Heading into a Major Election Year…Without a Functioning Election Commission

Just when you think things can’t get much worse … we now find out that the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the agency tasked with ensuring that election laws are properly enforced in order to guarantee a fair and honest {cough, cough} election, is not able to do its job. Blogging friend Brendan has written a rather chilling post on a topic we should all be aware of. Yet another strike against our democratic processes. Thank you, Brendan, for this enlightening post, for I was unaware of this, as I’m sure some others were!

Blind Injustice

I am not one for hyperbole, but the 2020 Presidential election is extremely important. In addition to many local- and state-level races, the election will determine who will control Congress for the next two years, and who will occupy the White House for the next four years.

Heading into such consequential elections, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) would be a helpful tool in making sure that candidates for the United States House of Representatives, United States Senate, Presidency, and Vice Presidency were not running afoul of federal campaign finance law.[1]

There’s one problem though—the FEC is not in a position to enforce federal campaign finance law heading into this. Why? Because the FEC needs at least four commissioners (out of six that could be in place) in order to enforce federal campaign finance law, and right now, the FEC is at…three commissioners. It was an issue noted the previous…

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If I Were In Charge Of This Circus …

Like most of you, I’ve been living in a tumbler of emotions lately, between the daily onslaught of Trumptanic lies, and the up/down/up/down of the democratic primary season.  Add into that the coronavirus and the blatant lies & cover-ups by our administration, and … whew.  We’re tired, we’re exhausted, we’re depressed.  This is not the nation we used to live in, is not the nation we want to live in, is not a nation we recognize.  And so, sometimes we just have to stop for a minute, tune out and let the quiet wash over us, give ourselves time to … breathe, to think.

My thoughts led me down a path … wondering, what would I change if suddenly I were ‘in charge’, if I had the power to effect changes that would end some of the problems this nation faces today.  Where would I even start?

In the movie The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, based on the true story of the Von Trapp family in Austria, one of the songs starts …

♫ Let’s start at the very beginning
A very good place to start ♫

The very beginning, in this case, seems to be the very process that gives us our elected officials all the way up to the very highest office in the land, the presidency.  In the past few decades, the process has been reduced to a factor of who can gather the most money.  This is wrong.  Money is not what’s most important here … the person who has the most wealthy friends, or who can promise his way into garnering the largest contributions is not … NOT the one most qualified for the job.

I don’t want a damn rich politician, nor do I want one who has promised my life away to the rich bitches running the big corporations in order to get elected.

So, for starters I would take the money out of elections.  No campaign contributions over $100, and no contributions at all from lobbying groups such as the NRA or corporations such as fossil fuel or Big Pharma companies.  Nothing.  Private donations up to $100 only.  Media outlets shall give equal air time to the two major candidates in every contest.  So, for example, if ABC News gives a 30-second spot to Mitch McConnell, they must also give a 30-second spot to Amy McGrath, his democratic opponent.

Every utterance a candidate makes will be checked by non-partisan fact checkers and a daily tally will be published in every major media outlet.

Election seasons currently last from inauguration day until four years later.  This is bullshit for a number of reasons.  First, the politician is not doing the people’s work, but instead is campaigning for a full four years.  Second, it is expensive … and more so when you consider that the people are paying for round-the-clock security for the incumbents to flit about the country holding rallies, kissing babies and shaking hands.  Third, it is exhausting to we the people.  We don’t want to see these candidates’ faces on our screens 24/7 for four bloody years! Election seasons will begin on March 1st of the election year, primaries & caucuses will be complete by June 30th, and the respective party’s national conventions held in July.  The candidates can then campaign for three months until election day … plenty of time for them to sicken and disgust us with their rhetoric.  No political ads in the form of email, USPS mail, phone calls, television/radio/internet ads, or political rallies will be allowed prior to the March 1st date.  Violators will be automatically removed from the ballot, no questions asked.

