Seven Initiatives to Get Money Out of Politics

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Ever since the Citizens United ruling opened the floodgates to unlimited political spending (and even before), our friends at Open Secrets, The Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, The Sunlight Foundation, Democracy 21, Public Citizen and countless other organizations have been working to turn back the tide. Click through to read about some initiatives democracy watchdogs are hoping will help clean up our elections and get money out of politics.

A rally to amend the constitution held in Spokane, WA. (Public Citizen)

A rally to amend the constitution held in Spokane, WA. (Public Citizen)

The movement for an amendment to overturn Citizens United has quickly gone from pipe dream to mainstream, says Public Citizen’s Rachel Lewis. Since the Citizens United ruling, over 300 cities, towns and counties have passed resolutions, as have 16 state legislatures. In 2012, President Obama voiced his support.

Take Action
At the Move to Amend website, you can follow their barnstorming tours, current campaigns and plans for a special campaign in New Hampshire ahead of the 2016 presidential primaries.

McCutcheon v. FEC
Public Citizen is organizing people all over the country to help gather signatures for their petition and readying folks for over 120 McCutcheon v. FEC response events being held across the country when the decision in the case, often called Citizens United 2.0, is announced. The next day the Supreme Court is expected to hand down decisions is February 24, so preparations are being made for rallies in case the McCutcheon decision comes down that day. Common Cause is also focused on the McCutcheon case and has a petition you can sign.

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  • Babsfamily

    We live in California and support MovetoAmend, ‘We the People, Not We the Corporations’. How do we join forces and put Ciitzens United out of its misery?

  • James Lesley Jones

    Bill, Watch this documentary about the super rich and their political machinery down South.

  • James Lesley Jones

    Koch Brothers Exposed is a hard-hitting investigation of the 1% at its very worst. This full-length documentary film on Charles and David Koch — two of the world’s richest and most powerful men — is the latest from acclaimed director Robert Greenwald (Wal-Mart: the High Cost of Low Price, Outfoxed, Rethink Afghanistan). The billionaire brothers bankroll a vast network of organizations that work to undermine the interests of the 99% on issues ranging from Social Security to the environment to civil rights. This film looks to uncover corruption by the Kochs — and points the way to how Americans can reclaim their democracy

  • Robert Cohen

    Dear Bill,

    Please consider endorsing my proposed strategy to get the money-givers out of politics. I think it is likely to be faster than, more likely to succeed than, and should be pursued in parallel with, the constitutional-amendment strategy. I encourage you to call this strategy to the attention of your viewers, and to the attention of leaders of the Occupy Movement. And I encourage people who view this comment to rally to this cause.

    Although this initiative’s odds of success may be low, a victory would be a tremendous first step toward peacefully rebelling against corporate rule. Hence I conclude that the nation cannot afford NOT to try it. Even if we lose this attempt, pursuing this initiative is quite likely to have great educational value toward better informing the electorate.

    For a succinct summary of my proposal, please note my comment in response to your recent article about Medicare. It is the fourth comment below your article at URL

    Also, please note two favorable responses to my comment, which are shown, indented, right below it.

    My comment attempted, In the limited space available, to summarize the case for moving forward with filing multiple court challenges to the absurd Santa Clara (“corporations are persons”) and Buckley (“money is speech”) Supreme Court decisions, which will attract widespread public support as they move toward Supreme Court resolution. Recent polls indicate that at least 80% of the citizenry are disgusted by the legalized corruption of our political leaders by the obscene amounts of money-in-politics. And public opinion has swayed previous Supreme Courts. To succeed in this endeavor, all we need do is to sway one of the five conservative Justices.
    Two recent developments encourage me to think that my proposed initiative might succeed. One of them was the defection of Chief Justice Roberts on Obamneycare, who I think will go down in history as a true American patriot for having courageously avoided thrusting the nation into a chaotic health-care situation. The other was the initial victory of Chris Hedges et al. in their lawsuit, Hedges v. Obama.
    Robert Cohen, Ph.D., ConsultantSpecialist in Ocean Thermal Energy,1410 Sunshine Canyon Drive, Boulder, Colorado 80302; (303) 443-4884; mobile: (303) 249-7859

