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Voting & Elections 01.12.2023

Public News Service: MN Part of Push to Expand Access to Voting

Annastacia Belladonna-Carrera, executive director of Common Cause Minnesota, said expanding voting access is always a good thing, but added the work needs to be done with precision. "For us, it's not just about the title of the bill, it's not just about the concept of the bill," Belladonna-Carrera explained. "It's about those nooks and crannies that really speak to meaningful maximization of transparency, accountability, rights." Belladonna-Carrera acknowledged moving too quickly can lead to unintended consequences. She feels a single, unforeseen negative effect would be enough for fringe groups to perpetuate false claims of systemic election problems.

Voting & Elections 10.6.2022

Center for Public Integrity: Colorado makes it easier to vote while guarding against conspiracy theorists

“I don’t think we’re immune to these attempts to degrade our really great system and to make voting more difficult,” said Cameron Hill, associate director of Common Cause Colorado. ... Hill said a goal of Colorado Common Cause, criminal justice reform organizations and other voting rights groups in the next year or two is legislative action or a ballot initiative to fully restore the voting rights of people serving prison sentences for felonies. If successful, Colorado would join only Maine, Vermont and Washington, D.C., in allowing any resident citizen over age 18 to vote regardless of criminal convictions or incarceration. “It’s possible. There’s an appetite,” Hill said. “We have some pretty progressive lawmakers and we’re on track to get several more.” 

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.

Money & Influence 02.2.2022

Reuters: Who funds your local sheriff? Report raises new campaign finance questions

Keshia Morris Desir, mass incarceration project manager at Common Cause, told me that The Paid Jailer report, which was released in January, “tries to shine a light on a blind spot in efforts toward criminal justice reform.” “We’re really trying to call attention to this issue because we usually only think about the police department when we talk about law enforcement reform, even though sheriffs are actually elected officials,” Desir said. Desir, at Common Cause, told me campaign finance reporting systems across the country are so varied and poorly run that some sheriffs’ offices responded to inquiries with handwritten lists of their political contributions. The Common Cause report includes a series of important policy recommendations, including restricting contributions to campaigns from individuals and entities that conduct or seek business with the state or city. “The reason we studied this is that sheriffs control really large swaths of the mass incarceration system, including in immigration, and they make major decisions about the health and safety of millions of incarcerated people,” Desir said. “Bringing attention to their offices presents an opportunity to strengthen disclosure laws and make other reforms to improve campaign financing” for these powerful, publicly elected officials.

Boston Globe: Follow the money: Sheriffs’ campaign donations get a much-needed look

“Sheriffs and campaign finance — that is, who is donating to sheriffs’ campaigns — are a virtual blind spot that has not been covered enough,” said Keshia Morris Desir, Common Cause’s census and mass incarceration project manager and one of the authors of the report. “The role of the sheriff is not often talked about, but they have a huge impact on our daily lives. Sheriffs should be listening to their constituents and not wealthy special interests.” Beth Rotman, director of money in politics and ethics at Common Cause and a coauthor of the report, pointed to the need to reform campaign finance by limiting contributions from donors associated with entities seeking or doing business with the sheriffs’ offices. Rotman highlighted Connecticut and New York City’s example as evidence that it can be done. Both have strong “good government” programs, including limits on such campaign contributions and small-donor democracy programs, which is a form of public financing that seeks to replace the role of big money in electoral politics.

Voting & Elections 12.1.2021

The Hill: The Hill's Top Lobbyists 2021

Not all of those honored on this list are registered lobbyists. But they are all key players who the nation’s biggest companies, advocacy groups, labor unions and trade associations turn to when they want their voices heard in the nation’s capital. The ranks of policy experts, influencers and advocates run deep in Washington, but these are the people who stand out for delivering results for their clients in the halls of Congress and the administration. ... GRASSROOTS: Karen Hobert Flynn and Aaron Scherb, Common Cause 

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