Saturday, September 13, 2014

What does the AL 6th Congressional district think?

[On Thursday, the U.S. Senate voted 54-42 to advance a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United case. This was a cloture vote, the needed 60 votes was not obtained, and there was filibuster.]



The Senate Tried to Overturn ‘Citizens United’ Today. Guess What Stopped Them?

Senator Bernie Sanders
Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressional Democrats calling for a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
A majority of the United States Senate has voted to advance a constitutional amendment to restore the ability of Congress and the states to establish campaign fundraising and spending rules with an eye toward preventing billionaires and corporations from buying elections.
“Today was a historic day for campaign finance reform, with more than half of the Senate voting on a constitutional amendment to make it clear that the American people have the right to regulate campaign finance,” declared Senator Tom Udall, the New Mexico Democrat who in June proposed his amendment to address some of the worst results of the Supreme Court’s interventions in with the recent Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission andMcCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission decisions, as well as the 1976 decision inBuckley v. Valeo.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that it’s going to take more than a majority to renew democracy.
Fifty-four senators, all Democrats and independents who caucus with the Democrats, voted Thursday for the amendment to clarify in the Constitution that Congress and the states have the authority to do what they did for a century before activist judges began intervening on behalf of wealthy donors and corporations: enact meaningful campaign finance rules and regulations.
But forty-two senators, all Republicans, voted no. As a result, Udall noted, the Republican minority was able to “filibuster this measure and instead choose to support a broken system that prioritizes corporations and billionaires over regular voters.”
The Republican opposition effectively blocked further consideration of the amendment proposal, since sixty votes were needed to end debate and force a vote. And, even if the Republicans had not filibustered the initiative, actual passage of an amendment would have required a two-thirds vote.
Though the Republican move was anticipated, Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who has been one of the Senate’s most ardent advocates for reform, expressed frustration with the result. “I am extremely disappointed that not one Republican voted today to stop billionaires from buying elections and undermining American democracy,” said the senator, who has advocated for a more sweeping amendment to address the influence and power of corporate cash on American elections and governance. “While the Senate vote was a victory for Republicans, it was a defeat for American democracy. The Koch brothers and other billionaires should not be allowed to spend hundreds of millions of dollars electing candidates who represent the wealthy and the powerful.“
Now, said Sanders, “the fight to overturn Citizens United must continue at the grassroots level in every state in this country.”
Sanders is right to reference the role of grassroots movements.
Four years ago, when the US Supreme Court removed barriers to corporate spending to buy elections, serious reformers said a constitutional amendment would be necessary to reverse the Court’s Citizens United ruling. Most pundits and politicians, even those who recognized the threat posed to democracy by the opening of the floodgates for big money, dismissed a constitutional fix as too bold and too difficult to achieve.
But the people embraced the constitutional route to reform. Grassroots organizing succeeded in getting sixteen states and close to 600 communities to formally demand that Congress act.
At the same time, the money poured in, with campaigning spending breaking records in the 2012 presidential and congressional elections—and heading toward breaking the record for midterm elections in 2014.
That was enough to shake up even the most cautious Senate Democrats, who began moving earlier this year to advance the Udall amendment. Though activists wanted a stronger amendment, the Senate deliberations confirmed that there is broad support for a constitutional response to the money-in-politics mess—and that a substantial number of senators now see that constitutional response as right and necessary.
“Less than five years after the Citizens United decision sparked national outrage, we have seen the movement to get big money out of politics go from local, grassroots organizing to a vote in the United States Senate,” explained People for the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker, who worked with activists from Public CitizenCommon CauseFree Speech for People and other groups to collect and deliver 3.2 million signatures on petitions supporting an amendment. “Today’s historic majority vote is a remarkable milestone for this movement and a platform for taking the fight to the next level. The debate in the Senate this week is a debate that Americans across the country who are passionate about fixing our broken democracy have wanted to see.”
With the DC debate done, for now, the fight goes back to the grassroots. Activists with groups such as Move to Amend, Public Citizen’s “Democracy is for People” campaign and Free Speech for People will continue to organize and agitate, not just for an amendment but for an amendment that makes it absolutely clear that money is not speech, that corporations are not people and that citizens have a right to organize elections where votes matter more than dollars.
“We have amended the US Constitution before in our nation’s history. Twenty-seven times before. Seven of those times to overturn egregious Supreme Court rulings. For the promise of American democracy, we can and we will do it again,” declared John Bonifaz, the president ofFree Speech for People, said Thursday. “The pressing question before the nation today is whether it is ‘we the people’ or ‘we the corporations and big money interests.’ This not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. This is a deeply American issue. Whatever our political differences may be, we all share the common vision of government of, for, and by the people. Today’s US Senate vote is just the beginning. While this amendment bill did not receive this time the required two-thirds support in order to pass the Senate, we will be back again and again until we win. History is on our side.’

