Tag Archives: Elections
Hand putting stack of dollar bills into ballot box

Citizens United Turns Four: Wealthy Donors and Corporations Celebrate

Last week, the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United “celebrated” its fourth anniversary, and the flood of both undisclosed and independent spending in political campaigns continues to grow.

Citizens United struck down a longstanding ban on corporation and union spending in elections—and since the decision four 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.

Of this new money pouring into federal elections, over a third of it is undisclosed, meaning that the donors only know the name of the organization funding an ad, but not the donors behind it. Financial disclosure is the cornerstone of any law intended to prevent abuse of public office for personal financial gain. Additionally, disclosure is the one form of campaign finance regulation that the Supreme Court emphatically said does not violate the First Amendment but efforts to expand disclosure have stalled in Congress.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court seems poised to strike down another campaign finance limit. On October 9, 2013, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which concerns the “aggregate limit,”—or total amount of money—one person can donate to candidates for federal office and any political parties in one election cycle. The limit is currently set at $46,000 for individual candidates and $70,000 for political parties per cycle. If struck down, this law would provide another avenue for the wealthy to influence our politics and will further drown out the voices of millions of Americans who donate small amounts to their chosen candidates and causes.

Jewish tradition recognizes the distorting effect that money can have on a leader’s ability to govern fairly. Deuteronomy 16:19 commands, ”You shall not judge unfairly: you shall know no partiality; you shall not take gifts, for gifts blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just.” In a modern democracy, it is necessary for elected officials to be accountable to all citizens, not just wealthy and powerful moneyed interests. Please take a moment to tell your Members of Congress to support publically funded elections!

Hand putting stack of dollar bills into ballot box

News for Campaign Finance Reform!

Since the U.S. Supreme Court decided Citizens United in 2010, clean election and campaign finance advocates have been playing defense; however, last month the IRS announced a potential victory for those fighting against the Court’s decision. Read more…

Goodbye from the LAs

Today the five Eisendrath Legislative Assistants say goodbye after an amazing year representing the Union for Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C. We have worked on nearly 70 different legislative issues, represented the RAC in countless coalitions, seen some bills signed into law and others tragically defeated, said goodbye to one Congress and welcomed the next. All in all it has been an incredible year.

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Rowhani Wins Iranian Election

All eyes were on Iran last week as 36 million citizens went to the polls to vote for their next president. With 50.7% of the vote, Hasan Rowhani was declared the surprise victor.

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Saeed Jalili

As Iran Prepares Another Sham Vote, Action Is More Important Than Ever

This article by Bob Feferman originally appeared in the Forward on Friday, June 14, 2013.

As Iran approaches another fraudulent presidential election on June 14, it is important to remember the 2009 protests in Iran over the results of the rigged election. The heart-wrenching picture of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman who was shot dead by regime thugs, was not an isolated event. Neda’s tragic death should serve as a call for us to take action, both for the sake of the people of Iran and the cause of peace.

According to the U.N. Special Rapporteur’s March 2013 report on human rights in Iran , “There continues to be widespread systemic and systematic violations of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran”.
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Iranian Elections Taking Shape

On June 14, Iranians will go to the polls to elect their next president. While the world watches to see what course the next Iranian government will take, we at the RAC thought that it might be helpful to break down the Iranian election in advance of the vote.

While the president of a country is generally regarded as the most important figurehead of the country he or she governs, Iran does not fit this generalization. In Iran, power rests with the Supreme Leader, currently Ayatollah Khamenei. In addition to controlling the country’s media and appointing the head of the judiciary and leaders of Iran’s armed forces, the Ayatollah is responsible for appointing half of the 12-member Guardian Council. The Guardian Council exercises a veto right over any legislation and, importantly, is responsible for vetting and approving all presidential candidates.

Although the Guardian Council has not yet announced its list of approved candidates (which will be shortened from the nearly 700 that declared their candidacy), the main presidential contenders are relatively clear. According to a Guardian Council ruling, we should not expect to see any women among the contenders, as they are outlawed from running for office by the Iranian constitution.

The list of likely candidates can be broken into three camps. Camp 1 (indeed the only camp with multiple contenders) is comprised of the Supreme Leader’s picks. These include the Iranian Speaker of Parliament, the Mayor of Tehran, a senior advisor to the Ayatollah on international affairs, and the chief nuclear negotiator of Iran.  Camp 2 is held down by one man, Esfrandir Rahim Mashaie. Mashaie is President Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff. President Ahmadinejad is currently under fire for illegally accompanying Mashaie to register his candidacy. Under Iranian law, Ahmadinejad could face up to 74 lashes of 6 months in prison. Whether or not he will be held accountable for such an infraction remains to be seen. Camp 3, another singular outpost, is represented by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. A late entry into the race, Rafsanjani, who serves as President from 1989 to 1997, and lost his bid for a third (disconnected) term to Ahmadinejad in 2005.

New reports from Iran indicate that the Guardian Council is disqualifying both Mashaie and Rafsanjani, leaving only the Ayatollah’s picks as major contenders.

While the Iranian election is very much focused on domestic issues, the international community is eager to see if Iran’s next president will be a more formidable diplomatic partner than President Ahmadinejad has been, potentially improving nuclear negotiations with the West and their relationship with Israel. Stay tuned to RACblog as we closely follow the election.

Image courtesy of Salem-News.

Consultation on Conscience

Dr. Jones: Understanding Public Policy Through Numbers

Did you know that 65% of Jews think that U.S. culture is in a better place than it was in the 1950’s? And who says that Jews are cynical!

This morning’s session with Dr. Robert Jones, founding CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), guided participants of the Consultation on Conscience through the cold, hard numbers that help to guide U.S. public policy. We learned about the dramatic shifts in public opinion around marriage equality, the degree to which diversifying voting coalitions (along both religious and ethnic lines) will set the stage for national politics in the next decade, and how we should be phrasing our campaigns for comprehensive immigration reform to most effectively build successful coalitions.

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