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Money & Influence 06.10.2022

Associated Press: Hawaii lawmakers pass some reforms after bribery scandal

Sandy Ma, the executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause Hawaii, welcomed the legislation but said it should be strengthened in the future to cover all organizations that spend on political campaigns, including corporations, unions and chambers of commerce. “If we want to shine a light on dark money spending, which we all do, especially Common Cause, we have to do it in a strategic way and cover everybody,” she said.

Money & Influence 05.11.2022

Orange County Register (Op-Ed): End California’s Corridors of Corruption

Right now, appointed local officials cannot receive lavish contributions from wealthy interests when those interests are seeking favorable votes for contracts, licenses, permits, or land use entitlements. That’s common sense. But, bizarrely, the same is not true for local elected officials sitting on our city councils and boards of supervisors. They can accept big checks from wealthy interests and then immediately turn around and vote on the things those interests covet most. And those things are also the things that determine whether our neighborhoods are safe or dangerous, blighted or beautiful, traffic jammed or commuter friendly. Enter Senate Bill 1439, a bill authored by Democratic state Sen. Steve Glazer and co-authored by Republican state Sen. Scott Wilk. Supported by Common Cause and other good government groups, the bill would close this loophole in the state’s Political Reform Act, prohibiting local elected officials from accepting a contribution of more than $250 from someone seeking a license, permit or other entitlement while a decision is pending before the local elected officials.

Voting & Elections 05.4.2022

Washingtonian: Washington DC’s 500 Most Influential People

Aaron Scherb Common Cause Director, Legislative Affairs: Scherb co-led an umbrella advocacy group made up of 240 organizations to push for passage of the For the People Act, a comprehensive voting-rights package that Republicans opposed.

Money & Influence 04.6.2022

The Guardian: Dark money: the quixotic quest to clean up US campaign financing

But Karen Hobert Flynn, president of the democracy reform group Common Cause, said: “The reality since that decision shows that it is not necessarily independent – we see lots of coordination between candidates and Super Pacs – and it causes enormous damage to our imperfect democracy where wealthy mega-donors, corporations, special interest groups not only impact and influence elections but, once elected, lawmakers feel like they need to grant favours for those who funded their campaigns.” Super Pacs are obliged to disclose their donors but these can include non-profits which make the original source of the money hard to track. More than 2,000 Super Pacs operated in each of the last two election cycles. The negative consequences have been felt not only in Washington but at state level, added Flynn, whose long fight for campaign finance reform in Connecticut bore fruit in 2008. “It has created a huge amount of cynicism that Congress and state legislatures are corrupt because they benefit from outside groups spending money on their behalf and that people’s voices do not matter. “The money has also led to further polarisation, driving more extreme kinds of measures, particularly on the right where we’ve seen money supporting those who want to overturn a fair and free election. If you look at the top 10 Super Pacs and their outside spending so far just in 2022, you’ll see nine out of the top 10 Super Pacs are conservative or support Republican candidates. It isn’t like, ‘Hey, both sides do it and it’s equal and it’s not a problem.’”

Money & Influence 03.6.2022

Inside Sources/Tribune News Service: Elected Jailers and the Money Behind Their Campaigns

The Paid Jailer report suggests that industry donations to sheriffs are not only likely damaging to justice and democracy but also incredibly common. Construction companies contribute tens of thousands of dollars and then go on to build bigger jails. Legal firms fund races and end up representing the sheriff’s office in misconduct cases. Our research uncovered more than $6 million in contributions from donors with potential ethical conflicts. More than 40 percent of contributions to sheriffs we studied came from conflicted donors whose influence could incentivize more arrests, lead to more deaths in custody, and keep more people in jail.

Voting & Elections 02.22.2022

Ms. Magazine (Op-Ed): Our Democracy Has Problems. Women Have Solutions.

My dream is to live in an inclusive democracy that lives up to its promise. Where everyone has a say in the future for their family and community; where anyone can run for public office; where everyone plays by the same fair rules; and where our government reflects who we are because people vote in high numbers. We must not yield to a cynicism that says we can never improve. Making the dream real means ensuring those who represent us are reflective and responsive to the people—not the wealthy who dominate campaign and lobbyist spending. It means ending voter suppression that silences Black and brown voters; replacing unaccountable secret money in elections with small dollar donor laws that shift power from wealthy special interests to the people; ending racial and partisan gerrymandering by shifting power from politicians to impartial commissions; and preventing election sabotage that would steal power from voters by overturning elections. —Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause

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