Category Archives: Elections

President Biden Pushes for Voting Rights: ‘This is a defining moment in history. To protect democracy, change the Senate rules’

“To protect our democracy, I support changing the Senate rules..to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights,President Joe Biden declared in a speech in Atlanta, “cradle of civil rights,” demanding passage of laws to voting rights © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via msnbc.

President Joe Biden delivered a forceful speech delivered in Atlanta, Georgia, the “cradle of civil rights,” demanding the Senate pass voting rights protections, at one point slamming his hand down on the podium. The “institutionalist” who spent decades in the Senate, he came out as supporting overturning the filibuster – a relic of segregation and Jim Crow – which has been weaponized by Republicans, giving tyrannical control of the minority over the majority.

“To protect our democracy, I support changing the Senate rules..to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights,” he declared.

Here is a highlighted transcript of his remarks:

In our lives and the lives of our nation — the life of our nation, there are moments so stark that they divide all that came before from everything that followed.  They stop time.  They rip away the trivial from the essential.  And they force us to confront hard truths about ourselves, about our institutions, and about our democracy.
 
In the words of Scripture, they remind us to “hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate.”
 
Last week, [Vice] President Harris and I stood in the United States Capitol to observe one of those “before and after” moments in American history: January 6th insurrection on the citadel of our democracy.
 
Today, we come to Atlanta — the cradle of civil rights — to make clear what must come after that dreadful day when a dagger was literally held at the throat of American democracy.
 
We stand on the grounds that connect Clark Atlanta — Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and near Spellman College — the home of generations of advocates, activists, educators and preachers; young people, just like the students here, who have done so much to build a better America.  (Applause.)
 
We visited the sacred Ebenezer Baptist Church and paused to prayed at the crypt of Dr. and Mrs. King, and spent time with their family.  And here in the district — as was pointed out — represented and reflected the life of beloved friend, John Lewis.
 
In their lifetimes, time stopped when a bomb blew up the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and murdered four little girls.
 
[Time] stopped when John and many others seeking justice were beaten and bloodied while crossing the bridge at Selma named after the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.
 
They stopped — time stopped, and they forced the country to confront the hard truths and to act — to act to keep the promise of America alive: the promise that holds that we’re all created equal but, more importantly, deserve to be treated equally.  And from those moments of darkness and despair came light and hope.
 
Democrats, Republicans, and independents worked to pass the historic Civil Rights Act and the voting rights legislation.  And each successive generation continued that ongoing work.
 
But then the violent mob of January 6th, 2021, empowered and encouraged by a defeated former president, sought to win through violence what he had lost at the ballot box, to impose the will of the mob, to overturn a free and fair election, and, for the first time — the first time in American history, they — to stop the peaceful transfer of power.
 
They failed.
  They failed.  (Applause.)  But democracy’s victory was not certain, nor is democracy’s future.
 
That’s why we’re here today to stand against the forces in America that value power over principle, forces that attempted a coup — a coup against the legally expressed will of the American people — by sowing doubt, inventing charges of fraud, and seeking to steal the 2020 election from the people.
 
They want chaos to reign.  We want the people to rule.
  (Applause.)
 
But let me be clear: This is not about me or Vice President Harris or our party; it’s about all of us.  It’s about the people.  It’s about America.
 
Hear me plainly: The battle for the soul of America is not over.  We must stand strong and stand together to make sure January 6th marks not the end of democracy but the beginning of a renaissance of our democracy.  (Applause.)
 
You know, for the right to vote and to have that vote counted is democracy’s threshold liberty.  Without it, nothing is possible, but with it, anything is possible.
 
But while the denial of fair and free elections is un-democratic, it is not unprecedented.
 
Black Americans were denied full citizenship and voting rights until 1965.  Women were denied the right to vote until just 100 years ago.  The United States Supreme Court, in recent years, has weakened the Voting Rights Act.  And now the defeated former president and his supporters use the Big Lie about the 2020 election to fuel torrent and torment and anti-voting laws — new laws designed to suppress your vote, to subvert our elections.
 
Here in Georgia, for years, you’ve done the hard work of democracy: registering voters, educating voters, getting voters to the polls.  You’ve built a broad coalition of voters: Black, white, Latino, Asian American, urban, suburban, rural, working class, and middle class. 
 
And it’s worked: You’ve changed the state by bringing more people, legally, to the polls.  (Applause.)  That’s how you won the historic elections of Senator Raphael Warnock and Senator Jon Ossoff.  (Applause.) 
 
You did it — you did it the right way, the democratic way.
 
And what’s been the reaction of Republicans in Georgia?  Choose the wrong way, the undemocratic way.  To them, too many people voting in a democracy is a problem.  So they’re putting up obstacles.
 
For example, voting by mail is a safe and convenient way to get more people to vote, so they’re making it harder for you to vote by mail. 
 
The same way, I might add, in the 2020 Election, President Trump voted from behind the desk in the White House — in Florida. 
 
Dropping your ballots off to secure drop boxes — it’s safe, it’s convenient, and you get more people to vote.  So they’re limiting the number of drop boxes and the hours you can use them. 
 
Taking away the options has a predictable effect: longer lines at the polls, lines that can last for hours.  You’ve seen it with your own eyes.  People get tired and they get hungry.
 
When the Bible teaches us to feed the hungry and give water to the thirsty, the new Georgia law actually makes it illegal — think of this — I mean, it’s 2020, and now ’22, going into that election — it makes it illegal to bring your neighbors, your fellow voters food or water while they wait in line to vote.  What in the hell — heck are we talking about?  (Laughter and applause.)
 
I mean, think about it.  (Applause.)  That’s not America.  That’s what it looks like when they suppress the right to vote. 
 
And here’s how they plan to subvert the election: The Georgia Republican Party, the state legislature has now given itself the power to make it easier for partisan actors — their cronies — to remove local election officials. 

Think about that.  What happened in the last election?  The former president and allies pursued, threatened, and intimidated state and local election officials.
 
Election workers — ordinary citizens — were subject to death threats, menacing phone calls, people stalking them in their homes.
 
Remember what the defeated former president said to the highest-ranking election official — a Republican — in this state?  He said, quote, “I just want to find 11,780 votes.” 
 
Pray God.  (Laughter.)  He didn’t say that part.  (Laughter.)
 
He didn’t say, “Count the votes.”  He said, “find votes” that he needed to win.
 
He failed because of the courageous officials — Democrats, Republicans — who did their duty and upheld the law.  (Applause.)
 
But with this new law in Georgia, his loyal- — his loyalists will be placed in charge of state elections.  (Laughs.)  What is that going to mean?  Well, the chances for chaos and subversion are even greater as partisans seek the result they want — no matter what the voters have said, no matter what the count.  The votes of nearly 5 million Georgians will be up for grabs if that law holds.
 
It’s not just here in Georgia.  Last year alone, 19 states not proposed but enacted 34 laws attacking voting rights.  There were nearly 400 additional bills Republican members of state legislatures tried to pass.  And now, Republican legislators in several states have already announced plans to escalate the onslaught this year.
 
Their endgame?  To turn the will of the voters into a mere suggestion — something states can respect or ignore.
 
Jim Crow 2.0 is about two insidious things: voter suppression and election subversion.  It’s no longer about who gets to vote; it’s about making it harder to vote.  It’s about who gets to count the vote and whether your vote counts at all.
 
It’s not hyperbole; this is a fact. 
 
Look, this matters to all of us.  The goal of the former president and his allies is to disenfranchise anyone who votes against them.  Simple as that.  The facts won’t matter; your vote won’t matter.  They’ll just decide what they want and then do it.
 
That’s the kind of power you see in totalitarian states, not in democracies. 

We must be vigilant.
 
And the world is watching.  I know the majority of the world leaders — the good and the bad ones, adversaries and allies alike.  They’re watching American democracy and seeing whether we can meet this moment.  And that’s not hyperbole.
 
When I showed up at the G7 with seven other world leaders — there were a total of nine present — Vice President Harris and I have spent our careers doing this work — I said, “America is back.”  And the response was, “For how long?”  “For how long?” 

As someone who’s worked in foreign policy my whole life, I never thought I would ever hear our allies say something like that.
 
Over the past year, we’ve directed federal agencies to promote access to voting, led by the Vice President.  We’ve appointed top civil rights advocates to help the U.S. Department of Justice, which has doubled its voting rights enforcement staff.
 
And today, we call on Congress to get done what history will judge: Pass the Freedom to Vote Act.  (Applause.)  Pass it now — (applause) — which would prevent voter suppression so that here in Georgia there’s full access to voting by mail, there are enough drop boxes during enough hours so that you can bring food and water as well to people waiting in line. 
 
The Freedom to Vote Act takes on election subversion to protect nonpartisan electors [election] officials, who are doing their job, from intimidation and interference.
 
It would get dark money out of politics, create fairer district maps and ending partisan gerrymandering.  (Applause.)
 
Look, it’s also time to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
  (Applause.) 
 
I’ve been having these quiet conversations with the members of Congress for the last two months.  I’m tired of being quiet!  (Applause.)
 
Folks, it’ll restore the strength of the Voting Rights Act of ’65 — the one President Johnson signed after John Lewis was beaten, nearly killed on Bloody Sunday, only to have the Supreme Court weaken it multiple times over the past decade.
 
Restoring the Voting Rights Act would mean the Justice Department can stop discriminatory laws before they go into effect — before they go into effect.  (Applause.) 
The Vice President and I have supported voting rights bills since day one of this administration.  But each and every time, Senate Republicans have blocked the way.  Republicans oppose even debating the issue.  You hear me?

I’ve been around the Senate a long time.  I was Vice President for eight years.  I’ve never seen a circumstance where not one single Republican has a voice that’s ready to speak for justice now.

When I was a senator, including when I headed up the Judiciary Committee, I helped reauthorize the Voting [Rights] Act three times.  We held hearings.  We debated.  We voted.  I was able to extend the Voting Rights Act for 25 years.

In 2006, the Voting Rights Act passed 390 to 33 in
the House of Representatives and 98 to 0 in the Senate with votes from 16 current sitting Republicans in this United States Senate.  Sixteen of them voted to extend it.

The last year I was chairman, as some of my friends sitting down here will tell you, Strom Thurmond voted to extend the Voting Rights Act.  Strom Thurmond.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Wow.

THE PRESIDENT:   You can say that again: “Wow.”  You have no idea how damn ha- — how darn hard I worked on that one.  (Laughter and applause.)

But, folks, then it was signed into law, the last time, by President George W. Bush.

You know, when we got voting rights extended in the 1980s, as I’ve said, even Thurmond supported it.  Think about that.  The man who led one of the longest filibusters in history in the United States Senate in 1957 against the Voting Rights Act [Civil Rights Act].  The man who led and sided with the old Southern Bulls in the United States Senate to perpetuate segregation in this nation.  Even Strom Thurmond came to support voting rights.

But Republicans today can’t and won’t.  Not a single Republican has displayed the courage to stand up to a defeated president to protect America’s right to vote.  Not one.  Not one.

We have 50-50 in the United States Senate.  That means we have 51 presidents.  (Laughter.)  You all think I’m kidding.  (Laughter.)

I’ve been pretty good at working with senators my whole career.  But, man, when you got 51 presidents, it gets harder.  Any one can change the outcome.

Sadly, the United States Senate — designed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body — has been rendered a shell of its former self.  It gives me no satisfaction in saying that, as an institutionalist, as a man who was honored to serve in the Senate.
 
But as an institutionalist, I believe that the threat to
our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills, debate them, vote. 
 
Let the majority prevail.  (Applause.)  And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.
  (Applause.)

You know, last year, if I’m not mistaken, the filibuster was used 154 times.  The filibuster has been used to generate compromise in the past and promote some bipartisanship.  But it’s also been used to obstruct — including and especially obstruct civil rights and voting rights.

And when it was used, senators traditionally used to have to stand and speak at their desks for however long it took, and sometimes it took hours.  And when they sat down, if no one immediately stood up, anyone could call for a vote or the debate ended.

But that doesn’t happen today.  Senators no longer even have to speak one word.  The filibuster is not used by Republicans to bring the Senate together but to pull it further apart.

The filibuster has been weaponized and abused.

