Copps said the commission "should be commended for taking on the forces of monopoly and consolidation, and promptly take the next steps to guarantee Americans are served by the media ecosystem that they deserve and self government requires."


The FCC's ownership rules are designed to prevent one entity from dominating the local media. Closing these loopholes contributes to a more informed electorate by promoting media diversity and localism, Copps said.

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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact: Mary Boyle

March 11, 2014

(202) 736-5770

 

 

 

 

Presidential Public Financing System Needs Strengthening, Not Dismantling

Congress is moving in exactly the wrong direction with passage of a bill to end the use of public funds to support presidential nominating conventions, Common Cause said Tuesday.

The non-partisan government watchdog organization urged President Obama to veto the legislation, HR 2019, which came to the Senate floor with little warning and was passed Tuesday by unanimous consent.

“This bill takes a cynical approach to two serious problems,” said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport. “First, it strengthens the hold of millionaire donors, corporations, trade groups and other special interests on our political parties and their candidates. Those big donors will swoop in to cover convention expenses now absorbed by public funds, and they’ll extract all manner of special favors in return.”

The legislation also falsely purports to divert the $36 million now available every four years for conventions to support research into childhood diseases, Rapoport said. In fact, that money would be appropriated through the normal congressional review process, with no guarantee that it would wind up helping sick kids.

“Rather than further dismantling our broken presidential public financing system, and strengthening the power of big money donors in the bargain, Congress and the administration should focus on fixing the system and extending it to congressional races so that all candidates in 2016 will want to use it,” Rapoport said.

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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

March 5, 2014

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Group Tied to President Obama Opened White House Doors for Major Donors

 

 

Despite public promises that it would not do so, a lobbying and advocacy organization with close ties to the Obama administration appears to have promised some major contributors special access to the President and federal officials in return for their financial support, Common Cause said today.

 

An NBC News report that Organizing for Action (OFA) promised a brief meeting with the President to a six-figure donor and then tried to re-direct the money to an allied group that would not have to disclose the contribution "is a disquieting illustration of the power of big money to open doors in Washington," said Arn Pearson, Common Cause’s vice president for policy and litigation.

 

The donor involved, Dr. Joseph Piacentile, is a New Jersey doctor who was hoping to secure a presidential pardon for his 1991 conviction on Medicare fraud and tax evasion charges, NBC said. OFA returned his $100,000 check after the network raised questions about it and Piacentile apparently was not permitted to join "a small clutch" of Obama supporters who met privately with the President after an OFA-sponsored event last week.

 

NBC said a New Jersey businessman, Munr Kazmir, acted as a middleman for the aborted donation, delivering Piacentile’s check. Kazmir, a Republican "bundler" of political money with close ties to Governor Chris Christie, told the network that OFA executive director Jon Carson was able to secure meetings with a White House aide and an official at the Agency for International Development to discuss a legal judgment against him for failure to repay a $2.5 million loan from the Overseas Private Insurance Group, a federal agency. He apparently did not receive any help as a result of those meetings.

 

"This is the sort of pay-to-play operation that President Obama correctly identified as corrosive to our democracy and promised to end when he first ran for President, and it raises troubling ethical and legal concerns," Pearson said. "OFA promised last year that it would not provide access for cash, but it appears that that promise has been ignored."

 

NBC said OFA has acknowledged steering two other major donations it felt uncomfortable accepting to groups that are allowed to conceal their donors.

 

The fundraiser who handled the Piancentile check has been fired, and Carson has issued a memo stating that OFA "fell short" on its ethical standards and recommitting OFA to a policy of not providing access to donors or redirecting contributions to other nonprofits.

 

"OFA and President Obama need to make good on their promises, operate with full transparency, and take steps to end the pay-to-play culture in Washington, not add to it," Pearson said.

 

After Common Cause and other watchdog groups challenged its reported access-for-cash plans last year, OFA said it would reject corporate gifts and disclose all contributions larger than $250.

 

"Those were positive steps and we praised them," Pearson said, "but it’s clear that OFA and groups like it, legally 'independent' but closely aligned with powerful elected officials, thrive in part because they can connect those officials to wealthy donors. President Obama was elected in part because Americans believed he would change this seamy side of our political culture. It’s past time for him to get serious about doing so."

 

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

February 28, 2014

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




IRS Must End Misuse of Nonprofits to Hide Political Spending But Proposed Rules As Drafted Need Major Revisions, Common Cause Asserts

 

 

The “social welfare” organizations and other tax exempt groups that funneled hundreds of millions of dollars from anonymous donors into the 2012 presidential and congressional elections ran a “charade (that) must not be repeated,” Common Cause asserted today.

The nonpartisan government watchdog group praised the Internal Revenue Service for taking steps to stop the misuse of social welfare groups to hide political spending, but criticized the agency’s draft rules as being too broad in some areas while leaving big loopholes in others.

"It is critical to the preservation of an open, honest and accountable government that Treasury and the IRS tackle the difficult problem of shining a light on political spending by nonprofits,” saidCommon Cause counsel Stephen Spaulding. "But the rules as currently drafted would interfere with important nonpartisan voter education, registration and mobilization activities, while still allowing groups like Crossroads GPS to pour millions of secret dollars into political attack ads outside of a narrow pre-election window.

"Groups that engage in genuinely nonpartisan civic engagement, like voter registration and turnout drives, should be able to continue doing so under the existing rules, without undue reporting burdens. But when social welfare organizations are heavily involved in partisan electioneering, obviously promoting the election of some candidates and the defeat of others, those activities should be financed through political committees organized under Section 527 of the tax code. That designation allows them to remain tax-exempt but requires donor disclosure," Spaulding added.

The Common Cause proposal was submitted Thursday, shortly before the IRS’s deadline for comments on a draft rule that would put new limits on "candidate related political activity" by the social welfare groups. The IRS draft has sparked a record number of public comments, with some Republican leaders charging that it’s part of an attempt by the Obama administration to silence critics of the President.

Common Cause stressed that, despite hype from Tea Party groups, the proposed rules would not prohibit any political spending, but would just require groups to disclose the source of their political dollars.

"We believe there’s a common sense way forward here," Spaulding said. "Notwithstanding the overheated rhetoric coming from some of its critics, the IRS draft is not a threat to free speech. It’s an attempt, which our proposal tries to improve on, to satisfy every voter’s right to know who is paying for attempts to influence our votes.

"At the same time, we acknowledge that social welfare activities can have a political component. Our proposal recognizes that those groups should not be subject to new reporting requirements simply because they devote an insubstantial part of their activities to things other than their tax-exempt mission."

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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.
 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

February 26, 2014

Mary Boyle, 202-736-5770

 

 

 



Common Cause Statement on House Passage of HR 3865, to Preserve the Social Welfare Tax Loophole for Political Non-Profit Groups


Today’s vote continues a shameless, partisan-inspired campaign on behalf of secrecy and deception in politics and government. We urge the Senate to stop it.

 

HR 3865 would preserve a Citizens United-created tax loophole that allows corporations, associations and the super rich to conceal multi-million dollar investments in our elected officials made through non-profit “social welfare” organizations. Its supporters apparently believe that political operators abusing the law should get a free pass, and that voters have no right to know who is trying to buy our elections and what they might want in return for their money..

 

The Treasury Department and the IRS have launched what appears to be a good faith attempt to close the loophole. This bill stops the process dead in its tracks with no justification, so the groups would remain free to dump millions of dollars from anonymous donors into the 2014 election.

Common Cause has called for substantial changes in the initial IRS draft so that legitimate civic engagement activities, like nonpartisan voter registration efforts, are not counted as "candidate-related political activity."


But there is plenty of time to refine the draft in a way that would not disrupt the operations of legitimate social welfare organizations and require dark money political operators to disclose who is funding their hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign ads.

 

The revised draft also should require groups devoted to electing and defeating candidates, like the Republican-backed Crossroads GPS and the Democratic-backed Priorities USA, to be reclassified under Section 527 of the tax code, allowing them to remain tax-exempt but requiring them to disclose their donors.


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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

February 19, 2014

Mary Boyle, 202-736-5770

 

 

 



Common Cause Urges FCC to Reclassify Broadband and Protect Open Internet


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should provide consumers the maximum protection possible by reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service, Common Cause said Wednesday.

This morning FCC chairman Tom Wheeler announced plans to solicit public comment on how best to ensure Open Internet ("net neutrality") protections in light of a recent appeals court decision striking down the commission’s 2010 Open Internet Order.

"I welcome Chairman Wheeler's prompt response to the court's recent decision on the Open Internet, and I am pleased at the opening of a docket to encourage wide public input into this critically-important issue," said Michael Copps, a former FCC Commissioner now serving as special adviser to Common Cause's Media and Democracy Reform Initiative.

"I continue to believe that Title II reclassification is, by far, the surest and best way to guarantee consumer protections and free speech online. I hope the Commission will get there soon," Copps said.

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

February 13, 2014

Mary Boyle, 202-736-5770

 

 

 



Proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal Is Affront to Public Interest


Regulators at the Federal Communications Commission should promptly and emphatically reject Comcast’s proposed purchase of rival Time Warner Cable, Common Cause said today.

"This is so over the top that it ought to be dead on arrival at the FCC. The proposed deal runs roughshod over competition and consumer choice and is an affront to the public interest," said Michael Copps, special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative.

The $45 billion dollar deal would turn the already oversized Comcast empire into a colossus. The combined firms would have the muscle to push competitors out of the marketplace, leaving consumers exposed to continuing price hikes and declining levels of service, Copps added.

As an FCC Commissioner in 2011, Copps cast the lone vote against Comcast’s merger with NBC/Universal. That deal made the combined company the nation’s largest Internet, home phone and video provider and gave it control of a major television network, cable TV channels and movie studio.

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

February 12, 2014

Mary Boyle, 202-736-5770

 

 

 



Common Cause Statement on Introduction of the Fair Elections Now Act


Today’s introduction of the Fair Elections Now Act invites senators to declare their independence from big money campaign donors and refocus their attention on the everyday folks who elected them.

This common sense legislation, modeled after successful small donor, public financing programs in several states, would give a refundable $25 tax credit to Americans who contribute $300 or less to a Senate candidate or party in a given year. Their small donations would be supplemented by grants to the candidates at a rate of $6 for every $1 donated, so a $150 contribution would grow to $1,050.

Common Cause commends Sen. Dick Durbin and the more than a dozen other senators who’ve signed on as original co-sponsors of the Fair Elections Now Act. We urge additional senators to join in co-sponsoring and working for its passage. We also urge the House to act promptly on a similar bill, the Government by the People Act (HR 20), introduced last week to create a small donor matching fund for House races.

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

February 12, 2014

Mary Boyle, 202-736-5770

 

 

 



Congress, President Must Staff Election Assistance Commission


Congress and President Obama should work quickly to fully staff the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC), a 12-year-old bipartisan panel created to help states meet voluntary standards for administering elections, Common Cause said today.

 

"At a time when states are passing restrictive voting laws and making the voting process more difficult, we need four commissioners on the EAC to protect and strengthen the right to vote,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs.


All four seats on the commission currently are open. The President has nominated Thomas Hicks, a former Common Cause staff member now serving as senior elections counsel for the House Administration Committee, and Myrna Perez, senior counsel to the BrennanCenter for Justice, to fill two of those slots.

 
A Senate vote on Hicks and Perez would be "a good first step to revitalize this agency," Hobert Flynn wrote in a letter to members of the Senate Rules Committee, which was scheduled to vote on the nominations today. "A fully functioning EAC is necessary to strengthen the voting process for all voters," she added.


Common Cause urged senators to follow recommendations delivered last month by Obama’s Commission on Election Administration, which highlighted the need for a fully functioning EAC. The presidential panel included equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans; their ability to arrive at a consensus on politically-sensitive voting issues should serve as a model for senators.

 

The EAC vacancies figure prominently in attempts by the state of Arizona to require prospective voters to produce documents proving their citizenship. The Supreme Court ruled last year that the state’s authority to demand those documents is limited by federal law; the justices said Arizona could ask the EAC for an exemption that would allow states to impose additional documentation requirements however.


Arizona and Kansas currently are suing the EAC in federal court, challenging the commission staff’s refusal to approve new registration application forms.

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

February 5, 2014

Mary Boyle, 202-736-5770

 

 

 



Common Cause Statement on Introduction of the Government by the People Act


"Giant corporations, special interests and ultra-wealthy donors shout through big-money megaphones to drown out the voices of hardworking Americans in the political process," said Karen Hobert Flynn, senior vice president for strategy and programs at Common Cause. "This is bold legislation that would elevate our voices and free congressional candidates to work for us, not their big donors. Common Cause commends Congressman Sarbanes, Leader Pelosi and others championing this effort.

 
“Common Cause has been instrumental in the adoption of successful public financing systems in states like Arizona, Connecticut and Maine. We know these systems can work and that they have important ripple effects – allowing more women and minorities to seek and win office and giving all elected officials the freedom to put the public interest first as they address tough issues."

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

January 29, 2014

Mary Boyle, 202-736-5770

 

 

 



Common Cause Urges Ethics Probe of Rep. Michael Grimm


 

Congressional investigators should open an inquiry into the conduct of Rep. Michael Grimm, R-NY, who was caught on camera threatening a reporter on Tuesday night and already is the subject of a federal investigation for possible campaign finance law violations, Common Cause said today.

 

The government watchdog group said it will ask the independent Office of Congressional Ethics to consider whether Grimm has violated a House rule requiring that members “behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.”

 

“There are troubling signs that Congressman Grimm has violated both the letter and spirit of House rules,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs. “We’re particularly concerned about allegations that he was involved in a scheme to use a network of straw donors to circumvent campaign finance laws.”

 

A supporter and former friend and business associate of Rep. Grimm is facing federal charges in Texas that she funneled money to friends with the understanding that they would contribute it to the congressman’s 2010 campaign. Diana Durand had reached the $4,800 legal limit on donations and so could not contribute in her own name. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

 

Last summer, Ofer Biton, an Israeli citizen who helped Grimm raise more than $500,000 for his 2010 race, pleaded guilty to visa fraud in a case that grew out of the FBI’s probe of Grimm’s campaign finances.

 

The New York Times reported in 2012 that Biton introduced Grimm to followers of a prominent Staten Island rabbi and joined the then-candidate in soliciting their help in his campaign. The newspaper said three of the rabbi’s followers claimed that Grimm or Biton assured them that the campaign could accept donations exceeding the legal limit, were given in cash or were given by foreigners without green cards.

 

Federal law bars congressional campaigns from accepting cash donations of more than $100 and bans all donations from or campaign solicitations by foreigners without green cards.

 

Rep. Grimm apologized on Wednesday for his behavior during an on-camera encounter with an NY1 reporter following Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. Unhappy with questions about his campaign finances, Grimm cut the interview short, then threatened to throw the journalist off a balcony above the lobby of a House office building. “I’ll break you in half, like a boy,” the congressman said. 

Read the full complaint here

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

January 28, 2014

Mary Boyle, 202-736-5770

 

 

 



Common Cause Statement on the State of the Union Message


President Obama has another chance tonight to embrace and advance the promise that propelled him to the White House, the promise to change Washington. We urge him to seize it.

 
We’re delighted at news accounts indicating that Mr. Obama will focus much of the State of the Union address on initiatives to boost economic opportunities for the millions of Americans struggling to get in or stay in the middle class. Attacking the growing economic gap between the richest Americans and the rest of us should be a top priority for him and every member of Congress.


But the President will not make much headway unless he also goes after political inequality, the gap between the influence and access enjoyed by the nation’s political elites -- major corporations and their lobbyists, secretive, top-dollar campaign donors – and everyone else.


The political and economic gaps have grown in concert during Mr. Obama’s presidency, and not by coincidence. As the richest Americans have gotten more wealthy, a string of court decisions has permitted them to direct more of their money – often secretly – to elect candidates and shape policies to their liking. They have responded, opening their checkbooks with gusto.


While he has worked hard throughout his presidency to promote an economic recovery that reaches every American, Mr. Obama has done little to challenge big money’s grab for political power.

 
Indeed, in his own campaigns, the President has grabbed for big money along with small contributions, making himself the most successful fund raiser in American political history. He’s reneged on his promise to propose reforms to the public financing system for presidential campaigns. He’s spoken in support of the DISCLOSE Act while refusing to spend political capital on its behalf and he's backed away from a proposed executive order that would have mandated better disclosure of political spending by government contractors. He’s been agonizingly slow to fill vacancies on the Federal Election Commission. He’s barely lifted a finger to promote the admittedly-uphill struggle for a constitutional amendment that would reverse Citizens United and allow Congress and state legislatures to restore sensible limits on political spending.

 
None of this is to minimize the difficulties the President would have encountered had he taken on these fights. His adversaries in Congress seem almost pathologically opposed to anything Mr. Obama supports and many of his usual supporters there have been beneficiaries of big money’s political clout or are wary of the risks in challenging it.

 
Still, the President promised that fixing Washington would be atop his agenda and was elected largely on that commitment. There’s no better time than the State of the Union for him to get serious about honoring it.



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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

January 22, 2014

Mary Boyle, 202-736-5770

 

 

 



Commission Delivers Bipartisan Blueprint for Upgrading Elections


President Obama’s Commission on Election Administration has given the White House, Congress and state leaders a much-needed blueprint for repairing and modernizing the broken machinery of our elections, Common Cause said today.

"As state legislatures convene across the country this winter and spring, action on the commission’s suggestions should be a top priority," said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs. "Congress and the Obama administration meanwhile, should provide funds to help states upgrade their voting systems and should act to rejuvenate the federal Election Assistance Commission, which is supposed to set national standards for voting machines.

"Quick action is critical," Hobert Flynn added. "Across the country, there are thousands of precincts with voting machines that are outmoded and in danger of breaking down. Obtaining and maintaining reliable machines are essential if we’re to realize the commission’s objective of limiting voting wait times to 30 minutes or less."

The commission’s report also documents continuing problems with state and federal efforts to facilitate voting by military members and other Americans living overseas and calls for increased use of online registration. And it highlights the continuing failure of many state and local election officials in the 8,000 voting jurisdictions across America to meet legal requirements that they provide foreign-language ballots to voters who do not speak English.

"While some of the commission’s recommendations require legislative action and appropriations, state and local election officials should act on others on their own initiative," Hobert Flynn said. "For example, voting locations often can be better organized, and sample ballots printed more clearly and distributed earlier without added costs. All that’s needed is the will to act.

"The most encouraging thing about this report is that Democrats and Republicans on the commission were able to put aside partisanship and agree on common sense suggestions to streamline the voting process and ensure that ballots are counted as cast," Hobert Flynn added. "We’re crossing our fingers and hoping the President, Congress and state legislatures across the country can do the same."

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

January 17, 2014

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Memo to Reporters: Common Cause Filibuster Lawsuit Returns to Federal Appeals Court Tuesday

 


Knowing of your interest in the rules of the U.S. Senate, and the filibuster rule (Rule 22) in particular, I wanted to update you on Common Cause v. Biden, Common Cause’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the filibuster.


A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (Judges Henderson, Williams and Randolph) has scheduled arguments on the case for Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 9:30 am. The court is located in the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse, 333 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20001. The hearing is expected to last about one hour.


As you know, the Senate changed the applicability of the filibuster rule’s 60-vote requirement in November, setting a precedent that only a simple majority of senators – 51 votes – is required to confirm presidential nominees (except those nominated to be justices of the Supreme Court). The filibuster rule’s 60-vote requirement remains in place for all legislation however and Common Cause’s legal challenge to its constitutionality continues in federal court.


Filed in May 2012, the case seeks:

   * A ruling that portions of Rule 22 requiring a supermajority to open or close debate on bills are unconstitutional.

   * A ruling that and a two-thirds vote to open or close debate on amendments to the rules also is unconstitutional.

   * Secondarily, and in the alternative, a declaration by the court that Senate Rule 5 is unconstitutional to the extent it prohibits the Senate from amending other rules by majority vote.


In addition to Common Cause, plaintiffs include four members of the House of Representatives -- Reps. John Lewis, Keith Ellison, Michael Michaud, and Hank Johnson -- and three potential beneficiaries of the DREAM Act, one of the hundreds of bills blocked in the Senate in recent years by the minority’s use of the filibuster rule.


The scheduled Jan. 21 hearing is on an appeal filed by Common Cause and our co-plaintiffs after the original complaint was dismissed in U.S. District Court in December 2012. In the lower court, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue and that a decision overturning the rule “would require an invasion into internal Senate processes at the heart of the Senate’s constitutional prerogatives as a House of Congress.”


The spectacular growth in the use of filibusters by senators in the minority, currently Republicans, has been well documented. The chart below details the over-100% increase in the filing of cloture motions since just 2006, and the rise in cloture motions since the adoption of Rule 22. The chart does not include “stealth” filibusters that take place without any attempt at cloture and exist by mere threat. The filibuster no longer extends due deliberation – rather, it is a favorite tool of senators to obstruct debate in the first place. A 60-vote threshold is no longer the exception to the rule, but the rule itself.

 

 


 

Common Cause’s brief to the DC Circuit contends that the filibuster violates the principle of majority rule, which was embraced by the Constitution’s drafters. They specified that only the presence of a simple majority of each house is necessary to constitute a “Quorum to do Business” (Art. I, § 5) and that only a majority of a quorum is required to “pass” a bill (Art. I, § 7, cl. 2) or resolution (Art. I, § 7, cl. 3). 7he Constitution includes only six exceptions to the general principle of majority rule, including conviction of the President or members of the judiciary in an impeachment trial(two-thirds vote required) and ratifying treaties (two-thirds required). In other words, the drafters considered, but rejected, supermajority requirements except where otherwise enumerated.

 

Because Article 1 of the Constitution gives each house of Congress exclusive authority to make its own rules, one key issue in the case is whether any court can declare any of those rules unconstitutional. Judge Sullivan concluded that the constitutionality of the filibuster is a “political question” that can be decided only within the legislative branch of government.

 

Common Cause contends, however, that the scope of the Senate’s rulemaking power is necessarily a legal question that courts are empowered to decide. While the Senate may adopt its own rules, those rules cannot themselves be unconstitutional. Moreover, Common Cause’s brief cites four cases in which the Supreme Court exercised jurisdiction over and ruled on the merits of challenges to either the constitutionality or the validity of interpretations of rules of both the House and the Senate. In one of those cases, the high court declared that while “[t]he Constitution empowers each house to determine its rules of proceedings [i]t may not by its rules ignore constitutional restraints or violate fundamental rights.” In another Supreme Court case, the Court ruled that it “has been long settled … that rules of Congress … are judicially cognizable.'


Common Cause’s lead counsel is Emmet Bondurant, an attorney who serves on Common Cause’s National Governing Board. He will be available for interviews following the oral argument.

 

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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.

 

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For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

January 16, 2014

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Common Cause Statement on Introduction of New Voting Rights Act

 


This bipartisan update of the Voting Rights Act goes a long way toward ensuring that every citizen has a clear path to the ballot box,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs. “We commend Congressmen Sensenbrenner, Conyers, and Lewis, Sen. Leahy, and the rest of the bill’s co-sponsors for their steadfast leadership and encourage Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor to clear the bill’s path to passage within the next six months so that all eligible voters can have their voices heard in the 2014 election.

The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy. Every citizen has a stake in seeing that right protected and strengthened. Originally proposed and signed by a Democratic President, the Voting Rights Act has been reauthorized with overwhelming bipartisan majorities and signed into law by Republican Presidents each time. Common Cause helped pass those reauthorizations, and we will continue to fight for a modernized Voting Rights Act and other reforms that help promote voter turnout.”

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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.

 

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For Immediate Release

Contact:

January 15, 2014

Mary Boyle, 202-736-5770

 

 

 



Copps Urges Caution as Lawmakers Weigh Communications Act Overhaul


Congress should be wary of plans to overhaul the 18-year-old federal law governing broadcasters and telecommunications companies and should focus first on making the existing law work as its authors intended, former Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps said today.

 

In testimony prepared for a House subcommittee, Copps, special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative, argued that much of the current Communications Act remains "relevant, workable, and consumer-friendly." And in today’s partisan Congress, building support for a rewritten law "will be even more challenging than the jockeying that gave birth to the current law," he cautioned.

Copps complained that major players in the communications industry have "spent more time undermining the statute than implementing it." Those efforts continue, he said, citing Verizon’s federal appeals court victory on Tuesday in a lawsuit challenging the FCC’s "Open Internet”"rules.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia cleared the way for Internet providers like Verizon and Comcast to restructure their Internet services by imposing extra fees for access to popular websites and applications. Common Cause has urged the commission to respond to that decision by writing new rules, tied to a different section of the Communications Act, which would restore net neutrality.

"Some will tell you that America is a veritable broadband wonderland, a triumph of free market entrepreneurship that puts us at the forefront of high-tech nations," Copps told the lawmakers. But the U.S. has fallen to 16th worldwide in wired broadband connections per 100 residents and American consumers are paying more and getting less than wired broadband consumers in competitor countries, he said.

Copps added that the Justice Department has concluded that the local wireless marketplace offers consumers few choices and that mobile data plans are saddled with data caps that harm both consumption and innovation.

"Surely the time is now for proactive and pro-consumer measures to make quality broadband universally affordable once and for all," he said.

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

January 14, 2014

Mary Boyle, 202-736-5770

 

 

 



Demos President Tapped to Lead Common Cause

Miles Rapoport, former Connecticut Secretary of the State, state legislator, and nonprofit leader to take reins of venerable public interest organization


Miles Rapoport, whose long career in public service has been devoted to strengthening democracy and achieving economic fairness at every level, has been named president of Common Cause.

“Miles brings us an incredible combination of intellect, energy and experience,” said Robert Reich, chair of Common Cause’s National Governing Board. “His commitment to our mission of holding power accountable, and his understanding of the challenges we face in executing it, is unparalleled.”

Rapoport will start at Common Cause on March 10.

President of Demos since 2001, Rapoport led that organization’s transition from a small start-up to a significant public policy research and advocacy shop. “Demos has become a wellspring of innovative thought,” Reich said, “and Miles is among its and our country’s best thinkers. Under his leadership, Demos has led the way in identifying and spotlighting the damage being done to our democracy by the growing gap between the wealth of the richest Americans and that of our shrinking middle class.”

In addition to leading Demos through a period of tremendous growth, Rapoport has been a regular writer and contributor to its studies of income inequality, campaign finance, and voting rights. He serves as a director of The American Prospect magazine and was its president from 2010-12.

At Common Cause, Rapoport will succeed Bob Edgar, who died suddenly last April after six years as the organization’s president. Edgar was a former Pennsylvania congressman, college president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches.

“I am tremendously excited to have the chance to lead Common Cause, build on its remarkable history and strong organizational platform, and expand on the major initiatives led by Bob Edgar,” Rapoport said. “Common Cause’s work has never been more important, and the stakes have never been higher. More and more Americans understand now that economic inequality, big money, and barriers to participation have distorted our democracy, and they are ready to roll up their sleeves to reclaim it. No organization is better positioned or better qualified than Common Cause to lead that effort.”

Prior to joining Demos, Rapoport served 10 years as a Connecticut state representative (1985 to 1995) and then four years as the Secretary of the State of Connecticut (1995 to 1999). As Secretary, he was a leader in efforts for voting rights, effective election administration, and campaign finance reform. His work, side by side with Common Cause, helped lead to Connecticut’s passage of strong public financing legislation. He served in the leadership of the National Association of Secretaries of State. Earlier, Rapoport served in leadership roles in two state-based advocacy groups in the 1970s and 80s, as Boston director of Massachusetts Fair Share and executive director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group.

Founded in 1970, Common Cause is the nation’s original “citizens lobby,” a non-partisan, non-profit organization with more than 400,000 members and supporters and offices in 35 states. Throughout its history, Common Cause has been an advocate for increased citizen engagement in politics and government and effective controls on the political power of major institutions and the wealthy.

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

January 14, 2014

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

FCC Must Act to Preserve Open Internet

 

Appeals Court Leaves Consumers Vulnerable to Profiteering Telecoms

 

The Federal Communications Commission must step up to protect consumer interests and preserve the Open Internet in the wake of a federal appeals court ruling jeopardizing the easy access to popular websites and applications enjoyed by millions of Americans, Common Cause said today.

 

"The Court’s decision today is poised to end the free, open, and uncensored Internet that we have come to rely on," said former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Initiative.

 
"People depend on the Open Internet to connect and communicate with each other freely. Voters need it to inform themselves before casting ballots. Without prompt corrective action by the Commission to reclassify broadband, this awful ruling will serve as a sorry memorial to the corporate abrogation of free speech," Copps added.


In its decision striking down the FCC's current Open Internet ("net neutrality") rules, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit found that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Verizon and Comcast have the right to control user access to lawful sites and applications. The ruling means that ISPs are now free to levy special charges or deny customers access to particular sites or web applications.


The Court’s decision grows out of the FCC’s classification of ISPs as “information service” providers. While federal law gives the commission limited authority to regulate such services, the FCC could continue to protect the Open Internet if it re-classified broadband as a "telecommunications service," Copps said.


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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.

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For Immediate Release

Contact:

December 12, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 

 

 



Common Cause Launches Effort to Craft "Blueprint for a Great Democracy"

 

Common Cause this week launched a 10-year, collaborative effort to craft and build popular support for a new "Blueprint for a Great Democracy."

The project began Wednesday with a day-long conference at the historic Charles H. Sumner School in Northwest Washington. Participants, including an array of reform activists and thought leaders, were asked to examine 21st Century challenges to the model of "government of, by and for the people" conceived and implemented by America’s founders.

The initial Blueprint conference focused on the power of money in American politics and strategies for making our democracy more responsive to the needs and the voices of all citizens.

"We’re excited at this opportunity, provided by the generous support of the WhyNot Initiative and its George S. McGovern Great Government Endowment, to step back and re-examine obstacles to democracy reform and develop new ways to overcome them," said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs. "Our goal is to build consensus around reforms that work and strategies for achieving them."


The inaugural conference included a series of panel discussions and breakout sessions, with participants using innovative, interactive technologies to record their reactions to reform ideas and work toward refinements that will garner broad support.

Drawing on and supplementing the work of the conference throughout 2014 will be the first in a series of McGovern Democracy Fellows, each of whom will study and work on reforms designed to increase civic engagement and accountability in government. The initial fellows are:

Vance Hickin, principal of Highway One Consulting LLC, is a digital strategist and consultant who specializes in public sphere programs. In 2012, Vance was California Digital Director at Obama for America, responsible for spearheading the state campaign's online content, organizing, and social media. 

* Zephyr R. Teachout, associate professor of law at Fordham University and an internationally recognized expert on the impact of the Internet on electoral politics and government. Zephyr directed online organizing for Howard Dean's presidential campaign in 2004 and is a former national director of the Sunlight Foundation. 

* Tracy Westen, founder and CEO of the Center for Governmental Studies, which strengthens democracy through research, strategic consulting and the development of online information systems. He taught communications law for over 30 years at the USC Annenberg School and UCLA Law School, has served as a vice president at the strategic consulting firm Winner & Associates, and was formerly Deputy Director for Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission.

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

December 5, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Rep. Slaughter, Public Interest Groups Release New Evidence that Federalist Society Annual Dinners Are, Indeed, Fundraisers

 

They Urge Reprimands of Justices Thomas and Alito and a Finding of Misconduct Against a 7th Circuit Judge

 

WASHINGTON, D.C., DECEMBER 5, 2013: A Member of Congress and two public interest groups released new evidence Thursday that Justices of the Supreme Court and a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit have flouted judicial ethics by speaking at dinners to raise funds for the Federalist Society.

Rep. Louise Slaughter, Alliance for Justice, and Common Cause are calling on Chief Justice John Roberts to reprimand Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. The groups and Rep. Slaughter have also filed a formal complaint with the Judicial Council of the Seventh Circuit against Judge Diane Sykes. Justice Thomas and Judge Sykes headlined the Society’s 2013 black-tie gala dinner in November; Justice Alito spoke at the same dinner in 2012. The material released Thursday supplements a formal complaint and letter requesting reprimand sent to the Judicial Council and the Chief Justice, respectively, last month.

Speaking at a fundraiser violates the Code of Conduct for United States Judges. Canon 4(c) of the code bars federal judges from using the prestige of their office for fundraising purposes, and specifically states, "a judge may not be a speaker, a guest of honor, or featured on the program" of a fundraising event. All federal judges are covered by the code except Supreme Court Justices. Chief Justice Roberts claims that the Court is guided by the code.

Rep. Slaughter and 59 other Representatives, as well as Senators Chris Murphy, Richard Blumenthal, Chris Coons, Dick Durbin, Tom Harkin, Edward Markey and Sheldon Whitehouse have sponsored legislation to require the Supreme Court to adopt a code of conduct.

On Thursday morning, Slaughter delivered a petition to the Chief Justice signed by more than 225,000 Americans who are demanding that Chief Justice Roberts hold Justice Thomas accountable and establish a Code of Conduct for the Supreme Court.

The documents released Thursday show that the Federalist Society rewards its high-end donors with a place at the table – literally – with a justice of the United States Supreme Court. Although a basic ticket to the annual dinner costs $200-a-plate, some who are seated with Supreme Court justices typically have given a lot more to the Federalist Society – sometimes $100,000 or more.

"Supreme Court justices should play by the same rules as every other federal judge in this country – that means adopting a Code of Conduct that will end the practice of high court justices attending high-dollar fundraisers for political causes," Rep. Slaughter said. "Justice should be administered based on who has the law on their side – not who has the biggest checkbook."

"The Federalist Society claims that, though their dinner looks like a fundraiser, sounds like a fundraiser and raises money like a fundraiser, somehow it’s not a fundraiser," said Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron. "The evidence in these documents makes clear that the denial doesn’t pass the smell test."

"Justice Thomas, Judge Sykes and their colleagues on the bench across America are entrusted by our Constitution with enormous authority; in return, we expect them to uphold the highest ethical standards," said Arn Pearson, Common Cause’s vice president for policy and litigation. "By lending their names and their prestige to a fundraising event, they’ve fallen short – and these documents prove it."

The formal complaint and the letter to the Chief Justice point out that:

● At the 2013 dinner, officers of major conservative foundations were assigned seats at the table of Judge Sykes and Justice Thomas. One such foundation gave at least $100,000 to the Federalist Society in 2012 another gave $325,000 that year.

● In the program for the dinner, big law firms and corporations labeled "gold," "silver," and "bronze" sponsors are thanked specifically for their "generous support" of the dinner – not of the Society’s convention, which takes place at another venue that same day.

● The Society used a picture of Justice Alito at the 2012 dinner next to a list of donors under the headline "Donors Fuel Federalist Society Expansion."

Rep. Slaughter, AFJ, and Common Cause urged the Judicial Council of the Seventh Circuit to find Judge Sykes in violation of the Code of Conduct.

In the letter to the Chief Justice, they wrote that:

Because your 2011 Year-End Report states that the Code "plays the same role" for the Supreme Court as it does for all lower courts, we respectfully urge you to issue a letter of reprimand for Justice Alito for his actions at the 2012 event, renew our request that you issue of letter of reprimand for Justice Thomas at this year’s event, and urge you to publish an official Court policy on the ethics issue at hand here.

 

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For Immediate Release

Contact:

Dec. 3, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 

 

 



Corporate Reform Coalition Statement on the Securities and Exchange Commission's Shift on Political Spending Disclosure

 

The Corporate Reform Coalition is deeply disappointed by and demands an explanation for the removal from its agenda of the most widely supported rulemaking in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s history. The agency chose to put the political spending disclosure rule on their docket for consideration based on its strong support from investors and the potential risks to companies from secret political spending. The decision to drop this rule and others from the 2014 Commission agenda is a step back from the SEC’s proactive agenda to protect investors.


There is an urgent need for a new disclosure rule to address political spending since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allowed companies to directly spend their money in politics. Citizens United also affirmed the constitutionality of disclosure requirements and, in fact, assumed that new corporate political spending would be transparent to shareholders. Justice Kennedy said in the opinion that “shareholder objections raised through the procedures of corporate democracy” would provide accountability for the new political spending. Without a mandatory disclosure rule shareholders do not have the ability to raise those objections.


Resolutions calling for company disclosure of political spending have topped the shareholder agenda for the last five years, and this year will be no exception. For the 2014 proxy season, this will remain a priority as more investors will be urging companies to disclose their political spending. Shareholders and other securities experts see an SEC rule as critical to achieving uniform political disclosure.


More than 100 leading companies have taken the initiative to publicly disclose their political spending. This demonstrates the ease with which these disclosures can be accomplished. It also demonstrates the acceptance of disclosure by many prominent and large corporations. Unfortunately, however, other companies keep their shareholders in the dark, unaware if their money is funding political campaigns and even political attack ads.

The SEC has received nearly 700,000 comments – a record breaking number -- urging disclosure of political spending. In addition, surveys commissioned by the Committee for Economic Development and the Center for Political Accountability found a strong majority of business leaders endorsing corporate disclosure of direct and indirect political spending. The SEC had taken the public and investor demand for greater disclosure into account and was considering a rulemaking in response to this demonstrated need.


The context has not changed. This rule is still necessary. We look forward to an explanation from SEC chairman Mary Jo White as to why the investor demand for this updated regulation is being rebuffed. We urge that this decision be reversed and that the rulemaking returned to the SEC’s agenda. In the meantime, the agency should publicly explain the questions it needs answered in order to move forward with the rulemaking in a concept release.. The rights of shareholders must be protected, and the SEC has the means and the mandate to do so. The commission must renew its political disclosure rulemaking. This is critical both for democracy and the rights of investors in the marketplace. The agency owes investors – and the public -- nothing less.

Signed,


Alliance for a Just Society


Amazon Watch

American Federation of State, County, and Federal Employees (AFSCME)

Americans for Campaign Reform


Boston Common Asset Management

Brennan Center for Justice

Campaign Legal Center

Center for Political Accountability

Center for Responsive Politics

Change to Win

Citizen Works

Clean Yield Asset Management

Common Cause

Communications Workers of America (CWA)

Credo Mobile

Democracy 21

Demos

Domini Social Investments

Dominican Sisters of Hope

Friends of the Earth

Greenpeace

Harrington Investments

HIP Investor, Inc.

 

International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT)

Investor Voice, SPC

League of Conservation Voters

Main Street Alliance

New Progressive Alliance

Newground Social Investment, SPC

People for the American Way (PFAW)

Public Citizen

Responsible Endowments Coalition

Responsible Wealth

Social Equity Group

SumOfUs

The American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFLCIO)

U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S.PIRG)

United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)

United for a Fair Economy

Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk


US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment

Walden Asset Management

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

WV Citizen Action Group


Zevin Asset Management

 

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

Nov 26, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 

 

 



Common Cause Calls IRS Proposal On Social Welfare Groups a Positive Step

 

 

Common Cause on Tuesday welcomed the Internal Revenue Service’s announcement of plans to limit the political activity of tax-exempt non-profit groups organized to promote “social welfare.”

“We are pleased to see the Obama administration take this first step toward getting social welfare organizations away from ‘candidate related political activity’ and reining in the abuse of our nation’s tax laws by groups that put hundreds of millions of dollars from anonymous donors into our elections,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs.

“But much remains to be done. We must have a realistic, enforceable standard that ensures that political campaigning cannot become a social welfare organization’s primary purpose. A group that spends 49 percent of its time on political campaigns cannot pass the smell test.

“The agency is absolutely correct in its assertion that ‘getting this right’ will take time,” Hobert Flynn added. “But it’s clear that too many social welfare organizations have exploited their status and operate primarily to elect or defeat candidates. It’s time for that to end.”

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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.



For Immediate Release

Contact:

November 21, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 

 

 



 

Common Cause Statement on Senate Changes to Filibuster Rule


Today’s vote is a major step toward breaking the gridlock that now paralyzes our democracy and a pivotal victory for everyone who believes government should function as the framers of the Constitution intended: under the principle of majority rule.

“We’ve all been watching a slow-motion government shutdown for years, and this will enable the important work of reviewing and confirming presidential nominations to get moving again,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs.

“But the Senate is still broken and the rule change today is a small fix for a huge problem. The minority still has the power to use the filibuster to block debate and action on legislation favored by the majority. As Majority Leader Reid observed on the Senate floor this morning, ‘the need for change is so, so, very obvious.’”

Our government will not work again as it should until the Senate has permanent rules that protect the minority’s right to fully air its views, including the right to offer relevant amendments on legislation, while permitting the majority ultimately to work its will. Common Cause will continue to challenge the constitutionality of the filibuster rule and its 60-vote requirement in federal court; our suit in the D.C. Circuit is scheduled for argument in mid-January.

Along with other members of the Fix the Senate Coalition, Common Cause has been fighting for this kind of reform for several years now. We’re gratified that progress is being made but the battle is far from over.  


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.
 

  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

Nov 18, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 

 

 



Latest Judicial Filibuster Strengthens Case for Senate Action to Restore Majority Rule

 

The Senate filibuster blocking a vote on Judge Robert Wilkins is profoundly disappointing but hardly surprising, Common Cause said Monday.

 

"A Senate minority has again prevented a yes-or-no confirmation vote on a judicial nominee for reasons wholly unrelated to his qualifications," said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause's senior vice president for policy and programs. "So much for the so-called gentlemen’s agreements that were supposed to prevent such abuses of democracy.


"With one exception, the minority has blocked confirmation votes on every one of President Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit, each of whom had the support of a bi-partisan majority of senators. In Judge Wilkins’ case, 54 of 100 senators were prepared to move forward but were blocked by just 39.

 

"As a growing chorus of senators has recognized, this flagrant abuse of the democratic process can only be remedied by reforming the filibuster and restoring majority rule. It's time for Majority Leader Reid and his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to put democratic principles ahead of short-term political interests and end the gridlock that inflames the public’s cynicism about government and paralyzes our nation."


Common Cause's lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the filibuster rule and the 60-vote supermajority requirement it imposes for Senate action is scheduled for argument in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on January 21, 2014.


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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

Nov 15, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 

 

 



New Documents Expose Judicial Influence Buying at Federalist Society's Annual Gala

 

Another member of the Supreme Court, Justice Samuel Alito, has donned ethical blinders to help raise money for the Federalist Society, an association of conservative lawyers, Common Cause said today.

Alito was the honoree and speaker for the Federalist Society’s 2012 Gala. The group’s 2012 annual report, distributed to reporters this week, includes a photo of Alito and Federalist executives taken at the dinner; the shot supplements a headline reading “Donors Fuel Federalist Society Expansion” and a lengthy list of five- and six-figure donors to the society.

"Their annual report demolishes the Federalists’ claim that the gala is not a fundraiser," said Arn Pearson, Common Cause’s vice president for policy and litigation. "And at this week’s Federalist gala, some of the society's biggest donors were rewarded with dinner seats alongside Justices Clarence Thomas and Alito, while others were prominently listed in the gala program as 'Gold,' 'Silver,' and 'Bronze' sponsors. If the Federalists aren't raising money off the gala, they need a new business manager."

Common Cause on Thursday complained to Chief Justice John Roberts about Justice Thomas' role as a Federalist fundraiser; the group said it will make a similar complaint about Alito. The Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges strictly limits participation in fundraising by all other federal judges, but the Supreme Court has refused to be bound by the Code and its canons.

Thomas was the featured speaker at Thursday night's annual Federalist Gala. This year’s event was a $200 per plate, black tie dinner with a blue chip list of corporate and law firm sponsors.

Along with Thomas, the gala featured U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Diane Sykes, whose friendly "interview" with the justice capped off the evening. Common Cause, the Alliance for Justice and U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY, filed a formal complaint against Judge Sykes, saying her involvement in the fundraising event violated Canons 2(b) and 4(c) of the Code of Conduct.

"The continued involvement of Justices Alito and Thomas in Federalist fundraisers, and the refusal of Chief Justice Roberts and other members of the high court to recognize the Code of Conduct as binding, makes a compelling case for congressional approval of the Supreme Court Ethics Act of 2013," Pearson said.

The Ethics Act, which has been introduced in both the House and Senate, would order the Supreme Court to adopt a formal code of ethics that includes all the canons of the code now imposed on other judges, plus any amendments the high court considers appropriate.

For more background on the Federalist Gala and the involvement of Justices Thomas and Alito, see Common Blog.


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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

Nov 13, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 

 

 



Reformers, Senior Lawmaker Charge Justice Thomas and Federal Appellate Judge Diane Sykes With Violating Judicial Ethics

 

 

A senior Member of Congress and reform advocates are charging Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and federal appeals court Judge Diane Sykes with violating judicial ethics by agreeing to headline the Federalist Society’s annual fundraising dinner tomorrow evening in Washington, DC.

 
Common Cause, Alliance for Justice, and U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY, sent a letter of complaint about Justice Thomas’ conduct to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. They have also filed a formal ethics complaint with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals against Judge Sykes, who will be "interviewing" Thomas as the main feature at tomorrow evening’s black tie fundraiser.


Canon 4C of the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges bars federal judges from using the prestige of their judicial office for fundraising purposes, and specifically states, “" judge may not be a speaker, a guest of honor, or featured on the program" of a fundraising event.


The Code of Conduct is binding on all federal judges except for Supreme Court justices. However, Chief Justice Roberts claimed in his 2011 year-end report that the code "plays the same role" for the Supreme Court as it does for other federal judges, and other justices have said that they follow it.


"By headlining this fundraiser, Judge Sykes is clearly in violation of the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges and Justice Thomas would be as well – if only the Supreme Court was bound by an ethical code," Rep. Slaughter said. "The guidelines contained in the Code exist to ensure the public has faith that judicial decision-making is based on the facts and the law, not politics and outside interests. Congress must act to ensure the Supreme Court plays by the same ethical rules as all other federal judges. Moreover, we believe Judge Sykes to be in violation of the Code and have filed a complaint with the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit."

 

"Justice Thomas is among several members of the high court who’ve made a habit of flouting judicial ethics by headlining Federalist Society fundraisers," said Arn Pearson, Common Cause’s vice president for policy and litigation. "He gets away with it because the Court has exempted itself from the Code, but that doesn’t make it right. Our nation’s highest court should not have the lowest ethical standards. However, that loophole does not extend to Judge Sykes, so we have filed a formal ethics complaint with the Seventh Circuit."


"Here we have the spectacle of two judges helping the Federalist Society raise funds," said AFJ President Nan Aron. "Yet while Judge Sykes is violating a binding code of conduct, Justice Thomas is not, because the Supreme Court refuses to be bound by any formal, written code of ethics. Congress needs to change that."


Pearson and Aron said Thomas’ participation in the Federalist Event, and similar appearances by Justice Samuel Alito last year and Justices Antonin Scalia and Thomas in 2011, underscore the need for congressional action to bring the high court under the Code of Conduct. Legislation pending in both houses would require the Court to adopt its own ethical code, including all the canons in the existing code for other judges. Congresswoman Slaughter is the sponsor of the House bill (H.R. 2902).


Chief Justice John Roberts and other members of the Supreme Court have said they look to the code for ethical guidance but have refused to make it binding. The code is administered on other judges by the U.S. Judicial Conference, chaired by the Chief Justice.


Thursday’s dinner at Washington’s venerable Omni Shoreham Hotel is part of the Federalist Society’s three-day "National Lawyers Convention" that is taking place several miles away at the Mayflower Hotel. Other speakers at the convention include U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-TX, widely considered a likely GOP presidential contender in 2016, and Mike Lee, R-UT, along with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.


Aron and Pearson emphasized that there is no ethical problem with Justice Thomas, Judge Sykes and other jurists attending and participating in events sponsored by the Federalist Society and other legal associations. But when judges at any level agree to serve as fundraising headliners, they cross an ethical line.

 
The $200-per person Federalist dinner—sold out well in advance—annually attracts a crowd of more than 1,200 lawyers, lobbyists, law professors, members of Congress, and executives; in past years, corporate sponsors and major law firms, including some with partners who regularly practice in the high court, serve as "gold," "silver" or "bronze" sponsors, depending on how much they contribute for the event.

 
“No reasonable person can look at this event and conclude that it is anything other than a means to raise funds for the Society’s work," Aron said. "I’m quite sure the lawyers and corporations attending the event think that’s what they are doing."

 

"Judges undermine the integrity of our legal system when they lend their prestige to fundraising efforts, particularly by groups that have an ideological agenda or have proceedings before the courts,” Pearson said. “It is time to stop the growing politicization of American courts.”


Last summer, Gallup reported that Americans' approval of the Supreme Court hit a near all-time low.


"We hope these ethics complaints move the courts to take their neutrality seriously and spur Congress to make the Code of Conduct binding on the Supreme Court," Pearson said.
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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

Nov. 4, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 

 

 



Common Cause to Deploy to Polling Places Nationwide on Election Day

 

 

Common Cause staff and volunteers will deploy to polling places across the country on Tuesday, looking to ensure that every eligible voter has an opportunity to participate in the 2013 election.

 

While only two states, New Jersey and Virginia, have statewide contests this year, voters across America will decide on ballot measures and elect thousands of mayors, sheriffs, council members, and other local officials.

 

Nationally, the Election Protection coalition hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE, is open today from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. EST, and on Election Day from 5:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. to help voters with information about voting locations and hours and to field questions and complaints about problems at the polls. The Spanish hotline 1-888-VEY-VOTA and the Asian American Pacific Islander hotline, 1-888-API-VOTE, will also be available for voters across the nation. Additional information is available at the coalition website www.866ourvote.org.

 

Here’s a look at some of the election protection plans among Common Cause’s state chapters

  • California -- Common Cause is increasing its role in anchoring California’s Election Protection efforts, amid indications that a group connected to the national TrueTheVote organization and its push for restrictive voting laws is becoming more active. Common Cause has identified polls in Orange County, San Bernardino, Riverside, and San Diego for monitoring and developed a Poll Monitor Training and Toolkit for monitors throughout Southern California. We’re also identifying partners in Southern California regions where vulnerable populations may be targeted for harassment and working with the Election Protection coalition to recruit and train volunteers and lawyers for voter assistance call centers in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Data from each call will go into a central database to spot and troubleshoot problems across the state. 
  • Colorado -- Common Cause poll monitors will deploy to precincts and voter service centers for the first election since passage of comprehensive legislation to modernize Colorado’s voting systems. Common Cause also leads Just Vote! Colorado Election Protection (JVCEP), a coalition of non-partisan public interest groups that runs www.justvotecolorado.org and provides voters with basic information about the election, including webpages for each county that list the locations and hours of Voter Service and Polling Centers and ballot drop-off locations.
  • Connecticut -- Common Cause volunteers will survey voters in five targeted municipalities to spot glitches as the state moves to Election Day/Same Day voter registration and same-day voting.  Common Cause also will be distributing a palm card informing voters about the state’s Voter ID requirement.
  • Massachusetts -- Common Cause is running an election protection effort, including poll monitors and a hotline in the city of Lawrence, where a recent state report found widespread irregularities in a recent preliminary election.
  • Michigan -- Partnering with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Common Cause will lead a volunteer effort on the ground in Detroit, responding to incident reports made to the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline, and working with partners to identify problems at polling locations. 
  • New York -- Common Cause is working with NYPIRG on a call center for New York City, organizing volunteers at polling locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, and utilizing their uniquely designed PollWatch USA app (http://pollwatch.us/#about), to help track problems on Election Day. 
  • North Carolina -- In the wake of regressive changes in the state’s election laws, Common Cause has ramped up election protection activities at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), where we’ve run a robust election protection and voter engagement program over the last several election cycles.
  • Pennsylvania -- Common Cause volunteers will be at precincts in Allentown in Lehigh County to assist voters with their voting experience. Common Cause/PA will also coordinate efforts among election protection organizations, county elections departments, and the Department of State to respond to any problems observed locally and patterns of problems observed statewide. In particular, some continued confusion is anticipated regarding photo ID requirements.
  • Texas -- Common Cause is working with the Texas Civic Engagement Table and Empower the Vote Texas to assist voters with the Texas Constitutional Amendments Elections. For information about the amendments, we are recommending voters visit http://progresstexas.org/tags/2013-constitutional-amendments and view the Progress Texas Voting Guide. We’re also working to assist voters in Houston’s municipal elections and urging voters to visit www.GotIDTexas.org for information and assistance in understanding and meeting the requirements of the new voter ID law.

 

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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

Oct. 31, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 

 

 



Senate Vampires Working Overtime This Halloween

 

 

The legislative vampires who’ve turned the U.S. Senate into a chamber of horrors in recent years were up to their old tricks this Halloween, using the filibuster rule to drain a bit more of the lifeblood from constitutional government, Common Cause said today.

 

"Two weeks after the government shutdown and a trip to the brink of financial disaster, the Senate has reverted to form," said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for policy and programs. "Today’s votes stifling debate and blocking action on the confirmations of Rep. Mel Watt and Judge Patricia Millett illustrate again how a relative handful of obstructionists can use the filibuster to achieve a shutdown by other means.


"By now, we should be long past the 'gentlemen’s agreements' that treat the symptoms of the Senate’s dysfunction but ignore the disease. These nominees, both found qualified in committee, are at least entitled to a full and fair debate and an up-or-down vote; the Constitution, and the principle of majority rule that underlies it, demand no less."


A Common Cause lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the filibuster rule and the 60-vote supermajority requirement it imposes for Senate action is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

Oct. 30, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 

 

 



Senate Delay on FCC Commissioners Shows Need for New Rules Around Confirmations

 

 

The Senate’s slow walk to Tuesday’s confirmation of two new members of the Federal Communications Commission strengthens the case for new rules reforming the filibuster and stripping individual senators of the power to delay or block action on both nominations and legislation, Common Cause said today.

 

"The protracted confirmation process illustrates everything that is wrong with Washington," said Michael Copps, special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative.

 

Tom Wheeler, the new FCC chairman, and new commissioner Michael O’Rielly "were screened and endorsed by a bipartisan majority in the Commerce Committee," Copps said. "The delays they experienced speak again to the crying need for rules reform. It’s past time for the Senate to behave like a responsible legislative body, one in which presidential nominees are thoroughly but promptly scrutinized and either confirmed or defeated based on their fitness for office."

 

Wheeler’s nomination has been ready for a floor vote since July but action on both him and O’Rielly was delayed for weeks when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, used a Senate custom to put a "hold” on Wheeler. Cruz asked Wheeler for assurances that the FCC will not use its power to force broadcasters to publicly disclose the people and groups paying for political advertising.

 

"It’s a sad state of affairs when a minority of the minority party in the Senate can paralyze government," said Copps, a former FCC commissioner.

 

Cruz lifted his hold on Wheeler after a private meeting on Monday, avoiding a potential filibuster that would have extended debate and required the nominee to get 60 votes for confirmation. Both Wheeler and O’Rielly were then confirmed unanimously.

 

'I congratulate Tom Wheeler and Michael O’Rielly on their confirmations," Copps said. "The Federal Communications Commission confronts many pressing priorities, and will benefit from their combined years of expertise and public service. The full Commission should now pursue priorities include promoting media diversity and localism; achieving universal, affordable telecommunications, and making political ad disclosure through S. 317 a reality.

 

"Today I also recognize Mignon Clyburn’s impressive tenure as acting chairwoman. She oversaw strong public interest measures to rein in usurious inmate calling rates, fight media monopolization by reforming the UHF discount, and enhance choice in the wireless marketplace with 700MHz interoperability. Consumers are better off because of her leadership. Her service was extraordinary."

 

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

October 24, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

California Levies Record Campaign Finance Fine After California Common Cause Complaint

 

 

A pair of Arizona non-profit groups that in 2012 funneled $15 million from anonymous donors into two California ballot initiative campaigns – and were flushed out thanks to a complaint from California Common Cause – agreed Thursday to pay $1 million in fines to the state.

 

The California Fair Political Practices Commission will collect the money from Americans for Responsible Leadership and the Center to Protect Patient Rights; both groups are linked to billionaire industrialists and conservative activists Charles and David Koch.

 

The fine is the largest ever levied under California’s campaign finance law.

 

“This message was sent today to those who wish to use dark money in elections: you’ll be caught!” said California Common Cause spokesman Phillip Ung. “We’ll continue to be vigilant of these deceptive tactics as more groups attempt to take advantage of loopholes created byCitizens United.”

 

A complaint last year from California Common Cause triggered a commission investigation of $11 million donated by Americans for Responsible Leadership to the Small Business Action Committee, a California group. The money was used for advertisements promoting the defeat of Proposition 30, a tax measure pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown, and the approval of Proposition 32, an initiative that would have curbed the ability of labor unions to raise money for political campaigns. 

 

The commission said Thursday that the money, and a separate and similarly hidden $4 million donation to another group, the California Future Fund, actually came from the Center for Protect Patient Rights, another Koch-backed entity.

 

The Kochs are at the center of a network of wealthy conservative and libertarian political investors who have put hundreds of millions of dollars into electing Republican candidates across the country. Most of their work is done through non-profit groups, which at the federal level are able to hide the identities of the actual donors.

 

The commission said it will sue the California Future Fund and the Small Business Action Fund to recover the entire $15 million.

 

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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.

   

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

Oct. 23, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 

 

 



Big Deal, Big Money -- an Interactive Online Comic That’s Not So Funny

 

“Big Deal, Big Money,” an interactive comic illustrating Verizon’s multi-pronged campaign to control the flow of information online and squeeze millions of dollars in additional profit out of its Internet customers, was published today on commoncause.org and other websites.

Produced by Common Cause and Symbolia magazine, the comic makes a strong case for the preservation of common sense, open Internet "net neutrality" protections. Without these rules, which Verizon is challenging in court, Internet providers would have the power to block, slow, or impose extra fees for consumer access to popular websites and applications.

The comic explains why open Internet protections matter, and conveys to Internet users what they will lose if Verizon is successful in its challenge. The comic is interactive, so readers can take action by clicking a link embedded in the graphics, and sign a petition to protect the open and uncensored Internet.

"Verizon has spent $53 million in recent years on lobbying and political contributions focused largely on upending net neutrality and turning its Internet provider business into a cash cow,” said Todd O'Boyle, program director for Common Cause's Media and Democracy Reform Initiative. “They’ve shown time and again their willingness to spend whatever, wherever, to control what consumers can see, say, and share online. We need strong open Internet protections more than ever."

"Big Deal, Big Money" is adapted from "Goodbye Open Internet?" a Common Cause report. It was produced in partnership with Symbolia Magazine and illustrated by Serenity Caldwell.
 

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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

October 16, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

This cannot happen again

 

We hope the agreement announced today is a signal that a bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress is ready – finally -- to do the nation’s business.

 

The last few weeks have been an embarrassment for and a lesson to all Americans. We’ve seen a reckless, overzealous minority put hundreds of thousands of federal employees out of work, deprive millions of Americans of vital government services, bring us to the brink of economic ruin, shatter the world’s confidence in American leadership and badly undermine our democracy.

