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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ask Your House Rep & Senators to "Be A Leader" on Overturning Citizens United

Coffee Party USA has launched a campaign called "Be A Leader" to get our House Reps and Senators in DC to go on record with their plans for overturning the disastrous Citizens United v FEC ruling.

They even have some very simple suggested text to use:

Dear Representative or Senator,
It has been three years since the disastrous Citizens United decision.  As a legislator, you are in a position to fix this bad decision, but I don't see anything on your web site about your plans to do so.  Will you please be a leader and post your plans on your web site?  
Your constituent,

Below is what Senator Toomey's office sent to me in response to my inquiry. It's clearly a canned response, and it never actually answers the simple question posed.

I've also copied in my reply. I think it's important that our elected leaders hear from us when our questions and concerns go unanswered.

Below the email is additional research and my personal thoughts on Senator Toomey and his position on other issues I feel are important and which influence how I feel about him and his party.

Trust me, I'm not so naive as to believe that he or even a staffer will read my email or feel compelled to respond to it. If they do, I will share it here. I just want the Senator and his staff to know that ordinary citizens are paying attention; very, very close attention.


From: "Senator Pat Toomey"
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 9:04:01 AM
Subject: Reply from U.S. Senator Pat Toomey

January 23, 2013

Dear Mr. ,
Thank you for contacting me about campaign finance reform. I appreciate hearing from you.
As you may know, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, overturned a federal ban on independent political advocacy by corporations and unions. I understand your concerns regarding this decision and political activities by outside groups and businesses. That said, the Supreme Court has long upheld that political speech, including the funding thereof, is protected by the First Amendment and is an integral part of our constitutional democracy. It is important that Congress be mindful of these constitutional principles, although I understand your concerns about this issue. Please be assured that I will keep your views in mind as Congress continues reviewing changes to campaign finance laws. 
Thank you again for your correspondence. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.
Pat Toomey
U.S. Senator, Pennsylvania


Dear Senator Toomey:

Thank you for your response.

With all due respect, your attempt to characterize the Citizens United vs FEC ruling as upholding the rights and protections afforded to actual citizens by the First Amendment is insulting and disingenuous. It's insulting because you and those who defend the activism of the conservatives on the Court seem to believe that you can dupe all of us into believing your partisan framing of that ruling. I humbly remind you that we are not all "low information voters."

Those of us who oppose Citizens United know that it is not about free speech. It is not even about political speech. It is about money. It is about "dark money" and the inordinate influence so much of it is having from too few sources on you and your fellow elected leaders who are supposed to be representing all of us, not just wealthy donors and corporations. (Again and with all due respect, please spare me any rhetoric on trickle down economics. We both know that it's a failed economic theory.)

You have chosen not to answer my question directly about publishing your plans for overturning Citizens United. Given your past role as president of The Club for Growth and the $2.7million they spent on your behalf on attack ads to win you your seat 51% to 49%, I can't say that I'm surprised. I'm left to conclude, therefore, that you are in favor of that disastrous Supreme Court ruling. I invite you, of course, to please write back immediately to correct me and to share your plans if I've come to the wrong conclusion. Nothing would please me more.

Once more and only with the greatest respect, it seems to me that you have a choice to make, Senator. You can follow - and even lead - the GOP's steady decline into political oblivion with everyone except the aging white male evangelical demographic (your tea party base), or you can be part of a more modern, thriving, and progressive (it's not a dirty word, by the way, and is considered by most to be the opposite of 'regressive') Republican party.

My humble and sincere recommendation is that you start by taking a stand against the corrupting influence of big and dark money in our political system by publishing your plan to combat and overturn Citizens United. I realize that that may seem antithetical to your past role as leader of a tea party PAC, but that's not who you're supposed to be representing in the Senate.

Who knows? You might even win back registered Non-Partisan voters like me.



While not part of the above email, here's some research and conclusions on why ordinary citizens should oppose Senator Toomey (and similarly positioned Republicans).

