In recent years, there have been several top-down attempts to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. That decision, made in 2010, birthed legal entities known as super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited sums of money so long as they do not coordinate with a candidate.
In 2014, Democrats failed to muster enough votes to overcome a Republican-led filibuster over a proposed constitutional amendment. And in 2015, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig announced a presidential campaign with the stated goal of reforming the country’s elections and campaign finance system through the passage of a single bill. But Lessig (who had previously launched Mayday PAC – a “super PAC to end all super PACs”) was kept out of the Democratic debates with a last-minute rule change and subsequently aborted his candidacy.
Meanwhile, there is a transpartisan, grassroots movement demanding reform from below, calling on lawmakers to clarify and limit the rights of corporations, allow governments to regulate political spending, and even to amend the Constitution to – in word or in spirit – overturn Citizens United. Continue reading
Ballot Access in Historical Context
Over the last several decades, the percentage of Americans who self-identify as independents has climbed to above 40 percent while attachment to the Democratic and Republican parties has declined. And in recent months, broad dissatisfaction with the presidential nominees of both parties has caused the public to look to third party and independent options to find candidates who better represent their views.
Yet despite this shift in support, third party and independent candidates have faced and continue to face obstacles in securing access to general election ballots (not to mention access to debates). The Green Party, for instance, is mounting legal challenges to state restrictions in its efforts to appear on as many ballots as possible, and the campaign of independent candidate Evan McMullin has stated its intention to do the same. And while Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson is likely to appear on ballots in all 50 states, this has not been without some struggle and controversy.
Though many have grown accustomed to seeing few options during a general election, as a matter of history, onerous ballot access requirements and having a narrow range of choices are relatively new phenomena in American politics. Such strict requirements began to arise after the contentious presidential election of 1912 and proliferated significantly in the 1930s and 1940s. Continue reading
Before a crowd in his home start of Vermont and speaking to supporters attending more than 2,600 watch parties across the country, Senator Bernie Sanders announced on August 24 the launch of “Our Revolution.” The newly created organization seeks to institutionalize the former presidential candidate’s progressive movement and develop a grassroots network whose three stated goals are “supporting a new generation of progressive leaders, empowering millions to fight for progressive change and elevating the political consciousness.”
Early in his speech, Sanders looked back on his campaign and touted its accomplishments: earning more than 13 million votes, winning more than 20 state primaries and caucuses, and acquiring 46 percent of the pledged delegates to the Democratic Party’s nominating convention. He also observed that through his campaign’s strong performance, he and his supporters were able to help draft an “extremely progressive” party platform. Continue reading
Federal law states that foreign governments, corporations, and individuals cannot spend money on elections in the United States. Yet following the Citizens United decision in 2010, some – including President Obama himself – have worried that foreign money could have an easier time influencing American politics.
An investigation by The Intercept released earlier this month shows that such foreign influence took place during the 2016 Republican primary race, and, moreover, explores whether that influence was legal.
The case involves $1.3 million given in total to a super PAC supporting Jeb Bush, Right to Rise USA. The money came from APIC, a San Francisco-based “diversified international investment holding company” that The Intercept notes has been described as “controlled,” “owned,” and even “100 percent owned” by Gordon Tang and Huaidan Chen – two Chinese citizens with permanent residence in Singapore. The company had close ties to Jeb Bush: his brother, Neil Bush, sits on APIC’s board. Continue reading
As with past election cycles, third party and independent candidates – as well as initiatives aimed at reducing the power of the two major parties – are struggling to achieve access to general election ballots. In some cases, this is the result of general apathy toward specific parties, candidates, or reforms.
In other cases, however, their exclusion from the ballot stems from a variety of causes, including minor technicalities, official ineptitude, constitutionally dubious legal barriers, and, in extreme cases, cynical attempts by partisan forces to stifle political competition. Continue reading
On Wednesday night, Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and her running-mate, Ajamu Baraka, made their first co-appearance before a national audience during a town hall event hosted by CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
The event followed two similar town hall sessions, also hosted by CNN, for Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson and his running-mate, Bill Weld. The Green Party ticket hopes that its exposure will translate to increased backing in national polls: since appearing together on CNN, the Libertarian ticket has seen moderate but steady increases in major polls.
In recent surveys with the four candidates, Johnson has polled near 10 percent, while Stein has lingered around 4 percent. For the candidates to qualify for the presidential debates beginning next month, they will need to average 15 percent support in 5 specific polls chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). Continue reading