Will YOU get on board?

YOU are the most important factor of all.  The Clean Elections Amendment doesn’t have a ghost of a chance of seeing the light of day unless YOU decide to get involved.  As I’ve already said in previous posts, no one at any level of power in the country wants this to become law.  All current officeholders of both parties got their power thanks to the donors in the current system.  They’re not looking for change.  Wealthy donors, banks, corporations, unions, and lobbyists definitely don’t want anything to change…this whole thing is perfectly rigged right now, just the way they want it!  Look for this bunch to come up with all kinds of arguments against it.  And failing that, look for them to attempt to discredit or intimidate those leading this effort.  The media doesn’t want change…where do you think all that money goes?  The lion’s share goes to pay for media time on TV and radio.  I know this first hand from my years in commercial radio…presidential elections years are when you can expect a big bonus at the end of the year.  Therefore, don’t expect media companies to give this any publicity…it would eat into their election year largess.

I personally have no money, power or influence to get this passed, or even noticed.  This may very well be a dead-end project.  My only hope in even attempting this “fool’s errand” is that people like you will see the good that this could do. ..and that people like you will be willing to share and re-post and link to our Facebook page and “follow” this blog (see the button in the lower right corner)…and do everything you can to get the word out to the people in your circle of influence.  It is ONLY when all of us ordinary people, who are sickened by the buying and selling of elections year after year, are determined to do something about it, that change will come.  If it’s just me, this is doomed.  But if you and your friends, and their friends, and their friends all band TOGETHER, only then does it stand a fighting chance.

For my part, I will keep posting reasons why America needs this amendment.  The CEA won’t cure all of the problems in our electoral system, but I believe that if the CEA is passed and implemented, it will draw the right kinds of people into office who can continue to clean up the election process until all of the problems are solved.

Will YOU help?  Do you care enough to take a stand?  If you do, send your elected representatives a notice TODAY that you, as their boss, are instructing them to vote in favor of the Clean Elections Amendment, and that if they refuse or if they ignore you, that you will withdraw your vote from their next election, and it will go to any other candidate, regardless of party, who will unequivocally support it.

Help get the word out!  Use Facebook, Twitter, and all other forms of social media to let your friends know that there is a way to get our Democracy back!  Please do all you can to see the Clean Elections Amendment through to ratification.  Thank you.

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What does the Clean Elections Amendment say?

We the peopleThere are two sections to the Clean Elections Amendment.  Section One deals with Campaign Financing, and Section Two with Redistricting.   Section One mandates that the financing for all federal elections comes exclusively from the federal treasury, and excludes all other sources of money.  The Federal Election Commission is the agency tasked with deciding the amounts and dispensing it to the various candidates, auditing the usage of the funds, and collecting any unused funds.  All candidates for any given race will be given an equal amount of money, which the campaigns can spend as they see fit.

The primary benefit of this is keeping our elected officials free from the undue influence of campaign donors in deciding the laws that govern us.  But another benefit is that our lawmakers can give 100% of their time and attention to their job and their constituents, instead of spending valuable time and energy in raising campaign funds.

The 3 sub-points are intended to close potential loopholes and give teeth to the amendment.    The first answers the question – what happens if a candidate, intentionally or unintentionally, over-spends the amount they were given by the FEC?  If there is no penalty, or if the penalty is simply re-paying the overage amount, then wealthy candidates could simply spend to their hearts content, and pay back the overage amount after the campaign.  This amendment says if a candidate wins but overspent, they forfeit the office to which they were elected.  And since no one can gauge intent, this will apply even if the overspending was unintentional.

The second sub-point addresses the acceptance of prohibited funds by a candidate.  In that case, a candidate has to pay back the amount of the prohibited donation, plus forfeit the office if they won the election, and they are barred from running for any other Federal office for the next 10 years.  It goes on to specifically list all sources of illegal funding.  The most important may be the prohibition from self-funding.  If this loophole is not closed, and the very wealthy can add their own personal wealth to their campaigns, then it won’t take long before only millionaires can run for any office. The CEA is designed to level the playing field, so that any person from any economic background can run for office.

In the third sub-point, Super PACs and all other entities that wish to run paid advertising for or against any candidate are specifically prohibited from doing so.  The precedent for this is the prohibition of tobacco products from being advertised.  No one’s free speech is being abridged here.  It’s just taking the megaphone of paid advertising away from them.  A potential loophole could be a “donation” of air time on TV or radio or billboard space by sympathetic owners of these media, to get around the word “paid”.  This too is explicitly prohibited.

The final point in Section One deals with states who might wish to implement the same rules regarding campaign financing to state races.  Under current laws, some states have been prohibited from setting up state-funded elections for governorships and state legislative seats.  This point guarantees that if voters decide they want this kind of campaign finance reform at the state level, they are allowed to do so.