Monday, September 8, 2014

Extension of Solicitation of Symposium before Nov. 4th

As described in the preceding entry Trying to get local Symposium before Nov. 4th, I initiated an effort to get a local symposium (having the suggested title  "The Condition of Our Federal Government, Campaign Finance, and Freedom of Speech"),  by first proposing the same to Birmingham-Southern College. This was because the Democratic candidate in the Alabama 6th Congressional district is Birmingham-Southern Professor Mark Lester.

Whether anything happens with Birmingham-Southern remains to be seen. 

There is no reason not to extend this effort to Samford, UAB, University of Montevallo, and even the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Also, there are other organizations and persons which should be interested and be willing to participate and take this up.

I will accordingly make extension of my solicitation about this.

How important is this to justify the holding of a Symposium

I have endeavored to argue the importance of this for the past six months, and it is appropriate to review briefly this history.

I have said the chief questions are:

1. Just how "broken" or "dysfunctional" or "failed" or "kaput" is our Congress?

2. If your answer to the first question is "very" broken (or dysfunctional, or failed, or kaput), is there a diagnosis that can be made about the reasons for the same?

3. If there is such a diagnosis, is there anything that can be done to fix (or significantly improve) the situation?

In my campaign in the primary election, I was unable to get past question 1 and basically could not get any thoughtful discussion about question 1.

The unwillingness to talk about question 1 extended to all of the following: (i) Senators Sessions and Shelby and Representative Bachus (as well as the rest of the Alabama legislative delegation in Washington DC); (ii) the other six candidates in the Republican primary; (iii) the sponsors of and questioners in numerous 6th Congressional candidate forums; and (iv) local media and political commentators.

With no answer being given by any of the foregoing persons or entities to question 1, no consideration of questions 2 or 3 was given.

Alternatively, some of the foregoing persons and entities may say that the answer to question 1 is obvious, everyone knows that Congress is very  broken, dysfunctional, failed, and kaput, and no time need be spent by anyone asking or answering question 1, and further questions 2 and 3 are pointless areas of inquiry. In this alternative, voters need to decide whether such answers things, and whether my proposed Symposium is a waste of time.

This campaign website documents fulsomely (if not ad nauseum) the foregoing statements. Here are a few key links:

What do you think?

Besides what I have been saying and arguing, you have your own sources of information and political opinion.

What does your national news tell you? You hear about the abysmal approval ratings of Congress. You hear how fed up the public is with their Congress, the gridlock, the dysfunctinality, etc.

Listening to that, do you think it is satisfactory what I describe above about the past six months in the 6th Congressional district?

Consider POLITICO's recently released. "list of thinkers, doers, and dreamers who really matter in this age of gridlock and dysfunction," and that Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, the primary mover behind MAYDAY, is number 33 on the list. See The POLITICO 50. 

Doesn't someone owe the voters in the 6th Congressional district more than they have gotten thus far?

[Update 9/9:  The Senate has agreed that a vote may take place on a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United case. Do you 6th Congressional district voters think should receive some discussion about this by Gary Palmer and Mark Lester? Do you think Senators Sessions and Shelby and outgoing Representative Bachus should offer to you the benefit of their views on this?]

