Category Archives: Elections

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

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Senator Warren Would Tax Excessive Lobbying As Part of Her Anti-Corruption Proposal

Senator Elizabeth Warren, seeking the Democratic nomination for President, takes on the issue of corruption at a rally in Washington Square Park, New York City, that drew 20,000 people © 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 Elizabeth Warren details her plan to tax excessive lobbying as part of her anti-corruption proposal. This is from the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren recently unveiled her plan for a new tax on excessive lobbying. It applies to every corporation and trade organization that spends over $500,000 per year lobbying our government. The revenue from this tax will be used to help our government fight back against the influence of lobbyists. 

Based on our analysis of lobbying data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, if this tax had been in effect over the last 10 years, over 1,600 corporations and trade groups would have had to pay up – leading to an estimated $10 billion in total revenue. 

Senator Warren has already laid out how she will end lobbying as we know it and strengthen Congressional independence from lobbyists. (Read more about her plan here.)

Here is more about her plan to tax excessive lobbying:

When Americans think about corporate lobbyists, they usually think about the people in fancy suits who line the halls of Congress armed with donations, talking points, and whatever else they need to win favorable treatment for their big corporate clients. 

They’re right. In fact, corporate interests spend more on lobbying than we spend to fund both houses of Congress — spending more than $2.8 billion on lobbying last year alone. That’s why I have a plan to strengthen congressional independence from lobbyists and give Congress the resources it needs to defend against these influence campaigns. 

But corporate lobbyists don’t just swarm Congress. They also target our federal departments like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. These agencies exist to oversee giant corporations and implement the laws coming out of Congress – but lobbyists often do their best to grind public interest work at these agencies to a halt. 

When the Department of Labor tried to protect workers from predatory financial advisors who got rich by siphoning off large and unnecessary fees from workers’ life savings, Wall Street lobbyists descended on Washington to try to kill the effort – twice. When they failed the second time, they sued to stop it in the courts. 

When the Environmental Protection Agency decided to act on greenhouse gas emissions by passing regulations on methane, fossil fuel companies called in their lobbyists. The rule was dramatically weakened – and then Trump’s EPA went even further than some in the industry wanted by proposing to scrap the rule altogether

When the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau tried to crack down on payday lenders exploiting vulnerable communities, lobbyists convinced the Trump administration to cripple the rule – while the payday lenders who hired them spent about $1 million at a Trump resort. 

Regulatory agencies are only empowered to implement public interest rules under authority granted by legislation already passed by Congress. So how is it that lobbyists are able to kill, weaken, or delay so many important efforts to implement the law? 

Often they accomplish this goal by launching an all out assault on the process of writing new rules – informally meeting with federal agencies to push for favorable treatment, burying those agencies in detailed industry comments during the notice-and-comment rulemaking process, and pressuring members of Congress to join their efforts to lobby against the rule. If the rule moves forward anyway, they’ll argue to an obscure federal agency tasked with weighing the costs and benefits of agency rules that the rules are too costly, and if the regulation somehow survives this onslaught, they’ll hire fancy lawyers to challenge it in court. 

I have released the most sweeping set of anti-corruption reforms since Watergate. Under my plan, we will end lobbying as we know it. We will make sure everyone who is paid to influence government is required to register as a lobbyist, and we’ll impose strict disclosure requirements so that lobbyists have to publicly report which agency rules they are seeking to influence and what information they provide to those agencies. We’ll also shut the revolving door between government and K Street to prevent another Trump administration where ex-lobbyists lead the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, the Department of Interior, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. 

My plan also calls for something unique – a new tax on excessive lobbying that applies to every corporation and trade organization that spends over $500,000 per year lobbying our government. This tax will reduce the incentive for excessive lobbying, and raise money that we can use to fight back against this kind of onslaught when it occurs. 

Under my lobbying tax proposal, companies that spend between $500,000 and $1 million per year on lobbying, calculated on a quarterly basis, will pay a 35% tax on those expenditures. For every dollar above $1 million spent on lobbying, the rate will increase to 60% – and for every dollar above $5 million, it will increase to 75%. 

Based on our analysis of lobbying data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, if this tax had been in effect over the last 10 years, over 1,600 corporations and trade groups would have had to pay up – leading to an estimated $10 billion in total revenue. And 51 of them – including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Koch Industries, Pfizer, Boeing, Microsoft, Walmart, and Exxon – would have been subject to the 75% rate for lobbying spending above $5 million in every one of those years. 

Nobody will be surprised that the top five industries that would have paid the highest lobbying taxes are the same industries that have spent the last decade fighting tooth and nail against popular policies: Big Pharma, health insurance companies, oil and gas companies, Wall Street firms, and electric utilities. 

Among individual companies, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would have owed the most of any company or trade group in lobbying taxes: an estimated $770 million on $1 billion in lobbying spending – over $400 million more than the next-highest-paying organization, the National Association of Realtors, which would have paid $307 million on $425 million in lobbying spending. Blue Cross Blue Shield, PhRMA, and the American Hospital Association would have all paid between $149 and $163 million in taxes on between $213 and $233 million in lobbying spending. And General Electric, Boeing, AT&T, Business Roundtable, and Comcast round out the top ten, paying between $105 million and $129 million in taxes. 

Every dollar raised by the lobbying tax will be placed into a new Lobbying Defense Trust Fund dedicated to directing a surge of resources to Congress and federal agencies to fight back against the effort to bury public interest actions by the government. 

Corporate lobbyists are experts at killing widely popular policies behind closed doors. 

Take just one example from the Obama administration. In October 2010, the Department of Labor (DOL) proposed a “fiduciary rule” to protect employee retirement accounts from brokers who charge exorbitant fees and put their own commissions above earning returns for their clients. The idea was simple: if you’re looking after someone’s money, you should look out for their best interests. 

It’s an obvious rule – but it would cut into financial industry profits. So the industry dispatched an army of lobbyists to fight against the rule, including by burying the agency in public comments. In the first four months, the DOL received hundreds of comments on the proposed rule, including comments from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, BlackRock, and other powerful financial interests. After a public hearing with testimony from groups like Fidelity and J.P Morgan, the agency received over 100 more comments — including dozens from members of Congress, many of which were heavily slanted toward industry talking points. Because the law requires agencies to respond to each concern laid out in the public comments, when corporate interests flood agencies with comments, the process often becomes so time-consuming and resource-intensive that it can kill or delay final rules altogether – and that’s exactly what happened. On September 19, 2011, the DOL withdrew the proposed rule, but said that it planned to try again in the future. 

Undeterred, Wall Street pushed forward their lobbying campaign to ensure that the Department of Labor wouldn’t try again to re-issue the fiduciary rule. In June 2013, Robert Lewis, a lobbyist for an investment industry trade group, personally drafted a letter opposing this common-sense reform – and got 32 members of Congress to sign it. The letter ominously urged the Department to “learn from its earlier experience” when the financial industry had killed the first proposal. Soon, members of Congress from both parties were joining in, telling the Obama administration to delay re-issuing the rule. 

To its great credit, the Obama Department of Labor didn’t give up. On February 23, 2015, the agency finally re-proposed the rule. Wall Street ramped up their lobbying once more to try to kill it a second time. This time, with firm resolve and committed allies, DOL and those of us fighting alongside them beat back thousands of comments, and retirees won – but it took so long that Donald Trump became President before the rule fully went into effect. 

Trump came through for Wall Street: the new Administration delayed implementing the rule, and after financial firms spent another $3 million on lobbying at least in part on the rule, the Department of Justice refused to defend it in court. Today, the Department of Labor is led by Eugene Scalia, the very corporate lawyer and ex-lobbyist who brought the lawsuit to kill off the proposal. 

Lobbyists have followed this same playbook to block, narrow, or delay countless other common- sense industry regulations. Swarm regulators and Congress, bury everyone in an avalanche of money, and strangle government action in the public interest before it even gets off the ground. 

