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5/22/18 Clips – A better deal for our democracy lifts up the voices of everyday people

May 22, 2018 | Adam Smith

House and Senate Democrats introduced the Better Deal for Our Democracy package Monday afternoon, “taking aim at corruption and pay-to-play politics in Washington under the Trump administration,” while calling for reforms that’ll give regular people a bigger say in politics.

The package has three components:

  • Protecting and expanding the right to vote. This includes things like automatic voter registration, safeguarding election infrastructure from hostitle interests, and putting an end to partisan gerrymandering that allows politicians to pick their voters instead of the other way around
  • Strengthening our nation’s ethics laws. This includes codifying ethics pledges for executive branch appointees so they’re not just guidelines, a stronger Office of Government Ethics, and addressing lobbyist’s buying access with campaign cash
  • Fixing our broken campaign finance system. This includes policies like matching small donations to lift up the voics of regular people, requiring more transparency of political spending, and overturning Citizens United.

NBC News notes, “Voters are already primed for that message, Democrats argue, pointing to polling that shows the public thinks Republicans are more likely to be beholden to special interests than Democrats.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi opened her remarks by highlighting the consequences of a political system dominated by big donors: “From giveaways to dirty energy polluters – our children are paying the price in the air they breathe and the water they drink.  To the giveaways of tax breaks to Wall Street and wealthy corporations shipping jobs overseas – our workers and the middle class are paying the price.  To giveaways to Big Pharma raising drug costs – our children, seniors and working families are paying the price every day.”

At the press conference yesterday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal said, “We know that big donors, that the NRA, the Koch Brothers, that all of these special interest groups actually own Republican members of Congress.”

And Rep. John Sarbanes–chair of the House Democracy Reform Task Force–told the Washington Post, “Let’s build a completely different place for candidates to go to fund their campaigns. Give the power back to everyday Americans. And then you’d see a lot of candidates would abandon those special interests, because they’d much rather be turning in the direction of their constituents.”

Here’s a roundup of tweets, video of the event, and our statement from Nick Nyhart: “The Better Deal for Democracy agenda is a bold set of reforms that would address these problems by reducing the power of big money in politics, protecting and expanding the right to vote, and ensuring ethical and accountable government.” Public Citizen, Center for American Progress.

And, interestingly, this was Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn’s response: “I know obviously this is an ongoing concern and something we ought to be attentive to, because when we — when the public loses confidence in their public officials, obviously they lose confidence in their own government.”

Campaign Finance/Election Law

Press Herald: Budget typo holding up millions in Maine ‘clean election’ funds
Republicans in Maine are playing politics with Maine’s Clean Elections fund, trying to change the game at halftime because of a small typo: “Candidates for Maine governor and legislative seats who are running ‘clean election’ campaigns could lose access to millions of dollars this summer and fall unless lawmakers come back into special session to correct a bill-drafting error.”

Maryland Reporter: 20 Montgomery candidates approved for public financing system, four hang in balance
In Maryland, Montgomery County’s new small-donor matching program is allowing candidates from diverse backgrounds to run for office.

Sheridan Press: Simpson warns against corporate money in elections
“Former U.S. Sen. Alan K. Simpson urged voters to push for drastic reform to campaign finance laws and called the influx of money into U.S. elections a threat to democracy during an event at Sheridan College last week.”

Congress/Administration

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Center for Public Integrity: An Ohio legislator defied FirstEnergy lobbyists. Then a ‘dark money’ group helped sink her bid for Congress
A must-read: “A ‘dark money’ organization tied to a major electric company pumped significant cash into an Ohio congressional race in what a losing candidate describes as an act of retribution over a failed financial deal.”

Politico: Ryan facing growing doubts about hold on speakership
Gee, I wonder why: “Some GOP donors also began expressing concerns about giving money to a lame-duck speaker who wouldn’t be there next year.”

WSJ: Once at Odds, Trump and McConnell Plot Path to Hold Congress
Independent groups are totally independent: “Vice President Mike Pence spoke at a reception with Mr. McConnell on Monday at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, the first time any administration official has met with a McConnell-linked super PAC. About 100 donors and Republican candidates attended.”

Daily Beast: Democrats Prepare Assault on Trump Over Rising Gas Prices
This piece on Democrats going after Republicans over gas prices notes that a recent survey shows that voters believe the top two groups who have the most influence over Republicans are “wealthy campaign donors” and “major oil and gas companies.”

