April 3, 2012
VT Today Democracy for America (DFA) launched a new campaign
designed to dismantle the Citizens United decision decided by the Supreme Court
in 2010. The campaign takes on Citizens
United internally through the court system and highlights Montana Attorney
General Steve Bullocks case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case directly challenges the two-year old
ruling. The campaign calls on Attorneys
General from across the United States to sign onto an Amicus Brief documenting
the need to overturn the 2010 Supreme Court decision.
"Citizens United corrupts our democratic process, said Jim
Dean, Chair of DFA. This campaign, courageously headed by Montanas
Attorney General Steve Bullock, demands that the Supreme Court address their
decision that allowed undisclosed amounts of money to flow into our electoral
process. Corporations are not people and
ordinary citizens should not be drowned out of democracy.
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock
weighed in on the campaign: Attorney General Steve Bullock: The Citizens United decision opened the door to
unlimited corporate spending in our national elections, and state and local
elections could be the next to fall. For
the past two years, Americans have watched spending by anonymous, secretive
Super PACs far outpace what candidates spend on elections. Its a fantasy to suggest these expenditures
arent corrupting our political system. I applaud Democracy for Americas efforts to
make sure the voices of people still matter.
For nearly a century, the state of Montana has restricted corporate spending in
elections a direct conflict with the Citizens United ruling. Late last
year, the states Supreme Court upheld Montanas law. Bullock defended
Montanas 100 year-old law in court.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed enforcement of Montanas law
while the case is appealed before the High Court. Democracy for America
has taken steps to chip away Citizens United, first by collecting over 100,000
signatures supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders Constitutional Amendment and now
turning their efforts to the court. In just two weeks, DFA has collected
74,325 signatures from across the country urging their members Attorneys
General to sign the Amicus Brief supporting Attorney General Bullocks
March 30, 2012
This weeks What Were Reading asked staff to find articles that they felt were off the beaten path - whether it was a new approach to an old issue, a different angle not yet articulated in the media or even a recipe. Springtime is known for new beginnings and a fresh start and thats exactly what DFA staff found for this weeks What Were Reading - Spring Edition. Mia Moore, Chief of Staff Pick of the Week: I read this great analysis on how the Republican party has gotten itself into trouble for using private industry - something they tout can do a better job than the government. The Outsourced Party By Kevin Baker
Republicans have fallen prey to one of the favorite tactics of just the sort of heedless, improvident, twenty-first century capitalism they revere. Their party has been outsourced. Connor Stewart, Development Associate Pick of the Week: This article was written by a former executive director at Goldman Sachs. He describes the current climate at Goldman as "as toxic as ever." What does this say, if someone who for 12 years was tasked with turning "illiquid" commodities into profit for Goldman, has seen enough? This wasn't a change of conscience or shift in ideology - instead, his already for-profit mindset was simply pushed too far."
Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs By Greg Smith
The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients trust for 143 years. It wasnt just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief. Linsey Pecikonis, Communications Director Pick of the Week: This article takes a closer look at what Attorney General Steve Bullock is doing in Montana to dismantle Citizens United. While we have an ongoing petition to get your Attorney General to support this effort, knowing the background and history on why Montana is ripe for this battle is really fantastic. Citizens United & The Montana Corrupt Practices Amicus Brief By Martin Longman on DailyKos So, at a minimum, Justices Ginsburg and Breyer want to have a new scrap about Citizens United, and they want to use the Montana case to do it. What I want to do is encourage all 20 Democratic Attorneys General to join that fight and provide some ammunition. So, in the next few days I am going to provide you with some information you can use to lend your hand to this effort. Jay Henderson, National Field Organizer Pick of the Week:
"From finding an apartment to returning lost pets to their owners, Ive found Craigslist to be incredibly helpful. Now their founder has made it easier to explain the scary campaign to suppress the 2012 vote, meaning I can spend more time outside enjoying the coming warm weather. Craigslist Founder Jumps Into Voting Rights Fight By Ryan J. Reilly
What I learned in high school civics class is that an attack on voting rights is virtually the same as an attack on the country, Newmark said in a statement. So I asked people smarter than me to help me do what George Washington would have wanted me to do, collect and release the information youre getting from us today. Ruby Reid, Online Training Organizer Pick of the Week: A friend of mine wrote this and it is up on the Huffington Post starting today. Its about what my partner, Kenya Wheeler, is currently going through, because last fall he was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer. He cannot focus on getting better because he is constantly battling with his insurance company because he has almost exhausted his entire lifetime cap for treatment under his current insurance plan. Your Money or Your Life: Cancer Patient Races Against Health Insurance Cap By Pamela Mays McDonald
But plans for his own tomorrow changed when he was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive brain cancer last fall, at the beginning of the 2011 academic year. Suddenly he was thrust into the middle of a political debate that has been the source of intense ideological divisions and is now the reason for the current Supreme Court deliberations on whether to overturn a two-year-old, existing law. Once active as a political organizer, suddenly Kenya was actively organizing his life around the politics of the healthcare system--just to stay alive. Julielyn Gibbons, Training Director Pick of the Week:
"Many of us find ourselves occasionally wondering if signing a petition can really make a difference, especially when its done over email. If this fascinating infographic in this story is to be believed, it certainly can!" Trayvon Martin Petition is Fastest-Growing in Change.org History By Zoe Fox
"The petition called Prosecute the killer of our son, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, has gained over 2.1 million signatures since its launch on March 8. During its most viral stages, more than 1,000 people were signing the petition each minute....Change.org released this infographic Wednesday, detailing social medias role in driving national attention toward the Trayvon Martin case. Becoming the sites most viral cause was no small feat. There are over 100,000 petitions on the website to date."
Kristina Powell, Development Director Pick of the Week: I am reading about Carrot Cake Pancakes this morning and dreaming that they will magically make themselves for me.
Carrot Cake Pancakes By Deb If I could have a breakfast rallying cry, a breakfast mantra, if you will, it would be - Its not cake! Its breakfast! It would be rather dull, naturally. I know that the line between Cake for Breakfast and our various formats of Breakfast Cakes (muffins, coffee cakes and pancakes) is thin, I know the distinctions on either side of it are, at best, tiny but they are what allows me to pretend Im eating cake for breakfast when Im really not, so I cling to them.
March 29, 2012
Democracy for America: Elizabeth Warren the Right Choice for
Burlington, VT - Today Democracy for America (DFA) released the following statement regarding the group's endorsement of Massachusetts Senate candidate, Elizabeth Warren. "No one candidate has come under
more scrutiny than Elizabeth Warren, said Arshad Hasan, Executive Director
of DFA. Her role has always been to fight for working families against the
corrupt interests of corporations and is the only candidate running for Senate in Massachusetts who will stand
up for her constituents.
Elizabeth Warren will rebuild Americas middle class by leveling the playing
field that is stacked against the American people. She will continue to hold Wall Street
accountable, simplify regulations, push for a more fair tax code and reform
campaign finance laws.
Warren has a strong history being one of Wall Streets toughest watch
dogs. While K Street has had no problem
with the influx of lobbyists knocking on Congress door, the American people
do, continued Hasan. This November, the people of Massachusetts
can send a clear message to lobbyists on K Street Elizabeth Warren is on the
March 29, 2012
This post was cross-posted on Booman Tribune by Martin Longman. You can find the original post here.
I'm going to talk about something I care a lot about. Bear with me.
In February, the Supreme Court of the United States blocked a ruling of the Montana Supreme Court. The case concerned a state law called the Corrupt Practices Act of 1912 that forbade corporate spending on Montana elections. An organization named Western Tradition Partnership had brought the case to argue that the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court ruling had invalidated the ban on corporate spending. A lower state court judge had agreed, but the Montana Supreme Court was defiant. In a 5-2 decision, they literally argued that their state's history and demographics were so distinct that they should be exempted from the Citizens United ruling. It was a bold move that earned them admiration but ultimate condemnation from the folks over at Think Progress.
