The DI Report

Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 3.22.17

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

 

NY Times opinion of Gorsuch(Click to Tweet)

In honor of Women's History Month, here are three key things to share with your members about the women in elected office:

  • As candidates, on average, women face more unfavorable spending than men. (Click to Tweet)
  • Women have a higher chance of winning in open seat races; however, they are often underfunded by PACs and parties. (Click to Tweet)
  • Women represent 51% of the population but hold only 20% of the seats in Congress. (Click to Tweet)

VICTORIES

New Mexico is One Step Closer to Stronger Government Accountability & Getting Money Out of Politics

New Mexico Roundhouse

Thanks to the hard work of advocates and state groups in New Mexico, several pro-democracy reforms were passed in the New Mexico state legislature and now await action by the Governor.

Reforms include:

The legislature also rescinded outdated calls for an Article V constitutional convention that wold have jeopardized our constitutional rights and civil liberties.

 

PROGRAM CALL REMINDER

Join us for our Bi-Weekly program call next Wednesday, March 22nd at 3PM ET/12PM PT. RSVP to eorbuch@democracyinitiative.org.

ACTION ALERTS

The Fight for Fair Elections in Maryland Continues!

Now is the time to make sure the Howard County lawmakers finalize the Citizens’ Fair Election Fund and give every voter a strong voice. Democracy Initiative partners successfully worked together to pass the county charter amendment to create a citizens’ funded election program (53%-47%) last November. The Council will begin working on a bill to fund the program on March 23 with a final vote expected in early May.

Mobilize Your Members in Howard County!

  • View list of upcoming County Council hearings.
  • Share social media content.
  • Encourage members to write letters to the editor to local papers.

 


Join the Movement for Fair Elections in DC!

Today, the D.C. Fair Elections public financing bill was co-introduced by eight (8) councilmembers. The bill will hold D.C. elected officials accountable to district residents instead of special interests, and gives everyday citizens a stronger voice.

Show your support for the bill and learn more at www.dcfairelections.com.

Kudos to the strong grassroots coalitions that includes national and local chapters of DI partners like Public Citizen, CWA, Demos, Every Voice, 350.org, Jobs with Justice, U.S. PIRG, Sierra Club, League of Conservation voters, Food and Water Watch, SEIU, and People for the American Way.


#BigMoneyGorsuch

Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing began on Monday. DI partners are turning up the heat on Gorsuch’s troubling connections with money in politics and his harmful opinions that impact the environment, workers' rights, and civil liberties. Groups supporting Gorsuch have spent $3.3 million in ads targeting key Democrats, compared to $181,000 spent by groups opposed to Gorsuch -- a 20-to-1 margin.

Now more than ever it's important for the U.S. Senate Judiciary to ask serious questions about whether Gorosuch will side with #DonorsOrVoters.

Your Actions Have an Impact!

We had over 3100 people participate in the Gorsuch call-in last week, along with the letter signed by over 120 groups.

Representatives from Communications Workers of America, Sierra Club, Demos, and Lawyers Committee will be testifying on Thursday.

 


We Must Hold Sessions & Trump Administration Accountable

FBI Director James Comey confirmed that there is an active investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The investigation includes Trump campaign activities. This makes it all the more important for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to step down after he failed disclose his contacts with Russian officials.
 

UPCOMING EVENTS

Sign-Up for People's Climate March

Climate March

Saturday April 29 -- Millions will mobilize in resistance against Trump’s agenda and for our climate, our jobs, and our justice. The "country-wide arc of action" led by The People's Climate Movement will have marches in DC, Miami, San Diego, and many more cities find one near you here. Sign up and share the link to join the march here!  Mobilize your members with sample social media.

We will share how organizations can get involved in the march at the next program meeting (March 22).

 


Want to share a victory or call to action in the fight for democracy? Email us for a chance to spread the word for the next Weekly Update!

If you are not already a subscriber, click here to receive the DI Report in your inbox. And please be sure to follow us on Twitter(@Unite4Democracy), like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Tags: 

Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 3.15.17

Read more about the victories in the movement this past week and learn more about how you can help expand democracy in the future!
Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Here is some inspiration to share from International Women's Day and #ADayWithoutAWoman:

 

When women succeed, humankind succeeds.

 

"When the women’s movement locks arms with the civil rights movement, all oppressed citizens win. When the women’s movement marches with the Labor movement, all working families win.  When women succeed, humankind succeeds."

Claude Cummings, Jr., Director of the Human Rights Department of Communication Workers of America and Vice President of CWA, District 6 (Click to Tweet)

 

VICTORIES

Tillerson's Recusal One Step Forward on Accountability

 

Greenpeace Resist Banner

 

Last Thursday evening was a win for the environmental community, proving that participation in our democracy can create a more accountable government. The construction of the Keystone XL pipeline was found to benefit ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson’s former employer. After Greenpeace shed light on Tillerson’s conflict of interest with making permit decisions for Keystone XL. Greenpeace’s Executive Director, Annie Leonard wrote a letter to the  Office of Governmental Ethics expressing concerns and thousands of people called into the OGE flooding their phone lines.

These actions proved successful, with the OGE commenting Thursday night that Tillerson would recuse himself from “working on issues related to TransCanada’s application for a presidential permit for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.” This is a step forward towards a more accountable government but we must continue to push for transparency.

Thank you Rachel (Greenpeace) for sharing! Please email your victories to Michelle at mwhittaker@democracyinitiative.org so we can include in future updates.

 

 

 

 

ACTION ALERTS

Join the CWA to Protect Health Care from Corporate Interests

 

Protect Healthcare

 

Healthcare workers are under attack. The repeal of the Affordable Care Act would result in layoffs and the degradation of health services. The recently introduced American Health Care Act will result in 14 million fewer people being insured in 2017 and 24 million without insurance by 2026. The main beneficiaries of the AHCA are the wealthy and insurance companies.

Communication Workers of America are holding a rally this Friday, March 17, at 11amoutside of Senator Marco Rubio’s Orlando Office.

For more information contact Steve Wisniewski (theewis@yahoo.com) from CWA Local 3108 or Charlie Ramos (cramos@cwa-union.org).