Elections will be held on the first Sunday of November.  That’s right … I said Sunday.  Tuesday is a ridiculous day for elections … people do work for a living, y’know!  Sunday is perfect … few people are required to work on Sunday, so most everybody has the opportunity to go to the polls.  All polls will be required to open at 10:00 a.m. and stay open until 7:00 p.m.  No polls will close early, open late, or close altogether.  Public transportation will run on a weekday schedule on election day, to provide the maximum opportunity to voters who do not have their own transportation to get to the polls.

Every single state will have no excuse absentee voting.  Registration will be automatic upon any of the following:  a) renewal of driver’s license or public identification; b) filing of state tax return; c) enrollment in any school or university.  Other potential voters will be able to register online with proper proof of identification such as driver’s license or identification number, birth certificate number, or social security number.  No registered voters will be removed from the voter rolls until there is credible evidence that the person has either, a) died, or b) moved to a different state.

Finally, districting and the Electoral College will cease to exist for the purpose of presidential elections.  Districts may remain, for the time being, for the purpose of electing representatives to the House of Representatives, and for the purpose of determining each state’s votes based on population density, but for president, each state will tally the popular votes without consideration of districts, and that state’s votes, as determined by current standards per representation based on population density, will go to the candidate with the most popular votes.  Period.  At the end of the day, there will be no need for an electoral college, for there will be no districts and each state will vote according to the will of the people.

So, for example, California has 55 electoral votes based on their population.  If there are 8,753,788 votes for Joe Biden, and 4,483,810 for Donald Trump, then California’s 55 electoral votes go to Joe Biden.  Period.  There is no other option, the districts do not matter.  Biden wins California.  This is fair, in that the states receive a number of votes based on population, and in that there is no difference between the vote of a black person in the ghetto and a rich, white person in Hollywood Hills.  One person, one vote.  Period.

Whew.  I did not know I had so much of this to say about that!  But folks, every single thing I have said here is more fair than the system we have today.  Today, if you are a minority, you will have a harder time even being able to vote, and once you do, your vote is likely diluted due to gerrymandered districts.  If you are a student or a senior citizen, it will be harder for you to vote.  If you are a single, working mom, it will be damn near impossible for you to vote.

From time to time, I may be back with other things I might change “if I were in charge”.  It’s a good way to clear the mind, to categorize the things we take issue with, and to think about a better way of doing things.  The world is not perfect, this country is far from perfect, and people are not perfect, so we will always have a flawed system, but … I really think we could make it better if we all tried.

Wine Caves and Chandeliers

It is rare that our friend Jeff over at On the Fence Voters steps up on the ol’ soapbox and lets forth a rant, but when he does, he does it with far more grace than I do! Tonight’s rant is about how politicians finance their campaigns and what the ramifications are for We the People. Take a look …

On The Fence Voters

My good friend over at Filosofa’s Word, Jill Dennison, likes to warn when there’s a rant ahead. So, Jill, I hope you don’t mind, but I feel the need to notify of an impending rant.

Perhaps it’s the non-stop rain here in the Pacific Northwest, or maybe it’s the grey skies. Whatever the case, something got under my skin from the Democratic debate on Thursday night, and today it’s boiling over.

The whole thing started when Senator Elizabeth Warren went after Mayor Pete Buttigieg, bringing up a recent fundraiser he had in Napa Valley wine country at the lavish home of real estate developer Craig Hall and his wife, Kathryn. The property features a wine cave, with bottles selling for hundreds of dollars each. Photos of the event showed a long table decorated lavishly, with a large crystal chandelier hanging overhead.

But my rant isn’t about Warren going after Mayor…

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Please Mayor Bloomberg, Don’t do it

Jeff shocked me today by posting not one, but TWO posts! This one … he speaks for me with every single word. We do NOT need wealthy businessmen running our government … men who have never in their entire lives known what it’s like to have to beg for someone to help you pay the rent, or make a choice between paying the electric bill or taking your sick kid to the doctor! Thank you, Jeff, for this timely and apropos post!

On The Fence Voters

Instead, how about an effort to end homelessness?

So now Michael Bloomberg is considering a run for the presidency. Please, Mr. Mayor, do us all a favor and un-consider.

