Revised: I wrote this story a few month ago for the Seattle Weekly and posted on my blog reverse citizens united, but it still holds relevance in regards to what’s happening in Seattle as of right now.
Monday 7/13 2:00pm City Council will vote to place Honest Elections (I-122) on this Nov ballot in Seattle.
If passed, will be the first voter voucher program in the country that gives tax collected money to voters for them to give to whichever candidates they so choose.
However, because of the citizens united decision, they cannot make donations illegal or limit them in any way, and therefore it would be an opt in system.
Candidates will have to agree to the donor limitations if they want to be eligible to receive vouchers from the public. Now, in a progressive city like Seattle this might work, but it certainly wouldn’t work in every city.
In other words, citizens united and it’s subsequent rulings are still in control of our democracy, and this piece talks to members of wolf-pac.com Washington and their fight to amend the constitution in order to regain the voice of the many.
Icons by Brennan Moring.
Late last month, campaign-finance-reform activists got some good news when a bill calling for a constitutional convention was assured consideration in the House State Government Committee in Olympia. The aim of the convention would be to propose “a free and fair elections amendment” to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment would nullify the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling inCitizens United v. FEC, which lifted all restrictions on independent corporate-funded advocacy regarding elections. But there is a long way to go before that happens. What is the path forward, and what are the pitfalls?
The Convention: Article V of the Constitution provides two paths to an amendment. One is through the will of the U.S. Congress. The other—currently being pushed by a national activist group called Wolf PAC—goes through the states and requires two-thirds of their legislatures to request a constitutional convention. Such bills have been passed in four states—Vermont, California, Illinois, and New Jersey. Washington, some activists hope, will be next. So once every week, a few Wolf PAC volunteers spend the day at the capitol attempting to build support for the bill. “Right now it’s stuck in committee and there’s no motion likely until 2016,” says Washington’s Wolf PAC leader Jeff Eidsness. “So what we need to do is inoculate as many people as we can against all the fears.”
The Runaway Convention: State Senator Jamie Pedersen is no enemy of campaign-finance reform, having endorsed several attempted measures in the past. But the 43rd District democrat believes a constitutional convention could cause trouble. “I think if you open up the Constitution, you could potentially have a convention that would make much more dramatic changes to [it],” he says. “Would we ban flag-burning? Would we be doing something about person-hood beginning at conception? I don’t know what things might be in there. There are a lot of pieces of the Constitution that are very protective of minority rights or the right of the accused that aren’t necessarily popular.”
The Congressional Amendment: Eidsness says the “runaway convention” is a “myth,” but he wouldn’t mind avoiding the whole affair either. Drawing on history, he explains how the threat of a convention can be enough to exact change. “With the 17th amendment, they were two states away from actually having a convention, at which point Congress is like, ‘Yeah, we better do this’ because they want the credit,” he says. “I don’t think a convention is going to happen, but we need to ask for it. The convention is not the goal, the amendment is the goal . . . History shows us that calling for a convention is the only legitimate way that people who aren’t arbitrarily wealthy can influence Congress to do the will of the people.”
Do we want to wait who knows how long for the supreme court or congress to do something about Citizens United? If a total of two-thirds of U.S. state legislatures can agree to a constitutional convention, 34 of 50, then it will be so. Thing is, of the 27 amendments to the constitution enacted thus far in our countries history, none were completed through an article 5 constitutional amendment. Instead, Congress through a two-thirds of state legislature vote proposed the amendments.
Well Illinois just became the third state, behind Vermont and California, to call for the convention. The Rock River Times’ Brandon Reid wrote a more in depth look at this latest step towards a convention.
Wolf-pac.com is a nation wide grass roots movement to reverse the supreme courts 2010 citizens united decision and get money out of politics, restoring our representative democracy.
The founders of wolf-pac realize that our federal government cannot be waited on to do something. Plenty of groups are working on that level, wolf-pac on the other hand is working towards proposing an amendment to the constitution through our state representatives as opposed to the federal government.
Through an article 5 national convention wolf-pac can force the amendment to the constitution through a 2/3 majority of states signing on in the pledge to put our political system through a much needed change. All they want is a chance at a real conversation. One the federal level, you’re still getting a conversation with conflicting interests that don’t fall in the common citizens favor!
I recently sat down with the leader of the wolf-pac’s Washington state division, Jeff Eidsness who was appointed to the position in 2013
RCU: How did you first get interested in wolf-pac and movement?
Eidsness: “I’ve been watching the Young Turks for years now, and have followed Wolf PAC ever since it formed during the initial Occupy movement. I started by giving them $10 or $20 per month, because I didn’t feel like I knew how to participate effectively…”
RCU: how can people start participating effectively?
Eidsness: “… first, people can get involved in the fight for free and fair elections (by calling) their state legislators (http://app.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/). Ask for an appointment to speak (or better yet meet) with their elected officials about ending the corrupting influence for wealthy special interests.”
“You don’t have to be an expert to tell your representatives that you are tired of the undue influence of industry lobbyists. That being said, it never hurts to be informed! If you are interested in learning more about the issue in general, Lawrence Lessig’s book, Republic, Lost How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It is a thorough, if not meticulous rundown of the situation for the layman/non-lawyers among us (people like me!). I also like http://represent.us for good examples of how to communicate with the general public about campaign finance.”
“Once you’ve gotten a lay-of-the-land and evaluate the potential solutions, look around (google: ‘campaign finance reform organizations’?) and find a group with a plan that makes sense to you and then volunteer and/or contribute.”
“As one of many groups of people dealing with different facets of this issue, Wolf PAC is working towards having 34 state legislatures call for a convention of the states to discuss and hopefully propose an amendment(s) that would restore the founder’s idea of democracy, where the government was subject to the will of the people, and the people alone. If people are interested in volunteering, or simply learning more about the ‘in case of emergency’ clause given to us in Article V of the U.S. Constitution, you can visit http://wolf-pac.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”