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Money & Influence 08.29.2023

San Jose Mercury News: Thought San Jose’s 2022 mayor’s race was expensive? Experts say brace yourself.

Sean McMorris, a member of government transparency nonprofit California Common Cause, said he’s unsure whether the city needs to eliminate the cap at all. “I know that San Jose is being proactive, but it is not clear to me that the SCOTUS ruling, which pertained to federal campaign finance law and post-election fundraising, would necessarily apply to all local campaign finance laws pertaining to candidate loans or that a city cannot narrowly tailor such a law to avoid running afoul of the SCOTUS ruling,” he wrote in an emailed statement.

Voting & Elections 08.28.2023

Public News Service: Feds Consider Whether to Allow Betting on Election Outcomes

Stephen Spaulding, vice president of policy for the nonprofit Common Cause, said gambling on elections is bad for democracy. "You can imagine wealthy gamblers could make significant money by exploiting disinformation to influence an electoral outcome that would protect the bettors' bottom line," Spaulding pointed out. "This again opens up a significant risk to the perception that the winners and losers of an election are not determined by voters, but by those who stand to gain financially." Spaulding noted the "Citizens United" Supreme Court decision allowed companies to spend unlimited money on elections, and called betting on elections a "profound threat to democracy." "You can imagine a situation where an entity places an enormous wager on the outcome of an election, and also funnels resources through Super PACs or other 'dark money' vehicles to influence the outcome of an election," Spaulding explained. "That is inherently, we think, anti-democratic." Both Common Cause and some U.S. senators, including California's Dianne Feinstein, submitted letters of opposition during the public comment period, which ended in July. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is expected to make a decision by Sept. 21.

Money & Influence 08.23.2023

Boston Globe: What is ‘red-boxing’ and why is it an issue in R.I.’s congressional race?

John M. Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, said Common Cause and the Campaign Legal Center have been urging the state Board of Elections for at least four years to adopt regulations that would clarify that types of coordination — including red-boxing — violate state campaign finance law. It hasn’t happened. Marion said the current form of red-boxing has emerged since Rhode Island last made major changes in this area of campaign finance law in 2012. “It was hard to imagine then that super PACs and candidates campaigns would be so sophisticated as to have hidden websites and cryptic tweets,” he said. “Sign stealing is maybe as old as baseball, but the sophistication of it has increased over time. Even our Red Sox got caught using an Apple Watch.” Marion said, “The independent spending in elections which was unleashed by the US Supreme Court in the Citizens United decision is supposed to be completely separate from a candidate’s campaign, and when it is coordinated it eviscerates our limits on money in politics.”

Money & Influence 08.21.2023

The Oregonian: Oregon labor group launches end run around effort to curb political donations, shed light on dark money

Kate Titus, executive director of good government group Common Cause Oregon, said that Our Oregon’s initiatives are “clearly an effort to try to derail (the proposal for stricter limits) and offer a different alternative.” “I’m pleased that there’s a proactive movement toward campaign finance reform and more players are looking for ways to do this,” said Titus, who gave input on the development of the reform advocates’ proposal but whose organization has yet to endorse any measure for 2024. “Unfortunately, some of the changes that they’ve made … do appear on the surface to be highly problematic.” Titus, with Common Cause, said she looks forward to voters weighing in. “The thing to remember is a loophole for one is a loophole for all,” said Titus. “Letting money rule the day is never going to get us to the type of governing we need, and we should all have a stake in that.”

Money & Influence 08.20.2023

The Hill (Op-Ed): How the Federal Election Commission is undermining the integrity of our elections

Georgia’s elections are all over the headlines this past week after the Trump indictment, but there is one issue key to protecting our votes missing from those headlines: transparency in campaign spending. In Georgia, we believe all voters have a right to know when wealthy special interests are spending big to influence our vote. Unfortunately, the Federal Election Commission, the agency tasked with enforcing federal campaign finance laws, has failed Georgia voters and left us in the dark about an out-of-state group that illegally spent untold sums to try and stop some of us from voting in the 2021 U.S. Senate runoff elections.

Bolts: ‘We Have a Right to Put It on the Ballot’: How Organizers Are Defending Direct Democracy

Bolts this week gathered three organizers who have fought this dynamic in each of three states that are undergoing this dynamic: Ohio, Arkansas, and Idaho. Their meeting sparked a wide-ranging conversation about their shared frustrations and strategies. Mia Lewis, associate director of Common Cause Ohio, was active in the campaign to defeat Issue 1 this summer. “This is a great group to be talking to,” Lewis said. “Because they’re not doing this in one state, they do these things repeatedly in different states, so why shouldn’t we strategize?”

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