Encourage members to attend rallies and town halls across the country.

 

Use Townhall Project's search tool to find an upcoming event nearby. Go to: townhallproject.com.


Urge the Senate to Fully Vet Judge Gorsuch

In just the first 50 days of the Trump Administration their track record of not fully vetting nominees has led to conflicts of interest and serious questions about nominees’ ties to corporate interests and foreign powers. The need for a full vetting of Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch has only increased with the revelation of his troubling connections with money in politics.

Mobilize on Twitter with sample graphics and tweets found here.

Read press release on 120 groups including many DI partner organizations calling for full vetting process for Gorsuch.

Supreme Court Toolkit

Download and share the activist toolkit with your members. Soon the Judiciary Committee will hold hearings and your voice can make the difference.

DOWNLOAD TOOKLIT


Continued Pressure on AG Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has continued to mislead the public regarding his contact with Russian officials. We need a full investigation of his relationship with Russian officials in light of Russian interference with the 2016 elections.

TAKE ACTION

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

Sign-Up for People's Climate March

 

Climate March

 

Saturday April 29 -- Millions will mobilize in resistance against Trump’s agenda and for our climate, our jobs, and our justice. The "country-wide arc of action" led by The People's Climate Movement will have marches in DC, Miami, San Diego, and many more cities find one near you here.Sign up and share the link to join the march here!  Mobilize your members with sample social media.

We will share how organizations can get involved in the march at the next program call. 

Tags: 

Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 3.8.17

Read more about the victories in the movement this past week and learn more about how you can help expand democracy in the future!
Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Today is International Women's Day

"A stronger, more reflective democracy is only achieved 
when women are part of the equation."  (Click to Tweet)
#ADayWithoutAWoman
Read our blog and take action.

 


Urge Members to Call for Full Investigation and Sessions’ Resignation

The new revelations that Attorney General Jeff Sessions misled the public regarding his contact with Russian officials is the latest example of why Americans have a growing distrust for government.

 

TAKE ACTION

 

 

Mobilize Your Members Against SCOTUS Justice Nominee Neil Gorsuch

The need for a full vetting of Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch has only increased with the revelation of his troubling connections with money in politics. Mobilize on Twitter with sample graphics and tweets found here.

TAKE ACTION


Maintain the Movement! Resist Weekly with #ResistTrumpTuesdays 

 

The Working Families Party has led the mobilization of thousands of people every week since the inauguration in #ResistTrumpTuesdays. The weekly resistance has shown Members of Congress from both major parties that protecting constituents from a divisive administration is paramount.

TAKE ACTION

 


Marching in Mississippi for Democracy

Thousands of people descended on Canton, Mississippi this past Saturday in an effort to protect the rights of Nissan workers while two-thousand watched the live stream. Read our summary of the event and check out Wendy's blog on why the right to organize is important for democracy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save the Date! Join for The People's Climate March on April 29th!

The People's Climate Movement has organized a "country-wide arc of action" and mobilization on April 29th where millions are expected to march for our climate, our jobs, and our justice. Sister marches will be taking place across the country, find one near you here. Sign up and share the link to join the march here!  Mobilize your members with sample social media: https://peoplesclimate.org/social-media/. DI will hold a presentation for how to get engaged during the March 22 program call at 3 pm.

Fight for Clean Elections and Against Voter ID Heats Up in Maine

On Friday, the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee of the Maine State Legislature came to a deadlock on required IDs for voting and ending public campaign financing for gubernatorial candidates. The 6-6 vote will lead to much debate as Republican legislators are in support of voter IDs and the elimination of campaign financing for gubernatorial candidates.

 

 


Wins Against Discriminatory Gerrymandering in Virginia, Wisconsin

VIRGINIA --  In sending down a racial gerrymandering case to a lower court, the Supreme Court has issued a win for voting rights. According Justice Anthony Kennedy, the lower court incorrectly determined that race wasn’t factored into the redrawing of 11 of the voting districts. Republican legislators redrew House districts that had black majorities limiting their electoral power. Read more about the case here.

WISCONSIN -- A Federal court ruled Friday that Wisconsin's Republican party must re-draw its legislative districts after it was determined that they were drawn in a partisan fashion. Wisconsin republicans are planning on appealing the decision to the Supreme Court which could lead to a larger fight.

 

 

 

 

 


Want to share a victory or call to action in the fight for democracy? Email us for a chance to spread the word for the next Weekly Update!

If you are not already a subscriber, click here to receive the DI Report in your inbox. And please be sure to follow us on Twitter(@Unite4Democracy), like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Tags: 

DI Weekly Update -- July 27th

Read more about the victories in the movement this past week and learn more about how you can help expand democracy in the future!
Friday, July 29, 2016

                                                 

SiX Releases a New Report

SiX released a report examining the legislative activity in statehouses across the country. SiX took a look at some of the best and worst state policies from the year’s legislative session and the report underscores the consequences of big money in politics. The report covers a broad range of policies including voting and election policy and found that in 2016, bills that would expand access to the ballot box outnumbered restrictive bills. AVR bills were introduced in more than 20 states this year and became law in Vermont and West Virginia. In laying the landscape for the future and continuing current fights, it is important to read more about the best and worst voting & election policies in the past year.

 

 

 

Take Action! Help Gather Signatures in Colorado with Greenpeace

Support Greenpeace in getting the "Yes for Health and Safety" ballot initiatives across the finish line by August 8th. The initiatives will help Colorado communities defend themselves from fracking by giving local governments a stronger role in decision making and setting up "fracking buffer zones" near schools, hospitals, etc. Greenpeace is working on collecting 120,000 signatures by August 8th so that the initiatives can be on the ballot come November. Contact Rachel Butler to get your Colorado members involved!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn More about the Success of Oregon Automatic Voter Registration!

In 2015, Oregon became the first state to create and implement a fully automatic voter registration system. The Oregon Motor Voter Coalition invites you to join them for a phone call and online presentation regarding automatic voter registration's affect on the May Primary turnout as well as engaging AVR voters to research how it works on the ground. Join the call led by the Oregon Motor Voter Coalition Steering Committee on Friday, August 5th from 10-11:30 PST/1:00-2:30 EST. RSVP by Monday, August 1st with Caroline Cowley.

