New “Money In Politics” Toolkit Now Available

The new Money in Politics Toolkit from LWVUS is now available. This latest version represents the culmination of many years of work on this critical area of League advocacy.

As stated in the introduction of the kit: “YOU have a right to know WHO is running for office, WHO is raising money for WHICH candidates, HOW MUCH money are they raising, and HOW that money is being spent. YOU have a right to elections that are free from corruption and undue influence. CANDIDATES have a right to a fair and equitable contest that promotes strong citizen participation. WE ALL have a right to a democracy that works for all. Reform starts at home! Dive into how your community and state regulates money in politics and then advocate for reforms where needed. We’re here to help! Use the ACTION Kit to get you started.”

The Action Kit, sample letter to the editor, and questions for elected officials can all be found here. It’s time to take this action to the next level! The Action Kit will be an invaluable resource for local Leagues and all concerned citizens working to take on this issue.

LWV Takes Strong Stance on Money in Politics

The League of Women Voters has strengthened its stand on the damaging role of big money in political campaigns and the political system.

The national League (LWVUS) has specifically called for:

  • Full public financing of Congressional as well as Presidential elections;
  • Abolishing Super PACs and spending coordinated or directed by candidates, and
  • Restrictions on direct donations and bundling by lobbyists.

In addition, LWVUS set these broader goals to combat the influence of money in politics:

  • Enhance political equality for all citizens;
  • Protect representative democracy from being distorted by big spending in election campaigns;
  • Provide voters sufficient information about candidates and campaign issues to make informed choices;
  • Ensure transparency and the public’s right to know who is using money to influence elections; and
  • Enable candidates to compete equitably for public office.

These actions resulted from a two-year study of money in politics and input from local Leagues around the country. That study led to the drafting of a new League position broadening the League’s traditional focus on preventing corruption and undue influence in government and leading to these specific calls for action.

“League members believe in the power of women to create a more perfect democracy and our recent study and new position statement on Money in Politics will reenergize and focus their work at every level of government,” said League President, Elisabeth MacNamara.

League of Women Voters of Massachusetts members actively pushed for an update of the position shortly after the 2010 Citizens United ruling, in an effort spearheaded by Concord-Carlisle League member, Becky Shannon.

Needham League member Corlette Moore McCoy and Concord-Carlisle League and LWVMA Board member Launa Zimmaro served on the national committee developing the study that led to the new position.

LWVMA President Jean Cherdack stated, “This has been a long, but gratifying journey. The new position provides an even stronger foundation for our efforts to make democracy work for all.”

The League of Women Voters has been a leader in seeking campaign finance reform at the state, local, and federal levels for more than four decades, supporting the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974 (FECA), working for the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), and participating in numerous court cases, including Citizens United v. FEC (2010).

 

League of Women Voters Blasts Money in Politics on Citizens United Anniversary

BOSTON—The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts strongly criticizes the increasing role of big money in the political system five years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which permits the unlimited flow of money from corporations, labor unions and special interest group to political campaigns.

“About $3.67 billion—not including money spent by outside groups on so-called issue ads—was spent on Congressional races in the 2014 midterm elections, an unprecedented amount, and the bulk of that money came from large donors,” said Anne Borg, co-president of the Massachusetts League. “The voice of the individual voter can hardly be heard in today’s campaigns.

“For the sake of our democracy, we must reverse this trend to enormous campaign contributions from donors who remain anonymous to the public, though certainly not to the candidates they fund.”

When the Supreme Court issued the Citizens United on Jan. 21, 2010, the national League of Women Voters stated:  “The Supreme Court has made a tragic mistake.  Their decision announced today in Citizens United v. FEC  is constitutionally irresponsible and will surely bring about an anti-democratic revolution in how we finance elections in this country.

“In creating a new constitutional right for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of their shareholder’s money to determine the outcome in candidate elections, the Court has unleashed into our elections tremendous sums of money from for-profit corporations that cannot possibly be matched in quantity by contributions from ordinary citizens.  The only possible outcome of this is that big money and special interests will have an even tighter grip on our democracy.”