 

Simply put, this cannot happen again.

 

Preventing it requires that Congress change the way it operates to restore majority rule while protecting minority rights. Arcane rules and customs in both houses that allow the minority to block debate and prevent action must be replaced with a process that permits the majority to work its will while ensuring that minority views are heard and play a meaningful role in governance.

 

What’s more, we need to reform redistricting so that partisans are no longer able to divide the nation into deeply blue and deeply red congressional districts, where incumbents can safely hold their seats regardless of their performance. And we need to change the way we pay for elections, so a tiny, wealthy faction can no longer purchase political power and influence.

 

Along with those changes, we must have a bipartisan commitment to a government that pays its bills. Liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats must agree that America cannot be a deadbeat. We expect and respect partisan disagreements over tax and spending levels, but we cannot tolerate any course of action, or inaction, that triggers a default on the nation’s obligations.

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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.

   

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

October 8, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Common Cause Statement on Today's Hearing in McCutcheon v. FEC

 

 

McCutcheon gives the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts an opportunity to halt its relentless march toward legalizing bribery in our politics and instead to re-affirm a self-evident truth: that big money contributions to candidates create an unacceptable risk of corruption.

 

No serious person questions the power of money in our politics. Whether in Washington, at the statehouse or at city hall, major donors get major access to the officials their money helps elect; their lobbyists are invited to help write and amend laws, and they are rewarded with government jobs and tax breaks.

 

All of this is legal, the court says, so long as there is what lawyers call ‘no quid pro quo corruption’ -- no providing of a specific favor in exchange for a specific contribution.

 

That is more than bad enough, but Mr. McCutcheon and his lawyers want the court to make it worse by inviting the wealthy to put even more of their money into the system. At its core, their argument is that the right of free speech guaranteed by the Constitution is also a right to purchase political influence.

 

We yield to no one in our support for free speech. But the exercise of every freedom under the Constitution is subject to a balancing test. Slander and libel laws properly constrain freedom of speech and of the press. Freedom of assembly does not give demonstrators the right to indefinitely occupy public parks or private property. The right to keep and bear arms does not allow a citizen to purchase one of the Army’s howitzers or the Navy’s Tomahawk missiles.

 

In this case, the aggregate contribution limits now in place allow Mr. McCutcheon and other wealthy donors to spend more than enough money to make their views known to their representatives and their fellow citizens. The potential for corruption -- indeed its inevitability -- if those limits are removed is clear and present and more than sufficient to justify keeping them in place.    

 

 

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

October 4, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

House Speaker Should Permit Vote on "Clean" Resolution to Reopen Government

Majority Rule a Core Principle, Common Cause Asserts

 

With no end to the federal government shutdown in sight, Common Cause called on House Speaker John Boehner and the rest of the Republican leadership on Friday to permit a vote on a “clean” resolution to re-open all federal agencies immediately. A clean resolution would fund the government and leave out extraneous issues such as Obamacare.

 

“Majority rule is one of the core principles of American government, one that if applied now might put our government back to work,” the non-profit, non-partisan government watchdog group said.

 

“A majority of the Senate has voted to reopen the government during negotiations on a federal budget for 2014. It’s time for Speaker Boehner to let the House vote as well; his refusal to do so constitutes a gross abuse of power and an admission that a minority now holds sway over the House and by extension the entire Congress.” 

 

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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact: Mary Boyle

October 3, 2013

 (202) 736-5770

 

 

Hundreds Expected to Rally Against Big Money in Politics During Argument of McCutcheon v. FEC

 

WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC, activists and organizations across a wide spectrum of issues will speak out in support of protecting the integrity of our democracy at a rally outside the court. In the McCutcheon case, the Supreme Court will decide whether or not to strike down important caps on how much money an individual can contribute directly to political campaigns.

WHAT: Rally against big money in politics and McCutcheon v. FEC
WHERE: The Supreme Court of the United States (1 First St NE, Washington, DC)
WHEN: Tuesday, October 8th at 9:30 am (speakers at 10:00am)

FEATURED SPEAKERS:

 

* Reverend Dr. William Barber II, Moral Monday leader and chapter leader of North Carolina NAACP
* Congressman John Sarbanes, Maryland – District 3
* Larry Cohen, president, Communications Workers of America
* Phil Radford, executive director, Greenpeace USA
* Marge Baker, rally co-host and xecutive vice president, People For the American Way
* Blair Bowie, rally co-host and democracy advocate, US PIRG
* Liz Kennedy, counsel, DEMOS
* Mary Boyle, vice president of communications, Common Cause
* Josh Silver, director, Represent.Us
* Matthew Segal, president, Our Time
* Steve Cobble, senior political advisor, Free Speech For People
* David Borris, executive committee member, Main Street Alliance
* Brendien Mitchell, Howard University fellow, Young People For
* Craig L. Rice, Maryland state director, Young Elected Officials Network
* Tom Blackton, retired teacher/school principal, Center For Community Change

PARTNERS: Alliance for a Just Society, Center For Community Change, Coffee Party, Communication Workers of America, Common Cause, Corporate Accountability International, Democracy Initiative, DEMOS, Food & Water Watch, Free Speech For People, Greenpeace, Main Street Alliance, MoveOn, Our Time, People For the American Way, Public Campaign, Represent.Us, Sierra Club, US PIRG, Young Elected Officials Network, Young People For.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

October 2, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

On Argument of McCutcheon v. FEC, Democracy Groups Call for Constitutional Amendment

 

Case Shows Need for An Amendment to Protect Integrity of Our Democracy, Eight Groups Argue

 

  

WASHINGTON – As the Supreme Court prepares for next week’s scheduled oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC, eight pro-democracy groups are speaking out on the urgent need for amending the Constitution to protect the integrity of our democracy. 

 

Three years after the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which opened the door to a torrent of corporate and special interest spending to influence our elections, the high court is now considering a case that could bring further harm to our political system.  In McCutcheon, the Court is being asked to strike down aggregate contribution limits and allow multi-million-dollar campaign contributions to flood our electoral process. 

 

The case is a continuation of the attack on our democracy by wealthy interests.  Plaintiffs challenging aggregate limits should clearly lose this case under current Supreme Court precedent, but the fact that the Court has agreed to hear their arguments at all underscores the need for amending the Constitution to restore the American people’s ability to limit corporate and special interest influence on elections and to promote a democracy of, by and for the people.  To date, sixteen states and more than 500 cities and towns have gone on record in support of amending the constitution.  Fourteen federal amendments have been proposed in the 113thCongress.

 

The organizational statements are below.

 

McCutcheon is not about free speech, it’s about the buying and selling of political power,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Senior Vice President for Strategy and Programs at Common Cause.  “The case invites the court to give wealthy Americans permission to purchase political favors and influence like they purchase stocks or real estate. With apologies to Mark Twain, it would give us the best government money can buy.”

 

“After the most expensive election cycle in our country’s history, the ultra-conservative bloc of the Supreme Court continues to threaten our democracy,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “Our constitution’s authors did not envision a government of corporations and the wealthy – they envisioned a government of the people. This case threatens the very foundations of that system. A democracy where the voices of everyday Americans are overpowered by the amplified voices of the rich and powerful is not the kind of democracy Americans want or expect. That’s why it’s so important that we help nurture the growing movement to take back our democracy and pass a constitutional amendment putting the power of our political system back where it belongs – in the hands of the people.”

 

“The Supreme Court may be poised in the McCutcheon case to follow its disastrous Citizens United decision and issue a new ruling which further allows big money interests to dominate our political process and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens,” said John Bonifaz, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Free Speech For People. “If it does that, it will only provide added proof that we the people must overrule the Court with a constitutional amendment to reclaim our democracy.”

 

“For nearly forty years, the Supreme Court has been driving us down a road that continues to take us further from our democratic values,” said Emma Boorboor, Democracy Associate for U.S. PIRG. “Americans believe that in a democracy the size of your wallet should not determine the volume of your voice. McCutcheon v. FEC could give a megaphone to small set of ultra wealthy donors, drowning out the voices of average Americans. Those challenging limits should clearly lose this case under current law. But, ultimately, we can only turn this car around by amending the U.S. Constitution to clarify to the Supreme Court that the first amendment was never meant as a tool for special interests to co-opt our democratic process.”

 

“The Supreme Court should not repeat the grave mistakes of its disastrous Citizens United ruling in the McCutcheon case by giving the richest few even more disproportionate influence over our democracy,” said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy. “The notion that anyone’s ‘speech’ rights are burdened because he can’t give more than $123,200 in campaign contributions is an absolute perversion of the First Amendment, and the fact that the high court would even consider such a claim demonstrates that we need to amend our Constitution to stop the distortions of big money in our elections and restore the primacy of the people in our democracy.”

 

“In McCutcheon, the Supreme Court will decide whether to double down on Citizens United to transform further our democracy – rule by the people – into a wealthocracy,” said Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen.“We can only hope that this is one step too far for the Supreme Court. But we shouldn’t have to hope, and we shouldn’t have to live with a campaign finance system already corroded by Citizens United and other harmful court decisions. That McCutcheon is even being considered by the Court highlights the imperative of a constitutional amendment to protect our democracy.”

 

“Many in this country already question the Legitimacy of our supposedly ‘democratic’ republic and the Supreme Court itself,” said Bill Moyer, Executive Director of the Backbone Campaign.“Even the pretext of representation of the citizenry has be replaced with a blatant and shameless auction. Corporations and the aristocratic super-rich who hide behind their corporate shelters of liability are ‘coming out.’McCutcheon v. FEC represents a shameless flaunting of oligarchic power and reflects disdain for even the illusion of a system that strives toward egalitarian system of, by and for the People.”

  

“The issue in the McCutcheon case is one of political bribery, which is outlawed in the US Criminal code.  Yet, in the wake of Citizens United, we fear that the court’s attack on democracy in favor of corporate rule will continue when it rules in this case involving aggregate limits on individual contributions to candidates,” said David Delk, Co-Chair of the Alliance for Democracy“Will it even limit itself to just that question? To end this series of court decisions favoring the corporatocracy, we must amend the US Constitution to make clear that corporations are not people and therefore have no constitutional rights, and that money is not speech.”

 

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 30, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770
mboyle@commoncause.org,

 





Common Cause Demands Lawmakers Cease Fundraising During Shutdown


 

The government shutdown set to begin at midnight tonight must be accompanied by a shutdown in political fundraising by members of Congress, Common Cause said today.

 

“It’s unthinkable that in the midst of a shutdown, which may deprive up to 1 million federal employees of their paychecks, members of the House and Senate would pursue a political payday,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs.

 

Common Cause has sent all 535 members of the House and Senate a letter urging them to refrain from fundraising during the shutdown. It also is asking its 400,000 members and supporters to petition their representatives to abstain from fundraising until a budget is passed and signed by the President.

 

“If it occurs, the shutdown will be an act of political vandalism, precipitated by members of Congress whose actions demonstrate profound contempt for their oath to “support and defend the Constitution” Hobert Flynn said. “One would hope that every member would be so embarrassed by this breakdown that they would voluntarily suspend fundraising.

 

“Whatever one thinks of the Affordable Care Act, it was legally enacted by Congress and signed by the President after an exhaustive debate,” she added. “Those who now want to repeal it have every right to make the attempt; but having failed, they have no right to turn their backs on their sworn duty by closing down the government.

 

“All this damage is being done just so that a few people can make a political point. Meanwhile, implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the target of these saboteurs, will proceed on schedule, paid for from federal accounts untouched by the shutdown. It’s madness, and by all accounts there’s more of it to come later this month when the federal government hits its debt ceiling.

 

“No one in Congress ran on a platform calling for a government shutdown; no one voted expecting their representatives would ‘lead’ us to a shutdown. Americans deserve better than this.”

 

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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.  

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 18, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770
mboyle@commoncause.org,

 





 

Dear editorial writers and reporters:

Our nation’s media ecosystems are undergoing revolutionary changes. Consider:

·        The Washington Post was just sold to the founder of Amazon

·        There’s controversy in New York over the end of universal landline service

·        A wave of consolidation threatens to wipe out independent, locally-owned media

·        Bidding wars are underway for television stations in battleground states which are now seen as “cash cows” in the aftermath of the Citizens United decision.

These are just a few of the recent headlines that reveal how quickly America’s media landscape is changing.

What’s not moving as quickly is the federal agency charged with oversight of broadcast media, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In coming weeks, the Senate is expected to confirm a new chair of that board, former industry lobbyist Tom Wheeler, and a new member, Republican nominee Michael O’Rielly.

Here’s a memo from Common Cause on what we’ll be watching at the re-shaped FCC.

Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who is leading Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative, is available to discuss these issues in further depth. 


 

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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.  

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

September 18, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Gov. Perry's Partisan Piracy Raises Ethics, Transparency Questions

 

Are Texas Taxpayers Footing the Bill for Perry's Attacks on Democratic Governors?

 

 

The Texas state motto is “friendship,” but a report released today suggests that Republican Gov. Rick Perry may be putting Texans’ money to work in a decidedly unfriendly way – using partisan attacks on some of his fellow governors to poach jobs from their states.

 

“Gov. Perry needs to level with Texans about how he’s using their money,” said Arn Pearson, Common Cause’s vice president for policy and litigation. “Perry is mixing politics with economics in a dangerous way that demands full transparency and raises important ethical and legal questions.” 

 

Perry has ratcheted longstanding interstate competition for job development to new partisan heights this year. A non-profit group that operates as an adjunct of Perry’s office has spent $1.8 million on TV and radio ad campaigns in six states, underwriting commercials in which Perry casts the states and/or their Democratic governors as anti-business.

 

While Perry’s press releases say that “no state tax dollars will be used for his travel and accommodations, or for the ad buys,” a report released today by Good Jobs First raises questions about the money behind the Perry offensive and suggests that Texas taxpayers are likely picking up at least part of the tab.

 

The confrontational trips and ads are paid for by TexasOne, a public-private partnership that gets a substantial portion of its revenues from 80 municipalities and publicly funded economic development corporations, according to the report. Good Jobs First said public funds comprised about one-fourth of TexasOne’s 2012 revenue; one press report put the public’s share of its funding at 45 percent over three years.

 

TexasOne is an adjunct of the Texas Economic Development Corporation (TEDC), a tax-exempt, non-profit corporation created by the Texas state government, controlled by Perry’s office, and financed by member dues, some of which come from local economic development corporations that in turn get their money from sales tax revenue.

 

Because TEDC’s 501 (c)(3) tax status requires that it abstain from political activity, the group’s involvement in Perry’s partisan-tinged campaign may run afoul of federal tax laws, Pearson said.

 

“Gov. Perry’s commercials declare Texas ‘wide open for business,’ but the cozy relationship between the governor, TexasOne and the big corporations that help fund it leaves Texas wide open for corruption,” Pearson said.

 

Perry, a Republican who ran for President in 2012 and has refused to rule out a second bid in 2016, is in Maryland today for business recruitment meetings, including a stop at a firearms manufacturer. Ahead of the trip, TexasOne has spent $500,000 on ads that accuse Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley of making Maryland “the tax and fee state, where businesses and families are paying some of the highest taxes in America.”

 

“Perry’s campaign seems more about the presidential climate in the two states than their business climate,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland.

 

Perry and TexasOne have run similar campaigns in New York, California, Illinois, Missouri and Connecticut, all states with Democratic governors. 

 

"When you grow tired of Maryland taxes squeezing every dime out of your business, think Texas," Perry tells Maryland business people in a radio ad. In a previous ad, Perry urges New York business people to “get out before you go broke” and move to Texas, and in another he says “I hear building a business in California is next to impossible.”

 

In at least one interview, Perry was unabashed about the campaign’s partisan edge. “This is a good red state - blue state conversation we’re having,” he told a reporter in Illinois.

 

“While states prepare to be boarded, Perry’s PR machine fires on his fellow governors with rhetoric normally reserved for election season attack ads,” Pearson said. 

 

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For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 9, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770
mboyle@commoncause.org,

 





Sallie Mae Drops ALEC Membership


Sallie Mae today became the 50th corporation to drop its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, over the last year-and-a-half, an exodus that began with the controversy surrounding an ALEC-backed gun law in Florida in 2012, and which has continued as Common Cause and other groups have challenged ALEC’s claims that it is not engaged in lobbying and does not need to register under state lobbying laws.

In May, 200 student activists gathered outside Sallie Mae’s annual shareholder meeting in Newark, DE to demand that it drop its ALEC membership. At the time, Sallie Mae CEO John F. Remondi cited ALEC’s work on model legislation dealing with student debt repayment as an incentive for belonging to ALEC. But representatives of Common Cause Delaware and student groups who spoke at this meeting noted that ALEC has also developed Voter ID laws which make it harder for students to vote, and model laws which would redirect funding from public to private schools.

“Sallie Mae is to be commended for making a clean break from ALEC and its questionable lobbying practices,” said Dee Durham, Campaign Manager for Common Cause Delaware. “Corporations who belong to ALEC are supporting the ALEC model of drafting bills but somehow claiming that this is not lobbying.”

In Delaware, Common Cause has also cited ALEC’s ability to avoid registering under the state’s lobbying law as a reason to strengthen the state’s disclosure requirements. According to “Open Delaware,” a Common Cause report published in 2011, Delaware’s lobbying law fails to capture an estimated 80%-90% of all lobbying expenditures because it does not require lobbyists to report how much compensation they receive from each of their clients.

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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.  

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

September 9, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Former FCC Commissioner Copps Available for Comment on Verizon's Net Neutrality Challenge

 

 

Michael Copps, who in a decade of service on the Federal Communications Commission emerged as one of the nation’s leading proponents of net neutrality, will be available to speak with reporters today, (9/9/13) following the conclusion of oral arguments in the case of Verizon vs. FCC. He can be reached at 617-496-0337, or mediaanddemocracyreform@commoncause.org.

Copps now serves as special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative.

Verizon vs. FCC background:

Lawyers for Verizon are slated to be in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington on Monday, seeking authority to hit consumers with special fees for access to popular websites and applications. Common Cause is rallying support nationwide for maintaining “net neutrality” and an open Internet.

Network neutrality is critical to maintaining and strengthening the innovative spirit that has made the Internet an engine of prosperity in the 21st Century. And because so much of the nation’s political discourse now occurs online, Americans need open Internet protections to guarantee their rights to speak, connect, and organize in cyberspace.

 

“Goodbye Open Internet?” a new report issued by Common Cause, spotlights how Verizon has invested millions in lobbying and electing key political leaders to strengthen its hand in the battle for control of the Internet.

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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

September 5, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Common Cause Study Highlights Verizon's $53 Million In Campaign Donations and Lobby Expenses As Company Looks to Overturn "Net Neutrality"

 

 

As Verizon prepares to head to federal court in its fight for authority to impose new fees on customers to access certain websites and online applications, a new report by Common Cause shows the telecommunications giant has invested more than $53 million since 2010 to lobby and help elect President Obama and members of Congress that it likely will look to for support.

 

"Millions of Americans write checks to Verizon every month to secure their connections to the Internet," said Todd O’Boyle, director of Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative. "Verizon, meanwhile, is writing checks to secure its connections to lawmakers and enhance its influence on their decision-making."

 

Verizon will be in U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Monday as it seeks to replace today’s ‘Net Neutrality’ with an online pricing regime that will permit it to charge consumers extra for access to the sites and use of the applications they want most.

 

The study, "Goodbye Open Internet," documents the special attention the company has paid to Obama and legislative leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and his predecessor, former Rep. Roy Blunt (now a senator), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as well as to members of four congressional committees charged with developing the laws governing its business.

 

The President’s re-election campaign and groups tied to it have been the largest single recipients of the company’s aid, the study found, taking in nearly $224,000. Obama has spoken repeatedly of his support for Net Neutrality but the issue received little attention during his successful re-election drive last year and he’s had little to say about it during his second term. Tom Wheeler, Obama’s recently confirmed nominee to head the FCC, also has given few hints of how he’ll manage the issue.

 

Meanwhile in Congress, Verizon has invested heavily in leaders like Boehner ($33,000 over the past two elections), and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer ($50,800 during the same period) as well as members of four committees – Judiciary plus Energy and Commerce in the House and Commerce, Science and Transportation plus Judiciary in the Senate – that are responsible for laws regulating it.

 

The committee members received Verizon-linked contributions of more than $1.2 million over the past two election cycles; some $527,000 of that came in the form of donations totaling $10,000 or more to each of 28 committee members.

 

The report links Verizon’s political campaign and lobbying spending to its ongoing legal battle with the Federal Communications Commission over Net Neutrality. The company was actively involved in the FCC’s development of "Third Way," a compromise Internet regulatory framework approved in 2010, but now argues in court that the plan imposes "potentially sweeping and unneeded regulations on broadband networks and services and on the Internet itself."

 

While the FCC, not Congress, has direct responsibility for regulating Verizon and other Internet service providers, the report argues that the effects of Verizon’s lobbying and political spending are felt at the commission as well as on Capitol Hill. The study recounts how a 2010 attempt by the FCC to toughen Open Internet rules prompted 73 House Democrats to send the commission an outraged and misinformation-stuffed letter seeking to head the action off at the pass.

 

The report also notes that FCC Commissioners and staffers often jump directly from the FCC into lucrative private sector jobs influencing their former associates in government. Former FCC Chief-of-Staff Kathryn Brown, for instance, has worked as a Senior VP for Verizon since 2002, while Commissioner Meredith Atwell Baker ended her tenure in 2011 and took a high-ranking post at Comcast subsidiary NBC Universal.

 

View the full report here.

 

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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.

 



 

 

 

Regnat Populus · Free Speech for People · Common Cause · Public Citizen

 

 

For Immediate Release

Sept. 5, 2013

 

 

 Contact:
David Couch, co-chair, Regnat Populus, 501-661-1300
Paul Spencer, co-chair, Regnat Populus, 501-515-8661

 

 

Coalition of Public Interest Groups Launches 2014 Ballot Measure to Restrict Corporate Money in Arkansas Elections

Ballot Initiative Presents New Way for States to Address U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United Ruling

Initiative Would Also Call For a Constitutional Amendment to Restore Democracy to the People

 

Joint Statement of Common Cause, Free Speech For People, Public Citizen and Regnat Populus

 

It’s Arkansas’ turn.

State after state has been taking action to challenge the US Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which swept away a century of precedent barring corporate money in our elections and which unleashed unlimited corporate cash into our politics. Now Arkansas is stepping up to join the fight to restore democracy to the people.

Arkansas’ own Regnat Populus– a group whose name was taken from the Arkansas state motto and means “the People Rule”—has joined with national organizational partners Common Cause, Free Speech For People, and Public Citizen to advance a citizen-initiated act that would restrict corporate money in elections in Arkansas and call for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling and reclaim our democracy.

In recent weeks and months, Arkansans have watched a parade of ethics abuses march by. This carnival of corruption was led by the likes of State Treasurer Martha Shoffner, State Senator Paul Bookout, and Lt. Gov. Mark Darr. However, these ethics abuses of misappropriation of funds were already illegal under Arkansas law.

Their misdeeds, unfortunately, are dwarfed by a much greater breach of the public trust which, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, is now perfectly legal. As a result of the Citizens United ruling, corporations within and outside of the state may now dump millions, if not hundreds of millions, of corporate dollars into our elections. The nation’s highest court now views corporations – government-created entities – as having the same constitutional rights as natural persons to influence an election.

 
This ruling presents a direct and serious threat to our democracy and to the fundamental American promise of government of, by and for the people.

In the face of this threat, we must stand up to defend our Republic. Today, we are filing with Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel a ballot initiative for the 2014 election that will restrict corporate political expenditures in Arkansas elections and call for an amendment to the US Constitution which makes clear that corporations are not people with constitutional rights and that Congress and the states can limit political spending. The proposed “Act to Restrict Corporate Spending to Influence Elections in Arkansas” would condition the state’s granting of limited liability protection for any corporation doing business in Arkansas on that corporation’s compliance with the corporate spending ban in Arkansas elections.

It is Arkansas’ turn to make a stand and to join the 16 other states already on record calling for a constitutional amendment to reclaim our democracy. And, it is Arkansas’ turn to lead the way with new restrictions on corporate money in our elections.

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For Immediate Release

Contact:

August 27, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




FCC Must Do More to Require Broadcasters to Disclose their Political Advertisers  

Common Cause and a coalition of other public interest organizations are calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to strengthen a fledgling program requiring broadcasters to post information online about their political advertisers.

In comments filed this week with the FCC, the groups said the online postings, which include the names of political advertisers and the amount of money each has spent on ads, have helped inform voters and stimulated public debate. They urged the FCC to require that the information be posted in a machine-readable format, so that researchers can more easily aggregate and analyze and publicize it.

The FCC last year ordered the top four broadcasters in the nation’s 50 largest media markets to place their media files online. The stations previously were required to provide the files, including information about political advertisers, in printed form to reporters and citizens requesting then in person at station offices.

The commission has indicated stations in all markets will have to post the information online in time for the 2014 election cycle.

“During the 2012 campaign season, online political file reporting helped journalists cover political campaigns. It also helped advocates like Common Cause expose the pervasive problem of money in politics,” said Todd O’Boyle, program director for Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative.

“But the files give voters only a hint of who is behind the big money being spent on political advertising,” O’Boyle said. “We can now learn how much money tax-exempt groups like Crossroads GPS have spent to advertise in a particular market but we’re still in the dark about the people, businesses or groups that provided the money and what they might want in return.

“Common Cause continues to believe that the FCC should exert its authority under existing law (Section 317 of the Telecommunication Act) to make true political ad transparency a reality,” he added.

Common Cause is part of the Public Interest Airwaves Coalition, which filed the comments along with the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Effective Government. 
 

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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.  

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

August 5, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Groups Charge ALEC With Tax Fraud Over Secretive "Scholarship" Fund That Finances Junkets for State Lawmakers

 

As Legislators Converge on Chicago, Watchdogs Urge Full Disclosure of Travel Slush Fund Spending and Tough Enforcement of State Gift Laws

 

 

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is running a secretive, multi-million dollar slush fund that finances lavish trips for state legislators and has misled the Internal Revenue Service about the fund’s activity, two government watchdog groups charged today.

Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy said the “scholarship fund” scheme also raises serious questions about ALEC’s compliance with state gift and disclosure laws, and the ethics of lawmakers who accept ALEC’s travel payments.

The watchdogs said that by funneling money through ALEC, that group’s corporate sponsors are able to take a federal tax deduction for the cost of wining, dining and housing lawmakers and their families at resorts and events like ALEC’s 40thanniversary meeting this week at Chicago’s posh Palmer House Hilton (August 7-9). Meanwhile, ALEC conceals the sources of the funds from the public and hides the amount of spending from the IRS by claiming that it only holds the funds in “trust,” while writing lawmakers’ checks to cover their trips.

Common Cause and CMD laid out details of the fund’s operation in an IRS tax whistleblower complaint and letter to the IRS Commissioner.

The groups have built their case based on documents obtained through open records requests, and are taking a number of actions this week to urge a crackdown on the ALEC slush fund’s operation, including:
 

   * Filing a Common Cause complaint with the IRS Whistleblower Office and submitting a joint letter to the IRS Commissioner charging ALEC with filing fraudulent tax returns that massively underreported and grossly misrepresented its “scholarship scheme,” and of operating the fund in violation ALEC’s 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. 


   * Releasing an investigative report, Buying Influence, prepared by both groups and DBAPress,that documents how ALEC’s member companies have funneled at least $4 million for lawmakers since 2006 into the “scholarship” fund. ALEC’s corporate funds have been used to fly state lawmakers to resorts for closed-door meetings with corporate leaders and lobbyists, and to finance the purchase of exclusive tickets and receptions at professional baseball games, cigar parties, and skeet shoots.The "slush fund…leaves constituents in the dark about who is really footing the bills for their representatives,” the groups charged.


   * Sending letters to state ethics oversight agencies urging authorities to carefully review the ALEC “scholarship” scheme and determine if it complies with state gift and disclosure laws.


   * Sending letters to the ALEC elected state chair in each state, asking for the names of legislators receiving ALEC corporate funds to travel to this week’s Chicago conference, and which corporations are underwriting that travel. CMD and Common Cause also asked the ALEC chairs to provide a full public accounting of legislative “scholarship” recipients and funders for the past five years.

 

“ALEC pledged this spring to be more transparent. This is a chance for the organization to keep that promise,” said Arn Pearson, Common Cause’s vice president for policy and litigation. “Our elected officials really should not accept expense-paid trips and lodging from special interests, but if they choose to do so, the voters are entitled to know who is paying, and how much.”

 

“We now know which corporations funded trips to posh resorts for hundreds of lawmakers to vote behind closed doors with lobbyists on proposals to change state laws,” said Lisa Graves, executive director of CMD and alecexposed.org. “It’s disgraceful for ALEC to use its tax-exempt status to act as a conduit for gifts to facilitate influence peddling that advances the lobbying agenda of special interests to the detriment of ordinary Americans. This is corruption."

 

The ALEC confabs bring together corporate executives, lobbyists, and state lawmakers for closed-door meetings where they vote side by side on pro-corporate legislation to take back to their states. ALEC’s agenda includes the privatization of schools and other public assets, anti-labor laws, weakened protections for clean water and air, and telecom deregulation bills. ALEC’s legacy includes a national drive on behalf of “Stand Your Ground” laws like the Florida statute at issue in the Trayvon Martin shooting, and restrictive Voter ID measures that make it harder for students, elderly, minority and disabled voters to cast their ballots.

Most of the money in the scholarship fund comes from telecom, pharmaceutical, tobacco, alcohol, and oil and gas industry giants – companies and trade associations that benefit financially from the passage of state legislation promoted by ALEC.

 

The top 10 corporate donors to the ALEC scholarship fund for the years data is available are:

 

 

 

COMPANY

DONATION

PhRMA

$398,351.87

AT & T

$101,848.00

Bayer HealthCare

 $78,800.00

Eli Lilly

 $70,750.00

US Tobacco

 $63,250.00

Pfizer Inc

 $54,905.72

Crown Cork & Seal Company

 $54,000.00

Altria

 $40,000.00

Verizon

 $37,000.00

Blue Cross Blue Shield

 

 $36,750.00

 

 

The CMD-Common Cause report said ALEC promotes its meetings “in vacation-like terms.” One of its invites promised legislators “endless sandy beaches, sunny days, beautiful sunsets and the cool gulf breezes.” The event was at a luxury hotel, near a golf course where ALEC funder R.J. Reynolds Tobacco sponsored a clinic and tournament for lawmakers and lobbyists, the report said, one of many such events.

 

Others – Marcus Owens, the former head of the IRS’ nonprofit tax section, and Bob Sloan of the

Voter Legislative Transparency Project – have also urged the IRS to investigate misrepresentations they allege ALEC has made in its federal tax filings regarding its lobbying and its payments for travel by elected officials.

 

The top 10 states receiving ALEC “scholarships” for legislators for the years data is available were:

 

 

State

Total

South Carolina

$200,565

Georgia

$170,990

Mississippi

$161,156

California

$127,200

Wisconsin.

$116,700

Wyoming

$111,750

Colorado

$106,061

Oklahoma

$104,165

Arizona

Ohio

 $79,919

 $75,224

 

 

 

 

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For Immediate Release

Contact: Dale Eisman

August 1, 2013

(202)736-5788

 

 

 

 

Common Cause Asks Appeals Court to Overturn Senate Filibuster Rule

 

Upper House of Congress Now Controlled by Minority Veto, Brief Asserts

 

The U.S. Senate’s 60-vote filibuster rule has transformed a once-revered legislative body into one controlled by “a minority veto… specifically rejected by the (Constitution’s) framers,” Common Cause asserted in a legal brief filed today.

 

The non-profit government watchdog told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that Senate lawyers are mistaken in claiming that the filibuster rule is immune to court oversight. The Senate has exclusive authority to make its own rules, but those rules must meet the Constitution’s requirement that a simple majority vote is sufficient for most Senate action, the brief asserts.

 

Common Cause is appealing a lower court ruling last December dismissing its lawsuit challenging the filibuster. Other plaintiffs include Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson, both D-GA, Michael Michaud, D-ME, and Keith Ellison, D-MN, along with three people – Erika Andiola, Ceslo Mireles, and Caesar Vargas – whose opportunity to become American citizens has been blocked by a Senate filibuster of the DREAM Act.

 

All the plaintiffs are being represented by Atlanta attorney Emmet J. Bondurant, a member of Common Cause’s national governing board. No date for a hearing has been set.

 

The 41-page brief filed today argues that thanks to the filibuster rule “No bill (with limited exceptions) can be debated or passed by the Senate and no nominee can be confirmed without 60 votes.” That’s nine votes more than the simple majority of 51 that the Constitution’s framers expected would be necessary, Common Cause contends.

 

The Constitution mentions only a handful of circumstances in which a super-majority is required for action. Conviction of the President or a federal judge in an impeachment trial, for example, requires a two-thirds majority of senators – now 67 votes – and ratification of a constitutional amendment requires approval by three-fourths – 37 – of the 50 state legislatures.

 

Common Cause said that if courts embrace claims that Senate rules are immune from judicial review, a future Senate could decide that 75, 80 or even 100 votes are required to pass bills or confirm the President’s nominees for judgeships, ambassadorships, and cabinet offices.

 

Today’s filing comes amid an ongoing debate among senators about the filibuster. Republicans, currently the Senate’s minority party, have dramatically increased their use of the rule, staging 385 filibusters from 2006-12, according to Fix the Senate Now, a coalition of groups working to reform the rule. That’s nearly double the 201 filibusters recorded from 2000-06.

 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has warned that Democrats may invoke a “nuclear option” to change the rule and end filibusters with a simple majority of 51 votes. A bi-partisan agreement last month averted a showdown, as Republicans agreed to move forward with confirmation votes for several of President Obama’s nominees for key administration posts.

 

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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.

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For Immediate Release

Contact:  Dale Eisman

August 1, 2013

(202)736-5788

 

 

 

 

Common Cause Urges Congress to Approve Supreme Court Ethics Act

 

 

Introduction of the Supreme Court Ethics Act of 2013 is a hopeful step toward ensuring that members of our nation’s highest court are held to the highest ethical standards, Common Cause said today.

 

The legislation would require Supreme Court justices to adopt a code of ethics that includes the five canons of the Code of Conduct that currently apply to all lower courts.

 

“This legislation shouldn’t be necessary, but the repeated refusal of Chief Justice John Roberts and the rest of the court to adopt rules binding themselves to the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges leaves Congress with little choice but to act,” said Arn Pearson, Common Cause’s vice president for policy and litigation. “We hope it will do so promptly and we commend Rep. Louise Slaughter and Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal for bringing this important bill forward.”

 

Common Cause has questioned the compliance of Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito with provisions of the Code that warn judges against engaging in fundraising or partisan political activity or hearing cases in which they may have a personal interest. The Code instructs judges to avoid any conduct on or off the bench which might erode public confidence in their impartiality.

 

Both Scalia and Thomas have been featured guests at political strategy sessions convened by industrialists Charles and David Koch. The closed-door meetings typically attract a mix of conservative business leaders and Republican elected officials.

 

“The Code and its canons are an ethical guidebook for judges at every other level of the federal judiciary,” Pearson said. “There is no reason why Supreme Court justices should not follow the same rules as every other federal judge. Our nation’s highest court should not have the lowest ethical standards.”

 

While Roberts and several other justices have written or made public comments indicating that they voluntarily follow the Code and its canons, the court has refused to accept the Code as binding.

 

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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Dale Eisman

July 31, 2013

(202)736-5788

 

 

 

 

Common Cause Statement to Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Strengthening Privacy Rights and National Security: Oversight of FISA Surveillance Programs

 

"Common Cause commends the Senate Judiciary Committee for holding a hearing to examine the government’s authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It is imperative for our government to strike a careful balance between protecting civil liberties and providing security. Congress must continue to exercise its oversight responsibilities by conducting additional hearings on potential abuse of power at the National Security Agency and other agencies to ensure that law-abiding Americans are not included in domestic surveillance activities."

 


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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Dale Eisman

July 30, 2013

(202)736-5788

 

 

 

 

Common Cause Urges Holder to Challenge North Carolina Voter Restrictions

 

Attorney General Eric Holder should seek a court order overturning North Carolina’s discriminatory new voting laws and requiring that future changes in the Tar Heel State’s election statutes be cleared in advance by the Justice Department, Common Cause said Tuesday.

"The attorney general’s strong response to a new Texas law imposing discriminatory Voter ID requirements has put states on notice that the administration intends to continue enforcing the Voting Rights Act," said Arn Pearson, Common Cause’s vice president for policy and litigation. "Mr. Holder needs to back up those words with action in North Carolina as well."

North Carolina lawmakers approved a bill last week reducing early voting days, eliminating Election Day voter registration, repealing a program that allowed high school students to register before they turn 18, and dramatically restricting the types of voter identification that officials will accept at the polls.

"It's clear that this legislation was written to make it more difficult for tens of thousands of North Carolinians to exercise their right to vote. It will disproportionately impact minority voters and students, as well the elderly and those with disabilities who may not be able to obtain the kinds of ID it requires or get to a polling place on one of the designated early voting days," Pearson said.

"These are exactly the kinds of maneuvers the Voting Rights Act is designed to prevent," Pearson said. "Until the Supreme Court’s ruling in June in Shelby County v. Holder, the Justice Department had authority to block them through a process called pre-clearance. The Texas and North Carolina laws that have emerged since that decision demonstrate why pre-clearance is so important and why the department should go into court now to restore it."



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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

July 25, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Common Cause, Allies Urge Supreme Court to Uphold Campaign Contribution Caps

 

A lawsuit challenging caps on donations to federal candidates and political committees invites a new era of corruption in American politics, Common Cause and other government watchdog groups asserted today.

 

In a “friend of the court” brief, authored by legal counsel at the Campaign Legal Center and filed in the U.S. Supreme Court, the groups argue that a ruling lifting the “aggregate limit” on donations would permit a single donor “explicitly seeking favors” to funnel more than $3.6 million to a party and federal candidates in just one election cycle. Candidates would be free to solicit such contributions, it adds.

 

Each donor could pump millions more into the election through donations to political action committees, the brief added.

 

The Republican-backed lawsuit, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, does not challenge the existing $2,600 limit on donations to a single candidate or other caps on individual gifts to a party organization or political action committee.

 

But it asserts that thanks to other changes in federal election law, the $123,200 cumulative cap on donations to federal candidates and committees in a single election cycle is no longer needed to prevent corruption.

 

That argument, Common Cause and the other watchdog groups countered, turns “a blind eye to the real world consequences of eliminating the longstanding aggregate limits… and disregard(s) the ways the limits continue to advance the governmental interest in preventing corruption and the appearance of corruption.”

 

The high court has scheduled oral arguments in the case for Oct. 8.

 

In addition to Common Cause, groups joining in the brief filed Thursday include the Campaign Legal Center, AARP, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the League of Women Voters of the United States, Progressives United and Public Campaign.

 


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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

July 23, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Common Cause, Allies Urge Supreme Court to Enhance Disclosure

 

Common Cause and seven other advocacy groups appealed to the Supreme Court today to make information about the justices’ personal finances more available and accessible to the public.

 

In a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts, the groups said the justices should follow the lead of the President, Vice President and members of Congress by posting their annual financial disclosure forms online as soon as the forms are filed each year – typically in May.

"This policy change will make it much easier for interested citizens to access the Justices’ financial information, promoting public confidence in the federal government in general, and in the Supreme Court in particular," the letter asserted. "As the highest court in the nation, the Supreme Court would also serve as a powerful model of transparency and openness for the rest of the judiciary – both state and federal."

The Financial Disclosure Office of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts releases printed copies of the justices’ annual forms to reporters and interested persons on request, but the forms are not posted on the court’s website, www.supremecourt.gov, or any other government website. The court’s orders, opinions and dockets are available on its website.

Release of the letter comes as Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, and Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY, have indicated they’re preparing to introduce legislation that would hold members of the high court to the same ethical standards imposed on the rest of the federal judiciary.

In public appearances and testimony to congressional committees, several of the justices have insisted that they voluntarily follow the "Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges" but acknowledged that it does not bind them in the same way it binds judges of lower federal courts. The code cautions judges to avoid personal conduct, including political activity, which could undermine public confidence in their independence. It also includes conflict of interest guidelines designed to instruct judges on when they should disqualify themselves from cases in which they may have a personal interest.

In addition to Common Cause, the letter to Roberts was signed by the Alliance for Justice, the Association of Research Libraries, the Center for Media and Democracy, the Center for Public Integrity, Justice at Stake, OpenTheGovernment.org, and the Society of American Archivists.

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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

July 16, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Nominations Votes Should Be Starting Point for Senate Rules Changes

 

Senators should be congratulated – but only a little – for their apparent progress toward an agreement to end the current filibusters over seven of President Obama’s executive nominations, Common Cause said today.

 

“A vote on these nominees should be just the starting point for rules changes that would break the Senate’s gridlock permanently,” said Stephen Spaulding, Common Cause’s staff counsel. “Senate rules should guarantee a prompt review in committee and confirmation by a simple majority vote for ALL future presidential nominees.”

 

Such an agreement on nominations should lay the groundwork for a broader deal to guarantee robust debate while restoring the principle of majority rule in the Senate’s consideration of legislation, Spaulding said. If it does not, there will be more obstruction, more gridlock and more struggles over the filibuster rule, he asserted.

 

“Our nation’s founders did not contemplate and did not provide in the Constitution for a Senate in which a minority – just 41 of 100 senators – can block debate and action on even routine legislation,” Spaulding said. “They wrote a Constitution in which a simple majority is sufficient to pass all bills and super majorities are required only in special cases like impeachments and treaty ratifications. The Senate’s current filibuster rule subverts the Constitution and must be overturned.”

 

Common Cause has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the filibuster rule and its 60-vote requirement for Senate action. The case is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

 

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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

July 12, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Ending 60-Vote Requirement for Nominations Is Right Step


Senators should end their infighting over the filibuster by abolishing the 60-vote threshold for action on nominations and legislation and let Congress work as America’s founders intended, Common Cause said today.

“For too long, a minority of Senators have blocked votes on President Obama’s nominees to lead certain agencies because they don’t want those agencies to exist in the first place,” said Stephen Spaulding, staff counsel at Common Cause. “Americans need a Senate that will do the work of government and address the challenges faced by ordinary Americans.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) appears poised to go ahead as soon as Tuesday to end the 60-vote threshold on presidential nominations for cabinet and other senior-level executive positions. “That’s a sensible step in the right direction and one that all senators should support,” Spaulding said. “But what we need next is comprehensive filibuster reform that preserves the minority’s right to ask tough questions, propose and debate relevant amendments and make its case on legislation, but lets the majority finally get to a vote and do the business of governing.”

The worst thing that can come out of this dispute is another ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that will break the immediate impasse over presidential nominees but allow just 41 of 100 senators to retain their current veto power over all legislative business. “That will guarantee yet another round of filibuster struggles, a few weeks or months from now, with the public interest in a government that works trampled by the Republican minority’s continuing abuse of the 60-vote rule to hamstring even routine legislation,” Spaulding said.

 

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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.

 

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

July 9, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Americans Need a Government that Works


In the midst of one of the most unproductive congresses ever, with the Senate girding for a new fight over the 60-vote filibuster rule that has brought business to a near standstill, Common Cause convened a panel of scholars and activists today to examine “The Broken Senate” and discuss strategies for fixing it.

“Americans need a government that works,” said Common Cause staff counsel Stephen Spaulding. “Right now, we’re not getting it and the 60-vote filibuster is a big part of the reason why.”

Spaulding moderated a panel discussion at the National Press Club including Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice; Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America; and Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and co-author of “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks,”
a critically acclaimed study of congressional dysfunction.

The hour-long session came just a few days in advance of a potential showdown over the filibuster rule, as Democratic senators seek to break a Republican effort to block President Obama’s nominations for several top administration jobs, including secretary of labor.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reportedly is prepared to press for a rules change that would ban filibusters on such appointments, while allowing the minority to continue using the rule’s 60-vote requirement to block legislation and judicial nominations.

Common Cause is pursuing a separate attack on the filibuster rule in court, asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reverse a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the rule’s constitutionality. Common Cause’s initial appeal brief was filed last month; no date for oral argument has been set.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

July 8, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

The Broken Senate: Restoring Democracy and Fixing the Filibuster

A Case for Senate Rules Reform


Six months into President Obama’s second term, and critical cabinet and other positions remain vacant as a minority of US senators threaten to filibuster the president’s nominees. Common Cause will host a panel discussion on the Senate’s misuse of the filibuster, the unprecedented backlog of nominations to critical agencies and federal courts, how the ensuing gridlock is affecting the nation and what can be done about it. This panel comes as the Senate is expected to consider rules changes this summer to its 60-vote filibuster rule, particularly as to nominations.

WHAT:

Panel Discussion, The Broken Senate: Restoring Democracy and Fixing the Filibuster

WHO:

Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice Action Campaign
Larry Cohen, president, Communications Workers of America
Norman J. Ornstein – resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
Stephen Spaulding, staff counsel, Common Cause

WHEN:

Wednesday, July 10 at 10 a.m. This will also be live-streamed at www.commoncause.org/Live

WHERE:

First Amendment Lounge
National Press Club
529 14th St., Washington DC


Nominees to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Labor, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and National Labor Relations Board, to name just a few, are hung up on the threat of a filibuster that repeatedly grinds that chamber to a halt. Since 2005 an obstructionist minority of U.S. senators has fundamentally altered the legislative playing field, distorting any tradition of deliberation and consensus beyond recognition. The filibuster is now used to block an unprecedented number of legislative measures and nominations, blocking progress on issues that Americans care about. The filibuster no longer extends due deliberation – rather, it is a favorite tool of a minority of the Senate to obstruct and stifle open debate. This panel of filibuster experts will discuss how the abuse of this rule is hurting democracy and what the possible solutions are.



For Immediate Release

Contact:

July 2, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 

 

 


Oregon Becomes 16th State to Call on Congress:
Return democracy to the people


The Oregon Legislature on Monday passed a bill today aimed at halting the stranglehold of big money special interests in politics.

The measure calls for a federal constitutional amendment to undo Supreme Court decisions in several controversial cases, including Citizens United v. FEC (2010), which has led to a dramatic rise of undisclosed campaign spending and an expansion of corporate influence in politics.

“It’s time to take back our democracy,” said Kate Titus, executive director of Common Cause Oregon, which championed the bill. “We don’t have to sell our government and laws to the highest bidder.”

Fifteen other states have already sent similar messages to their congressional delegations.


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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

June 25, 2013

(202) 736-5770

 

 

 

 

SCOTUS Guts Key Provision in Voting Rights Act, Congress Must Act to Fix


The Supreme Court’s activist decision striking down a section of the Voting Rights Act that dictates which jurisdictions need federal approval before changing their voting laws threatens to make second-class citizens out of millions of Americans and must be answered with quick, bipartisan action on Capitol Hill, Common Cause said today.

“The only good news in this ruling is that Congress has the power to fix it, and fix it fast,” said Jenny Flanagan, Common Cause’s director of voting and elections. “We all recognize the paralysis on Capitol Hill. But the extraordinary bipartisan action that reauthorized this legislation in 2006 proves it can be done. ”

“It should not be difficult, or controversial, to satisfy the constitutional requirements laid down by the court AND provide needed federal oversight of state laws that threaten the free and fair right to vote,” she added.

As recently as 2006, while considering the section of the law invalidated by the court today, Congress conducted more than 21 hearings with 90 witnesses and amassed a 15,000-page record documenting continuing discrimination against minority voters.

The Court’s decision today is strikingly out of touch and disregards the ongoing discrimination at the polls in states
with a track record of making it harder for certain groups of people to vote. “The case for strong federal action to protect voting rights remains intact,” Flanagan said.

While Congress and the President retain authority to protect voting rights in the states, this decision continues an unfortunate trend of this court to set aside history and precedents. “The Voting Rights Act is nearly 50 years old and has been reaffirmed repeatedly by Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court four separate times until this morning. But with a burst of judicial activism that ignores its own precedents, the court’s majority has today set aside one of the law’s most important provisions.”

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

June 21, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Today's FEC Nominations A Small Step Forward

 

 

President Obama’s nominations to fill two seats on the Federal Election Commission are a welcome step – but unfortunately just a small one – toward a desperately-needed overhaul of our campaign finance system, Common Cause said today.

 

“It’s good to see the President put some action behind his often-stated desire to do something about the corrosive influence of money on our politics and elections,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs. “The Senate must promptly review and act on these nominations and the President should make additional nominations to fill the other four vacant seats on the commission.”

 

The president nominated Ann Ravel,chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission,and Lee Goodman,an attorney at the law firm LeClairRyan in Washington, D.C.

 

The FEC is supposed to have six members – three Democrats and three Republicans – but only five of the slots currently are full, and all are occupied by commissioners serving beyond the expiration of their terms. The law permits those members to remain in office until replacements have been nominated and confirmed.

 

Until today’s action, President Obama had made only one FEC nomination: lawyer John J. Sullivan withdrew his name after senators allowed the nomination to languish without action for more than a year.

 

“The FEC is arguably the most dysfunctional agency in our government,” Hobert Flynn said. “Again and again, partisan deadlocks among its members have left it unable to enforce our election laws and execute critically important rulemakings. We hope today’s nominations are a first step toward restoring a functional FEC.”

 

Common Cause has urged Congress to restructure the FEC into a new election agency, independent of the executive branch, structured to prevent partisan deadlock, and empowered to effectively administer and enforce campaign finance laws.

 

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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.

 

 

  

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

June 19, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Common Cause Calls for Increased Congressional Oversight of NSA Surveillance Programs, Clapper Testimony Inquiry

 

 

 

Congress must intensify its scrutiny of National Security Agency (NSA) programs to collect and review Americans’ telephone records and Internet traffic, Common Cause said today.

 

“What checks are in place to prevent abuse, and how can innocent citizens know if their privacy has been wrongly violated?” the non-partisan watchdog group asked in a letter sent to all 535 members of Congress. “Legal and regulatory guidelines must be established and followed to ensure there are sufficient checks on government power.”

 

In addition, Common Cause called on the Senate Intelligence Committee to open a formal inquiry into whether Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied when he testified that the NSA does “not wittingly” collect data about Americans’ telephone and Internet usage.

 

“Congress and President Obama must make it clear that no one, not even the nation’s top intelligence official, is permitted to knowingly mislead Congress,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs.

 

Clapper himself has acknowledged that he gave ‘the least untruthful answer’ he could think of in his March 12 testimony. “That’s at best a charitable description. If a proper inquiry establishes that he deliberately lied, the committee and the President should take appropriate action to hold him accountable,” Hobert Flynn said.

 

Appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Clapper was asked by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, whether the NSA collects “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”

 

"No, sir. Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect – but not wittingly," Clapper replied.

 

Recent reports, the accuracy of which has been acknowledged by the Obama administration, “make it clear that for years the NSA has collected telephone and Internet usage records on hundreds of millions of Americans, just as Sen. Wyden’s inquiry suggested,” Hobert Flynn said.

 

“If the director felt a candid answer in open session would compromise national security, he could have suggested that the committee to go into executive session,” Hobert Flynn said. “Indeed, he did just that in response to a number of other inquires.

 

“Some and perhaps even all of the NSA activities that have recently come to light may be permissible under existing law,” she said. “But if so, the law gives the government far more authority than most Americans had understood. That’s why it’s so important that our elected representatives and the administration closely scrutinize the way the law is being applied and that we get candid, fully truthful answers about the extent of any surveillance.”

 

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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

June 18, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Common Cause Urges Federal Appeals Court To Declare Filibuster Unconstitutional

 

  

With senators mired in an apparently endless debate over their filibuster rule, Common Cause on Tuesday urged a federal appeals court to declare the rule and its 60-vote requirement for legislative action unconstitutional.

 

In a brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the non-profit “citizens lobby” argued that the filibuster rule's 60-vote provision allows a minority of senators to nullify votes and kill legislation passed by the entire House of Representatives, with disastrous results for individuals and groups that would be impacted by the bills involved.

 

“As the Senate continues to wrangle over the so-called ‘nuclear option,’ we are asking the federal courts to declare that the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster rule is inconsistent with the Constitution,” said Stephen Spaulding, Common Cause’s staff counsel. “The framers would be appalled by a Senate that requires 60-votes for every item of legislative business and confirmation of nominees. And with the Senate hamstrung by its own rules, we have no choice but to ask the courts to settle this question, once and for all.”

 

Common Cause v. Biden, was filed in May 2012 by Common Cause, four members of the House and three people who would have a path to American citizenship opened by the DREAM Act, a House-passed bill blocked by filibustering senators.  A lower court dismissed the litigation in December on the grounds that it was “powerless” to address the underlying question of law.

 

“The Senate may have the right to adopt its own rules, but we have appealed because Supreme Court case law is clear the Senate’s rules cannot conflict with other provisions of the Constitution,” Spaulding said. The Common Cause brief includes citations to several cases which make it clear that legislators have standing to sue because the filibuster works to nullify the votes they cast in the House, he added.

 

After failing to adopt meaningful filibuster reform at the beginning of this Congress, the Senate has been mired in gridlock over key presidential appointments, including nominations to the National Labor Relations Board, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the D.C. Circuit Court, and the Department of Labor.  The filibuster rule also has blocked gun violence prevention legislation proposed in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, legislation that enjoyed broad majority support but failed to garner 60 votes.

 

Spaulding noted that a recent decision by the D.C. Circuit has significantly narrowed the President’s ability to utilize his recess appointment powers, further strengthening the hand of filibustering Senators intent on blocking future nominations.

“Our government is being held hostage by a minority of the Senate. The Constitution is clear when a supermajority is required: overriding presidential vetoes and ratifying treaties, for example. Passing legislation and confirming nominees do not,” he said.

 

The lead attorney on the litigation is Emmet Bondurant, member of the Common Cause National Governing Board and founding partner of Bondurant, Mixon & Elmore LLP of Atlanta, GA.

 

Plaintiff-appellants are Common Cause, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rep. Michael Michaud (D-ME), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), Erika Andiola (DREAM Act plaintiff), Caesar Vargas (DREAM Act plaintiff), and Celso Mireles (DREAM Act plaintiff). Defendants are officers of the Senate defending the litigation in their official capacity.

 

The case is #12-5412 in the court’s files.


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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.  

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

June 17, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




SCOTUS Ruling in Arizona Case Is Major Victory for Voting Access

 

 

The Supreme Court today ruled in support of voting rights, upholding congressional action that set a national standard for voter registration and rejecting Arizona’s effort to impose additional registration requirements that would keep tens of thousands of eligible citizens off the voter rolls, Common Cause said today.

 

“This is a major victory for American voters,” Jenny Flanagan, Common Cause’s director of voting and elections, said of the 7-2 decision in Arizona v. ITCA. “The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) establishes a reasonable, national standard for registration by mail. Arizona’s unnecessary demand that prospective voters produce documents providing evidence of citizenship beyond the NVRA’s requirements had blocked about 30,000 qualified Arizonans from registering.”

 

Common Cause, represented by MALDEF (The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), is part of a coalition of individuals and advocacy groups that filed suit against Arizona’s law.

 

“The NVRA has worked for 20 years to bring millions of citizens into the democratic process since its passage in 1993,” Flanagan said. The law works to streamline and encourage voter registration by requiring states to use a federal form which prospective registrants can fill out when obtaining or renewing their driver’s licenses or seeking social services.

 

 “We hope that political leaders in Arizona and other states will see the wisdom of directing their energy toward expanding – not limiting – the right to vote,” she said. “But as we celebrate today’s victory, we and other voting rights advocates understand that this battle to protect voting rights isn’t over.”


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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.  

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

June 12, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Common Cause Questions Scalia's Speech to Political Group

 

Did "Friends of Abe" Appearance Violate Judicial Ethics?

 

 

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whose past appearances before political groups have prompted inquiries about his adherence to ethical guidelines imposed on other judges, has new questions to answer in the wake of an expenses-paid trip and speech last year to a secretive, Republican-aligned group in California, Common Cause said today.

In a letter to Scalia, the government watchdog organization urged the justice to release additional details about his address to the "Friends of Abe" organization last August. The group has been described as "the most important source of underground political activism in Hollywood today." The disclosure should include a text of his remarks, the agenda for the meeting and the names of any other speakers, Common Cause said.

Scalia disclosed the trip in a financial disclosure report filed earlier this month and released late last week.

"The Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges specifically tells judges to 'refrain from political activity,' including speaking to partisan groups," said Arn Pearson, Common Cause’s vice president for policy and litigation. "Friends of Abe appears from press reports to be highly partisan, with a roster of recent speakers that includes key figures in the national Republican Party and a record of activism on behalf of Republican candidates."

Steven Ross, a historian at the University of Southern California, described the Friends of Abe in a Washington Post blog as "the most important source of underground political activism in Hollywood today." "Against that backdrop, any appearance by a member of the Supreme Court would appear to be problematic at best," Pearson said.

Common Cause’s letter to Scalia urges the justice to explain why he would appear before such a group. "If you believe that your travel and speech before a 'Friends of Abe' function does not violate the letter or spirit of the Code of Conduct, Common Cause respectfully asks you to set forth your reasoning to the American people," the letter says.

Common Cause has urged Congress to pass legislation that would bring Scalia and other members of the Supreme Court under the Code of Conduct and has called repeatedly on the Court to formally adopt the Code. In testimony to congressional committees, Justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer have asserted that the justices follow the code voluntarily.

Chief Justice Roberts devoted a portion of his 2011 Year-End Report to the topic of judicial ethics, calling the Code of Conduct a “key source of guidance” to the justices. In a February, 2012 letter to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Pat Leahy, D-VT, Roberts repeated that the justices treat the code as the “starting point and a key source of guidance” on ethical questions but that the court has “no reason to adopt the Code of Conduct as its definitive source of ethical guidance.”

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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.
  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

June 10, 2013

Dee Durham, (302)-981-1950

 




 

Delaware State Legislature Calls on the First State’s Congressional Delegation to Overturn Citizens United

Bipartisan Letter Signed by House and Senate Majorities

 
DOVER, DE– A majority of members in both of Delaware’s state legislative chambers have signed on to a letter seeking support and action by Delaware’s Congressional delegation for Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment reversing the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Delaware is now the 15th state to back a constitutional amendment to curb unlimited spending in elections and adding to the national momentum to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling.

In its Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court unleashed a flood of corporate money into our political system by ruling that, contrary to longstanding precedents, corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts of money to promote or defeat candidates. The decision overturned a century of campaign finance law and led to record spending by outside groups and super PACs in the 2012 elections.