While the state legislatures’ assault on voting rights is simple — all you need in your House and Senate is a pure majority — in the United States Senate, it takes a supermajority: 60 votes, even to get a vote — instead of 50 — to protect the right to vote.

State legislatures can pass anti-voting laws with simple majorities.  If they can do that, then the United States Senate should be able to protect voting rights by a simple majority.  (Applause.)

Today I’m making it clear: To protect our democracy, I support changing the Senate rules, whichever way they need to be changed — (applause) — to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights.  (Applause.)  

When it comes to protecting majority rule in America, the majority should rule in the United States Senate.  
 
I make this announcement with careful deliberation, recognizing the fundamental right to vote is the right from which all other rights flow.
 
And I make it with an appeal to my Republican colleagues, to those Republicans who believe in the rule of law: Restore the bipartisan tradition of voting rights. 

The people who restored it, who abided by it in the past were Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush.  They all supported the Voting Rights Act.

Don’t let the Republican Party morph into something else.  Restore the institution of the Senate the way it was designed to be.

Senate rules were just changed to raise the debt ceiling so we wouldn’t renege on our debt for the first time in our history and prevent an economic crisis.  That was done by a simple majority.

As Senator Warnock said a few weeks ago in a powerful speech: If we change the rules to protect the full faith and credit of the United States, we should be able to change the rules to protect the heart and soul of our democracy.  (Applause.)  He was right.

In the days that followed John Lewis’s death, there was an outpouring of praise and support across the political spectrum.

But as we stand here today, it isn’t enough just to praise his memory.  We must translate eulogy into action.  We need to follow John Lewis’s footsteps.  We need to support the bill in his name.

Just a few days ago, we talked about — up in the Congress and in the White House — the event coming up shortly to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday.  And Americans of all stripes will praise him for the content of his character.

But as Dr. King’s family said before, it’s not enough to praise their father.  They even said: On this holiday, don’t celebrate his birthday unless you’re willing to support what he lived for and what he died for.  (Applause.)

The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation’s history.

We will choose — the issue is: Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadows, justice over injustice? 

I know where I stand.  I will not yield.  I will not flinch.  I will defend the right to vote, our democracy against all enemies — foreign and, yes, domestic.  (Applause.)

And the question is: Where will the institution of the United States Senate stand?  Every senator — Democrat, Republican, and independent — will have to declare where they stand, not just for the moment, but for the ages.

Will you stand against voter suppression?  Yes or no?  That’s the question they’ll answer.  Will you stand against election subversion?  Yes or no?  Will you stand for democracy?  Yes or no?

And here’s one thing every senator and every American should remember: History has never been kind to those who have sided with voter suppression over voters’ rights.  And it will be even less kind for those who side with election subversion.
 
So, I ask every elected official in America: How do you want to be remembered? 

At consequential moments in history, they present a choice: Do you want to be the side of Dr. King or George Wallace?  Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor?  Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?

This is the moment to decide to defend our elections, to defend our democracy.  (Applause.)

And if you do that, you will not be alone.  That’s because the struggle to protect voting rights has never been borne by one group alone.

We saw Freedom Riders of every race.  Leaders of every faith marching arm in arm.  And, yes, Democrats and Republicans in Congress of the United States and in the presidency.

I did not live the struggle of Douglass, Tubman, King, Lewis, Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner, and countless others — known and unknown.

I did not walk in the shoes of generations of students who walked these grounds.  But I walked other grounds.  Because I’m so damn old, I was there as well.  (Laughter.)

You think I’m kidding, man.  (Laughter.)  It seems like yesterday the first time I got arrested.  Anyway — (laughter).

But their struggles here — they were the ones that opened my eyes as a high school student in the late — in the late ’50s and early ’60s.  They got me more engaged in the work of my life.

And what we’re talking about today is rooted in the very idea of America — the idea that Annell Ponder, who graduated
from Clark Atlanta, captured in a single word.  She was a teacher and librarian who was also an unyielding champion of voting rights.

In 1963 — when I was just starting college at university — after registering voters in Mississippi, she was pulled off a bus, arrested, and jailed, where she was brutally beaten.

In her cell, next to her, was Fannie Lou Hamer, who described the beating this way, and I quote: “I could hear the sounds of [the] licks and [the] horrible screams…They beat her, I don’t know [for] how long.  And after a while, she began to pray, and asked God to have mercy on those people.”

Annell Ponder’s friends visited her the next day.  Her face was badly swollen.  She could hardly talk.

But she managed to whisper one word: “Freedom.”  “Freedom” — the only word she whispered.

After nearly 250 years since our founding, that singular idea still echoes.  But it’s up to all of us to make sure it never fades, especially the students here — your generation that just started voting — as there are those who are trying to take away that vi- — vote you just started to be able to exercise. 

But the giants we honor today were your age when they made clear who we must be as a nation.  Not a joke.  Think about it.  In the early ’60s, they were sitting where you’re sitting.  They were you.  And like them, you give me much hope for the future.

Before and after in our lives — and in the life of the nation — democracy is who we are, who we must be — now and forever.  So, let’s stand in this breach together.  Let’s love good, establish justice in the gate. 

And remember, as I said, there is one — this is one of those defining moments in American history: Each of those who vote will be remembered by class after class, in the ’50s and ’60s — the 2050s and ’60s.  Each one of the members of the Senate is going to be judged by history on where they stood before the vote and where they stood after the vote. 

There’s no escape.  So, let’s get back to work. 

As my grandfather Finnegan used to say every time I walked out the door in Scranton, he’d say, “Joey, keep the faith.”  Then he’d say, “No, Joey, spread it.” 

Let’s spread the faith and get this done.  (Applause.) 

May God bless you all.  And may God protect the sacred right to vote.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  I mean it.  Let’s go get this done.  Thank you.

Biden Marks January 6th: ‘I will defend this nation. And I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy’

President Joe Biden marks the one-year anniversary of the January 6th insurrection in the Capitol Rotunda: “I will defend this nation.  And I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy.. Here in America, the people rule through the ballot, and their will prevails.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via msnbc

President Joe Biden spoke to the nation on the day marking the one year anniversary of the January 6 insurrection, the attack on the Capitol and Congress aimed at impeding the Constitutional requirement for Congress to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election and interfere with the peaceful transition of power. In his address, Biden placed responsibility for the violent attack – the first since the War of 1812 and the first interruption of a peaceful transition of power after a free and fair election, promoted, incited and organized by the then-sitting but defeated president, in the nation’s nearly 250 years. He spoke to the need to continually protect democracy, especially in an era marked by the rise of authoritarians. Here is a highlighted transcript of President Biden’s remarks:

THE PRESIDENT:  Madam Vice President, my fellow Americans: To state the obvious, one year ago today, in this sacred place, democracy was attacked — simply attacked.  The will of the people was under assault.  The Constitution — our Constitution — faced the gravest of threats.
 
Outnumbered and in the face of a brutal attack, the Capitol Police, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the National Guard, and other brave law enforcement officials saved the rule of law.
 
Our democracy held.  We the people endured.  And we the people prevailed.
 
For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol.
 
But they failed.  They failed.
 
And on this day of remembrance, we must make sure that such an attack never, never happens again.
 
I’m speaking to you today from Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol.  This is where the House of Representatives
met for 50 years in the decades leading up to the Civil War.  This is — on this floor is where a young congressman of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, sat at desk 191. 
 
Above him — above us, over that door leading into the Rotunda — is a sculpture depicting Clio, the muse of history.  In her hands, an open book in which she records the events taking place in this chamber below.
 
Clio stood watch over this hall one year ago today, as she has for more than 200 years.  She recorded what took place.  The real history.  The real facts.  The real truth.  The facts
and the truth that Vice President Harris just shared and that you and I and the whole world saw with our own eyes.
 
The Bible tells us that we shall know the truth, and the truth shall make us free.  We shall know the truth.
 
Well, here is the God’s truth about January 6th, 2021:
 
Close your eyes.  Go back to that day.  What do you see? Rioters rampaging, waving for the first time inside this Capitol a Confederate flag that symbolized the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart.
 
Even during the Civil War, that never, ever happened.  But it happened here in 2021.
 
What else do you see?  A mob breaking windows, kicking in doors, breaching the Capitol.  American flags on poles being used as weapons, as spears.  Fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers. 
 
A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers, dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them.
 
Over 140 police officers were injured.
 
We’ve all heard the police officers who were there that day testify to what happened.  One officer called it, quote, a med- — “medieval” battle, and that he was more afraid that day than he was fighting the war in Iraq.
 
They’ve repeatedly asked since that day: How dare anyone — anyone — diminish, belittle, or deny the hell they were put through?
 
We saw it with our own eyes.  Rioters menaced these halls, threatening the life of the Speaker of the House, literally erecting gallows to hang the Vice President of the United States of America.
 
But what did we not see?
 
We didn’t see a former president, who had just rallied the mob to attack — sitting in the private dining room off the Oval Office in the White House, watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours as police were assaulted, lives at risk, and the nation’s capital under siege.
 
This wasn’t a group of tourists.  This was an armed insurrection.
 
They weren’t looking to uphold the will of the people.  They were looking to deny the will of the people.
 
They were looking to uphold — they weren’t looking to uphold a free and fair election.  They were looking to overturn one.
 
They weren’t looking to save the cause of America.  They were looking to subvert the Constitution.
 
This isn’t about being bogged down in the past.  This is about making sure the past isn’t buried.
 
That’s the only way forward.  That’s what great nations do.  They don’t bury the truth, they face up to it.  Sounds like hyperbole, but that’s the truth: They face up to it.
 
We are a great nation.
 
My fellow Americans, in life, there’s truth and,tragically, there are lies — lies conceived and spread for profit and power.
 
We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie.
 
And here is the truth: The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.  He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests and America’s interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.
 
He can’t accept he lost, even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own Attorney General, his own Vice President, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said: He lost.
 
That’s what 81 million of you did as you voted for a new way forward.
 
He has done what no president in American history — the history of this country — has ever, ever done: He refused to accept the results of an election and the will of the American people.
 
While some courageous men and women in the Republican Party are standing against it, trying to uphold the principles of that party, too many others are transforming that party into something else.  They seem no longer to want to be the party — the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan, the Bushes.
 
But whatever my other disagreements are with Republicans who support the rule of law and not the rule of a single man, I will always seek to work together with them to find shared solutions where possible.  Because if we have a shared belief in democracy, then anything is possible — anything.
 
And so, at this moment, we must decide: What kind of nation are we going to be?
 
Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm?
 
Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people?
 
Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies?
 
We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation.  The way forward is to recognize the truth and to live by it.
 
The Big Lie being told by the former president and many Republicans who fear his wrath is that the insurrection in this country actually took place on Election Day — November 3rd, 2020.
 
Think about that.  Is that what you thought?  Is that what you thought when you voted that day?  Taking part in an insurrection?  Is that what you thought you were doing?  Or did you think you were carrying out your highest duty as a citizen and voting?
 
The former president and his supporters are trying to rewrite history.  They want you to see Election Day as the day of insurrection and the riot that took place here on January 6th as the true expression of the will of the people.
 
Can you think of a more twisted way to look at this country — to look at America?  I cannot.
 
Here’s the truth: The election of 2020 was the greatest demonstration of democracy in the history of this country.
 
More of you voted in that election than have ever voted in all of American history.  Over 150 million Americans went to the polls and voted that day in a pandemic — some at great risk to their lives.  They should be applauded, not attacked.
 
Right now, in state after state, new laws are being written — not to protect the vote, but to deny it; not only to suppress the vote, but to subvert it; not to strengthen or protect our democracy, but because the former president lost.
 
Instead of looking at the election results from 2020 and saying they need new ideas or better ideas to win more votes, the former president and his supporters have decided the only way for them to win is to suppress your vote and subvert our elections. 
 
It’s wrong.  It’s undemocratic.  And frankly, it’s un-American.
 
The second Big Lie being told by the former President and his supporters is that the results of the election of 2020 can’t be trusted.

The truth is that no election — no election in American history has been more closely scrutinized or more carefully counted.
 
Every legal challenge questioning the results in every court in this country that could have been made was made and was rejected — often rejected by Republican-appointed judges, including judges appointed by the former president himself, from state courts to the United States Supreme Court.
 