 

 

 

Fight for Voting Access Continues in Virginia

On Friday, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled against an executive order which restored voting rights to ex-offenders. The ruling invalidated the registration of Virginians like Louise Benjamin of Richmond who recently registered to vote under the executive order. "I’ve never been able to vote," she said, "This would be my first time and it means a lot to me. I am trying to make a difference in my community and I’m not able to do that now."  Despite this setback, New Virginia Majority is continuing the fight to expand democracy for the over 200,000 Virginians who were denied the right to vote. The organization is working with the Governor to quickly sign individual clemency grants for the 200,000 ex-offenders, starting with the 13,000 who had already registered to vote before the ruling. Read New Virginia Majority's statement on the ruling here and go to their website to find out how you can help register the new voters in time for the November election.

 

 

Victories in the Movement!

Texas Discriminatory Voter ID Law must be Remedied by Nov. Elections

A Federal Appeals court upheld a prior ruling that Texas's Voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act which prohibits racial discrimination in elections. The courts found that the law would disenfranchise over 600,000 Texans, with a disproportionate amount being black or Hispanic. The law has not been completely thrown out but the appeals court passed the ruling down to the trial court which must now come up with a remedy in time for the November election.

 

 

 

 

Wisconsin Judge Rules Against Discriminatory Voter ID Law

Last Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman ruled against Wisconsin's Voter by permitting voters who cannot obtain suitable IDs to sign an affidavit verifying their identity in order to vote. Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel filed an appeal on Friday to stay the ruling.  If the stay is not granted then,  voters will not be denied their right to vote come November.

 

 

 

Federal Judge Declares Michigan Straight-ticket Voting Law Discriminatory

On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that a Michigan law banning straight-ticket voting negatively affected African-Americans disproportionately. The judge granted a request for a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the law before the general election citing the unfair burden. The ban on straight-ticket voting would have resulted in longer wait times and high congestion with a disproportionate number of African-Americans being affected.

Tags: 

The DI Report: Democracy Awakening

Friday, April 22, 2016

This weekend, a mass movement of thousands of activists and advocates from more than 300 labor, environment, civil rights, and faith organizations, descended on Capitol Hill for Democracy Awakening in a brilliant display of solidarity and action to demand an equal voice in our democracy and government that is accountable to people. Collectively, the democracy movement is fighting the power of money in politics on our political system, to protect and advance voting rights, while demanding a hearing and vote on the Supreme Court vacancy in the Senate.

Reporters and journalists covered the weekend’s events, with stories appearing in The Nation,Washington PostTIMEMSNBCUSA TodayVoxThe American ProspectPolitico, and Bill MoyersCheck out our Storify for social media coverage of the weekend’s events.

Democracy Awakening, a three day event that followed the earlier Democracy Spring protests last week, began on Saturday with a full day of panels, teach-ins, and workshops on the crisis our democracy is facing. Hosted at All Souls Church in Washington, DC the kick-off panel was moderated by Stacey Long Simmons of the National LGBTQ Task Force and featured voting rights expert Ari Berman, author of Give Us the Ballot, money in politics reform advocate Derek Cressman, author of When Money Talks, and People for the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker to discuss and answer questions about how voting rights, money in politics, and the Supreme Court vacancy obstruction are damaging our democracy and how we can fight back.

Another panel featured the Democracy Initiative Education Fund’s reportDemocracy at a Crossroads: How the One Percent is Silencing Our Voices with CWA’s Jessica Newman, Nick Nyhart of Every Voice, and Greg Moore of the NAACP National Voter Fund.

Sunday commenced the Rally for Democracy, where thousands of people joined together in front of the Capitol for a day packed with music, powerful speakers, and dancing, culminating with a march in solidarity that passed the Capitol and Supreme Court. Speakers included NAACP President & CEO Cornell Brooks, CWA President Chris Shelton, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, Greenpeace Executive Director Annie Leonard, Common Cause President Miles Rapoport, actor Kathleen Turner, and others. With music by Sweet Honey in the Rock and Aztec Sun, the day was an inspiration for all to fight for our democracy.

 

Monday was dedicated to non-violent direct action on the Capitol steps, followed by an advocacy day with congressional offices. Beginning early in the morning at Union Station with nearly 3,000 people, including immigration activists in solidarity, a short ceremony preceded a march directly to the Capitol steps. Despite warnings from the Capitol Police, more than 300 activists, including dozens of high profile leaders, stayed on steps to protest money in politics and Congress’ inaction on voting rights and the Supreme Court vacancy, while demanding a Congress of Conscience. Leaders included Democracy Initiative Chair Larry Cohen, Public Citizen President Rob Weissman, Greenpeace Executive Director Annie Leonard, Every Voice President Nick Nyhart, NAACP President & CEO Cornell Brooks, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, and others.

Their dedication and solidarity led to 306 arrests – a strong statement against Congress and a call to arms for everyone concerned about the future of our democracy.

Following the direct action and led by People for the American Way, more than 150 advocates held 50 meetings with members of Congress including Rep. Capuano, Sen. Kirk, and Sen. Tillis to articulate the vision for strong, healthy democracy.

The movement for democracy is just beginning. People are joining together to fight for the strong democracy our country needs in order for all Americans to have an equal voice. In the coming months, Democracy Initiative endorsers and allies will continue to fight to end the power of money in politics and expand voting rights, while holding Congress accountable. There will be opportunities in states to make a difference in the way people can affect the political process. The Democracy Initiative will be working closely with our partners to build a democracy that is of, by, and for the people.

Thank you for reading this edition of the DI Report and we look forward to continuing our democracy work with you in 2016!

Feel free pass this on to anyone who may be interested in our work. If you are not already a subscriber, click here to receive the DI Report in your inbox. And please be sure to follow us on Twitter (@Unite4Democracy) and like us on Facebook!

The DI Report: 2015 Year in Review

Monday, January 5, 2015

Happy Holidays!