That’s why I’m using the revenue from my tax on excessive lobbying to establish a new Lobbying Defense Trust Fund, which will help our government fight back against the influence of lobbyists. 

First, we’ll use the Lobbying Defense Trust Fund to strengthen congressional support agencies. In my plan to strengthen congressional independence from lobbyists, I explained how lobbying tax revenue would help to reinstate the Office of Technology Assessment and increase the budget for other congressional support agencies, like the Congressional Budget Office. 

Second, we’ll give more money to federal agencies that are facing significant lobbying activity. Every time a company above the $500,000 threshold spends money lobbying against a rule from a federal agency, the taxes on that spending will go directly to the agency to help it fight back. In 2010, DOL could have used that money to hire more staffers to complete the rule more quickly and intake the flood of industry comments opposing it. 

Third, revenue from the lobbying tax will help to establish a new Office of the Public Advocate. This office will help the American people engage with federal agencies and fight for the public interest in the rule-making process. If this office had existed in 2010, the Public Advocate would have made sure that DOL heard from workers and retirees – even while both parties in Congress were spouting industry talking points.


My new lobbying tax will make hiring armies of lobbyists significantly more expensive for the largest corporate influencers like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Boeing, and Comcast. Sure, this may mean that some corporations and industry groups will choose to reduce their lobbying expenditures, raising less tax revenue down the road – but in that case, all the better.

And if instead corporations continue to engage in excessive lobbying, my lobbying tax will raise even more revenue for Congress, agencies, and federal watchdogs to fight back.

It’s just one more example of the kind of big, structural change we need to put power back in the hands of the people – and break the grip that lobbyists have on our government for good.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Senator Klobuchar Pledges ‘For the People’ Act to Protect the Right to Vote

Senator Amy Klobuchar has pledged that the For the People Act — legislation that contains 13 of Senator Klobuchar’s legislative provisions to improve access to the ballot box — will be the first bill she sends to Congress as President. (c) 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 Amy Klobuchar has pledged that the For the People Act — legislation that contains 13 of Senator Klobuchar’s legislative provisions to improve access to the ballot box — will be the first bill she sends to Congress as President. This is from the Klobuchar campaign:

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – The right to vote has been hard-fought and hard-won. Right now, insidious forces are working to take that right away. There are those who suppress the vote with intimidation, repress our voices with dark money, and refuse to address foreign attacks on our elections.

Not Senator Klobuchar.

Senator Klobuchar believes it’s time to take back our democracy. She’s 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. She’s also worked to get dark money out of politics and in her first month as a Senator, she helped lead the successful push for meaningful ethics reform in Congress.

At the same time, Senator Klobuchar is working to make it harder for foreign adversaries to interfere in our elections. In 2018, she secured $380 million in election security funds so states could improve their election infrastructure and protect their elections from attacks by foreign adversaries. And she’s leading legislation in the Senate to protect our elections with backup paper ballots, election audits, and accountability for political ads on the internet.

Senator Klobuchar has 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.

She will also champion a voting rights and democracy reform package that:

Eliminates obstacles to voting and makes it easier to vote by

Spearheading automatic voter registration for all eligible citizens on their eighteenth birthday by passing and signing into law Senator Klobuchar’s Register America to Vote Act 

Restoring the Voting Rights Act protections for voters in states with a recent history of discrimination

Breaking down institutional barriers to voting, promoting early voting, and prohibiting states from purging voters from rolls for not voting in recent elections by passing and signing into law Senator Klobuchar’s SAVE VOTERS Act

Establishing minimum notification requirements for voters affected by polling place changes

Designating election day as a federal holiday 

Working with states to assist voters with disabilities

Passing Same Day Registration to require states to allow people to register to vote on the same day as the election by passing and signing into law Senator Klobuchar’s Same Day Registration Act 

Ensures elections are free and fair by

Restoring citizens’ right to vote after being released from incarceration.

Ending partisan gerrymandering

Requiring backup paper ballots and providing election security grants to states for cyber improvements and audits as part of the Election Security Act — an effort Senator Klobuchar has led and continues to lead in the Senate 

Ensuring accountability for political ads on the internet by passing and signing into law Senator Klobuchar’s bipartisan Honest Ads Act

Ensuring ballots are counted from Americans serving in the military and their family members

Combating foreign interference campaigns by improving media literacy education that teaches students skills to identify misinformation online

Overhauls our campaign finance system by

Supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United 

Establishing a campaign finance system to increase the power of small donors through a multiple matching system for small donations

In addition, Senator Klobuchar has laid out a plan for her first 100 days that includes executive action she can take to strengthen our democracy immediately: 

Revive the aggressive protection of voting rights. Senator Klobuchar will restore the federal government’s longstanding position of challenging intentionally racially discriminatory voting laws. And while Congress works to restore the Voting Rights Act (VRA), Senator Klobuchar will direct the Department of Justice to use Section 3 of the VRA to “bail-in” jurisdictions to its preclearance requirements, allowing federal courts to place jurisdictions under the oversight requirement of the VRA.

Prioritize cybersecurity and protect our elections and other American infrastructure from cyber attack. 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 also 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 introduce legislation that provides election security funding, requires backup paper ballots, and requires campaigns to report contacts from foreign nationals seeking to interfere in an election to federal authorities.

Impose full sanctions on Russia for hostile act against the United States and its allies. In 2017, Congress passed legislation providing additional authorities for the President to impose sanctions on Russia in response to its election interference and other aggressive actions. The Trump Administration has resisted full implementation of these sanctions. Senator Klobuchar will use these authorities to the fullest extent possible to impose serious costs on the Putin regime and its enablers for hostile acts against the United States and our allies.

Shine a light on the corporate dark money spending. Senator Klobuchar will shine a light on the dark money by requiring publicly traded companies to disclose all political spending over $10,000 to their shareholders.

Bring transparency to dark money issue advocacy. Senator Klobuchar will direct the IRS to institute the requirement that tax-exempt organizations that engage in issue advocacy disclose to the IRS the names of individual donors who contribute more than $5,000 per year.

Restore protections for journalists and protect the First Amendment. Senator Klobuchar will restore former Attorney General Eric Holder’s guidance on protections for journalists so that they are not jailed for doing their jobs.

Overhaul ethics rules for White House employees and other senior officials. Senator Klobuchar will make clear that the President and Vice President must follow our conflict of interest laws, do more to investigate 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.

Ensure that the President is not above the law. Senator Klobuchar will instruct the Justice Department to withdraw the Office of Legal Counsel’s opinions prohibiting the indictment of a sitting president.

Fill judicial vacancies by nominating well-qualified judges on day one. Senator Klobuchar will waste no time in working with the Senate and the American Bar Association to nominate a full slate of well-qualified judges who will follow the law to fill judicial vacancies on federal courts on day one of her presidency.

Mueller Hearings: House Intel Chair Adam Schiff Decries Trump Campaign Cooperation with Russian Interference In Elections-A Story of Disloyalty, Greed, Lies

House Intelligence Committee Chairman gavels in hearings with Special Counsel Robert Mueller to address the findings of the Mueller Report © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

House Intelligence committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA), in his opening and closing statements for the historic hearings on July 24, 2019, set out the significance of the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Election, and the ramifications of the government’s failure to prevent such interference in future elections.

“When asked, ‘If the Russians intervene again, will you take their help, Mr. President?” ‘Why not?’ was the essence of his answer. ‘Everyone does it.’

“No, Mr. President, they don’t. Not in the America envisioned by Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton. Not for those who believe in the idea that Lincoln labored until his dying day to preserve, the idea animating our great national experiment, so unique then, so precious still, that our government is chosen by our people, through our franchise, and not by some hostile foreign power.

“This is what is at stake, our next election, and the one after that for generations to come. Our democracy.”

Here is the text of his opening and closing statements: – – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Your report, for those who have taken the time to study it, is methodical and it is devastating, for it tells the story of a foreign adversary’s sweeping and systemic intervention in a close U.S. presidential election.

That should be enough to deserve the attention of every American, as you well point out. But your report tells another story as well. The story of the 2016 election is also a story about disloyalty to country, about greed, and about lies.

