Reclaiming Our Democracy

In 2012, Super PACs grew drastically, and they exemplify the strenghtened grasp big money has on our elections: Just 47 individuals, donating $1 million or more, were responsible for more than half the individual contributions to Super PACs — and only 6 percent came from donations under $10,000.

GET BIG MONEY OUT OF OUR ELECTIONS

Special interest money has long had a corrosive effect on our politics, but in 2010, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision unleashed a new era of unprecedented spending by a handful of millionaires and corporations on our elections.

Since, then we've seen so-called “uncoordinated” outside campaign financiers on track to spend in 2012 over three-times more than in the record-breaking 2008 election. This wave of outside cash threatens to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens in our democracy.

We still don’t, and may never, know the specific interests behind this growing trend, but we know how to fight back: by building the case — one community, one state, even one corporation at a time — for overturning the entirety of the Citizens United decision through a constitutional amendment.

In the meantime, we're also working on several short-term strategies to stanch the flow of big money in our elections.

• Taking the fight directly to corporate political donors (and would-be donors)

We’re partnering with shareholder advocacy groups in pressing corporations such as Target and Bank of America to refrain from spending on political campaigns, and we’re also supporting the Shareholder Protection Act, a bill that would require corporations to seek the explicit approval of shareholders before spending a dime in electoral politics.

• Forcing political spending into the light of day

Our researchers have documented the rise of Super PACs and other groups funneling secret money into our elections, exposing some of the funding sources for these campaign finance behemoths, but we're also prodding our state and federal lawmakers to implement more thorough disclosure laws.

• Amplifying the power of small donors

Encouraging millions of everyday Americans to small contributions can help counterbalance the influence of special interests in our elections. We are working with federal and state legislators to implement programs like tax credits, campaign vouchers, and matching public funds to create a swell of grassroots funding.

Ultimately, we must amend the Constitution to clarify to the Court that our democratic elections were never intended as a tool for special interests to drown out the voices of others. Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maryland, New Mexico, Montana, California and Massachusetts have gone on record taking a stand against Citizens United, and so have 300-plus communities across the country. But there is more work to be done, more doors to knock on, and more communities to organize to boldly force big money out of our elections.

Issue updates

News Release | WISPIRG | Democracy

Today Supreme Court Ruled for Another Flood of Big Money

On April 2, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in McCutcheon v. FEC to strike down overall, or aggregate, contribution limits to candidates and political committees. U.S. PIRG research found that this ruling could bring $1 billion in additional campaign contributions from fewer than 2,800 elite donors through the 2020 election cycle.

> Keep Reading
Report | WISPIRG | Democracy

McCutcheon Money

This term, the Supreme Court is considering a challenge to aggregate contribution limits in a case called McCutcheon v. FEC. The current limit on what one person may contribute to all federal candidates, parties and PACs is $123,200.1 Absent this limit, one wealthy donor would be permitted to contribute more than $3.5 million to a single party’s candidates and party committees (plus a virtually unlimited amount to supportive PACs). 

> Keep Reading
News Release | WISPIRG | Democracy

Citizens United Resolution Introduced in State Senate

State leaders in the Senate have introduced Senate Joint Resolution 68 (SJR68) that, if passed, would bring a statewide referendum to voters in November 2014 asking whether Wisconsin elected leaders should support a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Democracy

Oppose AB225 - More Big Money in WI Elections Bill | Bruce Speight

Testimony by WISPIRG's Bruce Speight regarding AB225, a bill that, if passed, would double campaign contribution limits in WIsconsin.  Political power in Wisconsin and across the country is already concentrated in the hands of an elite fraction of the population.  Increasing contribution limits will give an even bigger megaphone to this miniscule fraction of people who can write the biggest checks. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | WISPIRG | Democracy

On Day of Oral Argument in McCutcheon V. FEC, Wisconsinites Gather to Push Back on Big Money in Politics, Demand Statewide Referendum

On October 8, the Money Out, Voters In coalition, representing thousands of Wisconsinites and 35 community organizations, gathered at State Capitol to push back on the power of big money in elections, as the U.S. Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC. The grassroots movement of Wisconsinites is calling on the state legislature and Governor to give the people of Wisconsin a say in the future of our democracy and pass Assembly Joint Resolution 50 (AJR50), which would bring a statewide referendum to the people in November 2014, asking voters whether Wisconsin elected leaders should support a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United.  Citizens United opened the floodgates to outside spending in elections.

> Keep Reading

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News Release | WISPIRG | Democracy

Today Supreme Court Ruled for Another Flood of Big Money

On April 2, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in McCutcheon v. FEC to strike down overall, or aggregate, contribution limits to candidates and political committees. U.S. PIRG research found that this ruling could bring $1 billion in additional campaign contributions from fewer than 2,800 elite donors through the 2020 election cycle.

> Keep Reading
News Release | WISPIRG | Democracy

Citizens United Resolution Introduced in State Senate

State leaders in the Senate have introduced Senate Joint Resolution 68 (SJR68) that, if passed, would bring a statewide referendum to voters in November 2014 asking whether Wisconsin elected leaders should support a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United.

> Keep Reading
News Release | WISPIRG | Democracy

On Day of Oral Argument in McCutcheon V. FEC, Wisconsinites Gather to Push Back on Big Money in Politics, Demand Statewide Referendum

On October 8, the Money Out, Voters In coalition, representing thousands of Wisconsinites and 35 community organizations, gathered at State Capitol to push back on the power of big money in elections, as the U.S. Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC. The grassroots movement of Wisconsinites is calling on the state legislature and Governor to give the people of Wisconsin a say in the future of our democracy and pass Assembly Joint Resolution 50 (AJR50), which would bring a statewide referendum to the people in November 2014, asking voters whether Wisconsin elected leaders should support a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United.  Citizens United opened the floodgates to outside spending in elections.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Democracy

We don’t need more money in politics

Outside the Capitol, citizens of every political stripe believe money is playing far too great a role in elections, is having a poisonous effect on governing and needs to be reined in.  But a bill already passed by the state Assembly and headed to the state Senate this fall takes the position that there is not enough big money in politics and even larger campaign contributions are needed.