As the final edition of the DI Report for the year, we would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the tremendous work of the entire Democracy Initiative network. This has been an exciting year as the DI organized our first mobilization, engaged in a winning campaign in Maine to restore fair elections, and completed our message and research project uniting voting rights and money in politics messaging under a democracy frame. These efforts, among others, are propelling us into 2016 and as we build on our successes and fight for a democracy that is of, by, and for the people.

Continue reading for some of our favorites highlights from the past year, and check out this page to see an interactive chronology of the Democracy Initiative.

2015 Annual Meeting

pan room.jpg

Caption: 

On Wednesday, December 9th, endorsing organizations of the Democracy Initiative (DI) adopted a four-part strategic action plan for 2016, calling for joint action in states; a major grassroots mobilization; a national education, communications, and outreach strategy; and a strategic strengthening of the growingDI network.

Democracy Initiative organizations are mobilizing this spring bringing together actions originally envisioned by the NAACP and Public Citizen. The spring mobilizations will bridge demands for voting rights and money in politics reform, and working to unite traditionally distinct communities and reform proposals. Americans know there is a problem; it’s time to bring people together to act for change.

Additionally, we are looking to build power in key states where there is organizational capacity and interest. For immediate action, we agreed to work in Maryland and Illinois, with long term interest in Georgia, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

Mobilizing for Democracy

Americans are demanding change and an equal voice. However, voting and access to elected officials are becoming out of reach to Americans who want their voice heard. The Democracy Initiative is fighting back, building step-by-step and action-by-action a movement of Americans to claim democracy.

Rally in Roanoke, VA

crowd.jpg

Caption: 

In June on the 2nd anniversary of the Shelby County v. Holder decision, more than 500 hundred environmental, labor, and civil rights activists joined member organizations of the Democracy Initiative and The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, in Elmwood Park in Roanoke, VA to rally for voting rights and an equal voice for all in our democracy.

Demonstrating our collective passion for justice and our democracy, our community rallied in solidarity across organizations and communities. The Democracy Initiative member organizations turned out hundreds of people, with activists from the environmental, labor, civil rights, women’s rights, immigration, and faith communities standing together in a brilliant display of compassion and urgency to show Roanoke and America what democracy looks like. Check out this Storify documenting the event.

America’s Journey for Justice

j4j.jpg

Caption: 

As NAACP President & CEO Rev. Cornell William Brooks often remarks, voting is a civic sacrament. This summer, the NAACP with support from member organizations of the Democracy Initiative, embarked on America’s Journey for Justice on a march from Selma, AL, to Washington, DC demanding voting rights and carrying the message that our lives, our votes, our jobs, and our schools matter.

  • 1,000+ participants in the march
  • 1,002 miles in 46 days across 5 states from Alabama to Washington, DC
  • Op-eds from allied voices from DI organizations explaining how the march addressed environmental advocates, union members and democracy activists in addition to those concerned about education and justice featured in local and state publications
  • Nearly 2 million social media impressions from DI organizations on Twitter and Facebook
  • Local events and teach-ins organized by DI organizations along the way that brought in local activists and marchers to learn about voting rights and other critical issues
  • Final Advocacy  Day Rally joined by 1,000+ people at the U.S. Capitol from 27 organizations
  • 200+ visits with Members of Congress and staff about restoring the 1965 Voting Rights Act

America’s Journey for Justice demonstrated that together we are more than the sum of our parts. Take a look at this Storify celebrating the culmination of the Journey for Justice arriving in Washington, DC.

Accountable Elections in Maine

maine.jpg

Caption: 

vol.jpg

Caption: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1996, Maine passed the historic Clean Elections Act creating a robust public funding system for candidates running for statewide office. At its high point in the 2006 and 2008 elections, 81% of legislative candidates opted into this system, creating one of the most blue-collar legislatures in the country. However, in 2011, the Supreme Court weakened the law and it made it less attractive for candidates to use. The original purpose of the Maine Clean Election Act – fairness, accountability and transparency in elections, along with Mainers’ free speech – was compromised.   

The Democracy Initiative identified a ballot initiative as a strong opportunity to advance a democracy agenda and mobilize key advocates to organize in the state. Profiling  the efforts of CWA and the Sierra Club, the commitment from DI organizations like Every Voice, U.S. PIRG, Friends of the Earth, and others was instrumental in the victory as they committed organizers and advocates to work hand in hand with Mainers for Accountable Elections to canvass the state, knock on doors, and educate voters on the importance of this law. 

Whether it was through the two joint tele-town hall calls with thousands of participants or at the door one-on-one, DI organizations made a difference in Maine. The Democracy Initiative’s efforts were invaluable as we worked together in order to mobilize Mainers to take back control of their elections. 

On Election Day, voters overwhelmingly voted to restore the Clean Elections Act. The Democracy Initiative’s efforts to mobilize labor and environmental organizations on behalf of the campaign demonstrate the power of our coalition and illuminated a path for democracy centered on state-based initiatives. As a result, all Mainers who care about the state can run for office, not just those with a network of wealthy friends and all those elected need to care about voters before wealthy special interests. 

A United Message

sign.jpg

Caption: 

Message and Research Project

The Democracy Initiative Education Fund, in partnership with Demos, and Lake Research conducted public opinion research to equip DI organizations, with a narrative around democracy that speaks to their members. This umbrella message unites voting rights, money in politics, and other issues under the idea of equal voice in our democracy. The project focused on the views of the diverse constituencies that comprise Democracy Initiative organizations including African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, youth, workers, environmentalists, and advocates. 

We need strong protections in our democracy so every voter’s voice is heard, and every voice counts equally. That way we can all have an equal say over the decisions that affect our lives. Otherwise, big money yells loudest, sets the agenda, and rigs the rules in their favor, with tax breaks for the wealthy paid for by cuts in education or health care for the rest of us. We need to strengthen our democracy so that the government works for all of us.

In providing this information to the larger community, we have created an umbrella message that emphasizes the need for a balanced democracy where everyone has an equal voice. We have shared results with a focus group viewing party, post-focus group briefings, and specialized briefings since the research was released in September. This work provides the basis for communicating with activists on these issues, and, in the next year, we will work to ensure that others continue to use this message guidance. In the New Year, we will be working with endorsing organizations and allies to incorporate this messaging into their communications to their members.   

