The Government By The People Act

Money has corrupted our political system, but there's new legislation aimed at putting government back in the hands of the people. On Wednesday, Democratic Representative John Sarbanes introduced the Government By the People Act, and it's already been endorsed by at least 30 progressive organizations. According to Demos, this legislation would increase “the power of small contributions that ordinary citizens can afford to give, providing incentives for congressional candidates to reach out to average constituents.”

The new bill has four key provisions, including creating the Freedom from Influence Fund to match small contributions 6-to-1, and providing a $25 dollar tax credit for individuals who make donations. The Government by the People Act would also increase matching funds in the last two months of a general election to counter outside spending groups, and it would create People PACs to join the voices and power of ordinary citizens. Karen Flynn of Common Cause said, “The Government by the People Act is a shot of powerful medicine for the cancer of big money growing within our body politic.”

We should not give up on the fight to overturn the Citizens United ruling, and our nation must proclaim that money is not speech. But, this act can help restore the political power of real Americans. Corporations and billionaires do not deserve more speech than the rest of us, and our politicians should report to all voters – not just their big-money donors. The Government by the People Act will help make this possible, and we must call on our lawmakers to make this bill a reality.

Comments

Mark Saulys's picture
Mark Saulys 8 years 26 weeks ago
#1

The lobbyists will never allow this.

I don't know why the defendants of Citizens United didn't, or if they did but didn't prevail with it, make the argument that the current or an unregulated campaign finance system is simply legalized bribery.

sandlewould's picture
sandlewould 8 years 26 weeks ago
#2

I hope this is not too off topic, but considerring that coruption of our media is a HUGE reason why most don't even know what citizen's united is, perhaps not. I want to share an email I sent to FCC Chair, Tom Wheeler today (Tom.Wheeler@fcc.gov) and invite you all to do the same... Feel free to cut and paste some/all of the text and sign your name to it unless you'd rather write your own.

Dear Chairman Wheeler

After hearing from responsible journalists like Amy Goodman and Thom Hartmann of Fox News’ grotesque perversion of the CBO’s recent report re. the benefits to the labor force because of the ACA, I have reached a point where I can no longer remain silent. Since the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine and laws limiting media monopolies, I have watched the gradual degradation of American Media and American Society along with it. Commercial News media in the US has gone from news in the public interest to a Freak Show of anecdotal half truths that serve no purpose other than to distract Americans at best, and blatant lies at worst. Media has the power to shape history. Today, Dr. King would never be allowed a microphone or even a bullhorn. If the media covered Martin Luther King today, they would be fumbling with their carefully crafted corporate scripts, ignoring the crowds being beaten as they cross the bridge in Selma. We wouldn’t hear the exuberance as Dr. King shouts, “I have a DREAM…” No one would know of Dr. King’s dream, let alone the dreams of countless thousands. The 5 mega-corporations that have seized control of American media would crush any hope of civil rights for laborers, African Americans, women, and minorities. We might even descend back into an era of slavery…this time, some poor will be owned by the rich, the rest left to live in the squalor of decaying infrastructure, poverty and pollution.

Now, the last shred of a free press hangs in the balance; a free and open internet. You MUST move quickly to reclassify broadband carriers as public utilities, subject to the same rules as such. As powerful as your office is, even you, Sir, will not be invited to the party when the curtain falls. Please ask yourself..what kind of society do you want to live in? A civil one I hope, where all are indeed guaranteed certain inalienable civil rights. Thank you for your time.

Respectfully,

ckrob's picture
ckrob 8 years 26 weeks ago
#3

sandlewould: Just to pick a generally important nit, please distinguish between journalists and commentators. Thom is not a journalist. Commentators have and should have a latitude beyond reporters. Faux News has simply lost this distinction. I do appreciate your basic point, however. Our current monopolized media are not what I think the writers of the First Amendment had in mind. What we have is the final, inevitable corruption stage of dysfunctional capitalism.

sandlewould's picture
sandlewould 8 years 26 weeks ago
#4

Well, not being a journalist, I guess I see anyone who comments intelligently and broadly as a journalist...or committing acts of journalism...whatever...as far as I'm concerned, anyone who keeps a journal is a journalist, whether public or private. The degree of latitude, for me, is not the issue, the presentation of facts and truths, regardless of the degree of so-called objectivity is. Journalistic objectivity in the face of much of today's truths, is in my humble opinion, tantamount to sociopathy. And yes, the inevitable final stage of Capitalism is cannibalism...and the corrupt media cheers it on.

douglas m 8 years 26 weeks ago
#5

the community sent 544,975 emails to their members of Congress opposing any cuts to food stamps, along with 792,518 petition signatures with the same message.