Your investigation determined that the Trump campaign, including Donald Trump himself, knew that a foreign power was intervening in our election and welcomed it, built Russian meddling into their strategy and used it.

Disloyalty to country. Those are strong words, but how else are we to describe a presidential campaign which did not inform the authorities of a foreign offer of dirt on their opponent, which did not publicly shun it or turn it away, but which instead invited it, encouraged it and made full use of it?

That disloyalty may not have been criminal. Constrained by uncooperative witnesses, the destruction of documents and the use of encrypted communications, your team was not able to establish each of the elements of the crime of conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt, so not a provable crime in any event.

But I think maybe something worse: The crime is the violation of law written by Congress. But disloyalty to country violates the very oath of citizenship, our devotion to a core principle on which our nation was founded that we, the people and not some foreign power that wishes us ill, we decide who governs us.

This is also a story about money, and about greed and corruption. About the leadership of a campaign willing to compromise the nation’s interest not only to win, but to make money at the same time.

About a campaign chairman indebted to pro-Russian interests who tried to use his position to clear his debts and make millions. About a national security advisor using his position to make money from still other foreign interests.

And about a candidate trying to make more money than all of them put together through real estate project that to him was worth a fortune, hundreds of millions of dollars and the realization of a life-long ambition, a Trump Tower in the heart of Moscow. A candidate who, in fact, viewed his whole campaign as the greatest infomercial in history.

Donald Trump and his senior staff were not alone in their desire to use the election to make money. For Russia, too, there was a powerful financial motive. Putin wanted relief from U.S. economic sanctions imposed in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and over human rights violations.

The secret Trump Tower meeting between the Russians and senior campaign officials was about sanctions. The secret conversations between Flynn and the Russian ambassador were about sanctions. Trump and his team wanted more money for themselves, and the Russians wanted more money for themselves and for their oligarchs.

But the story doesn’t end here either, for your report also tells a story about lies. Lots of lies. Lies about a gleaming tower in Moscow and lies about talks with the Kremlin. Lies about the firing of FBI Director James Comey and lies about efforts to fire you, Director Mueller, and lies to cover it up. Lies about secret negotiations with the Russians over sanctions and lies about WikiLeaks. Lies about polling data and lies about hush money payments. Lies about meetings in the Seychelles to set up secret back channels and lies about a secret meeting in New York Trump Tower. Lies to the FBI, lies to your staff, and lies to this committee. Lies to obstruct an investigation into the most serious attack on our democracy by a foreign power in our history.

That is where your report ends, Director Mueller, with a scheme to cover up, obstruct and deceive every bit as systematic and pervasive as the Russian disinformation campaign itself, but far more pernicious since this rot came from within.

Even now after 448 pages and two volumes, the deception continues. The president and his accolades say your report found no collusion, though your report explicitly declined to address that question, since collusion can involve both criminal and noncriminal conduct.

Your report laid out multiple offers of Russian help to the Trump campaign, the campaign’s acceptance of that help, and overt acts in furtherance of Russian help. To most Americans that is the very definition of collusion, whether it is a crime or not.

They say your report found no evidence of obstruction, though you outlined numerous actions by the president intended to obstruct the investigation.

They say the president has been fully exonerated, though you specifically declare you could not exonerate him.

In fact, they say your whole investigation was nothing more than a witch hunt, that the Russians didn’t interfere in our election, that it’s all a terrible hoax. The real crime, they say, is not that the Russians intervened to help Donald Trump, but that the FBI investigated it when they did.

But worst of all, worse than all the lies and the greed, is the disloyalty to country, for that, too, continues.

When asked, “If the Russians intervene again, will you take their help, Mr. President?” “Why not?” was the essence of his answer. “Everyone does it.”

No, Mr. President, they don’t. Not in the America envisioned by Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton. Not for those who believe in the idea that Lincoln labored until his dying day to preserve, the idea animating our great national experiment, so unique then, so precious still, that our government is chosen by our people, through our franchise, and not by some hostile foreign power.

This is what is at stake, our next election, and the one after that for generations to come. Our democracy.

This is why your work matters, Director Mueller. This is why our investigation matters, to bring these dangers to light.

Closing Statement:

Director Mueller, let me close by returning to where I began. Thank you for your service and thank you for leading this investigation. The facts you set out in your report and have elucidated here today tell a disturbing tale of a massive Russian intervention in our election, of a campaign so eager to win, so driven by greed, that it was willing to accept the help of a hostile foreign power, and a presidential election decided by a handful of votes in a few key states.

Your work tells of a campaign so determined to conceal their corrupt use of foreign help that they risked going to jail by lying to you, to the FBI and to Congress about it and, indeed, some have gone to jail over such lies. And your work speaks of a president who committed countless acts of obstruction of justice that in my opinion and that of many other prosecutors, had it been anyone else in the country, they would have been indicted.

Notwithstanding, the many things you have addressed today and in your report, there were some questions you could not answer given the constraints you’re operating under. You would not tell us whether you would have indicted the president but for the OLC only that you could not, and so the Justice Department will have to make that decision when the president leaves office, both as to the crime of obstruction of justice and as to the campaign finance fraud scheme that individual one directed and coordinated and for which Michael Cohen went to jail.

You would not tell us whether the president should be impeached, nor did we ask you since it is our responsibility to determine the proper remedy for the conduct outlined in your report. Whether we decide to impeach the president in the House or we do not, we must take any action necessary to protect the country while he is in office.

You would not tell us the results or whether other bodies looked into Russian compromise in the form of money laundering, so we must do so. You would not tell us whether the counterintelligence investigation revealed whether people still serving within the administration pose a risk of compromise and should never have been given a security clearance, so we must find out.

We did not bother to ask whether financial inducements from any gulf nations were influencing this U.S. policy, since it is outside the four corners of your report, and so we must find out.

One thing is clear from your report, your testimony from Director Wray’s statements yesterday, the Russians massively intervened in 2016, and they are prepared to do so again in voting that is set to begin a mere eight months from now.

The president seems to welcome the help again. And so, we must make all efforts to harden our election’s infrastructure to ensure there is a paper trail for all voting, to deter the Russians from meddling, to discover it when they do, to disrupt it, and to make them pay.

Protecting the sanctity of our elections begins, however, with the recognition that accepting foreign help is disloyal to our country, unethical, and wrong. We cannot control what the Russians do, not completely, but we can decide what we do and that the centuries old experiment we call American democracy is worth cherishing.

Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren Announces Plan to Protect Vote, Election Security, Strengthen our Democracy

Democratic Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren, US Senator from Massachusetts, proposes a sweeping, comprehensive plan to protect access to the ballot box and the security of elections © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Charlestown, MA – Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, Democratic US Senator from Massachusetts, released her plan to make voting easy and convenient and secure our elections from threats both foreign and domestic:

Elections are the foundation of our democracy, but in the United States – the greatest democracy in the world – our government treats voting like it’s one of the least important things we do. We have around 8,000 election jurisdictions all doing their own thing. They are overstretched, under-resourced, and their technology is often laughably out of date.

Voting should be easy. But instead, many states make it hard for people to vote. We have all heard stories about polling places running out of ballots, computer problems causing delays, ballot designs confusing voters, and extremely long lines preventing working people from voting. And on top of these administrative issues, racist and partisan officials often deliberately seek to stop citizens from exercising the right to vote. States have purged names from the voter rolls, limited same-day registration, closed polling places in communities of color, used voter ID laws to try to disenfranchise Native Americans, and even placed restrictions and criminal penalties on efforts to register new voters.

Our elections should be as secure as Fort Knox. But instead, they’re less secure than your Amazon account. State and local officials take their jobs seriously, but they often don’t have the resources to secure their elections. Even then, it’s hard for local officials to defend against attacks from foreign governments. In the 2016 election, the Russian government tried to infiltrate at least 39 state election systems and at least one election equipment company. They tried to spear-phish more than 100 local election officials’ email accounts. They even successfully broke into several voter registration databases. 

