New Report: “Putin, Trump and Democracy’s Slippery Slope Toward Oligarchy”

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  • David Vance

Today, Common Cause will release a new report – “Putin, Trump and Democracy’s Slippery Slope Toward Oligarchy”- that examines Russia’s attacks on the 2016 presidential election, the continuing threats to our democracy and solutions to address these threats. It also examines how the campaign and Administration of Donald Trump have harnessed our system’s weaknesses to their political and personal benefit.

The report will be released today at Common Cause’s fifth annual Blueprint for a Great Democracy Conference, where the issues raised in the report will be examined by experts in the fields.

One year after Trump’s upset victory in the 2016 presidential race, a steady stream of new and alarming revelations continue to emerge not only about Russian attacks on the electoral process, but also about the campaign and Administration’s dealings with individuals with ties to the Kremlin. This report examines the big picture and the cumulative impact of those troubling events on our democracy and what must be done to fix it.

“Americans deserve clean and fair elections without interference from hostile foreign states and they expect their elected representatives to shore up the glaring vulnerabilities to our democracy revealed in the 2016 election,” said Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn. “This report takes stock of a number of threats, both foreign and domestic, that are steadily being brought to light by last year’s presidential race and its aftermath and it points to solutions to fix them. The current state of affairs revealed in this report cannot become the new normal and an engaged citizenry will help ensure that does not happen.”

At a time when the Special Counsel’s investigation of Russia’s interference yields its first indictments and conviction, it’s clear that democracy in America still has weaknesses. This report examines some of those vulnerabilities, along with the challenges of and the progress made toward addressing them:

  • Russian-affiliated hackers attempted to infiltrate at least 21 states’ election infrastructure. While officials insist there’s no evidence the hackers altered vote totals, it’s clear that voter registries and voting machines remain far too exposed to outside interference. Citizens’ information must be protected, and states must adopt auditable voting methods that ensure election results are sufficiently secure.
  • Campaign finance law insufficiently guards against the use of foreign money to influence elections, especially online. Russians spent at least $100,000 on Facebook political ads, but it is impossible to know how much. New legislation is needed to regulate political advertisements distributed via social media and other Internet platforms.
  • Russian “troll factories” conducted a vast propaganda campaign to create and distribute fake news to a wide American audience. Meanwhile, President Trump has lashed out against reporters and stories he dislikes, threatening the democratic principle of a free press.
  • Despite the Constitution’s prohibition of his acceptance of foreign emoluments, the president continues to profit from his office, gaining unknown sums from foreign governments. His decades of pursuing business in Russia contradict his claims to have no dealings in the country.
  • Most of Trump’s predecessors have kept the Justice Department at arm’s length and used their pardon power sparingly, but Trump shows little respect for those traditions. He has consistently acted to hamstring independent investigations into Russian interference and his own allies’ involvement.
  • Despite a halting start, the people and institutions entrusted with running our elections are increasingly aware of and responding to this threat to our democracy.

Coming one year after the 2016 election, today’s report is the second Common Cause has released to mark a milestone in the Trump presidency. The first, “State of the Swamp” marked the first 100 days of the new administration, which we boldly proclaimed the most unethical in history.

To read the report “Putin, Trump and Democracy’s Slippery Slope Toward Oligarchy, click here

To livestream the conference between 10:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. today, click here.