Tag Archives: Campaign Finance Reform
L'Taken Students at the Capitol

L’Taken Participants Lobby for Campaign Finance Reform

At the last L’Taken seminar, Illinois students lobbied their Senators and Representative about the critical importance of campaign finance reform. Jonah Helbraun and Ryan Liberman of Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, IL, and Francesca Block of Congregation Hakafa in Glencoe, IL, joined forces to share facts, Jewish values, and a powerful story about the real effects of money in politics in their community: Read more…

"Democracy is Not for Sale"

An Unhappy Anniversary for Money in Politics

Next Wednesday, January 21 marks the fifth anniversary of Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, the infamous case in which the Supreme Court struck down a longstanding ban on corporation and union spending in elections. Since the decision five years ago, money has flowed into elections through political action committees (PACs), which contribute money to candidates’ election campaigns. It is estimated that outside groups spent over $1 billion in the 2012 presidential election. More money was spent by outside organizations, often keeping their donor lists secret, than by either candidates’ own campaign. While the total amount of money spent by candidates increased only marginally from 2008, the amount from outside groups quadrupled – thanks largely to the doors opened by Citizens United. Read more…

Money in politics

Spending Bill Allows 10x Increase in Campaign Contributions

Debate over the “CRomnibus” spending bill closed out the 113th Congress—and 2014—with a bang. Ultimately, Congress passed the bill to avoid another shutdown and to fund the government until September 2015, the end of the fiscal year. But, lawmakers opposed the bill for its harmful policy riders, which, as my colleague Melanie Fineman explained, are amendments attached to legislation in its last stages to alter the language or to attach a new idea on a bill on which a compromise has already been reached.

One rider of particular concern will allow wealthy political contributors to give even more money to political parties. The provision creates three distinct funds within each national party, allowing individual donors to contribute up to $97,200 to each fund, each year. That’s $324,000 per year, or $648,000 per two-year election cycle. Until now, individual contributions to national parties were limited to $32,400 per year, or $64,800 in a two-year cycle. So, individual donors are now allowed to give 10 times the previous limit to finance national party activities, opening a dangerous door for wealthy contributors to gain undue influence on our political system. Read more…

Women politicians

Money in Politics a Stumbling Block For Women and Minority Candidates

When Representative Alma Adams (D-NC-12) was sworn in earlier this month, we hit a milestone for women in politics: 100 women—the most in history—currently serve in Congress. There’s been a lot of conversation about how, despite the progress this figure symbolizes, 100 women out of 535 Senators and Representatives is not enough. Noticeably absent from this conversation, however, is a discussion of how money in politics affects who runs for office.

When we talk about money in politics, we tend to focus on candidates’ campaign expenditures. But the outsized influence corporate donors and wealthy individuals have on political campaigns affects far more than a candidate’s campaign events or the ads we see on TV in the final push before Election Day. Campaign contributions affect who can run for office in the first place, with money serving as a substantial barrier for women and people of color seeking to start a campaign. Read more…

Money in politics

Don’t Be a Bystander When There’s Big Money in Politics

The upcoming midterm elections promise to break records. The Senate race between incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) is on track to be the most expensive Senate contest in American history. For more than a year, experts have predicted that the Kentucky race could be the first for a Senate seat to total more than $100 million in campaign expenditures; spending from both parties suggests these predictions will prove correct. If that is the case, the Grimes-McConnell race will shatter the current record of $82 million set by the high-profile 2012 contest between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown for a Massachusetts Senate seat. Read more…

What’s Next for Campaign Finance?

Campaign finance reform is an immense and complex issue, but the principles behind it are simple: one voice, one vote. In the wake of two major Supreme Court cases, Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (2010) and McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission (2014), advocates for fair elections are seeking to reverse the effects of these decisions by enacting new laws to limit campaign contributions and expenditures.

In 2011, months after the Citizens United decision, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced a Senate joint resolution to propose a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to limit campaign contributions and expenditures. The resolution saw little action until recently, when the Senate voted to block the amendment, a move that demonstrates continued disregard for the core principle of equality that should guide our elections and civic participation. Constitutional amendments are a long, slow process in the United States; recall the ongoing fight for the Equal Rights Amendment. But the process has not discouraged legislators and advocates from seeking lasting solutions and permanent reform.

As Jews, we must heed the warnings of our ancient texts that speak to the dangers of mixing money and politics (Deuteronomy 16:19). We are also commanded to stand up for the widow, the poor, the orphan and the stranger. In the words of former Commission on Social Action director Leonard Fein, of blessed memory, Jews have always acted on the belief that both our moral obligations and our self-interest require “a politics that speaks to the needs of those who have been left out or left behind, a politics of inclusion.” It is the poor and the immigrant who are ignored in a system where the currency that matters most is money rather than ideas. It is the poor who suffer when policy decisions are made by those who are dependent on the small percentage of the population that supplies the largest percentage of campaign contributions. Looking ahead to the November elections and beyond, it is imperative that we ensure every voter’s voice is truly equal, neither amplified nor silenced by outsized campaign contributions.

Supreme Court

Supreme Court Happenings

In light of recent Supreme Court decisions, and more opinions expected to come down this morning, it feels like an appropriate time to recap what the nine justices have been working and opining on.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court handed down a decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, upholding a constitutional ban on affirmative action in public university admissions in Michigan 6-2 (Justice Kagan recused herself). Interestingly, Justice Stephen Breyer concurred with the conservative wing of the Court. The New York Times notes that “justices in the majority, with varying degrees of vehemence, said that policies affecting minorities that do not involve intentional discrimination should ordinarily be decided at the ballot box rather than in the courtroom.”

Read more…

Hand putting stack of dollar bills into ballot box

Citizens United Revisited: McCutcheon V. FEC

Early last week, the Supreme Court announced its decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, the most recent court challenge to the campaign finance system in the United States. In the decision, the Court struck down a ban on aggregate limits on donations directly to candidates’ campaigns and political parties. An aggregate limit is (or was) a limit on the overall amount any one person could give to candidates and parties in any two year campaign cycle. While anyone was and still is limited to $2,500 for one particular candidate, they can now give that amount to as many candidates as they like, while previously it was limited to 18 different candidates. Read more…

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