Public Campaign is a group we regard highly. Their “slogan” is a simple one: Clean Money - Clean Elections
We like the term Clean Elections, too, because, well, who doesn’t want elections to be clean?
Other groups use similar terms (e.g. Clean Money or Voter-Owned Elections) but they mean the same thing.
But what, exactly, is a Clean Election?
The best known example of a Clean Election program is the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. It was created by the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 and went into effect in the 1976 election. You can dedicate $3 of your federal income taxes to fund qualifying candidates for President. For years, both the Democratic and Republican nominees for President relied on those funds for their general election campaigns, along with the party nominating conventions. In exchange they were not allowed to accept any other funds for their own campaigns (though the political party committees could and did raise money to campaign on their behalf).
In 2008, Barack Obama became the first major candidate in decades to opt out of government funding for a Presidential campaign - though he also declined to take contributions from the special interest political action committees (PAC). In 2012, both Obama and Romney opted out of the government funding system, and decided that they could raise more money on their own. Once again, Obama did not accept PAC contributions to his campaign (though he did solicit contributions for a Super PAC that spent money to support him, but independently of his campaign).
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his previously promised Moreland Commission, a committee tasked with investigating corruption in New York government and recommending legislative action.
In response to his campaign finance reform bill dying in the Senate, the Governor has assembled a collection of 25 legal experts, including 10 District Attorneys. Authorized with broad jurisdiction and subpoena power, these officials will tackle the fraud rampant among New York politicians.
Considering Albany’s recent cluster of political scandals, the Moreland Commission is a welcome, albeit transitory, substitute for legislation. Some preventive action was necessary after cases of bribery, embezzlement, and illegal campaign fundraising surfaced, rocking the trust in state government. Southern District of New York attorney Preet Bharara labeled the situation aptly: “a show-me-the-money culture seems to pervade every level of New York Government.”
Despite its seemingly honorable intentions, Governor Cuomo’s Moreland Commission has received mixed reviews.
Which one of these is not like the others?
An acquaintance recently asked, “Why did you run for political office?”
I said, “Well, I’m Jewish, and my grandmother’s parents and eight of her brothers and sisters were killed in an anti-Semitic pogrom in the Ukraine in 1916. When I was in college becoming politically aware during the Vietnam War, it was clear to me that Vietnam was a failure of morality, judgment and policy.
I realized that things don’t automatically turn out okay. I thought if you want to prevent tragedies, you need to be involved. You may not be able to stop every bad thing from happening, but at least you will know that you tried.”
My friend was quiet and I thought that perhaps I had been too self-revealing. Previously we had only joked around together. But he said in a serious way, “That sounds like a good reason.”
“Martha, I’m not going to be home for dinner tonight.”
“George, why not? I’m making chicken.”
“I have to go to a fundraiser with the Wall Street Banks.”
“Ok. When do you think you will be home?”
“Probably about ten. I just have to listen to them whine about over-regulation, and then pick up a envelope of big checks.”
“Where is the fundraiser?”
“At the Willard Hotel.”
“Well don’t eat too much of that rich food. You know it gives you gas.”
When George got home Martha asked him how it went.
“They want the government to insure the depositors against losses, but they don’t want to follow any rules to prevent them from taking risks with the taxpayer’s money.”
“What did you say to them?”
“I just listened, and nodded my head as if I agreed.”
“George, if you didn’t agree, that sounds almost like lying.”
“Well, I didn’t actually tell a lie.”
“Will you be home early tomorrow night?”
“No tomorrow night is another fundraiser. This one is with the Cherry Tree Growers Association. Hell if I know what I am going to tell them.”
As we celebrate our country’s independence it is appropriate to look at how we are doing compared to the ideals upon which the country was founded.
The truth is we are not doing well. Candidates spend more time raising money than they do on policy. Wealthy special interests like banks, insurance companies, pharmaceutical and oil companies have overwhelming influence and control in Washington. Ordinary citizens are almost totally ignored. Every four years, more money is spent on campaigns, people become more cynical, and fewer people participate, potentially creating a negative, downward, death spiral for democracy.
I founded CleanSlateNow.org because I felt a responsibility to do something to stop this looming disaster for our political system. We are working to solve the problem of special interest money corruption by helping to elect candidates who do not accept special interest PAC contributions.
Please join us in supporting these candidates by becoming a member of CleanSlateNow.org.
To become a member, you only need to
1) Pledge to volunteer 10 hours a year;
2) Sign up as a monthly contributor of $8 or more a month; or
3) Make an annual contribution of at least $96.
Will you join CleanSlateNow.org today as a member?
Click here to join us in standing up for democracy, and become a member today.
New York State’s highly publicized, often divisive, and thoroughly comprehensive campaign finance reform amendment has died in the state Senate, and with it hopes for a spark of national campaign reform.
It was defeated 32-30 on the final day of the legislative session. The usual bipartisanship divisions were in effect with every Republican opposed while nearly all Democrats were in favor (even the breakaway senators of the Independent Democratic Committee). However, two Democrats sided with the right, ultimately making the difference in the vote and condemning the reform to failure.