I’m sorry. I’ve had about enough of billionaires with political aspirations. Look, I admire what many of these guys have accomplished in life. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have donated billions of their fortunes to worthy causes. And Bloomberg himself has donated to many charities. I do not begrudge them for making a ton of money. It’s not their success that turns me off — whining about paying a bit more in taxes? Oh yeah, that does it.

Have we not learned anything at all? The idea that people can dip into their massive fortunes to, in a sense, try to buy themselves into political office is unseemly and just plain wrong. It’s something we need to fix as part of…

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The Conversation — Part II

This is Part II of the series I started yesterday afternoon, in response to a very thoughtful and thought-provoking comment I received from friend Mary on Tuesday.  Mary’s comments are in normal text, mine are in blue.  The conversation continues …

paragraph divider 2

1When I look around and see the support trump still has after 2 years, I believe it is hopeless … truly. I do hope I’m wrong, but I have a feeling. 2Education is not getting better, 3politics are even more corrupt, greed is rampant, 4our government supports killers over their own intelligence agencies, selfishness is rampant, 5far right religion is out of control with their end times desires and pushing their own special brand of bigotry, 6fires being blamed on not raking leaves, wars without end, 7the real fake news (Fox and their ilk) are taking over the simple minded and on and on…  Let me take these one-by-one:

  1. Trump’s support is still the minority. His approval ratings have never, since his first week or two in office, come above about 43%, and typically run in the mid-to-high 30s, lower than any other president in modern times.  The thing about his supporters is that they are loud and obnoxious, have radical and hateful ideas, so, as the saying goes, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”.  They are given the attention of the media, making them seem much larger than they actually are.

  2. Education has been in decline for more than a decade, though I agree that under Trump it is certain to decline further. Betsy DeVos would make college available to only those in the upper 1% of the income bracket and would siphon funds meant for public schools serving the many, into charter and religious schools serving only the elite few.  The problem, however, traces to parents who prefer their children to be schooled in a skill or a trade, so that they are prepared for a specific sort of job when they leave school, rather than receiving a liberal arts education that gives them a broad scope of knowledge, and most importantly, teaches them to think, to ask questions, to find solutions to problems.   Thus, the future leaders of this country, as well as the future scientists and inventors, will likely come only from among the very privileged.  It is a problem, certainly, but not one without a solution.  The solution is that we, as parents and grandparents, must step up to the plate, must demand that our children be given the same opportunity as the children of the Koch family. And we must motivate our children, for today’s youth is the future of this country.  Spend time with them, teach them what they need to know, teach them to reason, to ask questions, not to simply accept the easy answers.


  3. Yes, Mary, politics are as corrupt as they have ever been. The first thing that needs to be done is to take the money out of it.  Citizens United was the single worst decision ever made in terms of campaign finance, and even a few Supreme Court Justices have since regretted their vote.  It has left the door wide open for large corporations and lobbying groups, such as the fossil fuel and arms industries to buy members of Congress.  Today, it isn’t about the candidate’s platform and ideologies, but rather about how much money he can bring in.  I would personally like to see a system where donations are made to a central organization and divvied equally among all candidates.  Not going to happen, but it’s the only way we can ensure that our elected officials are truly representing us, We The People, and not in the pockets of the wealthy, industries, or the NRA.  Another suggestion I have is that we expand the current two-party system to either make it easier for an independent to get on the ballot, or to have a multi-party system such as many European nations have.  The United States is the only nation that has a duopoly, a two-party system where all power rests with those two parties.


  4. It appears that it is Trump’s decision alone to support Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and to ignore the evidence of his role in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Members of both parties in Congress are displeased with this decision and I cannot imagine that any other president would be so unwilling to listen to his own intelligence agencies, but Trump … well, he thinks he knows more than anybody else.


  5. The far-right religion, the evangelicals, as a whole are a problem for our nation only to the extent that the government and the courts allow them to be. Trump promised his followers that he would nominate justices to the Supreme Court that would be willing to overturn Roe v Wade and Obergefell v Hodges, and thus far he has seated two such judges.  It is to be hoped that he does not get the opportunity to nominate others, and that the rest of the court has respect for the decisions of past courts.  Our laws call for separation of church and state for good reason.  Ours is a secular government and has no right to interfere in any religion, but by the same token, religions must not have the right to determine law.


