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Citizen’s United

trump18(In Part 1 I blogged about the Great American Stupid. In Part 2, about voting numbers and trends. In Part 3, about the foul antics of corporate media.)
Voter suppression is a despicable, unconscionable thing. Voting is a fundamental right in a democracy, so if it was up to me, leaders of the “voter ID” movement would face federal prosecution for denial of civil rights. But it’s not up to the likes of me. Bummer.
That being said, the actual, practical effect of voter suppression in elections so far is tough to figure. Wisconsin has been noted as a place in the last election where the result may have been swung because of it.

While states with no change to voter identification laws witnessed an average increased turnout of +1.3% from 2012 to 2016, Wisconsin’s turnout (where voter ID laws changed to strict) dropped by -3.3%. If turnout had instead increased by the national- no-change average, we estimate that over 200,000 more voters would have voted in Wisconsin in 2016. For context, Clinton lost to Trump in Wisconsin by only 20,000 votes.
(Priorities USA)



American Promise, a national cross-partisan non-profit organization dedicated to winning a 28th Amendment that will overturn Citizens United v. FEC, set reasonable spending limits in elections, and secure the political equality of all Americans, will be launching a new American Promise Association (APA) in St. Paul, Minnesota on Saturday, February 11 at 1:30PM at the Edina Library Meeting Room, 5280 Grandview Square, Edina, MN 55436 to rally citizens in support of a 28th Amendment. RSVP Here


A resolution in the state legislature calling on Congress to pass the We the People Amendment was first introduced in 2012. This amendment states that “Artificial entities such as corporations do not have constitutional rights” and “Money is not free speech.” Similar resolutions have passed in 18 states.


“No matter what issue you are concerned about, including human rights, climate change, small businesses, family farming, or minimum wage, nothing will change without passing a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution stating that personhood belongs to humans only and money does not equal speech.” Said Vicki Barnes, one of the founding members of Minnesota’s American Promise Association.


A Bloomberg poll of 2015 finds that 80% of Americans agree with overturning Citizens United; a Hart Research/American Viewpoint poll of Business Leaders for The Committee for Economic Development done in 2013 showed that 70% of business leaders think that super PACs should be made illegal and 89% supported limits on donations to political candidates and groups.


So far 18 states and over 740 cities and towns have passed 28th Amendment resolutions with cross-partisan support.  In Montana and Colorado, voters have approved 28th Amendment ballot initiatives by 75-25%. In November, Washington State became the 18th State to call for the 28th Amendment, with a voter initiative passing by wide margins in every region and every Congressional district of the state.


scotusSure, there’s the obvious. Republicans hate Obama, oppose everything he does as SOP, and would oppose any nomination he might make for the US Supreme Court even under different circumstances. They would likely oppose any nomination made by a Democratic president, though given the disrespect they’ve shown this president, they probably feel the awful irony that the most blatant racist to sit on the court in recent decades will be replaced by someone chosen by the first black president.


But that’s not all.


Think back a few decades. Republicans held the presidency, and made all the supreme court nominations, for 20 of 24 years from Richard Nixon’s inauguration until Bill Clinton’s. The other four years were Jimmy Carter’s term, when he got zero picks. Zero. Presidents aren’t guaranteed any picks. Consequently, when Clinton started his first term, the court was 8-1 Republican. It may have been only 6-3 conservatives to moderates/liberals, but the point is this: the conservative lean of the supreme court is not recent. Going back to roughly the early 1980’s, for over 30 years, the court has been conservative. It didn’t start with George Bush Jr.; it couldn’t have, considering that the most infamous of the court’s 5-4 conservative decisions, Bush v. Gore, was a necessary precondition of Bush being placed in the presidency.
In other words, for all or most of the adult lives of those now living, and for the entire lives of anyone under age 35, the supreme court has been conservative, and been an eroding force for civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, and restraints on corporate power. Liberals haven’t always lost, but winning has always been against the odds, hoping a conservative or two could see the light on one particular case. Conservatives have been aware of this, putting far more attention on judicial appointments than liberals in general. There is no liberal equivalent of the Federalist Society frmo which John Roberts came.
So the death of Antonin Scalia means not merely that the favorite justice of the right has died, not merely that he’ll be replaced by a Democrat, and not merely that he’ll be replaced by THAT Democrat; it means the first liberal supreme court most of us have ever seen.
If the importance of that still doesn’t sink in, imagine no Bush v. Gore, and all that has flowed from that horrific decision; or at least, had Bush gone to the court as he did, he wouldn’t have been able to count on a partisan decision. Who knows, maybe a liberal court would have made a radical decision like telling Florida to actually count the ballots. Imagine no Citizens United or any decisions blowing apart our campaign finance laws. Imagine no Medicaid gap being written in the ACA. Imagine no Heller decision making law out of fringe doctrines of the gun obsessives. This is the court that is on the verge of flipping thanks to President Obama getting to select Scalia’s replacement.