Recounts were undertaken in state after state.  Georgia — Georgia counted its results three times, with one recount by hand.
 
Phony partisan audits were undertaken long after the election in several states.  None changed the results.  And in some of them, the irony is the margin of victory actually grew slightly.
 
So, let’s speak plainly about what happened in 2020.  Even before the first ballot was cast, the former president was preemptively sowing doubt about the election results.  He built his lie over months.  It wasn’t based on any facts.  He was just looking for an excuse — a pretext — to cover for the truth.
 
He’s not just a former president.  He’s a defeated former president — defeated by a margin of over 7 million of your votes in a full and free and fair election.
 
There is simply zero proof the election results were inaccurate.  In fact, in every venue where evidence had to be produced and an oath to tell the truth had to be taken, the former president failed to make his case.
 
Just think about this: The former president and his supporters have never been able to explain how they accept as accurate the other election results that took place on November 3rd — the elections for governor, United States Senate, the House of Representatives — elections in which they closed the gap in the House.
 
They challenge none of that.  The President’s name was first, then we went down the line — governors, senators, House of Representatives.  Somehow, those results were accurate on the same ballot, but the presidential race was flawed?
 
And on the same ballot, the same day, cast by the same voters.
 
The only difference: The former President didn’t lose those races; he just lost the one that was his own.
 
Finally, the third Big Lie being told by a former President and his supporters is that the mob who sought to impose their will through violence are the nation’s true patriots.
 
Is that what you thought when you looked at the mob ransacking the Capitol, destroying property, literally defecating in the hallways, rifling through desks of senators and representatives, hunting down members of congress?  Patriots?  Not in my view.
 
To me, the true patriots were the more than 150 [million] Americans who peacefully expressed their vote at the ballot box, the election workers who protected the integrity of the vote, and the heroes who defended this Capitol.
 
You can’t love your country only when you win.
 
You can’t obey the law only when it’s convenient.
 
You can’t be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies.
 
Those who stormed this Capitol and those who instigated and incited and those who called on them to do so held a dagger at the throat of America — at American democracy.
 
They didn’t come here out of patriotism or principle.  They came here in rage — not in service of America, but rather in service of one man.
 
Those who incited the mob — the real plotters — who were desperate to deny the certification of the election and defy the will of the voters.
 
But their plot was foiled.  Congressmen — Democrats and Republicans — stayed.  Senators, representatives, staff — they finished their work the Constitution demanded.  They honored their oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
 
Look, folks, now it’s up to all of us — to “We the People” — to stand for the rule of law, to preserve the flame of democracy, to keep the promise of America alive.
 
That promise is at risk, targeted by the forces that value brute strength over the sanctity of democracy, fear over hope, personal gain over public good.
 
Make no mistake about it: We’re living at an inflection point in history.
 
Both at home and abroad, we’re engaged anew in a struggle between democracy and autocracy, between the aspirations of the many and the greed of the few, between the people’s right of self-determination and self- — the self-seeking autocrat. 
 
From China to Russia and beyond, they’re betting that democracy’s days are numbered.  They’ve actually told me democracy is too slow, too bogged down by division to succeed in today’s rapidly changing, complicated world.
 
And they’re betting — they’re betting America will become more like them and less like us.  They’re betting that America is a place for the autocrat, the dictator, the strongman.
 
I do not believe that.  That is not who we are.  That is not who we have ever been.  And that is not who we should ever, ever be.
 
Our Founding Fathers, as imperfect as they were, set in motion an experiment that changed the world — literally changed the world.
 
Here in America, the people would rule, power would be transferred peacefully — never at the tip of a spear or the barrel of a gun.
 
And they committed to paper an idea that couldn’t live up to — they couldn’t live up to but an idea that couldn’t be constrained: Yes, in America all people are created equal.
 

We reject the view that if you succeed, I fail; if you get ahead, I fall behind; if I hold you down, I somehow lift myself up.
 
The former President, who lies about this election, and the mob that attacked this Capitol could not be further away from the core American values.
 
They want to rule or they will ruin — ruin what our country fought for at Lexington and Concord; at Gettysburg; at Omaha Beach; Seneca Falls; Selma, Alabama.  What — and what we were fighting for: the right to vote, the right to govern ourselves, the right to determine our own destiny.
 
And with rights come responsibilities: the responsibility to see each other as neighbors — maybe we disagree with that neighbor, but they’re not an adversary; the responsibility to accept defeat then get back in the arena and try again the next time to make your case; the responsibility to see that America is an idea — an idea that requires vigilant stewardship.
 
As we stand here today — one year since January 6th, 2021 — the lies that drove the anger and madness we saw in this place, they have not abated.
 
So, we have to be firm, resolute, and unyielding in our defense of the right to vote and to have that vote counted.
 
Some have already made the ultimate sacrifice in this sacred effort.
 
Jill and I have mourned police officers in this Capitol Rotunda not once but twice in the wake of January 6th: once to honor Officer Brian Sicknick, who lost his life the day after the attack, and a second time to honor Officer Billy Evans, who lost his life defending this Capitol as well.
 
We think about the others who lost their lives and were injured and everyone living with the trauma of that day — from those defending this Capitol to members of Congress in both parties and their staffs, to reporters, cafeteria workers, custodial workers, and their families.
 
Don’t kid yourself: The pain and scars from that day run deep.
 
I said it many times and it’s no more true or real than when we think about the events of January 6th: We are in a battle for the soul of America.  A battle that, by the grace of God and the goodness and gracious — and greatness of this nation, we will win.
 
Believe me, I know how difficult democracy is.  And I’m crystal clear about the threats America faces.
  But I also know that our darkest days can lead to light and hope.
 
From the death and destruction, as the Vice President referenced, in Pearl Harbor came the triumph over the forces of fascism.
 
From the brutality of Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge came historic voting rights legislation.
 
So, now let us step up, write the next chapter in American history where January 6th marks not the end of democracy, but the beginning of a renaissance of liberty and fair play.
 
I did not seek this fight brought to this Capitol one year ago today, but I will not shrink from it either.
 
I will stand in this breach.  I will defend this nation.  And I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy. 
 
We will make sure the will of the people is heard; that the ballot prevails, not violence; that authority in this nation will always be peacefully transferred.
 
I believe the power of the presidency and the purpose is to unite this nation, not divide it; to lift us up, not tear us apart; to be about us — about us, not about “me.”
 
Deep in the heart of America burns a flame lit almost 250 years ago — of liberty, freedom, and equality.
 
This is not a land of kings or dictators or autocrats.  We’re a nation of laws; of order, not chaos; of peace, not violence.
 
Here in America, the people rule through the ballot, and their will prevails.
 
So, let us remember: Together, we’re one nation, under God, indivisible; that today, tomorrow, and forever, at our best, we are the United States of America.
 
God bless you all.  May God protect our troops.  And may God bless those who stand watch over our democracy.

VP Harris Marks January 6th: ‘Our tested democracy requires voting rights in order to maintain free and fair elections’

In her remarks on the one-year anniversary of the January 6 insurrection, Vice President Kamala Harris reminded the nation that “the strength of democracy is the Rule of Law,” and that to preserve our fragile, tested democracy requires voting rights in order to maintain free and fair elections © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via msnbc

In her remarks on the one-year anniversary of the January 6 insurrection, Vice President Kamala Harris reminded the nation that “the strength of democracy is the Rule of Law,” and that to preserve our fragile, tested democracy requires voting rights in order to maintain free and fair elections. Here is a highlighted transcript of her remarks, delivered in the Capitol Rotunda:

Fellow Americans, good morning.

Certain dates echo throughout history, including dates that instantly remind all who have lived through them — where they were and what they were doing when our democracy came under assault.  Dates that occupy not only a place on our calendars, but a place in our collective memory.  December 7th, 1941.  September 11th, 2001.  And January 6th, 2021.

On that day, I was not only Vice President-elect, I was also a United States senator.  And I was here at the Capitol that morning, at a classified hearing with fellow members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.  Hours later, the gates of the Capitol were breached. 

I had left.  But my thoughts immediately turned not only to my colleagues, but to my staff, who had been forced to seek refuge in our office, converting filing cabinets into barricades. 

What the extremists who roamed these halls targeted was not only the lives of elected leaders.  What they sought to degrade and destroy was not only a building, hallowed as it is.  What they were assaulting were the institutions, the values, the ideals that generations of Americans have marched, picketed, and shed blood to establish and defend.

On January 6th, we all saw what our nation would look like if the forces who seek to dismantle our democracy are successful.  The lawlessness, the violence, the chaos.
 
What was at stake then, and now, is the right to have our future decided the way the Constitution prescribes it: by we, the people — all the people.
 
We cannot let our future be decided by those bent on silencing our voices, overturning our votes, and peddling lies and misinformation; by some radical faction that may be newly resurgent but whose roots run old and deep.

When I meet with young people, they often ask about the state of our democracy, about January 6th.  And what I tell them is: January 6th reflects the dual nature of democracy — its fragility and its strength.

You see, the strength of democracy is the rule of law.  The strength of democracy is the principle that everyone should be treated equally, that elections should be free and fair, that corruption should be given no quarter.  The strength of democracy is that it empowers the people.
 
And the fragility of democracy is this: that if we are not vigilant, if we do not defend it, democracy simply will not stand; it will falter and fail.
 
The violent assault that took place here, the very fact of how close we came to an election overturned — that reflects the fragility of democracy.

Yet, the resolve I saw in our elected leaders when I returned to the Senate chamber that night — their resolve not to yield but to certify the election; their loyalty not to party or person but to the Constitution of the United States — that reflects its strength. 
 
And so, of course, does the heroism of the Capitol Police, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the National Guard, and other law enforcement officers who answered the call that day, including those who later succumbed to wounds, both visible and invisible.
 
Our thoughts are with all of the families who have lost a loved one.

You know, I wonder, how will January 6th come to be remembered in the years ahead?

Will it be remembered as a moment that accelerated the unraveling of the oldest, greatest democracy in the world or a moment when we decided to secure and strengthen our democracy for generations to come?

The American spirit is being tested.

The answer to whether we will meet that test resides where it always has resided in our country — with you, the people.
 
And the work ahead will not be easy.  Here, in this very building, a decision will be made about whether we uphold the right to vote and ensure free and fair election.

Let’s be clear: We must pass the voting rights bills that are now before the Senate, and the American people must also do something more.
 
We cannot sit on the sidelines.  We must unite in defense of our democracy in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our prosperity and posterity.
 
That is the preamble of the Constitution that President Biden and I swore an oath to uphold and defend.  And that is the enduring promise of the United States of America.

Sanders Calling for Largest Voter Turnout in History, Declares ‘Imperative to Counter Trump’s Unique Threats to Democracy’

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), at a rally in Queens during the 2020 campaign. In remarks at George Washington University regarding the “unprecedented and dangerous moment we are in because of Trump’s unique threats to our democracy” called for unprecedented voter turnout, warning that Trump may well declare victory in Election Night, before the millions of mail-in-ballots are counted, confiscate the ballots to prevent them from being counted, and even instruct Republican legislators to disregard the popular vote and select Trump electors to vote in the Electoral College. If all that, including impeding delivery of mail-in-ballots, calling out thugs to intimidate voters who come to the polls, Trump says he is counting on the Supreme Court, with his third pick already on the court, to hand him the election. Only then, he says, will there be a “peaceful transfer” because there won’t be a transfer at all, but a continuation of power. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), in remarks at George Washington University regarding the “unprecedented and dangerous moment we are in because of Trump’s unique threats to our democracy” called for unprecedented voter turnout, warning that Trump may well declare victory in Election Night, before the millions of mail-in-ballots are counted, confiscate the ballots to prevent them from being counted, and even instruct Republican legislators to disregard the popular vote and select Trump electors to vote in the Electoral College. If all that, including impeding delivery of mail-in-ballots, calling out thugs to intimidate voters who come to the polls, Trump says he is counting on the Supreme Court, with his third pick already on the court, to hand him the election. Only then, he says, will there be a “peaceful transfer” because there won’t be a transfer at all, but a continuation of power. – Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Here are Senator Sanders’ remarks, highlighted, as prepared for delivery:

Saving American Democracy 

This country faces an unprecedented set of crises. We are struggling with a pandemic that has already cost us over 200,000 lives. 

