McCutcheon v. FEC Press Call

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  • (2:19) Blair Bowie, Democracy Advocate, U.S. PIRG
    • The data
      • "We thought after Citizens United burst the dam on what corporations can spend on elections, and led to the creation of super PACs and dark money nonprofits, that this was as bad as things can get. One reminder of just how bad things were for the average American in the 2012 elections is the fact that in that cycle just 32 mega-donors giving to super PACs matched every single small donor gift to Obama and Romney combined."
      • "Today, we're releasing new research that can be found right now on US PIRG's and Demos' websites in which we predict that if the aggregate limit is struck down, elite donors will raise their giving, adding over $1 billion in contributions in the next 4 elections through 2020. [...] In 2012, only 1,219 donors came even close to hitting the aggregate limit."
  • (6:18) Larry Cohen, President, Communications Workers of America
    • The Court is getting money vs. speech wrong
      • "The basic problem here is that the Supreme Court continues to confuse the difference between money and speech, and continues to say that money equals speech. From the point of view of working families, what this leads to is a total passivity when it comes to elections and the feeling that what they say and do makes no difference."
  • (9:30) Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club
    • People want to see democracy work
      • "This case is important to the Sierra Club, but it's also important to everyone in this country who wants a democracy that actually works."
    • Congress' 300 votes
      • "You don't need to tell Sierra Club's members and supporters why this matters. We know already. We know because we've seen Congress take more than 300 votes attacking clean air and clean water."
    • Who is McCutcheon?
      • "We've seen polluter-backed groups pump more than $270 million into political ads in just the last two months of the election. We've seen the people who are trying to poison our democracy are the same people who are trying to poison our air and poison our water, and we're fighting them everyday. Now we're fighting them on the Supreme Court because who wants to overturn existing limits and write those million dollar checks? That would be Shaun McCutcheon, the CEO of a coal company in Alabama. Mr. McCutcheon is a climate change denier. He's already spent thousands of dollars on politicians who want to gut the safeguards that keep the toxic pollution from coal plants out of our air and out of water, but he'd like to spend millions of dollars. So he's suing the federal government."
  • (13:24) Phil Radford, Executive Director, Greenpeace
    • Broken Congress
      • "I'm in Washington, D.C. today, where everyone's eyes are pealed on the circus of the broken Congress. But the broken Congress is just a symptom of a much bigger problem. The real action right now is happening behind closed doors. It's happening when congressmen are redistricting our nation into divisiveness."
    • Legalized system of corruption
      • "It's no secret to our supports at Greenpeace or the Sierra Club's supporters or any American, that this legalized system of corruption through money in politics is a direct cause of the fact that very few major environmental laws have passed in this country since 1980 even though the American public demands clean air, clean water, and action on climate change."
  • (16:17) Kim Keenan, General Counsel, NAACP
    • Core civil rights issues
      • "At the NAACP, voting and campaign finance are really the core, important civil rights issues. In McCutcheon, the Supreme Court will consider striking one of the few remaining campaign finance laws designed to combat corruption."
    • A system with this level of political inequality is unjust
      • "Simply put, buying a democracy is the second prong of a two prong attack on voter participation against regular people in America."
      • "When did we become this America? Allowing unregulated monetary contributions into our political system will further erode the role of the individual in sustaining our democracy. We must have common sense rules for money in politics to protect the right of ordinary citizens to bring their interests before their elected representatives and to have their voices heard. We know that a political system operating with this kind of inequality is unjust."
  • (18:56) Matthew Segal, President,
    • This is a rigged game lacking accountability
      • "If we lose, it will be millennials and future generations who will have to live the longest in a morally obscure political process because the evidence is indisputable that political contributions affect legislative decisions."
    • Young people average $10-25 in their campaign contributions
      • "We're particularly interested in this case because if you look at the young people who do contribute to political campaigns, the average amount of money we're giving is between $10 and 25 dollars. When you can only give 10 and 25 dollars to candidates, clearly you can't win the amount of favor of people who are giving $5,000 to ever every single candidate's PAC."
  • (23:03) Heather Smith, President, Rock The Vote
    • Young people are losing their faith in government
      • "It's no surprise that young Americans today are losing their faith in our government and its ability to be responsive to their needs and concerns. When asked why, repeatedly their top answer is that they believe that monied interests trump their own. This declining confidence in who we elect to represent us will lead to decreased participation among the millennial generation, and put our democracy at serious risk."
  • (24:50) Dan Cantor, Executive Director, Working Families Organization
    • The nature of politics now
      • "We are fast approaching a point where politics is becoming a disagreement among rich people[.] That is not something we should want." 
    • Judge us on the quality of our ideas
      • "I think at Working Families, as with many other grassroots organizations, we prefer to be judged by the quality of our ideas, not by the size of our checkbook."
  • (25:45) Marge Baker, Executive VP for Policy and Program, People For the American Way Foundation
    • Forces representing power/privilege
      • "People For the American Way and its hundreds of thousands of members fight every day to protect core constitutional values– values like equality, fairness, equal justice, and equal opportunity for all. These are values which are increasingly under attack from well funded forces representing the powerful and the privileged."
  • (28:37) Rick Poore, National Executive Committee, Main Street Alliance
    • Money is ruining politics
      • "I'm here today because it's clear that money is ruining our politics. Giving big money donors more influence in our elections, and more influence over our elected leaders is bad news for small businesses like mine."
    • Recent surveys
      • "In a recent survey of business executives, both small and large, crossing party lines, 75% said that our campaign finance system is pay-to-play."
  • (32:09) Miles Rapoport, President, Demos
    • "The Citizens United ruling and the rise of the super PACs have expanded the ability of wealthy individuals and corporations to shape election outcomes and set the policy agenda in Washington and state capitols across the country. The wrong decision in McCutcheon would only make matters worse."

Q&A Section

  • (35:09) Eliza Newlin Carney, Roll Call
    "Could you give a few more details about the events that will take place on the day of the oral arguments? There was a description of what was planned on the steps of the Court. Will there be other demonstrations? What kind of turnout do you expect?"
    • (35:29) Marge Baker response
  • (37:01) Alec MacGillis, The New Republic
    “Could one of you address two of the points that have been offered on the other side in all of this? One is more micro, and one’s macro. The micro one is that it’s just not going to make all the much of a difference to lift cumulative spending contribution limits if they leave in place the individual limits. Candidates will still be getting only $2,500 or $5,000 from a donor. Can you really influence people that much at that level? The more macro question is this argument that now that we’ve lifted so many of the limits on corporate spending and outside spending, is it that big of a deal to be lifting the limits on the direct contribution side. In a way, wouldn’t it even be better to have more of the money to be funneled through the parties and through the regular channels instead of the shadowy outside groups?”
    • (38:23) Blair Bowie response
    • (40:24) Marge Baker response
    • (41:35) Kim Keenan response
    • (42:30) Liz Kennedy response
  • (45:56) Byron Tau, Politico
    "A number of you folks are outside spending groups, groups that spend funds outside of the FEC or make independent expenditures. Is there any concern on your part that funds would be directed back into the party system and away from outside groups like yourselves?"
    • (46:25) Larry Cohen response