Despite this, yesterday a Farm Bill with $8 billion in food stamp cuts passed the Senate—having earlier passed the House. The Farm Bill will now become law, and these food stamp cuts will go into effect?

After almost a million signatures Congress is nothing but a CON-JOB thinking our voice matters?

Now you think they will chop their own paychecks , that is laughable.

sandlewould's picture
sandlewould 8 years 26 weeks ago
#6

You 'gotta' point, but I can't stop trying...it's all I've got left.

ScottFromOz 8 years 26 weeks ago
#7

The "Government by the people" act is a well intentioned exercise in futility. Simply adding more money into the election mix, in an attempt to counter the big spenders is doomed to fail. Worse, it will just create an arms race between the powerful and the rest of the population. We know how that will work out because it is already happening. The very rich will just up the ante and the politicians will continue to do their bidding. The politicians will like the idea as it will inject even more funds into their pockets. But is it reasonable to solve the problem of money in politics by adding even more money?

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 26 weeks ago
#8
Quote Mark Saulys: I don't know why the defendants of Citizens United didn't, or if they did but didn't prevail with it, make the argument that the current or an unregulated campaign finance system is simply legalized bribery.

Mark Saulys ~ If you meant "Opponents of Citizens United" then you took the words right out of my mouth. Legalized bribery is exactly what our current system not only allows but encourages. I also see no hope in any attempt to chip away at the problem. The money factor is too mismatched. We need to pursue aggressive Campaign Finance Reform and pass a Constitutional Amendment that forever bans Citizens United; or, any other law, or misinterpretation of the law, that opens the floodgates to legalized bribery in government. While we're at it, passing some strict laws against bribery might be a good idea as well. Like life in prison for accepting any fund or property transfer while in office. The same penalty would be enforced on the person or entity making the transfer.

The cure to our ills is really quite simple. We just need some committed and brave representation to pull it off. I don't see this bill as accomplishing much of anything. With this problem it is all or nothing. Quite frankly, I agree that even this modest attempt probably doesn't have a snowballs chance in hell of passing. It's just another smoke screen attempt to siphon off the limited resources, time and energy of We the People. I say demand all or nothing and accept no substitutes.

Magginkatz's picture
Magginkatz 8 years 26 weeks ago
#9

It sounded great until you got to the part that said, "The Government by the People Act would also increase matching funds in the last two months of a general election to counter outside spending groups...."

To me that leaves the giant loophole that the corporations will love. Was this bill written by ALEC? I have a feeling that things won't change in my lifetime but I guess we can keep trying. I wonder why we cannot put Public Funding of Elections to a vote of We the People?

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 26 weeks ago
#10

sandlewould ~ Thanks for that excellent letter. Consider it done. I took the time to add this at the end...

Now, the last shred of a free press hangs in the balance; a free and open internet. You MUST move quickly to reclassify broadband carriers as public utilities, subject to the same rules as such. As powerful as your office is, even you, Sir, will not be invited to the party when the curtain falls. Please ask yourself..what kind of society do you want to live in? A civil one I hope, where all are indeed guaranteed certain inalienable civil rights. I believe the time has come to break up these media monopolies, restore the Fairness Doctrine, and return integrity to our commercial media. We should also endeavour to insure that our internet remains the last bastion of freedom of speech.

Hope you don't mind...

Magginkatz's picture
Magginkatz 8 years 26 weeks ago
#11

Great letter. I have copied it and the link to do my own writing and to share with others. I agree with what you have written.

Our so-called democracy/republic is hanging by a thread.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 26 weeks ago
#12
Quote douglas m:Despite this, yesterday a Farm Bill with $8 billion in food stamp cuts passed the Senate—having earlier passed the House. The Farm Bill will now become law, and these food stamp cuts will go into effect?

douglas m ~ $8 Billion in food stamp cuts? That is reprehensible!! How do these people live with themselves?