Unity Principles

This year, we worked with money in politics organizations to develop and share a set of Unity Principles which provided a statement of principles to which groups publicly agreed. Supported by more than 150 organizations, the Principles outline five basic ideas:

  • Everyone participates and should have a voice in the decisions affecting their lives;
  • Everyone’s voice is heard, where one person equals one vote, not one dollar equals one vote;
  • Everyone knows who is trying to influence our views and gain influence over our representatives;
  • Everyone plays by common sense rules, where access and influence aren’t determined by the size of your wallet;
  • Everyone is held accountable with elected officials responsible and held accountable to the people.

These principles unify our democracy goals among a diverse cross-section of organizations committed to systemic change and send a strong message to the American people that our government can work for all of us if everyone has an equal voice in the political process.

Mobilizing Together

voting rights.jpg

Caption: 
Integrating Democracy Work

Essential to our national and state-based work, the Democracy Initiative endorsing organizations share a narrative that unites our work around which organizations, advocates, and activists can coalesce that ties together work on voting rights and money in politics, but also elevates each in new and novel ways that allow for organizations to participate and take action within their capabilities and capacity. Democracy reform is becoming integrated into the work of issue-based groups within the DI who see this work as central to their agenda – whether workers’ rights, climate change, or civil rights, organizations are connecting democracy with these issues in their mission and to their memberships.

The Democracy Initiative’s power correlates directly with the strength of our endorsing organizations. Building a movement is about more than elevating and coordinating their efforts, but leveraging actions, mobilizations, and research toward the common goal of a stronger democracy in which every American has an equal voice in a government of, by, and for the people.

Working toward this, the Sierra Club has organized a periodic meeting with representatives from other environmental organizations, including LCV, NRDC, Greenpeace, Center for Environmental Health, and Food & Water Watch, to discuss and plan democracy engagement and integration. We see this as a model for other sectors, and in addition to her work with this “caucus,” we will look to seed similar conversations with the idea of creating a democracy caucus in other communities.

Fighting Forward on Voting Rights

Voting rights are under attack, and it is time we fight back. The Democracy Initiative has developed model legislation meant to represent the core pieces of an inclusive, pro-voter election system in a state. The package addresses nine specific areas: automatic registration, online registration, early registration, portable registration, pre-registration, same-day registration, rights restoration for previously incarcerated people, transparency requirements, and language assistance requirements. Working with key partners in states, we will be advancing the agenda with the support of legislators and advocates to shift the narrative around voting rights from defense to offense.

Democracy Resources

The Democracy Initiative, in partnership with CWA and Every Voice, published its first report this year, Democracy at a Crossroads: How the One Percent is Silencing our Voices, detailing efforts to consolidate power in the hands of the few through attacks on labor and our democracy. Click here for a four-page summary and stay tuned for details about the formal launch!

Additionally, we have released two resource newsletters this year on money in politics and voting rights, designed to give organizations and their staff a compendium of information to bring them up to speed on the issues and how to stay connected.

Our Vision Remains the Same

logo1.jpg

Caption: 
 

logo2.jpg

Caption: 

Originally formed as the Democracy Initiative (DI), we have recently established ourselves as a stand-alone 501(c)(3), the Democracy Initiative Education Fund, and a 501(c)(4), the Democracy Initiative. Despite these changes our vision remains the same. We seek a vibrant democracy where everyone can participate fully in the democratic process, every voter has an equal voice, and policymakers are accountable to the people and the public interest.  

Thank you for reading this edition of the DI Report and we look forward to continuing our democracy work with you in 2016!

Feel free pass this on to anyone who may be interested in our work. If you are not already a subscriber, click here to receive the DI Report in your inbox. And please be sure to follow us on Twitter (@Unite4Democracy) and like us on Facebook!

The DI Report: On the Ground in Maine Vol. 2: Organizing for Accountable Elections in the Pine Tree State

Monday, November 2, 2015

“We have the opportunity to show the country that getting money out of politics is a moral issue; that ordinary people deserve the opportunity to run for office without having to rely on wealthy donors and special interests.” —Joan Saxe, Sierra Club Maine Chapter

joan.jpg

Caption: 

vol.jpg

Caption: 

Joan Saxe (left), Sierra Club Maine Chapter volunteer leader, and a volunteer speaking to Mainers about accountable elections.

Next Tuesday, November 3rdcitizens across the state of Maine will head to the polls and vote on Question 1 to restore and re-establish accountable elections to counteract the role of big money in state races, while putting Mainers in control of their elections and giving them an equal voice in the political process.

The Democracy Initiative recognizes that working to restore Maine’s clean elections could provide a crucial win in our efforts to build a strong, healthy democracy. Working with the Yes on 1 Campaign we recruited Democracy Initiative endorsing organizations to lend their resources to the effort. The Sierra Club answered the call, encouraging their local members and activists to join the tele town hall and enlisted their help with canvassing, organizing, and other activities throughout the state over the last couple of months.

Last week, we spoke with CWA organizer Serina DeWolfe of CWA Local 1400 about her reflections on the work to restore accountable elections in Maine. In this week’s installment of the DI Report, we had the opportunity to speak with Joan Saxe, Sierra Club Maine Chapter volunteer leader about her on-the-ground efforts. Continue reading for Joan’s reflections on the campaign in its final week before the election.

Democracy Initiative (DI): Why are accountable elections important to the Sierra Club? Why do you care about passing the ballot initiative?

Joan Saxe (JS): Fair elections counter big money from fossil fuels, polluters, and lobbyists who all overshadow the interests of real people protecting the environment. Voters need to know where the funds are coming from so they can be better informed. Special interests are able to have outsized control over the legislature, not just on environmental issues, but on all issues that are affecting our citizens. We need to know who is influencing our vote and our elected leaders.

DI: Why do accountable elections matter for our democracy?

JS: Our founding fathers intended for government to be of, by, and for the people, and all citizens must have the opportunity to be heard. We need to know who is paying the bills and hold politicians accountable for their actions. If we have the opportunity to know where campaign money comes from, it makes a huge difference.