We have an economy in which we have a grotesque level of income and wealth inequality, where the middle class is being decimated, where millions of workers have lost their jobs and half of our people continue to work paycheck to paycheck — many for starvation wages.  

We are living in the moment when climate change is ravaging this planet, leading to massive fires on the West Coast, drought and unprecedented levels of extreme weather disturbances all across the globe. 

We are the only major country on earth not to guarantee healthcare to all people as a right, over 90 million Americans are uninsured or under-insured, and we pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.

All of these issues, and others, are enormously important and should be the issues that are being debated in this campaign. But, today, I’m not going to talk about any of them.

What I am going to talk about is something that, in my wildest dreams, I never thought I would be discussing.  And that is the need to make certain that the President of the United States, if he loses this election, will abide by the will of the voters and leave office peacefully.

What I will be discussing today is the danger that this country faces from a president who is a pathological liar, who has strong authoritarian tendencies, who neither understands nor respects our constitution and who is prepared to undermine American democracy in order to stay in power. 

With less than 6 weeks left to go in this campaign it is my fervent hope that all Americans — Democrats, Republicans, independents, progressives, moderates, conservatives — come together to defend American democracy, our constitution and the rule of law. We must ensure, in this unprecedented moment in American history that this is an election that is free and fair, an election in which voters are not intimidated, an election in which all votes are counted and an election in which the loser accepts the results.

This is not just an election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.  This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy – and democracy must win. 

The United States is the oldest continuous democracy in the modern world. We held elections in the middle of a Civil War in 1864. We held free and fair elections during World War I, during the Great Depression, and during World War II. After all of those elections, held in extremely difficult circumstances, the loser acknowledged defeat and the winner was inaugurated and took office.  That is what America is all about.  That’s what democracy is all about.

But today, under Donald Trump, we have a president who has little respect for our constitution or the rule of law. Today, that peaceful transition of power, the bedrock of American democracy, is being threatened like never before.

I am not in the habit of quoting former President Ronald Reagan, but I think something that he said in his first inaugural address makes the point about how important — how precious — is this part of our heritage. I quote: “The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place as it has for almost two centuries and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every 4-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.” Unquote. 

Protecting this “orderly transfer of authority” as President Reagan characterized it, this miracle, is absolutely essential if we together — all of us, Republicans, Democrats, Independents — want to keep faith with the American ideals we hold so dear and with the sacrifices that so many made in order to protect our democracy.

And in that regard I think it is terribly important that we actually listen to, and take seriously, what Donald Trump is saying.  

Several weeks ago, speaking at the Republican National Convention, Trump said, and I quote, “The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election.” What is remarkable about that statement is that he made it at a time when almost every national poll had him behind and when he was trailing in polls in most battleground states.

Think about what that statement means. What he is saying is that if he wins the election, that’s great. But if he loses, it’s rigged, because the only way, the only way, he can lose is if it’s rigged. And if it’s rigged, then he is not leaving office.  Heads I win. Tails you lose. In other words, in Trump’s mind, there is no conceivable way that he should leave office.

And just last night Donald Trump went even further down the path of authoritarianism by being the first president in the history of this country to refuse to commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election. 

When asked by a reporter in the White House briefing room: “Win, lose or draw in this election, will you commit here today for a peaceful transferal of power after the election?” Trump responded:

“We’re going to have to see what happens.  You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.  We want to get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.”

That’s not his choice.  That’s for the American people to determine.  Let us be very clear.  There is nothing in our constitution or in our laws that give Donald Trump the privilege of deciding whether or not he will step aside if he loses.  In the United States the president does not determine who can or cannot vote and what ballots will be counted.  That may be what his friend Putin does in Russia.  It may be what is done in other authoritarian countries.  But it is not and will not be done in America.  This is a democracy.

I do understand that Donald Trump is a billionaire, or so he says.  I do understand that he was born to a very wealthy family and, from his earliest days, was able to get anything he wanted because his family was rich and his family was powerful.  I do understand that when you’re rich and you’re powerful you don’t  have to pay taxes like ordinary people and that it’s easy for you to avoid the military draft.  I do understand that when you’re rich and you’re powerful you can buy politicians and get hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate welfare for your real estate empire.  

But this I also understand.  No matter how rich and powerful you may be, no matter how arrogant and narcissistic you may be, no matter how much you think you can get anything you want, let me make this clear to Donald Trump: Too many people have fought and died to defend American democracy.  You are not going to destroy it.  The American people will not allow that to happen.

Despite all of the evidence, Trump continues to be obsessed with the belief that there is massive voter fraud in this country. 

In 2017, after he won the presidency, Trump insisted that he would have won the popular vote, which he lost by 3 million votes, if, quote “millions of illegal votes had not been cast.” There is absolutely no evidence of that being true. In fact, it is totally preposterous to believe that millions of votes, or any significant number of votes at all, were cast illegally. This is an assertion supported by no one. Not Democratic officials.  Not Republican officials. No one.  And yet that is what Trump said after he won. 

There have been numerous studies done on the issue of voter fraud in our country. They have all concluded essentially the same thing.  Voter fraud in the United States of America is extremely rare. 

study by Dartmouth University found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election.  

An article in the New York Times from December 18, 2016 stated: “In an election in which more than 137.7 million Americans cast ballots, election and law enforcement officials in 26 states and the District of Columbia — Democratic-leaning, Republican-leaning and in-between — said that so far they knew of no credible allegations of fraudulent voting. Officials in another eight states said they knew of only one allegation … In Georgia, where more than 4.1 million ballots were cast, officials said they had opened 25 inquiries into “suspicious voting or election-related activity.”  But inquiries to all 50 states (every one but Kansas responded) found no states that reported indications of widespread fraud.”

A report by the Brennan Center for Justice reviewed elections that had been meticulously studied for voter fraud, and found incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent. The report concluded that it is more likely that an American, quote, “will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls,” unquote.

Even the conservative Heritage Foundation, which maintains a database on election fraud, could only find 143 criminal convictions of mail in voter fraud out of 250 million mail-in votes cast over the past 20 years, a rate of 0.00006%.

But you don’t have to trust me on this issue.  Benjamin Ginsburg, one of the leading Republican experts on elections, a man who served as national counsel to the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign, a man who played a major role for the Republican Party in the 2000 Florida recount, and who co-chaired the bipartisan 2013 Presidential Commission on Election Administration, recently wrote in the Washington Post, and I quote, “The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud. At most, there are isolated incidents — by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged,” unquote. 

Let me repeat from one of the Republican Party’s leading experts on elections: “The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud. At most, there are isolated incidents — by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged.”

And if even the statement of Mr. Ginsburg is not good enough for you, here is what the Trump administration’s own voting integrity commission reported.  According to an analysis of administration documents by the Associated Press, Trump’s commission uncovered, quote “no evidence to support claims of widespread voter fraud,” unquote, and disbanded in 2018. 

Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tamped down concerns about mail-in ballots last month, saying, and I quote, “Many parts of our country vote by mail. Oregon, Washington and Colorado have voted by mail for years.”

And yet we have a president who calls mail in ballots “a hoax” and “a scam.”

Trump’s strategy to delegitimize this election and to stay in office if he loses is not complicated. Finding himself behind in many polls, he is attempting massive voter suppression. He and his Republican colleagues are doing everything they can to make it harder and harder for people to vote. In addition, he is sowing the seeds of chaos, confusion and conspiracy theories by casting doubt on the integrity of this election and, if he loses, justifying why he should remain in office. 

In an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News, Trump refused to say that he would leave office if he lost. Asked to give a direct answer on whether he would accept the election results, Trump refused. He said, quote, “I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.” Pretty much what he said yesterday.

In the middle of a pandemic Trump made clear that he wants to defund the Postal Service in order to limit the use of mail in ballots. In an interview on August 13, discussing a possible deal for a relief package that would have funded the post office, Trump let the cat out of the bag by admitting that, quote “If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting; they just can’t have it.”  

In other words, what Trump is saying to tens of millions of Americans is that at a time when over 200,000 people have already died from the coronavirus, you have a choice: You can either risk your health or even your life by walking into a voting booth or you can’t vote.  How disgusting is that?

Amazingly, at the very same time Trump is making completely baseless allegations about voter fraud, last month he urged his supporters in North Carolina to try voting twice, which is a felony. 

In order to advance his plan for mass voter suppression, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in Nevada, which fortunately was dismissed, challenging the state’s mail-in voting laws. 

In July, Trump used false claims of voter fraud to propose delaying this year’s election, which he does not have the power to do. This was so outrageous that Steven Calabresi, the co-founder of the conservative Federalist Society, wrote that it was, quote “grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate,” unquote.

Last week, Trump told his supporters at a rally in Nevada that he, quote, “was entitled” to serve a third term, which is obviously a violation of the Constitution’s 22nd Amendment. 

On Saturday, Trump suggested to his supporters in North Carolina that he might sign an executive order to prevent Joe Biden from becoming president. 

Trump has also urged his supporters to become, quote, “poll watchers,” but what he is really saying is he wants his supporters, some of whom are members of armed militias, to intimidate voters. We’re already seeing this in Virginia, where early voters were confronted by Trump supporters, and election officials in Fairfax County said that some voters and polling staff felt intimidated.

On and on it goes.  Every day, over and over again, Trump is making it harder for the American people to participate in the political process and is attempting to delegitimize the outcome of this election so that if he loses he can remain in office.

The concerns that I am raising today are not just mine alone, and are not just concerns shared by progressives and Democrats.

Miles Taylor, a lifelong Republican who previously served as chief of staff inside the Trump administration’s Department of Homeland Security, warned that there is nothing that Trump will not do or say to defeat Biden. 

“Put nothing past Donald Trump,” Taylor told The Associated Press. “He will do anything to win. If that means climbing over other people, climbing over his own people, or climbing over U.S. law, he will do it. People are right to be concerned.” 

Well, I agree with Mr. Taylor. I am concerned. I am very concerned.

Last week, my former Senate colleague Dan Coats, Trump’s own former Director of National Intelligence, published a piece in the New York Times calling for a high-level bipartisan and nonpartisan commission to oversee the election to reassure all Americans that it has been carried out fairly. Coats wrote, quote, “The most urgent task American leaders face is to ensure that the election’s results are accepted as legitimate. Electoral legitimacy is the essential linchpin of our entire political culture. We should see the challenge clearly in advance and take immediate action to respond.”

I couldn’t agree more. I strongly second Director Coats’ call for this election commission.

Last week as well, Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and I sent a letter to Senator McConnell urging him to hold hearings on the issue of election and post-election security. Senator Schumer and I stated, “We would like to hear from the most knowledgeable people in the country as to how we can do everything possible to make sure that the election and the period afterward is secure and peaceful.”

Majority Leader McConnell: Please respond to that letter.  Please establish that bi-partisan committee.  

And today I call on every elected official in America whether they be Republican, Democrat or Independent to vigorously oppose voter suppression and voter intimidation, to make sure that every vote is counted, and that no one is declared the winner until those votes are counted.  

And to my Republican colleagues in the Congress please do not continue to tell the American people how much you love America if, at this critical moment, you are not prepared to stand up to defend American democracy and our way of life.  Stop the hypocrisy.

With or without Donald Trump this election is unique in American history because it’s taking place during a pandemic and a public health crisis.   

As a result, states all over America are taking the appropriate steps to ensure more Americans can safely vote by mail in their own homes instead of risking their health or their lives to vote in person.  

The result is that this election will see, by far, the largest number of mail in ballots ever. 

And let’s be clear.  Despite what Donald Trump says, voting by mail is not a new or dangerous idea.  Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah conduct their elections almost entirely by mail.  California, Nevada, New Jersey, the District of Columbia and my state of Vermont have pledged to mail ballots to all registered voters for the upcoming election.  And many other states are making it easier to vote by mail. Trump himself, as well as members of his administration, have repeatedly voted by mail.  Members of the U.S. military have regularly voted by mail since the 1800s.

Given the significant increase in mail in ballots why, you might ask, are Trump and his allies trying to attack the integrity of our vote by mail system? 

The answer is simple.  A number of studies have shown that for, whatever reasons, Republicans are more likely to vote in person while Democrats are more likely to use mail in ballots.  

