Who Actually Thinks Citizens United Is Good for Elections? Turns Out, Hardly Anyone

New study finds the US public is starting to worry about ‘the Wild West nature of campaign finance’

by: Sarah Lazare

Only one in ten people in the United States thinks that the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to unprecedented outside spending to influence elections, has actually improved the process of nominating presidential candidates, according to a Monmouth University poll released Wednesday.

Meanwhile, nearly half of the U.S. public says that the “looser finance rules and an influx of campaign cash” has made the candidate nominating process worse than before Citizens United, the study finds.

Researchers surveyed 1,001 adults across the United States between July 9 and 12, and they say their findings have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

“The public is starting to worry that the Wild West nature of campaign finance is damaging the way we choose presidential candidates,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, which is based in New Jersey.

Wednesday’s poll is not the first of its kind. A survey released in June by The New York Times and CBS found that the U.S. public opposes the unlimited flow of dollars into politics, does not think money equals speech, and wants to restrict the power of the one percent to buy ballot outcomes.

But despite public opposition to money in politics, the 2016 election is expected to set new records with spending by candidates and outside groups expected to approach a stunning $10 billion.

Analysts warn that the unpopular Citizens United ruling is wreaking havoc far beyond the 2016 presidential election. 

A report released this week by watchdog group Public Citizen, entitled The Corporate First Amendment, finds that the “legal fiction” of corporate personhood advanced in the Citizens United ruling has emboldened corporations in their quest for power.

Powerful multinationals have launched an “assault on requirements that commercial speakers disclose information concerning the products and services they market,” explains a report summary.

“With varying degrees of success,” the statement continues, “corporations have used claims of First Amendment speech rights to launch legal attacks on a wide variety of health, economic justice and humanitarian rules, including, for example, warnings on cigarette packages and a provision of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that requires companies to disclose whether their products contain ‘conflict minerals,’ the trade in which is fueling violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

Source: Who Actually Thinks Citizens United Is Good for Elections? Turns Out, Hardly Anyone | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Cementing AT&T Strangehold, FCC Poised to Approve DirecTV Buyout

Mega merger “will send yet another signal to Wall Street that harmful mergers are a better business model than actual infrastructure investment,” warns press freedom group

by: Lauren McCauley

Press freedom groups are sounding the alarm after news reports revealed that the U.S. government is poised to greenlight a massive telecommunications merger between industry giants AT&T and DirecTV. 

On Tuesday, after the Wall Street Journal first broke the news, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler issued a statement (pdf) indicating his approval of AT&T’s $49 billion acquisition of DirecTV. And though it is unclear when the Commission will formally vote on the merger, as CNN reports, “Wheeler’s recommendation makes government approval of the deal all but certain.”

Under the terms of the buyout, the third- and fifth-largest pay-TV providers in the country will now be combined. Further, as the nation’s second-largest home Internet access provider, AT&T will now have “new power and incentives to thwart online video competition,” media advocacy group Free Press warns.

Responding to the news, Free Press policy director Matt Wood charged that the merger will only thwart competition and hasten the consolidation of the telecommunications industry.

“This deal will send yet another signal to Wall Street that harmful mergers are a better business model than actual and substantial infrastructure investment,” he said. He added that the FCC “must take steps to back up Wheeler’s mantra about competition as millions of people continue to see never-ending price hikes and reduced choices.”

In the FCC statement, Wheeler asserts that the agency has issued a number of conditions for the deal “that will directly benefit consumers,” including a build-out that will reportedly increase consumer access to high-speed broadband.

However, Wood dismisses these commitments are nothing but a series of “empty promises,” that ultimately “won’t do enough to offset this deal’s many harms.”

Source: Cementing AT&T Strangehold, FCC Poised to Approve DirecTV Buyout | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Aiming to Lift ‘Starvation Wage,’ Progressive Lawmakers Push for $15 Nationwide

Sanders and Congressional Progressive Caucus introduce new legislation before crowd of striking federal workers

by: Deirdre Fulton

“We are here today to send a very loud and a very clear message to the United States Congress, the President of the United States, and corporate America,” Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders bellowed before a crowd of striking low-wage workers in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. “In the richest country on the face of the earth, no one who works 40 hours a week should be living in poverty.”

