Lynn Abbott: Support amendment

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Today is the fourth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed rivers of money to flow into our political campaigns.

That decision declared that corporations and unions can spend unlimited amounts of money to support their candidates and special interests. Subsequent cases further allowed the creation of SuperPACs and “social welfare groups,” which facilitate the collection of this money, often in secret.

These decisions did not limit the amount of money that can be given directly to candidates, but a new threat, McCutcheon vs. the FEC, may be decided by the Supreme Court any day now. That case has the potential to remove the last surviving limit on campaign spending by individuals, turning Lincoln’s declaration — government of the dollar, by the dollar, for the dollar — on its head.

The solution is a Constitutional amendment that declares that money is not speech, corporations are not persons and Congress has the right and duty to regulate campaign spending. With strong grassroots activism, we already are on our way. Sixteen states, including Colorado, and more than 500 cities and towns have passed resolutions supporting such an amendment.

Nearly 150 members of Congress, including our Sens. Bennet and Udall, are on record with their support. Several versions of the amendment have been proposed, and it will take input from us all to fine-tune the wording. I hope it will affirm that political contributions must all be publicly disclosed.

The annoyance of endless negative ads leading up to elections is bad enough. Even worse is the lack of oversight regarding the truth and accountability of these ads. Many people are taken in by the inflammatory language and base their votes on this unsubstantiated and undocumented information. Lastly, when the source of money is undisclosed, voters cannot assess the motives behind an ad.

What you can do: Move to Amend, Public Citizen and Common Cause are three excellent organizations leading our grassroots fight. Please check their websites to see how you can help. Write or call Sen. Bennet, Sen. Udall and Rep. Tipton to express your thoughts; you can find their contact information on their websites. Please join me in this critical effort to support a solid amendment that will return our government to democracy of the people, by the people and for the people.

Lynn Abbott

Steamboat Springs

Comments

Fred Duckels 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Citizens United helped level the playing field allowing the private sector an equal voice. The tendency of our system to implode when the electorate votes itself a free ride is alive and well and must we accept this fiasco with no say?

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Fred Duckels 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The left has been eying Communist China and marveling at what can be accomplished under a system with no opposition. Health care and climate change or whatever the code word is today would be much simpler without opposition. Eliminating Citizens United would be a step in the right direction for the central planning crowd envisioned by Lynn.

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Chris Hadlock 2 months, 3 weeks ago

How about this then:

  1. Unlimited Contributions by anyone to any candidate.
  2. Complete Transparency, ALL donations public.
  3. No political fundraising until 1 year before the election
  4. At the end of the election cycle, all excess contributions are paid directly to whatever entity the candidate was running for. (ie, city, county, state, fed)
  5. All candidates have to start fresh for each and every election. No roll over funds will be allowed.
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Rick Akin 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Chris may be onto something here.
Lynn's solution tries to sound even-handed, but it is really just an attempt to rig the deck in favor of the unions by going back to the pre-Citizen's United status where corporate contributions were prohibited and unions were essentially unfettered. What is wrong with letting people do what they want and just having full disclosure?

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Fred Duckels 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Disclosure is not the solution. The left has learned from the terrorists and once they know a donors identity they will use any means necessary to make sure that the money stops flowing. Of the people, by the people and for the people is for Little Bo Peep.

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Scott Wedel 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The Citizens United decision was supported by the ACLU.

It is a misrepresentation to say that Citizen United says that corporations are people. The decision actually says that people do not lose their free speech rights when they join an organization. That it is unconstitutional for laws to ban money spent on speeches by an organization. Otherwise, the government could have limit the amount of money that newspapers can spend on distribution or banned speeches by MLK that were financially supported by the SCLC. Thus, if the proposed constitution amendment were ever to be passed then Alabama and Mississippi could have effectively banned the New York Times and MLK from being distributed or speaking in their states. That is why it is opposed by the ACLU.

It had long been established that candidates have the right to spend their own money on their campaigns. All that Citizens United says is that other people and groups of people have the right to spend their money on behalf of the candidates of their choice.

The biggest effect is that a candidate no longer has to be rich to run for office in many states as long as they have a rich supporter. So instead of Mitt Romney being able to use his money and outspend his primary opponents in 2012, that Gingrich was able to keep on challenging because he had a rich supporter.

The biggest problems with the Citizens United decision is what is that allows due to how the laws are written regarding corporations. First, there is no particular reason that campaigns are allowed exist as tax exempt organizations. Second, there is no particular reason that a corporation can have anonymous owners and contributors. Corporations used to have to disclose their owners so that people knew whom they were dealing with.

Overall, these petitions against Citizens United are the worst sort of partisan politics seeking to gain the support of ignorant voters with a reflective dislike of corporations.

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mark hartless 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Well heck, Scott. That last sentance is another one with which I agree completely.

And yes, it makes no sense that corporation "owners" should be allowed to be annonymous.

However, since legitimate corporations are made up of individuals it makes perfect sense that they should be allowed to spend collectively EXACTLY LIKE their owners may do individually.

