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Unbreaking America: Justice for Sale

New film argues political corruption prevents criminal justice reform

Griffiths is the editor of Independent Voter News.

Current events have turned everyone's attention to the nation's criminal justice system. Most Americans agree that the system is broken. Yet, in a new "Unbreaking America" film, RepresentUs makes the case that the criminal justice system remains broken because the broken U.S. political system keeps it that way.

"Even though crime rates across the U.S. are going down, America locks up seven times more people now than we did in 1970," actor and RepresentUs Cultural Council member Omar Epps says in the opening. "We, as Americans, put more people behind bars than any other nation in the world — both as a percentage of population and in total numbers."

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Government Ethics
Alex Wong/Getty Images

A new report from Issue One Action shows how the wealthy special interests have spread their influence under the Trump administration.

The D.C. swamp has gotten swampier under Trump, report finds

Four years after Donald Trump campaigned on "draining the swamp," wealthy special interests wielding power in Washington have only become more pervasive.

Spotlight on the Swamp, a new project launched last week by the bipartisan advocacy group Issue One Action, details how lobbying activity and spending has increased during the Trump administration, the "pay to play" system has persisted and D.C.'s ethical standards have fallen. (Issue One Action is affiliated with Issue One, which is incubating — but has no editorial say in — The Fulcrum.)

With the November election 20 weeks away, and Americans grappling with the compounded crises of Covid-19 and racial injustice, efforts to make the system more equitable and representative for everyone have become even more crucial.

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John Opdyke

Meet the reformer: John Opdycke, hoping to put voters in a new kind of open mind

After six years as president of Open Primaries, John Opdyke is a few months from the biggest test of strength in the group's history: Floridians will vote in November on a referendum to permit all voters (including 3.7 million not registered as Republican or Democrat) to participate in state primaries — which proponents see as transformative for promoting more consensus-building candidates and breaking the two-party hold on almost all political power. Opdycke's career has been spent helping outsiders compete in elections since the 1990s, when he first raised money for the small-party Rainbow Lobby and then the forerunner organization of the National Reform Party. He then spent 15 years on the senior staff of Independent Voting. His answers have been edited for clarity and length.

What's democracy's biggest challenge?

Over many years, and for complicated reasons, the role of the people and the position of the political parties has gotten out of whack. Voters are too often seen as merely the consumers of a political product, not the creators of it. The parties have morphed from private associations into quasi-governmental monopolies. This is a formula for gridlocked incompetence at best and broad social decline at worst.

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The Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging Montana's donor disclosure law.

Montana's tough donor disclosure law survives at Supreme Court

Montana's disclosure requirements for campaign donors will remain among the gold standards for statewide campaign finance regulation now that the Supreme Court has decided to leave the law alone.

A federal appeals court last August upheld state requirements that groups paying for political advertising reveal their funders and spending. Without comment Monday, the Supreme Court said it would not reconsider that ruling.

The decision amounts to a symbolic but not insignificant win for advocates of more openness about political spending. Campaign finance reform groups hope Montana will provide a template for other states to adopt similarly tight disclosure requirements. And they assume the high court's ruling will form a precedent protecting future state laws against similar challenges.

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