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Gronstal et. al. Beholden to $$$

Be sure to read today’s op-ed piece in the “DM Register” by Barb Kalbach. Also, leave a comment to show your support. It’s pretty clear where our Democrat Leaders stand on VOICE and why. They need to be held accountable for this bill. Between VOICE and CAFO, should both of these bills die in committee, could leave a black stain on the new Dem. Majority’s first session.

http://desmoinesregi…

Pass public financing for Iowa campaigns

By BARB KALBACH

IOWA VIEW

In his leadership position, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal raises exorbitant amounts of cash and doles it out to candidates as he sees fit.

According to the Institute on Money in State Politics, Gronstal raised more than $500,000 in the 2006 election cycle. More than 75 percent of the money raised for his committee during that period, $426,250, was contributed to the Iowa Democratic Party.

Gronstal’s ability to raise and allocate campaign cash is how he retains his power and influence in the Senate. He raised more money than any Senate candidate in the 2006 cycle – and he wasn’t up for re-election.

Now Gronstal and his colleagues are going to create a 527 committee, named for its designation in the IRS tax code. A 527 is created primarily to influence elections through the use of “issue advocacy” ads that avoid regulation by the Federal Election Commission. These groups raise practically unlimited amounts of money from individuals and corporations. Since a 527 is not required to report its source of funds to the FEC, the industries and interests giving money to these groups are seldom disclosed.

Gronstal told the Register that he doesn’t approve of 527s, but said, “Even though I don’t necessarily like the rules, I’ll play by the rules as effectively as my competitors.” The competitor he’s referring to is Rep. Christopher Rants, the House Republican leader who has successfully used his Iowa Leadership Council to raise large amounts of money from the beer, tobacco and car-title loan industries, among others.

Our elections don’t have to be this way – high-stakes shoot-outs between wealthy interests. A bill in the Legislature, modeled on the successful Clean Elections programs in seven states and two municipalities, puts the concerns of voters ahead of well-heeled special interests.

Called the Voter Owned Iowa Clean Elections Act, or VOICE, the bill is championed by Rep. Pam Jochum and Sen. Mike Connolly. VOICE would implement a system of public financing for legislative and statewide campaigns.

Modeled on successful systems in Maine, Arizona and North Carolina, the VOICE Act would provide public funds sufficient to run a competitive campaign to candidates who qualify by showing broad-based community support. That would require collecting a set number of $5 donations. Once qualified, VOICE candidates must agree to adhere to strict spending limits and forgo all private fundraising.

As of January 2007, more than 200 elected officials across the country hold office as a result of a Clean Elections system, including 84 percent of the Maine Legislature and nine of 11 statewide officials in Arizona. Gov. Janet Napolitano has used the system for both of her gubernatorial campaigns.

Clean Elections is also taking hold on the national stage. Last month, bipartisan legislation called the Fair Elections Now Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa. It would bring full public financing of elections to all congressional races.

Should the VOICE Act bring this opportunity to Iowa, Gronstal and others could spend their time focusing on the concerns and issues that matter to voters instead of dialing for dollars and courting big-money contributors to fill both their candidate and 527 campaign accounts.

BARB KALBACH is president of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

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VOICE Press Release

With only two weeks remaining in the legislative session, it’s imperative that you contact your Rep. and Democratic leaders and VOICE your support for Clean Elections. Gronstal, Murphy, and McCarthy have the power, should they choose to use it, to help push this bill out of the House Appropriations subcommitee, where it’s been “put on hold” by 3 House members. So the fate of this bill, despite the overwhelming bipartisan support of Iowans, is up to these three people? It appears our leaders want this bill to die in committee. This does not send a good message to voters. Why would anyone be against Clean Elections? Nopne of the answers to this question bode well for those who plan on running for office again. Your Rep. may tell you there’s no funding for VOICE, but his isn’t altogether true, given it would be less than .01 of the overall budge, a drop in the bucket compared to what’s being spent on elections every election cycle. If it’s good policy, good will leaders make it happen. Let our leaders know that you’re watching.

Our elected officials need to hear from us. At the very least this bill should be passed out of committee and debated on the floors of the House and Senate. We, the People, deserve this consideration, otherwise the stifling of our VOICES will only serve to futher erode Democracy and our faith in the political process.

