Marty Wulfe opened his inbox one day this fall and found an unsettling email from an old friend.
It was a dire warning from the Maryland chapter of Common Cause: Special interests in his state are pushing a "dangerous" proposal for a second constitutional convention.
But Wulfe himself was one of those special interests, because he's a board member of Get Money Out – Maryland. The organization is lobbying the General Assembly to have the state join five others calling for a convention to consider changing the Constitution to allow Congress and state legislatures to rein in money in politics.
While he and other Get Money Out leaders "had a good laugh at being labeled a special interest group," said Wulfe (who views himself as a big fan of Common Cause), the opposition from one of the most venerable voices for democracy reform is no laughing matter. Instead, the rift highlights one of the most impassioned arguments these days in the world of good-government advocacy.
"You have the right not to open the door. You have the right to be protected from unlawful searches by ICE agents. You do not have to sign any documents that a government official asks you to sign. Know your rights."
This mantra was memorized by immigrants across the country after President Trump announced large-scale Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids this summer. A single tweet thread created a new reality for immigrants and their families. Many now fear leaving their homes, going to work or even answering a knock at the door. You don't have to be a Catholic nun to understand that forcing people to live in terror is wrong.
The Catholic social justice teaching is that all people possess an equal and inalienable worth. Scripture tells us that we too were once strangers in a strange land and so we must love immigrants as ourselves. But the Trump administration is attacking our immigrant sisters and brothers in the Supreme Court.
Beneficiaries of DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, are a generation of young immigrants who were brought to our country as children, but are now at risk of losing their protections. For many, the United States is the only home they have ever known. Until recently, they have lived their lives without fear of deportation. Soon, that may change.
Foreign election interference is among the most troublesome challenges confronting democracy now — and not just by America's adversaries who hack votes and spread disinformation. Federal law is written to prevent allies and enemies alike from spending foreign money to influence American politics. But the loopholes are ample and they've been exploited for decades.
The Center for American Progress, one of the country's most prominent progressive public policy advocacy groups, has stepped forward with a solution — albeit a lofty one. On Thursday it outlined an ambitious proposal to virtually eliminate spending on U.S. campaigns by businesses under even minimal foreign influence.
As with so much else on the democracy reform agenda, however, the odds are prohibitive that any legislation along the lines CAP wants will get through the current Congress. Such bills might get through the Democratic House but are doomed in the Republican Senate, especially given Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's disdain for regulating campaign finance.
Advocates of toughening campaign finance regulation are thrilled by a judge's ruling in Alaska this week, which they view as a potential starting point for reversing the Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgate of money into politics this decade.
The agency that upholds the state's election laws, the Alaska Public Office Commission, must reinstate enforcement of a $500 annual cap on personal contributions to political action committees and other independent groups seeking to influence elections, Judge William Morse of Superior Court in Anchorage ruled Monday.
The judge also asked the Alaska Supreme Court to use his decision to review the constitutionality of the state's entire campaign finance law in hopes of a tougher-is-better decision because, he said, he found the "credible and convincing" evidence "about the vulnerability of Alaska's political environment to corruption to be very powerful and concerning."
Such a ruling from the state's top court could eventually lead to many of the same issues addressed nine years ago in the landmark Citizens United v. FEC once again going before the Supreme Court.