Polls show that no matter which party they identify with, Americans simply want their voices heard and listened to by lawmakers. Eight in ten Americans say they oppose the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and it’s only a matter of time before public opinion becomes visible and powerful enough that a majority of Congress is moved to follow it.

“I am so pleased the public was so engaged with this issue of taking back our election process from the shadows, and that we have a majority of both houses, and colleagues of both parties, asking our federal delegation to correct this harmful Supreme Court ruling. I am especially thankful to Common Cause Delaware, Americans for Democratic Action, and Public Citizen, for successfully spreading the word throughout our state,” said Rep. Paul Baumbach, who led the initiative together with Senators Bryan Townsend and Karen Peterson.

The sign-on letter states:

Dear Senator Carper, Senator Coons, and Representative Carney:

We, the Undersigned Members of the Delaware General Assembly, call upon you to join your colleagues and pass a constitutional amendment reversing the United States Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), which declared that corporations enjoy the First Amendment political rights of the people, and which toppled dozens of state and federal laws and two decades of judicial precedents allowing the regulation of direct corporate (for profit, not for profit, including unions) expenditures related to political campaigns.

There is no more critical foundation to our government than citizens’ confidence in fair and free elections. The Citizens United decision directly undermines this confidence, and was issued in the absence of any evidence or searching inquiry to refute the fair assumption that unbridled and opaque spending in politics harms American democracy. The Citizens United decision holds that our Congress is forbidden from regulating corporate spending related to political campaigns, and undermines critical provisions of the duly enacted McCain-Feingold Act. The United States of America’s elections should not be permitted to go to the highest bidder, and yet this is the risk that rises from the ashes of the Citizens United decision.

This risk must be abated. The Constitution must be amended to make clear the authority of our Congress to regulate expenditures related to political campaigns in a manner consistent not only with principles of freedom and democracy but also with verified facts and outcomes in a quickly-changing, technology-driven world.
Article V of the United States Constitution empowers the people, the states, and our Congress to use the constitutional amendment process to reverse bad Supreme Court decisions that threaten our society. Indeed, this is the only tool available to the American people to reverse bad constitutional decisions.

As Members of the Delaware General Assembly, we sharply disagree with the narrow majority decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and call upon our United States Congress to propose and send to the states for ratification as soon as is practical a constitutional amendment that reverses this decision, and that makes clear the right of our elected representatives and the American people to be steadfast in pursuit of fair elections and democratic sovereignty.

Very truly yours,

The signatories to date include:

Senate (11)
Catherine Cloutier, Bruce Ennis, Bethany Hall-Long, Margaret Rose Henry, Robert Marshall, David McBride, Harris McDowell, Karen Peterson, Nicole Poore, David Sokola, Bryan Townsend

House of Representatives (24)
Michael Barbieri, Paul Baumbach, Andria Bennett, Donald Blakey, Stephanie Bolden, William Carson, Debra Heffernan, Earl Jaques, James Johnson, Quinn Johnson, Helene Keeley, John Kowalko, John L. Mitchell, Michael Mulrooney, Edward Osienski, Charles Paradee III, Charles Potter, Michael Ramone, Darryl Scott, Melanie George Smith, John Viola, Rebecca Walker, Dennis Williams, Kim Williams

The bipartisan support for the letter echoes the strong support shown in poll after poll by Republicans, Independents and Democrats alike for an amendment overturning Citizens United.

To date, fourteen other states have called for an amendment to overturn Citizens United – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia – as have Washington, D.C. and nearly 500 local municipalities including Newark, Delaware. Connecticut and Maryland also used sign-on letters, while Colorado and Montana made the call through ballot initiatives. Resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment were passed by the legislatures of California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia, as well as by the D.C. Council in Washington, D.C.

The letter represents the second major response to Citizens United in the last two years in Delaware. In 2012, Common Cause Delaware worked with Gov. Markell to pass a bill that required reporting of independent political expenditures in excess of $10,000.

The campaign in Delaware to overturn Citizens United is led by Common Cause Delaware, Americans for Democratic Action, and Public Citizen. Additional support has been provided by the Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Delaware Coalition for Open Government, Progressive Democrats of Delaware, the Delaware Chapter of the League of Women Voters, and People for the American Way.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

June 4, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




D.C. Court Nominations Highlight Need to Fix the Filibuster

 

A Republican threat to filibuster President Obama’s nominees for three vacancies on a critical, Washington, D.C.-based federal court invites reform-minded senators in both parties to finally fix the filibuster rule and put the Senate back to work, Common Cause said today.

 

"The President’s nominations of Patricia Ann Millett, Cornelia Pillard, and Robert Wilkins to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals should get a prompt hearing in the Judiciary Committee and – assuming all are found qualified – be moved to the floor for a vote," said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs.

 

"And any attempt to block their confirmation through a filibuster should trigger a rules change that would allow them to be confirmed with a simple majority – 51 votes," she added. "The country needs a Senate that works as our founders intended."

 

All three seats on the D.C. Circuit have been vacant for years. Republicans have a legitimate complaint over the President’s long delay in submitting nominees, but that’s certainly not justification for use of the filibuster and its 60-vote requirement for action to leave the seats open even longer, Hobert Flynn said.

 

"The suggestion that President Obama is somehow attempting to 'pack' the court is ludicrous," she added. "These are vacant seats for which the U.S. Judicial Conference, an apolitical body led by Chief Justice John Roberts, has certified a need and for which the President has now proposed nominees. Under the Constitution, the Senate has a duty to act."

 

Common Cause is pursuing a lawsuit – now before the D.C. Circuit Court – challenging the constitutionality of the filibuster rule. Once invoked rarely, the rule has been used in recent years by the Senate’s minority party – whether Republican or Democratic – to impose a 60-vote threshold for action on even routine bills and nominations. The Constitution provides for such “super-majority” votes only in a handful of special circumstances, including the conviction of the President during an impeachment trial or the ratification of treaties.


 

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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.  

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

May 31, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Illinois Becomes 15th State to Back Amendment That Would Overturn Citizens United

 

Illinois on Friday joined 14 other states in calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and again permitting sensible limits on political spending.

 

"Today’s bipartisan passage marks a turning point to restore government of, by, and for the people," said Rey Lopez-Calderon, Executive Director of Common Cause Illinois, which led the coalition to pass the bill. "Republicans and Democrats agree: our elected officials should be accountable to the voters, not to big money and special interests."

 

"With this vote, we’re now nearly halfway to the number of states needed to ratify an amendment once it gets through Congress," said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs. "Once we hit that benchmark, Congress has no excuse for delaying action."

 

Voters in Montana and Colorado, along with more than 100 Massachusetts localities, and cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago, have passed "voter instruction" measures directing their representatives in Washington to adopt an amendment and send it to the states for ratification.

Thirteen state legislatures, now including Illinois, also have passed resolutions or sent letters to Congress endorsing an amendment. Common Cause’s national "Only People Are People" campaign is mobilizing support for voter instruction measures and legislative resolutions in additional states and localities.

 

In Citizens United and other decisions, the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations and wealthy individuals have free speech rights to spend as much as they wish and can afford to influence elections. "The court has invited corruption unlike anything seen since the Watergate era," Hobert Flynn said. "A constitutional amendment is the first step toward controlling special interest political spending and the corruption that goes with it."


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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.  

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

May 30, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Students, Grads Rally at Sallie Mae Shareholder Meeting to Urge Transparency, Reform of Student Lending

 

NEWARK, DE. -- A coalition of college students, recent graduates and other citizens concerned about the skyrocketing cost of student loans joined Thursday in urging the corporate parent of Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest student lender, to make detailed annual disclosures of its lobbying activity.

 

"Through Sallie Mae, SLM Corp. has quietly spent more than $17 million since 2008 to lobby our elected officials in Washington on behalf of policies that allow it to prey on financially-strapped college students and recent grads," said James Browning, Common Cause’s regional director for state operations. "Sallie is collecting as much as 28 percent interest on millions of dollars in student loans, in part because its lobbying muscle allows it to frustrate reform legislation."

 

Common Cause activists from Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland were part of a group of students, graduates and others who converged on SLM’s annual shareholders meeting today in Newark to support a shareholder resolution demanding that Sallie Mae’s executives release detailed information about the nature and targets of their lobbying.

 

"More than half of all American corporations are chartered in Delaware, but something dramatic has happened since Sallie Mae moved its headquarters here in 2010 -- a broad, bipartisan drive for greater transparency and greater accountability from corporations about their political expenditures," Browning said. "Yet incredibly, while the public is demanding reform, Sallie Mae is further cloaking its political activity."

 

Sallie Mae was created by an act of Congress in the 1960s to help college students obtain low-cost loans. It is now a for-profit, publicly-traded corporation holding a portfolio of more than $162 billion in student debt.

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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.  

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

May 22, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Los Angeles Voters Overwhelmingly Back Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

 

Voters in Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest city, on Tuesday emphatically endorsed the national drive for a constitutional amendment affirming that “Only People Are People” and overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

 

Proposition C, backed by a coalition of public interest groups led by Common Cause, instructs elected officials and legislators who represent Los Angeles in Washington and Sacramento to support an amendment that would again permit common sense limits on corporate political spending. It received nearly 77% of the vote in Tuesday’s municipal election.

 

"The voters have spoken loud and clear that they want big money out of our elections," said Derek Cressman, director of Common Cause’s "Only People Are People" campaign. "Now it’s up to the Los Angeles congressional delegation to heed the call from their constituents."

 

In Citizens United and other decisions, the Supreme Court in recent years has removed longstanding bans or limits on political spending by corporations, trade associations, labor unions and wealthy individuals. More than $1 billion in "independent expenditures" from such donors went into the 2012 races for president, Congress and state offices, much of it without disclosure of the actual sources of the money.

 

"Tuesday’s Los Angeles vote is a tremendous victory for the government of, by and for the people envisioned by America’s founders," said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs. "We’re determined to press for similar voter initiatives and legislative endorsements across the nation, building on the tremendous support for an amendment we saw last November in Montana and Colorado, and through votes in more than 400 localities including San Francisco, Chicago and Boston."

 

Thirteen state legislatures also have passed resolutions or sent letters to Congress calling for an amendment.

 

"The people are speaking here -- at the ballot box and through their elected representatives," Hobert Flynn said. "The overwhelming majorities supporting an amendment in every jurisdiction where it has come to a vote should send a powerful signal to Washington and every state capitol."


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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.  

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact: Mary Boyle

May 22, 2013

(202) 736-5770

Americans for Campaign Reform - the Campaign Legal Center - Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington - Common Cause - Democracy 21 - Demos - Public Citizen - Sunlight Foundation


Reform Groups Call on Congress to Deal with Two IRS Scandals: Wrongful IRS Targeting of Groups and IRS Failure to Prevent Groups from Improperly Claiming 501(c)(4) Status

 

In a letter sent to Senators and Representatives today, reform groups called on Congress to investigate and address both of the scandals at the IRS in order to prevent the same abuses from occurring in the future.
As Congress rightly investigates the improper targeting of conservative groups, the letter also stated that Members have a responsibility to investigate the abuses of the tax laws by some organizations in order to keep secret the donors financing their campaign activities.

The organizations sending the letter included Americans for Campaign Reform, the Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Democracy 21, Demos, Public Citizen and Sunlight Foundation.

According to the letter:

The first scandal involves the wrongful targeting by the IRS of conservative groups seeking section 501(c)(4) tax-status. The second scandal involves the failure of the IRS to act to prevent groups from improperly claiming section 501(c)(4) tax-status in order to launder secret contributions into federal elections.

Our organizations believe it is essential for Congress to enact legislation that deals with both of these scandals: legislation that prevents improper targeting of groups and also prevents groups from improperly using the tax code to hide donors financing their campaign activities.

According to the letter:

Both of the current IRS scandals stem directly from flaws in the existing IRS rules that define eligibility for section 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status. The rules have been interpreted to permit section 501(c)(4) groups to engage in substantial campaign activities, while the statute governing section 501(c)(4) groups explicitly states that such groups are required to engage “exclusively” in social welfare activities.

Campaign activities are not “social welfare” activities under the tax laws.

By legislating appropriate changes to address the flaws in the regulations, Congress will restore the original intent to the statutory provisions governing eligibility for section 501(c)(4) tax status.

The letter stated:

The existing IRS rules governing eligibility for section 501(c)(4) tax-status were adopted in 1959, more than a half century ago. The rules are antiquated and in conflict with the statutory requirement that section 501(c)(4) groups engage “exclusively” in social welfare activities. They also are in conflict with court cases interpreting this statutory requirement.

Furthermore, the rules do not take account of the explosion in groups claiming to be section 501(c)(4) organizations that followed the Citizens United decision.

The groups proposed in the letter a legislative solution that would restore the original intent of section 501(c)(4) tax status and would prevent both scandals at the IRS from occurring again:

We strongly urge Congress either to prohibit section 501(c)(4) groups from engaging in any campaign activity or to establish a bright-line test that permits such groups to engage only in a de minimis, insubstantial amount of campaign activity.

If “social welfare” groups want to engage in campaign activities, they can form separate section 527
organizations. This would allow them to engage in campaign activities as tax-exempt organizations. It would also require them to publicly disclose their campaign contributions and expenditures.

The letter warned that members of Congress must not use the targeting scandal as cover for ignoring the blatant abuses of the tax laws by groups functioning as campaign operations in the past two elections. The letter stated:

The improper targeting actions by the IRS must not be allowed to serve as cover for sweeping under the rug blatant abuses of the tax laws by pro-Democratic, pro-Republican and independent groups who have improperly claimed section 501(c)(4) tax status in recent elections. These abuses played a central role in more than $250 million in secret contributions being spent by section 501(c)(4) groups in the 2012 federal elections.

At the same time the IRS wrongfully selected for heightened review small groups based on their names or identified interests, the agency failed to prevent prominent campaign operations from improperly posing as section 501(c)(4) “social welfare” groups in order to hide the donors financing their campaign activities

The letter pointed out that “Even taking into account that the IRS regulations were flawed, these political groups did not comply with the existing regulations and the statute, and were not entitled to section 501(c)(4) tax status.”

The letter stated:

Section 501(c)(4) of the tax laws was created to provide tax-exempt status for groups “exclusively” engaged in social welfare activities. Section 501(c)(4) was never intended to be a vehicle for groups to conduct substantial campaign activities.

Instead, section 527 of the tax laws provides tax-exempt status to groups that engage in campaign activities. Section 527 groups are required to disclose their campaign donors and expenditures while section 501(c)(4) groups do not publicly disclose their donors.

The letter stated:

Citizens United for the first time permitted corporations, including nonprofits, to make expenditures to influence federal elections. As a result, a number of new groups claimed the right to operate under section 501(c)(4) in order to function as vehicles for keeping secret the donors financing their expenditures in federal elections.

Examples of such groups have been widely reported in the media and brought directly to the attention of the IRS.

For example, Priorities USA was created by two former Obama Administration officials shortly after leaving the White House with the overriding purpose of supporting President Obama in the 2012 presidential election.
Crossroads GPS was created by Karl Rove with the overriding purpose of electing Republican candidates and defeating Democratic candidates. Rove himself made clear that Crossroads GPS is a political operation, not a “social welfare” group, in aWall Street Journal op-ed he published on August 1, 2012. Rove said in the op-ed that

Crossroads GPS had spent more than $53 million for ads “attacking Mr. Obama’s policies or boosting Mr. Romney.”
American Action Network, a pro-Republican group, reported 70percent of its expenditures in 2010 to the FEC as “independent expenditures” and “electioneering communications.” Under any interpretation of the IRS rules, this group does not qualify as a section 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization.

Americans Elect, a group established to nominate and run an independent candidate for President in 2012, registered as a political party on state ballots all across the country. There is no way that a political party registered on state ballots can also qualify as a section 501(c)(4) “social welfare” group.

According to the letter:

These groups were campaign operations, not “social welfare” organizations. It appears clear that the groups were improperly claiming section 501(c)(4) tax-status so that donors could secretly finance their campaign expenditures in federal elections.

In the case of Priorities USA and Crossroads GPS, they also had affiliated Super PACs. Donors supporting their
campaign activities were given the choice: give your contribution to the section 527 Super PAC and the contribution will be publicly disclosed or give your contribution to the section 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization and you can remain anonymous.

There is no indication that the IRS has taken any action to prevent these four groups or any other groups playing prominent roles in the past two federal elections from improperly claiming section 501(c)(4) tax status.

The letter stated:

The IRS has a statutory responsibility to ensure that groups claiming the tax benefits provided to section 501(c)(4) organizations are in fact entitled to this tax-status and are not misusing the tax laws. It is the responsibility of the IRS to protect the integrity of the tax laws and the interests of American taxpayers.

The letter noted the importance of the campaign finance disclosure requirements being evaded by groups that have been abusing the tax laws:

It is a cardinal rule of our political system that campaign expenditures and the sources of the contributions used to finance them should be disclosed to the American people.

The Supreme Court has long recognized the constitutionality and importance of requiring disclosure to inform citizens about campaign finance activities. In 2010, the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case by a vote of 8 to 1 upheld the constitutionality of requiring corporations making independent expenditures, including nonprofit groups, to disclose their campaign activities. (Citizens United itself is a section 501(c)(4) group.)

Recognizing the vital role that campaign finance disclosure plays in informing citizens and providing accountability, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the Citizens United decision:

With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters. … [D]isclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.

The Citizens United decision also noted that the Supreme Court had earlier upheld campaign finance disclosure laws to address the problem that “independent groups were running election-related advertisements while hiding behind dubious and misleading names.”

The letter concluded:

The twin scandals at the IRS now lie before Congress.

If Members are really interested in solving the two IRS scandals regarding section 501(c)(4) tax status – wrongful IRS targeting of groups and blatant abuse by some groups of the tax laws – Congress can do so promptly.

We strongly urge Congress to enact new rules to govern eligibility for section 501(c)(4) tax status that eliminate, or minimize through a bright line test, the ability of such groups to engage in campaign activity. This would restore the original intention of section 501(c)(4) to apply only to “social welfare” groups, and not to campaign operations. It would also prevent any recurrence of the current scandals at the IRS.

To view the letter: click here. 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

May 21, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




President's Naming of Task Force Members Is Encouraging

 

 

President Obama’s choice of bipartisan leaders including experienced elections officials means the Commission can get to work on its mandate of making recommendations to improve the voting experience at the polls, Common Cause said today.

 

"We’re encouraged to see the administration moving ahead on the President’s stated desire to ensure that every eligible American can easily exercise the right to vote,"said Jenny Flanagan, Common Cause’s director of voting and elections. "We’re hopeful that the commission will build on the progress we’ve seen recently in Colorado, Maryland, and other states in working to make the machinery of our elections simpler and more voter-friendly," she said.


"Voting is the bedrock of our democracy," Flanagan said. "Ensuring that it’s easily and equally available to every eligible citizen should be a top priority for every elected official and every American, regardless of party. We hope the commission will move forward -- and move forward quickly -- in that spirit."

 

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

May 20, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Senate Should End Its Holiday, Common Cause Says

 

Watchdog Group Renews Call for Filibuster Reform

 

 

Eight years to the week after a "Gang of 14" senators joined forces to shake up the U.S Senate and put it to work, obstructionists appear once again to be firmly in charge in Congress’ upper house, Common Cause said today.

"Congress is about to leave Washington for its Memorial Day vacation," said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs. "But as far as most Americans are concerned, the Senate has been on vacation since January, essentially paralyzed by a group of senators who’ve exploited the rules to block votes on important legislation and nominations that have been pending for months.

"As the rest of us contemplate our summer breaks, it’s time for the Senate to end its holiday. And that starts with action to amend the rules so that the Senate operates as our founders intended -- with majority rule and open debate."


Hobert Flynn said that despite a leadership agreement in January that was supposed to limit the use of filibusters, which allow just 41 of the 100 senators to block action, the mere threat of a filibuster was sufficient to stop gun reform legislation supported by about 90 percent of Americans.

Filibusters and threatened filibusters also continue to be used to stop or delay action on President Obama’s nominees for key administrative jobs and federal judgeships. The New York Times reports that President Obama’s nominees for seats on federal courts of appeals have waited an average of nearly five months after being cleared in committee for a vote on the Senate floor. That’s four times longer than the average wait for nominees submitted by former President George W. Bush. For Obama’s nominees to federal district courts, the average wait time has been 102 days, compared with 35 days for Bush’s choices, the Times said.

Hobert Flynn noted that eight years ago this week, a bipartisan group of 14 senators reached an agreement designed to limit filibusters on judicial nominations to "extraordinary circumstances." "hat deal helped for awhile," she said, but the frequency of filibusters increased dramatically after Democrats gained a Senate majority in 2007.

"The current Republican leadership has adopted routine use of the filibuster as an operating principle, making a mockery of the 'Gang of 14' deal and a new 'compromise' in January that was supposed to get the Senate back on track," Hobert Flynn said. "We call on senators to revisit and change their rules so that legislation can pass and nominees can be confirmed with 51 votes, a simple majority.

"In the meantime, Common Cause again invites senators interested in fixing the filibuster to join in our lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the filibuster rule and its 60-vote requirement for Senate action," Hobert Flynn said. That case, also filed last May, is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

 

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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.  

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

May 17, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Political Non-Profits Shouldn't Be Allowed to Hide Behind Tax Laws

 

Watchdog Group Urges Tough Action Against IRS Abuses

 

 

While pursuing investigations of the Internal Revenue Service’s targeted handling of certain groups seeking tax exempt status, Congress, the White House and the IRS must address the larger problem of political groups masquerading as tax-exempt social welfare groups to hide donors’ identities, Common Cause said today.

 

"We’re as disgusted as anyone with the way the IRS mishandled the tax exemption applications of some conservative groups, but the scandal at the IRS cannot be permitted to serve as cover for those who want the right to funnel secret money into our elections and buy the corruption that goes with it," said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs.

 

Common Cause submitted testimony today to the House Ways and Means Committee, which held a hearing on "Internal Revenue Service Targeting of Conservative Groups."

 

"Americans of all political stripes are outraged – and should be – by reports that the IRS mishandled applications for tax-exempt status by groups affiliated with the Tea Party and other conservative organizations," Hobert Flynn said. "The criminal inquiry launched by the Justice Department should be pursued aggressively."

 

But the worst possible outcome of this scandal would be for the IRS to back off from enforcing tax laws and grant a free hand to groups across the political spectrum that seek to use their tax-exempt status to hide the identity of their donors, Hobert Flynn said. "Instead, we need more enforcement, based on clear and viewpoint-neutral criteria, to prevent evasion of campaign, disclosure, and tax laws," she said.

Common Cause’s prepared testimony also highlighted the irony of the IRS wasting energy targeting small, grassroots groups while completely ignoring the blatant flouting of tax law by political heavyweights on the right and left.

It’s crazy that IRS went aggressively after small-time Tea Party groups while ignoring the large groups that existed solely to raise and spend millions to influence elections, the testimony said. "We need a bright line test to clearly establish permissible political activity by social welfare organizations," it said.

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

 Contact: Mary Boyle

May 15, 2013

 (202) 736-5770

 

 
Hobert Flynn, Marchant to serve as interim leaders of Common Cause


Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs, and Bette Marchant, the organization’s chief financial officer and senior vice president for operations, will serve as co-leaders of Common Cause until the next president is chosen, the organization announced.

Hobert Flynn and Marchant take the reins of Common Cause in the wake of the sudden death April 23 of Common Cause President Bob Edgar. A search committee, comprised of Common Cause National Governing Board members, is leading efforts to find a new president. “The Common Cause board is deeply appreciative of Karen’s and Bette’s willingness to step up during this period; we have full confidence in them and we remain fully committed to supporting Common Cause and its critically important mission” said Board Chair Robert Reich.

Marchant and Hobert Flynn were both part of Common Cause’s senior leadership team during Edgar’s tenure. Marchant oversaw finance, human resources, network administration, data management, membership services, and internal operations. She came to Common Cause with nearly three decades of non-profit and small business management experience.

Hobert Flynn has been involved with Common Cause for 25 years, as a member of the national staff, a volunteer leader and a state executive director. Under her leadership of Connecticut Common Cause (1996-2007), Common Cause passed a number of reforms, including a sweeping gift and meal ban, a soft money ban, a phony issue ad law, and many campaign finance and ethics laws. Karen served as Executive Director for six years and became Chair of CC/CT in 2005. She was a key leader and strategist of the campaign that passed the strongest public financing and pay-to-play measure in the country in 2005.

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To:

Editorial writers and reporters

Date:

May 14, 2013   

Re:

Tempest in a Teapot? IRS "Tea Party" controversy merits House and Senate hearings, but scope should include post-Citizens United surge in misuse of nonprofits to hide political spending, and the lack of meaningful IRS enforcement




The recent IRS admissions about the use of "Tea Party" or "Patriot" labels to flag applications for nonprofit status for additional scrutiny raise serious questions about political bias, and should receive a thorough and independent investigation.

Yesterday, Common Cause joined the growing call for House and Senate hearings to answer those questions, but stressed the need for those hearings to delve deeper into the bigger problem facing our democracy after the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizen United – the dramatic surge in the misuse of nonprofits to hide political spending by billionaires and corporations from American voters, and the lack of any meaningful enforcement response.

Common Cause has a long history of standing up for apolitical enforcement of the nation’s tax laws, dating back to the days when key Common Cause leaders were on Nixon’s enemies list. In a March 2012 press release accompanying a complaint to the IRS challenging the tax status of Liberty Central, then-president Bob Edgar stated that:

Common Cause supports the efforts of the IRS to investigate all groups, regardless of their partisan leanings, that appear to use nonprofit status to hide their political activities from American voters. Special interests should not be permitted to use front groups to evade disclosure laws designed to inform voters and prevent corruption.

Although the IRS must enforce the law impartially, the agency should not abrogate its responsibility to enforce it in the first place. While Common Cause strongly supports an investigation, we are concerned that partisans on both sides will use this tempest to cow the IRS and forestall enforcement of the tax code.
 

"Social Welfare" Political Spending Surges in the 2012 Election


Reported political spending by 501(c)(4)s – the kind of group at the focus of this controversy – surged to $254 million in 2012, almost matching spending by political parties ($255 million), according to the Center for Responsive Politics, thanks in large part to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. The vast majority of that spending – 85 percent – came from conservative organizations, led by Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, backed by the Koch brothers. Given this disproportionate spending on behalf of conservative candidates at this point in history, most of the groups flagged will logically be conservative organizations, even using impartial criteria.

It is patently obvious to American voters that many of these groups, on the left and right, have been formed in order to hide political spending by mega-donors who want to influence the outcome of elections while keeping their identities secret.

There is also no getting around the fact that the IRS search criteria at the heart of the current controversy were developed at a time when billionaire political players, led by the Koch brothers and Rupert Murdoch, were bankrolling Tea Party groups. In 2010, there were 129 candidates for Congress and nine Senate candidates running for office under the Tea Party label. The primary focus for many of those groups was taking out Members of Congress who voted for the Affordable Care Act, and they played a major role in flipping the U.S. House to Republican control in 2010. Some of the groups evaporated soon after the elections were over.

Targeting groups that have applied for tax-exempt status for additional scrutiny because they appear to have an electoral motive is proper – as long as the same criteria is applied to all regardless of political viewpoints. At a time of unprecedented use of nonprofit organizations to funnel money for use in political campaigns, we need more enforcement to prevent evasion of campaign, disclosure and tax laws, not less.

Common Cause filed a complaint in March 2012 to the IRS about one of those organizations in 2012 – Liberty Central – founded by Justice Thomas’ wife Ginni Thomas while he was still deliberating on Citizens United. Based on our research, the primary purpose of that group was to elect Tea Party candidates for Congress in 2010 and defeat Members who had voted for the Affordable Care Act. Ms. Thomas spent much of her time flying to Tea Party events and rallies, expressly called for the election of certain candidates, and featured a candidate scorecard on her website. Ms. Thomas left the group shortly after the elections, and its activity evaporated. Common Cause challenge to Liberty Central’s tax status produced no visible action by the IRS, nor did similar complaints from the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 against other groups on both sides of the political spectrum.

Time for Reform


The current IRS controversy does not excuse sham political organizations masquerading as social welfare organizations, and shines a light on the critical need for campaign spending disclosure legislation. The increased pressure on the IRS is a direct result of the abysmal failure of Congress and the FEC to enact or adopt common sense disclosure rules, despite the Supreme Court majority’s assurance that disclosure would allow voters (and shareholders) to make informed decisions.

The crisis is also a product of the fuzzy “primary purpose” test, based on facts and circumstances, that the IRS has long used to determine if a c4 is violating its nonprofit social welfare status. Vague standards don’t work in the world of campaign finance and, given the increased politicization of nnprofits, they are ill suited to the world of tax law as well. It is time for Congress to adopt a bright-line test for deciding when political activity by nonprofits requires a group to form a “527” political organization and disclose its donors.

Common Cause is concerned that instead of moving the ball forward, partisans will use the current controversy to intimidate the IRS from ever enforcing nonprofit tax laws when, in fact, the larger problem here is already inadequate enforcement. The IRS backed off enforcement of the gift tax on large contributions to c4s in 2011 after a political backlash. Will the same thing happen here with enforcement of c4 limits on political activity? It will take a concerted effort by reform advocates and the media for the “Tea Party” controversy to move the country forward instead of backward.

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For Immediate Release

Contact:

May 13, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Common Cause Calls for House, Senate Hearings on IRS Controversy

Focus Must Include Lax Enforcement of Post-Citizens United Surge in Political Groups Masquerading as Social Welfare Organizations

Common Cause called Monday for hearings in the US House and Senate to explore the Internal Revenue Service’s admission that it targeted certain groups for review, as well as the broader problem of the agency’s lax enforcement of political groups masquerading as tax-exempt social welfare groups.

“The IRS admission raises serious questions about political bias and demands a full airing,” said Arn Pearson, vice president of policy and litigation. “But its sweeping failure to enforce tax laws to prevent partisans from cynically misusing social welfare organizations to hide the identities of political mega-donors is just as problematic.”

“The real scandal here is the complete lack of enforcement of tax laws on the political right and left, while Congress and the Federal Election Commission have gone AWOL on common sense disclosure rules,” he said.

Since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, the number of groups seeking tax exempt status as 501(c)4 social welfare organizations has doubled, and the amount of money these organizations have spent on political campaigns has skyrocketed. The Center of Responsive Politics reports 501(c)4s spent $254 million in 2012, almost as much as political parties ($255 million). The vast majority of that spending – 85 percent – came from conservative organizations, led by Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, backed by the Koch brothers.

By law, a 501(c)(4)’s primary purpose cannot include intervention in political campaigns, and the organizations are not required to disclose their donors. As a result, they have become vehicles for corporations and millionaires to hide large spending on behalf of candidates.

In March 2012, Common Cause filed a complaint with the IRS regarding one of those front groups – Liberty Central, formed by Virginia Thomas, while her husband, Justice Clarence Thomas, was still deliberating Citizens United. The complaint noted “substantial evidence of large-scale political activities” aimed at electing Tea Party candidates and defeating members of Congress who had voted for Obamacare, and asked the IRS to investigate. The agency did not respond to Common Cause.

Pearson also said it is worth noting that the increased pressure on the IRS is a direct result of the abysmal failure of Congress and the Federal Election Commission to enact or adopt common sense disclosure rules, despite the Supreme Court majority’s assurance that disclosure would allow voters to make informed decisions.

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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.  

 

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

May 10, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




IRS Targeting of Tea Party Groups Is Unacceptable

 

Real Scandal Is IRS' Lax Enforcement of Tax Laws on Both Sides of Aisle

 

 

Common Cause is outraged at reports that the Internal Revenue Service targeted some groups for review based on their names or political affiliations – real and perceived, and that cannot be tolerated.

Just as outrageous however, is the hypocrisy of those – Sen. McConnell comes immediately to mind -- who already are trying to use the IRS’ misconduct as a club to beat down any enforcement of the tax laws when it comes to non-profits that are created and exist solely to influence political campaigns.

It is painfully apparent that among the multitude of these groups launched across the ideological spectrum since Citizens United, a substantial number are so dedicated to electoral campaign activity that their applications for tax-exempt status should have been rejected out of hand. The scandal here is that the IRS is not being more aggressive in its enforcement – on the right AND the left.

 

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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.  



Campaign Legal Center · CREW ·
Common Cause · Democracy 21 ·
Public Citizen · U.S. PIRG

For Immediate Release

 Contact:
Angela Bradbery (202) 588-7741

May 8, 2013 

Craig Holman (202) 454-5182

Civic Groups Call for Transparency in the High Costs of Using Military Aircraft for Congressional Travel

Groups Encourage Passage of Foreign Travel Cost Disclosure Act


WASHINGTON. D.C. – In a letter sent today, several reform organizations urged members of Congress to co-sponsor and support passage of the Foreign Travel Cost Disclosure Act (H.R. 1359), introduced by U.S. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), in order to bring more transparency to the costs of elected officials’ taxpayer-funded travel.

The organizations include Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Common Cause, Democracy 21, Public Citizen and U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG).

According to the letter:

“This measure would bring important transparency to both lawmakers and the public of the cost of using military aircraft for official congressional travel. It does not impede such travel in any way, nor does it impose any restrictions on the use of military aircraft for congressional travel. Instead, H.R. 1359 would require that the Secretary of Defense provide an estimate of the cost of the use of military aircraft to those involved in the official travel. … The cost would also be made public on the Secretary’s web site.”

The groups note that congressional travel by military aircraft is usually far more expensive than commercial travel, but at the same time, safety and convenience often makes such travel necessary. However, lawmakers and staff are often unaware of the cost of using military aircraft, which is not reported to Congress or the public.

The letter continues:

“In this era of fiscal restraint, which also has dramatically impacted the military, it is important that Members and staff be informed of these costs in order to determine whether the use of military aircraft is the most cost effective means of transportation.”

The letter concludes:

“Our organizations urge swift passage of H.R. 1359. This is a measure that all parties should be able to agree upon.”

To read the coalition letter, go to: http://www.citizen.org/documents/coalition-letter-foreign-travel-cost-disclosure-act.pdf

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For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

May 6, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Memorial Service Wednesday for Common Cause President Bob Edgar

A public memorial service celebrating the life of Bob Edgar, a former member of Congress and Common Cause’s president and CEO, is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday at Foundry United Methodist Church, 1500 16th St. NW, in Washington D.C.

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, (D-IA), who served with Bob in the House of Representatives, and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, chairman of Common Cause’s National Governing Board, are among those scheduled to speak.

Bob collapsed and died April 23 at his home in Burke, Va., a Washington suburb, after an early morning workout. He was 69 years old.

Bob assumed the presidency of Common Cause in 2007, leading a resurgence of the 42-year old “citizens lobby.” On his watch, the organization opened or revived at least seven state chapters and re-claimed its place nationally as a leader in the fight against the corrosive power of big money in U.S. elections.

Bob guided Common Cause through uphill battles challenging the constitutionality of the U.S. Senate’s filibuster rule, supporting tougher ethics enforcement at the Supreme Court, and backing a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. He also helped spearhead Common Cause’s efforts to spotlight the secret lobbying of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a consortium of corporations and elected state legislators that has pushed hundreds of pieces of pro-business legislation into state law, often at the expense of the public interest.

An ordained Methodist minister, Bob served as general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and president of Claremont School of Theology before joining Common Cause.

Bob represented Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District in the House from 1975-87, leading efforts to improve public transportation, fight wasteful water projects and provide aid to Vietnam War veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and the effects of exposure to Agent Orange. He authored the community Right to Know provision of Superfund legislation and served on the House Select Committee on Assassinations that investigated the deaths of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and President John F. Kennedy.

Bob ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 1986 against Sen. Arlen Specter. That race fueled his frustration with the undue influence of money in politics and he became an active supporter of clean elections and campaign finance reform, issues that have long been Common Cause's hallmark. He served on Common Cause's National Governing Board for several years before becoming president of the organization.

Bob was a graduate of Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pa., and earned a master of divinity degree from the Theological School of Drew University, Madison, N.J. He held five honorary doctoral degrees and – he was fond of reminding audiences – had five arrests for civil disobedience.

####



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

May 2, 2013

(202) 736-5770

 

 

 

 

 

Transparency Promises Ring Hollow as ALEC Convenes in Oklahoma


OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Just a few weeks after making a much-ballyhooed move toward transparency, state legislators and corporate executives and lobbyists in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are gathering for a new round of closed-door meetings to endorse “model” legislation fashioned largely by business interests.

"ALEC appears to be reverting to business-as-usual," said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for programs. "Almost all of its task force meetings in Oklahoma City this week will be off limits to the public and press. The legislators in attendance will have their travel, entertainment and lodging expenses picked up by corporate sponsors, who will refer to those payments as 'scholarships' and exploit the tax laws to deduct the expense on their 2013 tax returns.

"All this comes on the heels of ALEC’s announcement in mid-March that it is committed to a 'participatory process where ideas are shared.' We see now that ALEC’s interest in sharing ideas is exceedingly limited," said Hobert Flynn. "It’s continuing to develop its legislative proposals in private, accepting input only from its corporate sponsors, and then lobbying for those proposals while masquerading as a charity."


ALEC has been identified as the force behind state laws and proposals that would privatize public schools and prisons, turning them over to for-profit operators. The group also has backed legislation to weaken clean air and clean water laws, limit collective bargaining rights for public and private workers, and make it harder for tens of thousands of college students, senior citizens, minorities and handicapped Americans to vote.

Common Cause has filed a "whistleblower" complaint against ALEC with the Internal Revenue Service, submitting several thousand pages of ALEC-produced "issue alerts," position papers, talking points and other materials crafted to advance the organization’s “model” legislation. In repeated filings, under oath, to the IRS, ALEC has insisted that it does not lobby; it operates under a section of the tax code that allows its corporate backers to claim a tax deduction for their support of its work.

 

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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

May 1, 2013

(202) 736-5770

 

 

 

 

 

Common Cause Statement on Tom Wheeler's Selection as FCC Chairman

 

Michael Copps, former Federal Communications Commission commissioner and special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative, released this statement in response to the White House announcement that Tom Wheeler will be nominated as chairman of the FCC:

"I congratulate Tom Wheeler on his selection as chairman of the FCC. Tom is a man of many talents and wide industry experience with whom I enjoyed working when I was commissioner and acting chair of the FCC. We did not always agree on the issues, but I appreciated his candor, knowledge, and ability to listen as well as to talk. Tom now has the opportunity to expand on his experience as an industry lobbyist to make policy that benefits all consumers and citizens.

"If confirmed, Tom will have the most critical role in government in responding to the many daunting challenges facing our nation's communications ecosystem. Consumers deserve a leader who will put the brakes on media monopolization, make competitive high-speed telecommunications a reality for every American, ensure the long-term freedom and openness of the Internet, and require sponsorship disclosure of political ads. These are ambitious but necessary reforms. Their time is now. I look forward to working with Tom to achieve these goals. It will take innovative thought and regulatory courage to make them happen. The late Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, was fond of the saying that 'We are the leaders we have been waiting for.' Let’s prove him right.

 

"I also commend the President for his designation of Commissioner Mignon Clyburn as acting chairwoman of the FCC. I was privileged to be her colleague and to work in concert with her across a broad gamut of issues. Her commitment to expanding diversity across our communications platforms to reflect the wondrous diversity of our nation has been especially remarkable, and having her at the helm encourages my hopes for needed progress in this critically-important area.”

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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

April 30, 2013

(202) 736-5770

 

 

 

 

 

Final FEC Commissioner's Term Ends Tuesday; President's Failure to Act Creates Lame Duck Agency


Tuesday will mark a new low for the functioning of the Federal Election Commission. FEC Commissioner Caroline Hunter’s term will officially end at 11:59 pm. At that point, all five commissioners will be sitting on expired seats as lame ducks, as the law permits each to do until a replacement is in place. A sixth expired commissioner resigned in February, leaving her seat open. With the exception of one nominee who withdrew from consideration in 2010, President Obama has failed to nominate anyone else for the six expired terms.

"The ball remains squarely in President Obama’s court to nominate new FEC commissioners, as it has since the day he took office," said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause senior vice president for strategy and programs. "Once he acts, the Senate should move swiftly to conduct confirmation hearings and vote the nominees up or down. Step one, however, requires presidential leadership. It’s inexcusable that by tomorrow evening, every single seat on the commission will be expired or vacant," she said.

FEC Commissioners have increasingly deadlocked 3-3 when voting on enforcement matters, leading to very little action against violators. "Campaign finance law has been shifting like quicksand even before the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. At the very least, Americans deserve a cop on the beat," said Hobert Flynn.

 

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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

April 23, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Common Cause President Bob Edgar Dies at 69

 

Common Cause is deeply saddened to announce that Bob Edgar, its president and CEO, died suddenly this morning at his home. Bob was 69.

 

"We are deeply saddened and shaken today by the passing of Bob Edgar," said Common Cause Board Chair Robert Reich. "Bob will be remembered for his decency, kindness, compassion and humor. His deep commitment to social justice and strengthening our democracy is his greatest gift to Common Cause and the nation. Our hearts are with Bob’s family, his wife Merle, and sons Andrew, David and Rob, and their families.""

 

Bob, who served Pennsylvania in Congress for 12 years and also led the National Council of Churches, became the president and CEO of Common Cause in May 2007. He oversaw the relaunching of at least seven state chapters, travelled tirelessly to meet with and recruit Common Cause supporters and raised the organization’s national profile and its critical mission to strengthen our democracy.


Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974 to represent the Seventh Congressional District of Pennsylvania, Bob was part of the congressional class nicknamed "the Watergate babies," those elected in the wake of the Watergate scandal and who led sweeping reforms of Congress.

During six terms in the US House, Bob led efforts to improve public transportation, fought wasteful water projects and authored the Community Right to Know provision of Super Fund legislation. He also served on the House Select Committee on Assassinations that investigated the deaths of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy. Bob also served on the Veterans Affairs Committee, working on issues around Agent Orange and readjustment counseling to treat post traumatic stress disorder.

Bob ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 1986 against Sen. Arlen Specter. That race fueled his frustration with the undue influence of money in politics and he became an active supporter of clean elections and campaign finance reform, issues that have long been Common Cause's hallmark. He served on Common Cause's National Governing Board for several years before becoming President of the organization.

Bob received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pa., and a master of divinity degree from the Theological School of Drew University, Madison, N.J. He also served as president of the Claremont School of Theology. He holds five honorary doctoral degrees. Bob sat on the boards of several organizations, including the National Coalition on Health Care, the Environment and Energy Study Institute, the National Foundation on Alternative Medicine, Drew University and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.

Bob was the author of "Middle Church," a call to progressive people of faith to take back the moral high ground from the extremists and make America a better and less divided country.

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact: Mary Boyle 

April 17, 2013

(202) 736-5770 

 

 

 

 

Expected Senate Action on Gun Violence Legislation Is Cowardly Dodge

The Senate’s scheduled vote this afternoon on gun violence legislation makes a mockery of majority rule and dishonors the memory of the innocents who perished at Newtown and the thousands of other Americans killed or maimed each year by gun violence, Common Cause said today.

“Upwards of 90 percent of Americans support strengthened background checks for gun purchasers,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “The Senate’s answer today is a cowardly dodge behind an antiquated rule. Senators must not do the gun industry’s bidding by manipulating the rules of the chamber at the expense of the public interest.”

Rather than engage in an extended debate, which would require all of them to spell out their positions to the American people, and then settle the matter with a majority vote, senators have unanimouslyagreed to require a 60-vote supermajority vote for any action. “The result, of course, is likely to be no action at all, or hardly any,” Edgar said.

In the first two days of formal debate on gun legislation, senators spoke for a total of 215 minutes – less than four hours, Edgar said. “That’s less than 10 minutes for each of Sandy Hook’s 26 victims,” he said. “Now, on the third day, with far less than half of all senators having come to the floor to share their views and hear arguments pro and con from their colleagues, we come to a pivotal vote and see that a supermajority – 60 senators – is required to get anything done.

"If it wasn’t so sad, it would be laughable,” he said.

Edgar called on Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to reschedule today’s proceedings and “lay out a plan for a serious debate on the gun show loophole and other important gun law amendments.

“If there are senators who want to filibuster these amendments, let them come to the floor and explain themselves, and keep explaining until they convince a majority to join them or run out of things to say. Let’s have a real debate and then let’s allow the majority to work its will. That’s how the Senate – how America – is supposed to work.”

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

April 9, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Federal Election Commission Closing in on Total Paralysis

 

Congress Must Explore Creation of New, Independent, Campaign Finance Watchdog

 

Statement by Bob Edgar, President of Common Cause

 

 

At the month’s end, the Federal Election Commission will attain a status unique (one hopes) in our government: All of its members will be serving past the expiration date of their terms, left in office because the President and Congress have been unable to agree on their successors.

These unfilled vacancies are a sad commentary on the state of partisanship in Washington. They persist because the President, while professing his support for tough campaign finance law enforcement, has failed to nominate new commissioners and because Republicans in the Senate who wield an effective veto power over his nominees are determined to sabotage any enforcement.

The FEC arguably is the most dysfunctional agency in our government. Again and again, partisan deadlocks among its members have left it unable to enforce our election laws and execute critically important rulemakings. When combined with misguided court decisions like Citizens United, the result is a campaign finance structure wide open to corruption.

To break this impasse, senators at today’s hearing must explore the creation of a new, well-funded election agency, independent of the executive branch, structured to prevent partisan deadlock, and empowered to effectively administer and enforce campaign finance laws. While that legislation is pending, we have asked President Obama to create a bi-partisan panel to recommend a slate of nominees to replace the five current hold-over commissioners -- and fill the commission's one vacancy -- with members committed to enforcing and strengthening our election laws. If the Senate fails to act, the President should install the panel's nominees as recess appointees.

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

April 5, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




New Report Documents ALEC's Continuing Clout in Arizona

 

It has lost at least 50 business and foundation members since early in 2012, but the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its profit-driven agenda remain a major force in the Arizona statehouse, according to a new report from Common Cause and allied groups. "ALEC in Arizona: The Voice Of Corporate Special Interests In The Halls Of Arizona’s Legislature," connects 17 bills introduced in the Arizona legislature this year to "model" legislation developed by ALEC’s corporate and legislator members. The bills would strip funds from Arizona’s public schools (SB 1409 and HB 2617), eliminate collective bargaining rights (HB 2330), undermine the Affordable Care Act (HB 2588) and make it more difficult for Arizonans to bring class action lawsuits against corporations (SB 1452).

The report also details the receipt by Arizona legislators of more than $200,000 in "scholarships," from a special Arizona ALEC fund. The money is used to cover the lawmakers' travel expenses and accommodations at ALEC seminars, where corporate representatives and elected officials collaborate – in private -- to develop the group's "model" bills.

By using ALEC as a conduit, the fund conceals the actual identity of the corporations providing the money. Between 2006 and 2011, these corporations included Salt River Project ($30,000), University of Phoenix ($10,000), Freeport-McMoRan ($12,000) and Apollo Group/Insight Schools ($12,000).

"ALEC in Arizona" was released by Common Cause, the Center for Media and Democracy, Arizona Working Families, Progress Now Education, and the People For The American Way Foundation. It is the third annual report on ALEC’s influence in Arizona.

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

April 4, 2013

Mary Boyle (202) 736-5770

 





Common Cause and 46 Organizations Urge Public Interest-Oriented Leadership at FCC 


Common Cause and 46 allied organizations today called on President Obama to appoint to the Federal Communications Commission commissioners who will uphold consumer protection in telecommunications, promote a diverse and local media ecosystem, and foster universal connectivity to the open Internet.

“With so much at stake – a free and open Internet, creeping media monopolization and a political system awash in unaccountable, anonymous money – it’s crucial that President Obama appoint public interest champions who are committed to upholding the values he campaigned on,” said Michael Copps, special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative and a former decade-long member of the Federal Communications Commission.

Two commissioners, Chairman Julius Genachowski and Robert McDowell, have recently announced their departures from the FCC.

Common Cause and 46 other diverse organizations, including Consumers Union, Free Press and Public Knowledge, signed onto a letter sent Thursday to the White House.  

Read the full text of the letter here, and the list of signed organizations.


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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.  

 

 



For Immediate Release

Contact:

March 26, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 

 

 



 

Common Cause applauds Organizing for Action's Jump into NYS public financing push


In providing its skills and manpower to the campaign for public financing of elections in New York, Organizing for Action, the advocacy group sprung from the remnants of the 2012 Obama campaign, is taking an important step to rein in the outsized political influence of wealthy donors in elections across the country, Common Cause said today.

“Organizing for Action’s involvement in New York is great news,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “I hope today’s announcement is a precursor to a national drive for reforms like public financing and full disclosure of campaign donations to campaigns, PACs and the politically active and tax-exempt ‘social welfare’ organizations that have emerged since the Citizens United decision.”

Common Cause is working in New York with a broad coalition of groups to take statewide elections off the auction block by enacting a small donor matching system that creates incentives for candidates to reach out to ordinary voters and not rely exclusively on deep-pocketed donors.
 

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. Bob Edgar is the organization’s president.

 

  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

March 22, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Statement of Michael Copps, former FCC Commissioner and senior advisor to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Campaign, on FCC departures


This week has exacted a heavy toll on the Federal Communications Commission with the announced departures of two Commissioners – and two friends.

At a tumultuous time for the U.S. political and economic system, Chairman Julius Genachowski, who announced his departure today, understood the critical importance of connecting all Americans and moved broadband to the forefront of the Commission's agenda. Where there had been no plan, he developed a plan that rose far above the hands-off bromides that had limited deployment and adoption for the previous eight years. He is incredibly knowledgeable about the transformative power of the awesome technologies that are changing the way we live our daily lives. Julius was invariably pleasant to work with, keen in his insights, and committed to doing his job well. I expect his future will be bright, and that is what his gracious wife, Rachel Goslins, and their children richly deserve.

Commissioner Robert McDowell this week also announced his intention to depart. We served together for more than five years. We met regularly, exchanged ideas freely, sometimes trying to convert one another but, as in most proceedings before the Commission, more often agreeing. He was a rock to lean on while, as Acting Chairman, I oversaw the transition of the country's broadcast airwaves to digital technology. He has been articulate in expressing his beliefs, gracious in his demeanor, humorous when the occasion demands it (which is often), and invariably pleasant to work with. I am also confident the future holds many good things for him his wife Jennifer, and their children, and I look forward to continuing friendship with both Rob and Julius in the years ahead.

Now we anticipate a significantly new FCC. I hope the President will nominate individuals dedicated to the furtherance of the public interest, who see the Commission as a consumer protection agency, and who will bring to the fore media issues that have been allowed to drift for the better part of a generation. Candidate Obama spoke about slowing the mad rush to media consolidation, reasserting the public interest in FCC oversight, and building a media ecosystem reflecting the great diversity of America. I look forward to nominees who will work toward these goals.


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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

March 18, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Statement by Common Cause President Bob Edgar on Today's Supreme Court Hearing in Arizona v. ITCA


 

"We are in the Supreme Court this morning so that all Americans can vote without burdensome and unnecessary barriers. The motor voter law is one of our country's great success stories because it sets a clear national standard for expanding access to the ballot box. Arizona sought to supersede federal requirements by demanding that voters provide additional documents to state officials before they can be added to the rolls. We hope the Supreme Court affirms the 9th Circuit and re-establishes the motor voter law as the law of the land, including Arizona."

Background
Common Cause, represented by MALDEF, Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, is part of a coalition of individuals and advocacy groups that joined in challenging Arizona’s attempt to impose voter registration requirements beyond those established by the National Voter Registration Act, commonly known as the “motor voter” law.

Decisions in Arizona v. ICTA and another key voting rights case, Shelby County v. Holder, are expected before the Court adjourns at the end of June.

 


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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.  

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

March 15, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Under Pressure from Watchdog Groups, American Legislative Exchange Council Releases Hundreds of “Model” Bills

Coalition Calls for Corporate Lobby to Open Meetings, Release Names of Members, Disclose Its Finances  


A two-year campaign by a coalition of public interest groups including Common Cause has pushed the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to release hundreds of pieces of “model” state legislation secretly developed and pushed into law by corporate interests.

The coalition also includes the Center for Media and Democracy, ColorOfChange, Greenpeace, People For the American Way, Progress Now and a variety of labor organizations.

But ALEC has far more to do before it can legitimately claim to be operating in the sunshine, the watchdog groups said. They urged its leaders to publish the names of ALEC’s legislative members and corporate sponsors, as well as the names of the individuals representing corporations on ALEC committees. In addition, the groups say ALEC must open the task force meetings at which bills are discussed and voted on.

“We’re pleased that after decades of secretly manipulating thousands of elected officials, the corporate bill mill known as ‘ALEC’ has decided to share some of its secrets,” the groups said in a joint statement. “But ALEC continues to hide from the public the identities of the corporations whose representatives wrote and voted on those bills at its meetings. It also has done nothing to reform the way it cozies up to lawmakers by providing them with “scholarships” that cover the cost of their travel and lodging at the posh resorts where it conducts its meetings.”

Almost two years ago, the Center for Media and Democracy received nearly 1,000 ALEC bills from a whistleblower and analyzed those bills and then posted them to ALECexposed.org along with lists of ALEC’s legislative and corporate members. ALEC describes itself as a forum for the exchange of ideas among legislators, but it is largely funded by corporations and corporate-backed non-profit groups, and it touts to corporations that they get an “equal voice and vote.”

The legislative database indicates that ALEC is the force behind state laws designed to turn public schools and prisons into corporate profit centers, weaken the bargaining rights of tens of thousands of working people, roll back clean air and clean water laws, and undermine voting rights.

Since March 2012, campaign to expose ALEC has led 42 for-profit corporations to give up their membership; 71 legislators across the country also have announced their departures and 100 more lost their seats in elections last year or have left office.
 


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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.  

 

 



 

 For Immediate Release

 Contact: Viki Harrison

 March 13, 2013

(505) 205-3750 

 

 

 

 

New Mexico Passes First Public Financing Fix With Bipartisan Support

Common Cause New Mexico Urges Governor Martinez to Sign Bill Quickly

 

The New Mexico House took a critical step to clean up state elections today, passing S.16 The Voter Action Act by a vote of 68-0.

S. 16 helps replace with matching public funds the trigger funds that were struck down by the Supreme Court in the 2011 decision Arizona Free Enterprise v. Bennett.. Before the decision, publicly financed candidates who faced high spending opponents or were victims of independent expenditure could get additional funds, or trigger funds to combat that spending.

S.16 will allow candidates who run for the Public Regulation Commission and in judicial races under New Mexico’s public financing program to raise additional small donor contributions and get a four to one match for those contributions.

“We are pleased the bill passed unanimously through the House Voters and Elections Committee (10-0) and House Judiciary Committee (11-0) and with strong bipartisan support today. A broad coalition of groups, including LWV, AAUW, Native American Voters Alliance, South West Organizing Project support this measure as did the Attorney General Gary King and Secretary of State Dianna Duran. We are grateful to Sen. Peter Wirth for his leadership on this issue and we are hopeful that Gov. Martinez will sign this into law,” said Common Cause New Mexico Executive Director Viki Harrison.

The Voter Action Act will not cost the state any additional money as the caps on funding remain unchanged. The bill also does not expand the state’s current public financing system. S.16 passed the Senate on February 28, 33-7.

“If Gov. Martinez signs S.16 into law, New Mexico will be a trailblazer in strengthening its public financing proposal after the Supreme Court struck down trigger provisions in Arizona Free Enterprise v. Bennett,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “The Common Cause-supported bill had broad, bipartisan support and will allow candidates who run in competitive campaigns to raise small dollar contributions from individuals and get a four to one match,” he added.

The bill now heads Gov. Martinez, who has 20 days to act.

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Common Cause New Mexico 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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact: Mary Boyle

Mar. 12, 2013

(202) 736-5770



To Mark Watergate’s 40th Anniversary, Common Cause to Convene Watergate figures, policy experts, reformers, journalists to explore lessons learned and their resonance today

 

Forty years after the Watergate scandal exposed the corrupting power of secret money and tested America’s commitment to the rule of law, Common Cause is convening a two-day conference beginning tomorrow to examine Watergate’s lessons and their relevance to 21st century American politics.

The “Lessons of Watergate” conference will feature major Watergate era figures, policymakers, journalists and political reform advocates, with group discussions and breakout sessions geared to using our past to navigate today’s challenges. All sessions will be held at the National Press Club.

Please click here to view the full program.

The keynote speeches will be livestreamed here.

All sessions of “The Lessons of Watergate” conference are open to print, broadcast and online coverage. Advanced registration is required. Click on the “Register Today!” button and fill-out the conference registration form. Media please use “press2013” in discount box to waive conference fee.

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

March 11, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Common Cause Kentucky and Verified Voting: Kentucky House Members Must Act to Protect the Votes of our Troops

Despite Claims of Online Voting System Vendors, House Vote Today Risks the Security of Overseas Military Ballots


As the Kentucky House prepares today to vote on SB 1, a bill designed to make voting easier for overseas Kentuckians and military personnel, Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a national nonpartisan group dedicated to protecting our elections in the digital age, and Richard Beliles of Common Cause Kentucky, issued the following statement:

“We urge House members to assess the dangers of Internet voting with clear eyes. Far from protecting the votes of our troops, allowing the ballots of overseas voters to be cast via Internet places those votes at risk to hacking and tampering – at a time when we are learning more and more about the extent of penetration of the Chinese and others into our nation’s networks.

Internet voting is the least secure form of voting, and those who claim that current voting systems use high standards of encryption and protection ignore the technological reality that there is no current system that is safe from penetration.

The goals behind SB 1 are laudable, as is the intention behind the push to make voting more accessible for our troops. But the dangers of Internet voting are such that, in an attempt to strengthen voting rights for military members, the House runs the risk of imperiling that right instead.

We urge the House to pass SB 1 without provisions that allow the return of voted ballots electronically.”

Fact and Fiction About Electronic Voting


1. Fiction: Internet voting systems are impenetrably, or absolutely secure.

Fact:
Those who claim that Internet voting systems are secure are not national security experts. They are vendors of online voting systems, who are marketing their products to election officials around the country, making promises of security, voter authentication and verifiability. Their claims have not been subject to publicly reviewable tests or any type of government certification.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is the federal agency responsible for studying and evaluating Internet voting security. For years NIST has studied and evaluated the security tools available to protect voted ballots traveling over the Internet. It has looked deeply at what can and cannot be done to safeguard online ballots and prevent successful attacks. NIST has published several reports on its findings and last year it issued a statement which summarized its work and conclusions to date. NIST advised that with the security tools currently available, secure Internet voting is not “feasible”[1] and more research is needed before the security challenges can be overcome. Any claim by a vendor that it has developed a secure Internet voting system is in direct contradiction to NIST’s best assessment after years of research and analysis.