Nevertheless, I must agree with sandlewould, we cannot stop fighting. It is the least we can do...

sandlewould's picture
sandlewould 8 years 26 weeks ago
#13

DAnne,

Not at ALL...obviously I didn't, therefore couldn't have said it better myself...did you know the FCC has monthly meetings that are open to the public? ( https://www.fcc.gov/open-meetings ). Trying, w/my ADHD hyper brain to figure out how to 30 rOckupy these...suggestions welcome.. !!

douglas m 8 years 26 weeks ago
#14

Sandlewood ill keep trying signing and praying too. Im sorry if it came across that way. Wasnt trying to belittle Just beyond frustrated. Now i have two siblings getting hours cut again because then no health care through their workplace and they need food stamps already and food stamps are getting cut again. It should be illegal for politicians to vote anything other than what the peoples majority want them to do.

donsteele 8 years 26 weeks ago
#15

Nothing benefits a nation as much as good government, and nothing damages government as much as ignored flagrant conflicts of interest. For too long the grave conflict of interest presented by allowing industrialists to own all of the news media has been ignored! Show me a nation, like ours, that once had fair media, that conscience of nations, early warning system and reminder of past mistakes, and I'll show you a nation that once had better government and a more stable society!

Loren Bliss's picture
Loren Bliss 8 years 26 weeks ago
#16

Tragically, the Government by the People Act, like Move to Amend and the other campaigns against the Citizens United decision, is nothing more than pie-in-the-sky -- (yet another) effort by the Ruling Class to inspire the imbecility of hope by deluding us with more Big Lies of "change we can believe in." Even were the Government by the People Act to be made law, which it will never be, it would soon be subverted to meaninglessness. This is the one undeniable lesson of the history of the United States -- that the One Percent has nullified every progressive measure this nation has ever enacted, beginning with the Bill of Rights itself.

The problem is of course that capitalism and humanitarianism are diametrical opposites. Capitalism is infinite greed elevated to maximum virtue. Thus it is the deliberate rejection of every humanitarian principle our species has ever articulated. It is likewise, because democracy is a subset of humanitarianism, the rejection of all democratic principles. Moreover, this fanatical rejection of humanitarianism is the one defining truth of capitalism. It is a truth proven beyond argument by U.S. history, which documents the nation's (now obviously inevitable) march toward capitalist governance: absolute power and unlimited profit for the One Percent and the Ruling Class in general, total subjugation and bottomless poverty for all the rest of us.

When we recognize that capitalism by its unequivocal rejection of humanitarianism and democracy is tantamount to absolute evil; when we acknowledge that the ultimate purpose of capitalist governance is maximizing the One Percent's power and profits by reducing us, the 99 Percent, to abject slavery in a global concentration camp maintained by electronic surveillance; then at last we understand that any alternative short of getting rid of capitalism itself is no alternative at all.

Howard Laverne Stewart's picture
Howard Laverne ... 8 years 26 weeks ago
#17

This seems like a good start and one that should be promoted every way possible. Good Luck.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 26 weeks ago
#18

Quote Loren Bliss:Even were the Government by the People Act to be made law, which it will never be, it would soon be subverted to meaninglessness.

Loren Bliss ~ Well said! I agree.

However, I'm not sure if I agree with the rest of your statements.

St. Thomas Aquinas in his Letter to the King of Cyprus outlined 6 basic structures of government. He placed Democracy in the most favorable group of three; but, in the least favorable spot of that group. He summed up his analysis by stating that a government was only as powerful as the person--or group-- was in size that controlled it. Finally, the benevolence of a government is solely dependent upon the character of the individual(s) who run it. Therefore, regardless of what form a government takes it is the character of the ruler(s) that determines the benevolence of the government. It is my firm belief that St. Thomas Aquinas was spot on in his Letter.

My point being that there is much more to fixing a government then simply changing it's form.

judynbea's picture
judynbea 8 years 26 weeks ago
#19

This is the best news I've heard in YEARS! If only we had started this in 1980, when Reagan set out to tear down our government by the PEOPLE. Thank you, Thom, for this wonderful news.