  • Roxanne Watson

    the way to get the ugly out is for everyone eligible to vote to get out there and do it.Everyone knows that big money mobilizes votes for their interest.I have been signing folks up for organ donation as a NY State initiative where voters app also has organ donation app included.I have talked to many that think corporate America votes are the only ones that count.When you have the time to explain the inportance and the history of the voters rights act they get it.I have personally signed up 355 voters and 71 organ donors in the last 15 days by popping a tent at a Rockland Community College and the Palisades Mall.I would be there everyday but my newly transplanted heart needs a break.All it takes is a few folks if I can do it as a transplant recipient think what abled bodied caring healthy people can do.No excuse damnit just vote for somebody then you will feel like it counts

  • arguethefacts

    Why go through Congress? Sending begging notices to Congress to please make an Amendment against Citizen’s United will never work because the Republicans have too much of a vested interest in Citizen’s United.

    The states can amend the Constitution. Starting working in the states. The 21st Amendment repealing the 19th Prohibition Amendment was not done through Congress. It was done through state legislatures. Instead of petition Congress have these cities and towns repeal the Amendment through their state legislatures. Absolutely no action by Congress is required.

  • Robert Cohen

    You are correct about Congress, since a leopard can’t readily change its own spots. But trying a constitutional amendment is unlikely to succeed. Even if it could succeed, it will take too long to do so, since meanwhile this country is going down the tubes too rapidly and too irreversibly.

    Please note my comment of yesterday, suggesting a judicial approach that could succeed much more rapidly, as in the fairly rapid resolution of court challenges to Obamneycare.

  • Tom

    Quit voting for Republocrats. If most of us wasted our votes on Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, one of these ‘unowned’ candidates would be our president .. look at who these people are for ‘our’ sakes. If most of us wasted our votes on a 3rd Party candidate for Congress, an unowned 3rd Party candidate would be a Congressman. A 3rd Party POTUS can use Executive Orders just like the previous Kings of the US did. Banks and corporations must be removed from our government .. completely. It’s easy .. it just takes some cojones. No human being can be allowed (no ditch digger or corporate CEO or union) to put money into a campaign or legislative initiative. All campaigns must be paid through our taxes to level the playing field. All candidates get guaranteed airtime with all networks, newspapers, etc…. deduct the expenses from their taxes. Candidate need to fly somewhere? … airlines fly them and deduct. Stay in a hotel? … hotels deduct. Pay for staff? … deduct. I think you get the idea. The playing field must be leveled for all who want to be a part of this wonderful, democratic process. This way, a talented ditch digger has an equal opportunity to represent us just like a successful CEO. We need a stirring pot of ideas. We look to much to business skills and professional politicians as clearance for leadership .. some of these people are successful screwups.

  • Paul Moser

    United Re:public is a great organization that deserves attention. The group includes former FEC chair Trevor Potter and Harvard law Prof Lawrence Lessig. The group is proposing a piece of legislation–vetted for constitutionality–that will get anonymous, dirty money out of not just election campaigns, but out of lobbying as well. Check out their website. They are looking for 1 million “co-sponsor” citizens who will sign the document.

  • Jared Johnson


  • treegirl59

    How about voting EVERYONE out of Congress/Senate, and placing our best neighbors into their job? Then we should be able to pass some great stuff through!

  • Mike

    Unlimited political spending? It’s likely 99% of political contributions wind up in media coffers. The more “political noise” the more political contributions. In return the media doesn’t expose or discuss important national issues.

  • Anonymous

    The DISCLOSE Act voted down in the Senate…with a Democratic majority! That alone should tell everyone that there truly is little, if any real, difference between the Republican and Democratic parties.

  • Gerald Abrahamson

    The US Supreme Court has already approved gay marriage at the federal level. This is based on the Citizens-United decision.

    The C-U decision was very simple. It boils down to a “legal person” (corporation) has the right to access rights available to a “real person”–even though the corporation is dramatically different than a “real person” (you can legally buy/sell a corporation, for example) . A corporation can not vote (yet?). And so on.

    By definition, a “real person” is a “legal person”. Thus, anyone can marry anyone else–if they both agree. Why?