2. Fiction: Email voting is not Internet voting.

Fact: There is a common misunderstanding that returning voted ballots by email or digital fax is not voting over the Internet. Email and digital faxes both travel over the Internet and are subject to attacks, deletion or tampering. Any time a voted ballot is transmitted by email, digital fax or an Internet voting portal, those ballots travel over the Internet and are subject to tampering or deletion by attackers anywhere in the world.

3. Fiction: Dozens of states already allow voting over the Internet and there have been no successful hacks.

Fact: While it is true many states have allowed online voting, any assumption that their systems are secure and have not been compromised is unproven. Skilled hackers are able to breach systems and erase any trace of their actions, so there is no way to know if these systems have been infiltrated and compromised. It has been estimated that most network hacks are not detected for more than a year. Just because states have not identified a cyber attack on an online voting systems doesn’t mean it was not compromised, or won’t be in future elections.

4. Fiction: Internet voting systems travel over secure Department of Defense networks.

Fact: Even for military voters, the Internet voting systems available today do not utilize a DoD network. Any systems used today connect to the public Internet and are subject to attack from hackers anywhere in the world. Some vendors claim or allude to using private systems that are separate from the public Internet. But even virtual private systems still rely on the public Internet and are vulnerable.

5. Fiction: Internet voting systems in use today have been approved by the Department of Defense.

Fact: Vendors have boasted that their systems have been purchased by the Department of Defense. The implication is that the Department of Defense endorsed use of these systems for online voting. This is inaccurate. The Department of Defense has purchased some of these systems to deliver blank ballots online only, but not to transmit (return) the voted ballots. The federal government did not intend these systems to be used to transmit voted ballots over the Internet because of the unsolved security risks.[2]

6. Fiction: Internet voting systems can provide secure voter authentication. Or, online voting systems utilize military CAC cards.

Fact: Vendors have made claims that their systems can authenticate voters’ identities however voter authentication over the Internet remains an unsolved problem. As NIST concluded, “the United States currently lacks a public infrastructure for secure electronic voter authentication.”[3] And while the use of CAC card could, someday, provide reliable voter authentication, it is unclear if any Internet voting system available today is able to incorporate the use of the CAC card. According to NIST, the use of the CAC card is difficult and expensive to deploy with technology available and does not cover non-military UOCAVA voters.[4]

7. Fiction: Internet voting systems can be checked for accuracy.

Fact: Vendors often claim that their systems can be audited, but it is impossible to conduct a meaningful audit of ballots sent over the Internet with today’s technology. Attacks can alter a voter’s ballot without his or her knowledge, just as attacks on banking systems that transfer funds without the account owner’s permission are undetectable.[5] These attacks would also be imperceptible to the vendor or election official, and because we vote by secret ballot, it is virtually impossible to conduct a meaningful audit of an election in which ballots are transmitted over the Internet. According to NIST, “ensuring remote electronic voting systems are auditable largely remains a challenging problem, with no current or proposed technologies offering a viable solution.”[6]



[1] http://www.nist.gov/itl/vote/uocava.cfm

[2] According to Department of Defense communication to Congress regarding its purchase of online balloting systems from Everyone Counts and others, the systems were purchased to deliver blank ballots online, allow a voter to mark the ballot and then print the ballot for return by mail; the systems are not to be used to send the voted ballot back over the Internet. The communication reads “[t]he voter will be able to mark the ballot with all selected candidates,[ …] and then print the ballot with State specific casting instructions and pre-addressed envelope for the voter to print out with a hard copy, sign with a wet signature and return by postal mail. These systems are the same as the front end of what a voter would experience in a full internet voting system. The [system] stops the online process at the online marking of the ballot and supports the postal return of a hard-copy, “wet” signature ballot.”
http://comptroller.defense.gov/defbudget/fy2012/budget_justification/pdfs/03_RDT_and_E/DHRA.pdf

[3] http://www.nist.gov/itl/vote/uocava.cfm

[4] NIST 7770 “Security Considerations for Remote Electronic UOCAVA Voting ” http://www.nist.gov/itl/vote/upload/NISTIR-7700-feb2011.pdf

[5] However, in the case of funds stolen through malicious software in the user’s computer, the lost funds may be recoverable because of Federal laws limiting retail banking losses. These limits do not apply to commercial bank accounts.

[6] Ibid.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact: Mary Boyle

March 7, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Organizing For Action takes commendable steps, but more work needed


Organizing for Action, President Obama’s new advocacy organization, should follow up on Thursday’s encouraging moves to distance itself from Washington’s pay-to-play culture by developing and advancing a full political reform agenda, Common Cause said today.

“I’m pleased to see that the President’s associates have reconsidered their initial decision to solicit corporate contributions and sell access to the President through OFA and that they’ve pledged to make full and prompt disclosure of all gifts of $250 or more,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “But that’s really just a start.

If Organizing for Action is serious about putting to bed public concerns that contributions buy access, it should mobilize its impressive small-donor and activist base to push for real reform to clean up Washington, Edgar said. “That means getting behind legislation like the DISCLOSE Act, supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and rein in runaway political spending, and developing a new, small-donor public funding system that lets candidates break their dependence on big money.”

Organizing for Action still has some work to do on its own fundraising model, Edgar said. The group apparently still intends to accept unlimited donations from individuals and political action committees; if it wants to reduce public concerns about the undue influence of big donors, it should at least impose the same cap on those gifts that the law now places on individual and PAC donations to political parties, he said. “President Obama came to power in 2008 on a wave of anti-corruption sentiment and the promise to change the way Washington works. He has an opportunity now to make good on that promise and through it to advance other items on his agenda," Edgar said.

The President’s own words in the speech launching his first presidential campaign are apt today.

‘The cynics, and the lobbyists, and the special interests [have] turned our government into a game only they can afford to play. They write the checks and you get stuck with the bills, they get the access while you get to write a letter, they think they own this government, but we're here today to take it back. The time for that politics is over. It's time to turn the page.’

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact: Mary Boyle 

March 6, 2013 

(202) 736-5770 

 

 
Minority Again Uses Filibuster to Hijack Senate Will

 

Two months after failing to enact meaningful reform to the Senate’s filibuster rules, a minority of the United States Senate is doubling down on its old ways by blocking a final vote on the nomination of Caitlin Halligan, a well-qualified nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary gave the nominee its highest possible rating.

“We saw this morning another glaring example of anti-democratic rule by a minority in the United States Senate,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. “A bipartisan majority supported this nomination, but a minority barred them from approving her with another filibuster.”

The Constitution requires only a simple majority, 51 votes, for confirmation of judicial nominees; the Senate filibuster rule replaces that with a 60 vote requirement, effectively giving control to the minority.

Common Cause has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to have the filibuster rule declared unconstitutional. The case is on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia following a lower court’s ruling in December that Common Cause and other plaintiffs, including four members of the House of Representatives, lack legal standing to pursue it.

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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.


 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

March 4, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




To Mark Watergate’s 40th Anniversary, Common Cause to Convene Two-Day Conference at National Press Club

Watergate figures, policy experts, reformers, journalists to explore lessons learned and their resonance today


Forty years after the Watergate scandal exposed the corrupting power of secret money and tested America’s commitment to the rule of law, Common Cause is convening a two-day conference in March to examine Watergate’s lessons and their relevance to 21st century American politics.

The “Lessons of Watergate” conference, March 13-14, will feature major Watergate era figures, policymakers, journalists and political reform advocates, with group discussions and breakout sessions geared to using our past to navigate today’s challenges. All sessions will be held at the National Press Club.

Featured speakers include:

· William S. Cohen, former US. Senator and Defense Secretary under President Bill Clinton. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, then-Rep. Cohen was part of a group of moderate Republicans who rose above partisanship to help craft articles of impeachment against President Nixon.
· Elizabeth Holtzman, a former prosecutor and Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee emerged during the impeachment hearings as one of the panel’s best-prepared and most relentless investigators.
· Daniel Ellsberg, the courageous military analyst who helped write The Pentagon Papers, a Defense Department study that concluded the Vietnam War was unwinnable, and ultimately leaked it to The New York Times, The Washington Post and other newspapers. The leak sparked the Nixon administration to create a “plumbers” unit that later carried out the Watergate break-in.
· Russ Feingold, former U.S. Senator who partnered with Sen. John McCain to author the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, the last major piece of post-Watergate campaign finance legislation.
· Robert Reich, chairman of Common Cause’s national governing board and secretary of labor under President Clinton.

Other confirmed Watergate-related speakers include Jill Wine-Banks, prosecutor during Watergate hearings who questioned secretary Rose Mary Woods about the 18 ½ minute gap in Nixon's tapes; Terry Lenzner, assistant counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee; Timothy Naftali, historian and former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum; Richard Ben-Veniste, Watergate special prosecutor; George Frampton, Watergate special prosecutor and co-author with Mr. Ben-Veniste of Stonewall: The Real Story of the Watergate Prosecution; Francis O’Brien, chief of staff to Rep. Peter Rodino, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in 1974; Scott Armstrong, who served on the staff of the Senate Watergate Committee and founded the National Security Archives.
   
Additional confirmed speakers include Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Marge Baker, executive vice president for policy and program at People For the American Way; Danielle Brian, executive director of Project On Government Oversight; Eliza Newlin Carney, staff writer covering lobbying and influence at CQ Roll Call; David Cohen, senior congressional fellow at the Council for a Livable World and past president of Common Cause; Larry Cohen, president of Communications Workers of America; Michael J. Copps, former member of the Federal Communications Commission and now senior advisor to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative; Bob Edgar, president and CEO of Common Cause; Stuart Eizenstat, partner at Covington & Burling and senior strategist at APCO Worldwide; Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch; John Aloysius Farrell, longtime investigative journalist, working on biography of Richard Nixon; Matea Gold, staff writer covering money and politics for The Los Angeles Times; Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Mort Halperin, senior advisor to the Open Society Institute, expert on civil liberties and foreign policy and who served in the Nixon Administration; Al Hunt, executive Washington editor for Bloomberg News; Brooks Jackson, longtime Washington journalist, founder, FactCheck.org; Ben Jealous, president and CEO of NAACP; Celinda Lake, pollster and political strategist; Chuck Lewis, investigative journalist and founder of Center for Public Integrity; Rep. Jerrold Nadler, ranking member, House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution; Lawrence M. Noble, former general counsel to the Federal Election Commission and president and CEO of Americans for Campaign Reform; John Nichols, Washington correspondent, The Nation; Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Public Campaign; Spencer Overton, law professor at George Washington University, served as principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Policy in the Department of Justice; Trevor Potter, founder and general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center; Alicia Shepard, author, journalist and expert on the work and lives of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein; Frederick A.O “Fritz” Schwarz Jr., chief counsel of the Brennan Center for Justice; Don Simon, campaign finance and election law attorney; Amanda Terkel, senior political reporter and politics managing editor at The Huffington Post; Jonathan Turley, writer, commentator, legal analyst and George Washington University Law School professor; Fred Wertheimer, founder and president of Democracy 21, nationally recognized expert on money in politics issues; Michael Winship, senior writer of Moyers & Company on public television, senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos, and president of the Writers Guild of America, East.

This list will be updated in future advisories, and more information is available on Common Cause’s website here.

The program also includes a reception in the evening of March 13 to honor those who had the courage to speak truth to power.

All sessions of “The Lessons of Watergate” conference are open to print, broadcast and online coverage. Seating is limited however and advance registration is required.

To register, visit www.commoncause.org/watergate
 

 

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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.  

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

February 28, 2013

Mary Boyle (202) 736-5770

 




GAO Affirms FCC Obligation to Disclose Who's Paying for Political Ads
Now the FCC Must Make That Happen, Says Michael Copps  


Common Cause today welcomed the release of a Government Accountability (GAO) report calling on the Federal Communications Commission to require full disclosure of who’s really paying for political ads on the airwaves. Commenting on the report, Michael Copps, a former FCC Commissioner who now serves as special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative said:

"The government’s own watchdog says what I've been saying all along – the FCC can and should make full disclosure a reality. It's high time the FCC listen to the tens of thousands of Common Cause supporters who have already called on the Commission to require real disclosure of the unlimited anonymous money that has corroded discourse and stifled much-needed reforms. The American public has a right to know who is trying to influence them.

"I commend Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman, and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Anna Eshoo for making this very timely report possible. I hope the FCC will take heed – the American people have had their fill of unaccountable and anonymous ads," Copps said.

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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.  

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

February 27, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Common Cause statement on challenge to the Voting Rights Act

 

The 2012 election makes clear that the work of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is not finished. States like Florida, Texas and South Carolina saw voter suppression in the guise of reducing early voting, curtailing voter registration drives, and mandating forms of identification that millions of law-abiding Americans lack.

The Voting Rights Act has been heralded as the most effective civil rights law in history. It's a law the continues to protect the rights of American voters, and must be upheld to ensure we reach the promise of free fair and accessible elections for all

Common Cause is among 28 organizations that filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court detailing why Section 5 must be to protect American voters from unjust efforts to make it harder for them to vote. The Supreme Court today is hearing arguments in the case Shelby County v. Holder, which challenges a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act. Congress voted in 2006 to reauthorize and extend Section 5, the cornerstone of the legislation, for an additional 25 years.

 

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

February 27, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Common Cause Urges FCC to Conduct Careful, Independent Study Before Relaxing Media Ownership Rules

 

 

The Federal Communications Commission is right to delay plans to relax its rules on media consolidation, but before acting at all it should conduct a careful and independent study of how new rules would impact levels of broadcast ownership by women, African-Americans and other minorities, Common Cause said today.

 

“I am pleased by the FCC’s decision to delay action but troubled by the process it is following as it considers these critical changes to its ownership rules,” said Michael Copps, a former FCC commissioner who now serves as special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative.

 

“The broadcast industry suffers from abysmal levels of minority and female ownership,” Copps said. “To ensure that new rules don’t make things worse, the FCC should be driving the research process itself, setting the parameters and teeing up the questions needed to satisfy anti-discrimination requirements set by the courts and guarantee an independent and data-driven outcome.”

 

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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.


 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

February 26, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




President Obama Must Shut Down Organizing for Action

 

 

President Obama should direct his associates to shut down the “independent” organization they established to raise money and lobby on behalf of his domestic and foreign policies, Common Cause said today.

 

“If President Obama is serious about his often-expressed desire to rein in big money in politics, he should shut down Organizing for Action and disavow any plan to schedule regular meetings with its major donors,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. “Access to the President should never be for sale.”

 

“With its reported promise of quarterly presidential meetings for donors and ‘bundlers’ who raise $500,000, Organizing For Action apparently intends to extend and deepen the pay-to-play Washington culture that Barack Obama came to prominence pledging to end,” Edgar added. “The White House’s suggestion this week that this group will somehow be independent is laughable.”

 

Organizing for Action’s organizers have indicated the group will accept unlimited donations from individuals and corporations alike. The group has promised to disclose its donors but will release only limited information about their gifts, placing their donations within dollar ranges rather than revealing specific amounts.

 

“President Obama’s backers should go back to the drawing board,” Edgar said. “The President may feel that he needs help from an advocacy organization outside the White House and the Democratic Party, but any group he creates should be fundamentally different from what we now see in Organizing for Action.

 

“At a minimum, any outside advocacy organization tied to the President should live by the ground rules the President has adopted for his Administration and the anti-corruption laws that apply to political parties,” Edgar said. That means any group associated with the President should refuse all donations from lobbyists, corporations and unions, provide complete and prompt disclosure of all its donors and the amounts they contribute, and impose an annual limit of $32,400 on the amount of money it will accept from any individual or political action committee.

 

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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.  

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

February 26, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 

 



 

Note: this advisory reflects new speakers added to the conference, John Aloysius Farrell, longtime journalist and author currently working on a biography of President Nixon; Al Hunt, executive Washington editor for Bloomberg News and political talk show host and analyst; Brooks Jackson, longtime Washington journalist, founder, FactCheck.org, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, ranking member, House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, John Nichols, Washington correspondent, The Nation.


To Mark Watergate’s 40th Anniversary, Common Cause to Convene Two-Day Conference at National Press Club

Watergate figures, policy experts, reformers, journalists to explore lessons learned and their resonance today

 

 

Forty years after the Watergate scandal exposed the corrupting power of secret money and tested America’s commitment to the rule of law, Common Cause is convening a two-day conference in March to examine Watergate’s lessons and their relevance to 21stcentury American politics.

 

The “Lessons of Watergate” conference, March 13-14, will feature major Watergate era figures, policymakers, journalists and political reform advocates, with group discussions and breakout sessions geared to using our past to navigate today’s challenges. All sessions will be held at the National Press Club.

 

Featured speakers include:

 

·        William S. Cohen, former US. Senator and Defense Secretary under President Bill Clinton. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, then-Rep. Cohen was part of a group of moderate Republicans who rose above partisanship to help craft articles of impeachment against President Nixon.

·        Elizabeth Holtzman, a former prosecutor and Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee emerged during the impeachment hearings as one of the panel’s best-prepared and most relentless investigators.

·        Daniel Ellsberg, the courageous military analyst who helped writeThe Pentagon Papers, a Defense Department study that concluded the Vietnam War was unwinnable, and ultimately leaked it to The New York Times, The Washington Post and other newspapers. The leak sparked the Nixon administration to create a “plumbers” unit that later carried out the Watergate break-in.

·        Russ Feingold, former U.S. Senator who partnered with Sen. John McCain to author the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, the last major piece of post-Watergate campaign finance legislation.

·        Robert Reich, chairman of Common Cause’s national governing board and secretary of labor under President Clinton.

 

Other confirmed Watergate-related speakers include Jill Wine-Banks, prosecutor during Watergate hearings who questioned secretary Rose Mary Woods about 18 ½ minute gap in Nixon tapes; Terry Lenzner, staff member on the investigating Senate Watergate Committee;Timothy Naftali, historian and former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum; Richard Ben-Veniste, Watergate special prosecutor; George Frampton, Watergate special prosecutor and co-author with Mr. Ben-Veniste of Stonewall: The Real Story of the Watergate Prosecution; Francis O’Brien, chief of staff to Rep. Peter Rodino, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in 1974; Scott Armstrong, who served on the staff of the Senate Watergate Committee and founded the National Security Archives.

 

Additional confirmed speakers include Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Marge Baker, executive vice president for policy and program at People For the American Way; Danielle Brian, executive director of Project On Government Oversight; Eliza Newlin Carney, staff writer covering lobbying and influence at CQ Roll Call; DavidCohen, senior congressional fellow at the Council for a Livable World and past president of Common Cause; Larry Cohen, president of Communications Workers of America; Michael J. Copps, former member of the Federal Communications Commission and now senior advisor to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative; Bob Edgar, president and CEO of Common Cause; Stuart Eizenstat, chief domestic policy adviser in the Carter administration; Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch; John Aloysius Farrell, longtime investigative journalist, working on biography of Richard Nixon; Matea Gold, staff writer covering money and politics forThe Los Angeles Times; Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; MortHalperin, senior advisor to the Open Society Institute, expert on civil liberties and foreign policy and who served in the Nixon Administration; Al Hunt, executive Washington editor for Bloomberg News; Brooks Jackson, longtime Washington journalist, founder, FactCheck.org; Ben Jealous, president and CEO of NAACP; Celinda Lake, pollster and political strategist; Chuck Lewis, professor and executive editor, Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, founder, Center for Public Integrity; Rep. Jerrold Nadler, ranking member, House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution;John Nichols, Washington correspondent, The Nation; Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Public Campaign; Spencer Overton, law professor at George Washington University, served as principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Policy in the Department of Justice;Trevor Potter, founder and general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center; Alicia Shepard, author, journalist and expert on the work and lives of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein; Frederick A.O “Fritz” Schwarz Jr., chief counsel of the Brennan Center for Justice; Don Simon, campaign finance and election law attorney; Amanda Terkel, senior political reporter and politics managing editor at The Huffington Post; Jonathan Turley, writer, commentator, legal analyst and George Washington University Law School professor; Fred Wertheimer, founder and president of Democracy 21, nationally recognized expert onmoney in politics issues; Michael Winship, senior writer of Moyers & Company on public television, senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos, and president of the Writers Guild of America, East. 

 

This list will be updated in future advisories, and more information is available on Common Cause’s website here.

 

The program also includes a reception in the evening of March 13 to honor those who had the courage to speak truth to power. 

 

All sessions of “The Lessons of Watergate” conference are open to print, broadcast and online coverage. Seating is limited however and advance registration is required. Click on the “Register Today!” button and fill-out the conference registration form.

 

 

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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.  

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

Feb. 19, 2013

Mary Boyle, 202-736-5770

 

 

 



Statement by Bob Edgar on Supreme Court Decision to Hear Arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission



"This is an unsettling day for those of us who believe our laws ought to provide more protection – not less -- against the corrupting influence of money in our elections and the workings of our government.

 

"In Citizens United and a line of other cases, the Roberts court has moved steadily toward an anything-goes approach to money in politics. The case it has agreed to hear today invites the court to go farther down that path by lifting the longstanding aggregate limit on contributions by individuals in each election cycle.

 

"Should the plaintiffs prevail, this case could give a relative handful of wealthy Americans an even greater opportunity than they already have to buy access and influence. The answer to the flood of money in our politics is not 'more money.'

 

"Today’s action underscores the need for a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United and permitting Congress and our state legislatures to impose reasonable limits on individual and corporate political spending. Millions of Americans voted for such an amendment in referendums last fall, millions more have spoken for it through actions by their city councils and state legislators. It’s time for Congress to act and send an amendment to the states for ratification."


Background for reporters

 

McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission is a challenge to federal law that now puts a $123,200 limit on the total amount an individual may donate to federal candidates, political parties and political action committees (not Super PACs) in each election cycle. On paper, it would not disturb the $2,500 limit on donations to a single candidate, but it would permit a donor to skirt that limit by giving up to $1.194 million to a national party organization, which then would be free to spend the funds on one or more of its candidates.

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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.



 




 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

February 15, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




To Mark Watergate’s 40th Anniversary, Common Cause to Convene Two-Day Conference at National Press Club

Watergate figures, policy experts, reformers, journalists to explore lessons learned and their resonance today

 

Forty years after the Watergate scandal exposed the corrupting power of secret money and tested America’s commitment to the rule of law, Common Cause is convening a two-day conference in March to examine Watergate’s lessons and their relevance to 21st century American politics.

The “Lessons of Watergate” conference, March 13-14, will feature major Watergate era figures, policymakers, journalists and political reform advocates, with group discussions and breakout sessions geared to using our past to navigate today’s challenges. All sessions will be held at the National Press Club.

Featured speakers include:

· William S. Cohen, former US. Senator and Defense Secretary under President Bill Clinton. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, then-Rep. Cohen was part of a group of moderate Republicans who rose above partisanship to help craft articles of impeachment against President Nixon.
· Elizabeth Holtzman, a former prosecutor and Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee emerged during the impeachment hearings as one of the panel’s best-prepared and most relentless investigators.
· Daniel Ellsberg, the courageous military analyst who helped write The Pentagon Papers, a Defense Department study that concluded the Vietnam War was unwinnable, and ultimately leaked it to The New York Times, The Washington Post and other newspapers. The leak sparked the Nixon administration to create a “plumbers” unit that later carried out the Watergate break-in.
· Russ Feingold, former U.S. Senator who partnered with Sen. John McCain to author the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, the last major piece of post-Watergate campaign finance legislation.
· Robert Reich, chairman of Common Cause’s national governing board and secretary of labor under President Clinton.

Other confirmed Watergate-related speakers include Jill Wine-Banks, prosecutor during Watergate hearings who questioned secretary Rose Mary Woods about the 18 ½ minute gap in Nixon's tapes; Terry Lenzner, staff member on the investigating Senate Watergate Committee; Timothy Naftali, historian and former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum; Richard Ben-Veniste, Watergate special prosecutor; George Frampton, Watergate special prosecutor and co-author with Mr. Ben-Veniste of Stonewall: The Real Story of the Watergate Prosecution; Francis O’Brien, chief of staff to Rep. Peter Rodino, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in 1974; Scott Armstrong, who served on the staff of the Senate Watergate Committee and founded the National Security Archives.
   
Additional confirmed speakers include Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Marge Baker, executive vice president for policy and program at People For the American Way; Danielle Brian, executive director of Project On Government Oversight; Eliza Newlin Carney, staff writer covering lobbying and influence at CQ Roll Call; David Cohen, senior congressional fellow at the Council for a Livable World and past president of Common Cause; Larry Cohen, president of Communications Workers of America; Michael J. Copps, former member of the Federal Communications Commission and now senior advisor to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative; Bob Edgar, president and CEO of Common Cause; Stuart Eizenstat, partner at Covington & Burling and senior strategist at APCO Worldwide; Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch; Matea Gold, staff writer covering money and politics for The Los Angeles Times; Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Mort Halperin, senior advisor to the Open Society Institute, expert on civil liberties and foreign policy and who served in the Nixon Administration; Ben Jealous, president and CEO of NAACP; Celinda Lake, pollster and political strategist; Chuck Lewis, investigative journalist and founder of Center for Public Integrity; Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Public Campaign; Spencer Overton, law professor at George Washington University, served as principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Policy in the Department of Justice; Trevor Potter, founder and general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center; Alicia Shepard, author, journalist and expert on the work and lives of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein; Frederick A.O “Fritz” Schwarz Jr., chief counsel of the Brennan Center for Justice; Don Simon, campaign finance and election law attorney; Amanda Terkel, senior political reporter and politics managing editor at The Huffington Post; Jonathan Turley, writer, commentator, legal analyst and George Washington University Law School professor; Fred Wertheimer, founder and president of Democracy 21, nationally recognized expert on money in politics issues; Michael Winship, senior writer of Moyers & Company on public television, senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos, and president of the Writers Guild of America, East.

The program also includes a reception in the evening of March 13 to honor those who had the courage to speak truth to power.

This list will be updated in future advisories, and more information is available on Common Cause’s website here.

All sessions of “The Lessons of Watergate” conference are open to print, broadcast and online coverage. Seating is limited however and advance registration is required.

To register, visit www.commoncause.org/watergate.

“After a $7 billion election, the most expensive and arguably the most divisive in our history, it’s more important than ever that we take a hard look at the way our democracy functions,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “Watergate led to ethics and campaign reforms that shaped politics for a generation. But how are we doing today? How are post-Watergate reforms holding up? Are today’s leaders and institutions up to the challenges facing our democracy? Can ‘we the people’ still hold power accountable?”
 

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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.  

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact: Mary Boyle 

February 14, 2013

(202) 736-5770 

 

 

 

 

Hagel Filibuster Flouts the Constitution, Common Cause Says

 

The Senate’s refusal to close out debate and bring the nomination of Defense Secretary-nominee Chuck Hagel to a final vote is a poke in the eye to the Constitution and the best traditions of the Senate, Common Cause said today.

“Senators have every right to oppose Sen. Hagel’s nomination and to fully air their reasons for doing so. But there is no justification -- none at all -- for denying him a vote,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “His nomination was thoroughly reviewed by the Senate Armed Services Committee and debated for two days on the Senate floor; to borrow a phrase from the President’s State of the Union address, he deserves a vote.”

Edgar added that in mounting a filibuster, Sen. Hagel’s opponents “have helped make the case for repeal of the Senate’s filibuster rule and its 60-vote requirement for ending debate. The Constitution requires only a simple majority, 51 votes, for confirmation of Cabinet members; the Senate rule replaces that with a 60 vote requirement, effectively giving control to the minority. That’s a travesty.”

Common Cause has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to have the filibuster rule declared unconstitutional. The case is on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia following a lower court’s ruling in December that Common Cause and other plaintiffs, including four members of the House of Representatives, lack legal standing to pursue it.

“We remain confident that we will prevail and the 60-vote requirement will be ruled unconstitutional in a trial on the merits,” Edgar said. “I hope today’s proceedings will persuade senators who know we’re right to join in the suit as plaintiffs.”

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact: Naomi Seligman

February 14, 2013

(310)617-4577

naomi@seligmanconsulting.com

 

 

 

 

 

Online Voting for the Academy Awards Must Not Become a Model for Public Elections, Cyber Security and Voting Rights Activists Warn


 

LOS ANGELES, CA -- A group of concerned cyber security experts and voting rights advocates released a statement  today warning that Internet voting for this year's Academy Awards must not become a model for public elections. The group includes advocacy organizations Common Cause and Verified Voting and some of the most renowned figures in computer science including Ron Rivest, co-founder of RSA and Verisign and recipient of the Turing Award; [1] and Dr. Barbara Simons, former President of ACM and author of Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count?

 

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that it would be using an online voting system to help its members choose this year’s Oscar nominees and finalists, thereby adding to the “credibility” of online voting, we found ourselves compelled to remind the general public that it is dangerous to deploy voting by email, efax, or through internet portals inpublic governmentalelections at this time,” the experts said. “Public elections run by municipal, local and state governments should not be compared to elections like the one run by the Academy.”

 

The goal behind the statement was to ensure that lawmakers and election officials do not lose sight of the real risks to election integrity that Internet voting creates for public elections, despite the fact that an entity as glamorous as the Academy is using it for aprivateelection. Private elections may be subject torules and procedures which may make it possible to mitigate or detect cyber attacks; these conditions do not exist in public elections which require state and local officials to abide by a complex set of state and federal laws such as requiring that the ballot be secret.

 

 “Cyber security experts at the National Institute of Standards and Technology[2] and the Department of Homeland Security[3]have warned that current Internet voting technologies should not be deployed in public elections,” the statement said. “Internet voting systems, including email, fax and web based voting systems in which marked ballots are cast online, cannot be properly protected and may be subject to undetectable alteration.”

 

Internet voting has been shown time and again to be vulnerable to potentially devastating -- and undetectable -- cyber attacks. In 2004, the Department of Defense canceled a pilot Internet voting program for military personnel stationed overseas because of concerns about security. In 2010, a "red team" led by J. Alex Halderman of the University of Michigan not only penetrated a pilot election in Washington, D.C., changing votes at will, and even managed to thwart attempted hacks from as far away as Iran and China. Election officials in Washington were unaware of any of it until Professor Halderman's team disclosed its exploits. Because of the demonstrated vulnerabilities and the public’s increased interest in online voting, a senior cyber security official at the Department of Homeland Security warned a group of election officials in March 2012 that Internet voting is “premature” and not advisable at this time.[4] In May 2012, the National Institute of Standards and Technology - the agency tasked with studying and developing federal voting system standards – issued a similar statement saying that secure Internet voting is not yet technologically feasible for public elections.[5]

 

Six states are currently considering legislation to introduce or broaden the use of Internet voting. It is imperative, the group of experts said, to make them aware of the scientific arguments against such a step.

 

"Financial institutions, the FBI, the White House, and the Department of Defense have all been breached," the experts said. "It is unreasonable to assume that any Internet voting system vendor today can repel a well-funded partisan operative or nation state determined to manipulate, disrupt, or violate voter privacy in an online public election."

More information on the panel of experts is available here.

 

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[3]http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2012/03/29/149634764/online-voting-premature-warns-governmentcybersecurity-expert

[5]http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2012/03/29/149634764/online-voting-premature-warns-governmentcybersecurity-expert

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

February 14, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Oscar Voting System Not A Fit for Public Elections, Cyber Security Experts and Voting Rights Advocates Warn

Tele-presser TODAY to Advise Policy Makers, Public Against Internet Voting for Public Elections

 

Computer security experts and voting rights advocates are warning that the online voting system used by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for this year’s Oscars should not be used in public elections. Today at 1 pm ET/10 am PT, nonpartisan experts in cyber security and election reform advocates will hold a telephone press conference to discuss the critical weaknesses in Internet voting systems, why they are vulnerable to undetectable cyber attack, and the potential consequences for American democracy if they are used in local, state or federal elections. Internet voting includes the return of marked ballots through email, e-fax, and web portals.

Voting system experts will also discuss the lack of regulation, standards or certification for Internet voting and publicly available testing or security evaluations. They will review National Institute of Standards and Technology and Department of Homeland Security’s warnings that secure Internet voting for public elections is not “feasible” at this time and that it is “premature.” The experts will explain the possible differences between balloting for the Oscars, which is subject to the rules and procedures of a private body, and public elections, which require state and local officials to abide by a complex set of state and federal laws.

WHO: Pam Smith, president, Verified Voting Foundation

           Susannah Goodman, director of Common Cause’s Voting Integrity Program


          
Barbara Simons, board of advisors of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, former president of the
           Association of Computing Machinery, also served on the Security Peer Review Group for the US Department
           of Defense's Internet voting project (SERVE) and author of “Broken Ballots.”


           David Jefferson,
computer scientist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory,  board chairman, Verified Voting
           Foundation, Board of Directors, California Voter Foundation, served on the Security Peer Review Group
           for the US Department of Defense's Internet voting project (SERVE).  


WHAT: Tele-press conference with nonpartisan experts in cyber security and election reform

WHEN:
Thursday, Feb. 14 at 10:00am PST/1:00pm EST

DIAL-IN: (877) 317-2314 and passcode: Internet Voting


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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

Feb. 13, 2013

Mary Boyle, 202-736-5770

 

 

 



Common Cause Hails Obama's Call for Action Protecting Voting Rights


But President's Silence on Money in Politics Disappoints, Watchdog Group Says


Common Cause on Wednesday applauded President Obama’s call for action to protect voting rights and make our elections run more smoothly.

“The state of our union is strong only if our citizens can exercise their right to vote,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “Voting should not be an endurance sport.”

Thousands of Common Cause volunteers took part in election protection efforts last November, hitting the polls to provide accurate, nonpartisan information about the voting process and countering efforts by ballot bullies to discourage or intimidate voters. The biggest problems that voters faced included extraordinarily long lines, broken and outdated voting machines, and inaccurate, incomplete registration rolls.

“We can fix this. We need to modernize our voter registration system, make early voting convenient, and ensure that all Americans have easy access to the polls,” Edgar said. “We urge Congress and the commission the President is creating to advance these critical reforms.

“As encouraging as it was to hear the President’s strong call for improvements in the mechanics of our elections and his pledge to protect and strengthen voting rights, I was profoundly disappointed that he ignored the critical need for action to control the flood of money into our elections and our political system,” Edgar added.

The 2012 election carried a $7 billion pricetag, including about $ 1 billion supplied by “Super PACs” or shadowy non-profit groups empowered by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision to spend whatever they want on political advocacy, Edgar noted. And thanks to asleep-at-the-switch regulators at the Federal Election Commission and the IRS, many of those groups were able to hide the identities of their corporate and millionaire donors, he said.

“All that money bought something – a Congress we can expect will look out for the interests of its millionaire donors rather than those of middle class wage earners and taxpayers,” Edgar said.

“We need to fix that too,” he asserted. “And doing so starts with passage of tough disclosure requirements for ALL political spending, along with a constitutional amendment permitting sensible limits on that spending. The President has promised action on these items for years; it’s past time for him to deliver.”

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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.



 




 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

Feb. 13, 2013

Mary Boyle, 202-736-5770

 

 

 



Public Interest Not Served by Comcast’s Purchase of Remainder of NBCUniversal


Michael Copps, special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative, and a former decade-long member of the Federal Communications Commission, said the following about Tuesday’s announcement that Comcast would buy General Electric’s remaining 49 percent in NBCUniversal:

 

"This is proof positive why we have media consolidation: to raise share prices, please Wall Street, and pave the way for the next deal. What's missing in these deals -- and our regulatory policy -- is a commitment to the public interest. It's time we stand up to media monopolies."

 

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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.



 




For Immediate Release

Contact:

Feb. 13, 2012

Angela Bradbery (202) 588-7741
Craig Holman (202) 454-5182

Campaign Legal Center • Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Common Cause • Democracy 21 • League of Women Voters National Legal and Policy Center • Public Citizen • Sunlight Foundation • U.S. PIRG

Reform Groups Urge Office of Congressional Ethics to Steer Clear of Procedural Minefield


Washington, D.C. – Reform groups sent a letter today to the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) urging the agency to avoid the procedural minefield of rules changes proposed recently by several private attorneys.

The reform groups include the Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Common Cause, Democracy 21, League of Women Voters, National Legal and Policy Center, Public Citizen, Sunlight Foundation and U.S. PIRG.

On February 4, 2013, several private attorneys who represent clients before the OCE objected to its implementation of rules without a public hearing and suggested a series of rules changes that would burden the OCE’s ability to carry out its mission.

According to the reform group’s letter sent today:

“The rules changes suggested by these attorneys in a February 4, 2013, letter to OCE are inappropriate for OCE as currently structured and would impede the agency’s ability to make the ethics process more accountable and transparent.”

The reform groups pointed out that the OCE is merely a fact-finding agency with no authority to compel testimony, determine guilt or innocence, or in any way judge a case. The agency screens out frivolous cases and compiles useful information for the House Ethics Committee, if it is decided that further investigation is warranted.

The letter notes:

“OCE is not an investigative subcommittee of Congress, it is not a prosecutorial agency, and it should not be treated as one. The attorneys propose that the agency’s fact-finding mission be bound by burdensome procedural rules allowing the attorneys to challenge OCE at each step of compiling information. Worse yet, the attorneys propose that OCE not be allowed to consider, or take note of, in its fact-finding record the refusal of potential witnesses to participate in an investigation – tying the hands of the agency and blinding it at the same time.”

The letter concludes:

“Given its limited authority, OCE has done a remarkable job in making the congressional ethics process more active, accountable and transparent. … We urge you to reject the recommendations submitted to you in the attorneys’ letter of February 4th, which would undermine OCE’s ability to carry out the responsibilities assigned to the agency by the House of Representatives.”

The letter is available at: http://www.citizen.org/documents/Letter-to-OCE-Regarding-Attorneys-Request.pdf

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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.



 




 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

February 12, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Serious Allegations About Sen. Menendez Demand Fast, Thorough Investigation 

 

The Senate Ethics Committee should speedily pursue its investigation into allegations that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) interceded on behalf of a major campaign donor in a multi-million dollar dispute with the Dominican Republic, Common Cause said today.


“Recent press reports raise troubling questions about the propriety of Sen. Menendez’s advocacy on behalf of a friend and major campaign donor,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “The stories suggest a link between the senator’s actions and a six-figure donation to his reelection campaign last year. This is a serious matter and Sen. Menendez should cooperate fully and promptly in seeing that it is thoroughly investigated.”


The New York Times reported last week that Florida eye surgeon Salomon Melgen, a longtime friend of Sen. Menendez and generous donor to him and other Democrats, gained an ownership interest about two years ago in a company holding a long-dormant contract to provide port security in the Dominican Republic.


Menendez then pressed State and Commerce Department officials to assist Melgen in enforcing the contract, ignoring claims by the Dominican’s customs director that the deal was “against the interests of the Dominican government, due to its one-sided nature, exorbitant clauses, (and) that it violates Dominican laws.”


A political action committee linked to Melgen’s business later donated $700,000 to a Democratic Party group that in turn spent $582,000 in support of Menendez’s reelection.


Menendez also has interceded on Melgen’s behalf in a dispute between the surgeon’s eye clinic and federal health officials, the Washington Post reports. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services has demanded that Melgen repay $8.9 million the agency says it was overbilled for injections administered to patients at his clinic.


“The flood or outside spending unleashed by the Roberts Court has created a toxic stew of money and power that threatens the health of our democracy and unwary public officials,” Edgar said. “The system has become the scandal, and it’s going to take some serious new anti-corruption laws clean up this mess.”

 

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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.  



For Immediate Release

Contact: Mary Boyle

February 8, 2013

(202) 736-5770

 

 

 

 

Common Cause takes to Vine to Fight Efforts to Rig Electoral College

 

Common Cause is taking its drive to hold power accountable to Vine, the new social networking tool that lets users keep in touch through brief video messages.


The non-partisan advocacy group’s first six-second Vine posting spotlights a bid by some Republicans to get electoral votes out of Pennsylvania for GOP presidential candidates – even in years when those candidates lose the popular vote – by making up their own rules.


In the video, a person playing the legendary board game Monopoly is seen turning over a “Chance” card with the message: “Partisans Rig Electoral College, Advance to Pennsylvania Avenue.”

“That’s not fair!” the voice says.

 

“Kids have an innate sense of right and wrong,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “They understand that making up rules in the middle of the game so that you can win is cheating.”

 

“That lesson seems in danger of being lost in Pennsylvania,” Edgar said, referring to Republican leaders’ consideration of a bill to change the way the state’s electors are awarded in the 2016 presidential race and beyond. “They want to use their legislative control to pull Republican electoral votes out of a state they keep losing, while benefitting from winner-take-all rules in the states where that’s to their continued advantage,” he added.


“It’s called cherry picking, and it’s cheating plain and simple,” Edgar said.


Common Cause’s Vine debut may mark the tool’s first early use in advancing political reform. Less than a month old, Vine catapulted into public view on Sunday, when a power failure interrupted the Super Bowl in New Orleans. Advertisers including Oreo cookies, Tide detergent and Calvin Klein underwear used the break to peddle their wares on social networks; their impromptu commercials included a Klein ad made using Vine and shared on Twitter.

 

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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 h
eard.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

February 6, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 



 

 

TO: Reporters, editors and editorial writers

FROM: Pam Wilmot, director of Electoral College reform, Common Cause

SUBJECT: Allocating electoral votes


 

Competing plans to 'Fix' the Electoral College show National Popular Vote as only true reform

 

A Pennsylvania Senate leader plans to introduce legislation this month to change the way the state’s 20 electoral votes are allocated in the 2016 presidential campaign and beyond. Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi has indicated his proposal, which is similar to plans being discussed in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin, would apportion electors based on the results of the statewide popular vote so that the candidate receiving a popular vote majority or plurality would receive a comparable share of electors. This would be a major departure from the winner-take-all system for awarding electors now in place in Pennsylvania and 47 other states.

 

The proportional division of electors and the current winner-take-all system share two fundamental flaws:Both would permit the loser of the national popular vote tally to “win” the election and take office as President; both also would push candidates to keep most of their attention focused on just a handful of states, denying voters elsewhere an opportunity to effectively participate in the election.

 

That’s not acceptable.

 

This memo explores the proportional allocation proposal and two alternatives being offered in debates over the future of the Electoral College around the nation. It demonstrates that only one option, the National Popular Vote plan, would deliver real reform. Only this option will guarantee that the candidate chosen by the people in November is the President taking office in January and that all Americans have a voice in the election.

 

·        Proportional allocation of electors: This system would apportion electoral votes in each state based on each candidate’s percentage of the popular vote. It appears to be fairer than the current system, but appearances are deceiving. In fact, proportional allocation would distort and perhaps even reverse the judgment voters render on Election Day. Like the current system, it would have elected George W. Bush in 2000, even though he finished about 500,000 votes behind Al Gore in the national popular vote tally.

 

The problem is part math, part physics. Using Pennsylvania and its 20 electors as an example, each candidate under the proportional plan would be entitled to 1 electoral vote for approximately every 5 percent of the popular vote received. Individual electoral votes can’t be divided however, so a candidate winning a 51-49 advantage in the popular vote would be forced into a 10-10 Electoral College tie.

 

In smaller states, things get even crazier. In New Hampshire, with just four electors, even a 60-40 split in the popular vote would produce a 2-2 electoral tie, a huge boost for the popular vote loser. Thirty-four of the 50 states have 10 electors or less. To gain even a 1 vote edge in the electoral tally in any of them, a candidate would have to score a popular vote landslide on Election Day. That reality would drive candidates to focus their attention on just a few, heavily populated states – think California, Texas, New York and Florida – where they could gain additional electors with relatively small increases in their party’s usual popular vote. Because California has 55 electors for example, each is equivalent to only 1.8 percent of the popular vote.

 

The other major problem with proportional allocation is partisan. The plan’s current supporters – all Republicans -- are pushing it only in a few, selected states, where their party’s candidates have been unsuccessful in recent presidential elections. They want to retain the winner-take-all system in other states, creating an Electoral College hodge-podge that would tilt elections in their favor. Democrats, it should be noted, have flirted with similar electoral vote-rigging schemes in the past.

 

Looking again at Pennsylvania, where President Obama outpolled Mitt Romney by 5 percentage points and more than 300,000 votes on Election Day, the proportional plan would have given Romney 9 of the state’s 20 electors. But in North Carolina, which is retaining the winner-take-all system, President Obama would walk away with none of the state’s 15 electors despite the fact that he came within 100,000 votes – less than 2 percent – of claiming a majority on Election Day.

 

·       Allocation by Congressional District:This system would award each candidate 1 elector for each congressional district in which he or she won the most popular votes. Two at-large electors would be awarded to the statewide winner. This system is in use in two states, Maine and Nebraska, and of late has been or is being considered in several others (Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, and Michigan) where Republicans controlling the statehouse have seen their presidential candidates repeatedly lose the statewide popular vote.

 

Their statehouse advantages allowed Republicans in those states to reshape Congressional districts in 2011 and ‘12 to benefit GOP candidates. Virginia Republicans, for example, now control 8 of the state’s 11 districts, each of which was carried last fall by Mitt Romney even as he ran 140,000 votes behind President Obama statewide. Allocation of Virginia’s 13 electors by district would have given Romney 8 votes to just 5 for Obama, effectively stealing the state. In Pennsylvania, where Romney carried 13 of 18 districts while losing statewide by 310,000 votes, district allocation would have given him 13 of the state’s 20 electors. Had it been in place nationwide, district allocation would have made Romney President, with 276 electors, even though Obama outpolled him on Election Day by more than 5 million votes. It’s not hard to imagine the outrage this kind of rigged outcome would provoke across the country, and justifiably so.

 

The obvious partisan considerations behind district allocation proposals in these states have driven several of the governors involved to back away. Sen. Pileggi filed a district plan in Pennsylvania last year but apparently has abandoned it as too transparently partisan.

 

·       The National Popular Vote Compact. Eight states and the District of Columbia, with a total of 132 electoral votes, have adopted the National Popular Vote Compact. Under its terms, participating states agree that once states with a total of 270 electors – a majority -- have signed on, all will cast their electoral votes for the candidate receiving a majority of the national popular vote, guaranteeing his or her election.

 

Under the national popular vote plan, votes cast in small states and large states, “red” states and “blue” states, would have equal value. The current incentive for candidates to focus on just a few “swing” states like Florida, Ohio and Virginia would disappear, making presidential campaigns truly national.

 

The U.S. Constitution gives state governments authority to decide how their electors will be allocated[1]and permits them to enter into compacts with other states.[2]There are legal questions over whether implementation of the National Popular Vote Compact also would require Congressional approval; a detailed study last year by George Mason University law professor Michael Brody concluded that the states could act on their own.[3]

 

 Most importantly, the compact is theonlyplan that ensures that the candidate chosen by “we the people” will be sworn in as President. As recently as 2000, the candidate finishing second on Election Day – George W. Bush – nevertheless gained an electoral vote majority and the presidency. Four years later, a switch of just 59,393 votes in Ohio would have delivered the state’s electors and the White House to John Kerry, with 271 electoral votes, even though Bush outpolled him nationally by more than 3 million.

 

The National Popular Vote Compact has been endorsed by more than 2,100 state legislators in both major parties. Hundreds of polls taken over the past 70 years across America indicate that about 70 percent of Americans believe our presidential elections should be decided by the outcome of the national popular vote.



[1]Article 2, Section 1

[2]Article 1, Section 10

[3]http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2031752

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

February 5, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Common Cause and Allies Applaud Re-Launch of `Declaration for Democracy' Campaign to Overturn Citizens United

 

2000 Public Officials Have Already Expressed Support for Constitutional Amendment

 

 

This week, Common Cause and ally organizations applauded the re-launch of the “Declaration For Democracy” campaign. Public officials signing the declaration are proclaiming  their support for amending the  Constitution  to limit the influence of money in our democracy and to restore the rights of the American people in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC.  Representatives Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter on Monday urging their colleagues to sign the declaration. 

 

By the end of the 112thCongress, 2,000 public officials had expressed their support for a constitutional amendment. The list includes President Obama, 98 Members of the House, and 29 senators (list visible at http://united4thepeople.org). 

 

The Declaration For Democracy reads:  “I, ____________, declare my support for amending the Constitution of the United States to restore the rights of the American people, undermined by Citizens United and related cases, to protect the integrity of our elections and limit the corrosive influence of money in our democratic process.” The declaration can be found here

 

“Voters across the country have demonstrated overwhelming support for a constitutional amendment that clarifies that unlimited campaign spending has never been free speech,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “Congress must respond to that.”

 

 “The Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United and related cases put our political system on the auction block to be sold to the highest bidder,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way.  “Americans don’t want an auction, they want a working democracy. We are thrilled that Representatives Edwards and Deutch are inviting their colleagues to join the growing chorus of voices calling for change.  We look forward to getting even more public officials on board this year.” 

 

“The greatest political reform of our time will be to abolish the legal concept of ‘corporate personhood’ and the inherently anti-democratic equation of money with political speech,” said Bill Moyer, Executive Director of the Backbone Campaign.

 

“Companies ought to be competing in the marketplace with the best products and services, not in our elections for unfair influence of the decisions that will impact our economy by those with the deepest pockets,” said David Levine, CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council. “This money is better spent by investing in growing our businesses, creating jobs and building a stronger economy.”

 

“Our electoral process should be about the rights of individuals to participate in our nation's politics,” said Larry Cohen, President of Communications Workers of America.  “That's what democracy looks like. The Communications Workers of America commends elected officials at every level of government who are fighting to restore fairness to our political process. The role of money in politics must be completely overhauled. Today it dwarfs everything else and is distorting our democracy. Working with other progressive organizations, CWA is committed to stopping the flow of secret cash to political campaigns and making it clear to all dollars are not speech. This effort will require constitutional changes and other measures to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for secret spending and today enables billionaires to buy our nation’s elections. We also will work for the public financing of elections, because without these very real changes, the one percent will continue to control our politics.”

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

February 5, , 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Common Cause Hails DC Council Action on Citizens United 

The Washington D.C. City Council’s unanimous call for a constitutional amendment to control corrosive power of big money in our elections sets an example for the nation, Common Cause said today.

“Washingtonians see every day the influence that millionaires and big corporations have purchased in the workings of government,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “The council’s vote today is a call for members of Congress to rise above their political self-interest in oversized campaign treasuries and act in the public interest by passing a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United decision.”

Edgar praised first-year DC council member David Grosso for spearheading the drive for today’s vote in support of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission gave corporations the ability to spend unlimited amounts of money on political advocacy. Spurred by that ruling and other decisions, individual and corporate donors put around $1 billion into the 2012 presidential campaign through “independent” SuperPACs and non-profit groups.

In last November’s election, voters in Montana, Colorado, the cities of Chicago and San Francisco, and more than 100 Massachusetts localities adopted resolutions instructing their representatives in Washington to pass an amendment reversing Citizens United. Hundreds of localities nationwide already have passed resolutions similar to the one backed by the DC Council

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

February 5, 2012

Mary Boyle, Common Cause, mboyle@commoncause.org, (202) 736-5770

 





D.C., Los Angeles Councils Fuel Movement to Reverse Citizens United


Votes today in two great cities a continent apart demonstrate the growing momentum for action this year to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and get control of the corrosive power of money in our elections, Common Cause said today.

“In Washington, D.C. and in Los Angeles, city council members joined in calling for passage of a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United and permit Congress and the states to again impose sensible limits on campaign spending,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “It’s time our laws said ‘NO!’ to those who use their money to buy influence in government from the courthouse to the Capitol and the White House.”

The Los Angeles City Council, which in 2011 adopted a resolution supporting an amendment, voted today to give citizens an opportunity to speak directly to Congress on the issue. A question on the city’s May 2013 ballot will let voters instruct their representatives in Washington to support an amendment overturning Citizens United and authorizing limits on corporate and individual political spending.

Voters in Montana and Colorado, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and more than 100 other Massachusetts localities passed similar voter instruction measures last November.

Meanwhile in Washington, the DC Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted a resolution urging Congress to pass an amendment and send it to the states for ratification. Eleven state legislatures and hundreds of local governing bodies across the country already have adopted similar calls to action.

“Americans understand the damage the unrestricted flow of money is doing to our political system and they know things will only get worse until we get that flow under control,” Edgar said.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, decided in 2010, is the most prominent in a series of Supreme Court rulings that in recent years have chipped away at campaign finance laws put in place after the Watergate scandal forced President Richard Nixon from office in 1974. The decisions equate political spending with free speech and permit corporations, trade associations, unions, other groups- and individuals to spend unlimited amounts of money on political advocacy and other attempts to influence elections.

Common Cause is spearheading a national drive, Amend 2012, to build support for an amendment and on Tuesday was among several groups announcing the re-launch of a “Declaration for Democracy” campaign that seeks to enlist public officials at every level in the effort.

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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.  

 

 



For Immediate Release

Contact:

January 24, 2013

Dale Eisman, (202) 736-5788

 

 

 



Filibuster "Compromise" Actually a Capitulation, Common Cause Asserts

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today’s announced “compromise” on Senate filibuster reform is in fact a capitulation by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who now has missed two excellent opportunities to restore the Senate to its proper role as a working legislative body, Common Cause said.


“My friend Harry Reid, the senator from Searchlight, NV, has gone missing in the fight for filibuster reform,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “The deal he and Sen. McConnell have struck allows individual senators to continue blocking debate and action by the entire body and to do so without explaining themselves to their colleagues or the American people. This is not the Senate of debate and deliberation our founders envisioned.

 

Edgar invited senators who remain committed to ending the 60-vote requirement for conducting most Senate business to join in Common Cause’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the filibuster rule. The case is before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington following a lower court judge’s ruling in December that Common Cause and other plaintiffs, including four members of the House of Representatives, lacked legal standing to sue.

 

“We’re convinced that in a trial on the merits, we can demonstrate that the filibuster is unconstitutional and was never contemplated by America’s founders,” Edgar said. “The Constitution requires a supermajority for Senate action in just a handful of circumstances, including ratification of treaties and convicting the President in an impeachment trial, but the filibuster has expanded that to cover virtually every piece of legislation and every judicial or executive branch nomination.”

 

Edgar praised and congratulated Sens. Jeff Merkley and Tom Udall, whose determined drive for changes to the filibuster rule brought the issue to prominence and pushed Reid and McConnell to act, as well as Sen. Tom Harkin, who for more than a decade has championed filibuster reform.

 

“These senators and others have given the reform effort their best shot but through no fault of their own have come up short,” he said. “It’s now clear that the Senate will not fix the filibuster and the President lacks authority to fix it. We must turn to the judicial branch to enforce the Constitution.”

 

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

January 23, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Common Cause Hails Reintroduction of the Voter Empowerment Act

Statement by President Bob Edgar

 

The Voter Empowerment Act would go a long way toward fixing the broken laws and outmoded procedures that on Election Day forced millions of Americans to stand in line for hours at their precincts and persuaded millions of others to stay away from the polls altogether.


This critical legislation would help ensure that eligible voters can register and cast ballots without undue burden, regardless of their race, age, economic class or disability. It also would install necessary protections so that that all ballots are counted as cast and would provide for a needed response when partisan groups threaten the vote through efforts to mislead voters about voting hours, locations and procedures.

 

Coming amid a new wave of laws designed to discourage or prevent eligible citizens from participating in our democracy, this bill would strengthen our democracy by removing barriers to voting, so that everyone who is eligible to vote can do so unimpeded.

 

The right to vote is the bedrock of our republic. Protecting and strengthening it should be Job One for this Congress and the Obama administration. The Voter Empowerment Act is vital to the success of that effort.

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

January 23, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Common Cause Urges Senators to Reject "Handshake Deal" on Filibuster 

A filibuster “compromise” that takes the form of a handshake deal and allows the minority to obstruct action effortlessly would continue the Senate’s march toward irrelevance and deliver another two years of partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill, Common Cause said today.

"At a minimum, Senate rules should require that those seeking to block legislation be required to stand up and explain their position – and keep explaining it until they persuade a majority to join them or run out of things to say," said Common Cause President Bob Edgar.

"It’s distressing to hear that the so-called reform in the works would preserve the 'silent filibuster,' allowing the minority to kill bills simply by sending an email or making a phone call," Edgar added.

Edgar said Common Cause is proceeding "full speed ahead" on its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the filibuster rule; he urged senators involved in the reform effort to join in the litigation. "We remain convinced that a simple majority – 51 votes – is all that’s required to pass most legislation in the Senate," he said.

A federal judge in Washington dismissed the suit last month, ruling that Common Cause and other plaintiffs, including four members of the House of Representatives, lacked legal standing to pursue the case; the addition of senators to the list of plaintiffs could produce a different result, Edgar asserted.

"We’ve already filed our notice of appeal," Edgar noted. "We believe that in a trial on the merits, we can demonstrate that the filibuster rule violates the Constitution by establishing a 60-vote threshold for the Senate to conduct even routine business. That is emphatically not what the framers of the Constitution intended.

"President Obama outlined an ambitious agenda for the nation on Monday, one that deserves serious consideration by the entire Congress,” Edgar added. “Senators who oppose his initiatives, or any alternatives their colleagues in Congress might propose, should be required to engage in actual debates and then vote to decide the question. The filibuster should not be allowed to continue as the Senate’s silent killer.

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

January 18, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Disappointing decision by the White House


President Obama’s decision to convert his campaign fund into a lobbying organization disappoints and only invites special interests to buy their way into further favor with his administration, Common Cause said today.

“It’s a sad day. The president is waving goodbye to those long-ago promises that he would change the way Washington works,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar.

Particularly distressing are reports that Organizing for Action will accept corporate contributions. While the promised disclosure of corporate and union gifts may reduce the potential for corruption, the public interest would better served if the fund accepted only small donations from individuals.

 

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

January 17, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Common Cause, Allies Mark Citizens United Anniversary, MLK Day With Actions Across the Nation, New Data on Election Spending 

Washington, DC – Common Cause joined this week with ally organizations to mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the third anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC with events drawing attention to the dual threats of voter suppression and unlimited corporate and special interest money in politics. Under the banner of Money Out/Voters In, organizers are hosting “Day of Action” events in more than 65 cities in 32 states on and around the weekend of January 19.

“Since the Citizens United decision three years ago, voters have been clear in their disdain for this decision,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “The big question is whether our elected representatives will listen to those voices. Our goal is to build a wave of grassroots support so strong that they cannot ignore it. “

Additionally, two reports highlighting new data on spending in the 2012 election season were released today. A report by Demos and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund provides a wide-ranging analysis of the role of money in the 2012 elections, and a report by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Center for Media and Democracy examines the role dark money nonprofits and shell corporations played in 2012.