In fact, one poll found that only about a quarter of Biden supporters would vote in person on Election Day while some two thirds of Trump voters planned to vote in person.

In other words, if Trump can undermine people’s confidence in the validity of votes cast by mail, he will be calling into question the validity of votes that may overwhelmingly support Joe Biden.  

Let us consider the following scenario:  

On election night, Trump is ahead in many battleground states based on the votes of those who voted in person on election day.  All across the television screens people see Trump ahead before they turn in for the night.  But as more and more mail in ballots are counted, Trump’s lead falls.  Trump then announces, with no proof, that there has been massive mail in ballot fraud and that these votes should not be counted – and that he has won the election.

In other words, Trump may well announce that he has won the election before all of the votes are counted and that large numbers of mail in ballots should be discarded.

Furthermore, in states where Republicans control the legislature, it is possible that the election results will be ignored because of false accusations of voter fraud and that the legislature itself will use its power to appoint electors pledged to vote for Trump, overriding the will of the people. 

And, in the midst of all of this, with the death of Justice Ginsburg, Trump is attempting to push through a Supreme Court Justice who may very well cast a vote in a case that will determine the outcome of this election.  He is doing that at a time when early voting has already begun and millions of ballots will have already been cast.

In this unprecedented moment what can we as a people do in the struggle to preserve American democracy?  

First, it is absolutely imperative that we have, by far, the largest voter turnout in American history and that people vote as early as possible

As someone who is strongly supporting Joe Biden, let’s be clear: A landslide victory for Biden will make it virtually impossible for Trump to deny the results and is our best means for defending democracy.  

Second, with the pandemic and a massive increase in mail in voting, state legislatures must take immediate action now to allow mail in votes to be counted before Election Day – as they come in.  

In fact, 32 states allow for the counting or processing of absentee ballots – verifying signatures for example – before Election Day.  All states should do the same.  The faster all ballots are counted, the less window there is for chaos and conspiracy theories.  

Third, the news media needs to prepare the American people to understand there is no longer a single election day and that it is very possible that we may not know the results on November 3rd.  

Fourth, social media companies must finally get their act together and stop people from using their tools to spread disinformation and to threaten and harass election officials.

Fifth, in the Congress and in state legislatures hearings must be held as soon as possible to explain to the public how the election day process and the days that follow will be handled.  As we count every vote, and prevent voter intimidation everything possible must be done to prevent chaos, disinformation, and even violence.

Lastly, and most importantly, the American people, no matter what their political persuasion, must make it clear that  American democracy will not be destroyed.  Our country from its inception and through the sacrifices of millions has been a model to the world with regard to representative government.  In 1863, in the midst of the terrible Civil War, Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg stated that this government “of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

That was true then. That is true today.  Regardless of what Donald Trump wants the American people will preserve democracy in our country.

Biden, Decrying Trump’s Failure to Protect US Elections from Foreign Interference, States Actions He Would Take

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for President, issued a forceful statement decrying the Trump administration’s failure to protect America’s election and democracy from foreign interference, warning how the threat undermines America’s sovereignty and describing what he would do – indeed, what a functioning President and government should do – immediately upon taking office (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for President, issued a forceful statement decrying the Trump administration’s failure to protect America’s election and democracy from foreign interference, warning how the threat undermines America’s sovereignty and describing what he would do – indeed, what a functioning President and government should do – immediately upon taking office . Here is his statement:

Foreign interference in the U.S. electoral process represents an assault on the American people and their constitutional right to vote. When foreign states direct hackers, trolls, money launderers, and misinformation to subvert or cast doubt on our elections, they threaten America’s sovereignty, democratic institutions, and national security. They undermine the vote and the voice of every U.S. citizen. They attack our very way of life.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has concluded that the Kremlin’s interference in past elections represented “only the latest installment in an increasingly brazen interference by the Kremlin on the citizens and democratic institutions of the United States.” Despite the exposure of Russia’s malign activities by the U.S. Intelligence Community, law enforcement agencies, and bipartisan Congressional committees, the Kremlin has not halted its efforts to interfere in our democracy. In Senate testimony on July 23 2019, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that Russia was “absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections.” And on March 27, 2020, the State Department held a briefing describing how Russia was recklessly spreading disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. Russia is not the only foreign actor seeking to interfere in our democracy. Increasingly, other states have shown an interest in copying Russia’s tactics.

Congress passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017. The Trump administration has thus far failed to make adequate use of these authorities to counter and deter foreign election interference. Instead, President Trump has repeatedly denied that Russia interfered in our elections, most egregiously during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.

In spite of President Trump’s failure to act, America’s adversaries must not misjudge the resolve of the American people to counter every effort by a foreign power to interfere in our democracy, whether by hacking voting systems and databases, laundering money into our political system, systematically spreading disinformation, or trying to sow doubt about the integrity of our elections.

That is why, today, I am putting the Kremlin and other foreign governments on notice. If elected president, I will treat foreign interference in our election as an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation’s government. I will direct the U.S. Intelligence Community to report publicly and in a timely manner on any efforts by foreign governments that have interfered, or attempted to interfere, with U.S. elections. I will direct my administration to leverage all appropriate instruments of national power and make full use of my executive authority to impose substantial and lasting costs on state perpetrators. These costs could include financial-sector sanctions, asset freezes, cyber responses, and the exposure of corruption. A range of other actions could also be taken, depending on the nature of the attack. I will direct our response at a time and in a manner of our choosing.

In addition, I will take action where needed to stop attempts to interfere with U.S. elections before they can impact our democratic processes. In particular, I will direct and resource the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Department of State, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Foreign Interference Task Force to develop plans for disrupting foreign threats to our elections process. This will be done, wherever possible, in coordination with our allies and partners, so that we are isolating the regimes that seek to undermine democracies and civil liberties.

I have no desire to escalate tensions with Russia or any other country. I would prefer to focus the full energies of my administration on bringing the international community together to fight COVID-19 and the economic pain it has caused, and to tackle other pressing issues of international concern. But if any foreign power recklessly chooses to interfere in our democracy, I will not hesitate to respond as president to impose substantial and lasting costs.

Trump ‘Acquittal’ Triggers New Protests Vowing ‘We Will Remember in November’

Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

The widely anticipated vote to “acquit” Trump, impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, was never in doubt, though activists had hoped nationwide protests would shame Republicans into at least allowing witnesses and evidence into their show “trial”. But the activists are still determined for Trump to be held accountable – along with the Republicans in House and Senate who have been complicit enablers in higher and higher crimes and misdemeanors, breaching the public trust.

Mere hours after the Republicans voted to acquit – with the singular exception of Senator Mitt Romney who acknowledged Trump’s abuse of power – hundreds took to the streets, vowing to continue the protest, turn Trump out of office and “flip the Senate”. “We will remember in November,” they chanted as they marched from Columbus Circle, just across one of Trump’s Manhattan buildings, down 57th Street o Fifth Avenue, and passed the Trump Tower, to 42nd Street Public Library.

Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

About 2,500 people in all participated in the protest, met by fewer than a dozen pro-Trumpers.

They are calling for continued investigations and for Congressional oversight so that Trump isn’t able to skate away, as in the 2016 campaign, hiding his tax returns which most likely would have shown financial ties to Putin and Russian oligarchs (who made outsized donations to his inaugural and bought condos at inflated rates), and made secret payments to hush up a porn star, causing Trump to be labeled “Individual 1” in the prosecution of his “fixer” Michael Cohen, now imprisoned, and the 10 counts of obstruction of justice which the Mueller Probe found, saying they would have indicted but for a Department of Justice “policy” against indicting a sitting president.

Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In reaction, Trump, who used the State of the Union like a political rally  – even offering to broadcast the names of donors “live” – followed up with continued smears against any and all who have opposed him, even threatening to unleash the Department of Justice to do the very thing – political witch hunt – that he says he was the victim of. Except that there has never been any evidence or any testimony offered that contradicts the crimes he is accused of, only the abuse of his political power to extort complicity.

Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Indeed, it is now revealed that the Treasury Department, which has stonewalled lawful requests from Congress for Trump’s tax returns (it is actually a law), based on some sort of invasion of privacy of a US citizen, and has sequestered the mandated audit of Trump’s returns while in office, has been probing Hunter Biden to supply Senate Republicans with dirt.

The question is how long Republicans can ignore substantial majorities of people who want climate action, gun safety, immigration reform, voting rights and preservation of the Rule of Law and the fundamental premise that no one, not even a president, is above it.

There were more than 300 marches and protests around the country in towns large and small – marches in places from New York City and Petoskey, Michigan to Wasilla, Alaska; rallies in 46 states and Washington, D.C. and a “flash mob to say thank you to Sen. Romney” at his office in Salt Lake City.

Here are highlights from the rally, march and protest in New York City, one of dozens held around the nation on Wednesday, February 5, 2020:

Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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© 2020 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Klobuchar Releases Plan to Safeguard Elections, Strengthen Democracy and Restore Trust in Government

Senator Amy Klobuchar seeking to become the Democratic presidential nominee for 2020 on the debate stage, released her plan to safeguard elections, strengthen democracy and restore trust in government.   © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. In light of the threats to free and fair elections posed by Russian hacking, foreign interference, gerrymandering, Citizens United and voter suppression, and the impeachment proceedings unnerving public trust in government, Senator Amy Klobuchar has released her plan to safeguard elections, strengthen democracy and restore trust in government.  This is from the Klobuchar campaign:

Senator Amy Klobuchar released her plan to safeguard our elections, strengthen our democracy and restore trust in government.

Senator Klobuchar believes that everything we talk about getting done – from taking on climate change to gun safety to health care reform — will depend on one thing: a democracy that works for the people and making sure every vote counts.

Today insidious forces are working to suppress the vote and drown out people’s voices with dark money. And our intelligence agencies have confirmed time and time again that there have been foreign attacks on our elections, and that our elections remain a target. Republicans in the Senate have repeatedly blocked Senator Klobuchar’s bipartisan legislation to strengthen our election security while our country faces continued threats from foreign adversaries.

Senator Klobuchar believes it’s time to take back our democracy. She has been a leader in the fight to protect our elections from foreign interference, including by securing $380 million in election security funds in 2018 so states could improve their election infrastructure and protect their election systems from cyberattacks. She leads bipartisan legislation in the Senate that would protect our elections with paper ballots and post-election audits, as well as the bipartisan legislation that would promote accountability and transparency for political ads on the internet. 

Senator Klobuchar is also leading the effort in Congress to automatically register every American to vote when they turn 18, and she has fought for the passage of legislation that would restore the Voting Rights Act to take on discrimination at the polls. And she has worked to get dark money out of politics and restore trust in government dating back to her first month as a Senator, when she helped lead the successful push for meaningful ethics reform in Congress.

As President, Senator Klobuchar will champion a major voting rights and democracy reform package and she has already pledged that the For the People Act — legislation that has thirteen of Senator Klobuchar’s legislative provisions — will be the first bill she sends to Congress as President.

Strengthening Election Security and Regulating Online Political Ads

Promote accountability for political ads on the internet. Senator Klobuchar wrote and introduced the bipartisan Honest Ads Act, which would increase transparency and accountability for political ads on the internet by holding large online platforms to the same disclosure and disclaimer standards that apply to radio, broadcast, cable and satellite providers. As President, Senator Klobuchar will push to pass the Honest Ads Act, work to pass the PAID ADs Act — which she leads in the Senate — to make it illegal for foreign nationals to purchase election ads, and work to ban foreign nationals from involvement in decisions regarding political expenditures by corporations, PACs and Super PACs. She will work to prohibit online platforms from allowing political ads that discriminate against people and require online platforms to use human reviewers to approve political ads placed on their platforms. Today, there are no protections preventing misleading and outright false political ads online. That’s why Senator Klobuchar supports preventing social media companies from running political ads full of false claims and lies by holding them responsible.

Take on disinformation campaigns and foreign efforts to influence our elections. As President, Senator Klobuchar will require political campaigns to report any attempt by a foreign entity to influence our elections to the Federal Election Commission and Federal Bureau of Investigation. She will also prohibit U.S. political campaigns from offering non-public material to foreign entities. Senator Klobuchar will work to pass legislation based on the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Act, which she leads with Senator Cardin, to make it illegal to knowingly deceive others about how to participate in a federal election and to direct the Attorney General to work with states to counter voter intimidation. She will invest in media literacy education to teach students how to identify misinformation online, based on her Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act. Finally, she will work to pass the Combatting Foreign Influence Act, which she leads in the Senate, to direct the Director of National Intelligence to establish a Malign Foreign Influence Response Center to coordinate work across the intelligence community and law enforcement to assess foreign influence operations with a whole-of-government approach.      