Energy (the closest "issue" the Senator lists when it comes the Environment and Climate Change)
  • Senator Toomey wants to further loosen restrictions on an already under-regulated fossil fuel industry, wants to expand mining and drilling of dirty fossil fuels, and is completely silent on renewable energy.

(Affordable) Health Care
  • Senator Toomey co-sponsored S.192, the "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act," a petty partisan and Bachmann-esque bill that reveals how much more he values the interests of big money from insurance carriers, pharmaceuticals, health care providers, and corporations than he does the actual health and welfare of poor, unemployed, and under-employed people.

Life, Family and Marriage (Inequality)
  • Senator Toomey seems to have more in common with Rick Santorum than he does with the majority of Americans. Anyone who isn't in support of gay marriage is, in my opinion, a hateful bigot. Period. There is no middle ground and no compromise when it comes to civil liberties, equality, and justice for the LGBTQ community in this country.

The GOP: A Party in Decline
It no longer comes as any surprise to me that the GOP is a party in steep decline. This last election was very telling. Beyond older white religious men, Mr. Romney had weak and diminishing appeal(1). And while the GOP kept control in the House, they lost seats in both houses of Congress, and there were fewer votes for House Republicans than there were for House Democrats(2). The GOP's only real appeal now seems to be with a shrinking older, whiter, and more fundamentalist demographic. Oh, and big money.

GOP's Desperate Measures to Rig Elections and Deny Voters Their Rights
This decline in popularity and appeal is undoubtedly part of the reason why Governor Corbett and Republican state legislators all over the U.S. want to change the Electoral College rules so that under-populated and gerrymandered GOP districts have the same Electoral College weight as the overall voting population.

Isn't it ironic? One would think that Libertarians, Teapublicans, and ordinary Republicans everywhere would be staunch supporters of winner-take-all, right? Instead, it looks like the new mantra is, "Since we can't beat the Democrats fairly, we'll rig the system." To whom does this strategy appeal if it's not the white rural evangelical voter; that subset of the party's base who seems intent on voting against their own economic self interests time and time again?

The voter ID law is, of course, another prime example of a party who refuses to face reality. It's nothing more than empty fear-mongering over a problem that simply does not exist except in the minds of Republican politicians and Fox News commentators. To claim that measures must be taken to stop rampant in-person voter fraud is to insult the intelligence of anyone paying attention to the realities of how rare it is for someone to impersonate anyone on election day(3).

Money in Politics
I cling to the belief that politicians are supposed to work for me. My belief was stronger before the Citizens United ruling.

Now it seems all too clear that Senator Toomey and his colleagues on both sides are far more beholden to the Sheldon Adelsons, Harold Simmonses, Karl Roves, and all the Super PACs(4) than they are to you, me, our fellow Pennsylvanians, and ordinary Americans.

To be fair to Senator Toomey, he's presumably most beholden to his biggest donor, the Tea Party SuperPAC, The Club for Growth, According to OpenSecrets,they have contributed $848,033 to him over the course of his political career(5). They also spent $2.7million in negative ads to help their former president to win his seat 51% to 49%(6).

This is what Democracy looks like?

It will take a long and hard struggle to get Citizens United overturned. It's not impossible, and I believe that it's up to us - ordinary citizens - to be united in our unending and unbending effort to understand which politicians agree with us and which don't. I think it's obvious what we need to then do with that information.

Get involved. It only takes a few minutes to let your elected leaders know what you think.

(1) CNN Politics;
(2) Bloomberg, Republicans Can't Claim Mandate as Democrats Top House Vote;
(3) The Wall Street Journal, Voter Fraud: Hard to Identify;
(4) ProPublica, Who are the Super PACs's Biggest Donors;
(5), Senator Pat Toomey, Top Contributors (Since 1989);
(6) The Boston Globe, Tea Party super PAC pours fund into congressional races;

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