More and more, Mainers have been able to run for office representing all citizens, not just big money, which will allows us to have better environmental and health policies. There are great examples where we have been able to pass great legislation on environmental and health issues since 1996, when the first accountable elections bill was passed. We are extremely proud of our citizens’ legislature and ordinary people are able to run as a result. That’s the way it should work.

DI: How does it help your organization to work with other Democracy Initiative organizations on issues like accountable elections in Maine? 

JS: As John Muir once said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe,” and we can apply his strong sense of interconnectedness to building this cross-cutting movement. When we march in New York, we heighten the value of this effort in Maine, and when we pass clean elections in Maine, it will prove to be a model for other states. This is a great opportunity for the Sierra Club to help unite movements across the country. It’s all connected.

DI: How does the campaign in Maine impact other states and America as a whole?

JS: The whole country is watching us – Maine is the model for clean elections. We hear the candidates for president talking about the need for clean elections. Americans are concerned and aware of our crisis. We have the opportunity to show the country that getting money out of politics is a moral issue, that ordinary people deserve the opportunity to run for office without having to rely on wealthy donors and special interests.

 

signs.jpg

Caption: 

The DI Report: ON THE GROUND IN MAINE: Organizing for Accountable Elections in the Pine Tree State

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

 “When we band together for common goals like we have with other Democracy Initiative organizations, America becomes an even better place for middle class Americans.” –Serina DeWolfe, CWA Local 1400

maine crowd.jpg

Caption: 

On November 3rdcitizens across the state of Maine will head to the polls and vote on Question 1 to restore and re-establish accountable elections to counteract the role of big money in state races, while putting Mainers in control of their elections and giving them an equal voice in the political process.

Accountable or clean elections, approved overwhelmingly by Maine voters in 1996, established the first-ever public funding system in the United States for candidates running for a state office in Maine. Elections were decided by the voters, not by wealthy special interests. However, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2011 eliminated the matching fund component, dramatically weakening Maine’s Clean Election Law and making it easier for wealthy special interests to influence the outcome of campaigns. The original purpose of the Maine Clean Election Act – fairness, accountability and transparency in elections, along with Mainers’ free speech – was compromised.   

The Democracy Initiative recognized the campaign to restore Maine’s clean elections as crucial and exemplary of a strong and healthy democracy. Working with the Yes on 1 Campaign we recruited endorsing organizations to lend their resources to the effort. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) was one of the organizations that answered the call, committing two organizers to the campaign to help with canvassing, organizing, and other activities throughout the state.

The Democracy Initiative recently had the opportunity to speak with one of those organizers,  Serina DeWolfe of CWA Local 1400 and the District Vice President in Maine about her organizing efforts on the ground. Below are some of Serina’s reflections on the campaign in its final weeks and its importance to the broader democracy movement.

Democracy Initiative (DI): Why are accountable elections important to the Communications Workers of America?

Serina DeWolfe (SD): The Communications Workers of America prides itself on fighting for the middle class. Accountable elections would bring true democracy back to the election process as mainstream candidates have become so entrenched with lobbyists and special interest groups. They have lost sight of the issues that are important to not only middle class Americans but all Americans. We need to take back our voice in the American political process and vote on issues and not be misled by wealthy special interests.

DI: Why do accountable elections matter to our democracy?

SD: I would pose this question: How do you have a true democracy without accountable elections? Elections won by the most affluent candidates supported by the richest special interest groups are not examples of the democracy that the United States was founded on. There is no true “one person, one vote” when elections are bought by lobbyist groups.

DI: How does it help your organization to work with other Democracy Initiative organizations on issues like accountable elections in Maine?

SD: As CWA likes to say, “When we fight, we win!” We pride ourselves on advocating and representing the issues and struggles faced by the middle class in America and making elections about the issues that the middle class face day-to-day : income inequality, minimum wage, and the high cost of healthcare to name a few. When we band together for common goals like we have with other Democracy Initiative organizations, America becomes an even better place for middle class Americans.

DI: Why do you think accountable elections matter in Maine? In other states?

SD: There is truth to the old slogan “as Maine goes, so goes the nation.” There is a watchful eye on our small, rural state where we pride ourselves on doing what is right. I am confident that Mainers will go to the polls on November 3rd and do the right thing. This is a pivotal referendum question. If Mainers do the right thing by voting for accountable elections, I am confident other states will realize the positive impact this will have on elections throughout the United States and we, the voters, will have our voice back.

As the campaign to restore accountable elections in Maine races toward the finish line, Democracy Initiative organizations like CWA are working hard to turn out every single Mainer to make their voice heard on Election Day. Their efforts on the ground, along with additional partners like Common Cause, Every Voice, Sierra Club, Maine People’s Action, and others are critical to building a true democracy movement and building a government of, by, and for the people.

sign.jpg

Caption: 
 

Thank you for tuning in to this edition of the DI Report. Other publications and materials will follow in the weeks and months ahead. Please stay tuned!

Feel free pass this on to anyone who may be interested in our work. If you are not already a subscriber, click here to receive the DI Report in your inbox. And please be sure to follow us on Twitter (@Unite4Democracy) and like us on Facebook!

The DI Report: Money in Politics Resources

Monday, September 14, 2015

This special edition of the DI Report is an overview and resource on money in politics to which you can refer and use in your work. While much of this week is focused on the Journey for Justice and voting rights, we are committed to keeping both issues at the center of our democracy reform efforts.

At our December convening last year, groups indicated that they wanted DI to act as a “Democracy Docent,” providing guidance for groups for which democracy has not been a primary focus. This newsletter is meant to fulfill that purpose and this is our second newsletter in the series following our first DI Report: Voting Rights Edition.

This year marks the 5th Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case in which it held that political spending is protected under the First Amendment, as well as the first anniversary of McCutcheon, in which the Supreme Court declared aggregate limits on political spending unconstitutional. These decisions, with Citizens United in particular, have transformed the landscape for election related fundraising – a fact most find distressing as poll after poll indicates Americans feel that our elected officials are out of touch with our real needs.