For more information about the Money Out/Voters In Days of Action, please visit www.moneyout-votersin.com

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Mary Boyle

January 16, 2013

(202)736-5770

 

 

 

 

Common Cause applauds new reform bills to amplify voices of Americans 

Common Cause applauds Reps. John Yarmuth (D-KY), David Price (D-NC), and John Sarbanes (D-MD) for introducing three strong reform bills Tuesday that would create incentives to enhance the voices of regular Americans in elections by creating small-donor matching programs for federal elections.


“Americans are fed up with the unprecedented outside spending we have seen by special interests in our federal elections,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, senior vice president for programs of Common Cause. “We are pleased to see the House Democratic Caucus Task Force on Fair Governance, led by Rep. John Larson (D-CT), prioritizing policies that address some of the most dangerous threats to our democracy.”


The Fair Elections Now Act (HR 269), the Empowering Citizens Act (HR 270), introduced by Reps. Price and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Rep. Sarbanes' Grassroots Democracy Act (HR 268) would replace our badly broken campaign finance system with a small-donor driven system that would free Members of Congress and presidential candidates from dependence on super PACs, corporate interests, and ultra-wealthy individuals.

In a July 2012 USA Today/Gallup poll, 87 percent of voters said that reducing corruption was an extremely or very important issue for the next president, placing it second only to job creation. Other polls show similar large majorities of people in support of fighting the growing influence of special-interest money through campaign reforms and amending the constitution to overturn Citizens United. And in places ranging from Montana, Colorado, Massachusetts, Chicago and San Francisco, three of four voters supported ballot measures instructing Congress to do just that.

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

January 14, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Internet Voting Not the Solution to Long Lines, Machine Breakdowns on Election Day, Common Cause Tells Lawmakers

 

WOODBRIDGE, VA. -- The long lines, machine breakdowns and disputes over voter identification that marred the 2012 election will not be solved by moves to permit voting on the Internet, through email or by fax, Common Cause warned today.

 

Susannah Goodman, director of Common Cause’s National Voting Integrity Campaign, told a congressional forum that online voting remains too unreliable and too vulnerable to hacker attacks to be implemented.

 

“We are talking about our right to vote - a right we cannot sacrifice for what may be a great new idea, but one that is untested and not ready for prime time,” Goodman asserted. She added that “while many ideas will be fielded to alleviate the problems we saw last Election Day, some measures are just not ready for adoption.”

 

The forum, convened by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., examined weaknesses in voting laws and procedures as well as proposals to ensure that all eligible voters have an opportunity to cast their ballots and all votes are counted as cast.

 

Virginia was the site of some of the nation’s longest lines on Election Day, as heavy turnout combined with a shortage of voting machines in some localities to slow down the vote. In some areas, waits lasted up to three hours, forcing precincts to remain open long past their scheduled 7 p.m. closing times.

 

Goodman said Common Cause supports online voter registration, which in several states has reduced the confusion that often surrounds difficult-to-decipher handwritten registration forms. More work needs to be done to make online registration available to voters who lack computers or Internet connections, she added, and registrars must have contingency plans in place to deal with computer malfunctions and other problems.

 

Common Cause recruited several thousand volunteer election monitors and deployed them to key precincts in 13 states to keep tabs on last November’s voting. The workers saw “antiquated voter registration systems, under-resourced election offices, and restrictive voting laws and deceptive practices targeted at minimizing participation by specific populations,” Goodman said.

 

While problems with voting in Florida and Ohio have been spotlighted in press reports, “problems existed in every state in our nation,” Goodman asserted. “From Pennsylvania and Virginia to California and Arizona and everywhere in between, eligible American voters were turned away because of problems such as improper training of poll workers, faulty voter registration records, and long, long lines.”

 

A complete copy of Goodman’s statement is available here.

 

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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

January 13, 2013

Mary Boyle (202) 736-5770

 





Common Cause Mourns Passing of Aaron Swartz

 

WASHINGTON – Common Cause joins Internet users around the world in mourning the death of Aaron Swartz. Aaron, an Internet pioneer and open information activist, worked tirelessly to fight corruption and protect the free flow of information, values Common Cause has long upheld. There is no better tribute to him than redoubling our efforts to uphold the causes for which he fought.

 

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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.  

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

January 8, 2013

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Common Cause Applauds SEC Step Toward Corporate Political Spending Disclosure

 

Common Cause commends the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for publicly indicating that it plans to move forward and create a rule to require all publicly traded corporations to disclose their political spending. The agency’s decision comes in the wake of months of pressure on the SEC by Common Cause and coalition partners to require greater transparency of corporate political spending made urgent by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

“We’re pleased to be one step closer to ending the days when public corporations can secretly give to political campaigns without accountability to the public or their shareholders,” said Bob Edgar, President of Common Cause.

The Citizens United decision in early 2010 allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of shareholder money on political campaigns without disclosing the spending in anyway. In some cases, the long term financial interests of a corporation can be put at risk by that spending.

Since a bipartisan panel of law professors filed a petition with the SEC in August 2011 requesting the agency to require political spending disclosure, Common Cause has pressed the SEC to move forward with this rulemaking. Common Cause generated over 24,000 comments from its membership in favor the rule, contributing to the record breaking number of comments that the SEC received. In addition, Common Cause organized a letter signed by business leaders and investors to support the rule and commissioned research to review the long term impact of political spending on firm value. The research showed that over the long term political spending does not increase shareholder value and may put the corporation’s brand at risk.

“We’re proud to be among the leaders of this effort,” said Edgar. “We recognize there’s a long road ahead to a final new law around transparent corporate political spending, but we’re gratified the SEC is taking steps to pull back the veil of darkness around corporate money in politics.”

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

December 21, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




 

Common Cause files notice of appeal of federal court’s dismissal in filibuster challenge


Common Cause respectfully disagrees with a US District Court decision early today, dismissing its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Senate filibuster, and will appeal to the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

It’s important to note that Judge Emmet Sullivan based his ruling on questions of legal standing in the case, Common Cause et al v. Biden et al. The decision did not get to Common Cause’s central claim that the 60-vote filibuster rule is an unconstitutional abuse of the Senate’s power to make its own rules.

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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.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

December 19, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




 

 Excerpts of Statement to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Jenny Rose Flanagan
Director of Voting & Elections
Common Cause
Wednesday, December 19, 2012; 10:00 a.m.




Voting should not be an endurance sport in our country, yet tens of thousands of Americans from every political stripe faced lines up to six hours long on Election Day because of inadequate planning, unfair rules and restricted access to the ballot box.



The images of voters waiting in lines, and the frustrations we heard from voters who were made to feel that their vote did not matter are no way to run a free, fair and accessible election. The health of our democracy and our right to vote requires decisive action now to ensure that all Americans can truly participate in our elections.



Voting by Internet, Email or Fax is Not the Solution. Cyber security experts at the Department of Homeland Security and at the National Institute for Standards and Technology have warned that because the security tools currently available would not be able to protect these votes from cyber-attacks, Internet voting is not recommended at this time because it places our elections at risk.



Post-election audits to verify that the outcome of the election is correct should be mandatory. We cannot simply rely on the machine counts without a manual check on whether votes were recorded correctly. 
 



Read the full testimony 

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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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

December 10, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Common Cause Presses Case Against the Filibuster in Federal Court Hearing

 

With momentum building inside the U.S. Senate to reform the filibuster rule, Common Cause was in federal court today to argue that the rule is unconstitutional and should be discarded.

 

Lawyers for the non-profit government watchdog group urged U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to schedule a full trial on their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the filibuster. Sullivan heard nearly two hours of argument on a Senate motion to dismiss the case, peppering lawyers for both sides with detailed questions about whether any court has the power to overturn the filibuster rule.

 

Common Cause lawyer Emmet Bondurant argued that the federal courts, representing a co-equal branch of government, have an established right to review and overturn laws passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President. “It cannot be that a Senate rule is immune from review when a statute (passed by both houses) signed by the President is subject to review,” Bondurant asserted.

 

The suit, Common Cause et al. v. Biden et al., was filed last May. It cites a variety of America’s founding documents to build a case that the filibuster and its supermajority requirement for Senate action were never contemplated and actually were rejected by the framers of the Constitution.

 

`“Partisan gamesmanship has become the norm in Congress, and the current use of the filibuster is a prime example of that,” said Representative Mike Michaud, D-ME, a plaintiff in the suit. “If successful, this court case will fix the way we do business in Washington and make Congress work again.”

 

“The filibuster has historically served to check an oppressive majority in matters of extraordinary importance,” said U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-GA., a plaintiff in the case.  “But in recent years, it has become a tool for unnecessary obstruction. It undermines the Constitution’s checks and balances, and it denies the Constitution’s guarantee of equal representations to the states.”

 

“The Constitution is very specific about when supermajorities are required – to remove judges or high-ranking officials during impeachment trials, to ratify treaties, expel members of Congress, override presidential vetoes and propose constitutional amendments,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “But the filibuster rule essentially imposes a 60-vote supermajority requirement on every piece of legislation coming to the Senate; while the Senate has the power to make its own rules, it cannot impose rules that are incompatible with the Constitution.”

 

In addition to Common Cause, Michaud, and Johnson, plaintiffs in the suit include Reps. John Lewis, D-GA., and Keith Ellison, D-MN, as well as three young professionals – Erika Andiola, Ceslo Mireles, and Caesar Vargas – who are being denied a path to American citizenship because of repeated Senate filibusters of the House-passed DREAM Act.

 

Judge Sullivan asked Senate lawyers to give him written answers to several questions about their claim that the suit presents a political question, beyond the reach of the courts. He gave no indication of when he may rule.

 

Monday’s hearing came amid an ongoing discussion among senators on proposals to reform the filibuster rule. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated he’ll ask senators next month to begin requiring a “talking filibuster,” in which senators who want to delay action on legislation would have to come to the floor and actually discuss it – continually – until exhausting themselves or bringing a majority of senators around to their views.

 

The filibuster rule currently allows a single senator to block debate and action simply by voicing an objection to a bill. The bill then cannot go forward unless 60 senators vote to proceed.

 

“Win or lose today, I can’t help but observe that the Senate’s motion represents an attempt to choke our case before it can be fully heard,” Edgar said. “Sadly, that’s very much akin to the way some senators use the filibuster rule to choke off debate and action on the nation’s business.”

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

December 8, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




President Obama's Decision to Accept Corporate Inaugural Funding Disappoints

 

 

The Obama Inaugural Committee’s announcement that it will accept unlimited corporate and individual donations fits an unfortunate and dangerous pattern for the President and the country, Common Cause said today.

 

“Through two campaigns, President Obama has said all the right things about the need to get big money out of our politics – and then done a lot of the wrong things,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. "This is another example of that. Why would the President and the inaugural committee decide to take as much money as millionaires and corporations care to give, inviting the corrupting influence that inevitably goes with it?

 

“The committee’s promises that all donors will be disclosed and vetted, presumably to screen out those looking to get something from the administration in return for their money, are some comfort. But the President has again missed an opportunity to put actions behind his words and advance a cause – campaign finance reform – he claims to care about.”
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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

December 6, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




New Report Spotlights Benefits of Municipal Broadband

 

Wilson, N.C.'s Greenlight Network Sparked Better Service, Lower Costs

 

 

While seemingly everyone else in America is complaining about their telephone, cable TV and broadband service, the residents of Wilson, N.C. and their local government have done something about it. A report released today by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Common Cause argues that their story has important implications for the rest of us.

 

Carolina’s Connected Community: Wilson Gives Greenlight to Fast Internet” explores Wilson’s battle to create and sustain Greenlight, a fiber optic network that is setting a standard for the rest of the Tar Heel state and much of the nation.

 

Launched less than five years ago with a $33 million loan from Wilson, a city of 49,000 in eastern North Carolina’s tobacco and barbeque belt, Greenlight now serves more than 6,000 homes and businesses in the Wilson area, as well as all public schools in the city and Wilson County. The system delivers a 100 Mbps internet connection for less than residents in nearby localities pay for commercial connections that top out at 10 Mbps.

 

“Greenlight operates in the black and is on track to repay its city loan on time,” said Todd O’Boyle, director of Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative and a co-author – with Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance -- of the report. “It’s giving customers faster, better service and through competition with private providers is saving everyone in its service area about $1 million a year in the bargain.”

 

The report details how Wilson’s business and political leaders established Greenlight, largely out of frustration with the service provided by commercial telecommunications firms, including Time Warner Cable. Forced to compete with Greenlight, Time Warner has kept its rates in Wilson relatively low while increasing its charges in nearby communities, where it has no competitors.

 

Time Warner also has turned to friendly legislators in Raleigh, the state capital, to secure legislation that is blocking expansion of Greenlight beyond its current service area in Wilson County. And in 2011, the authors note,North Carolina became the 19thstate to create barriers that essentially revoke the authority of local governments to build networks.

 

“State laws should facilitate rather than frustrate the development of municipal broadband systems like Greenlight,” O’Boyle said. “Simply by providing an alternative to commercial services, municipal broadband drives rates down and leads to better, faster connections.”

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

December 3, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Monday Hearing Set on Challenge to Senate Filibuster

 

Historic Case Tests Whether Constitution Can Be Thwarted by Senate Rules

 

Press Conference to Follow Outside DC Federal Courthouse

 

 

With the U.S. Senate paralyzed by continuing abuse of its 60-vote rule to end filibusters, a federal judge will hear arguments next week on a Common Cause lawsuit that seeks to have the rule declared unconstitutional and void.

 

Coming just a few weeks before a new Congress convenes and President Obama is inaugurated for a second term,Common Cause et al. v. Biden et al.asks the third branch of government, the judiciary, to enforce the Constitution, uphold the principle of majority rule, and permit the legislative and executive branches to function as the nation’s framers intended.

 

WHAT: Federal court hearing in Common Cause et.al v Biden et.al.

WHEN: Monday, Dec. 10, 9:30 a.m., followed by 11:30 am press conference at court

WHERE: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

           333 Constitution Ave. NW

           Washington, D.C.

           Courtroom 24A, 4thfloor; Judge Emmett Sullivan presiding

 

A press conference outside the main entrance to the courthouse on Constitution Avenue will begin after the conclusion of the hearing – approximately 11:30 a.m. Plaintiffs in the case, including U.S. Reps. John Lewis (D-GA), Mike Michaud (D-MN), Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Hank Johnson (D-GA), have been invited to speak, along with Common Cause President Bob Edgar.

 

BACKGROUND: Common Cause, four members of the House of Representatives, and three young professionals who live in the U.S. but were born overseas and are being denied a path to American citizenship by repeated Senate filibusters of the DREAM Act, filed suit last May to have the filibuster (Senate Rule XXII) declared unconstitutional.

 

The plaintiffs argue that the filibuster rule is an accident of history, not included in the Constitution and never contemplated by its drafters. The rule has effectively created a supermajority requirement – 60 of 100 senators – for the consideration and passage of any legislation and violates the constitutional principle of majority rule.

 

The hearing before U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan is on a Senate motion to dismiss the suit. It is expected to last about an hour.

 

The Senate is under increasing pressure to reform the filibuster and Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised action when a new Congress convenes next month. The outcome is far from certain however, as opponents of reform have promised a filibuster on any rule change, effectively using the filibuster to preserve the filibuster. The continuing deadlock leaves court action as the only viable alternative for restoring the principle of majority rule and permitting the Senate to function.

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

November 27, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770
Sara Jerving, (608)-260-9713

 




 

Watchdogs Shed More Light on ALEC on Eve of Group's DC Policy Summit

 

Memorandum

 

To:     Reporters, editors and editorial writers

From: Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy

           

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) convenes its annual policy summit this Wednesday in Washington, DC. The three day meeting at the Grand Hyatt Washington hotel caps a year of intense controversy surrounding the organization’s political agenda and tax-exempt status. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Common Cause have obtained new documents and produced reports that shed more light on the inner workings of ALEC and offer you valuable resources as you prepare for coverage of the ALEC conference.

 

·        ALEC continues to insist that it does no lobbying, even as it brings hundreds of legislators to DC to sit with corporate lobbyists and executives to craft legislation. ALEC’s most recent IRS Form 990, for 2011, indicates that while classified as a charity and enjoying the tax-exempt status that accompanies that designation, ALEC spent nearly $5 million on closed-to-the-public conferences with state legislators and “task forces” geared to advancing hundreds of corporate-drafted “model” bills. Other public records obtained by Common Cause show that PhRMA, the trade association representing drug manufacturers, contributed $264,500 to ALEC in 2011, more than twice as much as ALEC collected in dues from all of its nearly 2,000 legislator members that year.

 

·        New open records requests shine light on ALEC’s lobbying agenda for 2013. More than 1,100 pages of newALEC task force documents, obtained through state freedom of information requests, demonstrate how ALEC’s corporate members develop and drive its legislative agenda and work in tandem with legislators to secure passage of ALEC-backed bills. These agenda, draft legislation, meeting minutes and other materials strengthen Common Cause’s case that ALEC is a lobby masquerading as a charity. Common Cause is pressing a tax “whistleblower” complaint with the IRS seeking to revoke ALEC’s tax exemption.

 

·        Drug companies, big tobacco, telecomm giants and other corporate interests will use a dubious “scholarship” scheme to quietly pay travel and hotel expenses for many of the state legislators gathering in DC this week. Buying Influence,” an October 2012 report by CMD and Common Cause documents how ALEC’s corporate backers have funneled an estimated $4 million into “scholarships” since 2006 to pay for the travel and hotel expenses of state legislators attending ALEC meetings with corporate lobbyists like the conference opening on Wednesday in Washington. ALEC’s public disclosure of its role in financing the trips has been spotty, and by paying for the junkets through ALEC, the companies can take advantage of its tax exemption to claim the expense as a tax deduction, effectively shifting the cost to taxpayers.

 

·        ALEC and some of its members have taken new steps to hide their activities and intimidate watchdogs. While doing their ALEC task force work in private, some ALEC-member legislators also appear to have shifted their ALEC correspondence to personal email accounts in an effort to avoid public scrutiny; five Wisconsin legislators agreed in October to an out-of-court settlement requiring them to release ALEC-related emails held in their personal accounts. Although ALEC claims it is the largest voluntary group of legislators in the country, it has not behaved in a manner consistent with the public interest obligations of elected officials: for example, ALEC has used a public relations firm to investigate public interest groups asking questions about ALEC’s activities. And last week, a notice posted by ALEC asserted that unauthorized downloads of bills legislators are provided could trigger “civil liability and criminal prosecution.”

 

·        Many legislators will shy away from ALEC’s controversial agenda and improper lobbying activity this year. Since the launch of ALECexposed in 2011, over 70 legislators have indicated that they have left ALEC; in the 2012 election, at least 117 ALEC members lost their seats (links: http://www.prwatch.org/news/2012/11/11859/117-alec-members-voted-out-2012 and http://sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Legislators_Who_Have_Cut_Ties_to_ALEC).

 

Hundreds of state lawmakers from across the U.S. are expected to attend the three-day ALEC conference. They will sit and vote as equals with corporate representatives on ALEC task forces – in meetings closed to the public and press – to advance a slate of bills drafted to advance business interests in the 2013 legislative sessions. ALEC bills and resolutions can affect both federal and state laws.

 

Though it strives to influence public policy, a penchant for secrecy marks ALEC’s activities. ALEC’s legislative leaders in each state have a “duty” under its public bylaws to get ALEC bills introduced and enacted. ALEC also urges the introduction and adoption of model bills, and corporate lobbyists typically don’t publicly report their work at ALEC meetings on behalf of ALEC model bills as lobbying.

 

In addition to the exodus of lawmakers, more than 40 companies, including General Motors, General Electric, Amazon.com and Bank of America, severed ties with ALEC this year. Their moves came as journalists and groups including CMD and Common Cause connected the dots between ALEC and state laws restricting voting rights, privatizing public schools and prisons, and weakening clean air and clean water regulations. ALEC came under particularly intense scrutiny for its national drive to promote the “Stand Your Ground” gun law that for weeks shielded the killer of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin from prosecution.

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

November 16, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Ad Blitz Distorted Candidates, Corroded Democracy

 

'Dark Money' Forum Examines SuperPAC Dominance in Campaign

 

 

WASHINGTON, DC-- Their wallets fattened by hundreds of millions of dollars in SuperPAC ad purchases, many broadcasters neglected their obligation to pursue public interest journalism this fall and instead aired distorted and often false political commercials, former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps asserted today.

 

Keynoting a panel discussion on “Dark Money, Media & Campaign 2012,” Copps, now special advisor to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative, said the wave of negative ads that largely defined the 2012 campaign corroded civil discourse and exacerbated the nation’s partisan divisions.

 

“For a long time,we had a strong press that held power to account by calling out distortions, digging out facts, and pressing for truth. That was then. Right now, much of our media are failing the most basic task at hand: to provide voters with the high quality news, information, and deep accountability journalism that we must have in order to decide the country’s future course,” Copps added. “But all too often, ‘balance’ has replaced antagonistic questioning, glitz has replaced substance, opinion takes the place of facts, and spin replaces truth.”

 

The two-hour forum hosted by the New America Foundation and co-sponsored by Common Cause, the Sunlight Foundation and Free Press explored the impact of the billions of dollars put into this year’s campaigns by candidates and political parties as well as the new and often anonymously-funded SuperPACs.

 

It’s a mistake to conclude that because some of the highest-profile candidates backed by SuperPACs were defeated on Election Day, there’s no reason to be concerned about the impact of the groups, several speakers argued.

 

“The most important effects of 2012's avalanche of money will come after Election Day,” said Sunlight Executive Director Ellen Miller, one of the panelists. “Even if their candidates lost, the influence bought by America's new class of mega donors will remain. Those who won on Nov. 6 won’t be the only ones running our system: many, if not most, of the losing staffers, consultants and politicians will remain in politics, as will their more successful allies. All of them can be counted on to remember the favors that powerful donors did for them.”

 

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron added that Americans "have a serious problem when the media aren't guarding against political misinformation but actually are helping to spread it. Broadcasters and cable companies took in billions this election from political advertisers, but they largely failed to tell their viewers who was actually telling the truth and who was trying to hoodwink them. And even on stations with the best coverage, the few fact-checking segments were drowned out by a deluge of ads. We have an opportunity right now to make policy changes that would tell viewers in real time who's trying to influence them, give reporters hard facts about election spending, and allow broadcasters to demonstrate their commitment the public interest."

 

In addition to Miller and Aaron, the panel discussion included Los Angeles Times reporter Matea Gold and Jason Reifler, a Georgia State University political scientist who has written about how misinformation and misperceptions can impact political campaigns, even when corrected by the media.

 

Click here to view the full program.

Download the full text of Michael Copps’ remarks.

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

November 16, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Oops, They're Doing It Again: Another Supreme Court Justice Flouts Ethical Standards

 

Alito Speaks at Federalist Society Fundraiser, Following in Ethically-Challenged Footsteps of Scalia and Thomas

 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 16 - For the second year in a row, a justice of the Supreme Court has flouted judicial ethics by headlining a fundraising gala for a lawyers group, the Alliance for Justice and Common Cause said Friday.

 

Justice Samuel Alito was a featured speaker at the “30thAnniversary Gala Dinner” of the Federalist Society on Thursday night.  Alito’s appearance was the drawing card for the $175-dollar-a-plate event, the society’s website indicates.

 

Were Justice Alito sitting on any lower federal court, his appearance would violate Canon 4C of the Code of Conduct for federal judges.  That canon explicitly bans federal judges from being featured speakers and guests of honor at fundraising events. The code does not formally apply to the Supreme Court however. 

 

Last year, Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia spoke at the same Federalist Society fundraising event.  The annual dinners attract a crowd of more than 1,200 lobbyists, judges and lawyers, including some with high-profile cases before the court. Attendees at Thursday’s dinner, for example, included at least three lawyers involved in cases challenging the constitutionality of the federal Voting Rights Act. Their Washington-based firm, Wiley Rein LLP, was a “silver” sponsor.

 

Justice Alito has become a regular at such functions, having previously spoken at fundraising events for the American Spectator magazine and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.  The Institute describes itself as working for “limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility, the rule of law, market economy and moral norms.”

 

Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron noted that a 2012 Hart Research Associates poll conducted for AFJ found that only 41% of Americans approve of the job the Supreme Court is doing.  “If the public begins to believe that the justices are just politicians in robes, their credibility will further erode.

 

“In his 2011 Annual Report, Chief Justice John Roberts claimed that ‘All members of the Court do in fact consult the Code of Conduct in assessing their ethical obligations,’” Aron said. “But it is clear that they are free to routinely ignore that guidance.  That’s why guidance is not enough.  Either the justices should formally agree to abide by the Code or Congress should require it.”

 

“The words ‘Equal Justice Under Law,’ are carved into the marble above the entrance to the Supreme Court,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar, “but it’s clear that when it comes to judicial ethics, some members of the court consider themselves better than equal to the rest of the federal judiciary. Their refusal to embrace and abide by the Code of Conduct is disturbing.”

 

Edgar and Aron emphasized that addressing an organization like the Federalist Society is not, in itself, a breach of ethics.  The ethical line is crossed when the justice’s appearance is used to raise money for the organization.           

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

 

From AFJ

AFJ Video: A Question of Integrity and background material about ethics issues and the Code of Conduct

 

● Analysis of the ethical issues involved in Justices Scalia and Thomas speaking at a Federalist Society fundraiser from Prof. Stephen Gillers of New York University School of Law

 

From Common Cause:

Our highest court shouldn’t be held to the lowest standard.

 

Hours after considering challenges to health care reform, Supreme Court justices are honored at fundraiser sponsored by law firms representing reform opponents

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

November 9, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Statement by Common Cause President Bob Edgar on Supreme Court Agreement to Hear Challenge to Voting Rights Act

 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – "The Voting Rights Act (VRA) – and Section 5 specifically – has stood as a bulwark against pernicious efforts to roll back the right to vote for millions of Americans. The restrictive voting laws that swept the nation in recent years demonstrate exactly why we need the VRA - to protect every single American’s right to cast a ballot and have it counted, irrespective of race. The Voting Rights Act is a critical component of this most basic democratic freedom."

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

November 7, 2012

Derek Cressman, (916) 600-7110

 




Fed Up with Runaway Campaign Spending, Voters Back Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

 

 

Pummeled as never before by a barrage of negative advertising, millions of voters fought back Tuesday, endorsing ballot measures in two states and dozens of localities to demand passage of a constitutional amendment restoring sensible limits on political spending.

 

“Millions of voters in five states sent a message that they are fed up with big money in politics,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. “Republican, Democrat, and independent, they agree that money isn’t free speech and that corporations do not live, breathe, or deserve the same constitutional rights enjoyed by ‘we the people.’ Now it’s up to Congress to act.”


In Montana, 75 percent of the voters supported Initiative 1-166. Votes in the Big Sky state were still being counted on Wednesday morning, but the initiative seemed certain to outpoll any statewide candidate. I-166, the Stand with Montanans measure, declares that in Montana corporations are not people; it also directs all elected officials to support a constitutional amendment to create a level playing field in campaign spending.

 

In Colorado, voters supported Amendment 65 -- 73 percent to 27 percent. That measure instructs the state’s congressional delegation to propose and support a Constitutional amendment allowing Congress and the states to limit campaign contributions and spending and permitting all citizens, regardless of wealth, to express their views on a level playing field.

 

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to back away from its 2010 Citizens United decision and threw out a 100-year old Montana law barring corporate spending in state elections. The ruling allowed campaigns and outside groups to shatter state campaign spending records – more than $25 million was spent on a single U.S. Senate race and another $11-plus million went into statehouse contests -- and sparked voter support for I-166. Montanans also registered their disapproval of recent scandals involving American Tradition Partnership, an out-of-state political organization which brought suit against the state’s ban on corporate political spending and the limit on individual campaign contributions.

 

On the east coast, voters in more than 120 cities and towns scattered across Massachusetts backed ballot measures that also were part of Common Cause’s Amend 2012 campaign, instructing their representatives in Washington to support a constitutional amendment on political spending. The combined margin of victory was 78%.


The practice of voter instructions dates back to colonial Boston, and Massachusetts is one of the few states that have formal voter instruction initiatives as part of their constitutions. In America’s early years, non-binding constituent instructions carried such force that two future presidents -- John Quincy Adams and John Tyler -- resigned from the Senate when their personal views conflicted with instructions they had received.


“The fact that voters in red Montana, blue Massachusetts, and purple Colorado all agree that Citizens United has to go tells you something very profound about the American values we all hold in common and how hopelessly out of touch the Supreme Court is with them,” said Derek Cressman, who leads Common Cause’s Amend 2012 effort. “The Rocky Mountain rebellion that began in Montana is spreading, and folks in Washington had better pay attention.”


In Chicago, San Francisco, and smaller cities including Ashland and Eugene, OR, ballot measures calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United ruling also received about three out of every four votes cast. Common Cause worked to place ballot questions in front of more than seven million voters as part of its Amend 2012 campaign.


“Tuesday’s Amend 2012 victories are the leading edge of a national wave of support for getting control of political spending,” Cressman said. “We’re already exploring potential pro-amendment ballot campaigns during 2014 in Arkansas, Maine and other states and we’re continuing to push state and local governments across the country to pass resolutions in support of an amendment.”

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

April 13, 2012

Tyler Prell, (202) 701-5796

 




Evidence Suggests PA GOP Poll Watchers Systematically Targeting African American Precincts

 

 

WASHINGTON, DC – After receiving information indicating that the Pennsylvania Republican Party and the Pittsburgh Tea Party may be systematically sending poll watchers topredominantly African American precincts in Pittsburgh, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Common Cause, The Advancement Project, The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the ACLU, together with a number of local community groups, sent a letter to Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez, who is responsible for enforcing the Voting Rights Act, asking that the Justice Department “make every effort to ensure that voters at these targeted locations are able to cast their ballots freely and fairly” and also to ask the Pennsylvania Republican Party about the source of its lists and the basis of its targeting.

 

“We have seen their list and it strongly suggests that the Pennsylvania Republican Party is coordinating with the Pittsburgh Tea Party to target African American voters for intimidation at the polls,” said Nicole Berner, SEIU Associate General Counsel. “The Pennsylvania Republican Party has serious questions to answer about where they are putting their poll watchers and why.” 

 

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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

November 4, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




1-866-OUR-VOTE Hotline Provides Direction to Voters in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy

 

MEDIA OUTLETS URGED TO AIR NEW PSA; NEW JERSEY VOTERS CAN VOTE EARLY

 

 

NEW YORK, NY- With many polling locations in New York and New Jersey closed due to power outages and storm damage, and many residents displaced, voting rights groups are urging voters to call 1-866-OUR-VOTE in order to find out where and when they can cast a ballot in the 2012 general election, and to remind New Jersey voters that they have the right to vote early.

The Election Protection Coalition, comprised of a number of voting rights groups including Common Cause and the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights, is a non-partisan voter education effort. Its hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE, is staffed live now through poll closing nationwide on November 6. Call centers have been set up around the country and volunteers with legal training and up-to-date vote information- especially in the storm affected areas- are standing by to receive calls. Voters can call the hotline to find out where they can vote if they have been displaced or their polling place has been changed.

The groups are also asking media outlets to air a public service announcement to let voters know about the hotline.

The 30-second version of the PSA reads as follows:

BECAUSE OF THE WIDESPREAD DEVASTATION IN NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY BROUGHT BY HURRICANE SANDY, VOTERS ARE UNSURE AND CONFUSED ABOUT VOTING PROCEDURES. IF LISTENERS NEED FREE, NONPARTISAN ASSISTANCE ON HOW TO CAST A BALLOT IN THE MIDST OF THE AFTERMATH OF HURRICANE SANDY, CALL THE ELECTION PROTECTION HOTLINE ONE – EIGHT – SIX – SIX OUR VOTE … THAT’S ONE – EIGHT–SIX–SIX SIX-EIGHT- SEVEN- EIGHT- SIX EIGHT- THREE. VOLUNTEERS ARE AVAILABLE TO PROVIDE VOTERS WITH ONE-ON-ONE ASSISTANCE AND WILL HELP ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS VOTERS HAVE ON NEW OR CHANGED VOTING PROCEDURES.
REMEMBER, ELECTION DAY IS THIS TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 6. CALL ONE – EIGHT – SIX – SIX – OUR VOTE IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE ELECTION PROTECTION COALITION

This year, the Election Protection coalition also launched the Election Protection Smartphone App, which any voter can use to check their registration status, look up their polling place, or access voter education materials. Voters can download the Election Protection Smartphone App by texting "OurVote" to 90975. Voters can also visit www.866OurVote.org, which contains state-specific election and voting information.

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

November 4, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




On-the-Ground Voter Advocates in Key States to Report Out on Election Day Events

 

Update on Voter ID, Registration Disputes, Election Operations -- 1 p.m. EST Tuesday

 

Dial-in at (877) 317-2314, password Election Day

 

 

Common Cause voter advocates in key states will report out on problems and issues arising at the polls in their states on Tuesday at 1 pm ET. Please join us for an update from on-location team leaders in Colorado, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Common Cause, in coordination with the Election Protection Coalition, has deployed hundreds of volunteers trained to assist voters at the polls. Problems likely to arise include confusion over ID requirements, challenges over voting eligibility, long lines and others.

The outcome of the most expensive and potentially the most closely-contested presidential election ever could come down to a relatively few number of ballots, particularly in swing states. The impact of voter suppression attempts, long lines, broken machines and confusion over ID requirements could have a disproportionate outcome on results.

In addition to this 1 pm briefing, Common Cause can connect journalists to on-the-ground observers for interviews throughout the day.

WHEN: 1 pm EST
WHAT: Call for voter advocates to report out on Election Day problems, issues
WHO: Common Cause voting advocates in Colorado, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.
HOW: Dial (877) 317-2314, password Election Day
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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

November 1, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Common Cause Joins Coalition Pledging to Counter Threats to Free and Fair Elections

 

 

Common Cause joined with nearly 50 organizations today to express their concern about two critical threats to our democratic system: corporate influence in elections and laws and official actions that suppress the vote. Under the banner “Money Out, Voters In,” the organizations issued a joint statement pledging to fight special interest money in politics and to support the rights of all voters.

The statement reads:

“Within the next week, citizens in every state will come together to cast their votes for President, Congress, and other state and local offices. The right to cast those votes – to elect leaders who represent us – is at the heart of our democratic system. But this year, that right is in danger.

“Our system of fair and free elections is under attack on multiple fronts. The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United opened the floodgates for special interest money and corporate influence in politics. At the same time, a rash of voter suppression laws in more than 30 states has threatened to make voting difficult, if not impossible, for millions of Americans.

“Throughout the history of our nation, powerful politicians and interest groups have tried to block eligible voters from casting a ballot. For much of the twentieth century, they used literacy tests or demanded poll taxes. Today they ask for photo voter ID, or create restrictive voter registration schemes. These laws, combined with the challenge posed by limitless corporate influence, strike at the very core of our democracy.

“Our nation’s history has been a journey towards true equality and the promise of a government of, by and for the people. Just as we have overcome many obstacles to achieve that promise, we are now committed to standing up against the pervasive, corrupting influence of an electoral system that auctions offices to the highest bidder and suppresses the vote of millions of Americans.

“No matter what happens on November 6th, these threats must be addressed on November 7th and beyond. Together with our allies across the political spectrum, we pledge to fight for the rights of all voters in our nation and to move that much closer to creating a more perfect union. The future of our democracy depends on it.”

“The 2012 campaign has been the most dispiriting in my lifetime,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “Empowered by Citizens United and a line of other bad Supreme Court decisions, a handful of big corporations and wealthy individuals are pulling out all stops to transform our democracy into a plutocracy. We are determined to fight – for as long as it takes – to stop them.”

The statement was released jointly by the following organizations: AIDS United, All Education Matters, Alliance for a Just Society, Alliance for Justice, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Ben & Jerry's, Center for Media and Democracy, CODEPINK, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, Constitutional Accountability Center, Consumer Action, CREDO Action, DC Vote, Democracy 21, Democracy Unlimited, Democrats.com, Demos, Ethical Markets Media, Florida Franciscan Action Network, Free Speech For People, Greenpeace, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Main Street Alliance, Move to Amend Coalition, NAACP, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Congress of Black Women, Inc., National Council of Jewish Women, The New Bottom Line, New Progressive Alliance, People For the American Way, Pesticide Action Network North America, Project Vote, Public Campaign, Public Citizen, Rock the Vote, RootsAction.org, Sierra Club, U.S. PIRG, The United Auto Workers, United for a Fair Economy, WarIsACrime.org, We the People Campaign.
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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

November 1, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Common Cause Praises Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang's Decision on FPPC v. Americans for Responsible Leadership

 

Statement by Derek Cressman, Common Cause Vice President of State Operations

 

 

 

"It’s high time we pull back the curtain on the cowardly billionaires or corporations that are hiding behind this out-of-state front group that is working to tilt California’s political playing field permanently to their advantage with Proposition 32. We commend the Fair Political Practices Commission for taking swift action and hope that they can bring this rogue group to justice in time for California voters to learn who they really are.

 

“Thanks to the judge's ruling, one thing we’ve already learned for sure is that this is a group that feels like it has something to hide and is willing to fight tooth and nail in court to stay in the shadows. Voters can now take that into account when evaluating the ads and mailers that have been paid for the ironically named Americans for Responsible Leadership.”

On Friday October 19, Common Cause filed an official complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission urging them to investigate Americans for Responsible Leadership over their gross violation of California's campaign disclosure laws. Earlier today, California Common Cause, the League of Women Voters of California and the Fair Political Practices Commission announced a partnership to introduce stronger and clearer campaign finance disclosure legislation when the Legislature convenes in 2013.

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

October 26, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770
Sara Jerving (608)260-9713

 




 

Corporate Slush Fund Pays for State Lawmakers' Junkets

 

Internal Records Show ALEC Corporations Have Spent an Estimated $4 Million to Send Legislators to Posh Resorts Since 2006

 

 

Corporate backers of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have funneled more than $4 million in gifts to state legislators for travel, hotel rooms and meals at posh resorts since 2006, according to estimates based on internal ALEC records. The corporate lobby front group is already facing an Internal Revenue Service review of claims that it violated federal law by posing as a charity.

 

A report by D.B.A.Press, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Common Cause says hundreds of “scholarships” provided to lawmakers by ALEC were actually expense-paid junkets to resorts where ALEC hosted meetings to advance its pro-business legislative agenda.The report reflects ALEC’s complete record of travel-related payments to lawmakers from 2006 through 2008, when the group was spending about $600,000 annually on the trips, and partial data for the years since then, a period when ALEC has increased its membership by several hundred legislators.

 

“ALEC has created a scheme to funnel money from corporations to pay for legislators’ trips, amounting to a million dollar-plus slush fund that leaves constituents in the dark about who is really footing the bills for their representatives,” the report said.  

 

The top ten corporate donors[1]to the ALEC scholarship fund were:

 

COMPANY

DONATION

PhRMA

$398,351.87

AT & T

$101,848.00

Bayer HealthCare

 $78,800.00

Eli LillyP

 $70,750.00

UST Public Affairs (Tobacco)

 $63,250.00

Pfizer Inc

 $54,905.72

Crown Cork & Seal Company

 $54,000.00

Altria

 $40,000.00

Verizon

 $37,000.00

Blue Cross Blue Shield Assoc.

 

 $36,750.00

 

 

The report,“Buying Influence,” said many legislators don’t tell their constituents that they received these trips. And by paying for the junkets through ALEC, a tax-exempt group registered under section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code, the companies can claim the expense as a tax deduction, effectively shifting the cost to taxpayers, the report said.

 

“We now know which corporations funded trips to posh resorts for hundreds of lawmakers to vote behind closed doors with lobbyists on proposals to change state laws,” said Lisa Graves, executive director of CMD and alecexposed.org. “It’s disgraceful for ALEC to act as a conduit for gifts to facilitate influence peddling that advances the lobbying agenda of special interests to the detriment of ordinary Americans."

 

“The audacity of ALEC and its corporate sponsors continues to amaze,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “They have the right to lobby for laws they believe will make their businesses more profitable, but when that lobbying includes expense-paid weekends at posh resorts, concealed from but subsidized by the taxpayers through a cynical manipulation of the tax code, they go too far.”

 

The report said ALEC promotes its meetings at resorts “in vacation-like terms.” And, ALEC meetings regularly include special and exclusive events for lawmakers such as cigar parties or tickets to the party deck of a Major League Baseball game with special food and drink.

 

Edgar said legislators who’ve accepted ALEC’s gifts should make sure the money is fully disclosed to their constituents. Ideally, they would refund it, he added.

 

To address the unethical and potentially corrupting nature of ALEC scholarships and operations, Common Cause and CMD urge that existing state gift limits or bans should be applied to ALEC travel scholarships or modified to ensure that they do. In addition, ALEC slush fund expenditures should be disclosed, the groups said.  

 

The report also found that:

 

·        ALEC spends an average of just over $600,000 per year on the scholarship program, underwriting trips for hundreds of state legislators a year across the country; some of the lawmakers received multiple checks in the three years covered by the report.

·        In eight states – California, Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Wyoming – the three-year total of scholarship awards topped $100,000.

·        The pharmaceutical industry, through its trade association PhRMA, is the largest known corporate supporter of the scholarship program; PhRMA contributed $356,075 in 2010 alone, the report said.

 

The top 10 state legislative delegations receiving ALEC scholarships based on three-year data:

 

State

Total

South Carolina

$200,565

Georgia

$170,990

Mississippi

$157,158

California

$127,200

Wisconsin.

$116,700

Wyoming

$111,750

Colorado

$106,061

Oklahoma

$104,165

Arizona

Ohio

 $79,919

 $75,224

 

 

 

More than 40 companies, including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, General Motors, Wal-Mart and General Electric, have left ALEC in recent months, most in the wake of publicity about the group’s involvement in promoting “Stand Your Ground” gun laws like the one that initially shielded the killer of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin from prosecution early this year.

 

Founded in the 1970s, ALEC is an association of business representatives and state legislators that produces and promotes pro-business model legislation in statehouses across the country. Lawmakers pay $50 per year to join but most of ALEC’s annual budget of about $7 million comes from corporations and corporate-connected foundations. Because ALEC is registered as a tax-exempt, non-profit organization, donations to become a member of ALEC and for the travel fund are treated as tax-deductible.

 

Though IRS regulations strictly limit lobbying activity by such groups and ALEC has sworn on its tax forms that it does no lobbying, Common Cause has filed a “whistleblower” complaint against ALEC with the IRS and released more than 4,000 pages of ALEC position papers, “issue alerts,” draft press advisories and other materials documenting ALEC’s lobbying.

 

Read the full report here.



[1]The data above reflect corporate donations for the years 2006 through 2008 and 2010, though the 2010 public data reflects money in Arizona, Ohio, and Wisconsin; the data from 2006 to 2008 reflects data from all 50 states.

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

October 26, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Marilyn Melkonian Joins Common Cause National Governing Board

 

Housing activist and entrepreneur Marilyn Melkonian, whose Washington, D.C.-based Telesis Corp. has developed or planned over $2 billion in edge neighborhood transformations with over 15,000 units of housing, has joined Common Cause’s National Governing Board.


“Marilyn’s life has been dedicated to revitalizing urban neighborhoods by helping to provide attractive, affordable housing to their residents,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “Her 40-plus years of experience with housing issues in and out of government will be invaluable as we continue our efforts to ‘hold power accountable’ in both the public and private sectors.”


In addition to running Telesis since its founding in 1985, Melkonian is founder and chair of the National Housing Trust, a national non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the nation's supply of affordable housing. She served on the Board of the Enterprise Social Investment Corporation from 1989-2011and as a member of the National Housing Task Force which reported to Congress in March, 1988.


An attorney and graduate of Stanford University law school, Melkonian is a Trustee of the Eisenhower Foundation and serves on the Board of the Brookings Institution’s Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy.###

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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

October 26, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Olena Berg Joins Common Cause National Governing Board

 

Olena Berg, a veteran adviser to institutional investors in the public and private sectors, has been elected to Common Cause’s National Governing Board.


“We’re delighted Olena is joining us,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience on the financial challenges facing millions of Americans as they deal with changes in the employer-supported retirement plans they depend on for their future security.”


A resident of Placitas, NM, Berg is a former chief deputy treasurer for the state of California. During the Clinton administration, she served as Assistant Secretary for the Employee Benefit Security Administration at the US Department of Labor; she was responsible there for the enforcement of ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a federal law that sets minimum standards for most voluntarily established pension and health plans in private industry.


More recently, from 2006-12, Berg served on the board of voluntary employee beneficiary associations, or VEBAs, for General Motors and the United Auto Workers. The VEBAs are retirement trust funds created to cover medical costs.

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

October 26, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Wes Tomer Joins Common Cause National Governing Board

 

Wes Tomer, a veteran CPA and financial management consultant who specializes in advising non-profit organizations, has joined Common Cause’s National Governing Board.

 

“Wes brings us a tremendous understanding of the challenges facing all non-profits in today’s economy,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “We’re delighted he’s agreed to be part of our board.”

 

Tomer is a Director in the Outsourced Accounting & Financial Management Group of Veris Consulting Inc., based in Reston, Va. He hasover 15 years of experience as a business advisor and consultant and recently completed a six year sting on the Board of the Finance and Administration Roundtable in DC, the area’s only association dedicated exclusively to not-for-profit financial and administrative professionals. He is a graduate of West Virginia University and a member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), and Greater Washington Society of CPAs (GWSCPA).

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

October 25, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




New Poll: Americans Condemn High Levels of Corporate Political Spending, Overwhelmingly Support Strong Transparency and Accountability Reforms

 

 

Nearly 9 in 10 Americans agree that there is way too much corporate money in politics, and 51 percent strongly agree, according to a new poll released today by the Corporate Reform Coalition. The survey, conducted by Bannon Communications, found overwhelming support for strong, common sense reforms to ensure transparency and accountability for corporate political spending.

  • 81 percent of Americans agree that companies should only spend money on political campaigns if they disclose their spending immediately; 80 percent agree that companies should only spend money on political campaigns if they get prior shareholder approval.
  • Huge majorities of Americans across the political spectrum condemn corporate political spending and support strong reforms. For example, requiring corporations to get shareholder approval before spending money on politics is supported by 73 percent of both Republicans and Democrats, and 71 percent of Independents.
  • 84 percent of Americans agree that corporate political spending drowns out the voices of average Americans, and 83 percent believe that corporations and corporate CEOs have too much political power and influence.

 

More than 8 in 10 Americans (81%) believe that the secret flow of campaign spending is bad for democracy, and 87 percent agree that prompt disclosure of political spending would help voters, customers and shareholders hold companies accountable for political behavior. Unfortunately, the sources of corporate funds directed through third party intermediaries like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce remain largely hidden.

 

Americans are strongly in favor of common sense, achievable reforms that would increase transparency and accountability for corporate political spending, fight corruption, and lead to a more responsive and representative government.

  • 77% of Americans support a requirement that companies publicly disclose their contributions to groups - like the U.S. Chamber - that funnel money into politics.
  • 74% of Americans support a plan allowing candidates to run for Congress without raising large contributions by collecting small contributions and receiving limited public funds.
  • 74% of Americans favor requiring that the name of the company and its CEO appear in ads paid for by corporate political spending.     

 

Finally, Americans are ready to act to prevent their voices from being drowned out by corporate political spending. To protest a company’s political spending, 79% would refuse to buy a company’s product or services and 76% would sign a petition to the SEC supporting corporate disclosure.

 

“Americans deserve a democracy in which all people are equal and all voices are heard, not one where corporations can spend secret millions and create dependencies so our elected representatives are beholden to their interests,” said Liz Kennedy, Counsel at Demos, whose analysis of the poll results can be readhere. “Americans have a right to know who is trying to buy our elections, and the time is long since past to enact strong, common sense requirements to ensure transparency and accountability. 

 

“Secret corporate spending is appalling in a representative democracy, and this poll shows that the public agrees. One key remedy - critical for shareholders whose investments allow corporations to generate massive profits - is that the SEC move forward on issuing rules to require publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending,” said Lisa Gilbert, Director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

 

“This poll reflects what we are seeing at the state level,” said Susannah Goodman, Director of Corporate Accountability at Common Cause.  "Americans are fed up with secret corporate spending. They are ready to take action -- boycotts, divesting stock, signing petitions, protests - whatever it takesto send a strong message to corporations to keep their money out of our elections."

 

“The American people agree: money does not equal speech. But the Roberts’ court need not have the last word here. Though our pension funds and through regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission, we can shed light on shadowy corporate spending in our elections. It’s time our rules and our laws matched the will of the people,” said CAPS Founder NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

 

“Americans across the political spectrum have long held transparency in campaign finance to be crucial to the success of democracy. This poll shows that the public wants to close the backdoors to secret political spending. Americans are ready to take action to bring secret corporate spending to the light and to hold accountable those companies – and their conduits like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce - who attempt to hide their spending” said Blair Bowie, Democracy Advocate atthe U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

 

“SinceCitizens United,nearly every poll that has asked about money in politics has shown that Americans are fed up with the amount of influence that money can buy. Those feelings have only gotten stronger during this election season that has been dominated by undisclosed corporate spending. Simple corporate disclosure measures aren’t just the right thing to do – they’re overwhelmingly supported by voters,” saidMargery F. Baker, Executive Vice President for Policy and Program, People for the American Way.

 

Public Citizen, Demos, Common Cause, the Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending, U.S. PIRG, Greenpeace, People For the American Way, Public Campaign, Service Employees International Union, New Progressive Alliance, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Main Street Alliance, Alliance for a Just Society, Green Century Capital Management, NorthStar Asset Management, Inc., West Virginia Citizen Action Group, Friends of the Earth, Corporate Accountability International, and Corporate Ethics International/ Business Ethics Network work together as part of the broader Corporate Reform Coalition to bring transparency and accountability to corporate political spending.

 

Bannon Communications Research interviewed a randomly and scientifically selected group of 804 Americans who are 18 and over. The sample is based on demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau to reflect age, area and gender distributions in the 2010 count. The margin of error for the entire national sample is plus or minus 3.8%. BCR conducted the interviewing on October 8- October 10, 2012. Brad Bannon of Bannon Communications can be reached at 202-320-4182 or brad@bannoncr.com.

Resources:

Read the Executive Summary from Bannon:http://pubc.it/CRPoll

Read the Topline results:http://pubc.it/CRDaTA

Read Demos’ Analysis of the Poll Results: http://demos.io/citizensactuallyunited

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

October 25, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




The Best Media Money Can Buy

 

Remarks by Michael Copps, Special Adviser to Common Cause's Media and Democracy Reform Initiative, at the University of Delaware

 

 

Thank you, Danilo, for inviting me here today and for your very kind introduction. For those in the audience, I have known Danilo for quite a few years and came to truly value his research, expertise and dedication to the public interest while I served as a Member of the Federal Communications Commission. He was the pioneer—and is still the leader—in unearthing and studying those so-called “shared services agreements” that some broadcasters use to combine with other stations without going through the formality of a purchase, thereby under-cutting our media ownership caps. Danilo Yanich has shed powerful light on this “covert consolidation.” It’s an important and largely untold story in the decline of local journalism. His work deserves serious attention, not just in the halls of academe but also in the halls of the FCC.

 

This is our first foray outside the fabled D.C. Beltway, and it’s a particular pleasure to be holding it here at the University of Delaware. For one thing, folks in Delaware have been concerned about the shortage of local media for a long time because so much of what they see comes from the Philadelphia market. For another, today is something of a homecoming for the Media & Democracy Reform staff. Our Program Director is Todd O’Boyle—Dr.Todd O’Boyle since he received his degree earlier this year from the School of Public Policy and Administration here at the University—and I understand that Danilo served on his dissertation committee. So we’re doubly glad to be here. And let me also commend Dr. Aristigueta who has put together such a fine program here as Director.

 

When I retired from the Commission at the beginning of the year, I knew I wanted to remain active on the issues I had spent the previous decade fighting for. And at the top of my list are a diverse news and information ecosystem, local content, consumer protection, and universal access to the tools of communications. So I partnered with Common Cause—the public interest group that has done so much to oil the gears of our democracy—and together we are launching the Media and Democracy Reform Initiative. We want a media that informs as well as entertains, that nourishes our civic dialogue, and that harnesses both traditional and new media to enhance the conversation citizens must have with one another if we are to have effective self-government. To get this done, we want to mobilize a grassroots citizens’ movement—because it’s at the grassroots, not in Washington, DC, where genuine reform sprouts up.

 

I entitled my remarks The Best Media Money Can Buy because our nation confronts a life-threatening challenge: huge swaths of the public airwaves have been hijacked by those whose primary objective is to serve the special interests rather than the public interest. If that wasn’t clear before this election year, it should be obvious now that we have had to endure such a mind-numbing campaign season where the volume of unaccountable and virtually anonymous political advertising has overwhelmed serious reporting on the issues and on local campaigns. When was the last time you saw good and informative TV coverage of your House of Representatives race or other local campaigns and issues? How many news stories have you seen questioning the veracity of the ads themselves? How much digging to tell you who is really paying for those ads? While you contemplate this, keep in mind that it is We, the People, who own the airwaves on which all this fluff travels. No station, no business, no special interest owns an airwave in this country of ours. Broadcasters get licenses to use them, to be sure, but the deal is that they receive those rights in return for being good stewards of a public resource. At least that’s how it was supposed to work. 

 

Isn’t it curious, then—even surreal—that we have an election system where candidates and their surrogates go around asking for money from us so they can turn around and give our dollars to broadcasters to spew all this campaign disinformation over airwaves that you and I actually own? Again, do you think it was really supposed to work this way? Something is sadly and seriously amiss when a TV viewer sees maybe 20 times as much of the campaign via political ads than through real, honest-to-God accountability journalism.

 

“How did it happen?” you ask. Let me take just five minutes to make a very long story short. Here’s what went wrong with the media. Our story has a private sector part and a public sector part. For 30 years and more, private sector media consolidation has seen broadcast outlets bought up by the hundreds, as a few mega-media companies gobbled up small, local, independent outlets and created huge empires where they could realize so called “economies” and “efficiencies”. To make themselves ever more attractive to the captains of Wall Street, they cut costs wherever they could. And often the first place to go under the knife was the newsroom. Hundreds of newsrooms were dramatically down-sized, thousands of reporters were laid off, news feeds were brought in from distant realms, and the bottom line became the only line. News suffered. Minorities and other diversity communities in local markets got even less attention than before. Local music was pushed aside in favor of standardized, homogenized fare. It’s gotten so you can get into your car and turn on the radio on the East Coast and drive across the entire country and you’ll hear the same music, the same talk shows, pretty much the same everything—except maybe the weather. But then we discovered that some of the weathermen and women we were watching were actually hundreds of miles away and they’d put on a scarf so their viewers in Maine thought they were local and then a short-sleeved shirt for their Florida audience.

 

Stakeholders—those are the people the stations are supposed to be serving—go to the back of the line. Stockholders—move front-and-center. That became the new modus operandi. 

 

 Let me pause here to emphasize that I am not criticizing all broadcasters when I tell this story. There are still many—particularly those who have remained locally-held, independent, and often family-owned—who strive and serve the public interest. I commend them. In fact, I sympathize with them because it is more and more difficult for them, in this new age of the media-financial complex, to be captains of their own fate. More and more, they are forced to play by the rules of the big guys. Every day they come under incredible pressure to cave, and it is much, much harder for them to be good stewards of the peoples’ airwaves in this new dog-eat-dog environment. Unfortunately, the speculative fires burn on and our democracy suffers.

 

To make it a perfect storm, this private sector debacle was blessed—actually encouraged—by the public sector. To me, this is the saddest part of the story. And the place where I worked for more than a decade—the Federal Communications Commission—was at the center of it all, approving the mergers, seldom finding an acquisition it didn’t like, never questioning a licensee’s public interest performance, and actually eliminating almost all of the public interest guidelines that the Commission once had on its books—rules and procedures that had been fought for an won by generations of media reformers. 

 

I’ve been talking about radio, television and cable. But realize this, please. When the broadband and the new media of the Internet came along, the Commission helped the big Internet access providers travel down the same misguided road—consolidation blessed by government, access to perhaps the most dynamic and opportunity-creating technology ever devised put into the hands of a few huge telecommunications giants, and no real public interest oversight.

 

What does this have to do with the sad state of our news and information ecosystem? Well, new media brought the potential to help rescue us from the wreckage of traditional radio, TV and cable. Perhaps there would even be a wonderful new town square of democracy, paved with broadband bricks.  Lots of good things are happening on the Internet—great innovation, exciting experiments, creative entrepreneurship. Barriers to entry are low. The links are ubiquitous, and we can all be participants. But new media is not on auto-pilot to rescue us from the wreckage of the old. We have yet to see a new media business model that can sustain the kind of in-depth journalism we used to have. Paying reporters a decent wage and supporting bureaus in the state capitals and the capitals of the world is expensive. It is resource-intensive work. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, when the experts tell us that 90-95% of the news we read on the Internet still originates in the newspaper and television newsrooms. It’s just that there is so much less of it than there used to be. 

 

It’s not that we need to make a choice between traditional and new media. Or that we can patiently wait until new media hatches business models that can replace what has been lost in the old newsrooms. In 2012, and for years to come, we have a media ecosystem that is a hybrid of traditional and new, and we must deal with it as it exists. The damages inflicted on traditional media by consolidation gone rampant and government policy gone AWOL cry out for repair. Just as importantly, we must ensure that new media don’t go down the same road of consolidation and lack of public oversight. There are too many signs this is already happening. How tragic it would be if the dynamic potential of broadband and the Internet is hijacked by those who would turn it into something it was never meant to me. How sad if the end result is a cable-ized Internet.

 

Anyhow, that’s my encapsulated view of how we got to where we are—media too often of the few, by the few, and for the few. Had we avoided the consolidationtsunamiand had your government and mine not walked away from its public interest responsibilities for the past generation, I believe our political dialogue and our public policy debates this year would be taking place on a much higher plane.

 

Then, to make a bad situation much worse, along came Citizens United—the decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to unleash unlimited and unaccountable corporate and other funds into our campaigns. Most of that money goes, of course, to media. So media is at the epicenter of the abuses that have been heaped upon our electoral processes. We need to recognize that up-front. That’s why this is so important. Money is not speech, corporations are not people, and if one priority should be at the very top of the legislative agenda next year, it is a Constitutional amendment making clear and making certain that people, not dollars, determine the future of this country.

 

Meanwhile, as we fight for the Amendment, there are some other things we can be doing. Bad as it was, theCitizens Uniteddecision did contain a bow in the direction of disclosure. The Court wouldn’t limit the cash, but it did come out for disclosure. In its decision, the Supreme Court noted that Congress was well within its rights to require disclosure of who was sponsoring political ads. This seems like an obvious and non-partisan issue, since transparency is a necessary condition for good government. Yet nothing in Washington is obvious anymore, and Congress failed to pass legislation to regulate these ads even minimally. The new Congress must revisit this issue and you and I should insist upon it. While disclosure itself is not the guarantor of the electoral process we seek, it can help us now while the Amendment process unfolds.