Build U.S. cyber expertise to defend our elections. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make cybersecurity an immediate priority. She will issue an Executive Order launching government-wide cybersecurity initiatives, fast-tracking and streamlining procurement of modern information technology across agencies. She will launch a cabinet-level taskforce on election cybersecurity to coordinate across agencies, including the intelligence community, on how the federal government can work with state and local governments to address cyber threats to our democracy and infrastructure. She will also work to pass legislation based on the Invest in Our Democracy Act, bipartisan legislation she leads in the Senate, to provide grants to states for election officials to receive continuing education in cybersecurity and election administration.

Fortify state election infrastructure against cyberattacks. Senator Klobuchar leads the effort to require all jurisdictions to have paper ballots through her Election Security Act, but Senator McConnell and the White House have prevented the bill from coming to a vote. She also led the successful effort to secure $380 million for State Election Security Grants in 2018. As President, Senator Klobuchar will require states to use paper ballots, set strong cybersecurity standards for voting infrastructure, increase grants to states for upgrades to their voting infrastructure and promote the use of post-election risk-limiting audits. These proposals are based on Senator Klobuchar’s legislation, Senator Wyden’s Protecting American Votes and Elections Act of 2019, which Senator Klobuchar co-sponsors in the Senate, and the SAFE Act, which passed the House in June 2019. She will also require the Director of National Intelligence to assess election threats and work with the Department of Homeland Security and Election Assistance Commission to provide assistance to states to counter those threats. 

Eliminating Obstacles to Voting and Making It Easier to Vote 

Automatically register every American when they turn 18. Senator Klobuchar believes we must do more to reduce barriers to voting. In the Senate, she has championed the Register America to Vote Act to automatically register all eligible citizens on their eighteenth birthday and she will get it passed as President. Automatically registering voters in every state would result in 22 million newly registered voters in just the first year of implementation, according to the Center for American Progress. Senator Klobuchar will also launch a pilot program to provide resources for initiatives that provide 12th graders with voter registration information. This proposal is based on the Students VOTE Act, legislation Senator Klobuchar leads in the Senate. 

Restore the Voting Rights Act. Senator Klobuchar has long advocated for Congress to take action to address the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down key parts of the Voting Rights Act. As President, she will restore protections for voters in states with a recent history of discrimination. Senator Klobuchar will also champion the Native American Voting Rights Act, legislation she helps lead in the Senate, to provide the necessary resources and oversight to ensure Native Americans have equal access to the ballot box and the electoral process.

Prohibit voter purges and remove exact-match requirements. Senator Klobuchar has pushed to protect the constitutional rights of Americans from voter purges, which disproportionately impact minority, low-income, disabled, and veteran voters. In Georgia, former Secretary of State Brian Kemp purged over 1.4 million voters from the rolls and held up the voter registrations of 53,000 people because of things like a discrepancy over a hyphen in a last name. As President, Senator Klobuchar will pass her bill with Senator Brown, the SAVE Voters Act, to prohibit states from purging Americans from voter rolls for not voting in recent elections. The bill amends the National Voter Registration Act to prevent a state from using someone’s failure to vote or respond to a state notice as reason to target them for removal from voter rolls. Senator Klobuchar will also work with Congress to pass legislation requiring states to remove “exact-match” requirements and other unnecessary and discriminatory obstacles to registering to vote.   

Break down institutional barriers to voting. Senator Klobuchar believes we must do more to make it easier for Americans to vote — not harder. As President, she will champion reforms to break down institutional barriers to voting, including: 

Promote early voting and no-excuse absentee voting. Nine states do not offer early voting and in 19 states an excuse is required to vote absentee. Senator Klobuchar will push to make voting more convenient and support voter participation by working with states to establish early voting and no-excuse absentee voting nationwide. 

Establish minimum notification requirements for voters affected by polling place changes. Senator Klobuchar will stand up to attempts to suppress voter turnout by requiring states notify voters affected by polling place changes no later than seven days before the date of the election or the first day of an early voting period. 

Designate election day as a federal holiday. Senator Klobuchar will designate election day as a federal holiday. 

Establish Same Day Registration. In addition to championing her legislation to automatically register every American when they turn 18, Senator Klobuchar will also pass legislation she leads in the Senate, the Same Day Voter Registration Act, that requires states to allow people to register to vote on the same day as the election. 

Increase accessibility in voting for people with disabilities. Senator Klobuchar believes we need to make it easier for the voices of people with disabilities to be heard on Election Day. As President, she will strengthen requirements for increased accessibility at polling places and expand resources by providing grants for states to make it easier for people with disabilities to vote. 

Ensure ballots are counted from Americans living overseas and those serving in the military and their family members. Senator Klobuchar believes we should be doing everything we can to make voting easier for every American – including the 3 million Americans living overseas and more than 1.3 million active duty service members. Recently, she was successful in passing a provision in the Senate’s 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that would require Federal Voting Assistance Program to conduct a comprehensive study on how to scale a ballot tracking program for all military and overseas voters. As President, she will push to require states to ensure that all overseas voters receive their ballots at least 45 days before an election; improve the availability and transmission of absentee ballots abroad; and ensure that those ballots are counted by hand in any recount or audit. In addition, Senator Klobuchar will make sure that spouses of active duty service members do not have to change their legal residency each time they move for a military reassignment, a proposal that is based on the Support our Military Spouses Act, legislation she has championed in the Senate. 

Ensure that those affected by natural disasters can still vote. As the effects of climate change become more disruptive, Senator Klobuchar believes that it is especially important to ensure that natural disasters do not prevent Americans from voting. As President, she will ensure that people living in areas where an emergency has been declared, those who have been displaced by a natural disaster, and professional or volunteer service emergency responders have access to an absentee ballot. In addition, anyone who expects to be hospitalized on Election Day or is not able to receive a requested absentee ballot from their state or jurisdiction would also be eligible to receive an emergency ballot. This proposal is based on the Natural Disaster Emergency Ballot Act, legislation Senator Klobuchar has championed in the Senate.

Overhauling Our Campaign Finance System 

Overturn Citizens United. Senator Klobuchar believes that the surge in special interest cash in political campaigns since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision is undermining our elections and shaking the public’s trust in our elections. She will lead the effort to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and get the dark money out of politics.

Establish a public financing system and increase the power of small donors. Senator Klobuchar has long pushed for meaningful campaign finance reform to ensure the voices of average Americans are heard. As President, Senator Klobuchar will push to establish a campaign finance system to increase the power of small donors that matches 6-to-1 donations of $200 or less to eligible candidates. 

Reform the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Senator Klobuchar believes that gridlock in the FEC — including the recent lack in quorum — has prevented the Commission from fully playing its role in administering and enforcing federal campaign finance laws. She has called on President Donald Trump to work with the Senate to help reestablish a quorum by nominating a commissioner to fill the vacant Democratic seat. And as President she will advance critical reforms to ensure a fully functioning FEC, including reducing the number of members from 6 to 5, ensuring the Commission has an accountable Chair with clear distribution of duties between the Chair and the FEC, and preventing commissioners from remaining in office indefinitely as holdovers. This proposal is based on the Campaign Finance Transparency Act, legislation she leads in the Senate.

Increase transparency in political spending. Senator Klobuchar believes that we must do more to shine a light on the corporate dark money spending. As President, she will champion the passage of the DISCLOSE Act, legislation she co-sponsors in the Senate, requiring corporations, super PACs and certain non-profits to promptly disclose election spending of $10,000 or more and list any donor who gives over $10,000 to the organization.

Ensuring Free and Fair Elections

End partisan gerrymandering. Senator Klobuchar believes that partisan gerrymandering undermines the principles of our democracy. She has signed the Fair Districts Pledge developed by former Attorney General Eric Holder and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee to support fair redistricting that ends map manipulation and creates truly representative districts. Particularly in the wake of the 2019 Supreme Court decision that effectively gave the greenlight to politically manipulate congressional districts, Senator Klobuchar will require states to establish independent, bipartisan redistricting commissions that will develop fair statewide district maps following each decennial census. This proposal is based on the Redistricting Reform Act, legislation Senator Klobuchar leads in the Senate. 

Improve the treatment of provisional ballots. Senator Klobuchar will require states to establish uniform and nondiscriminatory standards for issuing, handling, and counting provisional ballots including requiring provisional ballots from eligible voters who voted at the wrong voting place to be counted. 

Restore Americans’ right to vote after being released from incarceration. Senator Klobuchar believes that Americans who have been released from incarceration should be able to exercise their right to vote. As President she will restore citizens’ right to vote after being released from incarceration. 

Restoring Trust in Government

Ensure that the President is not above the law. Senator Klobuchar believes we must take urgent action to reverse the harm President Trump has done to his office by openly flaunting the rule of law. She will instruct the Justice Department to withdraw the Office of Legal Counsel’s opinions prohibiting the indictment of a sitting president. She will also make it clear that the President and Vice President have to follow conflict of interest laws and require the President and major candidates for President to make their tax returns publicly available.

Overhaul ethics rules for White House employees and other senior officials. Senator Klobuchar believes that accountability starts at the top, and that in addition to strengthening accountability for the President, we must have the highest ethical standards for White House employees and other senior officials. Senator Klobuchar will strengthen investigations of foreign agents who lobby in the United States, give the Office of Government Ethics more enforcement power and provide additional protections for all Special Counsels. She will also publicly post executive branch ethics waivers and report senior officials’ conflicts of interest in rulemaking.

Strengthen protections for whistleblowers. Senator Klobuchar believes that the best way to encourage individuals with knowledge of wrongdoing to come forward is to provide and enforce strong protections for whistleblowers. Within her first 100 days in office, Senator Klobuchar will issue guidance affirming that the Department of Justice cannot intervene in the transmission of a whistleblower complaint to Congress under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act. She will also work with Congress to expand whistleblower protections, including for government contractors, and direct all federal agencies to fully implement whistleblower education and anti-retaliation plans.

Increase transparency and protect journalists. As the daughter of a newspaper man, Senator Klobuchar has always believed transparency and journalism are critical to our nation’s democracy. Within her first 100 days in office, she will restore former Attorney General Eric Holder’s guidance on protections for journalists so that they are not jailed for doing their jobs. Senator Klobuchar will also direct the Office of Legal Counsel to make all of its opinions publicly available unless there is a compelling national security reason to prevent their release. She will fully fund Freedom of Information Act offices within executive agencies and direct them to post FOIA requests online.

Read the full plan here.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Sanders Releases Plan to Get Corporate Money Out of Politics

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York. Senator Sanders, long a crusader to end corporate influence and corruption in the political system, unveiled his “Money Out of Politics” plan. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Bernie Sanders, long a crusader to end corporate influence and corruption in the political system, unveiled his “Money Out of Politics” Plan. This is from the Sanders campaign:

WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled his Money Out of Politics Plan, a comprehensive proposal to end all corporate influence and corruption in the political system. 

“Our grassroots-funded campaign is proving every single day that you don’t need billionaires and private fundraisers to run for president,” Sanders said. “We’ve received more contributions from more individual contributors than any campaign in the history of American politics because we understand the basic reality that you can’t take on a corrupt system if you take its money. Working people all over the country are responding to that message and demanding a political revolution through their small dollar donations. When we win the Democratic nomination and defeat Donald Trump, we will transform our political system by rejecting the influence of big corporate money.” 

Sanders’ plan will end the greed-fueled, corrupt corporate influence over elections, national party convention, and presidential inaugurations.  

In 2016, seventeen donors gave three-quarters of the Democratic National Convention funding, with large corporations like Comcast, Bank of America and Facebook donating millions. At the 2013 Presidential inauguration, corporate donors including, AT&T, Microsoft, and Chevron donated millions.  

As the Democratic nominee, Sanders would ban all corporate contributions to the Democratic Party Convention and all related committees, and as President he would be ban all corporate donations for inaugural events and cap individual donations at $500.  