Steps I am going to take

I am going to take steps to extend this solicitation for a Symposium as indicated above. I will update this entry during the next few days to report the steps I have taken.

Update 9/11

I have sent solicitations for the holding of a Symposium before November 4th to the Provosts of Samford University, the University of Montevallo, UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham), and the University of Alabama.


Update 9/17

Here's how they do it at M.I.T.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Trying to get local Symposium before Nov. 4th

I am working on trying to get a symposium in Birmingham before November 4th. My suggested symposium title is "The Condition of Our Federal Government, Campaign Finance, and Freedom of Speech." The Democratic candidate in the Alabama 6th Congressional district is Birmingham-Southern Professor Mark Lester, and I have started with the below proposal to Birmingham-Southern.


From: Rob Shattuck <rdshattuck@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, Sep 4, 2014 at 9:33 AM
Subject: Proposal to Birmingham-Southern for Symposium before Nov. 4th
To: Generalemail@bsc.edu

Office of Communications
Birmingham-Southern College
900 Arkadelphia Road
Birmingham, AL 

Dear Sir:

I ran in the Republican primary in the Alabama 6th Congressional district earlier this year and am continuing as a write in candidate. 

I am a supporter of MAYDAY.US, and my political goal is in line with MAYDAY's goals.

Recently Birmingham-Southern Professor Mark Lester replaced Avery Vise as the Democratic candidate in the Alabama 6th Congressional district general election on November 4th. I promptly wrote Professor Lester this Open letter to Professor Mark Lester. I do not know of any reaction or response of Professor Lester to my letter.

I think the subject matter in question is of great importance for our country, and the Birmingham metropolitan community should have interest in the subject and want to learn more about it.

I propose to Birmingham-Southern College that it hold a symposium on the subject. Such a symposium would probably attract greater interest if it was held before November 4th.

I think a good framing for such a Symposium would be a title such as "The Condition of Our Federal Government, Campaign Finance, and Freedom of Speech."

In your judging of the significance of this subject, I would point out that Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, the primary mover behind MAYDAY, has been listed as number 33 on POLITICO's "list of thinkers, doers, and dreamers who really matter in this age of gridlock and dysfunction".  See The POLITICO 50. (This list came out just today.)

I would be willing to help with the organization of any such symposium. I would be interested in being a participant, but I would be willing to help even if I was not a participant.

Thank you for your attention to this proposal to Birmingham-Southern College.

Sincerely,
Rob Shattuck
Mountain Brook, AL


[For further developments on this, go to Extension of Solicitation of Symposium before Nov. 4th.]

Monday, August 18, 2014

Open letter to Professor Mark Lester

Dear Professor Lester,

This letter is prompted by your being selected to replace Avery Vise as the Democratic candidate in the Alabama 6th Congressional district general election.

I ran in the Republican primary earlier this year.

In the course of my campaign, I called Congress "dysfunctional," "failed," "kaput," "incapacitated" and "sucky."

I also gave a diagnosis for why I think Congress is failing to do its job properly for the American people.

I tried to get the other six candidates in the Republican primary to address Congress' failed condition, but they were unwilling to do so.

I am persuaded by the critique that Lawrence Lessig and others have made that money in politics has substantially impaired the functioning of our Congress and has resulted in a government in Washington DC that is not of, by and for the people.

MAYDAY.US (started by Lawrence Lessig) has embarked on a plan, which has a goal of obtaining a reform minded Congress in 2016, and, in 2014, MAYDAY is selecting eight Congressional races to focus on.

Five have been selected thus far. MAYDAY.US is supporting Republican Jim Rubens in the Republican primary for the United States Senate in New Hampshire, and Staci Appel in the Iowa 3rd Congressional district against the Republican David Young. Also, MAYDAY has  announced it is supporting Walter Jones (R, NC-3), Carol Shea-Porter (D, NH-1) and Ruben Gallego, Democratic candidate in Arizona’s seventh congressional district to replace retiring Congressman Ed Pastor.