 

I have been advocating for two years that the FCC step up to the plate, too. To its credit, the Commission took a limited step this year by requiring some broadcasters in the larger markets to put their public files, often difficult-to-find at a station’s main studio, online. In this electronic age, that’s not asking much. The FCC’s new policy is unfortunately limited for now to network affiliates in the 50 largest media markets. So we just aren’t going to have much information about who is spending how much for ads in smaller markets that happen to be in swing states.

 

And instead of requiring a uniform reporting mechanism that would allow for easy data aggregation and manipulation, the FCC left stations considerable discretion about how they chose to report. Thankfully groups like ProPublica are crowdsourcing the decryption of these data, and hopefully their findings will be able to drive a much-needed dialogue about campaign spending and disclosure. But the American people deserve more. We shouldn’t need legions of volunteers deciphering forms and aggregating data. Most troublingly, the rules don’t even apply to the worst offenders. That’s because so-called “social welfare” groups like Crossroads GPS are exempt. These groups can collect unlimited corporate dollars to plow into endless political ads.

 

What the Commission has previously required in the public files doesn’t drill below the surface when it comes to disclosure and it’s nowhere near the transparency to which citizens are entitled. But, and I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, the broadcasters sued the FCC anyhow because they don’t want to make it one whit easier for researchers to find out who’s paying how much for what when it comes to political advertising.     

 

A political ad saying that it is sponsored by “Citizens for Purple Mountain Majesties and Amber Waves of Grain” isn’t telling me enough. It doesn’t give me a clue about who’s trying to buy my vote. In reality, maybe it’s a chemical company that’s refusing to clean up a toxic dump. By the way, Delawareans especially might want to take a look at Common Cause’s revealing report, Toxic Spending, out this week, about the chemical industry spending some $39 million over the last seven years to elect industry-friendly politicians who then go to bat for their benefactors whenever sensible regulation to protect us from toxic materials comes up. Here’s another example: how about those “Restore Our Future” ads? Not only does that not tell us who is footing the bill for all this nonsense, it’s not even semantically correct. “Restore our future”? What does that mean? A final example: one individual in Missouri has reportedly been responsible for over $20 million in campaign spending since 2008. What’s that got to do with one-person-one-vote?   

 

Few people realize that the Commission already has authority to require far deeper disclosure than what we are getting. In fact, it has rules regarding sponsorship generally and political advertisements specifically. Section 317 of the Telecommunications Act requires that broadcast and cable political ads must “fully and fairly disclose the true identity of the person or persons, or corporation, committee, association or other unincorporated group, or other entity” paying for them. The rationale for this requirement is clearly stated in the law: “because listeners are entitled to know by whom they are being persuaded.”

 

You know, there are FCC rules that require a soft drink maker or a car manufacturer that pays to have its product shown on a program to disclose its sponsorship to the viewing public. They’re called product placement rules. I support them enthusiastically. But if we can be so concerned about the impact on viewers of a can of Pepsi or the latest turbo-powered sports convertible, shouldn’t we be even more concerned about requiring full disclosure when someone is trying to manipulate voter choice?

 

Right now in our country, money commands more power than in any era of our history—including even the notorious Gilded Age of the late Nineteenth century. When so few wield so much outrageous power, sponsorship disclosure strikes me as a rather modest requirement. If even the current Supreme Court suggests it, it can’t be all that radical, can it?  So I hope my friends in Congress and on the Commission will, in the wake of this campaign’s woeful distortion of the democratic process, put things aright so we don’t have to endure this ever again.

 

If we had more reporters, more fact-digging, and more resource-rich investigative journalism, we would go a long way to counter-balance this flood-tide of campaign cash and to informing our citizens. Local broadcasters could play a huge role here. Unfortunately, as a recent Free Press report on ad spending in Denver documented, the broadcasters’ contribution to localism has been vanishingly small. During August and September, the four major broadcast affiliates in Denver subjected viewers to 26,000 ads. Did the broadcasters fact check these ads? Did they call out lies? Barely, if at all. Viewers were lucky for an occasional minute-long “he-said, he-said” report stating that each side thought the other’s ads were unfair. That is nowhere close to the accountability journalism that citizens deserve.

 

I should also point out that stations can exercise judgment and decline to air misleading ads by outside groups. So why not call misleading ads out? The question of course answers itself, and the answer is money. Federal law requires broadcasters to sell federal candidates ad time at their lowest rate. Ads from outside groups can bring in up to 4x as much as straight candidate ads. Wouldn’t it be helpful if broadcasters could invest some of their ad windfall in covering more local issues, down-ballot races, and other public affairs? But without some guidelines from the FCC—without some requirement that to get their licenses renewed, they have to do an adequate job serving their communities—it’s just not going to happen.

 

So even as shared services agreements are cloaking consolidation and creating newsroom staff redundancies, theNew York Timesreported earlier this month that a station in Las Vegas has taken to shortening its evening newscast to provide for longer commercial breaks, ergo, more political ads. The gravy train rolls on while citizens and whole communities are left in the lurch. Or, to paraphrase my friend and colleague Robert McChesney, a rich media breeds a poor democracy.

 

All this corporate consolidation and governmental abrogation of the public interest has happened right under our noses. Why isn’t it front-page news? Don’t citizens care? You know what? I think they do care. Not only do I think that—I know that. Back in 2002-2003, then Chairman of the FCC Michael Powell decided to loosen the Commission’s media ownership rules. Those are the rules that limit how many stations one company can own in a particular market. He, and two of his colleagues, were a majority in favor of more consolidation. They thought they could get it done quietly, in true “inside the Beltway” fashion. My colleague Jonathan Adelstein and I believed otherwise. We opposed loosening the limits and we believed a lot of other people did, too. So we took to the road, holding and attending hearings around the country. People came out by the hundreds and our hearings lasted 6, 8, even 9 hours, far into the night, sometimes beyond midnight, with citizens airing their displeasure at the decline of their local media. Liberals came out, but conservatives, too. Red-staters and blue-staters got up to ask what had happened to their local news, why diverse communities were so shoddily covered, why programming had gotten so homogenized and nationalized. And you know what happened then? Three million people—three million people—went home and contacted the FCC and Congress to say they opposed what the majority was doing. Well, the majority did it anyways, but that grassroots outrage was enough to persuade the Senate to overturn what Chairman Powell and his colleagues had done. The House expressed its displeasure, too, and then the Third Circuit Court sent the Powell rules back to the Commission and told it to do a better job next time. 

 

Sad to report, it’s now 2012 and the issue remains unsettled. In fact, in perhaps just a few days the Commission will issue a long-overdue new review of its ownership rules to Congress. Rumor has it that there will be no new limits on consolidation, nor any reassertion of the FCC’s public interest responsibilities in this report. That would be a tragic missed opportunity, opening the way for more of what we have endured for more than 30 years now.  I’ll wait to see the report before I comment further, but I urge you to look at it, too, and if you don’t like what you read, don’t keep it a secret. Give vent to your views.

 

A new Gilded Age calls for a new reform movement. We should start by requiring full disclosure of political ads. Then move on to halt consolidation and put government back to work making sure the licensing bargain between broadcasters and the citizens who own the airwaves is carried out. We must work for the inclusion of minorities and women in our media industries and by that I mean especially minority and female ownership. We must add diversity to the airwaves through Low-Power FM licenses that serve unique local content in their communities, as intended. Public broadcasting deserves real funding – its existence shouldn’t be threatened every two years. We must fight back against the state-level deregulation of communications. We must do whatever it takes to guarantee Internet Freedom, sometimes inelegantly called “network neutrality,” so that new media can reach its transformative democratic potential.  We must build the best news and information ecosystem possible to nourish our civic dialogue and see the country through some of the most threatening times it has experienced—ever. 

 

If I went around this room and asked each of you what is the greatest issue facing our country right now, I would likely get many different answers. Jobs. Schools starving for resources. Close to 50 million people without health insurance. Energy dependence. Climate degradation. Lack of equal opportunity. The list goes on. Every one of those issues demands difficult decisions, complicated solutions. Every one of those issues demands an informed electorate, citizens with enough information to make truly-informed decisions about our future. Now, if you’re satisfied that your number one issue is getting all the attention that it deserves, fine, just let things be. But if you think your number one issue could benefit from a little more coverage, a little more diversity, some more real facts, a genuine clash of informed opinion, then you need to put media reform right after that number one issue. As for me, I put it at number one. 

 

This is why I am going back on the road, this time as a private citizen. It’s my mission. As I said, this is the first of many Media Democracy and Reform forums, meetings and efforts around the country. I hope you’ll join us by signing up at Commoncause.org. Follow us on Twitter with your own Dr. O’Boyle @ttoboyle. Share your ideas on how to reform the media from the ground up. Attend Free Press’s National Conference on Media Reform in Denver in April. We’ll be there in force.  Become a part of the movement. Talk to your family and friends. Write an op-ed or a blog. Sing, march, do whatever you can. Make this a big issue.

 

Let’s shoot for the Best Media Money Can’t Buy! Working together in activism we can—and we will—build the media ecosystem America deserves.

 

           Thank you again for hosting us. I look forward to your comments, suggestions and questions.

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

October 25, 2012

Christy Setzer, (617) 512-7572

 




Voting Rights Groups Commend Norton Outdoor for Protecting Voting Rights, Removing Intimidating Voter Fraud Billboards

 

 

Columbus, OH- A coalition of voting rights groups, including Common Cause, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and the National Education Association (NEA), today commended Norton Outdoor for agreeing to take down a number of anonymously-funded billboards placed in predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhoods in Cincinnati. The ads warned citizens that voter fraud was a felony, and were deemed by the groups as a voter suppression tactic.  Advocates have responded locally with protests in front of the signs.  A local affiliate of the NEA, the Ohio Education Association, has responded by paying for billboards which affirm that voters have a right to vote and gives out the number of a voter protection hotline.

 

“We commend Norton Outdoor for deciding to do the right thing and take down the billboards,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Threats and intimidation have no place in our political process. Transparency and fair play are among the hallmarks of what we stand for as Americans.”

 

“It’s collective action that makes a difference—just like the coalitions coming together to fight these voter suppression billboards,” said educator and Ohio Education Association President Patricia Frost-Brooks.

 

We commend Norton Outdoor’s decision to remove these billboards,” said Catherine Turcer of Ohio Common Cause.  “Interfering with voting is un-American. The fact that the group paying for these messages chose to remain in the shadows shows that they know their message is wrong.”   

 

"This is an inspiring victory for the communities that fought back against these billboards," said Barbara Arnwine, Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "Free speech is a right of all Americans, and citizens used their voice to organize and oppose this targeted suppression tactic.  Norton Outdoor did the right thing by responding to the outcry."

 

Common Cause, the NEA, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights are part of the nonpartisan Election Protection Coalition, which last week started a campaign to counter the anonymously-financed billboards with their own pro-voting messages. One billboard urges residents to “Stand Up and Have Your Say – VOTE.” A second set of billboards reminds voters that “When We Vote, We Are All Equal.” The billboards also include the coalition’s voter hotline number, 1-866-OUR-VOTE, which provides voter information and answers to questions on voter registration and ID requirements and election procedures.  The coalition will also have field programs on Election Day at polling places across the country.   

 

Election Protection supports voters through the national Election Protection Hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE, a voter information hotline staffed by trained volunteers.  This year, Election Protection also launched the Election Protection Smartphone App, which any voter can use to check their registration status, look up their polling place, or access voter education materials.  Voters can download the Election Protection Smartphone App by texting "OurVote" to 90975.  Voters can also visit www.866OurVote.org, which contains state-specific election and voting information.

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

October 25, 2012

Christy Setzer, (617) 512-7572

 




Voting Rights Advocates Call on Florida Elections Officials to Investigate Voter Intimidation

 

 

Tallahassee, FL—Today, Common Cause President Bob Edgar condemned the anonymous and fraudulent letters that were sent to eligible Florida voters misstating their voting rights, and called on Florida election officials to investigate this act of voter intimidation. The letters, sent largely to Republican voters in as many as 24 counties, falsely claim that the recipient has been flagged as a suspected noncitizen and therefore cannot vote, even going so far as to list the criminal penalties for voter fraud.

 

Said Edgar, “We condemn these letters and the perpetrators for this shameful act of voter intimidation.That the letters were sent to a targeted demographic on fake government letterhead should confirm that they were malicious in nature, and we encourage Florida election officials to investigate the matter thoroughly and to the full extent of the law. All eligible citizens should be free to vote with confidence, without fear of intimidation or unjust repercussions. It is critical to the American political process and to the integrity of our democracy, and we cannot tolerate anything less.

 

“If voters have received these letters they should call 866-OUR-VOTE and report the problem in as much detail as possible.  The perpetrators of this effort should be prosecuted.” 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

October 23, 2012

 

James Browning, (215) 605-6315

 

 




 

Report Details Massive Chemical Investments in Lobbying and Campaigns

 

 

Determined to block efforts to strengthen the 36-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act, chemical interests have invested $375 million since 2005 to elect and influence industry-friendly political leaders, Common Cause said in a report released today.


“The dimensions of chemical industry spending documented in this study, 'Toxic Spending,' are staggering,” said James Browning, Common Cause’s regional director for state operations and a principal author of the report. “By following the money, we see how and why the industry has been so successful in blocking attempts to strengthen the Toxic Substances Control Act.”

 
In the current campaign, the industry has capitalized on the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision by putting $23 million into “Super PACs,” supporting its favored candidates or opposing its adversaries, according to the study. Chemical interests have spent an additional $2.8 million on their own political advertising, the report adds.


In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, decided in 2010, the Supreme Court cleared the way for corporations and unions to invest unlimited sums on political advertising. Corporate and union contributions to candidates remain illegal, but the ruling has triggered a flood of ads produced and paid for by corporate, union and individual donations to Super PACs that are aligned with candidates but operate independently.

 

The study details how chemical firms and their executives direct much of their political spending and lobbying toward members of Congress who are positioned to look out for industry interests. The industry has spent $333 million on lobbying since 2005; in the current campaign alone, for example, individuals and political action groups tied to chemical firms have given House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, nearly $128,000 and invested an additional $78,800 in House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.


Other major recipients of industry support include Rep. Fred Upton, R-MI., the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who has collected $80,100 in campaign contributions and benefitted from just over $200,000 in industry advertising; and Rep. Gene Green, D-TX., the senior Democrat on the House subcommittee that handles legislation dealing with chemical policy. Green’s campaign has collected $50,100 from chemical interests this year and benefitted from nearly $331,000 in industry advertising.

 

Browning said the report likely understates the industry’s spending totals on political advertising. Disclosure requirements put in place by the Federal Communications Commission cover only television stations serving the nation’s 50 largest markets, he noted, and do not cover ads purchased on cable channels. Donors also can bypass disclosure requirements by funneling their money into tax-exempt “social welfare” organizations that are able to buy political ads but are not required to disclose their donors.


The report recommends strengthening disclosure requirements on industry political spending and says that spending should be permitted only if approved by shareholder. It also calls on the FCC to create a national database of ad expenditures that covers all stations and allows searches by geographic region, ads run for or against particular candidates, and by entities purchasing ads. The agency’s current records are organized station-by-station, so a researcher looking to document industry activity must sort through hundreds of records one by one.
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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

October 21, 2012

Common Cause, Christy Setzer, 617-512-7572;

Lawyers' Committee, Stacie Royster, 202-662-8317

 




 

Voter Rights Advocates Commend Clear Channel for Removing Intimidating Voter Fraud Billboards

 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Civil and voting rights groups today commended Clear Channel Corporation for agreeing to take down a number of billboards placed in predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhoods in Cleveland, Columbus, and Milwaukee. The groups had mounted a campaign over the past week to persuade Clear Channel to take down the billboards, which warned of criminal penalties for voter fraud and were designed to stigmatize and intimidate minority voters. The billboards were anonymously financed.


“This is an undeniable victory for those of us who care about protecting the right to vote.” said Catherine Turcer of Ohio Common Cause. “Allowing people to intimidate voters and interfere with voting is un-American. Now it’s time for Norton Outdoor to follow Clear Channel’s lead and take down the anonymously funded billboards as well.” Norton Outdoor is the company which put up the billboards in the Cincinnati area. The Clear Channel billboards were in the Milwaukee, Columbus, and Cleveland markets.

 

According to Clear Channel's statement to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the company finally agreed to take down the billboards because it had violated it disclosure policy by permitting them to go up with no disclaimer as to who funded them. It is unclear whether Norton Outdoor, the billboard company which put the billboards up in Cincinnati, will be taking their billboards down as well.

 

“We join in applauding Clear Channel for making the right decision to take down these unseemly billboards,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “They have set the right example. We’re calling on Norton Outdoor to follow Clear Channel’s lead. We need to say it loud and make it clear—dirty tricks and intimidation will not be tolerated in our electoral process.”


“This is an inspiring victory for the communities that fought back against these billboards,” said Barbara Arnwine, Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Free speech is a right of all Americans, and citizens used their voice to organize and oppose this targeted suppression tactic. Clear Channel did the right thing by responding to the outcry."

“Clear Channel’s decision to take down the intimidating billboards is a victory for free, fair and accessible elections,” said Brenda Wright, Vice President for Legal Strategies at Demos. “Norton Outdoor should follow suit and stop promoting fear tactics that discourage eligible Americans from exercising their right to vote.”


Common Cause, Demos and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law are part of the Election Protection coalition, which last week began a campaign to counter the anonymously-financed billboards with their own pro-voting messages. One billboard urges residents to “Stand Up and Have Your Say – VOTE.” A second set of billboards reminds voters that “When We Vote, We Are All Equal.” The billboards also include the coalition’s voter hotline number, 1-866-OUR-VOTE, which provides voter information and answers to questions on voter registration and ID requirements and election procedures. The coalition will also have field programs on Election Day at polling places across the country.

 

Election Protection supports voters through the national Election Protection Hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE, a voter information hotline staffed by trained volunteers. This year, Election Protection also launched the Election Protection Smartphone App, which any voter can use to check their registration status, look up their polling place, or access voter education materials. Voters can download the Election Protection Smartphone App by texting "OurVote" to 90975. Voters can also visit www.866OurVote.org, which contains state-specific election and voting information.

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

October 21, 2012

Common Cause, Christy Setzer, 617-512-7572;

Lawyers' Committee, Stacie Royster, 202-662-8317

 




 

Voter Rights Advocates Commend Clear Channel for Removing Intimidating Voter Fraud Billboards

 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Civil and voting rights groups today commended Clear Channel Corporation for agreeing to take down a number of billboards placed in predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhoods in Cleveland, Columbus, and Milwaukee. The groups had mounted a campaign over the past week to persuade Clear Channel to take down the billboards, which warned of criminal penalties for voter fraud and were designed to stigmatize and intimidate minority voters. The billboards were anonymously financed.


“This is an undeniable victory for those of us who care about protecting the right to vote.” said Catherine Turcer of Ohio Common Cause. “Allowing people to intimidate voters and interfere with voting is un-American. Now it’s time for Norton Outdoor to follow Clear Channel’s lead and take down the anonymously funded billboards as well.” Norton Outdoor is the company which put up the billboards in the Cincinnati area. The Clear Channel billboards were in the Milwaukee, Columbus, and Cleveland markets.

 

According to Clear Channel's statement to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the company finally agreed to take down the billboards because it had violated it disclosure policy by permitting them to go up with no disclaimer as to who funded them. It is unclear whether Norton Outdoor, the billboard company which put the billboards up in Cincinnati, will be taking their billboards down as well.

 

“We join in applauding Clear Channel for making the right decision to take down these unseemly billboards,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “They have set the right example. We’re calling on Norton Outdoor to follow Clear Channel’s lead. We need to say it loud and make it clear—dirty tricks and intimidation will not be tolerated in our electoral process.”


“This is an inspiring victory for the communities that fought back against these billboards,” said Barbara Arnwine, Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Free speech is a right of all Americans, and citizens used their voice to organize and oppose this targeted suppression tactic. Clear Channel did the right thing by responding to the outcry."

“Clear Channel’s decision to take down the intimidating billboards is a victory for free, fair and accessible elections,” said Brenda Wright, Vice President for Legal Strategies at Demos. “Norton Outdoor should follow suit and stop promoting fear tactics that discourage eligible Americans from exercising their right to vote.”


Common Cause, Demos and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law are part of the Election Protection coalition, which last week began a campaign to counter the anonymously-financed billboards with their own pro-voting messages. One billboard urges residents to “Stand Up and Have Your Say – VOTE.” A second set of billboards reminds voters that “When We Vote, We Are All Equal.” The billboards also include the coalition’s voter hotline number, 1-866-OUR-VOTE, which provides voter information and answers to questions on voter registration and ID requirements and election procedures. The coalition will also have field programs on Election Day at polling places across the country.

 

Election Protection supports voters through the national Election Protection Hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE, a voter information hotline staffed by trained volunteers. This year, Election Protection also launched the Election Protection Smartphone App, which any voter can use to check their registration status, look up their polling place, or access voter education materials. Voters can download the Election Protection Smartphone App by texting "OurVote" to 90975. Voters can also visit www.866OurVote.org, which contains state-specific election and voting information.

###

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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

October 18, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Voter Rights Advocates Launch Billboard Campaign

 

 

COLUMBUS, OH – Voting rights, civil rights and labor organizations are joining forces to erect get-out-and-vote billboards in four Ohio and Wisconsin cities this week, pushing back against an anonymously-financed billboard campaign aimed at intimidating voters and depressing voter turnout.

One of the red, white and blue messages from the Election Protection coalition urges residents to “Stand Up and Have Your Say – VOTE.” A second set of billboards reminds voters that “When We Vote, We Are All Equal.” The billboards also include the coalition’s voter hotline number, 1-866-OUR-VOTE, which provides voter information and answers to questions on voter registration and ID requirements and election procedures. The coalition will also have field programs on Election Day at polling places across the country.

“We want voters to know that we have their backs,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “We expect the ballot bullies who are trying to scare folks away from the polls will step up their efforts as Election Day approaches; we’re determined to make sure people aren’t intimidated and that every eligible citizen can exercise their right to vote.”

The first billboards in the Election Protection campaign were activated Thursday in Milwaukee and Cleveland. Coalition leaders said additional printed and electronic billboards will follow next week in those cities, along with Columbus and Cincinnati and that they expect the campaign to expand between now and Election Day.

About three dozen of the coalition billboards will be placed initially in the same predominately Latino and African-American neighborhoods where a series of menacing billboards, warning of prison terms and hefty fines for anyone engaged in voter fraud, went up last week. Clear Channel, the owner of the billboards, says those messages were financed by a “family foundation” that insists on remaining anonymous.

“The best way to stand up to this despicable form of voter intimidation is for the communities affected to turn out and vote in large numbers,” said Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The Lawyers’ Committee and our partners put these billboards up to let voters know that they are free to vote without fear and we have their backs if they have any questions or problems.”


"Like all the other efforts to make voting harder for people this election cycle, these intimidating billboards are not about the integrity of an election, but all about keeping certain communities away from the ballot box," said Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair. "People can see this for what it is. One thing is certain; no one should allow election bullies to take away their vote."

“The right to vote, and have your vote counted, is such a basic premise of democracy that it’s taken for granted by many,” said National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel. “But we know there are nefarious forces at work trying to roll back hard won rights that people died to gain. We’re very proud to partner with the Lawyers’ Committee to remind and reassure voters that their vote counts and that help with challenges to their right to vote is only a telephone call away.”

The Election Protection billboard campaign, which has an initial budget of $35,000, is being underwritten by Common Cause, the National Education Association, the Advancement Project, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the United Steelworkers International Union, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and Demos.

“The Steelworkers are proud to stand with national civil rights groups to ensure every voter knows their rights before going to the polls, and no one is intimidated or discouraged by false information,” said Fred Redmond, the union’s vice president for human affairs.

 

"We are fighting to ensure that elections are free, fair and accessible," said Brenda Wright, Vice President for Legal Strategies at Demos. "The freedom to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, and the billboards we are sponsoring will spread the message that the right to vote will be protected in this election."


“No American should be intimidated or denied the opportunity to exercise their right to vote,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Voting is the right and responsibility of every American. We stand with voters in these communities as they proudly exercise their right to vote and to participate in our democracy.”
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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

October 16, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Major Road Blocks for Ohio Voters Removed

 

 

With today’s Supreme Court ruling upholding early voting all the way up to Election Day in Ohio, and with Secretary of State Jon Husted’s directive establishing uniform early voting hours across the state, one of the major road blocks for Ohio voters has been removed.


“We commend Secretary of State Husted for moving quickly to establish these new voting hours. This step will help inform voters and avoid further confusion at the polls. Most importantly, voters who need early access to the polls will be able to take advantage of these extended weekend hours,” said Catherine Turcer, director of Common Cause Ohio’s voter protection program.


However, Turcer urged Husted to take additional steps to protect Ohioans’ voting rights. She said Husted should reconsider a directive in which he banned county officials from communicating via telephone or email with absentee voters whose envelopes are incorrectly filled out. “Left untouched, the order could lead to hundreds of ballots being disqualified,” Turcer warned.

 

“It’s now more critical than ever those voters fill these forms out absolutely perfectly,” Turcer said. “In the past, simple errors like inverting two digits of a driver’s license number could have been remedied by a simple phone call. Now boards of elections are banned from picking up the phone to fix a clerical error. Those ballots will likely be thrown away now.”

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

October 16, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps Calls on Broadcasters to Counter Disinformation and Voter Intimidation

 

 

Michael Copps, the former FCC Commissioner who now heads Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative, called on the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) today to join in countering efforts to intimidate voters and suppress voter turnout.

 

In a letter to the NAB president, Gordon Smith, Copps noted an alarming rise in attempts to stifle voting, including organized disinformation campaigns by shadowy groups that appear bent on keeping certain voters away from the polls. Broadcasters should air Public Service Announcements during prime time to explain voters’ rights and where citizens can turn if their eligibility is challenged, Copps said. He also called on broadcasters to enhance coverage of local elections, so that voters can make informed decisions.

 

“Now is the time to remind those who are granted stewardship of the public’s airwaves that their highest duty, especially in the days and weeks just ahead, is to inform and nourish the civic dialogue upon which the vitality of the United States always depends.” Copps wrote.

 

The entire text of the letter is available here.

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

October 14, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Statement by Bob Edgar on the Passing of Former Sen. Arlen Specter

 

 

Arlen Specter was a competitor who became a friend. We had our disagreements of course, but on key issues like campaign finance and judicial ethics, Arlen was a quiet supporter and important adviser to me and to the work of Common Cause.

 

Whatever the issue, Arlen was absolutely, unswervingly dedicated to the rule of law and the interests of the nation. His passing is a terrible loss; it leaves a hole in my heart. His family is in my prayers.

 

Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause since 2007, served six terms in the House of Representatives before finishing as  runner-up to Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania's 1986 U.S. Senate race.

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

October 10, 2012

Derek Cressman, (916) 600-7110

 




Reformers Applaud Temporary Reinstatement of Montana's Campaign Money Limits

 

Note Need for I-166 to Bolster Permanent Protection

 

 

HELENA, MT – Campaign finance reform advocates welcomed action by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to stay a lower court ruling that struck down limits on campaign contributions to Montana state candidates just days before Montana’s ballot were mailed.  The action means that the limits will be reinstated through the election.
 
“It is encouraging to see both the Democratic and Republican candidates for attorney general of Montana vowing to defend the existing contribution limits,” said Bob Edgar of Common Cause.  “Montana has emerged as the most important battleground in the country in the effort to reign in huge campaign spending by corporations and SuperPACs.”

 

 “While it’s good to see this awful ruling blocked temporarily, the long term danger to Montana elections remains,” said C.B. Pearson, treasurer for the Stand with Montanans ballot committee that is promoting initiative I-166. “To permanently protect our democracy from the influence of big money interests, we need a constitutional amendment that will prevent courts from recklessly striking down laws aimed at creating a level playing field with campaign contribution and spending limits helping eliminate big money from our elections.  That’s what voters can demand by voting FOR I-166.”
 
“The threat to Montana’s campaign contribution limits is just another step down the road that some judges are taking toward a bizarre world where corporations are considered people and unlimited campaign spending is considered free speech,” said John Bonifaz of Free Speech for People, which had earlier this year submitted an amicus brief in support of Montana’s ban on corporate spending in elections.

 

Candidates who had received donations above the level allowed by the law in the brief window when it was suspended must now return them to their donors and abide by the limits through the election.  The groups call on all candidates to abide by the current limits and immediately return those contributions.
 
Initiative I-166 would establish an official Montana policy that corporations are not people with constitutional rights and charge all Montana elected officials to support a federal constitutional amendment that would clearly authorize laws such as Montana’s contribution limits that serve to establish a level playing field and Montana’s previous law that banned corporate spending in state elections.  It has won the backing of Montana‘s  Governor Brian Schweitizer (D) Lt. Governor John Bolinger (R) and former Montana Secretary of State Verner Bertelsen (R). It has also been endorsed by two of Montana’s leading small business organizations and nearly 100 small business owners throughout Montana.
 
American Tradition Partnership, formerly Western Tradition Partnership, was the primary plaintiff in the challenge to Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act. The group has been involved in a series of legal challenges and complaints related to Montana campaign finance law including the contribution limit case. In 2011, the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices found that the group violated Montana law by soliciting unlimited contributions, refusing to disclose those donations, and spending that money on independent attack ads and mailers targeting candidates in the 2010 election.
 
“Montana has a long, proud tradition of clean and fair elections,” said Pearson, “But American Tradition Partnership has nothing but disdain for this tradition. In fact, if they have their way, our elections will be bought by unlimited, secret, and untraceable money flowing from big, out-of-state corporations and wealthy individuals.”
 
“Now is the time for all Montanans to stand together by voting for I-166 and making sure our system of fair elections is not lost,” said Pearson.
 
More information is available at www.StandWithMontanans.org, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/StandWithMontanans, on Twitter, @STANDwMONTANANS, and by calling (406) 356-NOV6 (6686).

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

October 2, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Buoyed by Judge's Ruling, Common Cause Urges Pennsylvania to Help Voters Get Proper ID

 

 

In the wake of a Pennsylvania judge’s ruling blocking full enforcement of the state’s restrictive Voter Photo ID law, the state should implement an “emergency” voter education program to help both voters and election workers comply with the law, Common Cause said today.

 

“After spending months warning voters that they would need photo ID to vote on November 6, the Department of State and counties now need to shift gears and conduct a massive public education campaign to inform voters that no one will be turned away from the poll booth simply because he or she does not have a photo ID,” said Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania.

 

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson issued an injunction on Tuesday setting aside – for the 2012 election only – key provisions of the voter ID law. With the election just five weeks off, Simpson said he was not satisfied that the state has enough time to implement the law and provide the proper ID to every eligible voter. The ruling means that every registered voter in Pennsylvania will have the right to vote in the 2012 General Election without showing a photo ID —although photo ID will still be required for elections in 2013 and beyond.

 

"We're gratified that Judge Simpson's decision recognizes that if the state is going to require voters to produce a photo ID at the polls, it must do everything possible to ensure that every voter has access to that ID," said Common Cause President Bob Edgar.

 

Kauffman said re-education of poll workers is critical to ensure that all eligible voters will be permitted to cast their ballots. In 2008, Common Cause Pennsylvania’s team of 150 poll monitors found numerous polling places where election officials were not properly trained on identification requirements for voting. At one polling place at State College, Common Cause’s poll monitors found that misinterpretation of the law resulted in a three-hour wait to vote and hundreds of students being forced to vote by provisional ballot; dozens were forced to write their votes on scraps of paper after the supply of provisional ballots was exhausted. Efforts must be made to prevent similar disruptions at the polls that could lead to improper disenfranchisement, Kauffman asserted.

 

In issuing his ruling, Judge Simpson wrote that actions by the Department of State and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) did not cure problems voters were experiencing in gaining access to the required photo ID. He also noted that with Election Day just five weeks away, the agencies were highly unlikely to be able to supply all the needed IDs. 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

October 1, 2012

Nick Surgey, (202) 713-8869

or Brendan Fischer, (608) 260-9713

 




Center for Media and Democracy and Common Cause File Open Records Lawsuit Against ALEC Members in Wisconsin

 

Evidence Shows Officials Using Personal Email Accounts to Evade Sunshine Law

 

 

MADISON -- The Center for Media and Democracy and Common Cause filed suit today against five Wisconsin legislators who also are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) over their failure to provide ALEC-related records sought under Wisconsin’s Open Records Law.

CMD and Common Cause submitted open records requests on September 11, 2012, to all known members of ALEC in the Wisconsin Legislature asking for ALEC-related emails. The request covered correspondence on official legislative email accounts, as well as  "personal" email accounts that some members maintain on services like Gmail or Yahoo. The suit alleges those accounts are subject to the Open Records Law when used for official governmental business, such as correspondence related to the “model” legislation approved by ALEC member corporations and state legislators at ALEC meetings.

According to CMD and Common Cause, evidence strongly suggests that the legislators have shifted their ALEC correspondence to web-based "personal" email accounts to evade open records requests.  For example:

·        The one record released in response to an open records request to Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) includes an email to ALEC from his assistant stating: “Please send ALL ALEC material to the Representative’s PERSONAL e-mail at [redacted] from now on. Please do not send his State account (@legis.wi.gov) any more updates. He will keep up through his personal account.” (capitalization in original) 

 

·        In an ALEC Education Task Force document obtained through a different open records request, Rep. Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva) provides his only e-mail contact as his personal “@charter.net” e-mail address, but not his official legislative e-mail address. 

 

Records custodians for Reps. Thiesfeldt and August asserted to CMD and Common Cause that they provided all records required by law. But they have repeatedly refused to confirm that they searched the members’ personal email accounts, even after being showed the legal basis for why such records are covered by Wisconsin Open Records Law. Representatives Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) Tom Larson (R-Colfax), and Pat Strachota (R-West Bend) were similarly evasive. Their responses are explained in more detail below. 

"These legislators are disregarding Wisconsin's long tradition of transparent and open government, and violating both the letter and the intent of the state's Open Records Law," says CMD Staff Counsel Brendan Fischer, who filed the complaint. "As the Wisconsin Supreme Court has observed, 'If Wisconsin were not known as the Dairy State it could be known, and rightfully so, as the Sunshine State. All branches of Wisconsin government have, over many years, kept a strong commitment to transparent government.' Legislators cannot evade Wisconsin's sunshine laws and traditions simply by re-routing official government e-mails from a legislative account to a Gmail account."

Common Cause Staff Counsel Nick Surgey added, “Wisconsin’s open records law says that if an email message deals with the public’s business, the public has a right to see it – there’s no distinction between emails stored in state email accounts and those stored in personal accounts. But these members seem to think they’re above the law.” 

“There’s a pattern emerging here,” Surgey added. “With ALEC under increasing scrutiny, members appear to be looking for ways to hide their involvement. Open records requests in some states that last year yielded thousands of pages of ALEC-related records often now produce only dozens -- but we know ALEC is as active as ever.”

Information that has been released through past open records requests show corporations making donations to fund flights and hotel rooms for Wisconsin legislators who attend ALEC meetings. CMD contends that this violates state ethics laws and it has filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Board. 

CMD has also found that other Wisconsin legislators are exploiting a loophole in the Open Records Law by routinely deleting emails relating to their correspondence with ALEC; that activity is documented here. ALEC has also apparently helped lawmakers evade Wisconsin's transparency-in-government laws by sending some communications via online links which expire within 72 hours. The links go to Internet drop boxes where legislators can access ALEC documents but generally expire before they can be obtained by reporters and citizens seeking those documents under state open records law.

Aides to legislators named as Defendants in the lawsuit had these responses when asked directly to confirm – with a simple yes or no  -- that they searched personal email accounts for records responsive to open records requests:

·        Rep. August's staffer replied, "Our office has no records." When asked again to confirm a search of personal email accounts he repeated, "Our office has no records." When asked a third time, he said, "Please consider this request completed.”

·        Rep Thiesfeldt's staffer evaded the question by conducting a search of a staffer's official email account. When asked again to confirm a search of the legislators’ personal emails he stated that Rep. Thiesfeldt "has no records." When asked again to confirm that he searched personal email accounts, he replied, "I have complied with your request." 

·        Rep. Knodl's staffer stated, “The search included all records pertaining to your request,” and, when asked again to directly confirm a search of personal email accounts, stated, “The search included all records pertaining to your request.” He failed to respond to additional requests for confirmation.

·        Rep. Larson's staffer stated, “We have thoroughly searched our records and have complied with the open records request.” When asked again to directly confirm, yes or no, whether a personal email search was conducted, he again stated, "We have complied with the open records request,” and did not reply to further requests for confirmation.

·        Rep. Strachota's staffer claimed that the office had no ALEC-related correspondence because, "The representative does this on her own personal time.” Told that official emails sent on personal email accounts are subject to the Open Records Law, she asserted that, "This office has nothing pertaining to ALEC from the dates in which you have requested,” after which point she stopped replying.

 

Today’s lawsuit was filed with the Dane County Circuit Court, which has jurisdiction over compliance with the legal requirements of Wisconsin sunshine laws.  

The Center for Media and Democracy launched its award-winning ALEC Exposed project in July 2011 and has continued to investigate the shadowy organization for the past year. In April, Common Cause submitted more than 4,000 pages of ALEC records to the IRS as part of a “whistleblower” complaint charging the group with violating federal tax laws that put limits on lobbying by tax-exempt organizations. The work by CMD and Common Cause on exposing ALEC was recently featured on Bill Moyers’ PBS program Moyers & Company, and was aired on public television stations in Wisconsin and nationally. 

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The Center for Media and Democracy is a non-profit investigative watchdog group. Our reporting and analysis focus on exposing corporate spin and government propaganda. We publish PRWatch, SourceWatch, and BanksterUSA.  Our newest investigative site iswww.ALECexposed.org.

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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 28, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Remarks of Commissioner Michael J. Copps (retd.)

"Competition in the Business Broadband Marketplace"

 

 

Michael Copps, director of Common Cause's Media and Democracy Initiative, delivered these remarks today at a meeting of the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C.

 

 

 

Thank you, Michael, for inviting me to be a part of this distinguished panel of not only experts on the topic, but several old friends, too.  Plus, I see a lot of familiar faces in the audience, so I am pleased and honored to be here.

 

It will come as no surprise to most of you that the competitive marketplace I envisioned when I arrived at the Federal Communications Commission in 2001 is not the marketplace I see today.  Let me go back briefly to then. I was never one of those who thought the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was lacking in providing a vision and considerable guidance to the FCC. In telecommunications, the statute makes crystal clear the FCC’s mission to encourage the delivery of the most advanced telecommunications feasible to every citizen in the land, no matter who they are, where they live, or the particular circumstances of their individual lives. Reasonably comparable services at reasonably comparable prices for all are the clear mandate of the law. From there, Congress made plain the need for competition among providers, consumer protections, and providing for the safety of the American people. That’s the “public interest” as applied to telecommunications—and let’s remember that term—“public interest”—applies every bit as much to telecom as it does to media.

 

Good, I thought. Let’s get on with it. But it got complicated very quickly. Back then the Commission was right in the middle of deciding how to allow the Bell companies to enter the long-distance markets (which were of increasing value to them for the purposes of data transmission), in exchange for opening their local markets to local competition. Congress had wisely stipulated competition and clearly had not voted for reconstituting Ma Bell. I joined some of my colleagues, and worked with the competitive carriers (the CLECs) and my friend Bob Quinn, to make sure there was indeed a competitivequidfor the long-distancequo. Some competition was already developing, much of it through wholesale leasing, including the leasing of local loops and switching (the then-famous UNE-P) by the competitive carriers. One idea behind wholesale leasing and UNE-P was to provide an entry strategy that down the road could lead to facilities-based competition. All the while, the Bells were fighting this and, to make a very long story very short, a compliant FCC killed UNE-P and shackled wholesale leasing, at which point the prospects for expanded competition pretty much disappeared.   Meanwhile, the Bells had picked up 45 million long-distance lines, although they were careful not to compete directly against one another. And the Commission did a poor job, once it granted all those Section 271 entry petitions, in following through to ensure that commitments were kept and that competition developed. Among its other anti-competition sins, the Commission also granted big telecom companies forbearance from certain unbundling and dominant carrier obligations in areas that were anything but fully competitive.

 

Worse even than all that, the FCC at the same time was voting, over the strenuous objections of Commissioner Adelstein and me, to remove advanced telecommunications—broadband—out from under the purview of Title II of the Act—where consumer protections, competition, privacy and public safety were clearly mandated—and moving them to the nebulous land of Title I where regulatory authority was uncertain, consumer protections were virtually non-existent, and where the huge companies, their legions of lobbyists, and courts of various opinions could—and did—wreak havoc on the promise of competition.  And let’s be clear: there was no legislative or judicial mandate for this. Had the Commission decided otherwise in the Brand X case, the Supreme Court would quite likely have accorded deference to the Commission, as a number of Justices discussed in their opinions. In any event, we spent the next several years engaged in all sorts of mind-boggling linguistic analysis, aimed at making sure the “public interest” and broadband access never cohabited.  All the while, of course, other countries were hard at work building their broadband infrastructures, hammering our Number Two ranking in world broadband penetration down to Number 15 or 20 or 24 in just a few short years. We can quibble about the precise rankings, but the point is that’s not where your country and mine belongs.

 

Sometimes the Commission’s parsing and legerdemain were borderline amusing, but the results were anything but funny. Basically, the Commission majority pretty much mirrored the hands-off approach of the two Bush Administrations, trusting to the market to take broadband everywhere, even to places where there was no incentive for business to go. While I have been critical of business many times, what bothered me even more was the abdication by government of its public interest responsibilities for much of the past three decades.  And the FCC was center-stage in most of it.

              

It took many in Washington a long time to realize—and some still haven’t—that this head-in-the-sands approach was totally at odds with the urgent telecom needs of the people. Those with eyes to see quickly came to realize that there was no problem confronting our country—lack of jobs, inadequate health care, challenged schools, growing energy dependence, deteriorating environment, lack of equal opportunity—that did not have a broadband component as part of its resolution.  They understood that this is the central infrastructure challenge of the Twenty-first century and that it was crying out for national attention. But the Commission was busy doing other things—after all, we had huge telecom mergers to approve and a multitude of services to reclassify and deregulate. Talk about frustrating!

 

In 2009 we finally got some change—an appreciation for broadband and a realization that the country needed a strategy to encourage its deployment and adoption. I welcomed that change and saluted the new direction that came with new leadership at the Commission.  But this is a job requiring more. Not just more from the FCC—but more than the FCC. We have a telecommunications infrastructure that holds extraordinary promise to expand opportunity for all Americans, but we lack a sense of national mission to get the job done. The Commission is in the process of making Universal Service work in the broadband age, and that’s good and essential and I was happy to be a part of that, but we cannot expect changing Universal Service by itself to magically bring ubiquitous broadband to every home and hearth. The broadband build-out I am talking about can come only from a deeper commitment of resources than has thus far been made. And this commitment must come from both the private and public sectors.  When nearly one-third of our homes lack access to high-value, opportunity-creating broadband, it is time to ponder what another generation of Americans did when it discovered one-third of its population ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-nourished. Times were tough then, too, and resources were strained, but we responded with reform rather than reluctance.  We had to build and repair, and we did both. We dared to think big. And we found ways for the private and public sectors to work together to accomplish big goals—the private sector as the lead locomotive but encouraged and incented by visionary public policy. Over the course of our national history, we built roads, canals, bridges, railroads, interstate highways, rural electricity, even plain old telephone service, working together—enlightened public policy combined with private-public partnering. That’s how we built America.

 

Fast forward and today we see the infrastructures we built back then collapsing all around us. We endure second-rate roads, disintegrating bridges, dysfunctional transportation, ancient utilities—the very investments that powered us to prosperity and to first-among-the-nations standing—going to seed. People from other industrial nations can’t believe what they see when they visit our country. And, as an aside, sometimes I’m surprised by what I see in other countries. Many of you heard my tale a couple of years ago about floating down the Yangtze River in China and having instant 3G access just about everywhere we went, even in remote rural areas —better service than I could get in many urban areas here at home. 

 

(Just to keep you up-to-date on my travel experiences, although this talks more to U.S. equipment shortfalls when we were overseas, my wife and I took a trip to South America a couple of weeks ago and we rented a phone from a very large U.S. telecom company—one not represented on this panel today—so we could occasionally text our family and report in to Beth’s doctors back home. It worked fine in Rio, but absolutely refused to work at all in Argentina and Chile. America: first in technology and I couldn’t even receive or send a text message home!) 

 

But I digress. More to the point, it is here at home that we are short-changing the information infrastructure of the future. While we should be immersed in the business of investing in the development of our human and infrastructure resources, we have been led instead into a mind-numbing preoccupation, financed by enormous big money, about chopping more from the budget and more from our future.   My friend Blair Levin put it so well—and I’m not trying to marry him to my remarks—when he observed that “Instead of talking about investment for growth, we are talking about harvesting for dividends.” Well, make no mistake about it: America is not going to have the telecommunications and information infrastructure we so urgently require without a major national commitment to increase our broadband performance by orders of magnitude. That kind of deep commitment is lacking today—and it’s costing the country a lot.

 

This commitment to a viable broadband future needs to be accompanied by renewed emphasis on competition. I know there are those who say we should just recognize telecom as a natural monopoly and forget all this competition stuff. I say there are still multiple ways to breathe life back into the competition that the Telecom statute envisions and that broadband must have to flourish. By the way, about three-quarters of those “natural monopolist” enthusiasts are also advocating for the elimination of anything that remotely resembles government oversight or—the dreaded word—“regulation”—which means what they really want is unregulated monopoly. The other one-quarter of the “natural monopoly” choir would accept the monopoly or duopoly but impose some public oversight to protect consumers and competitors. That may sound better to some, but good luck getting any of that done in today’s Washington environment! So what are some ways to stimulate competition?

 

Competition could grow if we learned how to say “No” to more industry mergers and consolidation.  That doesn’t mean all mergers are bad, but it does mean that we have allowed far too much industry concentration at the expense of the public interest over the past 15 years. It was a welcome change, with a nod here to Gene Kimmelman and the Department of Justice, and also to Chairman Genachowski and the FCC, to see the brakes applied to the AT&T/T-Mobile deal. I wish both agencies had demonstrated equal tenacity when it came to the Verizon-cable deals. Vigorous anti-trust enforcement is always critical to competition. 

 

Competition could grow if we encouraged more innovative approaches like municipal broadband.   “My way or the highway” may be the mantra of the big telecoms, but it’s bad business for everyone else. Here’s one example. New enterprises increasingly factor an area’s broadband level of service into their calculations about where to locate their firms. Simply put, business owners are wary of moving to an area with inferior connectivity. The private sector, perhaps understandably, has often avoided deploying fiber-optics into low-density rural communities. That’s a market failure, but it also represents an opportunity for the public sector or creative public-private partnerships to deliver service. How silly—and costly—it is for a major carrier to say, “I’m not going to build here, but no one else can either.” What’s going on here is not the prevention of unfair competition; it’s ensuring there will be no competition. So our largest telecom firms are spending heavily to derail public investment in broadband connectivity. So far 19 state legislatures have erected barriers to public provision, typically via American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bills. Our two biggest telephone companies are members of ALEC.  State prohibitions on municipal broadband and laws to neuter state regulatory commissions are touted as “leveling the playing field,” but most municipal networks are in rural areas where there would be no next-generation connectivity were it not through innovative provisioning.  This legislative and lobbying activity at the state level is a huge and, until recently, untold story. If we had a media infrastructure worth its salt, what’s going on here would be front-page news. Thank goodness we have vigilant public interest groups, like Common Cause that I’m associated with now, to shine light into these dark corners and to bring grassroots pressure so that big companies like GM, GE, Wal-Mart and Wells Fargo are cancelling their ALEC memberships. I hope more companies, especially in broadband, follow their example.   

 

Competition could grow if our spectrum policy really encouraged it. That doesn’t mean wholesale transfer of big broadcaster spectrum rights to even bigger wireless companies. It means making careful and balanced decisions about where such transfer enhances the public interest. It also means looking more to unlicensed spectrum, database-driven spectrum access, shared spectrum, smart radio technologies and set-asides for small and minority enterprises. It means clear roaming requirements and strict enforcement. It means doing something—finally—about special access.  The potential of special access reform for backhaul, competitive wireless, local governments, schools and universities, and small business is, I believe, huge. Right now special access is a multi-billion dollar disincentive to competition and a serious drag on the deployment of badly-needed telecommunications infrastructure. 

 

Coming at competition from another angle, we should be looking at how other countries are deploying broadband and how they make it happen. We were quick to dismiss facilities sharing, for example, but if we can’t figure out how to incent competition through other means, then revisiting this option might yet be necessary. It’s something that should remain on the table.

 

There’s another aspect of broadband competition that we also need to grow. I won’t dwell on it here, but broadband has many dimensions, and one of them is as a major purveyor of news and information. We have a news and journalism deficit in this country that is every bit as pernicious as that budget deficit everyone keeps talking about. If we allow broadband and the Internet to consolidate further—like radio, TV, and newspapers consolidated—and if we allow toll-booths and gate-keeping to pop up on every lane of the information highway, we will have lost a golden opportunity to enhance our civic dialogue. And we will have betrayed the open, dynamic and competitive vitality of this opportunity-creating technology. That’s another speech for another day, but it’s part and parcel of the broadband competition challenge and there is urgency—real urgency—in facing up to it.

 

We can only succeed in achieving the lofty aspirations that Congress set out in 1996 if all of us get involved. Electing officials from whom we have not secured commitments on these issues is a prescription for inaction.  Letting others do the work in a prescription for weakness.  Not working for these issues at the grassroots is a prescription for disaster. That’s why you’ll be seeing more of me out across the country in the months ahead as part of a new Media and Democracy Reform initiative at Common Cause. We will be talking with citizens about the importance of promoting competition and putting the brakes on broadband consolidation. We will be energizing a national discussion on how our information and news infrastructure has been short-circuited. And we will be encouraging people to get involved in charting the way to a broadband future that will help America regain its economic footing and open the doors to a future rife with new opportunities for all our citizens. That was the promise of broadband. I hope that’s its future.

 

Thank you.

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 26, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Copps Urges FCC to Boost Minority Media Ownership

 

 

Michael Copps, director of Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Initiative and a former member of the Federal Communications Commission, delivered these remarks today at a meeting of the National Association of Black-Owned Broadcasters in Washington, D.C.

 

 

Thanks to my friend, Jim Winston, for inviting me to be a part of this distinguished panel today. NABOB is one of my favorite groups, as Jim will tell you, and I always enjoy visiting with you.

 

“What is Washington Going to Accomplish Before and After Election 2012?” This could be a very brief session! Before the election? Not much. After the election? That depends on you and me.

 

Let’s talk about what you and I have been pushing for so many years—how to get more diversity in media ownership. Minority and female ownership. You know the sad numbers better than I do and how dismally our current media reflect the interests, issues and cultures of our rainbow country. (By the way, Jesse Jackson sent a powerful message on this very issue yesterday morning when he delivered the prestigious Everett Parker Lecture over at the First Congregational Church before a packed crowd of Washington insiders, FCC Commissioners present and past, and a lot of public interest advocates.)

 

When a country is one-third minority and people of color own only 3% of its full power, commercial television stations, something is wrong. Not only are the numbers askew.  They make our culture askew. Minority issues and minority contributions to American culture are shockingly under-represented in our media. When minorities do appear, it is so often in caricature. Who, with a straight face, can really claim there is anything approaching equitable, real-world coverage of minorities and their concerns? Why so few programs with a minority focus? With no minority lead characters? Why do so many interviews look so white and so male so much of the time? 

 

To me, we won’t have the kind of diversity you and I are after—diversity in programming, diversity in news coverage, diversity of viewpoint—until we do something about building diversity into who owns and operates our media outlets. There’s a basic truism here. Ownership matters. Big time.  It makes a world of difference when it comes to what news is covered, what issues are teed up for the civic dialogue, and who is asked to participate in a program. So when one-third of our potential ownership universe is shut out of ownership, the results are sadly predictable. And they are everywhere around us.

 

And note this: I’m not just talking about the traditional media of TV and radio. I’m equally worried about the new world of broadband and the Internet. The ownership-/management/employment statistics for “new media” companies surely aren’t breaking any civil rights or equal opportunity records, are they? And remember this: the overwhelming majority of what news is featured on the Internet—in fact, well over 90% of it—still originates in traditional media newsrooms, even though there is much less of it being produced thanks to all the media consolidation and shuttering of broadcast newsrooms that we have endured . Most of the major news sites on the Internet are controlled by media conglomerates whose holdings include old media, too. And new media shows disturbing signs of heading down the same road of consolidation and control by a few that wreaked such havoc on radio and TV. Wouldn’t it be tragic if the awesome, opportunity-creating power of broadband would end up as a cableized Internet? Could happen! 

 

The solution, my friends, is not rocket science. There’s no shortage of ideas. NABOB and Jim and many of you and MMTC and even the FCC’s own Diversity Advisory Committee have come up with dozens of recommendations. Some of the 70-plus proposals that have been made include giving preference in FCC licensing to otherwise qualified individuals or entities that have confronted and overcome substantial disadvantages; giving media companies incentives to incubate small disadvantaged businesses; providing small start-up firms extra time to fund and construct their facilities; making better use of channels 5 and 6 as a home for new non-commercial stations; creating a Civil Rights Branch at the FCC to enforce compliance with the civil rights and Equal Opportunity (EEO) statutes. Why don’t we have up-or-down votes on these recommendations at the FCC? I suggested as a Commissioner that we vote on one of these recommendations at each of our monthly agenda meetings. It didn’t strike me as a particularly radical idea, but it just didn’t seem to fly. I make the suggestion again now.

 

Let’s look a little more broadly. Let’s think about factoring in diversity in everything the FCC does. Spectrum auctions are the excitement of the day. OK—are we going to have some real incentives, akin to our old Designated Entity rules, as we auction off spectrum rights? “Well, that doesn’t work in this space,” I’ve been told. I say: prove it.  You know, there’s a goal of finding 500 MHz of spectrum for wireless enterprises. But just a wholesale transfer of spectrum rights from big broadcasters to big wireless companies misses the target. We need balance here, fine-tuning, a commitment to preserve diversity broadcast stations, and to find innovative ways to grow them. If the Commission isn’t thinking seriously about diversity licensing for a meaningful part of this 500 MHz, our communications environment will look a lot more like the pre-civil rights days of the 1950s than the democratic commons of the Twenty-first century. Here’s another idea: a prime-time set-aside on the networks for independently-produced programming that would encourage entry by minority entrepreneurs and other unaffiliated businesses. Also we could use unlicensed spectrum for diversity broadcast stations which, while it may annoy the bean-counters at OMB, could create a multitude of new diversity outlets. And, one of my favorite ideas: revoke licenses from those whose use of the people’s airwaves isn’t serving the public interest and give those licenses to individuals and enterprises that will serve the common good. Aren’t the people’s airwaves supposed to serve the people?

 

These are modest proposals. They don’t come close to race-conscious suggestions to remedy the ills of past discrimination. Longer-term, we will need more aggressive solutions. But to get those ideas past the courts, the FCC needs to have its legal justifications ready. It doesn’t. We still have to update the Adarand studies that were compiled under the leadership of Chairman Bill Kennard a dozen years ago. Resources need to be invested in this job immediately. The Third Circuit has repeatedly told us of its lost patience with FCC inaction on this front. The Commission knows full-well what is needed in these studies. It should fund them immediately, establish a deadline of June 1, 2013, to have them done, vetted and ready-to-go. You know, I spent over a decade as a Commissioner, and I was (an am) appalled at the lack of priority accorded to these issues of minorities, media and our democracy. 

 

These are not issues to push under the rug until the election is past. It’s so difficult to make anything happen after elections if commitments aren’t made before those elections. I believe our challenge is to take these issues to the grassroots. That’s why I have joined forces with Common Cause and their nation-wide public interest network to stimulate discussion and action on the declining state of our nation’s media, news and information infrastructure. It’s why you need to take this message home, put it on the air where you can, spread it other ways where you can’t, and bring the kind of pressure that has always been required to win civil rights. To me, and I hope to you, reforming America’s media is the civil rights priority of today, because it’s key to opening the doors of opportunity, rescuing America from its many nation-threatening problems, and realizing an American Dream that delivers for every single citizen in the land. It is a challenge worthy of those who went before us and fought and sacrificed for an Equal Opportunity America. Let’s tackle this civil rights challenge with the same kind of commitment.

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 18, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Statement by Common Cause President Bob Edgar on Today's Decision in Van Hollen v. FEC

 

 

“American voters are the big losers in today’s federal appeals court decision permitting ‘independent’ groups to withhold the identities of the multi-millionaires and corporations investing in the 2012 elections.

 

“This decision dooms voters’ last change of finding out who is intent on pumping millions of dollars into the elections. With 49 days to go, there’s still no sheriff in town, it’s the wild, wild west.

 

“People and companies making six- and seven-figure investments in candidates and causes will want something in return for their money, and the candidates who benefit from their generosity will have a powerful incentive to deliver it. That’s why disclosure is so important; before we go to the polls, voters should know to whom the candidates we choose will be beholden.

 

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 14, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Merck, Wells Fargo Departures Push ALEC Exodus to 40

 

 

With this week’s announced departures of Merck and Wells Fargo, the exodus of major corporations from ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, has reached 40, Common Cause announced today.

 

“It’s becoming increasingly apparent to corporate leaders that ALEC is a bad idea whose time has passed,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “The citizen activists and shareholders who’ve joined to question corporate involvement in this organization have performed a valuable service for the companies involved, and for the nation.”

 

Common Cause has been in the forefront of efforts to focus public attention on ALEC’s work, including its drafting of and support for laws that would privatize public schools and prisons, eviscerate clean air and water laws, and endanger voting rights and public safety.

 

“We expect corporate lobbyists to look out for corporate interests,” Edgar said, “but our elected officials are elected to pass laws that are in the public interest. ALEC has given its member companies a secret way to work their will in our state capitols and helped its legislative leaders advance a narrow, partisan agenda. It’s encouraging to see that more and more companies are recognizing that this is not the way a good corporate citizen does business.”

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 13, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Sen. Paul's Tantrum Makes the Case for Filibuster Reform

 

 

By filibustering and promising to shut down the U.S. Senate until he gets action on a bill to end U.S. aid to Pakistan, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is showing his colleagues and the rest of the country just how ridiculously dysfunctional the Senate has become, Common Cause said today.

