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million voice mandate resizeYou would think that after yesterday’s historic majority Senate vote to overturn Citizens United, we’d be out of tremendous victories to share with you.

But we’re not finished yet.

Amid the exciting news about the constitutional amendment was a another huge victory for Public Citizen and our allies: through our leadership, more than one million people have submitted comments in support of the Securities and Exchange Commission petition calling for disclosure of corporate political spending.

One million comments is a record at the SEC — in fact, it’s a record by nearly 900,000. No rulemaking in the history of the agency has garnered such broad and tremendous support. The general public gets that undisclosed corporate money is an affront to the integrity of elections, but the diversity of support for this rule is a testament to just how common-sense it truly is. Investors, academics, state treasurers, members of Congress, small business owners, the list goes on and on, have all called on the SEC to act.

To mark this milestone, we took the fight right to the SEC’s doorstep.

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By: Robert Weissman

The Republicans have their billionaires, the Democrats have theirs. What’s the big kerfuffle about campaign spending, right?


As it happens, the Republican Party is benefiting more, by far, from the spending abuses authorized by U.S. Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) and this year’s McCutcheon v. FEC. But more important than tallying who is more sullied by Big Money is addressing the systemic problem of corporate and super-rich dominance of our elections.

That’s why the U.S. Senate vote this week on a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and restore our democracy is so important, and why it’s so important that the Democracy for All Amendment be adopted as the 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

First, the facts. Campaign spending has exploded since the Citizens United decision was handed down in 2010. The most important effect of Citizens United was to permit corporations and the super-rich to spend unlimited sums to influence elections, as long as their contributions go to outside groups, not directly to candidates. As a result, reported outside spending tripled from 2008 to 2012. Spending this year is sure to blow away previous records for a mid-term election. Pro-Republican outside spending was more than double the amount of pro-Democratic spending in 2012, and is running ahead again this election cycle. There was still more than $300 million spent in favor of Democrats, so the problem is definitely bipartisan, but it’s not equal.

Dark money – the undisclosed money channeled through trade associations and social welfare organizations – has skyrocketed since 2010. From almost 100 percent disclosure of outside spending in 2006, we’re now below 50 percent. Undisclosed money – much of it channeled through Koch Brother-affiliated organizations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS – overwhelmingly favors Republicans. In 2012, the margin was 7-1 ($265 million versus $35 million).

The McCutcheon decision held unconstitutional the previous limit on how much an individual can contribute in total to candidates, parties and political committees. Already, in 2014, as of 58 people have contributed $100,000 or more to joint fundraising committees. Fifty-one of them directed all of those joint fundraising committee donations to Republicans.

All that said, the problem of Big Money in politics is bipartisan – or, better stated, and more disturbingly so, it is systemic. More than ever, candidates have to devote their time to raising money – Georgia Democratic senate candidate Michelle Nunn’s advisors urged her to spend 80 percent of her time on fundraising until the final month of the campaign – and that means their spending their time with and talking to the small fraction of the population that can write big checks. Elected officials in both parties owe allegiance to their deep-pocketed donors and the giant outside spenders. And every elected official knows that, if they choose to upset powerful corporate interests, they may have to face a multi-million dollar negative advertising campaign in the next election.

The result is that the giant corporations and super-rich have more easy and direct influence in Washington, D.C., than any time since the Gilded Age.

This week’s vote on a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and restore our democracy is anything but a “distraction” or partisan diversion, as some opponents have said. The vote is as important as any the Congress will take this year, because the deep corruption of our politics induced by Big Money control of our elections is blocking progress on almost every issue of importance to the American people: creating jobs, raising the minimum wage, adopting a fair tax system, passing a federal budget that serves the broad interests of the America people, winning fair trade rules, preventing catastrophic climate change, addressing wealth and income inequality, ensuring healthcare for all, and much more.

Billionaires on each side of the aisle do not cancel each other out. They comprise plutocracy.

A democracy – a government of, by and for the people – demands that every person count equally, that the super-rich do not gain super influence by virtue of their wealth and spending. We can restore that democracy – and we must – with the Democracy for All Amendment.

Statement of Tyson Slocum, Director, Public Citizen’s Energy Program

Public Citizen applauds U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s long-awaited ruling that BP acted with gross negligence in setting off the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The ruling underscores that BP’s intolerable recklessness was the root cause for an accident that left 11 workers dead and devastated five Gulf Coast communities and that the company should not be trusted to operate in U.S. waters.


Oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill approaches the coast of Mobile, Ala., May 6, 2010

The finding means that BP will have to pay significantly larger fines to the federal government for causing oil to spew into the Gulf over the course of 87 days in the summer of 2010.

Instead of accepting responsibility, BP has been engaging in drawn-out legal fights. The company has already stated that it will appeal today’s decision and, even worse, is still actively fighting oil spill victims pursuing claims against the corporation under a settlement the company entered into voluntarily. It is time for the corporate criminal to accept responsibility and end the legal fights. It should stop shelling out millions to its defense lawyers, stop challenging the settlement to which the well-lawyered company agreed and start paying appropriately imposed fines.

BP has an abysmal history of negligent disregard for worker safety and the environment. Holding BP truly accountable and deterring this corporation from continuing its reckless course means using all the tools available. Time and again, fines alone have not prevented BP from acting recklessly. In April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lifted its suspension of BP entities from federal contracts, deeming the corporation once again fit to do business with the government. Today’s gross negligence finding by Judge Barbier should trigger a review of the EPA’s premature decision to reinstate BP as a federal contractor.

Today is a victory for the victims of the BP Gulf disaster, but, by itself, it is insufficient to deter misconduct and compensate the many people injured by the BP disaster.

What we know:

* Climate change is happening now and having real consequences on our lives, natural habitats and economies.

Seemingly every week new evidence emerges to reinforce the clear and present danger of climate change.

Just this week, the National Climatic Data Center reported that the Earth as a whole had its fourth-hottest month on record in July and the world’s oceans had the warmest month on record.

It is these types of persistently warmer temperatures that, according to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), are contributing to disturbing new trends in America’s outdoor experience. A new report issued this week by NWF, which examines the impact of warmer temperatures, stronger storms, and changes in habitat on eight species, literally demonstrates that you can see the impact of climate change in your backyard:

Toxic algae outbreaks like the one that poisoned drinking water in Lake Erie are becoming worse and more frequent; Deer ticks, tiger mosquitoes and fire ants are becoming more widespread as a result of warmer temperatures and milder winters; and More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is accelerating the growth and increasing the abundance of poison ivy.

  * We have existing and affordable solutions that will enable us to move away from our dependency on climate causing energy sources – we cannot afford the cost of inaction.

In April, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the third and final report in a series from the United Nations’ climate science body detailing the evidence of man-made climate change, the risks it poses and the range of solutions available to slow it down.

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