> Keep Reading
News Release | WISPIRG | Democracy

Coalition Urges Senate to Reject AB225, ‘More Big Money in Politics’ Bill

A broad statewide coalition of citizen and public interest organizations are calling on the state Senate to reject AB225, a bill that would double contributions limits to Wisconsin political campaigns and allow big money to further drown out the voices of Wisconsin voters. 
 

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Result | Democracy

Registering Young Voters

During the past four election cycles, WISPIRG’s New Voters Project has registered more than 160,000 18- to 24-year-olds and increased voter participation among young voters.

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Result | Democracy

Enforcing Wisconsin's Ethics Laws

In 2007, a WISPIRG-backed bill enforcing our state’s ethics laws was passed and signed into law. The new legislation promotes more vigorous enforcement of Wisconsin’s state ethics code and campaign finance laws.

> Keep Reading
Report | WISPIRG | Democracy

McCutcheon Money

This term, the Supreme Court is considering a challenge to aggregate contribution limits in a case called McCutcheon v. FEC. The current limit on what one person may contribute to all federal candidates, parties and PACs is $123,200.1 Absent this limit, one wealthy donor would be permitted to contribute more than $3.5 million to a single party’s candidates and party committees (plus a virtually unlimited amount to supportive PACs). 

> Keep Reading
Report | WISPIRG Foundation, People for the American Way Foundation | Democracy

Outside Spending, Outsized Influence

Super PACs dominated the 2012 Senate election between Tammy Baldwin and Tommy Thompson, providing an avenue for floods of out-of-state money to fill WIsconsin's airwaves with negative ads. Outside groups (not the candidates or party committees) spent almost $32 million and virtually all of that money (99.2%) came from out of state groups. Super PACs allowed big money special interests to flood the Wisconsin elections, blocking regular WI voter out of the political discourse.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Center for Media and Democracy | Democracy

Elections Confidential

Elections Confidential reveals, to the extent possible, the dark side of the post-Citizens United election landscape. Secret donors used "dark money" groups that don't have to disclose their donors, because before Citizens United they weren't allowed to spend on elections in order to hide their identity.

> Keep Reading
Report | WISPIRG FOundation and Demos | Democracy

Billion Dollar Democracy

Billion Dollar Democracy is the final edition in our series of reports analyzing the role of money in the 2012 elections. The first presidential election since Citizens United lived up to the hype, with outside groups blowing away previous records for spending. Our discourse got more negative than ever before, with secret organizations allowing anonymous donors to bankroll nasty attack ads. Regular people's voices were drowned out of the process, with big time mega-donors spending millions in their attempt to buy our democracy.

> Keep Reading
Report | WISPIRG and Demos | Democracy

Distorted Democracy: Post-Election Spending Analysis

New analysis of Federal Election Commission data through Election Day shows that just a few big outside spenders drowned out small donors in the 2012 election cycle. The Supreme Court's Citizens United allows wealthy special interests to amplify their voices far above the average citizen. This will continue the cycle of major donors receiving the greatest political access and setting the agenda for our government in Washington and in Madison, interfering with our government's ability to function in the best interests of the public at-large.

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Blog Post | Democracy

Oppose AB225 - More Big Money in WI Elections Bill | Bruce Speight

Testimony by WISPIRG's Bruce Speight regarding AB225, a bill that, if passed, would double campaign contribution limits in WIsconsin.  Political power in Wisconsin and across the country is already concentrated in the hands of an elite fraction of the population.  Increasing contribution limits will give an even bigger megaphone to this miniscule fraction of people who can write the biggest checks. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Democracy

Wisconsin Bill Would Double Campaign Contribution Limits, Increase Big Money in Politics | Bruce Speight

On June 10, the Wisconsin General Assembly passed a bill that, if passed by the Senate, would double the contribution limits to Wisconsin political campaigns and allow big money to further drown out the voices of Wisconsin voters. The bill also contains a provision to implement an online registration system — a great idea, but not enough to make this big-money bill worth passing.
 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Democracy

IRS Scandal Highlights Need for Increased Transparency in Campaign Financing | Bruce Speight

The public has long agreed that transparency in campaign spending is critical to the integrity of our democracy. The Supreme Court acknowledged this common-sense proposition in its notorious 2010 Citizens United decision: even as they opened the door for dark money to enter our elections by allowing all corporations, including nonprofits, to spend directly on elections, the majority of Justices reaffirmed the long-standing notion that the identity of campaign donors must be disclosed.
 

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Blog Post | Democracy

Call on the WI Legislature to Put it to the People on Citizens United

Citizens United is undermining the very principals of our democracy.

Click Here to demand a people's referendum so that the people of WI can vote on this issue.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Democracy

Voters Reject Big Money in Politics, Now It’s Time for Reform

Voters sent a message last Tuesday, showing resounding support for our leaders to take steps to deal with the outsized influence of big money in our elections, including a resolution passed in Eau Claire County, WI endorsing a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United.

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JOIN THE CALL

Already 300-plus communities and 15 states have gone on record calling for a constitutional amendment. Make sure you town has joined the call to stanch the flow of special interest money in our elections.

You Can Help

We have a chance to curb the unprecedented spending by big money in our elections. Your support will help us do the research, advocacy and grassroots organizing to convince our elected officials to act.

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