 

“Sen. Paul is making the case for filibuster reform in the most powerful way I can imagine,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “It’s really unthinkable that a single senator can shut down indefinitely an entire branch of government and not even have to open his mouth on the floor.

 

“The Senate is supposed to be a great deliberative body. This isn’t deliberation, it’s obstruction,” Edgar said.

 

The Hill newspaper reported today that Paul has informed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that he will object to – and thus block -- any Senate action on other legislation until he gets a vote on his proposal to end aid to Pakistan. The Senate’s filibuster rule allows him to make that threat real without even participating in floor debate, Edgar noted.

 

“At the very least, Sen. Paul or any other senator who presumes to hold his colleagues and the country hostage should be required to come to the floor and explain himself, and keep explaining – without breaks or interruptions -- until he persuades the majority he’s right or he runs out of things to say,” Edgar said.

 

Common Cause has filed suit against the Senate over the filibuster rule, alleging that it violates the Constitutional principle of majority rule. Oral arguments in the case are expected later this fall in U.S. District Court in Washington.

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 12, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Boehner, Pelosi Must Keep Ethics Office Strong

 

 

With hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into this fall’s elections, much of it from secret donors, it’s critical that Congressional leaders move now to preserve and strengthen the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), Congress’ independent ethics watchdog, Common Cause said today.

 

The OCE will soon have at least four vacancies. “Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) must back up their commitments to strong ethics enforcement by filling those slots now, so that the office is ready to do its work when the new Congress convenes in January,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar.

 

The unchecked flow of money into the current campaign means that members of the next Congress will be beholden as never before to energy companies, banks, insurers, the health care industry, defense contractors and an endless array of other special interests, Edgar said. “The independent and aggressive but fair ethics oversight the OCE has provided since its founding in 2007 will be more important than ever,” Edgar said.

 

Common Cause was a major force in the creation of the OCE, which is composed of non-lawmakers and collects and reviews allegations of ethical violations by House members. The office refers cases which it believes warrant further investigation to the House Ethics Committee – composed of House members -- and releases a public summary of its findings.

 

In the current Congress, the OCE has reviewed or is reviewing 32 complaints and has forwarded 10 on to the Ethics Committee for action.


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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 11, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Congressional GOP Looking to Cozy with ALEC Must Explain Their Actions to Voters

 

 

Congressional Republicans contemplating a partnership with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) should explain to voters why they would want to join forces with a lobbying organization that operates in secret on behalf of a profit-driven agenda and misleads the public and the IRS about its activities, Common Cause said today.

 

“With the Internal Revenue Service reviewing ALEC’s long history of tax fraud, and with major corporations like General Electric, General Motors and Coca-Cola heading for the exits, it’s mind-boggling to see the Republican Study Committee (RSC) and its 169 members looking to establish even informal ties to ALEC,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar.

 

Roll Call reported Tuesday that members of the RSC, which includes House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, plan to meet Friday with state legislators who are members of ALEC. The session at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, is said to be designed to forge a partnership between Congressional Republicans and ALEC to advance a small-government, pro-business legislative agenda in Washington and in state capitals.

 

“At the state level, ALEC’s member companies entertain lawmakers behind closed doors, write legislation for them and guide it into law. Their bills have undercut voting rights, led to privatized public schools and prisons, eviscerated environmental regulations and encouraged vigilantism. How does one justify partnering with such an outfit?’ Edgar asked.

 

More than 4,000 pages of ALEC emails, “issue alerts,” legislative tracking documents and other materials Common Cause has provided to the IRS establish that “ALEC is a corporate lobby disguised as a charity,” Edgar said. “ALEC has repeatedly lied under oath to the IRS about its lobbying and claims a tax exemption for the millions of dollars it spends.”

 

More than three dozen major companies have left ALEC in recent months, under pressure from Common Cause activists and others concerned about ALEC’s activities.

 

“We know that ALEC keeps in touch with members of Congress who as state legislators were ALEC members,” Edgar said. “But this budding new partnership with the RSC indicates that ALEC’s corporate overseers are intent on expanding their already-outsized influence at every level of government.”

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

July 25, 2012

 

Anna Pycior, apycior@demos.org, (212) 389-1408

Mary Boyle, Common Cause, mboyle@commoncause.org, (202) 736-5770

 





 

Strong Enforcement Of Voter Protections Needed In Missouri To Stop “Bullies At The Ballot Box”

  

 

New study grades Missouri’s ability to counter partisan poll watchers and wrongful voter challenges

 

 

READ “BULLIES AT THE BALLOT BOX” HERE

 

As the elections approach,strong enforcement of voter protections is needed to prevent attempts to block Missouri voters from casting their ballot, according to a report released today by voting rights groups Demos and Common Cause.The study, “Bullies at the Ballot Box: Protecting the Freedom to Vote from Wrongful Challenges and Intimidation” focuses on voter protection laws in Missouri and nine other stateswhere elections are expected to be close, or where large challenger operations are expected or have taken place during recent elections.

 

The study concludes that there is plenty of work yet to be done in Missouri to protect voters from voter intimidation and attempts to kick registered voters off the rolls.

 

           “True the Vote” and other Tea Party-affiliated groups are reportedly recruiting 1 million volunteers to object to the qualifications of voters in targeted communities on and before Election Day, according to the study. These volunteers are being rallied to block, in their own words, the “illegal alien vote” and “the food stamp army.” Their stated goal is to make the experience of voting “like driving and seeing the police behind you.”

 

“Voting must be free, fair and accessible to all, and voters should know their rights,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “It is important to maintain the integrity of our election system, but candidates, parties and political activists should be focused on persuading and turning out voters, not bullying them or trying to manipulate the law to freeze them out of our democracy.”

 

“We call on elections officials and law enforcement to stand ready to enforce the law and aggressively protect every eligible American’s right to vote this November,” said Liz Kennedy, report co-author and Counsel at Demos. “Wrongful challenges and intimidating tactics should never stand between Americans and their right to have their voices heard on the issues that affect their lives. There should be zero tolerance for bullying at the ballot box.”

 

Missouri offers unsatisfactory protections for voters from wrongful challenges to their right to vote before Election Day, and mixed protections for challenges on Election Day and for protecting voters from intimidation by partisan poll watchers on Election Day inside and outside the polls:

 

·        Missouri needs to strengthen its protections for voters from wrongful challenges before Election Day.

·        Missouri should require challenges on Election Day to be in writing and under oath, and should make frivolously challenging a voter’s

            eligibility a misdemeanor. Missouri allows voters who have been challenged to vote a provisional ballot upon signing an affirmation of

            their eligibility. 

·        Poll watchers in Missouri who interfere with the orderly process of voting can be ejected. But Missouri should adopt stronger

            protections for voters from poll watcher intimidation, such as prohibiting photography and video or direct communication with

            voters.

·        Missouri’s anti-intimidation laws prohibit impeding the vote, and prohibit creating a breach of the peace or interfering with a voter

            inside the polls.

 

The ten states reviewed in “Bullies at the Ballot Box” are Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. In addition to assessing the current state laws, the report provides recommendations to protect citizens from large-scale, well-organized efforts to intimidate or block them from voting.

 

“It is important that all participants understand the rules and respect the right of all eligible Americans to vote free of intimidation or obstruction. We want to minimize the risk of positive civic engagement moving into disrupting the orderly conduct of elections,” said Liz Kennedy. “Unwarranted challenges to voters’ eligibility can lead to problems at the polls for everyone seeking to cast a ballot by depleting resources, distracting officials, and leading to longer lines. They threaten the fair administration of elections and the fundamental freedom to vote.”

 

“Voting is one of our most fundamental rights,” said Common Cause’s Edgar. “No eligible voter should be blocked from casting a ballot, and the entire voting rights community is mobilized to protect voters’ rights.”

 

Common Cause and Demos are part of the Election Protection coalition, the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection coalition. Common Cause and coalition allies are recruiting and organizing non partisan Election Day monitors to help voters understand the voting rules in their state and report any and all efforts to discourage or intimidate voters.  Through the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline and a comprehensive field deployment, Election Protection helps voters overcome obstacles to the ballot box while collecting data for meaningful reform.  Over 100 organizations have joined forces to monitor polling places across the country and provide aid, including legal assistance, to voters who encounter obstacles to voting.

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 10, 2012

Anna Pycior, apycior@demos.org, (212) 389-1408
Mary Boyle, mboyle@commoncause.org, (202) 736-5716

 





Strong Enforcement Of Voter Protections Needed In Colorado To Stop “Bullies At The Ballot Box”

New study grades Colorado's ability to counter partisan poll watchers and wrongful voter challenges

 

 

READ “BULLIES AT THE BALLOT BOX” HERE.

 

As the elections approach, strong enforcement of voter protections is needed to prevent attempts to block Colorado voters from casting their ballot, according to a report released today by voting rights groups Demos and Common Cause. The study, “Bullies at the Ballot Box: Protecting the Freedom to Vote from Wrongful Challenges and Intimidation” focuses on voter protection laws in Colorado and nine other states where elections are expected to be close, or where large challenger operations are expected or have taken place during recent elections.

The study concludes that Colorado generally has satisfactory voter protections on the books, but these laws must be enforced to protect Americans from voter intimidation and improper attempts to kick registered voters off the rolls.

Just last month, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, in a brief speech to Colorado’s delegation to the Republican National Convention, encouraged people to work with True the Vote, a poll-watching organization that grew out of a Texas tea party group.

True the Vote and other Tea Party-affiliated groups are reportedly recruiting 1 million volunteers to object to the qualifications of voters in targeted communities on and before Election Day, according to the study. These volunteers are being rallied to block, in their own words, the “illegal alien vote” and “the food stamp army.” Their stated goal is to make the experience of voting “like driving and seeing the police behind you.”


“Voting must be free, fair and accessible to all, and voters should know their rights,” said Common Cause Colorado Executive Director Elena Nunez. “It is important to maintain the integrity of our election system, and that means candidates, parties and political activists should be focused on persuading and turning out voters, not bullying them or trying to manipulate the law to freeze them out of our democracy.”


“We call on elections officials and law enforcement at the state and federal level to stand ready to enforce the law and aggressively protect every eligible American’s right to vote this November,” said Liz Kennedy, report co-author and Counsel at Demos. “Wrongful challenges and intimidating tactics should never stand between Americans and their right to have their voices heard on the issues that affect their lives. There should be zero tolerance for bullying at the ballot box.”

Colorado receives high marks for its laws that should protect voters from wrongful challenges to their right to vote before Election Day, though it is mixed for protections from wrongful challenges on Election Day. Nevada has very good protections for voters from intimidation by partisan poll watchers on Election Day inside and outside the polls:

· For challenges to a voter’s eligibility made before Election Day, Colorado requires voter challenges to be made 60 days before Election Day, to be in writing, under oath, and accompanied by documentary evidence. Hearings are held at which the challenger has the burden of proving a registered voter is ineligible and should be removed from the voting rolls.

· Voters challenged on Election Day are entitled to vote a regular ballot after signing an affidavit attesting to the voter’s eligibility to vote. Election Day challenges must be in writing under oath, and must contain the specific factual basis for the challenge.

· Poll watchers in Colorado are prohibited from recording voters or interfering with the election process; if they do, election officials can have them removed.

· Colorado’s anti-intimidation laws prohibit any person from directly or indirectly impeding, preventing, or otherwise interfering with the free exercise of the vote.

 

The ten states reviewed in “Bullies at the Ballot Box” are Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. In addition to assessing the current state laws, the report provides recommendations to protect citizens from these large-scale, well-organized efforts to intimidate or block them from voting.

“It is important that all participants understand the rules and respect the right of all eligible Americans to vote free of intimidation or obstruction. We want to minimize the risk of positive civic engagement moving into disrupting the orderly conduct of elections,” said Liz Kennedy. “Unwarranted challenges to voters’ eligibility can lead to problems at the polls for everyone seeking to cast a ballot by depleting resources, distracting officials, and leading to longer lines. They threaten the fair administration of elections and the fundamental freedom to vote.”

“Voting is one of our most fundamental rights,” said Common Cause’s Nunez. “No eligible voter should be blocked from casting a ballot, and the entire voting rights community is mobilized to protect voters’ rights.”

 

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Common Cause and Demos are part of the Election Protection coalition, the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection coalition. Common Cause and coalition allies are recruiting and organizing non partisan Election Day monitors to help voters understand the voting rules in their state and report any and all efforts to discourage or intimidate voters. Through the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline and a comprehensive field deployment, Election Protection helps voters overcome obstacles to the ballot box while collecting data for meaningful reform. Over 100 organizations have joined forces to monitor polling places across the country and provide aid, including legal assistance, to voters who encounter obstacles to voting.

 

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 10, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770
Anna Pycior, (212) 389-1408

 





Strong Enforcement of Voter Protections Needed in Florida to Stop "Bullies at the Ballot Box"

 

New study grades Florida's ability to counter partisan poll watchers and wrongful voter challenges

 

 

 

READ "BULLIES AT THE BALLOT BOX" HERE.

 

As the elections approach, strong enforcement of voter protections is needed to prevent attempts to block Florida voters from casting their ballot, according to a report released today by voting rights groups Demos and Common Cause.

 

The study, “Bullies at the Ballot Box: Protecting the Freedom to Vote from Wrongful Challenges and Intimidation” focuses on voter protection laws in Florida and nine other states where elections are expected to be close, or where large challenger operations are expected or have taken place during recent elections.

The study concludes that Florida generally has unsatisfactory laws on the books, and that there is plenty of work yet to be done to protect voters from voter intimidation and attempts to kick registered voters off the rolls.

True the Vote and other Tea Party-affiliated groups are reportedly recruiting 1 million volunteers to object to the qualifications of voters in targeted communities on and before Election Day, according to the study. These volunteers are being rallied to block, in their own words, the “illegal alien vote” and “the food stamp army.” Their stated goal is to make the experience of voting “like driving and seeing the police behind you.”

“Voting must be free, fair and accessible to all, and voters should know their rights,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “It is important to maintain the integrity of our election system, and that means that candidates, parties and political activists should be focused on persuading and turning out voters, not bullying them or trying to manipulate the law to freeze them out of our democracy.”

“We call on elections officials and law enforcement at the state and federal level to stand ready to enforce the law and aggressively protect every eligible American’s right to vote this November,” said Liz Kennedy, report co-author and Counsel at Demos. “Wrongful challenges and intimidating tactics should never stand between Americans and their right to have their voices heard on the issues that affect their lives. There should be zero tolerance for bullying at the ballot box.”

Florida has unsatisfactory protections for voters from wrongful challenges to their right to vote before and on Election Day. It receives a mixed assessment on its laws protecting voters from intimidation by partisan poll watchers on Election Day inside and outside the polls:


   · In Florida, it is helpful that challenges both before and on Election Day must be in writing and under oath, and that making frivolous challenges to a voter’s eligibility is a misdemeanor. However, Florida should allow voters who have been challenged to vote a regular ballot upon signing an affirmation of their eligibility, and it is problematic that these voters are relegated to provisional ballots. 
   · Challenges before Election Day, however, can only be filed in the very last 30 days before an election, which could burden election officials with administrative headaches at an already busy time before voters go to the polls.
   · It is helpful that poll watchers in Florida are prohibited from photographing voters and must be approved before Election Day. Only one watcher from each party is allowed.
   · Florida’s anti-intimidation laws prohibit threatening or using intimidation or coercion to interfere with the vote. People are also prohibited from soliciting for “facts” or “opinions” within 100 feet of the polling place. Florida’s existing protections must be enforced to protect Americans from voter intimidation and improper attempts to kick registered voters off the rolls.

The ten states reviewed in “Bullies at the Ballot Box” are Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. In addition to assessing the current state laws, the report provides recommendations to protect citizens from large-scale, well-organized efforts to intimidate or block them from voting.

“It is important that all participants understand the rules and respect the right of all eligible Americans to vote free of intimidation or obstruction. We want to minimize the risk of positive civic engagement moving into disrupting the orderly conduct of elections,” said Liz Kennedy. “Unwarranted challenges to voters’ eligibility can lead to problems at the polls for everyone seeking to cast a ballot by depleting resources, distracting officials, and leading to longer lines. They threaten the fair administration of elections and the fundamental freedom to vote.”

“Voting is one of our most fundamental rights,” said Common Cause’s Edgar. “No eligible voter should be blocked from casting a ballot, and the entire voting rights community is mobilized to protect voters’ rights.”

Common Cause and Demos are part of the Election Protection coalition, the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection coalition. Common Cause and coalition allies are recruiting and organizing non partisan Election Day monitors to help voters understand the voting rules in their state and report any and all efforts to discourage or intimidate voters. Through the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline and a comprehensive field deployment, Election Protection helps voters overcome obstacles to the ballot box while collecting data for meaningful reform. Over 100 organizations have joined forces to monitor polling places across the country and provide aid, including legal assistance, to voters who encounter obstacles to voting.

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 10, 2012

Anna Pycior, apycior@demos.org, (212) 389-1408
Mary Boyle, mboyle@commoncause.org, (202) 736-5716

 




Strong Enforcement Of Voter Protections Needed In Nevada To Stop “Bullies At The Ballot Box”

New study grades Nevada’s ability to counter partisan poll watchers and wrongful voter challenges

 

 

READ “BULLIES AT THE BALLOT BOX” HERE.

 

As the elections approach, strong enforcement of voter protections is needed to prevent attempts to block Nevada voters from casting their ballot, according to a report released today by voting rights groups Demos and Common Cause. The study, “Bullies at the Ballot Box: Protecting the Freedom to Vote from Wrongful Challenges and Intimidation” focuses on voter protection laws in Nevada and nine other states where elections are expected to be close, or where large challenger operations are expected or have taken place during recent elections. 

The study concludes that Nevada generally has satisfactory laws on the books when it comes to voter protection, but that there is plenty of work yet to be done to protect voters from voter intimidation and attempts to kick registered voters off the rolls.

True the Vote and other Tea Party-affiliated groups are reportedly recruiting 1 million volunteers to object to the qualifications of voters in targeted communities on and before Election Day, according to the study. These volunteers are being rallied to block, in their own words, the “illegal alien vote” and “the food stamp army.” Their stated goal is to make the experience of voting “like driving and seeing the police behind you.”

“Voting must be free, fair and accessible to all, and voters should know their rights,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “It is important to maintain the integrity of our election system, and that means that candidates, parties and political activists should be focused on persuading and turning out voters, not bullying them or trying to manipulate the law to freeze them out of our democracy.”

Nevada receives high marks for its laws that should protect voters from wrongful challenges to their right to vote before Election Day, though it is mixed for protections from wrongful challenges on Election Day. Nevada has very good protections for voters from intimidation by partisan poll watchers on Election Day inside and outside the polls:

· For challenges to a voter’s eligibility made before Election Day, Nevada requires voter challenges to be in writing and based on personal knowledge. Notice to the challenged voter is required, and challenges can be resolved by affirming eligibility at the polls. These provisions are helpful in protecting voting rights.
· For challenges to a voter’s eligibility on Election Day, challenges must be in writing and based on personal knowledge. However, the procedures for resolving a challenge are complicated, and Nevada should clarify that the challenger bears the burden of proof in showing a voter is not eligible to vote.
· Observers in Nevada are prohibited from photographing, recording, or talking to voters. It is prohibited to interfere with the conduct of voting, and there is authority to remove observers who do.
In Nevada it is a felony to interfere with the conduct of an election.

The ten states reviewed in “Bullies at the Ballot Box” are Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. In addition to assessing the current state laws, the report provides recommendations to protect citizens from these large-scale, well-organized efforts to intimidate or block them from voting.

“It is important that all participants understand the rules and respect the right of all eligible Americans to vote free of intimidation or obstruction. We want to minimize the risk of positive civic engagement moving into disrupting the orderly conduct of elections,” said Liz Kennedy. “Unwarranted challenges to voters’ eligibility can lead to problems at the polls for everyone seeking to cast a ballot by depleting resources, distracting officials, and leading to longer lines. They threaten the fair administration of elections and the fundamental freedom to vote.”

“Voting is one of our most fundamental rights,” said Common Cause’s Edgar. “No eligible voter should be blocked from casting a ballot, and the entire voting rights community is mobilized to protect voters’ rights.”

 

###

Common Cause and Demos are part of the Election Protection coalition, the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection coalition. Common Cause and coalition allies are recruiting and organizing non partisan Election Day monitors to help voters understand the voting rules in their state and report any and all efforts to discourage or intimidate voters. Through the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline and a comprehensive field deployment, Election Protection helps voters overcome obstacles to the ballot box while collecting data for meaningful reform. Over 100 organizations have joined forces to monitor polling places across the country and provide aid, including legal assistance, to voters who encounter obstacles to voting.

 

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 10, 2012

Anna Pycior, apycior@demos.org, (212) 389-1408
Mary Boyle, mboyle@commoncause.org, (202) 736-5716

 





Strong Enforcement Of Voter Protections Needed In New Hampshire To Stop “Bullies At The Ballot Box”

New study grades New Hampshire's ability to counter partisan poll watchers and wrongful voter challenges

  

READ “BULLIES AT THE BALLOT BOX” HERE.

 

As the elections approach, strong enforcement of voter protections is needed to prevent attempts to block New Hampshire voters from casting their ballot, according to a report released today by voting rights groups Demos and Common Cause. The study, “Bullies at the Ballot Box: Protecting the Freedom to Vote from Wrongful Challenges and Intimidation” focuses on voter protection laws in New Hampshire and nine other states where elections are expected to be close, or where large challenger operations are expected or have taken place during recent elections.

The study concludes that New Hampshire generally has mixed laws on the books when it comes to voter protection, and there is plenty of work yet to be done to protect voters from voter intimidation and attempts to kick eligible voters off the rolls.

 

True the Vote and other Tea Party-affiliated groups are reportedly recruiting 1 million volunteers to object to the qualifications of voters in targeted communities on and before Election Day, according to the study. These volunteers are being rallied to block, in their own words, the “illegal alien vote” and “the food stamp army.” Their stated goal is to make the experience of voting “like driving and seeing the police behind you.”

“Voting must be free, fair and accessible to all, and voters should know their rights,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “It is important to maintain the integrity of our election system, but candidates, parties and political activists should be focused on persuading and turning out voters, not bullying them or trying to manipulate the law to freeze them out of our democracy.”

“We call on elections officials and law enforcement at the state and federal level to stand ready to enforce the law and aggressively protect every eligible American’s right to vote this November,” said Liz Kennedy, report co-author and Counsel at Demos. “Wrongful challenges and intimidating tactics should never stand between Americans and their right to have their voices heard on the issues that affect their lives. There should be zero tolerance for bullying at the ballot box.”

New Hampshire has some unsatisfactory protections for voters from wrongful challenges to their right to vote before Election Day, but excellent protections protecting voters from challenges on Election Day. It has mixed protections from intimidation by partisan poll watchers on Election Day inside and outside the polls:

· For challenges to a voter’s eligibility made before Election Day, New Hampshire requires challenged voters to bear the burden of proving why they should be on the rolls. The study finds that it is unacceptable that a failure to respond to a filed challenge may result in automatic cancellation of a voter’s registration.
· Election Day challenges however, must be in writing under oath, and voters challenged on Election Day are entitled to vote a regular ballot after signing an affidavit attesting to the voter’s eligibility to vote, which is excellent.
New Hampshire prohibits interfering with voters within the guardrail, and doing so is a misdemeanor. New Hampshire prohibits any tactic of intimidation to compel a voter not to vote. New Hampshire should more clearly prohibit photography and video recording of voters.

The ten states reviewed in “Bullies at the Ballot Box” are Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. In addition to assessing the current state laws, the report provides recommendations to protect citizens from these large-scale, well-organized efforts to intimidate or block them from voting.

“It is important that all participants understand the rules and respect the right of all eligible Americans to vote free of intimidation or obstruction. We want to minimize the risk of positive civic engagement moving into disrupting the orderly conduct of elections,” said Liz Kennedy. “Unwarranted challenges to voters’ eligibility can lead to problems at the polls for everyone seeking to cast a ballot by depleting resources, distracting officials, and leading to longer lines. They threaten the fair administration of elections and the fundamental freedom to vote.”

“Voting is one of our most fundamental rights,” said Common Causes’ Edgar. “No eligible voter should be blocked from casting a ballot, and the entire voting rights community is mobilized to protect voters’ rights.”

 

###

Common Cause and Demos are part of the Election Protection coalition, the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection coalition. Common Cause and coalition allies are recruiting and organizing non partisan Election Day monitors to help voters understand the voting rules in their state and report any and all efforts to discourage or intimidate voters. Through the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline and a comprehensive field deployment, Election Protection helps voters overcome obstacles to the ballot box while collecting data for meaningful reform. Over 100 organizations have joined forces to monitor polling places across the country and provide aid, including legal assistance, to voters who encounter obstacles to voting.

 

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 10, 2012

Anna Pycior, apycior@demos.org, (212) 389-1408
Mary Boyle, mboyle@commoncause.org, (202) 736-5716

 





Strong Enforcement Of Voter Protections Needed In North Carolina To Stop “Bullies At The Ballot Box”

New study grades North Carolina’s ability to counter partisan poll watchers and wrongful voter challenges

 

 

READ “BULLIES AT THE BALLOT BOX” HERE.

 

As the elections approach,strong enforcement of voter protections is needed to prevent attempts to block North Carolina voters from casting their ballot, according to a report released today by voting rights groups Demos and Common Cause.The study, “Bullies at the Ballot Box: Protecting the Freedom to Vote from Wrongful Challenges and Intimidation” focuses on voter protection laws in North Carolina and nine other stateswhere elections are expected to be close, or where large challenger operations are expected or have taken place during recent elections.

 

The study concludes that North Carolina generally has satisfactory voter protections on the books, but these laws must be enforced to protect Americans from voter intimidation and improper attempts to kick registered voters off the rolls.

 

True the Vote and other Tea Party-affiliated groups are reportedly recruiting 1 million volunteers to object to the qualifications of voters in targeted communities on and before Election Day, according to the study. These volunteers are being rallied to block, in their own words, the “illegal alien vote” and “the food stamp army.” Their stated goal is to make the experience of voting “like driving and seeing the police behind you.”

 

“Voting must be free, fair and accessible to all, and voters should know their rights,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “It is important to maintain the integrity of our election system, and that means that candidates, parties and political activists should be focused on persuading and turning out voters, not bullying them or trying to manipulate the law to freeze them out of our democracy.”

 

“We call on elections officials and law enforcement at the state and federal level to stand ready to enforce the law and aggressively protect every eligible American’s right to vote this November,” said Liz Kennedy, report co-author and Counsel at Demos. “Wrongful challenges and intimidating tactics should never stand between Americans and their right to have their voices heard on the issues that affect their lives. There should be zero tolerance for bullying at the ballot box.”

 

North Carolina has some mixed protections for voters from wrongful challenges to their right to vote before Election Day, but better protections from challenges on Election Day. It has very good protections from intimidation by partisan poll watchers on Election Day inside and outside the polls:


· For challenges to a voter’s eligibility made before Election Day, North Carolina has very good procedures for the most part, requiring challenges in writing, under oath, giving specific reasons for challenge. The period for pre-Election Challenges is limited, hearings are required, and the challenger bears the burden of proving the voter is ineligible. One important weakness, however, is that returned mail is considered prima facie support for a challenge based on residency.

· North Carolina has excellent procedures for Election Day challenges. They must be in writing, under oath, based on personal knowledge, and supported by affirmative proof. The presumption is that the voter is properly registered, and returned mail cannot be used to support a challenge.

· North Carolina prohibits poll watchers from communicating with or videotaping voters, or from interfering with voting. If they do they may be ejected.

· North Carolina prohibits harassing voters within a buffer zone of no less than 25 feet, requires enforcement of peace and good order in and about the polls including access points, and judges are charged with stopping improper practices and attempts to obstruct intimidate or interfere with any person voting.

 

The ten states reviewed in “Bullies at the Ballot Box” are Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. In addition to assessing the current state laws, the report provides recommendations to protect citizens from large-scale, well-organized efforts to intimidate or block them from voting.

 

“It is important that all participants understand the rules and respect the right of all eligible Americans to vote free of intimidation or obstruction. We want to minimize the risk of positive civic engagement moving into disrupting the orderly conduct of elections,” said Liz Kennedy. “Unwarranted challenges to voters’ eligibility can lead to problems at the polls for everyone seeking to cast a ballot by depleting resources, distracting officials, and leading to longer lines. They threaten the fair administration of elections and the fundamental freedom to vote.”

 

“Voting is one of our most fundamental rights,” said Common Cause’s Edgar. “No eligible voter should be blocked from casting a ballot, and the entire voting rights community is mobilized to protect voters’ rights.”

 

###

Common Cause and Demos are part of the Election Protection coalition, the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection coalition. Common Cause and coalition allies are recruiting and organizing non partisan Election Day monitors to help voters understand the voting rules in their state and report any and all efforts to discourage or intimidate voters. Through the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline and a comprehensive field deployment, Election Protection helps voters overcome obstacles to the ballot box while collecting data for meaningful reform. Over 100 organizations have joined forces to monitor polling places across the country and provide aid, including legal assistance, to voters who encounter obstacles to voting.

 

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 10, 2012

Anna Pycior, apycior@demos.org, (212) 389-1408
Mary Boyle, mboyle@commoncause.org, (202) 736-5716

 





Strong Enforcement Of Voter Protections Needed In Ohio To Stop “Bullies At The Ballot Box”

New study grades Ohio's ability to counter partisan poll watchers and wrongful voter challenges

  

READ “BULLIES AT THE BALLOT BOX” HERE.

 

As the elections approach, strong enforcement of voter protections is needed to prevent attempts to block Ohio voters from casting their ballot, according to a report released today by voting rights groups Demos and Common Cause. The study, “Bullies at the Ballot Box: Protecting the Freedom to Vote from Wrongful Challenges and Intimidation” focuses on voter protection laws in Ohio and nine other states where elections are expected to be close, or where large challenger operations are expected or have taken place during recent elections.

The study concludes that Ohio generally has satisfactory laws on the books that need to be strongly enforced to protect voters. “Bullies at the Ballot Box” explains that there is plenty of work yet to be done to protect voters from voter intimidation and attempts to kick eligible voters off the rolls.

True the Vote and other Tea Party-affiliated groups are reportedly recruiting 1 million volunteers to object to the qualifications of voters in targeted communities on and before Election Day, according to the study. These volunteers are being rallied to block, in their own words, the “illegal alien vote” and “the food stamp army.” Their stated goal is to make the experience of voting “like driving and seeing the police behind you.”

“Voting must be free, fair and accessible to all, and voters should know their rights,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “It is important to maintain the integrity of our election system, but candidates, parties and political activists should be focused on persuading and turning out voters, not bullying them or trying to manipulate the law to freeze them out of our democracy.”

“We call on elections officials and law enforcement at the state and federal level to stand ready to enforce the law and aggressively protect every eligible American’s right to vote this November,” said Liz Kennedy, report co-author and Counsel at Demos. “Wrongful challenges and intimidating tactics should never stand between Americans and their right to have their voices heard on the issues that affect their lives. There should be zero tolerance for bullying at the ballot box.”

It is excellent that Ohio does not allow voters to be challenged on Election Day except by election judges. Ohio has satisfactory protections for voters from wrongful challenges to their right to vote before Election Day, and from intimidation by partisan poll watchers on Election Day inside and outside the polls:

· For challenges to a voter’s eligibility made before Election Day, Ohio requires challenges to be signed under penalty of election falsification. Hearings are required before cancellation, and returned mail and evidence of foreclosure proceedings are not prima facie evidence.
· Ohio has excellent protections for voters against wrongful Election Day challenges because they are only allowed to be made by election judges.
· Ohio prohibits observers from disrupting or interfering with the election, or violating voter privacy.
· Ohio prohibits intimidation or coercion to induce someone to refrain from voting. It also prohibits loitering or congregating within 100 feet of the polling place, or hindering a voter from reaching the polls, or interfering with the conduct of the election.

The ten states reviewed in “Bullies at the Ballot Box” are Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. In addition to assessing the current state laws, the report provides recommendations to protect citizens from these large-scale, well-organized efforts to intimidate or block them from voting.

“It is important that all participants understand the rules and respect the right of all eligible Americans to vote free of intimidation or obstruction. We want to minimize the risk of positive civic engagement moving into disrupting the orderly conduct of elections,” said Liz Kennedy. “Unwarranted challenges to voters’ eligibility can lead to problems at the polls for everyone seeking to cast a ballot by depleting resources, distracting officials, and leading to longer lines. They threaten the fair administration of elections and the fundamental freedom to vote.”

“Voting is one of our most fundamental rights,” said Common Causes’ Edgar. “No eligible voter should be blocked from casting a ballot, and the entire voting rights community is mobilized to protect voters’ rights.”

 

###

Common Cause and Demos are part of the Election Protection coalition, the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection coalition. Common Cause and coalition allies are recruiting and organizing non partisan Election Day monitors to help voters understand the voting rules in their state and report any and all efforts to discourage or intimidate voters. Through the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline and a comprehensive field deployment, Election Protection helps voters overcome obstacles to the ballot box while collecting data for meaningful reform. Over 100 organizations have joined forces to monitor polling places across the country and provide aid, including legal assistance, to voters who encounter obstacles to voting.

 

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 10, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Strong Enforcement of Voter Protections Needed in Pennsylvania to Stop Bullies at the Ballot Box

 

New study grades Pennsylvania's ability to counter partisan poll watchers and wrongful voter challenges

 

 

READ “BULLIES AT THE BALLOT BOX” HERE.

 

As the elections approach,strong enforcement of voter protections is needed to prevent attempts to block Pennsylvania voters from casting their ballot, according to a report released today by voting rights groups Demos and Common Cause. The study, “Bullies at the Ballot Box: Protecting the Freedom to Vote from Wrongful Challenges and Intimidation” focuses on voter protection laws in Pennsylvania and nine other stateswhere elections are expected to be close, or where large challenger operations are expected or have taken place during recent elections.

 

The study concludes that Pennsylvania generally has unsatisfactory laws on the books, and that there is plenty of work yet to be done to protect voters from voter intimidation and attempts to kick registered voters off the rolls.

 

True the Vote and other Tea Party-affiliated groups are reportedly recruiting 1 million volunteers to object to the qualifications of voters in targeted communities on and before Election Day, according to the study. These volunteers are being rallied to block, in their own words, the “illegal alien vote” and “the food stamp army.” Their stated goal is to make the experience of voting “like driving and seeing the police behind you.”

 

“Voting must be free, fair and accessible to all, and voters should know their rights,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “It is important to maintain the integrity of our election system, but candidates, parties and political activists should be focused on persuading and turning out voters, not bullying them or trying to manipulate the law to freeze them out of our democracy.”

 

“We call on elections officials and law enforcement at the state and federal level to stand ready to enforce the law and aggressively protect every eligible American’s right to vote this November,” said Liz Kennedy, report co-author and Counsel at Demos. “Wrongful challenges and intimidating tactics should never stand between Americans and their right to have their voices heard on the issues that affect their lives. There should be zero tolerance for bullying at the ballot box.”

 

Pennsylvania offers unsatisfactory protections for voters from wrongful challenges to their right to vote before and on Election Day, and for protecting voters from intimidation by partisan poll watchers on Election Day inside and outside the polls. Pennsylvania therefore should be a target of monitoring by the U.S. Department of Justice and pro-voter organizations to ensure that federal protections against voter intimidation are enforced:

·        Pennsylvania needs to strengthen its protections for voters from wrongful challenges before Election Day. It is unacceptable for a voter’s registration to be automatically cancelled unless that voter appears at a hearing or provides extra documentary evidence without the challenger also being required to provide evidence.

·        Pennsylvania should require challenges on Election Day to be in writing and under oath, and should make frivolously challenging a voter’s eligibility a misdemeanor. 

·        Pennsylvania should improve its rules for poll watchers. Pennsylvania does prohibit any intimidation or coercion to compel a voter to refrain from voting, and this prohibition needs robust enforcement.

 

The 10 states reviewed in “Bullies at the Ballot Box” are Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. In addition to assessing the current state laws, the report provides recommendations to protect citizens from these large-scale, well-organized efforts to intimidate or block them from voting.

 

“It is important that all participants understand the rules and respect the right of all eligible Americans to vote free of intimidation or obstruction. We want to minimize the risk of positive civic engagement moving into disrupting the orderly conduct of elections,” said Liz Kennedy. “Unwarranted challenges to voters’ eligibility can lead to problems at the polls for everyone seeking to cast a ballot by depleting resources, distracting officials, and leading to longer lines. They threaten the fair administration of elections and the fundamental freedom to vote.”

 

“Voting is one of our most fundamental rights,” said Common Cause’s Edgar. “No eligible voter should be blocked from casting a ballot, and the entire voting rights community is mobilized to protect voters’ rights.”

 

Common Cause and Demos are part of the Election Protection coalition, the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection coalition. Common Cause and coalition allies are recruiting and organizing non partisan Election Day monitors to help voters understand the voting rules in their state and report any and all efforts to discourage or intimidate voters.  Through the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline and a comprehensive field deployment, Election Protection helps voters overcome obstacles to the ballot box while collecting data for meaningful reform.  Over 100 organizations have joined forces to monitor polling places across the country and provide aid, including legal assistance, to voters who encounter obstacles to voting.

###

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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 10, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

Anna Pycior, (212) 389-1408



 




Strong Enforcement of Voter Protections Needed in Texas to Stop Bullies at the Ballot Box

 

New study grades Texas's ability to counter partisan poll watchers and wrongful voter challenges

 

 

 

READ BULLIES AT THE BALLOT BOX HERE

 

As the elections approach, strong enforcement of voter protections is needed to prevent attempts to block Texas voters from casting their ballot, according to a report released today by voting rights groups Demos and Common Cause. The study, “Bullies at the Ballot Box: Protecting the Freedom to Vote from Wrongful Challenges and Intimidation” focuses on voter protection laws in Texas and nine other states where elections are expected to be close, or where large challenger operations are expected or have taken place during recent elections.

The study concludes that Texas generally has mixed laws on the books when it comes to voter protection, and that there is plenty of work yet to be done to protect voters from voter intimidation and attempts to kick registered voters off the rolls.

True the Vote and other Tea Party-affiliated groups are reportedly recruiting 1 million volunteers to object to the qualifications of voters in targeted communities on and before Election Day, according to the study. These volunteers are being rallied to block, in their own words, the “illegal alien vote” and “the food stamp army.” Their stated goal is to make the experience of voting “like driving and seeing the police behind you.”

“Voting must be free, fair and accessible to all, and voters should know their rights,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “It is important to maintain the integrity of our election system, but candidates, parties and political activists should be focused on persuading and turning out voters, not bullying them or trying to manipulate the law to freeze them out of our democracy.”

“We call on elections officials and law enforcement at the state and federal level to stand ready to enforce the law and aggressively protect every eligible American’s right to vote this November,” said Liz Kennedy, report co-author and Counsel at Demos. “Wrongful challenges and intimidating tactics should never stand between Americans and their right to have their voices heard on the issues that affect their lives. There should be zero tolerance for bullying at the ballot box.”

Texas is exemplary in banning voter challenges on Election Day. Texas offers mixed protections for voters from wrongful challenges to their right to vote before Election Day. The state has some excellent and some questionable legal protections for voters from intimidation by partisan poll watchers on Election Day inside and outside the polls:


   · For challenges to voter eligibility before Election Day, Texas requires a sworn statement based on personal knowledge.
   · Texas is exemplary because it bans challenges to a voter’s eligibility on Election Day. 
   · Texas prohibits poll watchers from communicating with voters, and a judge can limit disruptive activity. However, the provision that allows a poll watcher to examine the ballot of a voter who has received assistance is very problematic and violates voter privacy. 
   · Texas prohibits loitering within 100 feet of a polling place, and prohibits persons not engaged in election code activities to be in the polling place.

The ten states reviewed in “Bullies at the Ballot Box” are Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. In addition to assessing the current state laws, the report provides recommendations to protect citizens from these large-scale, well-organized efforts to intimidate or block them from voting.

“It is important that all participants understand the rules and respect the right of all eligible Americans to vote free of intimidation or obstruction. We want to minimize the risk of positive civic engagement moving into disrupting the orderly conduct of elections,” said Liz Kennedy. “Unwarranted challenges to voters’ eligibility can lead to problems at the polls for everyone seeking to cast a ballot by depleting resources, distracting officials, and leading to longer lines. They threaten the fair administration of elections and the fundamental freedom to vote.”

“Voting is one of our most fundamental rights,” said Common Cause’s Edgar. “No eligible voter should be blocked from casting a ballot, and the entire voting rights community is mobilized to protect voters’ rights.”

Common Cause and Demos are part of the Election Protection coalition, the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection coalition. Common Cause and coalition allies are recruiting and organizing non partisan Election Day monitors to help voters understand the voting rules in their state and report any and all efforts to discourage or intimidate voters. Through the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline and a comprehensive field deployment, Election Protection helps voters overcome obstacles to the ballot box while collecting data for meaningful reform. Over 100 organizations have joined forces to monitor polling places across the country and provide aid, including legal assistance, to voters who encounter obstacles to voting.
###

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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 10, 2012

Anna Pycior, apycior@demos.org, (212) 389-1408
Mary Boyle, mboyle@commoncause.org, (202) 736-5716

 





Strong Enforcement Of Voter Protections Needed In Virginia To Stop “Bullies At The Ballot Box”

New study grades Virginia's ability to counter partisan poll watchers and wrongful voter challenges

 

 

READ “BULLIES AT THE BALLOT BOX” HERE.

 

As the elections approach, strong enforcement of voter protections is needed to prevent attempts to block Virginia voters from casting their ballot, according to a report released today by voting rights groups Demos and Common Cause. The study, “Bullies at the Ballot Box: Protecting the Freedom to Vote from Wrongful Challenges and Intimidation” focuses on voter protection laws in Virginia and nine other states where elections are expected to be close, or where large challenger operations are expected or have taken place during recent elections.

The study concludes that Virginia generally has mixed laws on the books when it comes to voter protection, and that there is plenty of work yet to be done to protect voters from voter intimidation and attempts to kick registered voters off the rolls. 

True the Vote and other Tea Party-affiliated groups are reportedly recruiting 1 million volunteers to object to the qualifications of voters in targeted communities on and before Election Day, according to the study. These volunteers are being rallied to block, in their own words, the “illegal alien vote” and “the food stamp army.” Their stated goal is to make the experience of voting “like driving and seeing the police behind you.”

“Voting must be free, fair and accessible to all, and voters should know their rights,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “It is important to maintain the integrity of our election system, and that means that candidates, parties and political activists should be focused on persuading and turning out voters, not bullying them or trying to manipulate the law to freeze them out of our democracy.”

“We call on elections officials and law enforcement at the state and federal level to stand ready to enforce the law and aggressively protect every eligible American’s right to vote this November,” said Liz Kennedy, report co-author and Counsel at Demos. “Wrongful challenges and intimidating tactics should never stand between Americans and their right to have their voices heard on the issues that affect their lives. There should be zero tolerance for bullying at the ballot box.”

Virginia offers unsatisfactory protections for voters from wrongful challenges to their right to vote before Election Day, but better protections against wrongful challenges on Election Day and good protections for voters from intimidation by partisan poll watchers on Election Day inside and outside the polls:

· Virginia needs to strengthen its protections for voters from wrongful challenges before Election Day. It is unacceptable that a voter’s registration can be automatically cancelled unless that voter appears at a hearing.
· Virginia requires challenges on Election Day to be in writing subject to penalties. Importantly, a voter can cast a regular ballot upon signing an affidavit affirming the voter’s eligibility. However, the standard for bringing a challenge should be based on personal knowledge, not just that ineligibility is suspected.
· Virginia prohibits recording or interfering with voters, and there is statutory authority for removing anyone disturbing the orderly conduct of elections.
· Virginia makes it a crime to loiter or congregate within 40 feet of a poll entrance, or to hinder or delay a voter, or impede the orderly conduct of the election.

The ten states reviewed in “Bullies at the Ballot Box” are Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. In addition to assessing the current state laws, the report provides recommendations to protect citizens from large-scale, well-organized efforts to intimidate or block them from voting.

“It is important that all participants understand the rules and respect the right of all eligible Americans to vote free of intimidation or obstruction. We want to minimize the risk of positive civic engagement moving into disrupting the orderly conduct of elections,” said Liz Kennedy. “Unwarranted challenges to voters’ eligibility can lead to problems at the polls for everyone seeking to cast a ballot by depleting resources, distracting officials, and leading to longer lines. They threaten the fair administration of elections and the fundamental freedom to vote.”

“Voting is one of our most fundamental rights,” said Common Cause’s Edgar. “No eligible voter should be blocked from casting a ballot, and the entire voting rights community is mobilized to protect voters’ rights.”

 

###

Common Cause and Demos are part of the Election Protection coalition, the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection coalition. Common Cause and coalition allies are recruiting and organizing non partisan Election Day monitors to help voters understand the voting rules in their state and report any and all efforts to discourage or intimidate voters. Through the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline and a comprehensive field deployment, Election Protection helps voters overcome obstacles to the ballot box while collecting data for meaningful reform. Over 100 organizations have joined forces to monitor polling places across the country and provide aid, including legal assistance, to voters who encounter obstacles to voting.

 

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 10, 2012

Anna Pycior, apycior@demos.org, (212) 389-1408
Mary Boyle, mboyle@commoncause.org, (202) 736-5716

 





Strong Enforcement Of Voter Protections Needed To Stop “Bullies At The Ballot Box”

 

New study grades states’ ability to counter partisan poll watchers and wrongful voter challenges

 

 

 

 READ “BULLIES AT THE BALLOT BOX” HERE.


NEW YORK – As the elections approach, strong enforcement of voter protections is needed to prevent attempts to block voters from casting their ballot, according to a report released today by voting rights groups Demos and Common Cause. The study, “Bullies at the Ballot Box: Protecting the Freedom to Vote from Wrongful Challenges and Intimidation” focuses on voter protection laws in10 states where elections are expected to be close, or where large challenger operations are expected or have taken place during recent elections.

 

True the Vote and other Tea Party-affiliated groups are reportedly recruiting 1 million volunteers to object to the qualifications of voters in targeted communities on and before Election Day, according to the study. These volunteers are being rallied to block, in their own words, the “illegal alien vote” and “the food stamp army.” Their stated goal is to make the experience of voting “like driving and seeing the police behind you.”

“Ballot box bully” tactics include:
· Targeting registered voters in communities of color, student voters, and voters facing foreclosure to challenge their eligibility to vote and kick them off the voting rolls.
· “Hovering over” voters waiting to cast their ballots and otherwise intimidating voters at the polls.
· Encouraging states to engage in systematic purges of voter rolls, in violation of federal law.

“Voting must be free, fair and accessible to all, and voters should know their rights,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “It is important to maintain the integrity of our election system, and that means that candidates, parties and political activists should be focused on persuading and turning out voters, not bullying them or trying to manipulate the law to freeze them out of our democracy.”


The ten states reviewed in “Bullies at the Ballot Box” are Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. In addition to assessing the current state laws, the report provides recommendations to protect citizens from these large-scale, well-organized efforts to intimidate or block them from voting.

“We call on elections officials and law enforcement at the state and federal level to stand ready to enforce the law and aggressively protect every eligible American’s right to vote this November,” said Liz Kennedy, report co-author and Counsel at Demos. “Wrongful challenges and intimidating tactics should never stand between Americans and their right to have their voices heard on the issues that affect their lives. There should be zero tolerance for bullying at the ballot box.”

Findings


The report grades the level of protection that state law provides eligible voters in three major categories – challenges to voters’ right to vote before Election Day, on Election Day, and laws governing the conduct of poll watchers or other observers at the polls. While every state has room for improvement, the authors find that:

As for challenges to voters’ registration status and right to vote before Election Day:
· Colorado, Nevada, and Ohio laws are satisfactory;
· North Carolina and Texas laws are mixed as to the level of protection they afford voters but could be improved; and
· Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Virginia (half of the states examined) have unsatisfactory laws on the books.

As for challenges to a voter’s right to vote on Election Day:
· Texas (which does not allow any Election Day challenges), Ohio, Colorado, New Hampshire, and North Carolina laws are satisfactory.
· Missouri, Nevada, and Virginia laws are mixed in the level of protection they afford voters; and
· Florida and Pennsylvania have laws with unsatisfactory protections to guard against inappropriate Election Day challenges to voter eligibility.

As for state laws governing poll watchers or observer conduct at the polls:
· Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia laws are satisfactory;
· Florida, Missouri and New Hampshire are mixed in the level of protection they afford voters; and
· Pennsylvania and Texas allow behavior by poll observers and poll watchers that is problematic and could intimidate voters, so their laws were assessed as unsatisfactory.

The report cites federal law and laws on the books in all ten states that prohibit voter intimidation and could be enforced to prevent harassing conduct at the polls.

 

“It is important that all participants understand the rules and respect the right of all eligible Americans to vote free of intimidation or obstruction. We want to minimize the risk of positive civic engagement moving into disrupting the orderly conduct of elections,” said Liz Kennedy. “Unwarranted challenges to voters’ eligibility can lead to problems at the polls for everyone seeking to cast a ballot by depleting resources, distracting officials, and leading to longer lines. They threaten the fair administration of elections and the fundamental freedom to vote.”


“Voting is one of our most fundamental rights,” said Common Cause’s Edgar. “No eligible voter should be blocked from casting a ballot, and the entire voting rights community is mobilized to protect voters’ rights.”

 

Common Cause and Demos are part of the Election Protection coalition, the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection coalition. Common Cause and coalition allies are recruiting and organizing non partisan Election Day monitors to help voters understand the voting rules in their state and report any and all efforts to discourage or intimidate voters. Through the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline and a comprehensive field deployment, Election Protection helps voters overcome obstacles to the ballot box while collecting data for meaningful reform. Over 100 organizations have joined forces to monitor polling places across the country and provide aid, including legal assistance, to voters who encounter obstacles to voting.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 7, 2012

Elena Nunez, (720) 339-3273

Danny Katz, (303) 573-7474

 





Colorado Initiative on Campaign Spending Qualifies for November Ballot

 

Voters Can Tell Congress: Amend the Constitution and Limit Corporate Political Spending

 

 

Denver, CO-- Coloradans have responded to the barrage of campaign advertising in Colorado by putting an initiative on the ballot to instruct Colorado’s elected officials to pass a federal constitutional amendment to limit campaign contributions and spending.

 

After completing the signature verification, the Secretary of State announced that Initiative 82 will be on the ballot (the measure will be  Amendment 65).   Colorado Fair Share led the petition drive, collecting more than 182,000 signatures in support of the measure. A similar measure will be on the ballot in Montana.

 

“Coloradans signed the petition in overwhelming numbers because they are fed up with money drowning out the voices of real people in our elections,” commented Elena Nunez, Executive Director of Colorado Common Cause. “With Amendment 65, every voter in Colorado will have a chance to express to their elected officials, loudly and clearly, that it is time for us to reclaim our government of, by and for the people.”

 

A report released by USPIRG and Demos in August,MILLION-DOLLAR MEGAPHONES: SUPER PACS AND UNLIMITED OUTSIDE SPENDING IN THE 2012 ELECTIONS, put all this campaign spending into a clear and frightening picture. “Outside spending organizations reported $167.5 million in spending to the FEC.  Of this, $12.7 million (7.6% of the total) was “secret money” that cannot be traced back to an original source.” And this is alllegalactivity after the US Supreme Court handed down several rulings that some groups say is legal corruption.

 

Unlimited, corporate, and secret money continues to undermine the principle of ‘one person, one vote,’” said Danny Katz of CoPIRG.  “The sheer number of Colorado voters who signed the petition demonstrates Coloradans’ desire to take a stand on this critical issue.”

 

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The coalition supporting Amendment 65 includes Colorado Common Cause, CoPIRG, Colorado Fair Share, People for the American Way, Public Citizen, Communications Workers of America, Free Speech for People, Colorado Progressive Coalition, Colorado 350.org and others. To learn more about the campaign, visit www.ColoradoAmend2012.org. To learn more about Common Cause's national campaign on behalf a constitutional amendment, visit www.amend2012.org.


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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

September 6, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Will Partisan Bullies at the Ballot Box Change the Outcome of Election 2012?

 

Voting Rights Groups Release Report on Voter Protection Laws in 10 Key States as Self-Appointed Activists Promise to Block, Intimidate Voters

 

Noon ET tele-presser scheduled for Monday

 

 

 

WHAT: Self-appointed partisan activists are reportedly working to recruit 1 millionvolunteers to challenge and block certain voters’ right to vote on and before Election Day, creating an atmosphere of intimidation at the polls. In response to these efforts, voting rights groups Common Cause and Demos will release a new report on voter protection laws in 10 states considered critical in the 2012 election. “Bullies at the Ballot Box: Protecting the Freedom to Vote Against Wrongful Challenges and Intimidation,” highlights laws in key states like Florida and Pennsylvania that could allow partisan activists to prevent voters from casting regular ballots on Election Day and could create chaos for election officials.

 

The report also details laws in states such as Ohio and North Carolina that do a better job protecting eligible Americans from those who seek to stop them from voting. Wrongful challenges in states with weak voter protection laws could impact the outcome of the elections due to the number of voters who could be wrongfully removed from voting lists or prevented from voting regular ballots on Election Day by the actions of groups like True the Vote and others.  

The ten states reviewed in“Bullies at the Ballot Box”include Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. 

 

WHO:Report authors Liz Kennedy, Stephen Spaulding, Tova Wang, Jenny Flanagan, and Anthony Kammer will present a summary of the findings and recommendations and respond to questions from reporters.

 

WHEN:Monday, Sept. 10, at noon ET

 

HOW TO JOIN: Dial in (877) 317-2314.  Password: “Ballot Bullies.”

ADDITIONAL DETAILS: The reportis embargoed for release at 9 a.m., Sept. 10; copies will be available for download then at www.commoncause.org/bullies.

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

August 30, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Obama, Romney Must Get Serious About Controlling Political Money

 

 

President Obama and Mitt Romney should get firmly behind a constitutional amendment to control political spending, backing up their stated interest in reining in big money by campaigning on behalf of amendment proposals on the ballot across the country this fall, Common Cause said today.

 

It would be refreshing to see the President and Gov. Romney slow down their shameless pursuit of big money and instead devote their energies to building the movement to control it,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “Amending the Constitution isn’t easy, and shouldn’t be, but it’s critically important that we pass an amendment to protect against attempts to buy our government.”

 

During an appearance in Charlottesville, Va. on Wednesday, the President said Americans “need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process,” in response to Citizens United and other Supreme Court rulings that invite corporations and the wealthy to pour millions of dollars into U.S. elections.

 

“We need to do more than just ‘seriously consider’ an amendment. The amendment process already is underway and deserves the active support of both the President and Gov. Romney,” Edgar said. “Ballot measures pending in Montana and Colorado and already passed or pending in a number of localities are allowing voters to declare their support for sensible limits on political money and the corruption that inevitably goes with it.”

 

Edgar noted that as a candidate for president in 2008, Obama promised to work on fixing the nation’s broken system of public financing for presidential campaigns. And just last week, Romney said that if he’s elected this year he would prefer to use public financing when he seeks a second term in 2016.

 

“Unfortunately, President Obama has failed to deliver on his past promises when it comes to public financing; just as bad, the platform Gov. Romney’s party adopted this week encourages rather than opposes unlimited political spending,” Edgar said. “If either candidate wants voters to believe he’s serious about cleaning up this system, he needs to take action to demonstrate it.”

 

Tens of thousands of Montanans and Coloradans have signed petitions circulated through Amend 2012, a campaign launched by Common Cause, to put “voter instruction” measures on the ballot in those states this fall. The initiatives would allow voters to express their support for an amendment directly to their representatives.

 

Legislatures in Hawaii, California, New Mexico,Maryland, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Massachusetts already have passed resolutions calling on Congress to adopt an amendment, as have city and county councils in San Francisco, Chicago and dozens of other localities.Click here for a full list of state and local resolutions and ballot measures.

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

August 29, 2012

Mary Boyle (202) 736-5770

 




GOP Platform Endorses 'Anything Goes' Approach to Campaign Money

 

 

The 2012 Republican platform puts the party of Abraham Lincoln up for sale to the highest bidder, welcoming the infusion into our elections of hundreds of millions of dollars – often donated anonymously by corporations and billionaires who will expect government to provide a generous return on their money, Common Cause said today.

 

“Forty years after Watergate, when courageous Republicans helped take down a president of their own party corrupted by secret money, and four years after their nomination of John McCain, who distinguished himself by fighting for sensible controls on political spending, Republicans have come full circle,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar.

 

“The new GOP platform’s naked endorsement of unbridled campaign finance, free from even modest disclosure requirements, is a stunning break with the party’s history and with its rank-and-file members, who in poll after poll have voiced strong support for campaign spending limits and transparency,” Edgar said.

 

Eight of nine Supreme Court justices also have endorsed disclosure as an antidote to the corrupting influence of political money and pronounced it constitutional, Edgar said. 

 

As recently as Sunday, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney called for a return to the use of public financing for the 2016 presidential campaign, citing the potential for corruption that goes along with the huge sums being invested in this year’s election.

 

“It will be interesting to see if Mr. Romney buckles to the wishes of the party platform or sticks to his guns and backs them up with a substantive proposal to fix presidential public financing,” Edgar said.

 

“Even more interesting will be whether Democrats, who sadly are devoting considerable energy to getting a fatter share of all the secret money flowing into this election, put those efforts aside and now make reform a centerpiece of their campaign. The GOP platform offers them an opportunity to draw a clear line on this critical issue.”

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

August 28, 2012

Phillip Ung, California Common Cause (916) 520-4070

 




California Legislature Approves Election Day Voter Registration

 

 

Amid efforts in dozens of other states to restrict voting rights, Common Cause hailed action by lawmakers in the nation’s largest state on Tuesday to make it easier for citizens to cast ballots.

 

The California Legislature approved Assembly Bill 1436, Election Day Voter Registration, and sent it to Governor Jerry Brown for signature. This legislation would allow eligible voters to register and vote up to and on Election Day. Current California law limits voter registration to two weeks prior to Election Day. Election Day Voter Registration will be used by hundreds of thousands of voters each election when fully implemented.

 

“California can set an example for the nation,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. While other governors seem preoccupied with passing voter ID laws to keep minorities, the elderly and veterans – among others – away from the polls, Gov. Brown has a chance to remove a barrier to voting for Golden State residents.

 

AB 1436 was backed by Common Cause and over two dozen other public interest and voting rights organizations. With Gov. Brown’s signature, it will be implemented after the State certifies a federally mandated voter registration database, better known as VoteCal. VoteCal’s expected completion date is 2015.