NBC News: Dem Super PAC tries to help Nelson in Florida
After being outspent on air 50-1 by Rick Scott and his allies, “Well, Senate Majority PAC, the Dems’ main Senate Super PAC, is now advertising on Nelson’s behalf with a new TV ad. Senate Majority PAC tells NBC News that the buy is $2.2 million.”

Daily Caller: Maxine Waters Paying Daughter Over $100K In Campaign Funds
“Democratic California Rep. Maxine Waters is paying her daughter more than $100,000 in campaign funds this election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings reviewed by The Daily Caller News Foundation.”

ABC57: Democrats call out Mike Braun for D.C. fundraising
And in Indiana, “Democrats say Republican U.S. Senate nominee Mike Braun is entering ‘swampy’ territory as he looks to pull in big donor support at a fundraiser in the nation’s capital Monday evening.”

HuffPost: Blake Farenthold May Have Been Hired Illegally At His New Lobbyist Job
Oh man: “Disgraced former Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) may have been hired illegally at his new job at a Texas port authority, and a local newspaper on Monday filed a lawsuit that could result in his being ejected.”

Review-Journal: Heller didn’t return illegal campaign donations, Democrats charge
“In the latest turn in the bruising Senate battle in Nevada, the state Democratic Party filed a complaint Monday with the Federal Election Commission accusing Republican Dean Heller of failing to refund 2012 contributions from a company that made illegal campaign donations.”

The Atlantic: There Is Only One Trump Scandal
Adam Serwer sums it up: “There are not many Trump scandals. There is one Trump scandal. Singular: the corruption of the American government by the president and his associates, who are using their official power for personal and financial gain rather than for the welfare of the American people, and their attempts to shield that corruption from political consequences, public scrutiny, or legal accountability.”

AP: The princes, the president and the fortune seekers
A wild story in top GOP fundraiser Elliot Broidy and his business partner George Nader using their access to the president to drum up foreign business: ” A new cache of emails obtained by the AP reveals an ambitious, secretive lobbying effort to isolate Qatar and undermine the Pentagon’s longstanding relationship with the Gulf country.” And speaking of Broidy, “At the same time Elliott Broidy was cashing in on his access to President Trump by pitching him on behalf of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, he was also receiving the biggest payouts in the history of his company from the U.S. government.”

WSJ: Michael Cohen Helped Trump Donor Seek Investment From Qatar Fund
Ah yes, noted energy industry and foreign policy expert, taxicab medallion attorney Michael Cohen: “President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer helped a major donor to Mr. Trump’s inauguration pitch a nuclear-power investment to the Qatari sovereign-wealth fund at a meeting in April, according to people familiar with the matter.”

New Yorker: The diplomat who quit the Trump administration
A detail worth noting in this story about the former Ambassador to Panama and the first time he met Trump: “‘He then turned the conversation to the Trump International Hotel and Tower, in Panama City. ‘How about the hotel?’ he said. ‘We still have the tallest building on the skyline down there?'”

Washington Post: Trump’s campaign has spent more on legal fees than Obama did in 2009 and 2013 combined
Oh man: “Put another way: The amount the RNC has spent on legal fees is more than twice what the DNC did through March 2010 and March 2014 — combined. The DNC total is about $1.2 million; the RNC spent nearly $3.2 million. And that doesn’t include the April data that spurred our story about Hope Hicks.”

Washington Post: The three biggest surprises in the Trump Organization’s financial filings
Some more takeaways from Trump’s financial disclosures last week

States/Other

Baltimore Sun: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to report raising $1.2M in a month, with more than $9M in the bank
“Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford will report Tuesday that they raised more than $1 million in about a month this spring, bringing their campaign cash total to more than $9 million — far more than their Democratic challengers.”

AP: Florida’s porous campaign finance laws: ‘You can do almost anything’
“Florida’s wide-open race for governor won’t be decided for another six months, but it’s already triggered a wave of expensive television ad buys from groups taking advantage of gray areas in the state’s campaign finance laws. Campaigns are interpreting the law so liberally — and some experts think they will get away with it — that it could essentially render the laws meaningless.”

Adam Smith

Adam Smith is Every Voice's communications director.