The harsh truth is that our elections are extremely vulnerable to attack: Forty-two states use voter registration databases that are more than a decade old. Laughably, in 2019, some still use Windows 2000 and Windows XPTwelve states still use paperless machines, meaning there’s no paper trail to verify vote counts. Some states don’t require post-election audits. And ten states don’t train election officials to deal with cybersecurity threats. This is a national security threat, and three years after a hostile foreign power literally attacked our democracy, we’ve done far too little to address it. 

We need a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to vote. But the moral necessity of this amendment shouldn’t stop us from acting now. The federal government already has the power to regulate federal elections, secure our democracy, and put a stop to racist voter suppression. 

Under our Constitution, Congress can regulate the “Times, Places, and Manner,” of federal elections. This power is so broad that even Justice Scalia believed this provision gives Congress “authority to provide a complete code for congressional elections.” Congress also has the power to enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments to prevent voting discrimination, and the power of the purse to grant money to the states to meet federal standards. It’s time to draw on these constitutional powers to strengthen our democracy. 

Enough is enough. It is time to make high-quality voting in the greatest democracy in the world easy, convenient, and professional. It’s time to secure our elections from all threats, foreign and domestic. It’s time to address election security, administration problems, and voter suppression. 

Here’s how my plan will work:

  • Federal elections get state-of-the-art federal machines, federal ballots, and federal security. Right now some jurisdictions use dated machines that are easily hackable with no paper trail. Ballot design is all over the place. No more. The federal government will replace every voting machine in the country with state-of-the-art equipment and require adoption of a uniform federal ballot. And we will lock all federal voting technology systems behind a security firewall like it’s Fort Knox.
  • Federal standards for federal elections. We have 8,000 election jurisdictions running elections. Problems with resources, malfeasance, and errors are rampant. No more. We will have federal standards to ensure everyone can vote, including mandating automatic and same-day registration, early voting, and vote by mail. My plan will mean no more arbitrary voter purges. No more registration issues. And no more gerrymandering. We will also make Election Day a holiday to make it easier for people to get to the polls.
  • Enforce the law and expand access – through incentives where possible, and with federal authority where necessary. My plan will give states cutting-edge voting equipment and election security protocols, all paid for by the federal government, and states will be required to follow all federal standards for federal elections. States who also choose to meet these requirements in their state elections can work through federal-state partnership agreements to have those elections fully funded by the federal government, too – and we’ll give them a bonus for achieving high voter turnout rates. And where racist or corrupt politicians refuse to follow the law, the federal government will temporarily take over the administration of their federal elections to guarantee the fundamental right to vote.
     

Securing Our Elections

Under my plan, federal elections will get state-of-the-art federal machines, federal ballots, and federal security.  The federal government will replace insecure and outdated systems with hand-marked, voter-verified paper ballot machines. To prevent hanging-chads and other confusing ballot designs, we’ll have uniform federal ballots all across the country that are based on easy-to-use design principles. The federal government will also provide every polling location with accessible ballot machines for people with disabilities and conduct research into how to improve voting security and accessibility for all people, including those with disabilities and people for whom English isn’t their primary language. 

Through a new independent Secure Democracy Administration, which will replace the Election Assistance Commission and be staffed by civil servants, the federal government will manage the cybersecurity aspects of elections and develop additional security procedures for election administration and the end-to-end handling of ballots. States will implement these additional security measures, and will receive technical assistance and training from the Secure Democracy Administration. In addition, states will be required to conduct risk-limiting audits prior to certifying elections – and we’ll have independent oversight of those audits.
 

Establishing Binding Federal Standards for Federal Elections

Our elections are never going to be secure, fair, or workable with so many jurisdictions each making their own rules — especially when some officials deliberately manipulate those rules to stop people from voting. Under my plan, we’ll have a uniform set of federal election standards that achieve four goals:

No more registration problems. My plan will mandate automatic voter registration and same-day registration for federal elections. State and federal government agencies will automatically register voters and transfer that information to state elections officials, and voters can opt-out, if they choose. Every state will also be required to offer same-day registration, which acts as a fail-safe for anyone who is mistakenly left off the rolls. 

No more voter purges. Under my plan, states will be banned from removing voters from the election rolls unless the voter affirmatively requests to be removed or there is objective evidence of a legitimate reason to remove them, like death, change of address, or loss of eligibility to vote. We will also re-enfranchise those who have served their time and left prison.  

No more difficulties voting. We will make Election Day a national holiday, and all federal elections will have a minimum of 15 days of early voting, expanded voting hours, the option to vote with a sworn statement of identity instead of an ID, convenient polling locations, and voting by mail. And we will pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Native American Voting Rights Act to shut down a host of festering discriminatory practices.  

No more gerrymandering. Under my plan, states will be required to use independent redistricting commissions to draw federal congressional districts to prevent gerrymandering. Both parties should compete on a level playing field; not in a rigged game designed to suppress the will of the people.  
 

Enforcing the law and expanding access – through incentives where possible, and with federal authority where necessary

Our democracy shouldn’t be about keeping people out – it should strive to bring everyone to the polls. Under my plan, states will receive new state-of-the-art machines and federal election security, all paid for by the federal government, and they will also be obligated to comply with the federal standards for federal elections. But we should make voting easier in all elections – federal, state, and local. I’m proposing a federal-state partnership so that states will have a strong financial incentive to follow these rules in their state and local elections as well — and to maximize voter turnout.

Here’s how it will work: the federal government will pay the entirety of a state’s election administration costs, as long as the state meets federal standards in its state and local elections and works to make voting more convenient. States will create state implementation plans, describing how they will adhere to federal law and increase access to voting (e.g. location of polling places). The Secure Democracy Administration will review state implementation plans for compliance with federal law, election security protocols, potentially racially discriminatory impacts, and efforts to make voting more convenient. States that achieve high percentage voter turnout, including across racial, gender, and age groups, will be awarded additional bonus payments. All plans will be finalized well in advance of Election Day, and states will provide data on their election activities. If a state does not participate in the federal-state partnership, but a local jurisdiction within the state wishes to do so, the local jurisdiction can work with the federal government to create a local implementation plan and it will get access to federal funds to cover its election administration costs.  

States can choose to follow their own rules for their state and local elections. But if they do, they won’t receive new funding for administering state elections beyond election security measures, and they will still have to administer federal elections in accordance with federal law – including preclearance for any changes that might have a discriminatory impact under the Voting Rights Advancement Act. 

If state or local election officials choose to ignore these federal rules and instead move to violate them, my plan will give the Secure Democracy Administration the authority to seek a court order to step in and guarantee that every voter has access to the polls unless or until the state shows its intent to fully comply with federal law. The right to vote is a fundamental right, and we will not let racist and corrupt politicians undermine it or our democracy. 

Our democracy is too important for it to be under-resourced and insecure. We need to do everything we can to make sure our elections are convenient, professional, and secure — and we should be willing to pay for it. Based on estimates of national election administration expenses, recent state efforts to upgrade their election systems, and assessments of the costs of new machines and audits, to cover these costs, we would allocate around $20 billion over ten years, which includes around $15 billion for election administration and around $5 billion for election security. This investment can be fully paid for with revenue generated from the Ultra-Millionaire Tax.

Democracy hangs on the idea that whoever gets the most votes wins. Politicians are supposed to compete over how many voters they can persuade, not how many they can disqualify or demoralize. And we have a solemn obligation to secure our elections from those who would try to undermine them. That’s why the Constitution gives Congress the tools to regulate the administration of federal elections. It’s time to pick up those tools and use them.

Read more about Warren’s plan here 

Elizabeth Warren Declares Her Candidacy for President

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, at a rally in the mill town of Lawrence, declares her candidacy for President © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Elizabeth Warren, the senior Senator from Massachusetts, launched her campaign for President in Lawrence, a small mill town which was the site 100 years ago, textile workers, led mainly by women, went on strike to demand fair wages, overtime pay and the right to join a union.  She laid out a platform built on rebuilding the middle class, strengthening democracy, equal justice under law.

