Money in politics has been a problem for many years in terms of both the influence it has and the time and effort our elected officials devote to fundraising. An outstanding This American Life radio program gives a penetrating view of the problems that money has caused in the past in the words of both politicians and lobbyists. We the People are one people, but some of us have been given a much louder voice. The 2010 Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court and subsequent federal court decisions — in the name of First Amendment freedom of speech — have opened the door to unlimited political contributions by wealthy individuals, corporations, labor unions, and other special interest groups, thus undermining our democracy.
And the power of these contributions has been intensified by the increasing concentration of wealth in the top one percent of our population.
As economist and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich puts it: “This extraordinary concentration of income, wealth, and political power at the very top imperils all else — our economy, our democracy, the revival of the American middle class, the prospects for the poor and for people of color, the necessity of slowing and reversing climate change, and a sensible foreign policy not influenced by the “military-industrial complex,” as President Dwight Eisenhower once called it.”
Political contributions are funneled primarily through “Super PACs” (donor names are reported) and non-profit 501(c)4 “Social Welfare” groups (donor names are kept secret).
A nationwide, bipartisan grassroots movement has arisen to level the playing field with a constitutional amendment exempting political contributions from First Amendment freedom-of-speech provisions. Expressions of support have come from resolutions passed by over 680 cities across the nation. This is a big, big deal.
Baker City, Oregon, joined in this vital, fundamental effort on Tuesday, June 26, 2012, when the City Council unanimously adopted a resolution urging passage of such a constitutional amendment!
On July 1, 2013, the Oregon legislature passed House Joint Memorial 6, which urges the U.S. Congress to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision! Oregon thus became the 16th state to pass such a resolution.
The recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia has now opened a second avenue toward easing the campaign contribution problems via a new Supreme Court review.
And a third avenue has appeared in the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders, who is rejecting money from PACs and is relying on many small contributions.
And yet another opportunity lies in the direction of government funding of elections, either in whole or as a multiplier of small, individual contributions.
Please join us in this effort to save our democracy.