Wisconsinites Gather to Push Back on Big Money in Politics

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                    CONTACT
OCTOBER 8, 2013                                 Bruce Speight, WISPIRG, (608) 658-3517

On Day of Oral Argument in McCutcheon V. FEC, Wisconsinites Gather to Push Back on Big Money in Politics, Demand Statewide Referendum

Coalition Delivers Letter to Committee Chair Tyler August, Urging a Hearing on Statewide Citizens United Referendum

Madison, WI – Today, the Money Out, Voters In coalition, representing thousands of Wisconsinites and 35 community organizations, gathered at State Capitol to push back on the power of big money in elections, as the U.S. Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC. The grassroots movement of Wisconsinites is calling on the state legislature and Governor to give the people of Wisconsin a say in the future of our democracy and pass Assembly Joint Resolution 50 (AJR50), which would bring a statewide referendum to the people in November 2014, asking voters whether Wisconsin elected leaders should support a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United.  Citizens United opened the floodgates to outside spending in elections.

In the case, Alabama donor Shaun McCutcheon will ask to strike down the overall limit on what an individual can give to federal candidates, parties, and PACs in a two-year election cycle. That limit currently stands at $123,200 – over twice the average household income in the U.S. In 2012, only 1,219 donors came within 10% of hitting the aggregate limit. New research from U.S. PIRG and Demos projects that if the limit is lifted, this small set of donors would raise their giving and inject an additional $1 billion in campaign contributions through the 2020 elections. Advocates say the case would further increase the electoral clout of a few large donors.

The Supreme Court has never struck down a federal contribution limit, maintaining that these limits are constitutional because they prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption. The groups argue that right now, when confidence in Congress is at an all time low, it would be extremely unwise to toss aside that precedent.

“Most Wisconsinites do not feel that our voices are being heard in the state Capitol and in Washington D.C., and who could blame us? In Citizens United the Supreme Court handed a giant megaphone to the wealthiest interests, and today it will consider turning up the volume even higher,” said Bruce Speight, WISPIRG Director. “The last thing we need right now is to increase the giving of the donors with the deepest pockets. Rather, we should be empowering small donors so that ordinary Americans can provide the funds needed to run campaigns.”

The Money Out Voters In coalition also delivered a letter to Committee on Government Operations and State Licensing Chair Tyler August and other committee members, urging them to hold a hearing on AJR 50, the statewide Citizens United referendum.  Already, over 24,000 Wisconsinites have called on state leaders to bring a referendum to the people, and 23 communities in Wisconsin have taken up and passed resolutions urging a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.  16 states, from Montana to Colorado, have weighed in on money in politics and the Citizens United ruling.  More than 70% of Democrats, Republicans and Independents agree that corporate political spending drowns out the voices of average Americans and nearly half strongly agree.

“To fully restore public trust in our democracy, we must return control of our elections to the people,” said United Wisconsin Executive Director Lisa Subeck.  “We urge the Legislature to allow the people of Wisconsin the opportunity to weigh in on this critical issue and to voice their support for common-sense campaign finance reforms, starting with the reversal of Citizens United.”

Resources:

“McCutcheon Money” http://uspirg.org/reports/usp/mccutcheon-could-add-over-1-billion-contributions-next-four-elections

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October 8, 2013

Representative Tyler August
Committee on Government Operations and State Licensing
Room 119 West, State Capitol
PO Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708

Dear Representative August,

We, along with 24,000 Wisconsinites, urge you to hold a hearing on Assembly Joint Resolution 50, which has been referred to the Committee on Government Operations and State Licensing. AJR 50 proposes to place a non-binding referendum question on the November, 2014 ballot asking the people of Wisconsin whether Congress should pass an amendment to the federal Constitution overturning the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.

The Supreme Court, in issuing this ruling, did not consult the people of Wisconsin when they opened the floodgates to massive political spending in our elections and weakened disclosure of the source of these funds.  Across the state and nation, people have been voicing their concerns about money in politics. . As of today, 23 units of local government in the State of Wisconsin and16 states across the nation have weighed in on Citizens United and its impact in our elections.

Political power in Wisconsin and in the country is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a wealthy (and shrinking) few which threatens our democracy and the promise of a government which should be of, by, and for the people.  Republicans, Democrats, and Independents have come together across Wisconsin to say this is not the democracy we want.

In the past six months, over 24,000 Wisconsinites have called on you, our state leaders, to let the people of Wisconsin have our say too, through a statewide advisory referendum.  Together, we are asking you to do nothing but let us have a say in the current state of our democracy, and to let the people decide whether this is the democracy we want in Wisconsin.

Outside the Capitol, citizens of every political stripe believe money is playing far too great a role in elections, is having a poisonous effect on governing, and needs to be reined in.  Broad bi-partisan majorities support democracy reform.  A 2012 Associated press poll found that 81% of Republicans, 78% of Independents, and 85% of Democrats believe “there should be limits on the amount of money corporations, unions, and other organizations can contribute to outside organizations trying to influence campaigns for Presidents, Senate, and US House.”

The people of Wisconsin have a right to be heard on what is arguably one of the most important issues of our time. The proposed resolution, AJR 50, and the resulting referendum will let voters across the state express their views on this important question.

Together, we urge you to hold a public hearing on AJR 50 and to move this bill forward, giving your constituents and residents throughout the state a chance to make their voices heard.

Sincerely,
Money Out, Voters In Coalition members:
WISPIRG
People For the American Way
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Center for Media and Democracy
South Central Wisconsin Move To Amend
United Wisconsin
Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans
AFT- Wisconsin
Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups
Citizen Action Wisconsin
Madison Area Urban Ministry
National Association of Social Workers
WI Chapter
United Council of UW Students
Madison Teachers, Inc.
Wisconsin Network For Peace And Justice
Midwest Environmental Advocates
Peace Action WI
Sierra Club – John Muir Chapter
WI Farmers Union
Door County Environmental Council
South West Wisconsin Area Progressives
Reedsburg Area Concerned Citizens
One Wisconsin Now
9 to 5
Progressive Dane
Move to Amend of Southeast Wisconsin
Chippewa Valley Move to Amend
Move to Amend Rock River Affiliate
Lake Mills Move to Amend
Madison MoveOn
Wisconsin Grassroots Network
South Central Federation of Labor
Teaching Assistants’ Association UW-Madison
Wisconsin Wave