Here are highlights from her speech:

A little over 100 years ago, the textile mills in Lawrence employed tens of thousands of people, including immigrants from more than 50 countries.

Business was booming. The guys at the top were doing great. But workers made so little money that families were forced to crowd together in dangerous tenements and live on beans and scraps of bread. Inside the mills, working conditions were horrible. Children were forced to operate dangerous equipment. Workers lost hands, arms, and legs in the gears of machines.

One out of every three adult mill workers died by the time they were 25.

But one day, textile workers in Lawrence – led by women – went on strike to demand fair wages, overtime pay, and the right to join a union.

It was a hard fight. They didn’t have much. Not even a common language. But they stuck together.

And they won. Those workers did more than improve their own lives. They changed America. Within weeks, more than a quarter of a million textile workers throughout New England got raises. Within months, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to pass a minimum wage law.

And today, there are no children working in factories. We have a national minimum wage. And worker safety laws. Workers get paid overtime, and we have a forty-hour work week.

The story of Lawrence is a story about how real change happens in America. It’s a story about power – our power – when we fight together.

Today, millions and millions of American families are also struggling to survive in a system that has been rigged by the wealthy and the well-connected.

And just like the women of Lawrence, we are ready to say enough is enough.

We are ready to take on a fight that will shape our lives, our children’s lives, and our grandchildren’s lives: The fight to build an America that works for everyone….

Over the years, America’s middle class had been deliberately hollowed out. And families of color had been systematically discriminated against and denied their chance to build some security.

The richest and most powerful people in America were rich, really rich – but they wanted to be even richer – regardless of who got hurt.

So, every year, bit by bit, they lobbied Washington and paid off politicians to tilt the system just a little more in their direction. And year by year, bit by bit, more of the wealth and opportunity went to the people at the very top.

That’s how, today, in the richest country in the history of the world, tens of millions of people are struggling just to get by.

This disaster has touched every community in America. And for communities of color that have stared down structural racism for generations, the disaster has hit even harder.

We can’t be blind to the fact that the rules in our country have been rigged against people for a long time – women, LGBTQ Americans, African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, immigrants, people with disabilities – and we need to call it out.

When government works only for the wealthy and well-connected, that is corruption – plain and simple. It’s time to fight back and change the rules….

Enough is enough, enough is enough.

[Enough is enough. Enough is Enough, the crowd responds.]

They will say it is “Class warfare” – they’ve been waging class warfare against middle class for decades. It’s time to fight back.

To protect their economic advantage, the wealthy and well-connected have rigged our political systems as well. They have bought off, bullied politicians in both parties to make sure Washington is always on their side, some even try to buy into office..The economy is working great for oil companies, government contractors, private prisons, great for Wall Street banks and hedgefunds, but not anyone else.

Because of Climate Change, our existence is at stake, but Washington refuses to lift a finger without permission from fossil fuel companies. That is dangerous and wrong.

It isn’t just climate change – any other major issue in America – gun violence, student loan debt, crushing cost of health care, mistreatment of veterans, broken criminal justice system, an immigration system that lacks commonsense and under this administration, lacks a conscience. Overwhelming majorities want action – huge crowds march on Washington demanding change, there are letters, phone calls, protests – but nothing happens.

Why? Because if you don’t have money and y9ou don’t have connections, Washington doesn’t want to hear from you.

When government works, only for wealthy and well connected that is corruption plain and simple, and we need to call it out.

Corruption is a cancer on our democracy, and we will get rid of it only with strong medicine, with real structural reform.

Our fight is to change the rules, so that our government, our economy, our democracy work for everyone.

I want to be crystal clear about exactly what I mean:

First we need to change the rules to clean up Washington, end the corruption.

We all know trump administration is most corrupt in living memory – but even after Trump is gone, it won’t do just to do a better job of running a broken system. We need to take power in Washington away from the wealthy and well connected and put it back in hands of people where it belongs.

That is why proposed strongest, most comprehensive anti corruption laws since Watergate.

Examples: shut down the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington; end lobbying as we know it; ban foreign governments from hiring lobbyists in Washington, and make justices of US Supreme Court follow a basic code of ethics.

Ban members of Congress from trading stocks. How is that not already illegal?

And just one more: make every single candidate for federal office put their taxes on line – I’ve done it.

2: Change the rules to put more economic power in the hands of the American people. Workers and small businesses, middle class families and people of color have been shut out of their chance to build wealth for generations. That requires real structural change. Right now, giant corporations in America have too much power, just roll right over everyone else. Put power back in hands of workers. Make it quick and easy to join a union. Unions built America’s middle class and will rebuild America’s middle class.

Make American companies accountable for their action;  raise wages by putting workers into corporate board rooms where real decisions made; break up monopolies when choke off competition; take on Wall Street banks so big banks can never again threaten security of our economy.  And when giant corporations and their leaders cheat customers, stomp out competitors and rob workers, let’s prosecute them.

One more thing: I am tired of hearing that we can’t afford to make real, real investments in child care, college and Medicare for All.  I am tired of hearing we can’t afford to make investments in things that create economic opportunities for families, investments in housing and opioid treatment, that we can’t afford to address things like rural neglect or the legacy of racial discrimination, I am tired of hearing what we can’t afford because it’s just not true.

We are the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. Of course we can afford these investments. But we need a government that makes different choices- choices that reflect our values – stop handing out enormous tax giveaways to rich people and giant corporations. Stop refusing to invest in our children. Stop stalling on spending money, real money, on infrastructure and clean energy and a Green New Deal.

Start asking the people who have gained the most from our country to pay their fair share. And that includes real tax reform in this country, reforms that close loopholes and giveaways to people at the top and an ultra millionaires’ tax to make sure that rich people do their part for the country that made them rich.

3: Change the rules to strengthen our democracy.

That starts with a constitutional amendment to protect the right of every American citizen vote and have that vote counted.

And that’s just the beginning.

Overturn every single voter suppression rule that racist politicians use to steal votes from people of color.

Outlaw partisan gerrymandering – by Democrats or Republicans.

Overturn Citizens United, our democracy is not for sale.

It’s not just elections. Real democracy requires equal justice under law. It’s not equal justice when kids with ounce of pot gets thrown in jail, while bank executive who launders money for drug cartel gets a bonus. We need reform.

It’s not equal justice when for the exact same crime, African Americans are more likely than whites to be arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced. Yes we need criminal justice reform and we need it now.

We must not allow those with power to weaponize hatred and bigotry to divide us. More than 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr went to Montgomery and warned us of danger of division, how bigotry and race bating used to divide blacks from white Americans so rich people can keep picking all their pockets – that playbook around forever, whether straight against gay, middle class against poor – same – rich and powerful use fear to divide us. We’re done with that. Bigotry has no place in the Oval Office.

This is who we are – we come from different backgrounds, religions, languages, experiences. We have different dreams. We are passionate about different issues, and we feel the urgency of this moment in different ways, but today, today we come together ready to raise our voices together until this fight is won.

Our movement won’t be divided by our differences, it will be united by the values we share. We all want a country where everyone, not just the wealthy, everyone can take care of their families; where every American, not just the ones who hire armies of lobbyists, lawyers, can participate in democracy, a country where every child can dream big and reach for real opportunity and we are in the fight to build an America that works for everyone.

I get it – this won’t be easy – a lot of people with money, power, armies of lobbyists and lawyers, people who are prepared to spend more money than you and I could ever dream of to stop us from making these solutions a reality – people who will say, extreme or radical to demand an America where every American has economic security and every kid has opportunity to succeed.

I say, get ready, because change is coming faster than you think.

[Change is coming, change is coming, the crowd roars.]

This kind of fundamental change will be hard – a lot of people, including some of our friends, will say it’s so hard, it’s not worth trying. But we will not give up. When I was home with my first baby, I had the notion to go to law school. It was a crazy idea, but I persisted. It took some time but eventually I figured out admissions, applications, how to pay tuition, mapped out the 45 minute commute to campus. Weeks out, there was just one more thing: child care.