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Supreme court considers new form of disenfranchisement

by Eric Ferguson on December 11, 2015 · 1 comment

scotusThere’s a legal theory from the far right fringe that, like most legal theories from the far right fringe, is taken seriously by very few people but, unfortunately, those few include the five conservative justices on the US Supreme Court. Thus why a case the justices heard oral argument for this week, Evenwel v. Abbott should be scary.
This isn’t the usual sort of disenfranchisement, where right the right to vote is taken away from some people, coincidentally always people who tend not to vote for conservative candidates. This time, the plaintiffs are arguing that the idea of “one, person, one vote” for drawing districts means only eligible voters count. Anyone not eligible to vote would literally be discounted. Such persons would include non-citizens, ex-felons whose voting rights have not been restored, and all children. It just so happens that Latinos are more likely to be under 18 than other people. The effect of drawing districts this way would be to give disproportionate representation to districts that are older and whiter.
Aren’t the conservative legal activists pushing this change aware of the effect? Of course they are. As always when conservatives start mucking around with elections and voting, disenfranchisement is a feature, not a bug. As with other high profile cases, the law doesn’t really matter. Ideology rules for the five justices from the extreme right side of the political spectrum, and the rest of us are left hoping in each case one justice can’t stomach so much twisting of the law for judicial activism, or has some personal experience to awaken them to their decision’s effect.

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Is Minnesota in a State of Sedition post-Citizens United?

by Invenium Viam on November 25, 2013 · 1 comment

On February 26, 1857, the United States Congress passed an Enabling Act that permitted residents of the Minnesota Territory to vote on whether they wanted to become a state and join the Union. One provision of that act called for representatives of the people to assemble in convention to draft a state constitution that would become the foundation for state government.
On August 29 of that year, fifty-three Republicans and fifty-one Democrats approved a version produced in conference committee and a few weeks later, on October 13, residents of the territory subsequently accepted the Constitution of the State of Minnesota by majority vote in a special election.
In its original embodiment, Article 1, Section 1 of the Minnesota constitution stated: “Government is instituted for the security, benefit and protection of the people, in whom all political power is inherent, together with the right to alter, modify or reform such Government whenever the public good may require it.”  That language remains mostly unchanged and intact to this day. My understanding is that, unlike the Preamble to the US Constitution, Article 1, Section 1 carries the force of law.
Both history and common sense tell us that the drafters of the Minnesota Constitution, as well as the residents in the territory who accepted it, and surely the US Senate who ratified it, all would have understood Article 1, Section 1 to mean living persons — particularly with regard to the phrases ‘… the people, in whom all political power is inherent …’, since there was at the time no other meaning in law that could be construed.
How can we know this? Because our historical documents show us that the two acts by the federal government that created our state — the Enabling Act by the US House and the ratification of the Minnesota Constitution by the US Senate — pre-date by several decades any precedents in law that supported the 2010 decision by the US Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC.

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Rep. Rick Nolan (DFL-MN) introduced the We The People amendment today. It would overturn the US Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling which made corporations people and granted them full First Amendment rights.

Quite a wonderful contrast from Tea Party Republican Chip Cravaack, no?

Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) (whose candidacy Daily Kos endorsed in our Orange to Blue efforts) is making good in Washington. On Monday, he introduced, along with Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that gave corporations free rein in our elections.
In making the announcement, lead sponsor Rep. Rick Nolan (DFL-Minnesota), said: “It’s time to take the shaping and molding of public policy out of corporate boardrooms, away from the corporate lobbyists, and put it back in city halls-back with county boards and state legislatures-and back in the Congress where it belongs.”