    The US Supreme Court stated, in its C-U decision, the LITERAL definition of a person is irrelevant–only the LEGAL definition. Thus, if one person agrees to be in the “woman/female/spouse” role in a marriage ceremony, and another agrees to be the “man/male/spouse” role in a marriage ceremony, that is “good enough” for the Supreme Court. The individuals do NOT have to be one “male” and one “female”–only that they have the *rights* of “male/spouse” and “female/spouse” as they have chosen. One is the designated “corporate man” and the other is the designated “corporate woman”, regardless of their actual sex). Thus, they can be legally married under State law.

    Why is this true? The right of marriage belongs to the individual person. Per the US Constitution (Article IV, Section 2, first sentence or paragraph):

    ‘The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States’

    The word “Citizens” is not limited or restricted to one sex or the other. Thus, both sexes have equal rights as “Citizens” per the US Constitution. There are no “States’ rights” to discuss because the US Constitution specifically dictated what the States were required to do. All the States were required to grant “all Privileges and Immunities” to all “Citizens”–which is why the word “shall” was used in that sentence. States do NOT have a choice in the matter.

    How can a corporation be a citizen? If it is “born in the USA”, then it is, per the US Constitution–and US Supreme Court decisions–a US citizen.

    A state could choose to not have civil marriage. But that is just the state making a choice. It would not prevent any and all churches from performing marriages as they saw fit. The First Amendment would not prevent religious organizations from performing marriages. It would just mean the state bureaucracy ignored who was–and who was not–married.

    Thus, the US Constitution clearly–and unambiguously–states each and every *individual* citizen has the right to ask to marry who they choose (that is the “Privileges” part)–and the person who is asked has the right to agree or say no. The state may not interfere with that selection or response in any way (other than to determine if both parties are legally able to enter into such an agreement–i.e. if they are of legal age). If the State interferes by passing a law limiting marriage in some unreasonable way (limiting marriage to being exclusively between one man and one woman, for example), it violates this portion of the US Constitution. That makes State law limiting marriage to “one man and one woman” unconstitutional–because each and every individual State agreed to comply with the US Constitution as an unconditional requirement before being allowed to become a US State. The State knowingly passed a law that violated the US Constitution’s unconditional guarantee of the rights of all citizens, thus the State law is null and void.

    Continuing with the Citizens-United logic of the US Supreme Court, which sex is a corporation? How do you tell which corporation is which sex? Where is the sex of the corporation shown on the corporate birth or marriage certificate?

    It is relevant because Mitt Romney says “corporations are people, my friend”. If this statement is true, then corporations are people, people are not slaves, and people are not allowed to be bought or sold–per the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. All stock markets have now been determined to be illegal, because stock markets buy and sell pieces of corporate people (or even entire corporations/people). Since people can not be bought or sold, the only way to get a merger or acquisition is through legal marriage. And that is where the real fun begins for everyone.

    There must be one “man” corporation and one “woman” corporation (in order to comply with the claim “marriage is limited to one man and one woman”). So, which corporation is “man” and which is “woman”? Neither is man or woman. They are the same sex. Thus, same-sex marriage has been approved by the US legal system, including all the churches, for over a century. The “marriage rule” for corporations can be used by other “people” as well. It is long-established legal tradition, after all….

    Divorce is supposedly impossible due to the “sanctity of marriage” claim–or at least one would think so. Divorce is the #1 cause of the end of a marriage. Here we see some real mental contortions by those with irrational thinking. The US public never sees a “pro marriage” group seeking to pass a law–or a consitutional amendment–prohibiting divorce. Nor do we ever see these “sanctity of marriage” people protesting in front of the houses and offices of divorce lawyers or Divorce Court. No divorce = no end to marriage = end of the problem for those who cite the “sanctity of marriage” and enforcement of the “’til death do us part” bit in the marriage vows.

    Then we face the problem of multiple spouses. Companies buy and sell each other all the time. How was that permitted? When they were “things” and not “people”, that can work. But corporations are now people. Which means corporations are limited to ONE marriage during their existence. Think about it. How do you “kill” a corporation? You can’t. No divorce allowed. So, once two corporations are “married”, it is “’til death do us part”. Corporations never die, so they are married forever. Nor can a corporation ever be closed–because that would be murder (as defined under law–killing of a “person”). We know that “one” plus “one” equals “two”. So, adding another to the marriage becomes a problem–because the law of mathematics does not say “two” plus “one” (or more) equals “two”.