My daughter Amelia was nearly 2 years old. I looked for childcare but everywhere, I struck out over and over. So down to the weekend before law school would start, I finally found small place with cheerful teacher, play area, nothing smelled funny, I could afford it. But the place would only take children who were dependably potty trained. I looked over at Amelia – 5 days to dependably potty train and almost 2 year old. I stand before you today courtesy of 3 bags of M&Ms and a cooperative toddler.

Since that day – never let anyone tell me that anything is too hard.

How they have tried.

People said it would be too hard to build an agency that would stop big banks from cheating Americans on mortgages, credit cards. We got organized. To date, big banks have paid $12 billion to those they cheated.

When Republicans tried to sabotage the agency, I came back to Massachusetts and then ran against one of them. No woman had ever won a Senate seat in Massachusetts, and people said it would be “too hard” for me to get elected. But we got organized, we fought back, we persisted, and now I am the senior Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

So, no, I am not afraid of a fight. Not even a hard fight.

When the women of the Everett Mill walked out from their machines and out into that cold January air all those years ago, they knew it wouldn’t be easy, but they knew what was at stake for themselves and their families, and they weren’t going to tell anyone it was too hard – doubters told abolitionists, the suffragettes, the foot soldiers of civil rights movement, it’s just too hard, but they all, all kept going and they changed the history of America.

Sure, there will be plenty of doubters and cowards and armchair critics this time around. But we learned a long time ago that you don’t get what you don’t fight for. We are in this fight for our lives, for our children, for our planet, for our futures – and we will not turn back.

So here is the promise I make to you today: I will fight my heart out so that every kid in America can have the same opportunity I had – a fighting chance to build something real.

And here’s a big piece of how we’ll get it done: We’ll end the unwritten rule of politics that says anyone who wants to run for office has to start by sucking up to rich donors on Wall Street and powerful insiders in Washington.

I’m not taking a dime of PAC money in this campaign or a single check from a federal lobbyist. I’m not taking applications from billionaires who want to run a Super PAC on my behalf. And I challenge every other candidate who asks for your vote in this primary to say exactly the same thing.
We’re going to keep building this campaign at the grassroots.

Amidst Reports of Russian Election Hacking, Cuomo Unveils Steps to Strengthen NYS CyberSecurity

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo takes new steps to further secure New York State’s elections infrastructure and protect against foreign interference © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In the wake of Donald Trump’s apparent indifference to the continued threat of Russia and other actors against elections, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a comprehensive initiative with the State Board of Elections to further secure New York State’s elections infrastructure and protect against foreign interference. The initiative will help County Boards of Elections strengthen their election cyber security in the face of foreign threats after the Department of Justice released an indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking during the 2016 elections, which also alleged that Russian intelligence officers hacked into the website of a yet-unidentified state board of elections.

In the FY 2019 budget, Governor Cuomo secured $5 million to expand and further support statewide election cyber security infrastructure. The State will solicit contracts in the next few days for three independent services for County Boards of Elections, including: 1) cyber security risk assessments; 2) enhanced intrusion detection devices; and 3) managed security services. The State’s Secure Election Center, managed by the State Board of Elections, will also provide statewide, uniform cybersecurity training to all state and county election officials and staff prior to the Midterm Elections.

“While President Trump stands by those who seek to undermine our democracy, New York is taking aggressive action to protect our elections from foreign interference,” Governor Cuomo said. “There is nothing more sacred than democracy, and New Yorkers should know that when they cast their ballot that their vote is safe. The groundbreaking cyber security initiative we launch today will harden and protect our election infrastructure from the very real threat of foreign meddling. While the President has abdicated his responsibility to defend this country and left our electoral system open to sabotage by foreign adversaries, New York is fighting back and leading the way.”

“The integrity of our Elections system is our number one priority,” Co-Executive Director of the State Board of Elections Robert A. Brehmsaid. “The State Board has and will continue to diligently work and collaborate with our federal, state and county partners to strengthen and protect our elections infrastructure from any interference.”

“We have been working diligently since the 2016 election to improve security at the State Board, including our statewide voter registration database and networks with our counties,” Co-Executive Director of the State Board of Elections Todd D. Valentine said. “These additional services will ensure publicly facing applications and infrastructure for the county boards of elections will be more secure and better position the entire state elections system to respond to cyber incidents.  These new revelations only serve to confirm that the measures we have taken so far to protect our elections are necessary and we have to remain vigilant as we move into the mid-term elections.”

This initiative builds on Governor Cuomo’s commitment to ensuring the integrity of elections in New York State. The State will execute contractsbeginning the first week of August through the Office of General Services on behalf of the State Board of Elections.

Comprehensive Risk Assessment for all County Boards of Election

The State Board of Elections will contract for professional services to conduct a comprehensive, uniform and verified risk assessment at every County Board of Elections. The State Board of Elections has conducted a County Board of Elections risk survey to gain an understanding of the security posture of each county board. This risk assessment will build off the county risk survey.  This contract will provide a uniform and verified third party risk assessment which is critical in ascertaining a security baseline for our statewide elections infrastructure.

Enhanced Intrusion Detection Systems and Managed Security Services for County Boards of Election 

Additionally, the State Board of Elections will contract for a vendor to provide enhanced intrusion detection systems and managed security services for all the County Boards of Elections. An intrusion detection system is a system that monitors network traffic for suspicious activity and issues alerts when such activity is discovered. Managed Security Services correlate logs/traffic and creates actionable reports on malicious cyber activity. Quote solicitations will seek to identify qualified companies on backdrop contracts that can fulfill the request for these services.

Cyber Security Training Program

The Secure Elections Center, housed in NYSBOE, will provide uniform online technical training courses and security awareness programs to all state and county election officials and staff. These web-based trainings will be provided prior to the 2018 Midterm Elections. As part of these trainings, officials and staff will learn cyber-hygiene, best email practices and how to identify phishing campaigns, among other topics.

This initiative will build upon Governor Cuomo’s efforts to safeguard New York State elections including:

  • The State Board of Elections recently concluded a first-of-its-kind series of six regional tabletop exercises to identify risks and safeguard the election process against a cyber-attack.  The State Board is coordinating with the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide three on-line tabletop exercises in August 2018 for county election and IT professionals.
  • Following the Governor’s 2018 State of the State proposals in January, New York was recognized as having one of the most secure elections systems in the nation in the Center for American Progress’ recent report.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said, “With the Trump administration putting our country at risk and continuing to ignore the reality of Russian election interference, it’s up to New York to lead the way once again to protect the integrity of our elections. Sadly, we can’t count on the current federal government to protect us from threats of foreign election meddling. Our new cyber security initiative will give New Yorkers peace of mind as they go to the ballot box and will protect our democracy from those who seek to cause harm.”

William Pelgrin, Co-Chair of Governor Cuomo’s Cyber Security Advisory Board, Founder of the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), CEO of CyberWA, Inc., and Board Director and Global Strategic Advisor for Global Cyber Alliance, said, “This announcement again demonstrates Governor Cuomo’s and New York’s strong commitment toward an enhanced cyber security posture. This initiative will greatly assist County Board of Elections by facilitating the process to identify and deploy key essential layers of cyber security. Cyber security risk assessments and intrusion detection devices are critical layers of preparedness to understand one’s computing infrastructure and what is required to address any associated risks as well as continuously monitoring that environment for malicious activities.”

Richard Clarke, Governor Cuomo’s Cyber Security Advisory Board Member, Chairman and CEO, Good Harbor Consulting, LLC and Former White House Counter-Terrorism and Cyber Security Advisor, said, “Given the Intelligence Community’s assessment that Russian efforts to interfere in our democracy continue, Governor Cuomo’s steps to protect the election infrastructure are commendable and should be immediately copied by other states.”

New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Roger Parrino said, “Security of our election process is paramount. These initiatives support our state and local partners to strengthen our election cyber infrastructure from those who seek to manipulate our election process.”