It is wrong when Newt Gingrich plots a campaign of massive resistance against judges he disagrees with, and Montanas justices act no less illegitimately when they fail to follow a binding Supreme Court precedent. There is no reason to doubt that every word of the Montana Supreme Courts decision which explains in great detail how corporate money corrupts a states politics is accurate, except for the part when they say that Citizens United does not force them to allow corporations to corrupt Montana.
Though the Montana Supreme Court was on shaky ground, even one of the two dissenters blasted theCitizens United ruling.
While, as a member of this Court, I am bound to follow Citizens United, I do not have to agree with the Supreme Courts decision. And, to be absolutely clear, I do not agree with it. For starters, the notion that corporations are disadvantaged in the political realm is unbelievable. Indeed, it has astounded most Americans. The truth is that corporations wield inordinate power in Congress and in state legislatures. It is hard to tell where government ends and corporate America begins; the transition is seamless and overlapping. In my view, Citizens United has turned the First Amendments open marketplace of ideas into an auction house for Friedmanian corporatists. Freedom of speech is now synonymous with freedom to spend. Speech equals money; money equals democracy.
Montana likes its anti-corruption law and wants to keep it. As their Attorney General Steve Bullock toldNPR, the state passed the law in 1912 for a reason:
"Our legislature, our judges, down to the local county assessors, were almost bought and paid for. Mark Twain even said that, you know, the amount of money coming in in Montana makes the smell of corruption almost sweet."
It's hard to wrap my head around the fact that Montana's top cop is named Bullock. That's because thesheriff on HBO's Deadwood was from Montana and also named Bullock. And the America portrayed inDeadwood is about exactly what Montana was dealing with when they created the Corrupt Practices Act of 1912. Hell, even some of the characters are the same (e.g., George Hearst). But to understand that, you have to know about the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. People found gold in the Black Hills of South Dakota. In Montana, they found copper:
Anaconda Copper Mining Company started in 1881 when Marcus Daly bought a small silver mine called Anaconda near Butte, Montana. (Anaconda would eventually own all the mines on Butte Hill.) He asked George Hearst (father of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst) for additional support, who agreed to buy one-fourth of the new company's stock without visiting the site. Huge deposits of another mineral, copper, were discovered soon and Daly became a copper magnate. Daly quietly bought up neighboring mines forming a mining company. He then built a smelter at Anaconda which he connected to Butte by a railway.
Butte, a small and poor town, became one of the most prosperous cities in the country, often called "the Richest Hill on Earth." From 1892 through 1903, the Anaconda mine was the largest copper-producing mine in the world. It produced more than $300 billion worth of metal in its lifetime.
Nothing quite like discovering a mountain full of copper at the exact moment that the country was building its electric system. It gave rise to the Copper Kings, a rivalry among three fabulously wealthy men and their organizations.
The Copper Kings, industrialists William Andrews Clark, Marcus Daly, and F. Augustus Heinze, were collectively known for the epic battles they fought in Butte, Montana and the surrounding region during the Gilded Age over the control of the local copper mining industry, a fight which had ramifications for not only Montana, but the United States as a whole.
The battles between Clark, Daly and Heinze, and later between just Heinze and industrialist financiers William Rockefeller and Henry H. Rogers are a large chapter in Montana history. Eventually, a company known as Anaconda Copper emerged as a monopoly, expanding into the fourth largest company in the world by the late 1920s.