  6. I agree that Trump’s response to the forest fires in California was abominable. The good news about that is he surely didn’t make any friends or find any new supporters in that state!  The only thing he did do was prove his own ignorance, as if we needed further proof.


  7. Trump’s close ties with Fox News are indeed worrisome, especially when he is said to call Sean Hannity for advice! And to add insult to injury is his demonization of the legitimate press, calling them the “Enemy of the People”.  I must admit that, while I see the danger quite clearly, I am at a loss as to how we can make people think for themselves, make them wake up and realize that Fox News is naught more than state-sponsored television that panders to Donald Trump.  I think we must rely on the organizations that are established for the purpose of being the watchdogs to monitor freedom of the press, such as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and hope they do their job and get the word out. 

And once again I am at over 1,000 words, so I shall stop here and wrap up with Part III later today.  Please feel free to join in the conversation with your own ideas!  And thanks for not throwing those rotten tomatoes!  🍅 🍅 🍅

Link to Part I in case you missed it:  The Conversation — Part I

Suggestions!

Our friend Hugh is a philosopher and a professor who nearly always makes me think, makes me question some corner of the world, of life with questions of his own. Often I find he is out of my league and he makes me think very hard! Today, however, instead of questions Hugh is giving us his insight and, as often happens, I can find not a single thing with which to disagree. When I read his excellent post last night, my first thought is “he must run for president!” But I really like Hugh and wouldn’t wish that on him. Please give Hugh’s post a few minutes of your time, and be sure to let him know your own thoughts on how to fix that which is broken! Many thanks, Hugh, for allowing me to share this work!

hughcurtler

One of my favorite readers has expressed her impatience with social critics like myself because we seem to point out problems but never make predictions or suggest solutions to the problems we point out. In a word we are “nattering nabobs of negativism” — remember that!!?? In that spirit I thought I would make a stab at suggesting a few remedies for the many problems we face at this point in time.

Let’s begin with politics. There are a few things that are obvious, but I will state them anyway. There should be term  limits for every elected office at the state and federal levels. And let’s put pay raises for elected officials up to the voting public — they should reflect the rise in the cost of living in the general public and not  be determined by the officials themselves in a closed meeting. And the PACs, especially Super…

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On The Road Again …

I have long said that Donald Trump never seemed to stop campaigning, even after he won the election on 08 November 2016, and not even after his inauguration on 20 January 2017.  He continues to hold campaign-style rallies as if he were still running for the office that he now (temporarily) holds.  Well, guess what?  I was right!  On the day of his inauguration, Donald Trump filed his 2020 campaign with the Federal Elections Commission!  Is this not the epitome of arrogance?

Yesterday, Trump made public his 2020 campaign when he announced his intention to run, and also named Brad Parscale as his campaign manager.  Parscale is closely aligned with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who recently lost his security clearance and is at the center of an investigation into his ties with foreign agents.  It is said that Trump is ‘itching’ to get back out on the campaign trail, and his favourite activity of performing for an adoring crowd.  Wait … isn’t he supposed to be in the Oval Office working at the job for which he was elected?  I mean, we are paying him $400,000 plus fringe benefits to do a job, and … he’d rather spend his time campaigning to get the same job in 980 days?  Does anybody see a problem with this?

Parscale

Brad Parscale, campaign manager

Thus far, Trump has held no less than 19 campaign rallies since his election in November 2016.  The campaign has raised funds and run two nationwide advertising campaigns.  Given the campaign he ran in 2015-2016, where his campaign slogans seemed to be “Crooked Hillary” and “Lock her up”, I am unclear how he can campaign this early, as he has no opponent to brutalize.

But even though there are still 980 days until the next presidential election on 06 November 2020, and even though there is not yet a clear candidate on the democratic side, there are already polls!  And the good news is that Trump is trailing, on average 10-18 against almost any potential candidate, including Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or Kirsten Gillibrand.