New York State Office of General Service Commissioner RoAnnDestito said, “Governor Cuomo has been clear that secure elections are fundamental to democracy and these steps by the Board of Elections will help further protect this process in New York State.”

After Trump tried to undo the damage of his statements in Helsinki by claiming that he “misspoke” when he left out “not” regarding whether Russia was to blame for hacking the 2016 election, Cuomo took him to task.

“Mr. President: Do you think the American people are stupid? You’re the leader of the free world – you don’t misspeak when it comes to our foreign enemies. You shamefully defended those who tried to sabotage our democracy, and now Congress must decide if your remarks or actions were in fact treasonous.

“While it’s clear we cannot rely on this federal government to protect the sanctity of our elections, New York will do everything in its power to.  In light of this potential foreign interference, today we announced a groundbreaking cyber security initiative to strengthen our election infrastructure.  I urge Congress to step up and do the same.”

In Helsinki, Trump had said, “I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server.” The next day, in a room full of Republican Congressmembers, Trump claimed that he should have said, “would not be”.

 

Cuomo Calls on New York Lawmakers to Vote to Codify Roe v Wade Protections in Special Session

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo with JoAnn Smith, CEO of Nassau County Planned Parenthood, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas and members of Planned Parenthood. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was joined today by Nassau County leaders at a rally in New Hyde Park to fight to protect women’s reproductive rights. State and local leaders called on the Senate to return to Albany to codify Roe v. Wade into New York State Law. The rally follows the federal government’s decision Monday night to nominate Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The Governor vowed to take action to defend New York’s progressive values against the extreme conservative agenda of the Trump Administration, including the fight to codify the protections of Roe v. Wade into state law. New actions were also announced by the Governor on Monday to protect reproductive rights in anticipation of this Supreme Court Justice nomination.

“This federal government is threatening basic values New York and this entire nation were built upon, and while extreme conservatives in Washington make destructive decisions that violate the rights of our residents, New York is fighting to protect the progressive accomplishments that we have made,” Governor Cuomo said. “I call on every Senate Republican to come back and reconvene in Albany – no excuses. The Assembly will support codification of Roe v. Wade, I will sign the bill, the Senate Democrats will vote in favor of it and we will pass Roe v. Wade for New York.”

At a rally on Long Island, Governor Andrew Cuomo vowed to take action to defend New York’s progressive values against the extreme conservative agenda of the Trump Administration, including the fight to codify the protections of Roe v. Wade into state law. New actions were also announced by the Governor on Monday to protect reproductive rights in anticipation of this Supreme Court Justice nomination. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Noting that elections have consequences, Cuomo laid out the challenge to return to Albany to codify Roe into state law as a line in the sand.

“When you’re talking to our friends the Republican Senators, remind them in 1970, before Roe v. Wade, which was 1973, this state legalized abortion. 1970. With a Republican Senate and a Republican Governor because we understood it wasn’t a partisan issue, it was a fairness issue. It was a health issue. It was an equality issue. It was a woman being able to control her own body issue. We did it in 1970, don’t tell me in 2018 the Republican Senate is going to go backwards from 1970. We have to call to question. Elections have consequences and this is binary. They’re with us, they’re against us. And if they don’t come back, if they don’t codify Roe v. Wade, you know what we’re going to say?

“In the immortal words of President Trump, to the senators who won’t come back and sign a bill, you’re fired. We’re protecting the women in the state of New York. Women’s rights come first. Let’s sign the state Executive Order.”

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul who attended a similar rally to protective reproductive rights with Governor Cuomo in Yonkers earlier, said, “I lost my seat in Congress over my steadfast support of the Affordable Care Act and the contraception mandate, and I know how critically important it is to protect these rights at the state level. That is why I stand with the Governor and the women of this great state in fighting back to ensure protections and safety for women when it comes to their reproductive health. Given all that is happening in Washington, these actions will protect women’s reproductive rights. As President of the State Senate, I’m also calling on Senate Republican leadership to protect the women of this state and pass the Reproductive Health Act and codify Roe v. Wade. No one should tell us what to do with our bodies. Not now, not ever.”

For years, Governor Cuomo has pushed to codify the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision and subsequent rulings into state law to secure women’s access to reproductive health options, and noted that Republicans made a pretense of supporting women’s rights but blocked any consideration on the floor based on the federal protection under Roe. Now the Governor is calling their bluff and calling for the passage of legislation to protect the right of women to make personal health care decisions and ensure that health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty. The Assembly has passed legislation to codify the protections of Roe v. Wade for the last six years, including during the 2018 Legislative Session.

Additionally, through regulations by the Department of Financial Services and Department of Health, as directed by the Governor on Monday, New York State will ensure an insurer must cover over the counter emergency contraception in addition to all other contraceptive drugs, devices or other products for women approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration and, as well as the dispensing of 12 months of contraceptive at one time, all without co-insurance, co-pays or deductibles. The Executive Order signed by the Governor on Monday, in addition to today’s rally, builds on Governor Cuomo’s 2018 Women’s Agenda: Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity.

The updated DFS regulation mandates that health insurers:

  • Expand coverage requirements for contraceptive drugs, devices or other products for women approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration. Require coverage for emergency contraception with no cost sharing when acquired in any lawful manner including on an over the counter basis from an out of network pharmacy;
  • Permit a woman to fill 12 months of a prescribed contraceptive at one time, removing the previously required three-month trial period;
  • Cover voluntary sterilization procedures for women and over-the-counter contraceptives without cost-sharing; and
  • Do not place restrictions or delays on contraceptive coverage not otherwise authorized under the regulation.  This provision would prohibit quantity limits and other such restrictions.

The regulation codifies guidance issued in January 2017 regarding information that must be provided in formularies regarding contraceptives, including noting which contraceptives are covered without cost-sharing.  Insurers will be required to publish an easily accessible, up-to-date, accurate and complete list of all covered contraceptive drugs, devices and other products on their formulary drug lists, including any tiering structure and any restrictions on the manner in which a drug may be obtained.

The accompanying DOH regulations permit a woman insured through Medicaid to fill 12 months of a prescribed contraceptive at one time, whereas previously, the limit was three months.

A copy of the proposed regulations can be found here.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signs executive order to expand access to contraception, as 3-year old Emily Mollar, with her mother, Sue, of Merrick, look on, along with Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Nassau County Planned Parenthood CEO JoAnn Smith, and other women’s rights advocates. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Women’s rights are under attack. Another Trump-appointed Justice will guarantee an ultra-conservative Court that is even more hostile to women’s health care protections. This will have dire consequences if we don’t act because New York decriminalized abortion before the Roe v. Wade decision,” Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “The women of New York State are looking to us to protect their hard-won rights, and we must not fail them.”

“The administration in Washington is preparing yet another assault on women’s reproductive rights with the nomination of an ultra-conservative Supreme Court justice. Earlier this year, and in countless previous legislative sessions, the New York State Assembly passed legislation to codify Roe v. Wade,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “Year after year, our Republican colleagues in the Senate neglect to pass this legislation, insisting there is no threat to Roe v. Wade. Their inaction has shamefully put women’s reproductive health care in jeopardy. It’s time to codify Roe v. Wade. No more excuses.”

“The Trump Administration is committed to ensuring that millions of women across America lose essential access to the health care they absolutely require. We are facing an unprecedented attack on our health care, and rights by a federal government determined to replace evidence-based medically accurate public policy with politically driven ideology,” Robin Chappelle Golston, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, said. “Governor Cuomo is standing up today to remind the nation that New York won’t go backwards; we won’t sit back quietly as our rights evaporate and we will resist this dismantling of our constitutionally protected rights.”

“Armed with a Supreme Court vacancy, the Trump regime is poised to pack the court in an effort to undo Roe v. Wade and curtail abortion to an extent not seen since 1973. New York can no longer put off fixing our state’s broken abortion law,” New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “The Reproductive Health Act would take abortion out of the criminal code so that New York can be a safe-haven where women and their health are valued and protected. That means codifying Roe and ensuring access to the information and services women — including pregnant women — need to protect their health.”