And it was with that message and those federal contract workers in mind that Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.), along with his progressive counterparts in the U.S House, on Tuesday introduced a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“In the year 2015, a job has got to lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it,” Sanders said at a rally of striking federal contract workers near the Russell Senate Building in the nation’s capital. “The $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage is a starvation wage. It has got to be increased to a living wage.”

The Pay Workers a Living Wage Act would phase in a $15 minimum wage nationwide by 2020 over 5 steps, increasing to $9 in 2016, $10.50 in 2017, $12.00 in 2018, $13.50 in 2019, and $15 in ’20. After that, the minimum wage would be indexed to the median hourly wage.

Progressive Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) are among the members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who introduced companion legislation in the House.

“When I’m on picket lines around the country, people tell me they’re protesting because they’re working harder than ever and still can’t make ends meet,” Ellison said in a statement. “The Progressive Caucus stands in solidarity with the working Americans putting in longer hours and seeing smaller paychecks. In the richest nation in the world, no business should be able to pay so little their workers are forced to find second and third jobs to feed their kids.”

According to a press statement from Sanders, if the minimum wage had kept up with productivity and inflation since 1968, it would be more than $26 an hour today.

Meanwhile, the legislation would gradually eliminate the practice of paying tipped workers a different, lower wage. In his speech on Wednesday, Sanders described that wage as “a loophole that allows employers to pay tipped workers a shamefully low $2.13 an hour.”

Boosting the federal minimum wage, which has not been done since 2009, would directly benefit 62 million workers who currently make less than $15 an hour, including over half of African-American workers and close to 60 percent of Latino workers, the bill’s backers say. They cite a January 2015 poll showing that 63 percent of Americans support a $15 minimum wage.

As The Hill notes, Sanders’ bill is unlikely to get a vote in the GOP-controlled Senate.

“A bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour has languished in the House for years,” Al Jazeera America‘s Ned Resnikoff explains, meaning “[t]he odds are not in favor of legislation calling for an even bigger increase.”

However, Resnikoff continues, “the $15 wage proposal gives progressive organizations and their allies in Congress a totem around which to rally. The bill is a direct challenge to other Democratic officials who have yet to support a significant wage increase—particularly Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner in the party’s 2016 presidential primary.”

What’s more, as Sanders pointed out: “The good news is that cities and states are not waiting for Congress to act.” The campaign for a $15 minimum wage has won local victories in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, among other places.

In a major win on this front, the New York State Wage Board on Wednesday recommendeda phase in of $15 an hour for fast-food workers in New York City by 2018 and all of New York state by 2021.

Among the federal contract workers cheering on the minimum wage bill on Wednesday was Sontia Bailey, who wrote about her plight in the Guardian on Tuesday.

“Even though I work full-time at the US Capitol, I only earn $10.59 an hour,” she wrote. “Because the federal contractor that operates the cafe pays me so little, I had to pick-up a second job at KFC to make ends meet. It may be hard to believe, but Colonel Sanders actually pays me more than Uncle Sam does: I make $11 an hour at my fast food job.”

Bailey continued:

I want senators to know that real problem facing workers is that despite putting in long hours, we can’t manage to get ahead and stay ahead. The real problem we face is low-pay.

If I made a living wage at the US Capitol, I would not have needed to get a second job and stretch myself to the breaking point. If I just had one good-paying job, I would be a new mother today.

Ahead of Wednesday’s rally, a group of more than 200 economists and scholars released aletter endorsing the legislation.

“In short, raising the federal minimum to $15 an hour by 2020 will be an effective means of improving living standards for low-wage workers and their families and will help stabilize the economy,” wrote the experts, who include academic and author Frances Fox Piven and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. “The costs to other groups in society,” they added, “will be modest and readily absorbed.”

Source: Aiming to Lift ‘Starvation Wage,’ Progressive Lawmakers Push for $15 Nationwide