It’s time. If we’re going to reform the way campaigns are funded, we need to stand up to kingpin politicians at the heart of corruption. We need to make an example of them to show that we, the people, want our democracy back.
This is why today, we are throwing the weight of our movement…
Great dinner with friends last night, one of whom had just returned from Liberia. It seems obvious, but I hadn’t recognized how critical it is to rally awareness that the single most important policy is to treat the disease effectively in Africa. Not just because it is the humanitarian thing to do, but also because it is the most effective way to prevent its spread. Borders are porous; no one can really stop people from fleeing.
Here’s where data geeks could do some real good: What’s the spread look like assuming effective treatment (the US sends 1000 MASH units) in Africa vs the current “strategy” with no effective treatment there but futile efforts to control people at the border here?
We announced last week that we were supporting Paul Clements against Michigan’s Fred Upton. Now Upton-ites are writing to all our major funders, claiming we are going after “one of the good guys … a big supporter - often bucking his party leadership - of some of the policies mayday claims to support.”
In particular, the Upton-ites point to a statement made by Upton in a debate in 2012:
I was one who supported the McCain-Feingold Bill in the House. I was one of 40 Republicans who voted for that. I have to say I was disappointed in the Supreme Court decision — 5-4 decision that really opens the door on elections and Super PACs. For a long time, the average campaign to win Congress had exceeded a million dollars. That’s 15 or 20 years. Now, with super PACs, all of a sudden there are $300,000 or $400,000 by these groups with no clue. That really upset a lot of things and what often is a homogenous little district. It’s really out of hand. The question of what can be done outside a constitutional amendment now that the Supreme Court has ruled? Really, nothing. It’s viewed as an abridgment on free speech and the ability of anyone to do whatever they want. It’s really going to take a constitutional amendment, which is not likely — a 2/3 vote in the House.
But let’s be clear about the record here.
Yes, a dozen years ago, Fred Upton voted for a law subsequently held to be unconstitutional. But what has he done since?
- He voted against the Disclose Act, the simplest response to Citizens United.
- He has not cosponsored a single proposed constitutional amendment to address Citizens United.
- And, central to Mayday.US’s decision to oppose him, he has not cosponsored a single proposal to change the way campaigns are funded (not even the Republican one).
We’d love to see Fred Upton be “a big supporter - often bucking his party leadership - of some of the policies mayday claims to support” — at least more recently than 2002. Because we’re opposing Fred Upton in 2014, not in 2002. That Upton has done nothing real to address the corrupting influence of money since 2002 (except to accept millions in special interest contributions).
Let’s say you have a view about the corrupting influence of money in politics. In particular, American politics.
And let’s say you’re also pretty good at expressing your view briefly (26 seconds) and in video.
The laws of America don’t permit you to give money to your favorite SuperPAC (which is obviously the Mayday PAC), but they do permit you to make a video to support the same ends. (The puzzled might wonder why if money is speech, foreigners can’t give to American political campaigns; that’s a great question the Court hasn’t adequately addressed.)
And if the laws permit it, so do we!
Hong Kong protesters have a few extra minutes? Europeans wondering when America will pass climate change legislation have a few cycles? Anyone with any powerful way to make the #Maydayin30 point is invited. SEVEN DAYS LEFT!
Fifty thousand Hong Kong residents (the equivalent of 3 million Americans) have taken to the streets to protest the democracy that we have too. We should stand with them. This was the focus of my Zeitgeist talk early in the month (linked above). It was the subject of the talk Time wrote about this weekend. It is the frame that the Occupy movement needed. It is the recognition that should relaunch those protest again.
But this time, please, without the self-defeating trope that somehow this is a Right/Left issue. It is not. This is a Right/Wrong issue. It is wrong to allow a democracy to be captured by a tiny fraction of cronies. It is wrong here. It is wrong in Hong Kong. It is the democracy that Boss Tweed birthed (“I don’t care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating.”) Which is to say, is the latest stage of a fundamentally corrupted democracy.
We should all stand with the students who launched the Hong Kong protests. And we should pray that it doesn’t become hijacked by violence — since this is China (Tiananmen) and because it is only ever nonviolent social movements that achieve the critical mass of support needed to win (that’s the brilliant conclusion of Erica Chenoweth’s work).
If they can keep the peace, they will win this fight. And if they win the fight, that may be the inspiration that we need here.
You should too.
Citizens Rising at MIT last night was an amazing event. Maybe 800 people in a room for 3 hours focusing on the core corruption problem in our government. But two questions this morning suggest that in two particulars, my presentation was unclear and incomplete.
Unclear: “So what is your view about the movement to get Congress to propose an amendment to the constitution.” This question was prompted by my saying that the view that we could make no progress on the problem of corruption without a constitutional amendment was “bullshit.” As anyone here knows, I believe we could make enormous progress with a single statute changing the way elections are funded. Getting a Congress that would pass such a strategy is the whole focus of Mayday.