Andrea Miller, President of the National Institute for Reproductive Health said, “Governor Cuomo’s executive order today proves that, regardless of what happens at the federal level, states have tremendous power to shape their own state laws and can act now to protect women from the full-blown assault on their reproductive health and rights. The best defense against a hostile Supreme Court and Trump-Pence Administration is a strong state-level offense. States around the country should take note of this action – and Governor Cuomo’s previous regulations – and help lead the movement for reproductive freedom from the ground up.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo stands with Planned Parenthood at rally in New Hyde Park, Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Cuomo Draws Line in the Sand for State Republican Lawmakers

Cuomo said that with the Trump administration dismantling rights – civil rights, voting rights, environmental and financial protections, a woman’s right to choose – it is up to the states to take action.

“Every day this federal government does something that is shocking to our senses…It’s shocking to us in New York because we are the exact opposite. We’re night and day from who they are and what they believe so we’re continually in a state of shock, but they are doing what they said they were going to do, and elections have consequences.

“And it is a wake-up call to all of us. My daughters, you know if you’re 21, 22, 23, young women you never even questioned your reproductive rights. You grew up in a generation where you just assumed, you know Roe v. Wade was 1973. 1973. Generations just grew up assuming this was the way it was. Couldn’t even imagine that a woman wouldn’t have the right to control her own body. That’s what they are saying. And they are serious. And it’s not just politics and this isn’t just a game. They are doing it. They’re doing what they said they would do

“They have their own view of what religions are right and what lifestyles are right and what sexuality is right and who should be an American and who shouldn’t be an American, and they are going to enforce that. It’s the greatest act of political hypocrisy, because conservatives used to stand for limited government, right? Less federal government. Leave it to the states, leave it to the individual rights.

“They are on track to overturn Roe v. Wade. That’s what they want to do. That’s what they’ve wanted to do since it was passed in 1973. And it is a shock to the system. How could we possible go back to those days? Who even remembers what it was like before, when a woman couldn’t have an abortion? How many lost their lives, were damaged because of what they had to do in that situation? And that is what we’re looking at. They are pro-life.

“They also have their view of sexuality and they don’t agree with the LGBTQ community and that’s why they treat them as second-class citizens. Wanted to keep transgender out of the military, regardless of service, regardless of merits. They believe who should be an immigrant and who shouldn’t be an immigrant. A little hypocritical since we’re all immigrants, but they now decide they’re going to close the door. The separation of family policy – isn’t that a coincidence? They knew exactly what they were doing. They wanted to stop people at the border. The first point was, build a wall. I am going to build a big wall, nobody can come. The President didn’t get a wall so he went to the “zero tolerance” policy. And now what he says to families is, if you show up, I’m going to take your children from you and send them to a place where you don’t even know where they are. He knew exactly what he was doing. It was a deterrent to stop people from coming when he couldn’t get the wall.

“They’re going to tell you which religion is right. They don’t believe that Muslims are an appropriate religion, and that’s the travel ban. They don’t believe with labor unions. Thank God for the teamsters. They don’t want labor unions. They just passed the Janus decision with the Supreme Court because they don’t want these annoying unions being able to organize employees, making it harder for management to negotiate with the workforce. It’s who they are and what they said they were going to do. And it is a frightening reality.

“We believe the opposite and it’s incumbent on us to act. To act. We’re not going to let them change our values. We’re not going to let them change or philosophy. We’re not going to let them change the way we treat one another. We’re not going to let them change our tolerance to intolerance. We’re not going to allow them to divide us. They’re not going to pick who has the right lifestyle and who has the right religion and who has the right sexuality and who has the right income level to deserve respect. We’re not going to let them do that.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was joined today by Nassau County leaders at a rally in New Hyde Park to fight to protect women’s reproductive rights: NH Councilwoman Lee Seeman, NC Legislator Ellen Birnbaum, North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, Planned Parenthood NC CEO JoAnn Smith, Town Clerk Wayne Wink, NH Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, Nassau CountyExecutive Laura Curran. State and local leaders called on the Senate to return to Albany to codify Roe v. Wade into New York State Law. The rally follows the federal government’s decision Monday night to nominate Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Federal government has rights, but you know what there was before the federal government? There were state governments and there were states’ rights. And states have the ability to stand up and act. And when they wouldn’t do anything in the face of the #MeToo movement, this state stood up and said, we’re going to pass the strongest anti-sexual harassment law in the United States of America. When they separated families at the border, this state stood up and said, that’s unconstitutional, it’s illegal, it violates due process, and we’re suing the federal government to put those families back together and to stop the separation.

“And we have to do the same thing on the issue of choice. They are going to overturn Roe v. Wade. We need a New York State law that codifies Roe v. Wade into the New York State law. And we need that law in place before they overturn Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court. Now, we’ve been trying to get the New York State legislature, the Senate, to pass a New York State Roe v. Wade. That’s all the law would say. Take the federal ruling in Roe v. Wade—1973—and enact it into a state law.

“Currently, the New York State law is not as strong as Roe v. Wade because we had Roe v. Wade. And I’ve been arguing with the Republicans in the Senate, frankly, why don’t we codify it into New York state law? And the Republican Senators have been saying to me, well we have Roe v. Wade. We don’t need it. No one would be crazy enough to overturn Roe v. Wade. That’s the answer JoAnn has been getting for years when Planned Parenthood would lobby for New York State law. We don’t need it, we have Roe v. Wade. Well you know what? Now we need it. Now we need it.

“And I want the New York State Senators to come back today, tomorrow, to go to Albany, and pass and New York State Roe v. Wade, period. And no excuses. No excuses. For years they’ve been doing this dance, the Republican Senators. Privately they say, I’m pro-choice, I’m pro-choice. When the bill comes up, I’m going to vote pro-choice. [Planned Parenthood of Nassau County CEO]JoAnn [Smith] will tell you. But then, they never let the bill come up. We tried to force a vote this legislative session. They won’t put the bill on the floor. Why? It’s a little game they play. It allows them to say privately, when the bill comes up, I’ll vote yes. But, the bill never comes up, so they can tell one audience, yes, I’m pro-choice. Then they can go to another audience and say, we’ll never pass choice in the state of New York.

“We have to call to question. This is binary. This is black and white. You are either pro-choice or you are not pro-choice and we don’t have Roe v.Wade to fall back on anymore. It’s only what we have in New York State law. And the New York State law does not go as far as Roe v. Wade and if we have only the New York State law, we’re in trouble. It does not do life and health. It is in the criminal code. We will have a problem. We need that law. We have to call to question and we have to say to the Republican Senators who have been having it both ways for too long, that’s over. You are with us or against us. And if you are with us don’t just tell me. Go up to Albany and pass a bill. That’s how I know that you are with the women and the men of this state who support choice. That’s what it has to be.

“In the meantime, I’m going to sign an Executive Order that guarantees the women in this state the right to contraception. I don’t care what the insurance company says or what the bureaucracy says. Women have the right to contraception. But we have to learn the lesson, my friends. Elections have consequences. Elections have consequences. And this is a wakeup call. If what they did on immigration and unions and what they did to Muslims wasn’t enough, this is an attack on every woman’s rights to control her own reproductive health in the United States of America. This is a direct attack on what we knew in 1970.”

Nassau County leaders who joined the Governor today in calling on the State Senate to reconvene and codify Roe v. Wade into state law included:

  • Nassau County Executive Laura Curran
  • Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas
  • Nassau County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum
  • Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth
  • Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Anna Kaplan
  • Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Lee Seeman
  • Town of North Hempstead Clerk Wayne Wink
  • Town of Hempstead Clerk Sylvia Cabana
  • JoAnn Smith, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of Nassau County
  • Rebecca Sanin, President and CEO, Health and Welfare Council of Long Island
  • Matty Aracich, President, Nassau and Suffolk Building Trades Council

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