We anticipate you using this newsletter as a starting point for resources to engage your members, supporters, and constituents as we collectively mobilize millions to build a government that fulfills the promise of American democracy – a government of, by, and for the people.

1. Expert Money in Politics Organizations

2. Information and Resources

3. Messaging, Reporters, & Social Media

4. Opportunities for Reform 
  

movi.jpg

Caption: 

 

check.gif

Caption: 
1. EXPERT MONEY IN POLITICS ORGANIZATIONS
Within the Democracy Initiative, organizations with an expertise in money in politics are a core component of our network and coalition. Their research, advocacy, and organizing capabilities help provide all of us with the expertise and with the resources necessary to educate, organize and advocate.
 

Democracy Initiative Organizations: 

 

cc.gif

Caption: 
 

demos.jpg

Caption: 
 

ev.png

Caption: 
 

fsfp.png

Caption: 
 

pfaw.jpg

Caption: 
 

pc.jpg

Caption: 
 

rtm.png

Caption: 
 

pirg.gif

Caption: 

 

Other Resource & Advocacy Organizations: 

 

acs.jpg

Caption: 
 

brennan.jpg

Caption: 
 

clc.jpg

Caption: 
 

cmd.jpg

Caption: 

crp.jpg

Caption: 
  

d21.jpg

Caption: 
  

jas.jpg

Caption: 
 

issue1.png

Caption: 
 

 

maplight.png

Caption: 
  

nimsp.png

Caption: 
 

SS.png

Caption: 
 

sunlight.gif

Caption: 

 

check.gif

Caption: 
2. INFORMATION & RESOURCES
This section highlights key reports and resources for the Democracy Initiative network. 

Featured Reports from Democracy Initiative Partners:

Democracy & Elections

  • Across the Aisle
    In the fall of 2014, Free Speech For People released an updated report highlighting more than 100 Republican officials across the country who have called for a 28th Amendment to reclaim our democracy, along with other prominent Republicans who have condemned the Citizens United ruling. [Free Speech For People]
  • Billion Dollar Democracy
    Demos and U.S. PIRG analysis of reports from campaigns, parties, and outside spenders to the Federal Election Commission found that our big money system distorts democracy and creates clear winners and losers. [Demos & US PIRG]
  • Democracy At Stake 
    It’s no secret that money has dominated American politics for decades or more—and that its grip on our democratic process has never been tighter. [Demos]
  • The Dominance of Big Money in the 2014 Elections 
    Democracy has at its heart a basic promise: citizens have an equal voice in deciding who represents them. Large donors accounted for the vast majority of all individual federal election contributions this cycle, just as they have in previous elections. [Demos]
  • Elections Confidential
    This report describes how secret donors poured hundreds of millions into the 2012 election through “social welfare” non-profits that are really political vehicles and via shell corporations formed as conduits to hide a funder’s identity. [US PIRG & Center for Media and Democracy]
  • The Money Chase
    This report examines the role of money in the 2014 congressional elections from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives, and demonstrates how matching small political contributions with limited public funds can change the campaign landscape for grassroots candidates. [Demos & US PIRG]
  • Super Connected
    Super Connected is a series of reports by Public Citizen that highlights the growing trend of unregulated independent expenditure groups devoted to a single candidate or party. [Public Citizen]
  • Undefeated: “People’s Pledge” Maintains Near Perfect Record at Deterring Unregulated Outside Spending
    The number of candidates proposing variations on the “People’s Pledge” to deter outside groups from spending large sums to influence elections increased dramatically in 2014. [Public Citizen]

Environment and Climate Change

  • Kingpins of Carbon 
    Greenpeace research has shed light on the sources of paralysis, a multi-decade war on democracy by the kingpins of carbon – the coal, oil, and gas industries allied with a handful of self-interested libertarian billionaires. [Greenpeace USA]
  • Polluting our Democracy and our Environment: Dirty Fuels Money in Politics 
    The Sierra Club and Oil Change International connect the amount of money spent by fossil fuel industry to influence elections and the return on investment they receive in the form of subsidies and other anti-regulatory changes in their favor. [Sierra Club & Oil Change International]
  • Silencing Science 
    How Citizens United and Fossil Fuel Campaign Cash Has Silenced Public Debate on Climate Change. [Common Cause]

Race & Money

Transparency & Outside Spending

Newsletters & Clips 

  • Every Voice: Big donors just spent a lot of money on the 2014 election, what will they expect in 2015? Keep track of those stories, news on 2016, election law changes, and more with our daily money in politics newsletter.
  • ReThink Media Echo Chamber: Newsletter featuring topics reverberating in Money in Politics and Fair Courts.
  • Common Cause Democracy Download: Occasional updates on money in politics and voting rights legislation and litigation. 
  • Brennan Center: Newsletter featuring news and updates in the world of money in politics.

Blogs, Listservs & Other Resources

greg.jpg

Caption: 

check.gif

Caption: 
3. MESSAGING, REPORTERS, & SOCIAL MEDIA

Messaging
Two brand new polling and message projects exploring democracy and money in politics issues have just been completed by the Democracy Initiative and ReThink Media. Join us and the Ford Foundation, Lake Research Partners, Demos, and Topos Partnership next Thursday September 24 at 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at ReThink Media in DC for a double briefing of the freshest research on communicating democracy issues. Lunch will be provided and RSVPs are required for building security. Click here to reserve your spot and stay tuned for more information!

For a comprehensive look at money in politics polling and messaging over the past couple years, please contact Tyler Creighton at ReThink Media for access to their library.

Reporters
The following reporters and journalists are frequent writers about all things money in politics. This list will be helpful in pitching a story or even just figuring out who to follow. Available contact information and Twitter handles are included. Additionally, check out this handy twitter list of top money in politics Reporters from ReThink Media. For a complete database of money in politics reporters, contact Tyler Creighton at ReThink Media.  
 