But I also believe (and in fact said last night) that the movement to get Congress to propose an amendment to the Constitution has been the most important force rallying people to the corruption cause generally. So I’m a great admirer of the work of, say, MoveToAmend, and FreeSpeechforPeople, and it may well be that an amendment is needed eventually.
But whether or not an amendment is needed, our first steps should be statutory. We can pass fundamental reform that this Court would uphold that would change the way elections are funded by a simple majority. The press to do that needs to be a bigger part of the reform strategy.
Incomplete: “So why isn’t Mayday.US supporting Orman?” Greg Orman is the independent running for Senate in Kansas. After the Democratic candidate in that state dropped out, many see Orman as a strong and viable candidate. Orman has been an important force for reform. He supports term limits and meaningful lobbying reform. He would be a great addition to the Senate.
But Orman has not yet signaled his position on fundamental reform in the way campaigns are funded — either the kind of reform Republicans support (vouchers, vouchers, tax credits), or the reform Democrats support (matching grants, matching grants). We would LOVE to stand behind a strong and viable Independent like Orman, and I am hopeful this issue will become more clear.
Just returning from the coolest day I can remember, watching and working through strategy with the Mayday campaign team in DC. We’ve decided on the balance of the portfolio of races, and are working through the last steps of timing (of announcements, etc.). It is an amazing and exciting mix, which will allow us to evaluate whether a 2016 campaign is possible. Some incumbents, some challengers, some open seats, some surprises: all designed to produce the data necessary to convince a skeptic that voters can be moved on this issue.
Given the timing of our fundraising, I am still convinced NH was an overly risky bet. But after reviewing the data about how both Republicans in particular (among the 37% of said money in politics was determinative in their vote, Rubens won by 18 points) and voters in NH generally (82% think the issue important, 61% say it will be determinative) have moved on our issue, I’m much much happier. We always knew this was an investment, not just in one race, but in a key state generally. Always, the aim has been to make corruption salient for New Hampshire in 2016. This was just the first round.
Stay tuned for announcements. And for a very fun next 8 weeks.
Ok, technically, Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu didn’t win the Democratic nomination on Tuesday. But we should not let this moment pass without recognize just how much they won. With no money, they took on a candidate with $30M. And with incredible grace and warmth, they garnered 34%/40% respectively. It is slowly sinking into the consciousness of everyone just what this means. But Zephyr put it better than anyone could:
People say you can’t run on corruption and get any attention. Well, we ran on corruption and on public financing and we got a lot of attention. The received wisdom that voters don’t care about money in politics is getting upended.
I said that was the most important money in politics race in 2014, and I am proud of the support Mayday.US followers gave to her incredible campaign.
Kids fed and off to school. On a plane on my way to my favorite city. (That’s a joke). Here’s the “more” promised in my last post.
My last post confessed this: That given the cost, and given the hyper-partisan environment of 2014, I think it was a mistake for me to push so hard to enter this race. With basically 3 weeks, starting at 9 points, up against two former senators, the climb was too steep. The next two months will be much harder because of this first misstep. I should have understood that more clearly.
But that is a confession about the strategy of Mayday.US. Having looked at the first round of data, there were some interesting findings about the race notwithstanding. And when we have more data about the state generally (which we should have tomorrow), I’ll update this to confirm.
We were interested in New Hampshire both because of the uniqueness of Jim Rubens — the only Republican running for Senate in the nation who had offered a solution to the corrupting way campaigns are funded — and because of New Hampshire. Voters in New Hampshire set the agenda in 2016. The issues that are on their agenda matter. Thus while the main objective of our campaign was to move Republican primary voters, the side benefit is how it may have moved the state generally. We’ll have a good measure of that tomorrow.
But even among Republican primary voters, there was important movement:
• Rubens’ gains in the race. In a July Global Strategy Group poll, Rubens earned 9% of the Republican primary vote and was familiar to just 36% of likely primary voters. Rubens ended the race with 23.5% of the vote and familiar to 58% of Republican primary voters.
• Election reform was an important part of the primary landscape. More than a third (37%) of voters say that reducing the corrupting influence of money in politics was a major or deciding factor in their vote for Senate. Among Rubens voters, this number is 58%.
• Reform voters were Rubens’ best audience. The Republican primary vote for Senate was tied (36% Rubens/22% Smith/37% Brown) among voters who say that reducing the influence of money in politics was a major or deciding factor in their vote.
• Rubens was competitive on our issue. Voters are split (49% Rubens/51% Brown) on which candidate would do a better job reducing the corrupting influence of money in politics. Rubens has an 18-point edge on the question (59% Rubens/41% Brown) among those who say that reducing the influence of money in politics was a major or deciding factor in their vote.
• Mayday.US advertisements had reach. More than a third (35%) of voters saw or heard advertising featuring Gordon Humphrey; 68% saw or heard advertising support Rubens; and 84% saw or heard advertising opposing Brown.
• Voters who saw pro-Rubens advertising were more positive towards him on key metrics. Rubens did better than average on the vote (27% Rubens/23% Smith/46% Brown), personally popularity (48% favorable/21% unfavorable), and reducing corrupting influence of money in politics (55% Rubens/45% Brown) among voters who saw or heard pro-Rubens advertising.