Section Two of the CEA addresses once and for all the scourge of “gerrymandering”.  Politicians have for centuries redrawn the districts in their states to benefit their own party.  The “one person, one vote” ideal has been trashed by devious politicians who cluster voters in such as way as to minimize the ability of the out-of-power party to ever regain control of that seat.  This is wrong, it has always been wrong, and it’s time someone stood up and stopped it.  That someone can be YOU!  You can be the person who rights this wrong, by insisting that the only way any candidate can earn your vote is to promise to vote in favor of this reform amendment!  Again, this will require unusual strength of will on your part to refrain from voting for familiar incumbents, but unless YOU display this strength, nothing will change – the unfair contortions of gerrymandering will continue to plague us all.

But who will do the reapportionment required after each national Census?  The CEA takes this out of the hands of politicians, and puts it under the Judicial Branch.  A temporary Redistricting Commission is established with members appointed by the Supreme Court.  They are charged with dividing each state into its respective number of districts, and the only factor outside of the population itself that they are allowed to even consider are county lines.  All other factors are specifically prohibited.

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How does a Constitutional Amendment get ratified?

Our Constitution was designed to be amended, because our Founders, in their wisdom and humility, knew issues would arise in the future that were not covered in the original document, and that changes would be needed.  However, they designed a very high bar for passing an amendment.  Two-thirds of both houses of Congress (67 senators, 290 representatives) need to approve of a proposed amendment, and then three-quarters of the individual states (38) must approve, before a new amendment can be ratified and go into effect.

So the only people who can vote on the proposed Clean Elections Amendment are the ones who currently benefit from the lack of this amendment.  What would induce them to vote against the status quo which benefits them?  The only way we as citizens can force them to change is by our united action on Election Day.  This is the only leverage we have.  We can decide that we will refuse to vote for any candidate who does not pledge themselves unreservedly to voting for this amendment.  Even if the candidate is a beloved incumbent that we have voted for many times before, we must have the strength to refuse to vote for them again, unless they meet our demand to return a true Democracy to us.

It may take more than one election cycle.  In fact, I predict that it will be a long hard road for the CEA to become a reality.  But if it is to be, it must start with us.   We dare not delay, because the longer we wait, the more entrenched the rich and powerful will become, and will stop at nothing to maintain their advantages.  This year, November 2014, we must begin to insist that our votes can ONLY be earned by those pledging themselves to the Clean Elections Amendment campaign!

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Why is the Clean Elections Amendment needed?

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision in 2010 legalized unlimited campaign contributions and other election spending on the part of corporations, non-profit associations, and labor unions.  This decision means that it is now unconstitutional to “limit the free speech” of these groups by limiting what they can spend to make their opinions known to the public through advertising.  Since that decision, organizations have poured millions of dollars into the election coffers of all House, Senate, and Presidential candidates.

This decision paved the way for Super PACs, which are “non-profit organizations” into which individuals and groups can anonymously pour billions of dollars in an attempt to sway elections.  Technically, Super PACs can’t contribute directly to campaigns, but the advertising money they pour into elections can tip the balance in a close race.

The purpose of all of these campaign contributions is not only to sway various elections to the donors’ desired results, but more importantly, it creates an unspoken agreement between the candidate and the donor that the issues that are important to the donor will be pushed by the politician in their elected position.  It’s a quid pro quo that siphons billions out of the Federal treasury to benefit these groups.

Organizations like this can also lock in their advantages because as they elect more and more politicians at the state level, they can then redistrict the House seats in their states to benefit their cause.  “Gerrymandering” has been a reality since the founding of the nation, and used by both parties, but it has been fine-tuned in the Super PAC era.

My question is…Is this what we as individual citizens want?  Do we want politicians who are obligated to vote the way their wealthy donors want, instead looking after the needs of the average citizens?   If you are tired of being walked on, of being ignored, of the gap between the rich and poor in this country growing ever greater, then the only solution is an amendment to the Constitution.

Because the Citizens United decision was made by the Supreme Court, it’s no longer possible to pass laws restricting campaign contributions.  The only way to change anything for the better is through a constitutional amendment, which would have precedence over any Supreme Court decision.

I have drafted what I believe to be a legitimate amendment, called the Clean Elections Amendment.  It has only two purposes, to take all private money out of the election process for all Federal campaigns, and to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians.  If passed, this could fundamentally change the election process in the United States, and bring politics back to what I believe the founders intended, a contest of ideas.

As it is, elections are driven by money, not by ideas.  The ideas we think we are voting on are those of the wealthy donors and behind-the-scenes image makers, who use issues  and ideology in their attempt to manipulate us into voting for their candidates.