Cut and paste this code to find your legislator and send them an e-mail:

http://www3.legis.st…

The Voter Owned Iowa Clean Elections (VOICE) Act

House File 805 & Senate File 553

Background:

The Voter Owned Iowa Clean Elections (VOICE) Act would create voluntary full public financing for legislative and statewide elections.  Candidates would qualify for enough public funds to run a competitive campaign after showing broad based community support by collecting a set number of $5 contributions from within their district. Once qualified, VOICE candidates would agree to adhere to strict spending limits and forego all private fundraising.

In a contested general election, VOICE candidates would receive:

? $3 million for a team running for governor and lieutenant governor.

? $200,000 for a statewide office other than governor & lieutenant governor.

? $40,000 for the Iowa state Senate.

? $30,000 for the Iowa state House of Representatives.

Summary:

Voter Owned Iowa Clean Elections (VOICE) is a system that would free candidates from the campaign money chase and allow them to spend their time talking with constituents instead of shuttling from fundraiser to fundraiser. VOICE is modeled on the successful systems in Maine, Arizona, and North Carolina. This past January, more than 200 elected officials took office across the country who have run and won with a publicly funded campaign. Also known as Clean Elections, the system has proven its worth. In Maine, 84 percent of the legislature is held by a Clean Elections candidate. In Arizona, nine of 11 statewide officials, including Gov. Janet Napolitano, used the system to win their race.

VOICE will allow Iowans to run for office without having to worry about raising large amounts of money or having insider political access. VOICE would limit unnecessary spending by placing contribution limits on donors. If a participating candidate is outspent by a privately financed candidate or is a target of independent expenditure committees, rescue funds are available to keep the race on a level playing field.

By allowing candidates to run without having to raise money from well-heeled political contributors, Iowans would be secure in the knowledge that their elected officials are working to address the needs of all Iowans and not just those who can afford to write $1,000 checks. Iowans deserve a system where people matter more, and money matters less. Iowans want Voter Owned Clean Elections.

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VOICE Needs your help!

From the Inbox: ICCI

VOICE needs your help!

An update from Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement

April 3, 2007

24 days left to pass VOICE!

The legislative session ends April 27.  We have a historic opportunity to pass a Voter-Owned Iowa Clean Elections Bill.  This bill would provide public financing for all state elections.  This system would allow the VOICE of everyday people to be heard on the critical issues that affect us – like our communities, clean air and water, and predatory lending. 

But we need your help!  In order to make this happen the legislature must hear from us.  We are looking for lots of volunteers to help us in the next month.  This is an excellent opportunity for us to talk, act, and get things done! 

Here’s what you can do:

Contact your state Senator and Representative.  Click here for an easy contact form with talking points.

Phone bank!  Phone banking is a great way for us to spread the word beyond our membership.  It’s a great opportunity to meet other CCI members and spread the word about this important legislation.  Food will be provided.  There will be several phone banks taking place – both during the day and at night – at the CCI office in Des Moines .  E-mail jessica@iowacci.org if you would like more information.  We need you!

Walk.  We are looking for volunteers to spend a few hours on any Saturday this month to go door to door to spread the message on clean elections.  E-mail jessica@iowacci.org if you would like to help.

Learn.  For more information on what VOICE is, visit www.voterownediowa.org. 

Contact information

For more information, go to www.iowacci.org or call 515.282.0484.

 

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Obama Defies the $ Numbers Game

This was originally a repsonse to BH post, “Fundraising Numbers.” by Simon Stevenson:

Good for Obama for not playing into the media-frenzied money numbers game by not releasing his exact numbers. “Given that everyone else has” is yet another reason that will help distinguish Obama from “everyone else.” Knowing that he’s competing against the money-churning DLC McCauliffe-money machine,Obama’s taken the right approach to undrrmining the $ horse race by not providing the media with something quantifiable to salivate over — and salivate they did.

Obama’s aids have noted that he’s raised over $20 million, which puts him on the heels of Hillary and has helped up the anxiety levels of the Clinton campaign. Obama announced his candidacy after Hillary and has quickly closed the money gap, especially since Hillary has been running for president since, say, middle school.

The more important number that Obama’s committed to focusing on and did release is the number of people who donated money. In this area he dwarfed Hillary by roughly 30,000 donors, and it’s this number that more realisitically translates to votes. When evaluating these numbers, voters may see that Obama has more supporters and the smaller monetary number indicates that Obama’s drawing less from big donors. Whether this is true or not is besides the point; it’s all about public perception and this works as a good medium spin. Not to mention, contributors who donated once are more likely to contribute again, which works in Obama’s favor.