Subsequent Court decisions have only made the situation worse, evidenced by last April’s McCutcheon decision removing limits on individual campaign contributions.  “In this decision, the Court opens another loophole by allowing our political parties to be further corrupted by big-money contributions from special interests. The party and Political Action Committee systems now become a huge funnel for corrupting elected officials across the country,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the national League.

“The McCutcheon decision simply means more power for big money, more corruption for the rest of us. The Roberts Court is saying that big money is worth more than the voices of individual citizens,” MacNamara said.

And the damage has not been caused only by court decisions.

In December, a provision in the Omnibus Appropriations bill authorized a single individual to give a total of $777,600 to the three committees of a national party per year or a total of $1,555,200 in a two-year election cycle.

Congress passed the appropriations bill with that provision in it, and President Obama signed it.  The League had urged the President to veto the bill, noting, “Such massive federal contributions have been prohibited for more than four decades to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption.”

The Massachusetts League urges legislators at both the state and federal levels to require full disclosure of the source of all contributions to campaigns and to SuperPACs and other groups working on behalf of candidates and issues.

“If the public does not know who is paying for political campaigns, the public cannot judge whether elected officials are acting in the interests of the public or of major campaign donors,” said Borg.

“The Massachusetts League urges voters to ask all candidates at every level of government to name the major donors to their campaigns and to explain what steps they support to end the influence of money in politics,” she said. “Some of the key efforts to address the growing influence of money include stronger disclosure requirements, tighter regulations related to coordination between outside groups with candidates and campaigns, and public funding of elections.”

The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts is a non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government and works to increase understanding of major public policy issues.  Additional information on the issue of money in politics is available on its website, www.lwvma.org.

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1/14/2015

LWVMA Campaign Finance Project and Toolkit

The LWVMA Campaign Fincfsc tagline now for saleance Study Committee was created soon after the 2013 LWVMA Convention approved a study of this issue (May 2013). It has members representing 18 Leagues across Massachusetts. After conducting interviews and researching the topic, the Committee prepared materials for educating our members and the general public.

Money and Politics Toolkit

These tools were developed by the Campaign Finance Study Committee of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. To contact the Committee, email moneyinpolitics@lwvma.org.

The Democracy in the Balance presentation is available in a full, 30-minute version, which is the recommended version to use. Each presentation can be viewed as a powerpoint show (.ppsx), with an accompanying script, or as a narrated version, available as a YouTube video. Brief guidelines for use are also included.

30-Minute Presentation: Democracy in the Balance

Presentations are currently under construction. Please check back again shortly.

Supplementary Material

 

LWVUS Convention 2014!

During the past year, the Study Committee focused its efforts on bringing this national issue to the 2014 LWVUS convention, with the goal of garnering support and action with League members across the nation. As part of LWVUS Program Planning for this convention, LWVMA asked local Leagues throughout the US to recommend a review of the LWV position on campaign finance in light of U.S. Supreme Court decisions over the last 40 years. Recognizing the strong concern throughout the nation, local Leagues responded and the LWVUS board adopted our recommendation as part of the recommended 2014-16 Program, which was adopted by the convention delegates. Becky Shannon introduces LWVMA ResolutionTo reinforce the urgency of taking action on these issues, the LWVMA and the CFSC submitted a Resolution for Convention 2014 that expressed the need for a fast-tracked and dynamic study and review of the LWV Position on Campaign Finance, coupled with the proposed study of the Constitutional amendment process and the review of the redistricting process for Congressional districts, that will propel concrete, action-oriented outcomes. The resolution was approved by the convention delegates. There were two opportunities to join LWVMA for discussion of grassroots advocacy for campaign finance reform and the LWVMA resolution. Click here for a flyer. LWVMA distributed 700 buttons, 100 people attended the June 6 caucus, and 200 attended the June 9 workshop where the toolkit materials were presented. Caucus (LWVMA)button for convention 3 in “Money and Politics: Price Tag on Democracy” Friday, June 6, 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm Workshop (LWVUS) for toolkit training “Money and Politics” Monday, June 9, 3:30 pm – 5:00 pmworkshop room cl

Connecting the Dots: Environmental Advocacy and Campaign Finance Reform

Presentation by Launa Zimmaro, LWVMA Board Member, at the Quad States Conference on May 3, 2014.

