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Groups Tell President Obama: It Is Time to Move on Democracy Issues

June 8, 2016

Groups Tell President Obama: It Is Time to Move on Democracy Issues

With Election Looming, Secret Money in Politics and Attacks on Voting Rights Protections Must Be Addressed

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As Election Day approaches, time is running out for the Obama administration and Congress to enact democracy reforms, a national coalition of organizations said today.

At a press conference in front of the White House, the groups urged all Americans to voice their support for the administration to take action to curb the influence of money in politics and to insist that Congress act now to ensure equal access to the ballot box for all eligible Americans.

Speakers called for the president to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose political spending. They also urged him to reaffirm his call for Congress to make the legislative changes necessary to repair and strengthen the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and restore the protections against voting discrimination that were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.

Also today, allies of more than 20 groups will flood the White House with calls urging quick action by the president to issue an executive order requiring disclosure of secret money in politics. The groups are listed at the end of this release.

“Our democracy is in crisis. Big Money is dominating our elections, and voters across the country are systematically being denied the franchise. Americans of all political stripes are united by their outrage and demand for action,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “With the clock ticking down on President Obama’s tenure in the White House, it is vital that he issue a clarion call for far-reaching reform, including legislative action and a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s devastating Shelby County and Citizens United decisions. But he must do more than call for action; he must take the remedial action he can, most importantly by issuing an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending.”

“Today, we continue to fight for change on many fronts, but an array of restrictive voting laws are keeping regular Americans shut out of the political process with the goal of suppressing the voting rights of people of color, seniors, students and low-income Americans,” said Hilary Shelton, director, NAACP Washington bureau and senior vice president for policy and advocacy. “As we face the first presidential election in 50 years without the protections of the Voting Rights Act, Congress must act now and pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Voter Empowerment Act. Together these would restore the protections against voting discrimination that were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in its Shelby County v. Holder decision, make additional, critical updates to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, modernize voter registration, prevent deceptive practices that keep people from the ballot box and ensure equal access to voting for all.”

“Wall Street’s deregulated, anti-union, trickle-down, one percent economics are being propped up by out-of-control campaign donations to our elected officials,” said Chris Shelton, president of Communications Workers of America. “We’re calling on President Obama to sign an executive order that requires government contractors that benefit from taxpayer dollars to disclose their political spending. Americans deserve a democracy that works for all Americans, one in which everyone has an equal voice and elected officials are accountable to the people, not the wealthy.”

“Business leaders should not be trying to game the system to give themselves unfair advantages, or as Ayn Rand called it, looting,” said Bryan McGannon, director of policy at the American Sustainable Business Council. “Instead, business leaders should focus on competition and entrepreneurship. Small business owners understand this. In a national, scientific poll, the American Sustainable Business Council found that 66 percent of small business owners opposed unrestricted campaign spending. They want the system changed. They don’t want their entrepreneurial spirit undercut by legacy industries that can’t win in a fair fight. They know that for our economy to prosper, we must limit opportunities to purchase policy and corrupt the Congress. This can best be accomplished with spending restraints and radical transparency about who is trying to buy whom.”

“President Obama has time and again voiced his commitment to a democracy where everyone can participate and every voice is heard, and now is the time to act on that commitment,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president of People For the American Way. “With a stroke of his pen, the president can help shine a light on secret corporate political spending that distorts our democracy. And he can use his bully pulpit to reaffirm his call for the restoration of voting protections in the wake of the Shelby County decision. As the country prepares for an election that’s expected to be the most expensive in history, where voters are already facing long lines and other barriers to participation, the time for President Obama to take action in support of a working democracy is now.”

“The very corporations that are polluting our air, water and land are also polluting our democracy by spending outrageous sums of money to influence the outcome of elections and policy-making – and American families are often left in the dark,” said Debbie Sease, senior lobbying and advocacy director for the Sierra Club. “With a swipe of his pen, President Obama can begin to lift the curtain on secretive corporate election spending and let in some light.”

“Pope Francis tells us that a good Catholic meddles in politics and that we have a moral obligation to fight for justice,” said Laura Peralta-Schulte, senior government relations advocate for NETWORK. “The way we answer our faithful call to participate is by voting. NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice calls on Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act so that all can exercise their fundamental right to vote. We also ask President Obama to act immediately and shine a light on the massive amount of money being poured into the political system, which distorts both our votes and our voices.”

“Working with our allies, Common Cause has helped deliver more than 1 million signatures to the president, placed tens of thousands of phone calls to the White House, and seen thousands more Americans take to the streets to protest a democracy that is dangerously unbalanced,” said Scott Swenson, vice president for communications at Common Cause. “With the stroke of his pen, President Obama can shift the entire national debate from billionaires and boardrooms to what each American needs to do to engage and fight back. Every opinion poll verifies that lopsided majorities of Americans of every race, creed, color and political persuasion want to limit money’s influence and restore balance, ensuring we all have a voice and a vote on policies impacting our families’ futures. It’s time for the president to match his eloquent pleas for ‘a better politics’ with action to deliver it.”

“Big Oil, the pesticide industry and other dirty companies pour millions into campaign contributions to make sure our elected officials protect their profits over people and the planet,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. “If President Obama makes Big Polluters’ political spending public, we’ll be able to hold these corporations accountable for how they influence our politics.”

“We understand how the influence of big money in politics and voter suppression laws impact not just our work, our political system, and our lives—but the lives of our children, who will inherit our democracy. This is a moment where we make a choice as a country—we either move forward, or we stand still,” said Michele Jawando, vice president of the Center for American Progress action fund. “We move forward with reforms to strengthen our democracy, eliminate the improperinfluence of money in politics, and ensure that every eligible American can cast a vote that will be counted, or we stand still as big money continues to dominate our elections and our public policy, and our democracy becomes unrecognizable. Today, we are urging the administration and Congress to move forward to restore our democracy—for our sakes, for the sake of our nation, and for the sake of children’s future.”

The groups organizing the call-in day are American Family Voices, Avaaz, Campaign for America’s Future, Center for Biological Diversity, Change.org, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, Corporate Accountability International, Courage Campaign, Daily Kos, Democracy For America, Every Voice, Food & Water Watch, Franciscan Action Network, Free Speech for People, Friends of the Earth, NETWORK, People For the American Way, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, StampStampede and U.S. PIRG.