    Moving on, how do we know a corporation is alive? Again, we look at the argument made. The claim is “life begins at conception”. If this is true, then we are forced to follow it to its logical conclusion. The first time someone has an idea, they conceived it. Which, by definition, means it is alive (“life begins at conception”–remember?). To claim otherwise contradicts the stated reality: Apple was “conceived” in the 1970s–and today (Nov 2012) is the corporation (“person”) with the largest valuation in US history. It is illegal to kill another person (under US law, anyway). So everyone is stuck with those ideas forever.

    Taxes. Now that “corporations are people”, that means the entire corporate tax code can be immediately scrapped. They now get the exact same treatment as any other person does. Real people are not allowed to take certain deductions or get preferential treatment of income or expenses–so neither can corporation people get them. Make lots of snacks and watch the fun begin !!! We will get to the watch the politicians madly scramble to protect their sources of poltical cash….

    You thought this was NOT about MONEY ??? ROFLMAO !!!

  • Anonymous

    ill believe a corporation is a person when i see one go to jail

  • Linda Lovell

    Support and The American Anticorruption Act at . Both go a long way toward solving the problem.

  • Anonymous

    Regulate the SEC, they in too many college football games.

  • Dan Marks

    The Article V Convention was left out, why?

  • Anonymous

    One of the greatest challenges to democracy is when politicians play a role in the electoral process. This should be removed from politicians, and managed independently by a body responsible for :

    – Review & Establishment of electoral boundaries (no gerrymandering)
    – Registration of voters
    – Organisation of elections – booths, advertising , opening hours
    – Execution of elections – verification of identity, distribution and collation of papers
    – Counting – counting and verification of votes

    In Australia this body is the AEC (Electoral Commission), typically headed by a retired judge.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry to see that you have not included MOVE TO AMEND, a vibrant, grassroots organizing group whose amendment is much broader than those you mention. Over the past 125 years, corporations have sought and been granted rights given to HUMANS in the Constitution in order to skirt laws and improve their bottom lines. This has undermined out democracy in many ways. LEARN ABOUT THIS! Money in politics isn’t the only problem and we shouldn’t go to the trouble of amending the Constitution without addressed the broader issues.

  • Theresa Riley

    Quinn, Move to Amend is the first organization mentioned above in the Take Action section. I’m not sure what you’re referring to? – Theresa @ Moyers

  • MD

    I am working with a group called Wolf Pac to bring about federal change via state legislatures because it is nearly impossible for this change to happen on the federal level.

  • MD

    This is what Wolf Pac is trying to do.

  • Brenda Duffey

    I also think an Amendment is in order to get rid of the Electoral College and the control of elections by partisan politicians who are controlled by corporations and big money lobbies.

  • Anonymous

    Hi, Theresa,

    Thanks for pointing that out. I am in the midst of moving after 39 years in the same house and am in a bit of a tailspin…I knew I probably shouldn’t be responding to this, as I had not read it carefully (as you noticed!). However, I did react to the fact that a number the organizations in that first paragraph are traditional Washington-based advocacy groups that have kept their focus on CU and are not looking at the long history of rights of people which have been handed over to corps by the courts. And also to the fact that Move to Amend was not on that list. I do love Bill Moyers and the work he does has made a huge contribution to the discussion. I imagine you should get some credit for that, too. Thanks.


  • Vincent Gschwind Jr

    Public Citizen is not good enough. What they want will leave a hole in the law that republicans will be able to put a cruise ship through it. Move to Amend is a much better organization.

  • Vincent Gschwind Jr

    But I do love the work that Bill Moyer has done. You are a leader that has done a great deal of work for the American people. Thank you greatly.

  • Anonymous

    Unless you’re from California, Texas or NY, be careful what you wish for. The electoral college is one of the few, slight equalizers in the Constitution for less populated states.

  • Theresa Riley

    Thanks Quinn! I just wanted to be sure you saw it. Good luck with your move. And thanks again for participating here.

  • Dan Marks

    Do, or not do. There is no try.

  • Dan Marks

    I ask again, The Article V Convention was left out, why?
    Was it neglect, ignorance, or was the option dismissed? I think your readers deserve to know what their options are. So why leave it out?