Additionally, Sanders’ plan would abolish the now-worthless FEC and replace it with the  Federal Election Administration, a true law enforcement agency originally proposed by former Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold.  

Other key elements Sanders’ Money Out of Politics Plan include:

Enacting mandatory public financing laws for all federal elections. 

Updating and strengthen the Federal Election Campaign Act to return to a system of mandatory public funding for National Party Conventions. 

Passing a Constitutional Amendment that makes clear that money is not speech and corporations are not people.

Ending the influence of corporations at the DNC.

Banning donations from federal lobbyists and corporations. 

Institute a lifetime lobbying ban for National Party Chairs and Co-Chairs

Banning Chairs and Co-Chairs from working for entities with federal contract, that are seeking government approval for projects or mergers, or can reasonably be expected to have business before Congress in the future. 

Banning advertising during presidential primary debates.

Instituting a lifetime lobbying ban for former members of Congress and senior staffers. 

​​​​​​​The full plan can be found here

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Biden Details Ambitious Campaign Finance Plan to Insure Government Works for People, Not Special Interests

Former Vice President Joe Biden, seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, is proposing an ambitious plan to guarantee that government works for the people and not for special interests © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Former Vice President Joe Biden, seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, is proposing an ambitious campaign finance plan to guarantee that government works for the people and not for special interests. Biden has been criticized, however, for his recent announcement, in face of low campaign cash on hand, that he would accept money from Super PACs.

This is from the Biden campaign:

“Donald Trump has presided over the most corrupt administration in modern history. Trump has abused the presidency to enrich himself — spending countless tax dollars at his own properties. Members of his administration have failed to divest themselves from conflicts of interest as promised. Trump has weaponized the Executive Branch against its core mission, including using the U.S. Justice Department to protect the president and his interests, over the American people and the rule of law. And, Trump has welcomed wealthy special interests — including the National Rifle Association — into the Oval Office and to the highest levels of his administration to develop and guide policy.”

Biden will strengthen our laws to ensure that no future president can ever again abuse the office for personal gain. 

As president, Biden will:

Reduce the corrupting influence of money in politics and make it easier for candidates of all backgrounds to run for office;

Return integrity to the U.S. Department of Justice and to Executive Branch decision-making;

Restore ethics in government;

Rein in Executive Branch financial conflicts of interest; and 

Hold the lobbyists and those they lobby to a higher standard of accountability.

Highlights from Biden’s plan include:

Biden will introduce a constitutional amendment to entirely eliminate private dollars from our federal elections. This amendment will do far more than just overturn Citizens United: it will return our democracy to the people, away from the corporate interests that seek to distort it. While we work toward a constitutional amendment, meaningful change can be made by legislation. Biden will propose legislation to provide public matching funds for small dollar donations to all federal candidates. Biden has advocated for public financing of federal campaigns since the very beginning of his Senate career. He first co-sponsored legislation to create a public financing system for House and Senate candidates in 1973.

Biden will block any future president or anyone else in the White House from interfering with decisions about who or what to investigate and prosecute. On day one, Biden will issue an Executive Order directing that no White House staff or any member of his administration may initiate, encourage, obstruct, or otherwise improperly influence specific DOJ investigations or prosecutions for any reason; he will commit to terminating anyone who tries to do so. Biden will also enact legislation giving the DOJ Inspector General full power to investigate any allegation of improper partisan influence on DOJ investigations and prosecutions; and requiring the IG to report in detail to Congress any time such an allegation is substantiated. 

Biden will establish the Commission on Federal Ethics (CFE), a single government agency empowered to oversee and enforce federal anti-corruption and ethics laws. CFE will have the authority to enforce its own subpoenas and to refer matters for criminal investigation to the DOJ, as well as an obligation to report to the public when DOJ has chosen not to proceed with that referral. It will be tasked with tightening existing loopholes that let public officials hide assets in discretionary trusts, or let lobbyists cloak influence campaigns in vague disclosures. And, CFE will be tasked with establishing ethics.gov, a new one-stop destination with all campaign finance, financial disclosure, and lobbying information all in one place.

Biden will expand and strengthen lobbying disclosure laws, requiring the office-holder in addition to the lobbyist to disclose the meeting. And, Biden will require Members of Congress to disclose any legislative language or bill text submitted by any lobbying party. Additionally, Executive Branch officials will be required to disclose any regulatory text submitted by any outside entity. 

Biden will bar lobbying by foreign governments; and will require that any foreign business seeking to lobby must verify that no foreign government materially owns or controls any part of it.

Biden will enact legislation that requires all candidates for federal office disclose returns dating back 10 years prior to the date they declared their candidacy for their first federal office. 

FACT SHEET:
THE BIDEN PLAN TO GUARANTEE GOVERNMENT WORKS FOR THE PEOPLE

REDUCE THE CORRUPTING INFLUENCE OF MONEY IN POLITICS
 
Biden strongly believes that we could improve our politics overnight if we flushed big money from the system and had public financing of our elections. Democracy works best when a big bank account or a large donor list are not prerequisites for office, and elected representatives come from all backgrounds, regardless of resources. But for too long, special interests and corporations have skewed the policy process in their favor with political contributions.
 
Biden has advocated for public financing of federal campaigns since the very beginning of his Senate career. He first co-sponsored legislation to create a public financing system for House and Senate candidates in 1973. In 1997 and many years afterward, he co-sponsored a constitutional amendment that would have limited contributions as well as corporate and private spending in elections and prevented the damage caused by the Supreme Court in Citizens United
 
Biden will reform our campaign finance system so that it amplifies the voices of the public, not the powerful — particularly the voices of working Americans. Under his leadership, our system will make sure that the principles of equality, transparency, and public — not private — interest drive all government decisions. Toward those ends, Biden will:

Introduce a constitutional amendment to entirely eliminate private dollars from our federal elections. Biden believes it is long past time to end the influence of private dollars in our federal elections. As president, Biden will fight for a constitutional amendment that will require candidates for federal office to solely fund their campaigns with public dollars, and prevent outside spending from distorting the election process. This amendment will do far more than just overturn Citizens United:  it will return our democracy to the people and away from the corporate interests that seek to distort it. 

Enact legislation to provide voluntary matching public funds for federal candidates receiving small dollar donations. While we work toward a constitutional amendment, meaningful change can be made by legislation. Biden will propose legislation to provide public matching funds for small dollar donations to all federal candidates. This will especially help first-time candidates access the resources needed to compete, freeing them to focus on interacting with voters, not high-dollar donors.

Keep foreign money out of our elections. Biden will propose a law to strengthen our prohibitions on foreign nationals trying to influence federal, state, or local elections.  He will direct a new independent agency, the Commission on Federal Ethics (discussed in detail below), to assure vigorous and unified enforcement of this and other anti-corruption laws. The Commission will establish robust disclosure requirements, so that any online electioneering communication that originates abroad is identified and flagged.  

Restrict SuperPACs. The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United is wrong and should be overturned by a constitutional amendment – but we can’t wait to limit its pernicious effect. As president, Biden will work to enact legislation ensuring that SuperPACs are wholly independent of campaigns and political parties, from establishment, to fundraising and spending.  

Increase transparency of election spending.  Our campaign finance law is outdated, and Biden will update it to reflect the modern era. Too often, candidates and their allies now use online platforms like Facebook and Twitter to spread misleading or outright false ads that are micro-targeted to certain populations and unrecognized by the press. Biden will propose legislation codifying what should be a simple tenet of campaign finance law: any group that advocates for or against candidates for federal office in its ads or communications must disclose its contributors.  No more hiding behind “dark money” groups to spread lies. This law will require all online ads, how they’re targeted, and who paid for them to be posted by the groups to a public database on a new one-stop website, ethics.gov — so no one can target voters with misinformation without attracting media or political attention. 

End dark money groups. Federal law recognizes “social welfare” groups, also known as 501(c)(4)s, which were intended to advocate for specific causes. But after Citizens United, they’ve increasingly been used as dark money groups — spending hundreds of millions of dollars on federal and state elections without disclosing their donors. Biden will enact legislation to bar 501(c)(4)s from spending in elections – the same bar that applies to Section 501(c)(3) charitable groups. He’ll also lead reform of the Federal Election Campaign Act, to ensure that any entity of any kind that spends more than $10,000 on federal elections must register with the Commission on Federal Ethics and publicly disclose its donors. 

Require real time disclosure. Today, voters have to wait until after an election to fully learn who spent money to influence their decision. Biden will propose legislation to change that, by requiring campaigns and outside entities that run ads within 60 days of an election to disclose any new contributions within 48 hours.

Ban corporate PAC contributions to candidates, and prohibit lobbyist contributions to those who they lobby. Biden will ensure that lobbyists and corporate PACs do not play a role in our elections. Biden’s presidential campaign is refusing any funding from lobbyists and corporate PACs. As president, he’ll enact legislation to bar lobbyists from making contributions to, and fundraising or bundling for, those who they lobby. This legislation will be designed to ensure that the public knows as much as possible about the political spending of those who seek to influence officeholders and other government officials.  Any lobbyist contribution must be disclosed within 24-hours, and any lobbyist-hosted fundraising event must be disclosed before it occurs.

Reform funding for national party conventions. Biden will propose legislation establishing that any political party that receives more than 5% of the national vote should have its national convention publicly financed.  Primaries — and the conventions that certify their results — are good for democracy. Conventions should be, too. They should not be funded by corporate or monied interests. 

Close the federal contractor loophole. As president, Biden will close the loophole that currently allows officers and directors of federal contractors to contribute to federal candidates. If you make money from government contracts, you should do so on merit — not because of campaign spending.

RETURN INTEGRITY TO THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE AND OTHER EXECUTIVE BRANCH DECISION-MAKING
 
The Attorney General and the rest of U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) serve and protect the American people, not the private and political interests of the president. The same is true for other Executive Branch agencies. Yet time after time, President Trump has improperly sought to use DOJ to attack his political opponents and to shield him, his family, and his associates from any meaningful oversight or investigation. Trump has asked DOJ to prosecute Democrats and others who disagree with him; he has enlisted DOJ in his effort to keep his tax returns from seeing the light of day; and he has attacked the hard-working career prosecutors and agents who devote their lives to public service.
 
Trump has weaponized the DOJ against laws enacted by Congress and supported by the public — like the Affordable Care Act, which has given more than 20 million Americans access to health insurance that they lacked before.  He has similarly used his appointments and executive orders to ask Executive Branch agencies to stray from their mission — directing the Department of Health and Human Services to dismantle, rather than enforce, the Affordable Care Act and asking the Environmental Protection Agency to excuse polluters, rather than to ensure clean air and clean water for the American people, as the law requires.  It’s wrong.
 
To maintain the rule of law, and to bring integrity back to our justice system and government, Biden will take aggressive action, including:

Prevent the president or White House from improperly interfering in federal investigations and prosecutions. Biden will work to block any future president or anyone else in the White House from improperly interfering with decisions about who or what to investigate and prosecute. Those decisions must be based on the facts and the law alone, free from political or partisan influence. The president can set broad enforcement priorities, but he or she should never tell DOJ which specific people or companies to investigate or prosecute. On day one of his presidency, Biden will issue an Executive Order directing that no White House staff or any member of his administration may initiate, encourage, obstruct, or otherwise improperly influence specific DOJ investigations or prosecutions for any reason; and he will pledge to terminate anyone who tries to do so. Biden will also enact legislation giving the DOJ Inspector General full power to investigate any allegation of improper partisan influence on DOJ investigations and prosecutions; and requiring the IG to report in detail to Congress any time such an allegation is substantiated. And, Biden will work with Congress to strengthen our whistleblower laws, so that any federal employee who learns of an improper attempt to influence a DOJ investigation or prosecution knows how to report it and receives full protection against retaliation by anyone, including the president. Those reforms will also ensure that all such reports are transmitted directly to the Congress.

Increase transparency in DOJ decision-making. Biden will make DOJ policies and practices more transparent and accessible to the public. Too many of the Trump Administration’s worst decisions – whether claiming that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional or that DACA is illegal – were made without grounding in the law. Biden will require DOJ to report and explain in detail any change in position on a significant legal issue to Congress and the public.