Loren Bliss's picture
Loren Bliss 8 years 26 weeks ago
#20

Marc, in discussions of this sort, it's essential we distinguish between the form of the U.S. government (constitutionally regulated representative democracy) and the anti-democratic purpose to which it has been re-directed by capitalism. As the capitalist subversion of the United States, the Soviet Union, the Peoples Republic of China and the democratic socialist nations of Europe so vividly demonstrate, no form of government is safe from capitalism. Beyond the geopolitical nuances of the world's various nation-states, the common denominator of all their vulnerabilities is greed: the ultimately deadly human weakness on which capitalism thrives. Capitalism is therefore the greatest threat to human survival -- thus the greatest evil -- in the entire history of our species. And as long as capitalism is allowed to exist, it will by its nature evoke and inflame greed as a means of sustaining "growth" and "progress," both of which are euphemisms for profit. Greed will in turn enable the capitalists to seize absolute power, just as they have done here on Earth, whether by destroying the Soviet Union or corrupting the Peoples Republic, the United States and the European Union. But remove capitalism from the equation, and it quickly becomes obvious the best form of government -- that is, the most responsive (and responsible) government -- is a constitutional system similar to what the founders of the U.S. designed, less the tyranny of the Electoral College of course. Indeed were the U.S. Constitution modified to eliminate the Electoral College and wed to a democratic form of Marxism, the resultant hybrid would come as close to perfection as anything our species has yet achieved. (It's Ruling Class terror of this potentially perfect marriage that fuels its anti-Communist fanaticism.) Beyond that, why Marxism? Because of all the extant forms of socialism, only Marxism recognizes the truly apocalyptic evil of capitalism and responds accordingly.

delster's picture
delster 8 years 26 weeks ago
#21

I was inspired by the documentary " I AM " produced and directed by Tom Shadyac. I believe in the idealism of this film and hope with all my heart that we may be able to enrich our governemnt with some of these ideas. Every Wednesday and Friday I meet with a group of retired friends for coffee and conversation. If the magority of mainstream average white males in America believe as most of these our democracy is in trouble. Unfortunately, great ideas take a long time and tremendous effort and are subject to the danger of corruption and backlash. At the present time I believe the majority of the public have more faith in corporate deception than in democracy. In fact, I believe there are many who are truely threatened by democracy out of fear that they may be giving up some economic priviledge regardles of how insignificant. The very definition of democracy has been altered by the power brokers and their defnition of democracy is transalted to the masses by their media. Many mistakes will be made before we understand that we've got it all wrong.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 26 weeks ago
#22
Quote Loren Bliss:Beyond the geopolitical nuances of the world's various nation-states, the common denominator of all their vulnerabilities is greed: the ultimately deadly human weakness on which capitalism thrives. Capitalism is therefore the greatest threat to human survival -- thus the greatest evil -- in the entire history of our species.

Loren Bliss ~ A most provocative analysis, indeed. Again, your logic is impeccable. I agree 100%. However, I think there is a bit more to it than that. If you read some of Jefferson's writings about his warnings of industrialization it might open one's eyes a bit more clearly to the root causes of greed and Capitalism. Statesmen, politicians, philosophers, even the Church throughout history has warned about the perils of industrialization. Capitalistic greed prior to the industrial revolution may have existed; yet, do you believe it existed to the extent that it does today? In your opinion, would you say that industrialization may in fact feed the greed of Capitalism? Certainly, as you've stated, no structural model of government has proven to be immune to influence of Capitalism--at least when it becomes a viable industrial base; or, even a source of resources for such a base.

My point simply being that I'm not so sure that it is possible to remove greed from the powers that be in an industrial society. Yet as you so eloquently restated almost exactly what St. Thomas Aquinas described, removing greed from our governments is definitely the solution to all these problems. Industry seems to feed on greed. Take Carnegie for instance. Didn't his efforts in the steel industry reach the height of productivity during the reign of his most greedy administrator, Frick? I don't see how you can have one without the other. If this suggestion is accurate then it follows that the only way to permanently remove greed from society is to abandon our industrial based economy for a agricultural model. Would you agree?

Perhaps worker owned co-ops might remove the greed from industry? Do you know if it was attempted before?