  • Gadamer too

    Thom Hartmann was on The Cycle yesterday also promoting Move to Amend, but they did not post the segment on their website. According to Hartmann, we’re on the cusp of a huge financial collapse which will result in the 28th Amendment to overturn Citizens United.

  • Daniel

    wolf-PAC is a similar group, trying to get a 28th amendment for publicly funded elections.

  • Dan Marks

    I like MTA too but is the answer to our problem a group or a method? I say we need an opportunity to porpose amendments. Read Article V of the Constitution. Isn’t this what we need, not a group? Why point out 6 items that don’t actually get an amendment to states for consideration. I am sorry but giving it the old college try isn’t good enough anymore. We need results ASAP.

  • Arm of Keaau

    When this nation has already passed jeopardy, who cares about being labeled as a over-abused term as domestic terrorist? (_: FBI

  • Arm of Keaau

    And the reality is it, it’s board of directors, nor any of it’s officers will ever go to jail. One would think this is the first consideration that SCOTUS would have used as criteria for making their ruling. But of course law does not exist without the flaw of the influence of money nor power. (_: FBI

  • Arm of Keaau

    Your whole argument is prefaced on the false assumption that one’s “sex” is a deciding factor in marriage and therefore business. How absurd. Even if it is sarcastic!
    You also rightly point out the constitution gives rights to citizens, and no distinction of sex is ever mentioned. The use of sex in terms of business’s is a pure distortion of person verses corporations. Corporations are crafted by people making agreements between a person/persons and a government and neither is associated by sex. People are produced through a natural organic process and not on paper as a corporation. People and corporations simply are not the same no matter the political or financial theory applied .
    By your logic a can-opener has the same rights that you have. I hope to never see one in line to vote, although you’re likely to find one in a jail.
    I agree with the points you’re attempting to make, but muddling the discussion with sex only distorts the issue (as the radical right-wing SCOTUS has been able to accomplish). (_: FBI

  • Arm of Keaau

    With the way our government works, one must ask what was attached to the bill that killed it. You can not make an assumption that just because a bill is titled “Good” that it is not in fact “Bad” by the way congress does business.
    Congress needs a “plain language 1 bill-1 issue” rule. (_: FBI

  • Arm of Keaau

    Not just corporations as local and state governments utilize the same laws paid for by corporations to skirt the will of the people by “following-the-law”. (_: FBI

  • Anonymous

    The petition link does not accept me. I hope it is my computer and not the site.

  • Anonymous

    Probably true but I think most people are already on that list.

  • Greg Zeglen

    if this ends up being a matter of legislative choice it seems unlikely that politicians are going to cut themselves out of such a large source of funds…maybe the most expedient way would be to vote every incumbent up for election out of office and send the message (not a subtle one either) that way…

  • Ric Shorten

    Do them all, they are all great!…then pick up a brick and head for Washington DC…IF those, Black Shirted S.W.A.T teams armed to their teeth, come to their senses …those defenders of the peace…support their citizens? The crooks in Congress will crumble. The Republic can be saved!

  • mick

    will the paramilitary police come to their senses – who do you think supplies all their toys so they can play at soldiers

  • Ric Shorten

    1971 it was the troops that got us out…hell no we won’t go!

  • NativeThings

    How do you figure it’s an equalizer? The “electors” are the true and official voters. It is their votes that elect the president – not ours. They are supposedly chosen by “popular vote”, but I’ve never seen any opportunity to vote for an elector – have you? I want my own vote to mean something.

    From Wiki: “Electors are almost always pledged to particular presidential and vice presidential candidates, though unpledged electors are possible. Except for the electors in Maine and Nebraska, electors are elected on a “winner-take-all” basis.[5]
    That is, all electors pledged to the presidential candidate who wins
    the most votes in a state become electors for that state. Maine and
    Nebraska use the “congressional district method”, selecting one elector
    within each congressional district by popular vote and selecting the
    remaining two electors by a statewide popular vote.[6] Although no elector is required by federal law to honor a pledge”

    None of that looks like equalization to me. Our votes need to mean something. WE need to be the ones who elect candidates. The electoral college was originally created because there was no real way to educate the far-flung population as to what the issues were and what the candidates stood for. That is no longer the case. That means that the electoral college is now superfluous. And because they don’t have to vote who the constituents want, they are WORSE than superfluous.