I believe the matter MAYDAY.US is pushing is critically deserving of bipartisan attention. I believe that any Republican or Democrat, in Congress or running for Congress, who finds the status quo acceptable is ill serving (or will ill serve) his or her constituents, and the American people generally.

To my knowledge, Gary Palmer declines to say anything in response to the foregoing. To my knowledge, Gary Palmer declines to say, one way or the other, whether he thinks something is wrong (or not wrong) with the functioning (or non-functioning) of Congress and/or whether it is deserving (or not deserving) of special attention by the voters. If Gary Palmer thinks there is significant problem, he declines to offer any diagnosis of a cause or causes of the same, and Gary Palmer declines to say whether he has any of his own ideas, or agrees with any ideas of others, for trying to fix the problem.

I believe the voters of the Alabama 6th Congressional district deserve better about this matter than they received from the other six candidates (including Gary Palmer) in the Republican primary, and better than they are receiving from Gary Palmer currently.

I hope you have your own views about this matter and will discuss the same for the benefit of the voters in the Alabama 6th Congressional district.

I am posting this letter as an open letter on my campaign website.

Thank you very much for your attention to this letter.

Sincerely,
Rob Shattuck

Monday, August 4, 2014

To voters in Iowa 3rd Congressional district

Earlier this year I ran in the Republican primary in the Alabama 6th Congressional district.

I ran my campaign as virtually a single issue for reducing the influence of money in politics. 

I am persuaded by the critique that Lawrence Lessig and others have made about how money in politics has substantially impaired the functioning of our Congress and has resulted in a government in Washington DC that is not of, by and for the people.

The primary election in the Alabama 6th Congressional district was on June 3rd.  I was not successful in the election.

In the primary election campaign, none of the other candidates were willing to discuss my issue or take a position on it.

I have continued to press the issue, and I am now conducting a write in campaign. (See my campaign blog entry On Nov. 4, 2014, write in Rob Shattuck for Congress in AL06.) 

MAYDAY.US (started by Lawrence Lessig) has embarked on a plan with a goal of obtaining a reform minded Congress in 2016, and, in 2014, it is selecting five Congressional races to focus on. Two have been selected thus far, with MAYDAY.US supporting Republican Jim Rubens in the Republican primary for the United States Senate in New Hampshire, and Staci Appel in the Iowa 3rd Congressional district against the Republican David Young.

I believe the matter MAYDAY.US is pushing is deserving of bipartisan support. I believe that any Republican or Democrat who finds the status quo acceptable is ill serving his or her constituents, and the American people generally.

I urge the voters in the Iowa 3rd Congressional district to inform themselves about this issue, decide their own views, and vote accordingly on November 4th. I hope the voters in the Iowa 3rd Congressional district will conclude that the status quo is not acceptable and demand that there be reform.

Sincerely,
Rob Shattuck
Mountain Brook, AL


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Can Represent.Us publicize in Birmingham, AL?

Dear Represent.Us and its supporters,

From February to June, I ran in the Alabama 6th Congressional district Republican primary. (Birmingham proper is largely in the 7th Congressional district, and the 6th district is much of the surrounding geographical area. The 6th district is predominantly Republican, and the 7th is Democratic.)

I ran my campaign as virtually a single issue for reducing the influence of money in politics.

Since the June 3rd primary election in the 6th district, wherein I was not successful, I have continued my efforts.

As explained in this blog entry On Nov. 4, 2014, write in Rob Shattuck for Congress in AL06, I am now conducting a write in campaign in the Alabama 6th Congressional district.

I need all the help I can get to publicize my (and your) issue in Birmingham and the 6th Congressional district.

I solicit Represent.Us to hold a rally in Birmingham. I suggest as speakers Representative Terri Sewell of the 7th Congressional district, Gary Palmer (the Republican candidate in the 6th district), and Avery Vise (the Democratic candidate in the 6th district). I also would be most willing to speak.

I further solicit Represent.Us and its supporters to publicize the issue in Birmingham and the AL 6th Congressional district in such other ways as may be at their disposal.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,
Rob Shattuck