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.Read more
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.
George Packer has written a new book that I think you should read. Packer writes for the New Yorker and previously wrote The Assassin’s Gate, which documented the insanity of the Iraq War His new book, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, looks at how the lives of Americans have been changed by the collapse of institutional structures in the last 30 years.
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.
Candidate For Fort Collins City Council Rejects Endorsement, Takes Stand Against Big Money Influence
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.Read more
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.
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.Read more
"Imagine that you are a young congressional intern at the inauguration, standing in a big crowd listening to inspiring words. After the speech, you get to eavesdrop on members of Congress discussing the evening's festivities..."
Americans have a lot to be thankful for this year - not least of which is the fact that the most expensive Presidential campaign in history is over.Read more
You may know Trevor Potter as the lawyer for Stephen Colbert's former super PAC, "A Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow." But he was also once a Republican Federal Election Commission (FEC) Chairman.Read more