REBECCA BALLHAUS

National Politics and Campaign Finance

Wall Street Journal

rebecca.ballhaus@wsj.com

202.862.9239

@rebeccaballhaus

 

PAUL BLUMENTHAL

Money in Politics Reporter

Huffington Post

paulblumenthal@huffingtonpost.com

212.652.6400

@PaulBlu

 

ELIZA NEWLIN CARNEY

Political Money & Election Law

Congressional Quarterly

ecarney@cqrollcall.com

202.650.6832

@ElizaRules 

 

RUSS CHOMA

Money in Politics Staff Reporter

Mother Jones

rchoma@motherjones.com

202.347.7958

@russchoma

 

NICHOLAS CONFESSORE

Money in Politics Reporter

New York Times

nconfess@nytimes.com

212.556.1234

@nickconfessore

MATEA GOLD

National Political Reporter

Washington Post

matea.gold@washingtonpost.com

202.334.9301

@mateagold

 

ERIC LICHTBLAU

Money in Politics Political Reporter

New York Times

ericl@nytimes.com

202.862.0396

@EricLichtblau

 

PETER OVERBY

Power, Money, & Influence Correspondent

NPR

poverby@npr.org

202.513.2264

@peteroverby

 

FREDREKA SCHOUTEN 

Money in Politics Reporter

USA Today

fschouten@usatoday.com

202.906.8158

@fschouten

 

JON SCHWARZ 

Money in Politics

Senior Editor

The Intercept

jon.schwarz@theintercept.com

@tinyrevolution 


 

Social Media
Here are some hashtags to follow on social media, keeping you up to date on money in politics topics.
 

#GetMoneyOut – General hashtag 

#BetterPolitics – Executive Order Campaign to disclose contributions by federal contractors 

#FightBigMoney – New general hashtag pertaining to the 2016 election 

#DemocracyForAll – Constitutional amendment campaign 

#SECDisclose – SEC corporate disclosure campaign 

#NHRebellion – New Hampshire money in politics campaign
 

stamp.jpg

Caption: 


check.gif

Caption: 
4. POLICY & OPPORTUNITIES FOR REFORM
These categories for reform encompass the scope of the work on money in politics nationally and in states. There are already many efforts in states to bring these reforms to fruition. Please reach out and stay tuned for more information on ways your organization can get involved!

Key Federal Legislation & Campaigns

Featured State & Local Legislation and Campaigns

  • New York Fair Elections: Instead of accepting a handful of huge donations from corporations, lobbyists and the rich, candidates would raise a large number of small contributions from everyday voters, because each time a small-dollar donor makes a contribution, it’s matched by public funds.
  • Mainers for Accountable Elections: The ballot initiative will give Mainers the opportunity to restore the Maine Clean Elections Act, supporting small donor contributions with a matched funds component to ensure that candidates have adequate resources to compete against big money.
  • Honest Elections Seattle: Campaign for the public financing (I-122) shines a light on dark money in our elections by restricting campaign donations from city contractors, regulated businesses, and their lobbyists, by speeding up disclosure of campaign donations, and by setting strict lower contributions limits.
  • Fair Elections Maryland: Fair Elections Maryland is a joint project of Common Cause Maryland and Progressive Maryland to establish small donor funding for local and statewide elections. Taking a county-by-county approach, Montgomery County has successfully enacted small donor funding, with the Howard County campaign ready to launch in the coming months.
  • NH Rebellion: The New Hampshire Rebellion is a cross-partisan movement of citizens mobilizing the public and presidential candidates to declare their independence from big money in politics by denouncing outside spending and committing to fundamental reforms. 

    Please note: Although this newsletter is expansive, it is by no means exhaustive and we may have left out important tools and resources. If you feel we missed something, please contact me atstrambley@democracyinitiative.org and I can incorporate your suggestions into future editions.


    Thank you for tuning in to this edition of the DI Report. Other publications and materials will follow in the weeks and months ahead. Please stay tuned!

    Feel free pass this on to anyone who may be interested in our work. If you are not already a subscriber, click here to receive the DI Report in your inbox.And please be sure to follow us on Twitter (@Unite4Democracy) and like us on Facebook!

    The DI Report: Netroots Nation 2015

    Voter Rights Restoration and the Move Toward a Growing Democracy: How We Get There
    Tuesday, July 21, 2015

    The Democracy Initiative just returned from Netroots Nation in hot and sunny Phoenix, Arizona where we presented a joint panel with Common Cause on felon re-enfranchisement, voting rights, money in politics, and the growing democracy movement. This was an amazing opportunity to showcase the work of the Democracy Initiative and our partners to build a movement of millions of people across the country, ensuring an equal voice in our democracy.

    panel.jpg

    Caption: 

    Left to right: Matt Singer (Bus Federation), Tova Wang (CWA), State Senator Jamie Raskin(MD), Desmond Meade (Florida Rights Restoration Coalition), Nicole Austin-Hillery (Brennan Center for Justice), Elias Isquith (Salon), Greg Moore (NAACP National Voter Fund), and Allegra Chapman (Common Cause).

    Jointly moderated by the NAACP National Voter Fund’s Greg Moore and Common Cause’s Allegra Chapman, the panel explored how millions across the country are currently disenfranchised without the right to vote, despite having paid their societal debts, returned to greater society, and immersed themselves in their communities – by working and paying taxes.  

    tova.jpg

    Caption: 

    Tova Wang (CWA) discussing our democracy at a crossroads and how we are building a movement to take it back!

    Restoring their right to vote and reducing the influence of money in politics at the state and national level brings us closer toward the ideal of a truly representative democracy. So too does a growing movement by activists and individuals across the nation to move away from special interests – that take government out of the hands of the people – and toward reforms and measures that will ensure government is truly of, by, and for the people and that all citizens have an equal voice in our democracy.

    Tova Wang, Director of Democracy Programs at CWA discussed the Demos report Stacked Deck: How the Bias in our Big Money Political System Undermines Racial Equity, articulating how the distortions of money in politics also hold back the policies that would advance racial equity and fulfill the promise of a multiracial democracy.  


    Thank you for tuning in to this edition of the DI Report. Other publications and materials will follow in the weeks and months ahead. Please stay tuned!

    Feel free pass this on to anyone who may be interested in our work. If you are not already a subscriber, click hereto receive the DI Report in your inbox.

    And please be sure to follow us on Twitter (@Unite4Democracy) and like us on Facebook!