Let us consider the immense benefits of Governor Cuomo’s reform; both immediate and enduring outcomes that would have helped restore effective democracy in America. By evaluating Cuomo’s plan to give power back to his constituents, we may better understand the undemocratic nature of money in politics and frame his reform attempts as a blueprint for campaign restructuring across America.
When my son was ten years old, he came home from school one day and said, “Dad if you were standing on the shore and not very far away a child was drowning would you go into the lake to save him?”
I said, “Yes, of course.”
He said, “Well there are children starving in Africa.”
I mention this because it seems to me that America over the last thirty years has become a more selfish place. People are less inclined to look out for the community, and more inclined to look out for themselves. Whereas once doctors, inventors, teachers and community leaders were esteemed, now the highest form of accomplishment seems to be getting a job on Wall Street, moving money around and making a ton of it for yourself.
The people in my book club last night while discussing The Unwinding, George Packer’s book about the gradual dismantling of many of our social institutions, also discussed what if anything could be done to restore a sense of community, to restore a sense that we are all better off when we look out for each other.
One member of the group said that in order for people to be moved to action something has to be occurring right in front of them. This led to me thinking about what my son said years ago.
Long time readers know that I believe that a very deep underlying dysfunction in our political system is the way we use private, self-motivated dollars to finance our politics. Since political leaders are in some sense, “leaders” this selfish, money-driven system becomes a model for all the other systems and institutions in our society.
For this reason I started CleanSlateNow.org. Our goal is to increase the importance of people in the political system and reduce the influence of money.
I am proud to announce that Mark Mehringer has started to work with me at CleanSlateNow.org. Mark ran for the State Legislature a few years ago. He didn’t take PAC contributions in his campaign and he understands and believes in the goals of CleanSlateNow.org.
At CleanSlateNow.org we support candidates who make a principled decision to forego special interest PAC money in their campaigns.
The constant frustration in our attempts is the somnolence of the American people. For most, the problems in the political system are as children starving in Africa, out of sight, out of mind. If they think about politics at all, they think that someone else will handle it.
Someone else will. Some special interest group is glad to step into the vacuum created when ordinary people don’t participate. But they won’t be interceding for you. They will be interceding for themselves.
Mark and I are open to suggestions about how to be as effective as possible, and we welcome your help in solving this problem. You can reach Mark at Mark@CleanSlateNow.org or you can reach me at Ken@KenGordon.com.
I moved to Colorado about half a year ago, but I’m from Texas and will always consider myself a proud Texan—a Texan with a few bones to pick. A major one? My former governor. This is what he said in a recent veto message.
If you care about education or have kids who go to school in the Denver area, you may have heard about the rift in education policy between those who are in favor of school reform, predominantly defined by supporting the growth of charter schools, and those who rather strengthen traditional public schools. The issue is at the heart of the past couple of Denver School Board elections, and is again creating divisions between candidates for the election this year in November.
This is a complicated issue, with both sides making good arguments. This blog is not to dissect the case for or against school reform, but rather to bring attention to an issue that deals directly with the focus of our organization, taking large amounts of special interest money out of elections.
If you haven’t already heard, it seems the state of New York is taking some serious steps toward campaign finance reform. Well-funded progressive groups are joined by Governor Andrew Cuomo and many state legislators, mostly Democrats, to pass legislation replacing the state's current campaign finance system with publicly financed campaigns. Cuomo, a Democrat, is proposing a system of public financing that is modeled after the one used in New York City, where if candidates abide by strict spending limits, they can receive $6 in public funds to match every dollar they collect in donations up to $175. Mr. Cuomo would also lower contribution limits and expand disclosure rules.
In a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll taken April 11-14, 86 percent of Americans favored legislation to close firearm background check loopholes.
So, of course, yesterday a bill to do exactly that, sponsored by two conservative members of the Senate, one Republican and one Democrat was defeated.
Andrew Romanoff raised over $500,000 in campaign contributions during the first quarter of 2013 without taking PAC contributions. He did this even though he was only a candidate for two months. His opponent, an incumbent taking PAC contributions for three months in a highly targeted race, raised about the same or a slightly smaller amount.
The fundraising that Andrew accomplished was, according to political insiders, supposed to be impossible.
This is the sort of thing we like to see and unfortunately see rarely. Kudos to Ross Cunniff. If more people would reject special interest influence it would tend to go away.
In the movie “Deep Impact” a journalist overhears a cabinet member talking about “Ellie,” whom she assumed was his mistress. It turns out that what she overheard was “ELE,” which stands for “extinction level event.” The film’s actual plot is about an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. I mention this because I have struggled to express the magnitude of the danger presented to our democracy by privately purchased political campaigns.
With the gun debate currently underway in the Colorado legislature, we thought it would be valuable to point out which current legislators have taken PAC money from gun lobby interest groups. The following information was found on TRACER, through open records on the Colorado Secretary of State’s website.
Prepare for battle. The weapons are out already.
Late last week, former Obama campaign executives announced the launching of Organizing for Action, the transformation of President Obama's campaign organization into a new nonprofit aimed at issue advocacy to advance the president’s agenda in his second term.
I have written many times about how great wealth, distributed with increasing disparity and allowed unfettered access to the political system is compromising the democratic character of our political system.
But today, while watching the gun debate on television, I became focused on another problem—the whack jobs running Congress.