The question now is how this support for reform will carry forward into the general election, and into 2016.
(On the numbers from the race, see my second post)
There’s no spinning this. We tried something that others said couldn’t be done. So far, the evidence supports their theory. We went big in New Hampshire. Going big increased the salience of the issue among the citizens of New Hampshire. But among the 7% of New Hampshire who voted in the Republican Primary, another issue was even more salient: who could beat the Democrat in November.
The 50% of that 7% (those who voted for Scott Brown) may be right. Scott Brown is an attractive candidate; he was balanced and poised in the debates; I admire his willingness to acknowledge the complexity of the issues he is talking about. But our question wasn’t who could beat Shaheen; it was who would make salient what we believe to be the most important question we face: how to restore a representative democracy. I will always admire Jim Rubens for taking that question on.
Losing big means we change some things. But some things won’t change. Of necessity (we had essentially a month), we had to run a traditional media campaign. Among our advisors, this was the type that people were most skeptical of. We knew we would do it once, setting a baseline against which to measure the other, very different campaigns. Our decision to do it just once won’t change.
What will change, of necessity, is the scope of our ambition. We are building a Mayday.US community at the same time as we’re executing these campaigns. This defeat forces me to rethink how much we can do right now. As I’ve said many times before, the aim of our campaign in 2014 is to show we can move voters on the basis of this issue. Nothing else matters if we can’t do that. And so focusing on exactly that must now be our exclusive task.
I am endlessly grateful to those who helped on this. In the last few days, scores of volunteers from across the country stepped up to help. Many in the state spent the last week doing nothing but trying to rally the New Hampshire primary voters to this cause.
But in the end, the burden of this mistake rests with me, and me alone. Our first poll found our candidate with 9% of the vote. I knew we had to take on some unwinnable races — and win them. But by failing now, we have made the others harder. I should have accepted the advice not to take on that risk.
More to come. A difficult day to face. Three kids who need someone to make them breakfast.
I’ve been encouraged by the strong affirmance by many — including most prominently Senator Gordon Humphrey — of my use of the term “lobbyist.” But a really great interview with Jim Rubens by David Weigel on Slate gave me an idea for how this point could be best made:
Jim Rubens has promised that if he served, after he left the Senate, he would not become “a lobbyist.”
So imagine Rubens were elected. Imagine he served only two terms (as he promised he would). And imagine after serving two terms, he
joined Nixon Peabody, a law and lobby firm, as counsel in the firm’s Boston office, concentrat[ing] his practice on “business and governmental affairs as they relate to the financial services industry as well as on commercial real estate matters.”
And imagine you read that news, and said to Jim Rubens, “hey Jim, what the heck?! You promised you’d never be as lobbyist!”
And finally, imagine Jim Rubens responded,
Seriously, does anyone really believe that would be a fair and honest response?
And if you were one of those (many) who would find that response absurd, would you think of yourself as a “liar” (for thinking that Rubens was in fact a lobbyist even if he was not technically “registered as a lobbyist.”)? Or would you, like Techdirt, after Chris Dodd broke his “no lobbying” pledge by becoming the head of the MPAA (“hey, I’m not a lobbyist”), say that Jim Rubens would have “lied” when he promised not to become a lobbyist.
We have never said Scott Brown was a “registered lobbyist.” We have only said that he was “a lobbyist” in precisely the sense that Jim Rubens means when he pledges “not to accept any position lobbying for or against legislation in Washington.”
Which is why Republican Senator Gordon Humphrey could say, “Of course, Scott Brown was a lobbyist.”
So yesterday, even though it was my kids’ birthday, I responded promptly to the Brown campaign’s letter to me and my boss calling me a “liar.” Today, after another former Senator (also a Republican but this one actually from New Hampshire), Gordon Humphrey wrote “Of course Scott Brown was a lobbyist,” I challenged Mr. Brown to a debate.
It’s like HOURS later.
Nothing from Mr. Brown.
Scott Brown’s campaign called me a “liar” because Mayday.US used the word “Washington lobbyist” in a way I thought ordinary people ordinarily understand it — to describe a person who sold his influence to a business in the business of changing legislative policy in Washington.
Now former Republican Senator Gordon Humphrey has issued a statement confirming that at least he uses the English language as I do, and not just as the Senate rules dictate it should be used.
Having called me a “liar,” Mr. Brown, and having challenged my conformity to the Harvard Honor Code, I would now challenge you to debate this question, openly and publicly, at any place you choose (we’d of course welcome you warmly back in Massachusetts):
Resolved: When the American people demanded that Congress end the revolving door to K St, and the Senate responded by banning former Members from “lobbying” for two years — but built into that rule a loophole big enough for a pickup truck to drive through — it is appropriate to refer to former Members who sell their influence to a lobbying firm actively engaged in affecting legislation as “lobbyists.”
Having challenged my integrity, Mr. Brown, accepting this challenge is the least you could do.