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

August 27, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




General Electric, Four Additional Companies Depart ALEC

 

Five national and global corporations, including General Electric, Western Union and Sprint Nextel, have become the latest corporate giants to join the exodus from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

 

The two others are Symantec of Mountain View, Calif., and Reckitt Benckiser of Parsippany, NJ. General Electric is based in Fairfield, Conn., Western Union is in Englewood, Colo., and Sprint Nextel is in Overland Park, Kan.

 

Their departures were announced Monday by the civil rights organization Color of Change, one of several groups which along with Common Cause have been working to expose ALEC’s tax-subsidized lobbying on behalf of state laws that put private profit ahead of the public interest

 

“Clearly the light bulb has gone on at General Electric that ALEC’s extreme agenda is not good for business,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause.

           

Amid complaints from Common Cause and other reform groups, 38 companies have left ALEC in recent months. Common Cause has filed a “tax whistleblower” complaint against ALEC with the Internal Revenue Service, challenging the group’s tax-exemption. ALEC casts itself as a charity, but Common Cause has provided the IRS with more than 4,000 pages of ALEC press releases, “issue alerts,” position papers and other materials documenting its lobbying activity.

           

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

August 27, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Gov. Romney Should Follow His Stated Support of Public Financing with a Reform Plan

 

 

Mitt Romney’s sudden embrace of campaign public financing – not for this presidential race but for the NEXT one – has a familiar and disquieting ring, Common Cause said today.

 

“It’s nice to see that Gov. Romney agrees that the huge sums of money flowing into the 2012 election are an invitation to corruption,” Common Cause President Bob Edgar said. “But while welcome, Mr. Romney’s comments are uncomfortably reminiscent of statements made during the 2008 campaign by then-candidate Barack Obama.” 

 

On Sunday, Gov. Romney told Fox news Sunday that he would “absolutely” like toreturn to the public fundraising system if he runs for a second term in 2016. He added that the presidential campaigns’ emphasis on fundraising “increases the potential of money having an influence in politics.”

 

In 2008, Mr. Obama declared his support for public financing in principle but insisted that the current system was broken and that he had to raise as much money as possible in order to ‘be competitive’ in the election.

 

And like Mr. Romney today, Mr. Obama offered nothing more than vague promises that he would work as President to fix that broken system so that future candidates could run independent of big donors.

 

“We have criticized Mr. Obama’s failure as president to follow through on those promises, to submit a reform plan and his embrace of Super PACs. We’ve also joined with other reform groups in urging the President to overhaul the Federal Election Commission,” Edgar said. 

 

If Mr. Romney is sincere in his support for reform today, he should offer a detailed plan to accomplish it and explain how, as president, he’d overcome the vocal and well-organized opposition to reform within the Republican Party, Edgar said.

 

“The fact is that while President Obama has failed to deliver on his pledge to fix public financing, Republicans in the House have pushed legislation to scuttle the system entirely. Against this backdrop, there’s little reason to believe that either candidate is serious about breaking the hold of big money on our campaigns and elections.”

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

August 27, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




Senate Filibuster Enables Minority To Block Progress On Nation's Biggest Challenges

 

The U.S. Senate’s filibuster rule “promotes gridlock,” unconstitutionally stifles debate and enables a minority to block progress on the biggest challenges facing America, Common Cause said Monday.

 

By allowing as few as 41 of 100 senators to block action or debate on legislation or on nominations for key positions in government, the filibuster also flouts the clear intent of America’s framers by giving a minority of senators effective control of the legislative process, the non-partisan government watchdog group added.

 

In a 70-page legal brief, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, Common Cause dismissed claims that the Senate has virtually unlimited authority to write its own rules and urged the court to declare the filibuster’s 60-vote requirement unconstitutional.

 

When the Constitution was adopted, senators “had no ‘right’ of ‘unlimited debate’ and no ‘right’ to prevent the majority from debating or voting by ‘filibustering,’ the brief adds. The Constitution itself specifies that a supermajority is required for Senate action in only a handful of circumstances, including conviction of the President in an impeachment trial (two-thirds of the senators present), and overriding a presidential veto (two-thirds of those elected).

 

 “The Senate cannot preempt or short-circuit” the Constitution “and substitute a rule of its own” by requiring a bill or nomination to command the support of 60 senators before it can be considered and voted on, the brief argues.

 

 “Our filing today demonstrates how far the Senate, now effectively dominated by a minority, has strayed from the intent of America’s founders as expressed in our Constitution,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “The filibuster rule enables a determined minority to block progress on the biggest challenges facing America, like jobs, the economy and cleaning up Congress.”

 

The brief was filed in opposition to a motion-to-dismiss filed by the Senate in response to a Common Cause lawsuit, which argues the filibuster is unconstitutional.

 

“In seeking dismissal of our case, the Senate argued that its rules are off-limits to the federal courts. Today we make clear that the Senate is not above the law, and its rules are subject to constitutional restraints,” Edgar said.

 

Common Cause, four members of the House of Representatives (Reps. John Lewis, Michael Michaud, Hank Johnson and Keith Ellison), and three private individuals filed suit to challenge the filibuster in May. Senate lawyers have urged that the case be dismissed, arguing that the plaintiffs lack legal standing to sue. Oral argument on the dismissal motion is expected sometime this fall.

 

The brief also dismisses Senate claims that the suit is aimed at giving the courts the responsibility for writing Senate rules or governing the length of Senate debates.

 

“The plaintiffs ask the Court to do what courts have traditionally done when they have found that parts of a statute or rule are unconstitutional – they have severed the unconstitutional provisions,” the brief states. It adds that if the court agrees that the current rule is unconstitutional, it will be up to the Senate to write a new rule that satisfies constitutional requirements.

 

Emmet Bondurant, veteran constitutional lawyer and a member of Common Cause’s National Governing Board, is representing Common Cause and the other plaintiffs. He outlined the case against the filibuster earlier this month in a presentation to the American Constitution Society in Atlanta.

Exhibit A accompanying the brief can be read here.

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contacts:

August 6, 2012

Elena Nunez, 720-339-3273
Brad Martin, 406-750-3457

 





Colorado Coalition Submits 177,000 Signatures To Place Campaign Spending Limit Measure on November Ballot

 

Initiative Would Instruct Congress to Pass a Constitutional Amendment to Limit Money in Politics

 

 

Denver - A citizens campaign submitted 177,000 signatures of Colorado voters to elections officials today calling for an end to big money in politics. When certified for the ballot, the measure will give voters the opportunity this fall to explicitly instruct their members of Congress to support a constitutional amendment that would authorize limits on campaign contributions and spending that promote a level playing field and reverse recent Supreme Court rulings.

 

“It’s time that we restore a government of, by and for the people, not of, by, and for the corporations,” noted Elena Nunez of Colorado Common Cause which drafted the initiative as part of its Amend 2012 campaign.

 

The 177,000 signatures were collected through face to face interactions, with the majority coming from Colorado Fair Share campaign staff in public places and street corners in cities from Grand Junction to Denver, Fort Collins to Pueblo. The campaign collected nearly 100,000 more signatures than required to qualify the initiative for the ballot. 

This Colorado initiative comes on the heels of a similar ballot measure in Montana, which has drawn support from the state’s Democratic Governor and Republican Lt. Governor in the wake of the Supreme Court striking down a law that had banned corporate contributions in Montana elections for the last 100 years.

 

“Unlimited corporate money in elections has only recently flooded American politics, but this initiative is part of a long history of citizens making their voices heard,” said Mo Kirk, President of Colorado Fair Share. “We spoke face to face with hundreds of thousands of Coloradans all across the state. These signatures represent their will to put our democracy back into the hands of citizens.”

 

According to the new report Million-Dollar Megaphones by the CoPIRG Foundation and Demos, of the $230 million raised by Super PACs from individuals in the first two quarters of the 2012 election cycle, more than half (57.1%) came from just 47 people giving at least $1 million. Just over 1,000 donors giving $10,000 or more were responsible for 94% of this fundraising.

 

 “Unlimited, corporate, and secret money continues to undermine the principle of ‘one person, one vote,’” said Danny Katz of CoPIRG, the other lead proponent of the signature collection effort. “This will give voters a chance to push back against the misguided rulings of the Supreme Court that equate unlimited campaign spending with free speech.”

 

“Nothing can be clearer, a system of politics that relies on private money will favor the interests of that private money,” said Ken Gordon of CleanSlateNow.org. “Only the people, using the power of their vote, can provide a counterbalance to the power of money. This initiative is a way to make clear to elected officials that the voters will hold them to account for their actions. The voters are watching.”

 

Supporters of the effort include Colorado Common Cause, Colorado Fair Share, CoPIRG (Colorado Public Interest Research Group), Free Speech for PeopleColorado Progressive CoalitionCleanSlateNow.orgColorado 350.org, People for the American Way, Public Citizen, Communications Workers of America, and the Colorado Center on Law and Policy

More information, including the complete text of the measure is available at http://coloradoamend2012.org/

 

To learn more about Initiative 82, visit www.ColoradoAmend2012.org

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

August 2, 2012

Dale Eisman, (202) 736-5788

 




Common Cause, Edgar Recognized by Non-Profit Times

 

 

The Non-Profit Times, a leading national publication on the non-profit sector, recognized Common Cause’s work to hold power accountable this week as it named President Bob Edgar to its annual “Power & Influence Top 50” listing of non-profit executives.

 

The annual listing, now in its 15th year, also includes Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Brian Gallagher, president and CEO of United Way Worldwide; and Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense fund, among others. It was the fourth time Edgar has been recognized with the award.

 

“This honor really belongs to the Common Cause staff and our thousands of citizen activists and supporters across the country,” Edgar said. “We’re focused on building and growing an uncommon Common Cause, working for a reform agenda that would give every citizen – not just the rich and powerful – a voice in government at every level and ensure that government serves citizens ethically, efficiently and effectively.”

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

August 1, 2012

Dale Eisman, (202) 736-5788

 




Common Cause Urges Bipartisan Action to Control Big Money in Elections

 

 

A reform agenda that overhauls our campaign finance system to rein in the power of big money should be “Job One” for the President and both political parties in the next Congress, Common Cause said today.

 

“We’ve been working for years to persuade anyone who’ll listen that Citizens United and other court decisions have left our elections and our government ripe for takeover by corporations and the super-rich,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar.

 

“The outpouring of seven- and even eight-figure investments in this election, many from secret donors, is transforming this issue into a major concern for voters,” Edgar added. “So of course we welcome today’s commitment by House Democrats to support tougher disclosure requirements, a constitutional amendment to control corporate political spending, and a public financing system that would refocus political fundraising on small gifts from individual donors.

 

“We hope and expect a good number of Republicans ultimately will join in working on behalf of such reforms and we plan to be in the middle of efforts to forge bi-partisan legislation to accomplish them.”

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

July 30, 2012

Dale Eisman, (202) 736-5788

 




Senate Committee Report Should Trigger Closer Look at For-Profit Schools, Common Cause Says

 

Watchdog Group Cites Colleges' Lobbying, Political Spending

 

 

Today’s Senate committee report on for-profit colleges and universities should trigger additional scrutiny of these schools -- in Congress and by the Obama administration -- and of how taxpayer dollars are being used to fuel their growth and profit margins.

 

“Sen. Tom Harkin and his colleagues on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee have produced an exhaustive study that raises troubling questions about the way these schools encourage students to take on enormous, taxpayer-subsidized loans and then leave far too many of them without a diploma or the ability to repay the money,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar.

 

“It’s no coincidence that the spectacular growth in federal support for these schools -- $32 billion in student aid from the Department of Education went to for-profit colleges in 2009-10, the committee found – has been accompanied by large increases in spending by the schools on lobbying and political campaign contributions,” Edgar said.

 

As a member of Congress in the 1970s and ‘80s, Edgar led efforts to boost student aid to Vietnam-era and peacetime veterans under the Montgomery GI bill.

 

He said figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics indicate that the schools’ spending on lobbying has jumped from less than $1 million in 1999 to more than $10 million in 2011, the last year for which complete totals are available. The schools’ political spending has also grown, from $106,000 in 1990 to nearly $2.5 million so far in the 2012 election cycle.

 

 

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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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Dale Eisman

July 27, 2012

(202) 736-5788

 

 

 

 

Michael Copps to Lead Common Cause Media and Democracy Initiative


 

With leadership from former Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps, Common Cause announced plans today for a national Media and Democracy Reform Initiative aimed at spotlighting and countering the growing political and economic power of the communications industry.

 

 “Today’s information technologies have tremendous potential to give Americans access to information, connect us to the rest of the world, and strengthen our democracy,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “We can’t afford to let increasingly powerful and concentrated telecom and media interests use their muscle to control that future.”

 

“Working in Washington and through our network of state chapters, Common Cause’s initiative aims to restore and expand diversity, open access, transparency and public control in both traditional and new media,” Edgar added. “And in Michael Copps, we’ve found the perfect person to guide it.”

 

Edgar said generous gifts from several foundations will provide initial financial support for the initiative. It also will draw heavily on the expertise and advocacy of Copps, who during a decade (2001-11) as a Member of the FCC emerged as an outspoken champion for the role of government in ensuring that traditional media, the internet and other digital systems serve the broad public interest.

 

Locating in Washington, DC in 1970, Copps served for more than a dozen years as chief-of-staff for U.S. Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, D-SC, and as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Trade Development in the Clinton administration before joining the FCC. He was the seventh longest-serving commissioner in the agency’s history. (Click here for a biography of Michael Copps.)

 

Copps joined Common Cause’s National Governing Board earlier this year and will temporarily relinquish that position to oversee the Media Democracy and Reform Initiative. “A number of other groups already are doing great work in this area,” Copps said. “We are determined to bolster their efforts, using our national membership, organizing, and campaign experience, and our 35 state chapters to focus attention on, and build public support for, media reform. Without media that dig for facts, report real news, and reflect the diversity of our nation, self-government cannot endure.”

 

Among other things, the Media and Democracy Reform Initiative will address issues created by industry mergers and consolidation of control within regions and across media platforms; the stripping of local control over cable and municipal broadband; carte blanche broadcast licensing without regard to statutory obligations to serve the public interest; challenges to the principles of ubiquitous broadband deployment and an open Internet; and attacks on funding for public broadcasting.

 

With its longtime focus on the role of money in politics, Edgar said Common Cause is particularly concerned with the drowning out of voters’ diverse political voices by massive political spending by the few. “We see this initiative as a natural complement to our other efforts to counter the impact of big money on our politics and our elections and to ensure that ours is a government ‘of, by and for the people,’” Edgar said.

 

 

###

 

 

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.



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

July 26, 2012

Mary Boyle, 202-736-5770

 

 

 



Chicago City Council Stands Up to U.S. Supreme Court; Calls on Congress to Pass Constitutional Amendment to Reverse Citizens United v. FEC


 

Chicago, IL—Just weeks after the Supreme Court dealt a blow to campaign finance reform efforts in Montana, the Chicago City Council fought back Wednesday with passage of a resolution calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that would reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which swept away a century of precedent limiting corporate spending on elections.

 

"I'm proud of our City.  With our vote today, the City of Chicago City Council joined a growing chorus of cities and towns across America who have raised their collective voice against the corrosive effect of corporate money on our democratic process,” said Alderman Joe Moore. “As the elected officials closest to the people, we've witnessed firsthand the devastating impact on our communities of federal spending and tax policies driven by the wealthy few at the expense of the many.  These policies exist because the wealthy and powerful dominate the debate and drown out opposing views.  It is time we restore our democracy to the people."

 

The drive to pass the city council resolution was led by Common Cause, Illinois PIRG, MoveOn, Move to Amend and Public Citizen’s Democracy is for People Campaign. These organizations worked together with Alderman Joe Moore, who championed the effort in City Council. The resolution received 38 initial co-sponsors and was passed unanimously.

 

“Chicago’s passage of this resolution shows that, regardless of what the activist Supreme Court does, we will not stand by and lose our democracy,” said Rey Lopez-Calderon, executive director of Common Cause Illinois. “We will not be slaves, in the classical sense – we will not be people governed by plutocrats. We will be free people. A major city like Chicago, making a statement like this, sends a strong message that will be heard all the way to the halls of Congress.”

 

Public support leading up to the vote on the resolution was widespread. Over 100 constituents showed up to a public hearing on the resolution prior to today’s vote. At that hearing, the standing-room only crowd applauded as organizational representatives and average citizens testified in favor of the measure.

 

Citizens United is a radical strike against the foundation of our democracy,” said Lyle Hyde, activist and local spokesperson for Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign. Noting that Citizens United is unprecedented historically, Hyde further stated that “We can only overcome the power of unlimited big money to corrupt our elections and our government through a constitutional amendment.”

 

Chicago joins more than 280 other cities and 6 states across the country in denouncing Citizens United and calling for a constitutional amendment.

 

In November, Chicago voters will also be able to voice their support for a constitutional amendment through a ballot measure that was referred to voters by the City Council when today’s resolution was originally introduced. 


###

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.



 




 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

July 25, 2012

Christy Setzer, New Heights Communications, christy@newheightscommunications.com, (202) 724-6380
Susan Greenhalgh, Common Cause, segreenhalgh@gmail.com, (917)-796-8782
Mary Boyle, Common Cause, mboyle@commoncause.org, (202) 736-5770

 





ELECTION 2012: Will Voting Machine Failure Affect the Final Count?



New Report Reviews States’ Readiness to Handle Voting Machine Failures on Election Day

Five states exceptionally ready, six underprepared, still time to improve before voting begins

 

Washington, DC – With just a few months to go until voting in the national election begins, election administration experts today issued a 50-state report card that assesses each state on its preparedness to handle computerized voting machine problems and breakdowns, such as machines that won’t start, memory cards that can’t be read and votes that are mistallied. The report, “Counting Votes 2012: A state-by-state look at voting technology preparedness” finds that five states – Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin – are exceptionally well prepared to discover voting system errors and assure that voter are still able to cast their ballot, and those ballots are accurately counted. The report also found six states underprepared to deal with unexpected machine failures and system breakdowns, including long lines.  Those states are Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina.

 

The report, by the Verified Voting Foundation, Common Cause and the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic, also makes concrete recommendations states can take now, in the weeks leading to Nov. 6, to assure that backup measures, such as emergency paper ballots and sound ballot accounting practices, are in place.

“Recent election history reminds us that equipment does fail and votes will be lost without key protections,” said Pamela Smith, President of Verified Voting. “We’re dependent on complex electronic voting systems that must be surrounded by robust procedures to safeguard votes and verify results if we are to avoid known and unknown risks of election failure. Do-overs are never an acceptable part of an election plan. Fair elections are at the heart of our democracy, yet many states are not yet prepared to survive voting system failures that could change results.”

Voting machine failures are commonplace.  In the last presidential election, 1,800 voting machine problems were reported across the country. In many cases, the errors can go undetected without protections in place.

 

In a municipal election in Palm Beach County, Florida, in March 2012, a problem with election management software allotted votes to the wrong candidate and the wrong contest; the mistake was uncovered during a routine post-election audit, a critical best practice. However, the report found that less than half the states perform post-elections audits that could catch such an error. Following a June 2009 election, officials in Pennington County, South Dakota, discovered a programming error that added thousands of non-existent votes to the county totals. And in a test-run for an online election in the September 2010 Washington, DC primary, a team of hackers changed all of the votes and installed their own candidates. The online voting system was days away from being launched in the actual general election for use by overseas and military voters. After the hack, the Internet voting system was canceled.

 

With so many jurisdictions and varying technologies, problems are inevitable.

 

“Errors will always occur - when any type of machine is involved. For this reason, having paper records, audits, and  and other safeguards that can provide an independent check on the election results is an essential part of ensuring confidence in voting process,” said Susannah Goodman of Common Cause. 

 

The report recommends that every state adopt the best practices suggested here to safeguard democracy.

 

The report rates each state  overall on a five-step scale, with the worst judged “inadequate,”, and subsequent steps labeled “needs improvement,” “generally good,” “good,” and “excellent.” The scores are based on evaluations of each state on five specific areas:

 

· Does the state require paper ballots or records of every vote cast? When computer failures or human error cause machines to miscount, election officials can use the original ballots to determine the correct total. The paper ballots or records also can and should be used to audit the vote counts for accuracy.

· Does the state have adequate contingency plans at each polling place in the event of machine failure? 

· Does the state insure that marked ballots are not cast online? Such measures help protect military and overseas voters and their ballots from alteration, manipulation and privacy violations.

· Has the state instituted a post-election audit of the reported vote tallies? Audits provide evidence to help determine whether the electronically reported results are correct, deter fraud, and other benefits.  

· Does the state use robust ballot reconciliation and tabulation practices? These basic procedures help insure that no ballots are lost or added as votes are tallied and aggregated from the local to the state level. 

“No vote should be lost in 2012,” said Penny Venetis, co-director of the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic. “Technology exists to verify votes, and procedures could be in place around the country to make sure that every vote is counted, as required by the constitution.”

 

Read the full report here.

Read the executive summary.

View a chart of all the states’ overall assessments.

 

###

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.  

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

July 25, 2012

Christy Setzer, New Heights Communications:
christy@newheightscommunications.com, (202) 724-6380
Mary Boyle, Common Cause:
mboyle@commoncause.org, (202) 736-5770

 



New Hampshire earns high marks in new election study


Voting machine preparation “good,” but room for improvement before Nov. 6


WASHINGTON – An effective combination of paper ballots and other sound voter protection measures makes New Hampshire among the states best prepared to manage any voting machine failures on Election Day, a new report finds.

 

The report, “Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Voting Technology Preparedness,” was released Wednesday by three non-partisan organizations focused on voting – the Verified Voting Foundation, the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic, and Common Cause. While New Hampshire earned a high rating, the report nevertheless urges election officials in every state to make changes in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election.

 

“We applaud New Hampshire’s efforts to prepare for the upcoming election,” said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting. “Ensuring fair, accurate elections is a national effort, and well prepared states like New Hampshire are setting an example. Everyone from election officials to citizens should be involved to make sure this process at the very heart of our democracy is healthy.”

 

New Hampshire got high marks in part because it uses paper ballots and has instituted some best practices concerning the return of ballots from military and overseas voters. These are the types of measures that all states should implement to improve the accuracy of our elections.

 

Many states have neglected to address or prepare for voting machine malfunctions and other voting system failures, which occur in every election. In 2008 – the last presidential election year – more than 1,800 problems were reported nationally.

 

“If history is any indication, machines this November will fail in the U.S. and votes will be lost,” said Susannah Goodman of Common Cause. “Backup systems like paper ballots, audits and good ballot reconciliation practices need to be put in place to be sure outcomes are correct.”

 

New Hampshire received an overall rating of “Good” based on its performance in five areas:

 

· Does the state require paper ballots or records of every vote cast? (When computer failures or human errors cause machine miscounts, election officials can use the original ballots to determine correct totals. Additionally, paper ballots can be used to audit machine counts.)

· Does the state have adequate contingency plans at each polling place in the event of machine failure?

· Does the state protect military and overseas voters and their ballots from alteration, manipulation and privacy violations by ensuring that marked ballots are not cast online?

· Has the state instituted a post-election audit to determine whether the electronically reported results are correct?

· Does the state use robust ballot reconciliation and tabulation practices to help ensure that no ballots are lost or added as votes are tallied and aggregated from the local to state level?

 

In addition to New Hampshire, four other states were ranked near the top of the list – Minnesota, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin – while six states were ranked near the bottom – Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina.

“No vote should be lost in 2012,” said Penny Venetis, co-director of the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic. “Technology exists to verify votes, and procedures could be in place around the country to make sure that every vote is counted as cast, just like the constitution requires.”

The national election is more than three months away, leaving time for New Hampshire to make simple changes in some of the categories ranked by the study.

 

Click here to view the whole report.

Click here to view the executive summary.

Click here to view a chart of all the states’ overall assessments.
 

###

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.  

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

July 25, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




New Study Praises Missouri's Election Practices but Cites Room for Improvement

 

Report says there's still time to make needed changes before Nov. 6

 

WASHINGTON – In what could be the most fiercely-contested election in U.S. history, Missouri is generally well-prepared to deal with voting machine malfunctions and breakdowns, but risks having the state’s vote tallies made vulnerable by accepting votes cast in some instances over the internet, a new, national voting study suggests.

 

The report, “Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Voting Technology Preparedness, says the state should require that election officials reconcile precinct results with county results, and should update and expand previous requirements that election results be posted at the polls. It also suggests that Missouri stop accepting online ballots, citing concerns that existing internet security is insufficient and leaves votes cast online vulnerable to hackers.

 

In “swing” states like Missouri, where neither presidential candidate is expected to roll up a substantial majority, even a small error in vote counting could be decisive.

 

"High-profile elections in the past decade have been decided by razor thin margins,” the report notes. “The 2000 presidential race was decided by 537 votes in Florida; the Washington State gubernatorial race in 2004 by 129 votes, and a Minnesota Senate race in 2008 by just 312.  Every national election since 2000 has seen voting system failures stem from machines that won’t start, memory cards that can’t be read, mis-tallied votes, lost votes and more. Under the U.S. Constitution and every state constitution, as well as by statute throughout the country, every vote must be counted as cast."

 

The report emphasizes that state election officials still have time before the election to make changes that would protect the integrity of the vote. The study was released Wednesday by three non-partisan organizations focused on voting – the Verified Voting Foundation, the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic, and Common Cause.

 

“Missouri gets credit for limiting the online return of voted ballots, but since that practice was enabled, other safer options are improving voting for military and overseas voters, like sending blank ballots to voters electronically, and providing free expedited return of the voted ballot,” said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting. “No election system is perfect, and ensuring fair, accurate elections is a national effort. Our elections are complex – we have so many jurisdictions and varying technologies. Everyone from election officials to citizens should be involved to make sure this process at the very heart of our democracy is healthy.”

 

The report noted that voting systems routinely fail. In 2008 – the last presidential election year – more than 1,800 problems were reported nationally.

 

“If history is any indication, machines in November will fail, and votes will be lost,” said Susannah Goodman of Common Cause. “Backup systems like paper ballots need to be put in place in every state to help to verify results.”

 

The report places rates Missouri as “generally good” in examining its performance in each of five areas:

 

·         Does the state require paper ballots or records of every vote cast? (When computer failures or human errors cause machine miscounts, election officials can use the original ballots to determine correct totals. Additionally, paper ballots can be used to audit machine counts.)

·         Does the state have adequate contingency plans at each polling place in the event of machine failure?

·         Does the state protect military and overseas voters and their ballots from alteration, manipulation and privacy violations by ensuring that marked ballots are not cast online?

·         Has the state instituted a post-election audit to determine whether the electronically reported results are correct?

·         Does the state use robust ballot reconciliation and tabulation practices to help ensure that no ballots are lost or added as votes are tallied and aggregated from the local to state level?

 

The highest rated states overall were Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin, while South Carolina, Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana and Mississippi -- were ranked near the bottom.

No vote should be lost in 2012,” said Penny Venetis, co-director of the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic. “Technology exists to verify votes, and procedures could be in place around the country to make sure that every vote is counted as cast, just like the constitution requires.”

 

Click here to view the whole report.

Click here to view the executive summary.

Click here to view a chart of all the states’ overall assessments.

###

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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

July 25, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




New report Praises North Carolina's Election Practices but Cites Room for Improvement

 

Report says there's still time to make needed changes by Nov. 6

 

 

 

WASHINGTON – In what could be the most fiercely-contested election in U.S. history, North Carolina is generally prepared to deal with voting machine malfunctions and breakdowns, but risks having the state’s vote tallies made vulnerable by accepting votes cast over the internet, a new, national voting study suggests.

 

The report, Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Voting Technology Preparedness, says existing internet security is insufficient and leaves votes cast online vulnerable to hackers.

 

And in “swing” states like North Carolina, where neither presidential candidate is expected to roll up a substantial majority, even a small error in vote counting or an online attack that alters just a few votes could be decisive.

 

"High-profile elections in the past decade have been decided by razor thin margins,” the report notes. “The 2000 presidential race was decided by 537 votes in Florida; the Washington State gubernatorial race in 2004 by 129 votes, and a Minnesota Senate race in 2008 by just 312.  Every national election since 2000 has seen voting system failures stem from machines that won’t start, memory cards that can’t be read, mis-tallied votes, lost votes and more. Under the U.S. Constitution and every state constitution, as well as by statute throughout the country, every vote must be counted as cast."

 

The report emphasizes that state election officials still have time before the election to make changes that would protect the integrity of the vote. The study was released Wednesday by three non-partisan organizations focused on voting – the Verified Voting Foundation, the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic, and Common Cause.

 

“North Carolina does well in a number of areas, but can still make improvements in its efforts to prepare for the upcoming election,” said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting. “No election system is perfect, and ensuring fair, accurate elections is a national effort. Our elections are complex – we have so many jurisdictions and varying technologies. Everyone from election officials to citizens should be involved to make sure this process at the very heart of our democracy is healthy.”

 

The report noted that voting systems routinely fail. In 2008 – the last presidential election year – more than 1,800 problems were reported nationally.

 

“If history is any indication, machines this November will fail in the U.S. and votes will be lost,” said Susannah Goodman of Common Cause. “Backup systems like paper ballots need to be put in place in every state to help to verify results.”

 

The report places rates North Carolina as “generally good” in comparing its voting and vote-counting practices to those of other states and examining its performance in each of five areas:

 

·         Does the state require paper ballots or records of every vote cast? (When computer failures or human errors cause machine miscounts, election officials can use the original ballots to determine correct totals. Additionally, paper ballots can be used to audit machine counts.)

·         Does the state have adequate contingency plans at each polling place in the event of machine failure?

·         Does the state protect military and overseas voters and their ballots from alteration, manipulation and privacy violations by ensuring that marked ballots are not cast online?

·         Has the state instituted a post-election audit to determine whether the electronically reported results are correct?

·         Does the state use robust ballot reconciliation and tabulation practices to help ensure that no ballots are lost or added as votes are tallied and aggregated from the local to state level?

 

The highest rated states overall were Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin, while South Carolina, Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana and Mississippi -- were ranked near the bottom.

“No vote should be lost in 2012,” said Penny Venetis, co-director of the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic. “Technology exists to verify votes, and procedures could be in place around the country to make sure that every vote is counted as cast, just like the constitution requires.”

Click here to view the whole report.

Click here to view the executive summary.

Click here to view a chart of all the states’ overall assessments.

 

 

###

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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

July 25, 2012

Christy Setzer, New Heights Communications, christy@newheightscommunications.com, (202) 724-6380
Mary Boyle, Common Cause, mboyle@commoncause.org, (202) 736-5770

 





New study praises Ohio’s election practices but cites room for improvement

Report says there’s still time to make needed changes by Nov. 6

 

WASHINGTON – In what could be the most fiercely-contested election in U.S. history, Ohio officials are well-prepared to deal with voting machine malfunctions and breakdowns but could beef up their procedures for ballot accounting and reconciliation, a new, national voting study suggests.

 

The report, “Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Voting Technology Preparedness,” puts Ohio in the top tier of states on its overall readiness to run an efficient election and report votes accurately.

 

The report notes that in Ohio and other “swing” states, where neither presidential candidate is expected to roll up a substantial majority, strong procedures for auditing are critical because even a small error in vote counting could be decisive.

 

"High-profile elections in the past decade have been decided by razor thin margins,” the report notes. “The 2000 presidential race was decided by 537 votes in Florida; the Washington State gubernatorial race in 2004 by 129 votes, and a Minnesota Senate race in 2008 by just 312.  Every national election sees voting system failures stem from machines that won’t start, memory cards that can’t be read, mis-tallied votes, lost votes and more. Under the U.S. Constitution and every state constitution, as well as by statute throughout the country, every vote must be counted as cast."

 

The report emphasizes that state election officials still have time before the election to make some kinds of changes that would protect the integrity of the vote. The study was released Wednesday by three non-partisan organizations focused on voting – the Verified Voting Foundation, the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic, and Common Cause.

 

“Ohio’s audit provision is improved – though is still not codified into law. A requirement in statute for audits would net the Buckeye State an even higher grade, but we’re appreciative of its efforts to strengthen this practice for the upcoming election,” said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting. “No election system is perfect, and ensuring fair, accurate elections is a national effort. Our elections are complex – we have so many jurisdictions and varying technologies. Everyone from election officials to citizens should be involved to make sure this process at the very heart of our democracy is healthy.”

 

The report noted that voting systems routinely fail. In 2008 – the last presidential election year – more than 1,800 problems were reported nationally.

 

“If history is any indication, machines this November will fail in the U.S. and votes will be lost,” said Susannah Goodman of Common Cause. “Backup systems like paper ballots need to be put in place in every state to help to verify results.”

 

The report places rates Ohio as “good” in comparing its voting and vote-counting practices to those of other states and examining its performance in each of five areas:

 

· Does the state require paper ballots or records of every vote cast? (When computer failures or human errors cause machine miscounts, election officials can use the original ballots to determine correct totals. Additionally, paper ballots can be used to audit machine counts.)

· Does the state have adequate contingency plans at each polling place in the event of machine failure?

· Does the state protect military and overseas voters and their ballots from alteration, manipulation and privacy violations by ensuring that marked ballots are not cast online?

· Has the state instituted a post-election audit to determine whether the electronically reported results are correct?

· Does the state use robust ballot reconciliation and tabulation practices to help ensure that no ballots are lost or added as votes are tallied and aggregated from the local to state level?

 

Other top-rated states overall were Minnesota, New Hampshire, Vermont and Wisconsin, while South Carolina, Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana and Mississippi -- were ranked near the bottom.

“No vote should be lost in 2012,” said Penny Venetis, co-director of the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic. “Technology exists to verify votes, and procedures could be in place around the country to make sure that every vote is counted as cast, just like the constitution requires.”

 

Click here to view the whole report.

Click here to view the executive summary.

Click here to view a chart of all the states’ overall assessments.

 

###

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.  

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

July 25, 2012

Christy Setzer, New Heights Communications, christy@newheightscommunications.com, (202) 724-6380
Mary Boyle, Common Cause, mboyle@commoncause.org, (202) 736-5770

 





New study praises Virginia’s election practices but cites room for improvement

Report says there’s still time to make needed changes by Nov. 6

 

WASHINGTON – In what could be the most fiercely-contested election in U.S. history, Virginia officials may not be fully prepared to verify the accuracy of their vote counting, a new, national voting study suggests.

 

The report, “Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Voting Technology Preparedness, faults the state’s partial reliance on paperless voting systems; without a paper record of each vote, a proper post-election audit of the returns is impossible, it says. Although Virginia is no longer purchasing new paperless voting machines, many jurisdictions in the Commonwealth still use such systems.

 

In “swing” states like Virginia, where neither presidential candidate is expected to roll up a substantial majority, even a small error in vote counting that alters just a few votes could be decisive.

 

"High-profile elections in the past decade have been decided by razor thin margins,” the report notes. “The 2000 presidential race was decided by 537 votes in Florida; the Washington State gubernatorial race in 2004 by 129 votes, and a Minnesota Senate race in 2008 by just 312.  Every national election sees voting system failures stem from machines that won’t start, memory cards that can’t be read, mis-tallied votes, lost votes and more. Under the U.S. Constitution and every state constitution, as well as by statute throughout the country, every vote must be counted as cast."

 

The report emphasizes that some state election officials still have time before the election to make changes that would protect the integrity of the vote. The study was released Wednesday by three non-partisan organizations focused on voting – the Verified Voting Foundation, the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic, and Common Cause.

 

“We recognize Virginia is moving toward auditable systems in the coming period, and commend the state for piloting post-election audits in a recent study.  We hope they will rigorously apply their contingency plans, which rated ‘good’,” said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting. “No election system is perfect, and ensuring fair, accurate elections is a national effort. Our elections are complex – we have so many jurisdictions and varying technologies. Everyone from election officials to citizens should be involved to make sure this process at the very heart of our democracy is healthy.”

 

The report noted that voting systems routinely fail. In 2008 – the last presidential election year – more than 1,800 problems were reported nationally.

 

“If history is any indication, machines in November will fail, and votes will be lost,” said Susannah Goodman of Common Cause. “Backup systems like paper ballots need to be put in place in every state to help to verify results.”

 

The report places said Virginia “needs improvement” in examining its performance in each of five areas:

 

· Does the state require paper ballots or records of every vote cast? (When computer failures or human errors cause machine miscounts, election officials can use the original ballots to determine correct totals. Additionally, paper ballots can be used to audit machine counts.)

· Does the state have adequate contingency plans at each polling place in the event of machine failure?

· Does the state protect military and overseas voters and their ballots from alteration, manipulation and privacy violations by ensuring that marked ballots are not cast online?

· Has the state instituted a post-election audit to determine whether the electronically reported results are correct?

· Does the state use robust ballot reconciliation and tabulation practices to help ensure that no ballots are lost or added as votes are tallied and aggregated from the local to state level?

 

The highest rated states overall were Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin, while South Carolina, Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana and Mississippi -- were ranked near the bottom.

“No vote should be lost in 2012,” said Penny Venetis, co-director of the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic. “Technology exists to verify votes, and procedures could be in place around the country to make sure that every vote is counted as cast, just like the constitution requires.”

Click here to view the whole report.

Click here to view the executive summary.

Click here to view a chart of all the states’ overall assessments.

 

 

###

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.  

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

July 25, 2012

Christy Setzer, New Heights Communications, christy@newheightscommunications.com, (202) 724-6380
Mary Boyle, Common Cause, mboyle@commoncause.org, (202) 736-5770

 





 

New study: Colorado voters risk disenfranchisement



 

Voting machine preparation “needs improvement,” but changes can be made by Nov. 6

 

 

WASHINGTON – A lack of effective voter protection measures place Colorado near the bottom of a ranking of states based upon its preparedness to successfully manage voting machine failures on Election Day, a new report finds.

 

The report, “Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Voting Technology Preparedness, was released Wednesday by three non-partisan organizations focused on voting – the Verified Voting Foundation, the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic, and Common Cause. Despite Colorado’s low rating, the report emphasizes that election officials still have time to make changes in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election.

 

“Colorado has made advances on key markers like post-election audits, and has provided voter-verified paper ballot systems in most locations – but not quite all. There are actions elections officials can take to prepare for the upcoming election,” said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting. “No election system is perfect, and ensuring fair, accurate elections is a national effort. Everyone from election officials to citizens should be involved to make sure this process at the very heart of our democracy is healthy.”

 

Steps Colorado can take to improve election procedures before Nov. 6 include: upgrading ballot accounting and reconciliation practices, which would be able to catch machine errors; encouraging overseas and military voters to cast ballots by mail even if they have the option to vote via e-mail or fax; and ensuring that comprehensive contingency plans are in place (re-enforcing best practices from the secretary of state on down, for example).

 

Many states have neglected to address or prepare for voting machine malfunction, and in every national election, voting systems fail. In 2008, for example, more than 1,800 problems with voting machines were reported nationally.

 

“If history is any indication, machines this November will fail, and votes will be lost,” said Susannah Goodman of Common Cause. “Backup systems like paper ballots, audits and good ballot reconciliation practices need to be put in place to be sure outcomes are correct.”

 

Colorado received an overall rating of “needs improvement” based on its performance in five areas:

 

·         Does the state require paper ballots or records of every vote cast? (When computer failures or human errors cause machine miscounts, election officials can use the original ballots to determine correct totals. Additionally, paper ballots can be used to audit machine counts.)

·         Does the state have adequate contingency plans at each polling place in the event of machine failure?

·         Does the state protect military and overseas voters and their ballots from alteration, manipulation and privacy violations by ensuring that marked ballots are not cast online?

·         Has the state instituted a post-election audit to determine whether the electronically reported results are correct?

·         Does the state use robust ballot reconciliation and tabulation practices to help ensure that no ballots are lost or added as votes are tallied and aggregated from the local to state level?

 

In addition to Colorado, five other states were ranked near the bottom of the list – South Carolina, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana and Mississippi – while five states were ranked near the top – Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin.

 

“No vote should be lost in 2012,” said Penny Venetis, co-director of the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic. “Technology exists to verify votes, and procedures could be in place around the country to make sure that every vote is counted as cast, just like the constitution requires.”

The national election is more than three months away, and that leaves time for states like Colorado to make simple changes in some of the categories ranked by the study.

 

Click here to view the whole report.

Click here to view the executive summary.

Click here to view a chart of all the states’ overall assessments.

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.  

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

July 25, 2012

Christy Setzer, New Heights Communications, christy@newheightscommunications.com, (202) 724-6380
Susan Greenhalgh, Common Cause, segreenhalgh@gmail.com, (917)-796-8782
Mary Boyle, Common Cause, mboyle@commoncause.org, (202) 736-5770

 





New study: Delaware voters risk disenfranchisement

Voting machine preparation “inadequate,” but changes can be made by Nov. 6

 

WASHINGTON – A lack of effective voter protection measures place Delaware near the bottom of a ranking of states based upon its preparedness to successfully manage voting machine failures on Election Day, a new report finds.

 

The report, “Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Voting Technology Preparedness,” was released Wednesday by three non-partisan organizations focused on voting – the Verified Voting Foundation, the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic, and Common Cause. Despite Delaware’s low rating, the report emphasizes that election officials still have time to make changes in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election.

“Delaware can still make improvements to prepare for the upcoming election,” said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting. “No election system is perfect, and ensuring fair, accurate elections is a national effort. Everyone from election officials to citizens should be involved to make sure this process at the very heart of our democracy is healthy.”

Steps Delaware can take to improve election procedures by Nov. 6 include: upgrading ballot accounting and reconciliation practices, which would be able to catch machine errors; encouraging overseas and military voters to cast ballots by mail even if they have the option to vote via e-mail or fax; and ensuring that comprehensive contingency plans are in place (re-enforcing best practices from the secretary of state on down, for example).

Many states have neglected to address or prepare for voting machine malfunction, and in every national election, voting systems fail. In 2008, for example, more than 1,800 problems with voting machines were reported nationally.

“If history is any indication, machines in November will fail, and votes will be lost,” said Susannah Goodman of Common Cause. “Backup systems like paper ballots, audits and good ballot reconciliation practices need to be put in place to be sure outcomes are correct.”

Delaware received an overall rating of “inadequate” based on its performance in five areas:

• Does the state require paper ballots or records of every vote cast? (When computer failures or human errors cause machine miscounts, election officials can use the original ballots to determine correct totals. Additionally, paper ballots can be used to audit machine counts.)
• Does the state have adequate contingency plans at each polling place in the event of machine failure?
• Does the state protect military and overseas voters and their ballots from alteration, manipulation and privacy violations by ensuring that marked ballots are not cast online?
• Has the state instituted a post-election audit to determine whether the electronically reported results are correct?
• Does the state use robust ballot reconciliation and tabulation practices to help ensure that no ballots are lost or added as votes are tallied and aggregated from the local to state level?

In addition to Delaware, five other states were ranked near the bottom of the list – South Carolina, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana and Mississippi – while five states were ranked near the top – Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin.

“No vote should be lost in 2012,” said Penny Venetis, co-director of the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic. “Technology exists to verify votes, and procedures could be in place around the country to make sure that every vote is counted as cast, just like the constitution requires.”


The national election is more than three months away, and that leaves time for states like Delaware to make simple changes in some of the categories ranked by the study.

 

Click here to view the whole report.

Click here to view the executive summary.

Click here to view a chart of all the states’ overall assessments.

###

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.  

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

July 25, 2012

Christy Setzer, New Heights Communications, christy@newheightscommunications.com, (202) 724-6380
Mary Boyle, Common Cause, mboyle@commoncause.org, (202) 736-5770

 






New study: Despite recent improvements, Florida still risks voting breakdowns  

Report says there’s still time to make needed changes by Nov. 6

 

WASHINGTON – Facing what may be the most fiercely-contested election in its history, Florida could again find itself –under scrutiny over shortcomings in its election practices, a new, national voting study suggests.

 

The report, “Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Voting Technology Preparedness,” says that state officials have substantially upgraded voting practices since the “hanging chad” disputes that followed the 2000 election. But it warns that Florida does not keep adequate paper records of individual votes, limiting the ability of officials to verify the accuracy of electronic counts, and needs a more robust audit requirement. The report also criticizes the state’s decision to accept votes cast online from military and overseas voters, citing concerns about the vulnerability of online systems.

 

"High-profile elections in the past decade have been decided by razor thin margins,” the report notes. “The 2000 presidential race was decided by 537 votes in Florida; the Washington State gubernatorial race in 2004 by 129 votes, and a Minnesota Senate race in 2008 by just 312. Every national election since 2000 has seen voting system failures stem from machines that won’t start, memory cards that can’t be read, mis-tallied votes, lost votes and more. Under the U.S. Constitution and every state constitution, as well as by statute throughout the country, every vote must be counted as cast."

 

The report emphasizes that state election officials still have time before the election to make changes that would protect the integrity of the vote. The study was released Wednesday by three non-partisan organizations focused on voting – the Verified Voting Foundation, the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic, and Common Cause.

 

“Florida has demonstrated the value of moving to an auditable system and conducting audits just this year – finding errors even though its audit provision is weak. But there’s still more that can be done to improve its efforts to prepare for the upcoming election,” said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting. “No election system is perfect, and ensuring fair, accurate elections is a national effort. Our elections are complex – we have so many jurisdictions and varying technologies. Everyone from election officials to citizens should be involved to make sure this process at the very heart of our democracy is healthy.”

 

The report notes that voting systems routinely fail. In 2008 – the last presidential election year – more than 1,800 problems were reported nationally.

 

“If history is any indication, machines this November will fail in the U.S. and votes will be lost,” said Susannah Goodman of Common Cause. “Backup systems like paper ballots need to be put in place in every state to help to verify results.”

 

The report rates Florida as “generally good” in comparing its voting and vote-counting practices to those of other states and examining its performance in each of five areas:

 

  • Does the state require paper ballots or records of every vote cast? (When computer failures or human errors cause machine miscounts, election officials can use the original ballots to determine correct totals. Additionally, paper ballots can be used to audit machine counts.)
  • Does the state have adequate contingency plans at each polling place in the event of machine failure?
  • Does the state protect military and overseas voters and their ballots from alteration, manipulation and privacy violations by ensuring that marked ballots are not cast online?
  • Has the state instituted a post-election audit to determine whether the electronically reported results are correct?
  • Does the state use robust ballot reconciliation and tabulation practices to help ensure that no ballots are lost or added as votes are tallied and aggregated from the local to state level?

The highest rated states overall were Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin, while South Carolina, Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana and Mississippi -- were ranked near the bottom.

 
“No vote should be lost in 2012,” said Penny Venetis, co-director of the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic. “Technology exists to verify votes, and procedures could be in place around the country to make sure that every vote is counted as cast, just like the constitution requires.”

 

Click here to view the whole report.

Click here to view the executive summary.

Click here to view a chart of all the states’ overall assessments.


 

###

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.  

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

July 25, 2012

Christy Setzer, New Heights Communications, christy@newheightscommunications.com, (202) 724-6380
Mary Boyle, Common Cause, mboyle@commoncause.org, (202) 736-5770

 





 

New study: Kansas' voters risk disenfranchisement



 

Voting machine preparation “needs improvement,” but changes can be made by Nov. 6

 

 

WASHINGTON – A lack of effective voter protection measures place Kansas near the bottom of a ranking of states based upon its preparedness to successfully manage voting machine failures on Election Day, a new report finds.

 

The report, “Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Voting Technology Preparedness, was released Wednesday by three non-partisan organizations focused on voting – the Verified Voting Foundation, the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic, and Common Cause. Despite Kansas’ low rating, the report emphasizes that election officials still have time to make changes in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election.

 

“Kansas can improve its efforts to prepare for the upcoming elections,” said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting. “No election system is perfect, and ensuring fair, accurate elections is a national effort. Everyone from election officials to citizens should be involved to make sure this process at the very heart of our democracy is healthy.”

 

Steps Kansas can take to improve election procedures before Nov. 6 include: upgrading ballot accounting and reconciliation practices, which would be able to catch machine errors; encouraging overseas and military voters to cast ballots by mail even if they have the option to vote via e-mail or fax; and ensuring that comprehensive contingency plans are in place (re-enforcing best practices from the secretary of state on down, for example).

 

Many states have neglected to address or prepare for voting machine malfunction, and in every national election, voting systems fail. In 2008, for example, more than 1,800 problems with voting machines were reported nationally.

 

“If history is any indication, machines this November will fail, and votes will be lost,” said Susannah Goodman of Common Cause. “Backup systems like paper ballots, audits and good ballot reconciliation practices need to be put in place to be sure outcomes are correct.”

 

Kansas received an overall rating of “needs improvement” based on its performance in five areas:

 

·         Does the state require paper ballots or records of every vote cast? (When computer failures or human errors cause machine miscounts, election officials can use the original ballots to determine correct totals. Additionally, paper ballots can be used to audit machine counts.)

·         Does the state have adequate contingency plans at each polling place in the event of machine failure?

·         Does the state protect military and overseas voters and their ballots from alteration, manipulation and privacy violations by ensuring that marked ballots are not cast online?

·         Has the state instituted a post-election audit to determine whether the electronically reported results are correct?

·         Does the state use robust ballot reconciliation and tabulation practices to help ensure that no ballots are lost or added as votes are tallied and aggregated from the local to state level?

 

In addition to Kansas, five other states were ranked near the bottom of the list – South Carolina, Delaware, Colorado, Louisiana and Mississippi – while five states were ranked near the top – Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin.

 

“No vote should be lost in 2012,” said Penny Venetis, co-director of the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic. “Technology exists to verify votes, and procedures could be in place around the country to make sure that every vote is counted as cast, just like the constitution requires.”

The national election is more than three months away, and that leaves time for states like Kansas to make simple changes in some of the categories ranked by the study.

 

Click here to view the whole report.

Click here to view the executive summary.

Click here to view a chart of all the states’ overall assessments.

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.  

 

 



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

July 25, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




New Study: Louisiana Voters Risk Disenfranchisement

 

Voting machine preparations "inadequate," but changes can be made by Nov. 6

 

 

WASHINGTON – A lack of effective voter protection measures places Louisiana near the bottom of a ranking of states based upon its preparedness to successfully manage voting machine failures on Election Day, a new, national report finds.

 

The report, “Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Voting Technology Preparedness,was released Wednesday by three non-partisan organizations focused on voting – the Verified Voting Foundation, the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic, and Common Cause. Despite Louisiana’s low rating, the report emphasizes that election officials still have time to make changes in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election.

 

“Louisiana needs to improve its efforts to prepare for the upcoming election,” said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting. “No election system is perfect, and ensuring fair, accurate elections is a national effort. Everyone from election officials to citizens should be involved to make sure this process at the very heart of our democracy is healthy.”

 

Steps Louisiana can take to improve its election procedures before Nov. 6 include:  upgrading ballot accounting and reconciliation practices, which would be able to catch machine errors; encouraging overseas and military voters to cast ballots by mail even if they have the option to vote via e-mail or fax; and ensuring that comprehensive contingency plans are in place (re-enforcing best practices from the secretary of state on down, for example).

 

Many states have neglected to address or prepare for voting machine malfunction, and in every national election, voting systems fail. In 2008, for example, more than 1,800 problems with voting machines were reported nationally.

 

“If history is any indication, machines this November will fail, and votes will be lost,” said Susannah Goodman of Common Cause. “Backup systems like paper ballots, audits and good ballot reconciliation practices need to be put in place to be sure outcomes are correct.”

 

Louisiana received an overall rating of “Inadequate” based on its performance in five areas:

 

·         Does the state require paper ballots or records of every vote cast? (When computer failures or human errors cause machine miscounts, election officials can use the original ballots to determine correct totals. Additionally, paper ballots can be used to audit machine counts.)

·         Does the state have adequate contingency plans at each polling place in the event of machine failure?

·         Does the state protect military and overseas voters and their ballots from alteration, manipulation and privacy violations by ensuring that marked ballots are not cast online?

·         Has the state instituted a post-election audit to determine whether the electronically reported results are correct?

·         Does the state use robust ballot reconciliation and tabulation practices to help ensure that no ballots are lost or added as votes are tallied and aggregated from the local to state level?

 

In addition to Louisiana, five other states were ranked near the bottom of the list – South Carolina, Colorado, Delaware, Kansas and Mississippi – while five states were ranked near the top – Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin.

“No vote should be lost in 2012,” said Penny Venetis, co-director of the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic. “Technology exists to verify votes, and procedures could be in place around the country to make sure that every vote is counted as cast, just like the constitution requires.”

The national election is more than three months away, and that leaves time for states like Louisiana to make simple changes in some of the categories ranked by the study.

 

Click here to view the whole report.

Click here to view the executive summary.

Click here to view a chart of all the states’ overall assessments.

###

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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

July 25, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




New report: Mississippi Voters Risk Disenfranchisement

 

Voting machine preparation "inadequate," but changes can be made by Nov. 6

 

 

WASHINGTON – A lack of effective voter protection measures places Mississippi near the bottom of a ranking of states based upon its preparedness to successfully manage voting machine failures on Election Day, a new, national report finds.

 

The report, Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Voting Technology Preparedness, was released Wednesday by three non-partisan organizations focused on voting – the Verified Voting Foundation, the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic, and Common Cause. Despite Mississippi’s low rating, the report emphasizes that election officials still have time to make changes in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election.

 

“Mississippi needs to improve its efforts to prepare for the upcoming election,” said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting. “No election system is perfect, and ensuring fair, accurate elections is a national effort. Everyone from election officials to citizens should be involved to make sure this process at the very heart of our democracy is healthy.”

 

Steps Mississippi can take to improve its election procedures before Nov. 6 include:  upgrading ballot accounting and reconciliation practices, which would be able to catch machine errors; encouraging overseas and military voters to cast ballots by mail even if they have the option to vote via e-mail or fax; and ensuring that comprehensive contingency plans are in place (re-enforcing best practices from the secretary of state on down, for example).

 

Many states have neglected to address or prepare for voting machine malfunction, and in every national election, voting systems fail. In 2008, for example, more than 1,800 problems with voting machines were reported nationally.

 

“If history is any indication, machines this November will fail in the U.S. and votes will be lost,” said Susannah Goodman of Common Cause. “Backup systems like paper ballots, audits and good ballot reconciliation practices need to be put in place to be sure outcomes are correct.”

 

Mississippi received an overall rating of “Inadequate” based on its performance in five areas:

 

·         Does the state require paper ballots or records of every vote cast? (When computer failures or human errors cause machine miscounts, election officials can use the original ballots to determine correct totals. Additionally, paper ballots can be used to audit machine counts.)

·         Does the state have adequate contingency plans at each polling place in the event of machine failure?

·         Does the state protect military and overseas voters and their ballots from alteration, manipulation and privacy violations by ensuring that marked ballots are not cast online?

·         Has the state instituted a post-election audit to determine whether the electronically reported results are correct?

·         Does the state use robust ballot reconciliation and tabulation practices to help ensure that no ballots are lost or added as votes are tallied and aggregated from the local to state level?

 

In addition to Mississippi, five other states were ranked near the bottom of the list – South Carolina, Colorado, Delaware, Kansas and Louisiana – while five states were ranked near the top – Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin.

 

“No vote should be lost in 2012,” said Penny Venetis, co-director of the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic. “Technology exists to verify votes, and procedures could be in place around the country to make sure that every vote is counted as cast, just like the constitution requires.”

Election Day is more than three months away, and that leaves time for states like Mississippi to make simple changes in some of the categories ranked by the study.

Click here to view the whole report.

Click here to view the executive summary.

Click here to view a chart of all the states’ overall assessments.

 

###

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.  



 

For Immediate Release

Contact:

July 25, 2012

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

 




New Study: Nevada Risks Election Day Breakdowns

 

Report says there's still time to make needed changes by Nov. 6

 

WASHINGTON – In what could be the most fiercely-contested election in U.S. history, Nevada ranks in the middle on preparedness to deal with voting machine malfunctions or breakdowns that could depress vote totals and affect the election result, a new, national voting study suggests.

 

The report, Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Voting Technology Preparedness,” says that state officials have no plan to make paper ballots available to voters in precincts where machines malfunction. Machine breakdowns can and do occur in every election, the report notes.

 

"High-profile elections in the past decade have been decided by razor thin margins,” the report notes. “The 2000 presidential race was decided by 537 votes in Florida; the Washington State gubernatorial race in 2004 by 129 votes, and a Minnesota Senate race in 2008 by just 312.  Every national election since 2000 has seen voting system failures stem from machines that won’t start, memory cards that can’t be read, mis-tallied votes, lost votes and more. Under the U.S. Constitution and every state constitution, as well as by statute throughout the country, every vote must be counted as cast."

 

The report emphasizes that state election officials still have time before the election to make changes that would protect the integrity of the vote. The study was released Wednesday by three non-partisan organizations focused on voting – the Verified Voting Foundation, the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic, and Common Cause.

 

“Nevada gets good marks for having an audit and for its ballot accounting practices, but can do more to improve its efforts to prepare for the upcoming election,” said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting. “No election system is perfect, and ensuring fair, accurate elections is a national effort. Our elections are complex – we have so many jurisdictions and varying technologies. Everyone from election officials to citizens should be involved to make sure this process at the very heart of our democracy is healthy.”

 

The report noted that voting systems routinely fail. In 2008 – the last presidential election year – more than 1,800 problems were reported nationally.

 

“If history is any indication, machines this November will fail in the U.S. and votes will be lost,” said Susannah Goodman of Common Cause. “Backup systems like paper ballots need to be put in place in every state to help to verify results.”

 

The report rates Nevada as “generally good” in comparing its voting and vote-counting practices to those of other states and examining its performance in each of five areas:

 

·         Does the state require paper ballots or records of every vote cast? (When computer failures or human errors cause machine miscounts, election officials can use the original ballots to determine correct totals. Additionally, paper ballots can be used to audit machine counts.)

·         Does the state have adequate contingency plans at each polling place in the event of machine failure?

·         Does the state protect military and overseas voters and their ballots from alteration, manipulation and privacy violations by ensuring that marked ballots are not cast online?

·         Has the state instituted a post-election audit to determine whether the electronically reported results are correct?

·         Does the state use robust ballot reconciliation and tabulation practices to help ensure that no ballots are lost or added as votes are tallied and aggregated from the local to state level?

 

The highest rated states overall were Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin, while South Carolina, Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana and Mississippi -- were ranked near the bottom.

“No vote should be lost in 2012,” said Penny Venetis, co-director of the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic. “Technology exists to verify votes, and procedures could be in place around the country to make sure that every vote is counted as cast, just like the constitution requires.”

 

Click here to view the whole report.

Click here to view the executive summary.

Click here to view a chart of all the states’ overall assessments.

 

 

 

###

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