He already has a small campaign staff, including Brad Parscale (campaign manager), Michael Glassner (campaign committee manager), John Pence (campaign committee deputy executive director) – yes, he is related to Mike Pence – his nephew, in fact, Bradley Crate (campaign treasurer).  And by the end of 2017, his campaign had already received more than $36 million in contributions.  In addition to his tired old slogan of “Make America Great Again”, he has added a new one: “Promises Made, Promises Kept”.  Shoot me now, please.

In 2016, I complained that nearly two years was far too long for a political campaign to go on, that it was draining and demoralizing for the public.  I suggested that 3-6 months is plenty of time for a few debates, some ads, and a handful of rallies, and would allow we, the voters, to maintain at least an illusion of sanity.  So, what do they do?  They extend it to four bloomin’ years!  Shoot me now, please.

With the scandals and chaos that define the Trump administration, and with collusion between the Trump campaign (the old one from 2016) almost certain to land squarely in Trump’s lap before this year is out, I think it highly unlikely that Donald Trump’s name will be anywhere on the ballot in 2020.  If I am wrong, if he can not only run, but win in 2020, then our system will have somehow failed miserably.

Score One For We The People

Today We The People had a victory.  Oh, to be sure, it was a small victory and only a baby step at that, but a victory, nonetheless.  I hope that more steps in this direction will soon follow.

The issue?  Citizens United.  First, a brief explanation of Citizens United, for those who may not be quite clear on what it is.

Citizens United is a conservative political advocacy organization, founded in 1988, whose stated mission is to “reassert the traditional American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty and security.”  Sounds harmless enough, right?

What they actually do, using donations from wealthy republican supporters, is create and produce advertisements and documentary films critical of republican opponents, primarily democratic candidates, but also certain media outlets, such as Mother Jones, and in 2016, they produced a film critical of the United Nations.

iaauw'In 2016, Citizens United president David Bossie, a long-time friend of Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, took leave to become Trump’s deputy campaign manager.  As such, he made personal and television appearances and produced ads mainly unfavourable to Hillary Clinton.

we the corporationsBut the real impact of Citizens United came from their lawsuit in 2009-2010, Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (FEC).  To make a very long story short, in that case the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that that the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for communications by nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other associations.  In other words, there are no limits to what any business, individual, union, PAC or other organization can contribute to a political campaign.  It is the ruling that opened the door for such organizations as the NRA to put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the pockets of members of Congress. So, if you’ve got the money, you can basically buy a candidate.

Now, fast forward to today.  The State of New York has a requirement that nonprofits must disclose their donors each year.  Citizens United challenged that law, claiming it violated the First Amendment, and that to disclose the names  of donors would inhibit some, who wished to remain anonymous, from donating.  Today, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan rejected those claims. Circuit Judge Rosemary Pooler said New York has important interests in stopping fraud and abuse by charities, and requiring them to disclose names, addresses and contributions of their largest donors makes enforcement easier.

Okay, granted it may not seem like much of a win, but I think it is the first step on a path to greater transparency in political campaign funding.  The ultimate goal, of course, should be to severely limit campaign funding, for when a company, say a coal company, can spend unlimited amounts of money to fund the republican candidate’s political campaign, then that company no doubt expects something in return.  We are seeing that today, with the fossil fuel industry having contributed heavily to, not only Donald Trump, but also certain pliable members of Congress, and now those who received the benefit are providing the payback.

Michael Boos, one of the attorneys for Citizens United, has indicated that they will be considering an appeal to today’s ruling.

On March 27, 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law a bill, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, aka BCRA, aka McCain–Feingold Act, that regulated the financing of political campaigns.

I generally give the U.S. Supreme Court a thumbs-up for their diligence, their sense of fairness and non-partisan decision-making.  However, the case of Citizens United v Federal Election Committee is the exception, for I believe they made a grievous error in allowing unlimited donations to political campaigns.  I hope that today’s decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court is upheld, and that it is merely the first step toward implementing common-sense rules over campaign financing.  Every November, we each put on our patriotic hats and go to the polls to vote according to our beliefs and our consciences.  But, in recent years, our elections have been tampered in many ways, and by many nefarious players, not the least of which are those whose corporate greed far outweighs any consideration for We The Pople.  It is time for that to change.