Connecting the Dots: Environmental Advocacy and Campaign Finance Reform

Massachusetts League of Women Voters Blasts McCutcheon Decision

4/2/2014 BOSTON—The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts strongly disagrees with Wednesday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission that aggregate campaign contribution limits are invalid. The case challenged the limits on the total contributions from an individual donor to candidates and political committees, limits that had been designed to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption.

“With this ruling, the Supreme Court continues to dismantle campaign finance reforms and protections and to enable the corrupting influence of moneyed interests on our democracy,” said Anne Borg, co-president of the state League.

“The Supreme Court is allowing our political process to be even further corrupted by huge financial contributions from special interests.”

“This and other recent Supreme Court decisions make it crucial that the Massachusetts legislature strengthen our state’s campaign finance laws with bills such as the ‘disclose act’ now pending in the legislature.”

The League of Women Voters of the United States filed an amicus brief in this case.

SCOTUS Strikes Down Aggregate Limits on Campaign Contributions

Posted Apr 2, 2014

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that aggregate campaign contribution limits are invalid in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. The case challenged the limits on the total contributions from an individual donor to candidates and political committees in order to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption. The League of Women Voters of the U.S. joined an amicus brief in this case.

“In this decision, the Court opens another loophole by allowing our political parties to be further corrupted by big-money contributions from special interests. The party and Political Action Committee systems now become a huge funnel for corrupting elected officials across the country,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters of the U.S.

In its press release, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts similarly criticized the decision.

“With this ruling, the Supreme Court continues to dismantle campaign finance reforms and protections and to enable the corrupting influence of moneyed interests on our democracy,” said Anne Borg, co-president of the state League.

“The Supreme Court is allowing our political process to be even further corrupted by huge financial contributions from special interests.”

“This and other recent Supreme Court decisions make it crucial that the Massachusetts legislature strengthen our state’s campaign finance laws with bills such as the ‘disclose act’ now pending in the legislature.”

LWVMA Approves Study on Campaign Finance

The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts approved a new study at its convention May 17-18 in Peabody.

The study, “Massachusetts after Citizens United. SO WHAT DO WE DO NOW?” will consider whether or not the League’s existing campaign finance positions are adequate to meet the challenges of Citizens United and related recent Supreme Court decisions, and if not, what additional positions are needed.

LWVUS Joins Groups in Letter on Campaign Finance Reform

The League of Women Voters of the United States sent a strong letter to President Obama co-signed by Americans for Campaign Reform, the Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Democracy 21, and Public Citizen. It starts, “We are writing to express our deep concern about the nation’s corrupt campaign finance system and about your failure, to date, as President to provide meaningful leadership or take effective action to solve this fundamental problem facing our democracy.”

To read the entire letter click here.

LWV Forums Tackle Money and Politics; Gun Control

Three Leagues holding Forums on Action Priority Areas

LWV Cape Cod: Money in Politics: Where Do We Go from Here?

Saturday, April 20, 2013
Harwich Community Center
10:00 AM

Click here for flyer.

LWV Needham: The Influence of Money in Our Government: What Can We the People Do?

Thursday, April 25, 2013
Milas Hall, Olin College of Engineering, Needham
7:30 PM

Click here for flyer.

LWV Sharon-Stoughton: Stopping Gun Violence: a Public Forum

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Sharon Public Library, 11 North Main St, Sharon
7:00 PM

The guest presenter will be John Rosenthal, National Director of Stop Handgun Violence. Mr. Rosenthal has been a driving force against the ease with which guns may be purchased by dangerous individuals. Mr. Rosenthal is a gun owner himself. Stop Handgun Violence is a non-profit organization committed to the prevention of gun violence through education, public awareness, effective law enforcement and common sense gun laws. Stop Handgun Violence is responsible for the 252 feet long provocative billboard on the Massachusetts Turnpike behind Fenway Park that aims to increase public awareness of the epidemic of gun violence.

We encourage community residents to attend this forum. Respondents will include John McGrath, Sharon Deputy Chief of Police and Paul Shastany, Stoughton Chief of Police. Time will be available for audience questions.
Light refreshments will be available.