Free Speech for People (VIDEO)

Sarah Kennedy’s latest video once again tackles the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case.

We’re already starting to see the unhealthy impacts on our democracy brought on by unlimited corporate campaign spending and non-disclosure of donors.

Never before in our nation’s history has the “Golden Rule” of elections been more dominant. “The guy with the most gold rules.”

That guy can certainly buy a bigger megaphone to get his message out — as Sarah’s video makes clear.

Senate, House panels pass memorials urging amendment to U.S Constitution overturning Citizens United decision

By Matthew Reichbach

Sens. Eric Griego and Steve Fischmann discussing their proposals to call for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision. Photo by Matthew Reichbach.

Committees in both the Senate and House have approved memorials that call for Congress to pass and send back to the states for ratification an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would overturn the controversial and unpopular 5 to 4 Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court in 2010.

The History

The Citizens United decision allows corporations to contribute an unlimited amount of money to groups that support or oppose candidates. It swept away decades of campaign finance law aimed at reining in the influence of money in politics.

This is a tradition of reform that dates back as far as the Tillman Act of 1907 that was signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt and banned direct corporate contributions in federal election campaigns.

Because this Supreme Court decision now trumps anything that Congress could do on its own, a constitutional amendment is the only recourse. Seven times previously in our nation’s history, the constitutional amendment route has been used to reverse Supreme Court decisions.

The most prominent example is probably the Fourteenth Amendment that was needed to overrule the pre-Civil War era Dred Scott decision, which enshrined Chief Justice Roger Taney’s constitutional interpretation that said black people were not, and could not become, citizens of the United States or enjoy any of the privileges and immunities of citizenship.

Legislative action

Fast forward to 2012 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. On Thursday the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee voted to give HM4 a “Do Pass” recommendation, sending it to the House floor. It passed on 3-2 party line vote with Democrats in support and both Republicans voting against.

Friday morning, two Citizens United memorials moved forward with bipartisan support as the Senate Rules Committee unanimously gave a “Do Pass” to SM3 and SJM24. Two Republican Senators joined with the five Democrats in support of the two measures which now move on to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

UPDATE:

Sens. William Burt (R-Alamogordo) and Stuart Ingle (R-Portales) later changed their votes to vote against the memorials. The official vote is 5-2.

“I heard all the time from my constituents and the public in general about the lack of confidence in our political system,” Rep. Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque), the sponsor of the House memorial, said during the hearing. “And really the biggest complaint is money in politics.”

Sen. Steve Fischmann (D-Las Cruces), the sponsor of the Senate memorial, said that he invests in some mutual funds who could use that money to spread messages that he does not agree with and that they are “usurping” his free speech.

“I don’t think that’s democracy,” Fischmann said.

Sen. Eric Griego sponsored the Joint Memorial which echoes a national proposal by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Fischmann said his memorial allows more latitude in approaches to undoing the harm caused by the Citizens United decision.

At last count, five amendment resolutions addressing Citizens United have been introduced in the congress, including one by New Mexico Senator Tom Udall.

In explaining his opposition, Dennis Kintigh (R-Roswell) said he would be “hypocritical” to vote for the memorial because he was the recipient of a huge amount of money when he defeated House Minority Whip Dan Foley in a 2008 party primary. (Heath Haussamen reported extensively on that race – here and here.)

“I would not have succeeded without significant funding,” Kintigh said.

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“Let’s Do This”: Rap Video calls for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to overturn Citizens United decision (VIDEO)

Be sure to tune in this afternoon at 5 PM to hear a live interview with Citizens United “rapper” Sarah Kennedy on your radio dial at KSFR 101FM or livestream here.

A rap video about “Citizens United”? Citizens what?

For your information, two memorials have been introduced in both the New Mexico State Senate and House of Representatives that, if passed, would put New Mexico on record in opposition the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission.

That’s the decision which is directly responsible for the rise of the “Super PACs” and the unprecedented avalanche of money that has been pouring into Republican presidential primary campaigns thus far this year – millions from big corporations and a few extremely wealthy individuals.

But we ain’t seen nothing yet. The millions spent in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina will soon pale in comparison to the hundreds and hundreds of millions that will be unleashed in this fall’s general election at the federal, state and local levels.

