Campaign Finance Reform

The League’s Campaign Finance Reform Action Group works to educate elected officials and the general public on the influence big campaign donors and allies have on public policy.  

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How corporations infiltrated the Supreme Court.  Check out this mini-documentary, produced by American Promise and Charlie Stuart, to show how corporations have infiltrated the Supreme Court through a decades long scheme outline by former Justice Powell prior to his appointment. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3odBMd1_GiM

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Currently, this LWVSPA group is working to get big money out of St. Petersburg.  In summer of 2017, members of St Petersburg City Council will be presented with an opportunity to put people back in charge of our democracy. Council members can vote yes on the ordinance that would get big money out of local politics by banning Super PAC contributions to candidates and limiting contributions from corporations with significant foreign ownership.  This would result in elevating the voices of everyday people, expanding opportunities to run for office and encouraging participation- all possible when big money has no influence on politics.

The Problem

Democracy in St Pete, as in many communities, is facing a crisis.  “Big money” interests are beginning to undermine democracy at the city and county level — after successes at the state and national levels.

In Austin, Uber spent $9M to influence a city council vote.  In 2016, a Palm Beach Super PAC spent $360,000 to influence the outcome of the Pinellas County School Board election. And in St Pete, special interests Super PACs are already giving candidates big money for the 2017 elections.

The Solution

The St. Petersburg City Council is considering an ordinance that would get big money out of local politics by:

  1. banning Super PAC contributions to candidates, and
  2. limiting contributions from corporations with significant foreign ownership

Super PAC organizations raise and bundle large sums of money to influence elections through unlimited campaign contributions.  A significantly foreign-owned corporation is likely to be a large national corporation, not a small or medium size local business.

What Supporters of, and Opponents to, the Ordinance Say

Supporters argue “big money” interests are a serious threat to our democracy.  If the ordinance passes, corporations and PACs can continue to give as much as $5,000, which was the limit before the Citizens United decision.  The fact is, current policy gives rich special interest groups a way to drown out the voice of the citizens, and corrupt our politicians.  The overwhelming majority of Americans want to limit money spent on elections and to reduce the impact of special interests. The consequences of not doing this are dire and will continue to corrode our compromised democracy.  We cannot afford to NOT do this. 

Opponents argue this ordinance may be challenged in the courts.  If the city loses it could be liable for the legal fees of the other side.  This may be anywhere from $100,000 up to $2 million, if it goes all the way to the Supreme Court.  They also argue that Super PACs should be able to give money to election campaigns because the money does not directly influence politicians. In addition, they support the notion that corporations are people and should have the right to express their voice through campaign contributions.

Talking Points

  • I want to ensure that big money influences do not influence the outcome of our municipal elections
  • I understand that if we pass the ordinance and are challenged in court, and lose, the city may have to pay legal fees for the opposing side, and that that amount may approach $2M. I want you to vote YES anyway.
  • We have to do this. The cost to do nothing and allow our elections to be bought far outweighs the $2M cost.
  • I do not believe corporations are people. I believe that Super PAC campaign contributions do influence elections in an unfair way.
  • It is not just that people with a lot of money and big corporations should be able to influence elections through their campaign contributions even if those contributions go through a Super PAC or a corporation.
  • Foreign citizens should have no voice in our elections, and corporations with foreign citizens investors, should not be able to contribute money to elections.
  • The Courts have consistently held that foreign citizens are not allowed to influence our elections through financial contributions. If corporations are people, and made up of people, including foreign citizens, they should not be allowed to influence our elections through financial contributions to Super PACs.
  • I support a limit of $5,000 campaign contribution because that was the limit before the Citizens United ruling, and I want to go back to that limit for corporations and PACs – no more Super PACs.
  • Super PACs are a really bad idea because they allow big money to influence our elections
  • I believe that Super PACs give to candidates to influence them and that is not fair.
  • I do not want St Pete elected officials to be influenced by special interests by accepting contributions from Super PACs in excess of $5,000.
  • CREATE YOUR OWN (make it short and concise, don’t be afraid to be personal)

Go to the League’s Action Guide on this issue.

To Review the Ordinance, legal arguments, FAQs, Media & more, click here.