No one currently in power now wants this to end!  They have the system they want right now!  If we are waiting for someone to come along and turn this around, and rescue us from the domination of the wealthy, we are going to be bitterly disappointed.  There is simply too much power and wealth at stake for anyone to want this to change.  If we want change, we must MAKE them change!  We must FORCE our elected officials to give us back the Democracy bequeathed to us by our Founders!

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This is the proposed Clean Elections Amendment

AMENDMENT XXVII – The Clean Elections Amendment

SECTION I – Campaign Financing

A.      Financing for all campaigns for Federal office (House of Representatives, Senate, and President) shall be administered exclusively by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), from general tax revenue of the United States.

B.      An equal amount of money within each district or state shall be given to all House and Senate candidates meeting eligibility requirements for every election. For Presidential candidates, an equal amount shall be given to all candidates meeting eligibility requirements for every general election.

  1. Equal funding shall be provided within each district or state for all eligible candidates for primary campaigns, in cases of contested nominations.
  2. The FEC may set differing amounts for each district or state, but must disperse equal amounts to all qualified candidates within each district or state.
  3. Funding for all primaries shall not be distributed until 52 weeks before the general election.
  4. Funding for the general election shall not be distributed until all party nominating conventions have declared their candidates.

C.      Funding from all other sources for primary and general elections is prohibited.

  1. Specifically prohibited: Individuals, corporations, unions, non-profit organizations, political parties, political action committees, and all other sources.
  2. Individuals are prohibited from giving or loaning personal funds to their campaigns, or using personal wealth in any way to benefit their candidacy, before or during a campaign.

D.      The FEC shall set the amounts candidates receive in each election and will disperse the funds, audit their use, and collect unused funds at the end of each primary and general election.

  1. Candidates spending more than the legally designated amount shall be required to personally pay a fine imposed by the FEC in the amount of the overage amount and shall immediately forfeit any office or nomination to which they may have been elected. The candidate with the next highest number of votes shall be declared the winner.
  2. Candidates who accept any prohibited contributions shall be required to personally pay a fine imposed by the FEC of the amount of the prohibited contribution, shall immediately forfeit any office or nomination to which they may have been elected, and shall not be eligible to run for any federal office for 10 years. The candidate with the next highest number of votes shall be declared the winner.

E.       Election advertising of any kind by anyone other than the candidate’s election campaign is prohibited. This includes donations of free or unpaid ad space in any medium.

F.   Issues-based advertising by any independent group or individual shall not mention the name or use the face, voice, or likeness of any candidate.

G.   States shall have the right to change their election laws to allow state and local funding for state, county, and municipal elections.

SECTION II – Redistricting

A.      Upon conclusion of each decennial National Census, a temporary Redistricting Commission shall be appointed to conduct redistricting of all Federal congressional districts.

  1. The members of this Commission shall be appointed by the Supreme Court, and it shall be disbanded when the redistricting is completed. No individual may serve on this Commission more than once in their lifetime.  No past or current elected officials may serve on any Redistricting Commission.
  2. County borders should be respected when possible, but all other factors including, but not limited to, voting history, race, or economic status, shall not be considered in establishing new Federal congressional district boundaries.

SECTION III – Direct Election

A.    The President of the United States shall be elected by a majority of the national vote in general elections. In the event that no candidate reaches 50% in a general election, a runoff election with the two candidates receiving the most votes shall take place 4 weeks after the general election.

SECTION IV – Election Weekend

A.    All general elections that include Federal candidates shall be conducted on the first full weekend (Saturday and Sunday) in November, concluding at 6:00 pm local time on Sunday.

SECTION V – Presidential Primaries

A.    During a presidential election year, all states will be grouped into 6 regional primaries, designated by the FEC. All states within a region must be contiguous, except Alaska and Hawaii.

  1. The order of voting by the regional primaries will be determined by random draw. a.  No region may repeat as the first primary in subsequent presidential elections years until all 6 have had the opportunity to go first.
  2. Votes shall be tallied by state.
  3. Political parties may distribute votes for the various candidates toward party nominations in any way they choose.
  4. The first regional primary will be held on the first Saturday of April, the remaining 5 coming every other Saturday thereafter, until all primaries are concluded.

B.    There will be 3 single-state primaries before April 1st, on the third Saturday of February and the first and third Saturdays in March.

  1. These states will be chosen by random draw, but no more than one from any region in a given year.
  2. No state may repeat in a single-state primary in subsequent presidential elections years until all states have had the opportunity to be in a single-state primary.
  3. Order of voting by the 3 primaries is to be determined by random draw.
  4. The three regions that contribute a state to the single-state primaries in one election year may not contribute a state in the next presidential election year
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