Empower agency watchdogs to combat unethical behavior.  Biden will strengthen Inspectors General laws — which established watchdogs in nearly every Executive Branch agency — to give IGs the full subpoena power and independence they need to investigate and publicize any official’s actual or attempted improper conduct. Inspectors General must be given the express authority to prevent, investigate, and disclose all violations.

Prohibit improper interference in agency matters.  Biden will ensure that agency decisions on specific matters, like awarding government contracts or granting government permits, are based on merit and expertise, not on political preferences. Biden will issue an Executive Order prohibiting anyone in the White House from interfering with federal agencies on these matters, and he will require the White House to disclose to the public if any corporation, individual, or other entity tries to solicit White House help.  This information will be aggregated and made public by the Commission on Federal Ethics. 

Empower DOJ to enforce the law. Biden will ensure that DOJ has the resources and authority to enforce our laws, including those the Trump Administration has told career prosecutors and agents to ignore – laws that protect our voting rights, make discrimination illegal, and protect the environment. And, Biden will re-commit the Department’s Civil Rights and Energy and Natural Resources divisions to their missions. 

RESTORE ETHICS IN GOVERNMENT
 
For the eight years of the Obama-Biden Administration, there was not a hint of scandal. The administration established the most stringent ethics code ever adopted by any White House. Its procedures ensured that all decisions were made on the merits, without bias, favoritism, or undue influence. President Obama and Vice President Biden set clear expectations that the ethics code and existing law must be followed. 
 
The Trump Administration has shredded those standards. Trump is accepting foreign emoluments, and has disregarded his pledge not to expand his business overseas. And, Trump is using the federal government to prop up his resorts with countless tax dollars.
 
Many of our imperfect yet essential government ethics laws trace their origins to the country’s response to Watergate. As president, Biden will ensure that the country’s response to the Trump Administration’s violations is even more aggressive. Specifically, Biden will:

Establish the Commission on Federal Ethics to more effectively enforce federal ethics law. Biden will propose and enact legislation establishing a single government agency empowered to oversee and enforce federal anti-corruption and ethics laws. Today, existing law is a patchwork of subject-matter-specific mandates, overseen by agencies that often lack the authority to demand and receive compliance. And, public data tracking who is trying to influence our elected officials is equally patchworked and hard to find. This commission will make all information about how certain interests are seeking to influence our government easily accessible.

The office will have broad investigative and civil enforcement authority, expanding on powers now held by the FEC, OGE, and the Office of Special Counsel. It will have the authority to enforce its own subpoenas, ending the Trump Administration’s illegal stonewalling. It will have the power to refer matters for criminal investigation to the DOJ, and an obligation to report to the public when DOJ has chosen not to proceed with that referral. And it will be tasked with tightening existing loopholes that let public officials hide assets in discretionary trusts, or let lobbyists cloak influence campaigns in vague disclosures.

In addition, the Commission on Federal Ethics (CFE) will be tasked with establishing an ethics.gov, a new one-stop destination for Americans interested in learning about the elected and appointed officials who serve them, and those who seek to influence that service. It will compile campaign finance, financial disclosure, and lobbying information all in one place — and, as detailed in this plan, that information will be more comprehensive than ever. 

CFE Structure: To avoid the stalemate that afflicts some agencies today, CFE will be run by a five-member Commission, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, with no more than three commissioners from the same political party. Commissioners will hold office for staggered 10-year terms across presidential administrations, removable only for cause. Nominations to the Commission will be suggested by a blue ribbon panel of former prosecutors, judges, and state regulators. Only those with experience in prosecuting public corruption or regulating ethics and campaign finance will be eligible for appointment.

To monitor CFE effectiveness, and to ensure that it responds to all threats to ethical and transparent government, the Office will be advised by an 11-member CFE Oversight Board, comprised of bipartisan experts in ethics, campaign finance, and open government. The Board will report to CFE twice annually with recommendations on how to strengthen ethics enforcement; when the Board recommends updates, CFE will be bound to consider them publicly and to explain if any are not followed. 

Require that all candidates for federal office release tax returns dating back 10 years prior to the date they declared candidacy for their first federal office. Many Senate committees require nominees for Cabinet-level positions to provide their tax returns for inspection – because knowing how a person has earned their living can inform decisions on their suitability for office. If we require that of appointed officials, why do we expect less of elected-office seekers? The past 21 years of Biden’s federal tax returns have been released, open to inspection by voters and the media. As president, Biden will enact legislation requiring that every candidate for federal office disclose returns dating back 10 years prior to the date they declared their candidacy for their first federal office.

Expand on and codify into law the Obama-Biden Administration ethics pledge.  On day one, Biden will issue an ethics pledge, building and improving on the Obama-Biden Administration’s pledge, to ensure that every member of his administration focuses day-in and day-out on the best outcomes for the American people, and nothing else. The pledge will address not only the improper influence of lobbyists, but also any improper or inappropriate influence from personal, financial, and other interests – ensuring an extra layer of review and scrutiny whenever policy proposals or recommendations come from a conflicted source.

REIN IN EXECUTIVE BRANCH FINANCIAL CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
 
President Trump is using the Presidency to enrich himself. His Cabinet is full of members who’ve failed to follow through on promised divestments or recusals. Biden will renew public confidence in our democracy by ensuring that everyone in a position of public trust eliminates even the appearance that their financial holdings could influence decision-making.
 
As president, Biden will:

Prevent the president and other senior Executive Branch members from being influenced by personal financial holdings. No member of the Biden Administration will be influenced by personal financial holdings. As President, just as he did as Vice President, Biden will hold only Treasury bonds, annuities, mutual funds, and private residential real estate; likewise, any retirement plans benefiting Joe or Jill Biden will be in large-cap mutual funds. By Executive Order, Biden will demand strict compliance with ethics agreements that he will demand of each of his Cabinet and other senior administration officials. And, he will enact legislation strengthening these practices, so we’re never again exposed to self-enrichment like that seen in the Trump Administration.

Extend this standard to U.S. House and Senate members. Biden will work with Congress to enact legislation to apply similar standards to its members. 

Eliminate the trust loophole in existing financial disclosure law. The Ethics in Government Act requires candidates for federal office and senior Executive Branch officials to disclose their assets. It aims to give the public, media, and other government officials a chance to identify potential conflicts, and to demand recusal where appropriate. But candidates and public officials often transfer assets into trusts controlled by family members or close friends, and then disclose just the existence of the trust rather than the assets it holds. This loophole has allowed many senior officials — including President Trump — to avoid disclosing significant financial interests. Biden will work with Congress to close this loophole; and will meanwhile require that any member of his Administration who is a beneficiary of a discretionary trust disclose all of its holdings.

HOLD THE LOBBIED AND LOBBYISTS TO A HIGHER STANDARD OF ACCOUNTABILITY
 
Our government should operate in the public interest—making decisions on the merits, and not to meet the demands of well-heeled interests. The public has a right to know when lobbyists meet Members of Congress and Executive Branch officials; it should know with whom they speak, and about what. What’s more, lobbyists often provide draft legislative or regulatory language they hope to be enacted. That information should be made public, too. Today, our lobbyist regulations are filled with loopholes and only lobbyists and the corporate interests they represent are required to disclose far too little.. It is time that we strengthen our lobbyist rules and hold public officials accountable by making sure they meet these higher standards too.     
 
As president, Biden will:

Hold elected officials accountable for public transparency of lobbying meetings. Existing lobbying law focuses primarily on the people who are doing the lobbying. It is time the law expanded to include the public officials who are the subject of lobbying. If your Senator or Representative is meeting with a special interest group, you should know. If the Secretary of Education is making decisions about student debt after dozens of meetings with lenders, you should know that, too. Biden will expand lobbying disclosure laws, so the obligation for transparency falls on the office-holder, as well as on the lobbyist. Specifically, Biden will propose legislation to require elected officials to disclose monthly any meetings or communications with any lobbyist or special interest trying to influence the passage or defeat of a specific bill – whether seeking the officeholder’s vote, or assistance in introducing or developing legislation. Under the Biden plan, members of Congress will be required to disclose any legislative language or bill text submitted by any lobbying party. Executive Branch officials will be required to disclose any regulatory text submitted by any outside entity. And, members of Congress and senior executive branch officials will be required to develop and disclose any access policy they have that governs requests for appointments. The CFE will make all of that information publicly available. If an office-holder believes that meetings with particular entities serve the public, let them explain why.

Make lobbying disclosure meaningful. Lobbying law should effectively inform the public and discourage conduct that distorts government decision-making. But current law does neither. Disclosure requirements are riddled with loopholes, so lobbyists can coordinate a PR campaign without ever disclosing their work. Detailed campaigns can be shielded by vague references to lobbying a chamber of Congress. Influencers are free to disclose only general information about the laws and regulatory activity they are trying to shape, without revealing specifics. Biden will lower the threshold for when those seeking to influence government decisions must register as “lobbyists” — to include anyone who earns more than $1,000 annually to be involved in developing or overseeing a lobbying strategy. The law will require them to disclose in detail exactly what they’re doing: with whom they’re meeting, the materials they’re sharing, any specific legislative (or regulatory) language they are proposing, and precisely what outcomes they’re seeking.

Prohibiting foreign governments’ use of lobbyists. There is no reason why a foreign government should be permitted to lobby Congress or the Executive Branch, let alone interfere in our elections. If a foreign government wants to share its views with the United States or to influence its decision-making, it should do so through regular diplomatic channels. The Biden Administration will bar lobbying by foreign governments; and it will require that any foreign business seeking to lobby must verify that no foreign government materially owns or controls any part of it. 

Ensure truly public access. In Washington, the ability to schedule a meeting with an elected official or his or her staff is a form of currency. Under the Biden plan, members of Congress and senior Executive Branch officials will be required to develop and disclose to the public any policies that their office has instituted on when to accept or prioritize appointments. In addition, Biden will return to the Obama-Biden Administration practice of disclosing White House visitor lists. 

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Sanders Releases Plan to Get Corporate Money Out of Politics

Senator Bernie Sanders, seeking the Democratic nomination for President, has unveiled his plan to “end corporate corruption and return our elections back to the working class of America.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Bernie Sanders has unveiled his plan to “end corporate corruption and return our elections back to the working class of America.” This is from the Sanders campaign:

WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled his Money Out of Politics Plan, a comprehensive proposal to end all corporate influence and corruption in the political system. 

“Our grassroots-funded campaign is proving every single day that you don’t need billionaires and private fundraisers to run for president,” Sanders said. “We’ve received more contributions from more individual contributors than any campaign in the history of American politics because we understand the basic reality that you can’t take on a corrupt system if you take its money. Working people all over the country are responding to that message and demanding a political revolution through their small dollar donations. When we win the Democratic nomination and defeat Donald Trump, we will transform our political system by rejecting the influence of big corporate money.” 

Sanders’ plan will end the greed-fueled, corrupt corporate influence over elections, national party convention, and presidential inaugurations. 
 

In 2016, seventeen donors gave three-quarters of the Democratic National Convention funding, with large corporations like Comcast, Bank of America and Facebook donating millions. At the 2013 Presidential inauguration, corporate donors including, AT&T, Microsoft, and Chevron donated millions. 
 

As the Democratic nominee, Sanders would ban all corporate contributions to the Democratic Party Convention and all related committees, and as President he would be ban all corporate donations for inaugural events and cap individual donations at $500. 
 

Additionally, Sanders’ plan would abolish the now-worthless FEC and replace it with the  Federal Election Administration, a true law enforcement agency originally proposed by former Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold. 
 

Other key elements Sanders’ Money Out of Politics Plan include:

Enacting mandatory public financing laws for all federal elections. 

Updating and strengthen the Federal Election Campaign Act to return to a system of mandatory public funding for National Party Conventions. 

Passing a Constitutional Amendment that makes clear that money is not speech and corporations are not people.

Ending the influence of corporations at the DNC.

Banning donations from federal lobbyists and corporations. 

Institute a lifetime lobbying ban for National Party Chairs and Co-Chairs

Banning Chairs and Co-Chairs from working for entities with federal contract, that are seeking government approval for projects or mergers, or can reasonably be expected to have business before Congress in the future. 

 Banning advertising during presidential primary debates.

Instituting a lifetime lobbying ban for former members of Congress and senior staffers. 

​​​​​​​The full plan can be found here