The Super PAC attacks in the Republican primaries prompted Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to declare that Citizens United is “one of the worst decisions I have ever seen.” He predicted “there will be huge scandals associated with this huge flood of money.”

The two New Mexico memorials, sponsored by Sen. Steve Fischmann (D-Las Cruces) and Rep. Mimi Stewart (D-Abq), would have each house of the legislature call upon the the Congress to pass, and then send back to the states for ratification, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would overturn Citizens United.

By passing these memorials, New Mexico would join a growing list of communities and states that are debating and passing similar resolutions and ballot referendums, including Los Angeles, Portland, OR, Boulder, CO and Missoula, MT. The Missoula ballot question passed with 75% of the vote.

Results of a poll by Hart Research Associates showed that 79% of voters support passage of a Constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case and make clear that corporations do not have the same rights as people, including 42% who would definitely support it. Just 21% are opposed. Large majorities of Democrats (87%), independents (82%), and Republicans (68%) support passage of the amendment.

All of which compelled our very own Sarah Kennedy to produce this rap video in support of New Mexico State Senate Memorial 3. Listen up:

 

 

Is “Wild West” of campaign spending back before it ever left?

By Matthew Reichbach

Before campaign finance reforms were passed in 2009, the Wall Street Journal referred to New Mexico as the “political wild west.” In addition to a non-paid state legislature, no webcasting of legislative proceedings and no independent ethics board, the lack of campaign contribution limits was cited. Now, parts of the landmark contribution limit law that was passed in 2009, and which took effect the day after the 2010 elections, were put on hold by a district court judge.

U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson’s decision would allow state parties to receive unlimited donations from individuals or corporations. However, candidates themselves and organizations that coordinate with candidates would still only be allowed to receive donations of $5,000 per election from an individual or organization (with primaries counting as separate elections from the general elections).

The preliminary injunction went into effect immediately because the 2012 election cycle is already underway.

“Considering that the 2012 election cycle is in full swing and considering that the desired activities of Plaintiffs involve political free speech and association rights during an election year, this Preliminary Injunction shall remain in effect pending appeal unless stayed by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals,” Johnson wrote.

Citizens United lawyer James Bopp Jr. represented the State Republican Party in the lawsuit. As Clearly New Mexico reported at the time:

Joining the state Republican Party in the lawsuit are the county Republican Parties from Bernalillo and Dona Ana County, [State Sen. Rod] Adair [R-Roswell], Rep. Conrad James (R-Albuquerque), former New Mexico Republican Party chair Harvey Yates, Santa Fe resident Howard James Bohlander, and Hobbs resident Mark Veteto. New Mexico Turn Around, a political committee with ties to the state Republican Party and the Rio Grande Foundation, and the New Mexicans for Economic Recovery PAC are also plaintiffs on the suit.

Johnson decided to allow the unlimited contributions because of the controversial, and unpopular, Citizens United Supreme Court decision which allows unlimited funds to be used in aid or against a candidate.

Johnson quoted the decision by the Supreme Court, written by Chief Justice John Roberts:

“Laws that burden political speech are” accordingly “subject to strict scrutiny, which requires the Government to prove that the restriction furthers a compelling interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.”

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Citizens United attorney seeks to overturn N.M. campaign finance reform

By Matthew Reichbach

On Friday, the Republican Party of New Mexico and its allies filed suit in federal court to invalidate the campaign contribution limits law passed by the legislature in 2009. The lawsuit cites the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision giving corporations the right to make unlimited campaign ads—often without disclosing the donors who funded the ads.

James Bopp Jr.

James Bopp Jr., the attorney who brought that Citizens United case, is representing the state GOP in this new lawsuit. Bopp is spearheading a national strategy to end campaign finance and disclosure laws.

Game Plan

In a recent New York Times story, Bopp described the strategy in this way: “We had a 10-year plan to take all this down… And if we do it right, I think we can pretty well dismantle the entire regulatory regime that is called campaign finance law.”

According to Bloomberg, “Of 31 lawsuits challenging campaign finance regulations tracked by the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center, Bopp filed 21, including a case that led to creation of independent groups that raise unlimited sums of money to run political ads.”

This was before the New Mexico lawsuit.

