July 2015 Enews

This summer, a select group of Democracy Matters students are working the grassroots in both Iowa and New Hampshire in our "Restore Democracy" project. Their goal is to elevate campaign finance reform and particularly the public financing of elections as important topics in the 2016 presidential elections. As the first caucus and primary states, both Iowa and New Hampshire are critical in setting the agenda for the election. Our students are "bird-dogging" all the candidates - attending the numerous campaign events, asking questions about campaign finance reform, and getting each candidate on record concerning public campaign financing. In addition, they plan to send copies of the hundreds of signatures they are collecting on our DM "Democracy Pledge" to each candidate to demonstrate the strong grassroots support for public financing of elections. They ... Read More

The Problem of Independent Expenditures

By making large campaign donations to candidates for office and political parties, rich people are able to gain disproportionate influence over the political process. But in the past that power was at least somewhat constrained. In the name of preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption, the Supreme Court allowed limitations to be imposed on direct campaign contributions. The rise of “independent expenditures” has however effectively dismantled those constraints. The combined effect of the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court and the SpeechNow decision by US District Court for the District of Columbia, both handed down in 2010, was to free individuals and groups to make unlimited contributions to organizations without formal connections to candidates’ campaigns. Those organizations in turn were free to engage in political advertising and organizing without limit. The courts’ reasoning was that if political organizations are not explicitly linked to politicians, their expenditures on behalf of ... Read More