Anti-Corruption Activists Revved Up By Tallahassee

By now, you’ve most likely had your fill of post-election analysis. 

There’s one fact that’s undeniable: Outside money groups were a major factor, with about $500 million connected to the Koch Brothers, $32 million to the Chamber of Congress and almost $1 million from Sheldon Adelson. In all, $4 billion was spent -attracting buyers from industries ranging from investment banking to pharmaceuticals and guns. In the end, spending doubled that of the 2010 mid-term election, with much of it on misinformation and lies about candidates’ records.

Lying isn’t allowed for any other kind of advertising, from food ingredients to the mileage a car gets, but there’s no law that prevents it in elections.

Most say the answer to the situation is to reverse the Supreme Court’s devastating Citizens United decision through a constitutional amendment. But that involves the long, ardous process of getting a 2/3rds vote in the Senate and ratification by 2/3rds of the states. And it still leaves big money lobbying on an every day basis in place.
Is there a better way? Represent.Us thinks so. 

They tested their idea in Tallahassee, Florida and passed the first city-wide Anti-Corruption referendum in the country, with 69% of the vote. No longer can elections be funded by a small group of big donors – it sets a ceiling of $250 per donor and gives voters up to a $25 tax rebate for campaign contributions. It creates an independent ethics board and an ethics code that includes a conflict-of-interest policy.


And the referendum was widely supported by tea party groups and liberal organizations like Common Cause and the League of Women Voters.  

"They weren’t afraid to call the money pouring into our political system what it is: corruption. They went all in with comprehensive reforms instead of settling for half measures. And they did it by sidestepping entrenched politicians and putting a citizen initiative directly on the ballot — no politicians required, just we, the People," says Represent.Us.

Represent.Us used the ballot measure as a pilot on whether it could bring citizens together from left and right to reform election and lobbying laws. While referendums like this aren’t new, they usually don’t pass. They learned:

  • reform efforts must come from a real left-right coalition, which changes the focus to
  • "corruption and cronyism" rather than "campaign finance reform" or "preserving democracy."
  • push for bold, transformative change not small, piecemeal reforms.

Now, Represent.Us plans to expand the bottom-up effort, working on local and state levels as we’ve seen with marijuana laws and same-sex marriage.

Also in 2014, voters passed anti-corruption resolutions in two Massachusetts districts (2 and 19) and in Genoa, Illinois with votes ranging from 72% to 89% in favor, as did Princeton, New Jersey’s city council.  

Some of remember this approach as Think Globally, Act Locally!

Learn more and read the Anti-Corruption Act: 

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