The New Mexico contribution limits law, which went into effect immediately after the 2010 elections, restricts individuals or entities from donating more than $2,300 to a non-statewide candidate in an election, or $5,000 to a statewide candidate, a political party or political action committee. Primaries and general elections are as treated as separate elections.

The law also bars political parties or PACs from donating more than $5,000 to an individual candidate in any given election.

Prior to passage of the law, New Mexico was one of the five remaining states that had resisted the imposing limits on campaign contributions.

A statement released by the state Republican Party expressed optimism that the suit will overturn the limits law. “We are confident that we will be successful in this case, as cases from around the country have found in favor of protection of freedom of speech, including a recent United States Supreme Court decision.”

If the New Mexico contribution limits should be struck down, what would the future campaign finance landscape look like? Recent actions by plaintiffs’ attorney Bopp may offer a clue to what he might be envisioning.

In May of this year, Bopp filed filed registration papers with the Federal Election Commission to form the Republican Super PAC Inc. Dubbed the “Super-Duper PAC” in a Mother Jones story, the PAC’s objective was to recruit candidates who would then be able to solicit unlimited funds for the Super-PAC — which could then spend money promoting that candidate.

The FEC quickly shot that idea down a month later in a unanimous ruling saying that while candidates may ask donors to give to the Super-PAC, they cannot ask for more than $5,000. One FEC commissioner called Bopp’s plan, “a bridge too far.”

But Bopp countered that the FEC’s ruling was “meaningless.”

If Bopp does succeed in bringing down New Mexico’s contribution limits law, it would certainly be an ironic fate for a reform that, when it was passed, garnered broad support from Republicans along with Democrats in the legislature.

Sponsored by Sen. Dede Feldman (D-Abq.) in 2009, it passed the state Senate on a 40-1 vote with only Sen. Rod Adair (R-Roswell), a plaintiff on the today’s suit, the only dissenting vote. The bill then breezed though the House on a 49-17 vote with 8 Republicans in support, including the soon to become Albuquerque Mayor, R.J. Berry.

Joining the state Republican Party in the lawsuit are the county Republican Parties from Bernalillo and Dona Ana County, Adair, Rep. Conrad James (R-Albuquerque), former New Mexico Republican Party chair Harvey Yates, Santa Fe resident Howard James Bohlander, and Hobbs resident Mark Veteto. New Mexico Turn Around, a political committee with ties to the state Republican Party and the Rio Grande Foundation, and the New Mexicans for Economic Recovery PAC are also plaintiffs on the suit.

One lawmaker who  reacted quickly to news of the lawsuit was Sen. Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe). He tweeted, “Citizens United not enough? GOP lawsuit wants to take NM back to ‘wild west’ days where political parties have no campaign limits . . . Wow.”

Wirth might be referring to a January 2009 Wall Street Journal story that was much commented upon at the time the Feldman bill was being debated.  The story excoriated New Mexico for being one of just a handful of states with no campaign contribution limits. It was entitled, “New Mexico’s Political Wild West.”

 

Suck on this New Mexico, it’s Dick Morris of Citizens United on the phone!

“Please stay on the line for an important message from Dick Morris of Citizens United.”

That’s just part of what an untold number of New Mexicans heard in a campaign phone blitz this week.

By all accounts, the call was slickly produced and deployed.

The caller would ask for a specific person in the household. Let’s call her Mrs. Wellington. Once it was confirmed that Mrs. Wellington was indeed on the line, the caller would introduce himself:

“Hello, I’m Gil from Citizens United.”

Oh yes, this is the same Citizens United that won a recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision — Citizens United V. Federal Election Commission — which struck down much of the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 law along with overturning Teddy Roosevelt era bans on corporate campaign contributions. By conferring on corporations the same rights as an individual (corporate personhood), the decision now allows them to open up their treasuries and completely buy up all television time, thus potentially drowning out drown out everyone else’s voices in political campaigns.

But let’s get to Gil on the phone with Mrs. Wellington. After a brief riff on how President Obama has “taken your health care away from you,” Gil asked Mrs. Wellington to stay on the line to hear an important message from “Dick Morris of Citizens United.”

Then a recording of the Fox News pollster/guru and noted toe sucking fetishist, Dick Morris, commenced.

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