There are many like Lynn (bless her heart) that are simply ignorant of history's lessons on how dictatorships and tyrannies are built... one brick at a time from the rights ceeded by free people. They busy themselvesblissfully paving the road with their good intentions, oblivious to where it ultimately leads...

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Scott Wedel 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Well, heck Mark, why post if you are going to simply agree with me?

I don't disagree with anything in your post.

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jerry carlton 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Vote against the incumbent every election no matter their party. Then it will not matter how much money is raised and spent.

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Chris Hadlock 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Is that not a two way street Fred? Seems to me that the voting public could benefit greatly from completely transparent fundraising. It always helps to know who is paying for opinion A vs B.

Money is the root of our politicians allegiances and getting re-elected is priority #1. We should at least know who is paying for them.

There is no way you can successfully argue that the left has any advantage or disadvantage over the right when it comes to political contributions and dirty money. Both sides are guilty as heck and it is time to rein in the abuse. When over 90% of our elected representatives become millionaires while in office something smells.

PS. I left out two items above.

  1. Term limits - no elected official at any level should be allowed to serve more than 10 years.
  2. Benefits - No elected official should be allowed to take health/retirement or any other benefits with them when they leave office. Back to the workforce like the rest of us.
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Scott Wedel 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Chris,

Term limits have been tried for long enough at various levels of government to see that they are not an effective solution. A good argument can be made that they make things worse by forcing people with a positive reputation that would expect to be able to win the next election without spending tons of money in campaign ads. So term limits leads to more campaigns needing more money.

Term limits also force legislators with experience and knowledge on an issue to leave office. Thus, there is little expertise left remaining in the elected officials on certain issues. Thus, the experienced former legislator becomes a lobbyist paid by others with a vested interest on the issue to advise the current office holders.

One plan that has made a difference is abolishing gerrymandering by having an independent commission that are legally required to follow existing city and county lines, combine geographical areas and districts have to be as compact as possible (so cannot look like a barbell connecting two different areas). Colorado has an "independent" commission drawing districts, but is allowed to draw safe districts for each party and is thus less independent than equally corrupted by both parties. When redistricting has to follow rules then politicians cannot draw districts to benefit themselves.

Those sort of districts have been shown to have a modest effect of reducing campaign spending because gerrymandered districts often take slices from several different media markets and so candidates are forced to spend money on multiple ads instead of just one

The other reform that has made a real difference is open primaries where people can vote in either primary and the top two vote getters are on the final ballot. California voters passed that referendum over the objections of both political parties and it has worked far better than anyone expected. In a heavily democratic district the long time liberal Congressman was safe because he'd never lose the democratic primary and no republican would ever win in that district. But when a moderate democrat came in second in the primary then it became a competitive race. And the established liberal Congressman lost. Overall, in one election, California kicked out more congressional incumbents than had been kicked out in the previous 10 years.

Open primaries thus prevents the two party system from effectively limiting the candidates able to be on the final ballot.

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mark hartless 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Any law is revocable by next years congress.

However, if you wanted to try one that would be simple and effective it would simply read:

"Neither any sitting member of Congress, nor any President, shall be eligible for re-election for any office unless every budget over which they presided during their tenure is completely balanced, including all interest and debt service payments."

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Fred Duckels 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Chris Your concerns seem valid but then why do we have such a battle when voters need to have documentation in order to vote?

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Chris Hadlock 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Really Fred? We are having a serious discussion about term limits and campaign finance and you bring up voter fraud. Tell me, google it, come up with even a single example of an actual voter fraud case: I will give you one free one. North Carolina identified 475 cases of voter fraud out of 6,947,317 ballots cast for a grand total of .00174 percent. Not exactly election changing.

http://dailycaller.com/2013/09/06/report-475-cases-of-alleged-voter-fraud-in-nc-from-2008-2012/

While I completely agree that actual voter fraud should be punished harshly, let us not confuse voter fraud with what Acorn was found to be doing which was creating fraudulent voter registrations that were almost universally thrown out due to those same discrepancies. As far as I can tell, not one of those fraudulent "registrations" actually created a fraudulent vote. Yes, you should be able to prove who you are in this day and age and most of us have no problem with that.

The problem that democrats have with so called voter fraud is that in so many places that scary title has been used to drive a wedge between the poorest people of this country and their right to vote. When they take early voting periods, reduce hours, and close voting stations to cause excessive lines force people to wait it causes concern. Having to prove who you are to get on the voter roles is a very valid concern but creating problems out of thin air speaks more of Jim Crow era laws than actual fraud.

I can come up with more examples where new rules were created that actually worked to make voting harder for citizens with no real impact on fraud than you can come up with examples of actual legitimate voting fraud.

You can start by explaining how closing all of the college accessible voting places and forcing students to travel and/or wait in long lines has improved the voter fraud situation in North Carolina:

http://www.thenation.com/blog/175837/north-carolina-republicans-escalate-attack-student-voting

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Dan Kuechenmeister 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Chris, are you a mind reader? Where in Fred's statement was he referring to voter fraud. Now he may well be worried about and referring to voter fraud and maybe he has in a previous post but maybe you should ask him first before going off on him. just saying.

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