  • mick

    Ric, I do believe that police forces are being armed for a specific purpose – to suppress dissent. All the weaponry supplied, their eagerness to get it , and their immunity from prosecution while states pay billions of dollars in lawsuits leads me to believe that they are prepared to accept this role

  • Rain,adustbowlstory

    Besides gun control, is this the hardest issue not to despair about? Every election, finance reform is discussed, and every election, nothing happens. Giving up is wrong, but it also seems dangerous to keep hoping for something that never happens. But I will!

  • kandy830

    My Uncle Isaac just got a nice 12 month old
    Jeep from only workin on a pc at home… Read Full Article C­a­s­h­D­u­t­i­e­s­.­ℂ­o­m

  • Anonymous

    “all eligible citizens participate equally”?

    i guess this really ISN’T a democracy then… I can’t participate equally with Sheldon Adelson, can I?

  • Anonymous

    And who will we vote INto office? How will these opposition candidates be able to afford to state their case to the public? “Sweep em out of office!” isn’t enough

  • Anonymous

    “In actual practice, all that the campaign finance laws have done is simply made it far easier for the establishment to keep itself in power while denying alternative political parties access to the ballot box, the media, and getting into the all important, political debates.”

    Ralph Nader in 2000 was as popular as Ross Perot in 1992, but the Commission on Presidential Debates (a non-profit 501c3 run jointly by the Republican and Democratic parties) barred him from all the debates by raised the standard for entry. If we were to eliminate campaign finance reform, how would that change the behavior of the two parties that control that organization? I defy you to explain how Ralph Nader’s exclusion from televised debate in 2000 was a result of campaign finance laws. Which law? How did it apply?

    “Plutocrats will ALWAYS find ways to game any set of laws you write”

    Yes the legal limits on capital tend to be weakened over time by the corrosive power of capital. That is to say, there is in fact a big impact when the limits are first introduced, and they continue to have some smaller positive effect even as they are weakened. Explain how we’d be better served by a complete lack of regulation. As an example, lets talk about EPA and the recent chemical leak at Freedom Industries. Explain how we’d be safer if they had never been inspected at all, not even 20 years ago. If they’d never been required to build a diversion ditch (which caught the second spill before it hit the river), how would that be better?

    “WHATEVER laws are written, the plutocrats will ALWAYS find ways to game the system to their own advantage, while true grassroots activism is crushed under all the additional bureaucratic requirements”

    Thats an absolute statement right there, a very confident prediction. Totally inaccurate, but confidently stated! Were the Panthers crushed by bureaucratic requirements, or was it Cointelpro and police violence? No campaign finance reform was necessary to hold back the Socialist Party during WWI. Woodrow Wilson had their presidential candidate tried for “sedition” because the man dared to praise draft resisters. The man got a 10 year sentence for suggesting WWI was a horrible waste of human life and people who resisted it were the heroes. I wonder, where was HIS free speech? Can you name even one single example of “true grassroots activism” that was crushed by the addition of new campaign finance laws? I sincerely doubt it. Yet you would say with confidence “it happens every time.” You have absolutely no credibility. Libertarians across the board seem to pull these hard and fast rules out of their butts without citing any historical precedent to back up the claims. Next time you want to refer back to the dog eared pages of your precious “Atlas Shrugged,” consider cracking a history book instead of the fiction.

  • Anonymous

    With the electoral college, a 51% victory in the state is worth as many electoral votes as a 99% victory. Presidential candidates take entire states for granted and cede entire states as lost causes. We should switch to the popular vote, so that every state counts. THAT would equalize the states. If most US citizens live in a city on the coast, then by all means most of the candidates time should be spent there and focus on issues specific to those regions. Our system gives far too much credence to a minority- people who live in faith-dominated lily-white communities far from any major city

  • Greg Zeglen

    you are correct that it isn’t enough…but it is a start….suffragettes were a start…..taking down the Berln wall was a start…Boris Yeltsin was a start….starting points are all (relatively) small and never underestimate the power in grass roots…Occupy istill exists…anti-GMO campaigns grow in size….oceans are just many drops of water collected in one large place…sweep them out is a start…and politicians should fear the idea…