I’m not convinced reporting these numbers merits positive press, but rather, helps feed the public’s disgust with how much money is being raised and spent on the presidential campaign. And regarding your notion about positive press for Obama, I think you should revisit the news today.

“The New York Times” has a positive aricle about Obama adorned on its front page: “Obama Built Donor Network From Roots Up.”

Ariana Huffington took the media to task, casting Obama in a favorable light:  “Follow the Real Money”

In the political fallout of yesterday’s annoncement, it appears Obama may be the big winner.

Unfortunately, all of this undermines the problems regarding campaign finance and how it desparately needs to be reformed. In this light, the losers are the media (who continually perpetuate and exacerbate this problem), while the big losers remain the American people — in particular those of us who cannot afford to buy influence in D.C.

The only Democratic candidates I’ve heard that have vowed to address this problem if elected president are Obama and Edwards. Please comment if others ahve taken an active stance on this. Had Hillary not scheduled a town hall meeting in Iowa City today during the work day, when most working people cannot take off work and particpate in a “conversation,” I would’ve gone and asked Hillary point blank where she stands on this issue and what would she do about it if elected?

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Jacoby's Response to my E-mail

I’m not buying this. I plan on looking into where Dave gets this $10 million dollar price tag. If anyone has insights to this, please let me know.

Tom,

Policy wise, it is a good bill (that needs to be less complicated). I

voted for it in State Gov’t.

We are stuck with the $10 million price tag, and where that money would

come from.

In other words, what do we not fund (education, mental health, Power

Fund).

Thank you for the e-mail!

Dave

Update on $10 million price tag:

I just combed through the VOICE bill (HF 805) and found where Jacoby came up with the $10 million price tag. The latter is a start up fund that would be used to finance Clean Elections. The fund would be drawn down to finance Clean Elections and would be replenish with an optional income tax check off, qualifying contributions, unused seed money, voluntary contributions to the Clean Election fund, and other methods. After each election cycle, if the fund is in the red, or under the $10 million benchmark, it’s up to the general assembly to replenish these funds, presumably drawing down on the general fund.

Given the voluntary basis of most incoming revenues, it looks like the Clean Elections fund would more than likely be in the red. It seems this needs more teeth in it. I thought other states mandated the $5 fee for all person filing an income tax. I could see how this might dissuade some of our leaders from putting this into the bill, but if funding it is the only thing standing between the bill becoming law, it’s time for our leaders to step up and take a stand.

I also found it that the only lobbyists who declared against this bill were two lobbyists representing the ACLU. What would their rationale be for doing so? I’m confused.

Voter-Owned Iowa’s Take on funding “Clean Elections”:

It is estimated that Iowa could have a fully funded Voter-Owned Elections system for $10 million per year, or less than 1/10 of 1% of our state’s annual budget.

There are several possible ways to pay for a Voter-Owned Elections system. Bipartisan committees are currently considering several options. Some examples are:

• $5 qualifying contributions.

• Voluntary income tax check-off.

• Excess seed money raised by candidates trying to decide if they should run.

• Voluntary donations.

• Fines levied by the state’s campaign disclosure board.

• Other sources determined by the state legislature.

My take: if it’s makes good policy, Dave, then good leadership should make it work, and if coming up with a $10 million start up fund (less than .01 of our state’s budget) is all it takes, then it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

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My "Clean Elections Letter" to Reps.

Dear Iowa Legislators,

I am writing to voice my support of VOICE (HF 805 & SF 553), and I’m urging you to do the same next week when the bill comes up in committee. Given the significant influence of money in electoral politics as of late, the time for “Clean Elections” is long overdue. The public’s faith and trust in government has been gradually eroding and VOICE would be a significant first step in damming up the erosion and begin rebuilding public trust in our elected officials and the Democratic process. “Clean Elections” exemplifies the underlying principals of the Democratic Party. Although, through discussions with Republican friends, colleagues, and family members, I’ve learned that VOICE is not a partisan issue. When explained how “Clean Elections” works, I have yet to meet an Iowa Voter, Republican or Democrat, who would not support the bill.

Now that the Democrats have the majority power, it’s time to stand up and reverse the trend of politics as usual, and at the very least, help get VOICE out of committee where the bills merits can be discussed and debated on the House and Senate floors. Iowa Voters deserve this consideration, and I hope you will use your leadership skills to help make this happen.

I look forward to your support and hearing back from you regarding your thoughts on this subject. Thanks for your time.

T.M. Lindsey

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