Mark Saulys's picture
Mark Saulys 8 years 26 weeks ago
#23

If we removed greed from the equation - or, private property - we could probably do away with government all together.

Why don't we stop putzing around and go to publicly financed campaigns? Arizona and Maine had fascimiles that were struck down by Citizens United. The push on Move to Amend should be for that. Anything else is a system of bribery.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 26 weeks ago
#24
Quote Mark Saulys:Why don't we stop putzing around and go to publicly financed campaigns? Arizona and Maine had fascimiles that were struck down by Citizens United. The push on Move to Amend should be for that.

Mark Saulys ~ That is a most interesting tidbit. I didn't know that. If I understand you correctly Citizens United is already trumping any form of Campaign Finance Reform. Fascinating. You're suggesting that we tackle Citizens United before we waste time and resources on Campaign Finance Reform? Thanks for sharing that most valuable perspective.

This is actually a bit of good news. The fewer targets we have to focus on the more powerful the movement will be. At this point, overturning Citizens United is the sole paramount objective.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 26 weeks ago
#25

Someone should remind Thom about the AZ SCOTUS suggestion.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 25 weeks ago
#26

Sandlewould, your letter to Chairman Wheeler really inspired me. This has been a thorn in my side for decades. Hence the following:

Dear Chairman Wheeler,

Given the corrosive dumbing-down of our media over the past thirty years, I'm amazed that the FCC even exists anymore. Thanks to the insane deregulating policies of the past several administrations, you haven't been doing your job. I gave up television seven years ago because I'd had my fill of hearing the corporate spin on everything. This propaganda noise machine serves no one except the corporations, their CEOs and their shareholders. I see no point in paying a cable bill each month just to be lied to, annoyed and insulted on a daily basis, not to mention the bombardment of toxic messages that are brainwashing the public into submission.

A functioning democracy requires an informed electorate. The kinds of issues that directly impact our quality of life, such as the labor movement, the TPP, and the fossil fuel industry's assault on our environment, property rights and health are conspicuously absent from mainstream "news". There has also been a lot of misinformation about the ACA, an obvious effort to turn public opinion against something we desperately need. This is not the stuff democracy is made of. I believe this hijacking of our media is responsible for the electorate's habit of voting against their own best interests.

When corporations take over the affairs of the state, we have corporate fascism. Is that the kind of society you want for yourself, your children and grandchildren? That is exactly where we are headed, Mr. Wheeler, and this pathetic excuse for a media is largely to blame.

Respectfully,

sandlewould's picture
sandlewould 8 years 25 weeks ago
#27

Wow, Alice...

When I read such eloquence, I feel as if I should put down my pen, shut my mouth and let someone else do all the talking...but then again...tag I’m it and we all must make noise. The FCC holds monthly meetings open to the public. This months is on the 20th ( https://www.fcc.gov/open-meetings ) . I plan to attend. I’m going to educate myself, figure this out, and start making noise when I have my ducks in a row. Since the BP oil spill, when I realized Obama was either on the take or being threatened...or both and the media started taking a serious nose dive, I have felt trapped and frustrated. Now I finally feel that there might be a way to squeeze, at least a pinky toe in a very big, very scary door that is fast closing. Lets keep in touch..as well as anyone else on this blog who wants to tame and reform the multi-headed monster that our commercial media has become. Feel free to e-mail me; liber8ion61@aol.com

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 25 weeks ago
#28

Sandlewood, I've no monopoly on eloquence. Your letter was fantastic.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 25 weeks ago
#29

sandlewould and Aliceinwonderland ~ Both your letters put a smile on my face! They were both great. Please keep up the good work!

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 25 weeks ago
#30

You too, Marc. You shine. - AIW

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 25 weeks ago
#31

Aliceinwonderland ~ Thank you! You are too kind!

Thom's Blog Is On the Move

Hello All

Today, we are closing Thom's blog in this space and moving to a new home.

Please follow us across to hartmannreport.com - this will be the only place going forward to read Thom's blog posts and articles.

From Screwed:
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"Thom Hartmann’s book explains in simple language and with concrete research the details of the Neo-con’s war against the American middle class. It proves what many have intuited and serves to remind us that without a healthy, employed, and vital middle class, America is no more than the richest Third World country on the planet."
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