These three industrialists duked it out in legendary "Old West" style. Anyone who watched Deadwoodwill recognize the following description:
Those who controlled the copper mines stood to make millions of dollars, the prize sought by the three men who fought for Butte's mineral wealth with greed and generosity, cruelty and compassion, cowardice and courage. They used their fabulous wealth to buy courts, newspapers, politicians, banks, police, and anything and anyone that could help them or hinder their opponents. To get what they wanted, their money flowed like snowmelt throughout the mile-high city and eventually reached the nations capital. All the while the miners toiled thousands of feet below ground in tunnels dug with blasting powder, picks, and shovels. And sometimes, backed by rival copper kings, they also battled, with fists and dynamite, either on the streets of Butte or far below the surface. It wasn't long before Butte began to pay a price for the riches. The air filled with toxic sulfurous smoke.
Flash forward seventy years and Anaconda Mining had created the largest SUPERFUND site in the country.
The area of Butte, Montana, Anaconda, Montana, and the Clark Fork River were highly contaminated. Milling and smelting produced wastes with high concentrations of arsenic, as well as copper, cadmium, lead, zinc, and other heavy metals. Thats why, beginning in 1980s, the Environmental Protection Agency designated the Upper Clark Fork river basin and many associated areas as Superfund sites - the nation's largest.
So, that's a bit of Montana's history. Even with their anti-corruption law, their politics have been dominated by mining interests. You can read more about the period leading up the passage of theCorrupt Practices Act of 1912 here, and I encourage you to do so.
Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has ordered a stay of the ruling of Montana's Supreme Court, but may hear the case sometime soon. Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock is preparing an amicus curiaebrief for that case.
An amicus curiae educates the court on points of law that are in doubt, gathers or organizes information, or raises awareness about some aspect of the case that the court might otherwise miss. The person is usually, but not necessarily, an attorney, and is usually not paid for her or his expertise. An amicus curiae must not be a party to the case, nor an attorney in the case, but must have some knowledge or perspective that makes her or his views valuable to the court.
And the goal is to get the other nineteen Democratic state attorneys general to join Bullock in his submission to the Court.
When the Court issued its stay, it came with the following interesting comment attached:
Statement of Justice Ginsburg, with whom Justice Breyer joins, respecting the grant of the application for stay. Montanas experience, and experience elsewhere since this Courts decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commn, 558 U. S. ___ (2010), make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption. Id., at ___ (slip op., at 42). A petition for certiorari will give the Court an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway. Because lower courts are bound to follow this Courts decisions until they are withdrawn or modified, however, Rodriguez de Quijas v. Shearson/American Express, Inc., 490 U. S. 477, 484 (1989), I vote to grant the stay.
So, at a minimum, Justices Ginsburg and Breyer want to have a new scrap about Citizens United, and they want to use the Montana case to do it. What I want to do is encourage all 20 Democratic Attorneys General to join that fight and provide some ammunition. So, in the next few days I am going to provide you with some information you can use to lend your hand to this effort.
Because, while I like the show, I don't want to live in Deadwood.
March 27, 2012
This post was originally posted on Booman Tribuneby Martin Longman.
Do you want to go toNetroots Nation 2012? It is being held in Providence, Rhode Island from June 7th-10th.Democracy for Americais offering 50 scholarships that include an all-access pass, hotel accommodations, a couple of meals, and invitations to DFA events. Here's the criteria:
Any progressive activist, blogger, grassroots organizer, or online activist over the age of 18 is eligible with the exception of past DFA Netroots Nation scholars, who are ineligible to win this year's scholarship. Candidates for elected office in 2012 may also be ineligible depending on applicable campaign contribution laws...
...The selection committee is looking for applicants with compelling stories, who are active online and offline, and who will thrive from their Netroots Nation experience. Our goal is to find people who will expand the Netroots community with fresh ideas and energy.
You can applyhere. I went to the first fourNetroots Nationconferences and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in doing progressive political work. The forums are high quality and the socializing is excellent. I had a lot of fun at all of them and I met interesting people, made lasting friendships, and learned a lot, too.
And, hey, if it's free, why not apply?
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