Representatives from the grassroots organization Move to Amend joined Nolan to announce the legislation. You read the text of the legislation at their site. The essentials of the bill are:

  • Rights recognized under the Constitution belong to human beings only, and not to government-created artificial legal entities such as corporations and limited liability companies; and
  • Political campaign spending is not a form of speech protected under the First Amendment.
  • (Daily Kos)


    Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-St. Louis Park) introduced a bill today that would ban corporations from making political donations in Minnesota. This is a response to the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that corporations are people and that they have First Amendment protections. Since money equals speech in the United States, they are more free than the rest of us.

    Currently, the bill lists Representatives Jerry Newton (DFL-Coon Rapids), Leon Lillie (DFL-North St. Paul), Zach Dorholt (DFL-St. Cloud) and Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights) as co-authors.

    Corporations would not be allowed to make independent political expenditures. This would mean fund a Super PAC or anything that would advocate for or against any candidate or ballot measure.

    This bill does not affect lobbying.

    Section 1. [302A.162] POWERS NOT POSSESSED.
    Subdivision 1. Political campaign contributions.

    (a) No corporation, as defined in section 302A.011, shall have the power to make a contribution or offer or agree to make a contribution, directly or indirectly, of any money; property; free service of its officers, employees, or members; or thing of monetary value to a major political party, organization, committee, or individual to promote or defeat the candidacy of an individual for nomination, election, or appointment to a political office.

    (b) For purposes of this section, “contribution” includes an expenditure to promote or defeat the election or nomination of a candidate to a political office that is made with the authorization or expressed or implied consent of, or in cooperation or in concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate or committee established to support or oppose a candidate.

    (c) Nothing in this section limits a corporation’s ability to lobby, to the extent otherwise permitted by law.

    Subd. 2. Independent expenditures. No corporation, as defined in section 302A.011, shall have the power to make any expenditure or offer or agree to make an expenditure to promote or defeat the candidacy of an individual for nomination, election, or appointment to a political office. This includes independent expenditures as defined in section 10A.01, subdivision 18.

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    Winning the Jim Carlson Race Against the Big Money

    by Grace Kelly on November 8, 2012 · 0 comments

    This is the first in a series of articles about this campaign season, from the insider point-of-view. Some topics I will NOT cover because it would give Republicans a huge strategic advantage, but I will advise campaigns directly.

    Jim Carlson won the state senate seat in the Eagan Burnsville area in a race that outside Republican PACs flooded with money. The outside PACs bought an unrelenting message of big lies. The reported spending is a half million dollars. In addition, there was unreported spending where the PACs are claiming they don’t have to report the campaign spending, since the words “vote” and “election” were not used. The ads say “Thank You” instead of “Vote.” I estimate that there was $100,000 – $300,000 in unreported outside spending, based on the number of mailed pieces of literature that seemed to go district wide. In the face of all of this, the campaign was spending $50,000. Outside groups and the DFL did also spend money in this race, but it was way under the amount of oppositional spending. As always, the DFL is the underdog fighting against huge disadvantages. We won this time, but this is a serious danger going forward.

    Above all, I think we need to know who is behind those anonymous invisible PACs. It could have been the billionaires spending millions on a whim like we buy a cup of coffee. It could have been the corporations that want to harm our environment. It could have been foreign countries who want to extract our Iron Range resources. We don’t know and we should know. For me, this is one of our most urgent legislative priorities. With the supreme court “Citizens United” ruling, we can not stop the spending, but we can make state laws that require disclosure.  
    Perhaps one of the saving graces of the campaign was that people literally received inches of literature. One postal carrier said that she was delivering 14 pieces of campaign literature in one day. The sheer volume let people know that someone was trying to buy the election, so I think it made people more cautious. However, the “Thank You” lit pieces were widespread across many campaigns. Those pieces may have had impact elsewhere where there was less lit.

    Here is the other problem: People will tell you that literature and attack ads don’t work. They do work.  People just don’t realize the negative ads are working. Corporations have developed marketing to an absolute science where they know how to imperceptibly influence decisions.

    The Jim Carlson campaign was hit with literature attacks, but it could have easily have been radio ads, TV ads or newspaper ads. I think that Eagan Burnsville is too integrated with the Twin Cities market to be targeted by radio ads, TV ads or newspaper ads. A place like Bemidji could be more targeted with other media.

    I think we need to start educating voters now that big money is trying to tell them how to vote. So with introductory pieces, we have to also send out introductory inoculation pieces that the big money may come in this race. People have to be warned and ready.

    The half million dollars and more spent on the Jim Carlson race means the unlimited spending has now reached small local races. We need to both defend against this with disclosure laws and adapt our campaigns. Based on this election, I would make this the most important priority for change.  


    Citizens United still needs to be undone

    by Joe Bodell on November 7, 2012 · 0 comments

    President Obama is on his way to McCormick Place to deliver his victory speech, and I started thinking about this next term. What really needs to be done?

    Obviously the fiscal cliff looms, and things need doing on that front. But I can imagine several scenarios in which excuses are made not to undo Citizens United and to oppose moves to re-regulate political campaign finances.

    How? Well, obviously, since President Obama won, the Super PAC system that’s risen in the wake of Citizens United can’t have corrupted democracy too badly, right?

    No. Citizens United MUST be undone. Freedom of Speech does not mean the ability to buy elections, and it does not mean that corporations are people, and it does not mean more access for the rich than for everyone else.

    It’s going to be some time before we can analyze the effect of the Super PACs on down-ballot races, especially in the House of Representatives, but we know enough that we should all understand how corrupt this system could become in very, very short order.

    That fight starts next week. This week, we celebrate.


    CD2 is the place to watch tonight. This is the year of defending against Tea Party, not traditional Republicans. Even the challenging judicial candidates are Tea Party extremists. Tea Party candidates are backed by big corporate dollars for corporations to make even more outrageous profits.  The Citizens-United supreme-court case allowed unlimited amounts of corporate money to be spent on elections, resulting in huge third party literature mailings with most outrageous of lies.

    Regaining control of the state senate and the state house rests in suburbs. In 2010, the Democrats stayed home from voting. This year the CD2 Democrats came back with a strong will and a significant amount of help from “flying” squads, help from other areas.

    The most targeted race in CD2 is the Jim Carlson for State Senate race. Jim Carlson was a great senator who advocated for practical government, civil rights, protecting the quality of our environment and putting people above corporations. Jim was edged out by less than a thousand votes in the last Republican-wave election. The Eagan-Burnsville senate race has always been dead even between DFL and Republican bases. Redistricting gave it a slight DFL edge . Future stories will tell the detailed hard-fought campaign with spending of a half million dollars and an extraordinary volunteer effort. Only Edina’s senate race has had higher dollar expenditures for a local race. This is crazy spending for local races. Also the two house races are closely hooked to the success of this senate race, with the two great pick-up opportunities of Sandy Masin and Laurie Halverson. This one senate district of 51 could determine the fate of control of the state legislature. Voters received inches of literature. And I am not exaggerating about the inches.

    Now here is what is really exciting. The senate districts that are not 51 had some awesome candidates running races below the radar. In some cases, the Republicans did not even bother to campaign. I personally know that some of these candidates are awesome door-to-door persuaders. They relentlessly worked every day, even with the smallest base of volunteers. I would not be surprised if these races have some upset surprises.

    Even in the constitutional amendments, the suburbs and particularly Eagan-Burnsville may be the deciding factor. The senate candidate, Jim Carlson is strong advocate of “No” for both amendments, so that was a second or third persuasion for the Jim Carlson door-knockers. There are an extraordinary number of vote-no signs in Eagan-Burnsville, including Catholics voting-no signs.  

    SD51 SD20B SD58A SD56B
    Jim Carlson- 54% David Bly – 57% Colin Lee – 41% Will Morgan – 52%
    Ted Daley – 46% Brian Wermerskirchen – 43% Mary Liz Holberg – 60% Roz Peterson- 48%
    % reporting – 16% % reporting – 100% % reporting – 100% % reporting –  73%

    SD51A SD51B SD57A SD57B
    Sandy Masin – 54% Laurie Halverson – 0% Roberta Gibbons – 47% Jeff Wilfahrt – 47%
    Diane Anderson – 47% Doug Wardlow – 0% Tara Mack – 53% Anna Wills – 54%
    % reporting – 36% % reporting – 0% % reporting – 69% % reporting – 92%

    In the 2010 Republican-wave election, the old CD2 lost all 14 DFL legislators. Redistricting brought 3 DFL legislative seats. With high DFL turnout for Obama and depressed GOP turnout because lack of excitement over Romney, there is the possibility of again picking up 14 legislative seats. In fact, I am counting on Kevin Dahl as a pick up already.

    1AM Update – The SD51 numbers have been remarkably slow to publish. David Bly and Will Morgan are great pick ups.