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Congressman calls for ethics investigation into FEC chairwoman

News

Congressman calls for ethics investigation into FEC chairwoman

Federal Election Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub has come under scrutiny again for possible ethics violations.

In a series of tweets on Thursday, Weintraub responded to a letter sent that same day by Rep. Rodney Davis, ranking member of the House Administration Committee, requesting an investigation into Weintraub for potential violations of federal ethics regulations.

Davis, a Republican from Illinois, outlined three reasons he believes FEC Inspector General Christopher Skinner should investigate Weintraub:

  1. Using government time and official FEC resources to publish her opinions on political matters.
  2. Discussing issues outside the purview of the FEC in national media appearances.
  3. Refusing to recuse herself from matters involving President Trump, despite a perceived bias against him and "apparent conflict of interest."

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The partisan divide is getting worse

How bad is the partisan division in this country?

Roughly half or more Republicans and Democrats believe members of the other party are more "closed-minded" and "unpatriotic" than other Americans, according to a new survey by Pew Research Center. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans see others as unpatriotic, while only 23 percent of Democrats feel that way.

The survey, which was conducted in early September and before Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced plans to pursue an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, revealed a growing animosity that has festered since Pew last conducted a similar survey three years ago.

Compared to the 2016 survey, the share of partisan Americans who believe the other side is closed-minded or immoral has spiked, with double-digit increases in the percentage of Republicans who believed Democrats were "more closed-minded" and Democrats who said Republicans were "more immoral" than other Americans.

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Virginia governor restores voting rights to over 22,000 felons

More than 22,000 Virginians with felony convictions have regained the right to vote thanks to executive actions taken by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam since he took office in January 2018, his office announced this week.

In a statement, Northam's office said he has so far restored the civil rights of 22,205 people who had been convicted of felonies and have since completed their sentences. Those civil rights include the right to vote as well as the right to serve on juries, run for public office and become a notary public.

Northam previously announced in February that nearly 11,000 convicted felons had their voting rights restored under his watch.

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California governor signs three political reform bills

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law on Tuesday three democracy reform bills focused on local redistricting, voting access and campaign contributions.

The first piece of legislation prohibits partisan gerrymandering at the local level by establishing criteria for cities and counties to use when adjusting district boundaries. While California is the largest state to use an independent redistricting commission to draw its congressional and state district maps, local districts did not have the same regulations.

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Meet the reformer: Geoff Pallay, a  political encyclopedia wizard

Geoff Pallay is the editor in chief of Ballotpedia, a nonprofit and nonpartisan online political encyclopedia created a dozen years ago to provide a comprehensive chronicling of federal, state and local politics, elections, and public policy. He was hired in 2010 as a staff writer covering state legislatures and has had the top newsroom job since 2015. Originally from New Jersey, Pallay, 35, lives in Charleston, S.C., with his wife, Megan, and their two children. His answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

The West Wing or Veep?

Oh, that's a tough one. I think I'm going to have to take option C though: Parks and Recreation. One of my all-time favorite shows. I just loved all of the local government action.

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Debate

'Always sticking to your convictions' sounds like a good thing – but it isn't

People are missing out on meaningful conversations because they're stuck in their ways, argues University of Connecticut professor Michael P. Lynch.

Community

National Citizen Leadership Conference

Join American Promise and fellow reformers at the National Citizen Leadership Conference on Oct. 19-21. The NCLC brings together and empowers Americans of widely varying political viewpoints with a common goal - eliminating the corrupting influence of super PAC and special interest money in politics and securing our rights as equal citizens.

Newsletter

Bloc of Virginia candidates pushing democracy reform as a blue wave generator

News

Bloc of Virginia candidates pushing democracy reform as a blue wave generator

With elections for every seat in Virginia's Legislature less less than four weeks away, a coalition of progressive candidates is hoping to sway voters with the promise to push democracy reform.

In a letter being sent Thursday to every member of the General Assembly, 32 Democrats vying in November — about half with a realistic hope of winning — underscored their commitment to advancing an array of campaign finance and voting rights proposals if they get elected.

"We write to you today to put Richmond on notice. We are determined to reform the broken system and spark a restoration of confidence should we be granted the honor of serving our respective districts," they wrote.

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Not news to many: Our polarized view of news brands is only intensifying

Nike has Colin Kaepernick. Smith & Wesson has guns. Trump Hotels has, well, President Trump.

Not surprisingly, each of these companies is among the most politically polarizing brands of the moment. But the best way to make such a list, it turns out, is to be in the news business.

Of the 15 most polarizing brands of 2019, the dozen not mentioned above are from a single industry — the mainstream media — according to a recent survey by Morning Consult, a brand development and news company. The rankings were determined by measuring the difference in favorability of more than 3,700 brands among self-identified Republicans and Democrats.

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The revolving door has been spinning real fast

At least 176 former members of Congress have become lobbyists or taken some other role trying to influence their former colleagues and other parts of the federal government since 2011, according to a report by OpenSecrets issued Thursday.

OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan research group that tracks money in politics, found that the use of the revolving door between Congress and the private sector was about evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.

But the lawmakers who left the Capitol at the end of last year and moved quickly into the influence industry are mostly in the GOP. That's mainly because the wave of departures, either voluntary or forced by the voters, was disproportionately Republican following the Democratic gains in the 2018 midterm election.

Most of these former members were hired by K Street lobbying firms or major law firms, the report found. Squire Patton Boggs and Akin Gump each have hired five former members since the 111th Congress ended in 2010.

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Debate

Making government more responsive is a task for Americans of all stripes

Every American has a place, and a responsibility, to fight for "a government of, by, and for the people," says Katie Fahey, grassroots organizer and executive director of The People.

Community

Accelerator Awards

Get $25,000 in seed funding for your initiative making impactful and viable political reform, courtesy of Unite America, RepresentUs and the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers. The awards are prioritizing local and state campaigns that advance key structural political reforms like ranked-choice voting, redistricting, open primaries and vote by mail.

Newsletter

Silence on big-money bundlers bedevils watchdog groups

News

Silence on big-money bundlers bedevils watchdog groups

Sixteen of the nation's most prominent political reform groups have been pressing the presidential candidates for six months to be transparent about who's helping them stuff their campaign coffers. They're getting hardly anywhere.

The group put out another plea this week, urging all 19 Democrats remaining in the race, plus President Donald Trump and his three Republican challengers, to "implement a system to regularly and meaningfully disclose information" about their so-called bundlers.

These are the affluent, well-connected people who gather donations from others and deliver those funds in a "bundle" to their favorite candidate — and, if that person ends up in the White House, are very likely to be near the heads of the line for plum positions including ambassadorships and membership on policymaking boards.

The letter urged all the candidates to come clean and take the path of greater transparency when they file their campaign finance reports for the third quarter at the Federal Election Commission next week. But similar letters sent in April and June have produced next to no results.

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Police station as polling place eyed as a civil rights violation in Georgia

Should the police station be the only polling place in a town with a black majority population, a white majority municipal government and a recent history of racial tensions in law enforcement?

The city council of Jonesboro, a rapidly gentrifying but still poor suburb south of Atlanta, have said "yes." Civil rights groups say the proper answer is "no."

The council said its decision in September to hold this year's local elections in the police station is because the usual polling location, a museum, is being renovated and city hall isn't big enough. The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law and five other groups that promote civil and voting rights this week urged the city to reverse itself or face a potential lawsuit in November for violating the Voting Rights Act.

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Non-citizen voting advances in the biggest city in deep blue Vermont

Vermont's largest city is reviving a bid to permit non-citizens to vote in local elections, the latest in a small but persistent effort in some of the nation's most politically progressive corners to give immigrants the franchise.

The Burlington City Council vote this week was 10-2 in favor of changing the city's charter. The principal sponsor of the change, Democrat Adam Roof, told WCAX that the goal "is to create a more inclusive and engaged community, which is critical because we know that broad participation in the democratic process strengthens the entirety of the community."

Kurt Wright, a Republican, opposed the proposal as inconsistent with American tradition and noted the city's voters had rejected a similar effort several years ago.

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Debate

Three impeachment scenarios dangerous for democracy

R Street Institute's Kristen Nyman and Anthony Marcum explain three impeachment scenarios that ALL end with Trump being the 2020 Republican presidential nominee.

Community

Educate, Then Elect

How can you get the information you need on candidates and ballot issues to be an informed voter? A Vote Run Lead panel on Oct. 16 in Brooklyn will break down how you can get the knowledge you need to feel empowered to vote.

Newsletter

Bipartisan Senate accord: Russia is still at it

News

Bipartisan Senate report says Russian disinformation will work again without broad pushback

Gun rights. Racism. Immigration. When it came to disrupting the 2016 presidential election, Russian operatives knew all the hot buttons to push on social media, according to a report released Tuesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

And push them they did, in what the report found was a clear and multifaceted effort to help Donald Trump and undermine Hillary Clinton — in a disinformation campaign virtually guaranteed to be resurrected with fresh approaches in the coming year.

"Russia is waging an information warfare campaign against the U.S. that didn't start and didn't end with the 2016 election," the committee said. "Their goal is broader: to sow societal discord and erode public confidence in the machinery of government. By flooding social media with false reports, conspiracy theories, and trolls, and by exploiting existing divisions, Russia is trying to breed distrust of our democratic institutions and our fellow Americans."

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TikTok vows to be a political safe space

With the presidential election just over a year away, political advertisements on the Internet are quickly becoming hard to avoid. But there's at least one place online to escape from it all: TikTok.

The trendy video-sharing platform, popular among the members of Generation Z, wants to become a digital space totally safe from both traditional partisan vitriol and the new wave of disinformation that has sullied the last couple of elections. And so it announced last week that it is barring all ads related to candidates and political issues in the United States.

Although many of the app's 80 million users are not yet old enough to vote, TikTok's politics-free zone provides a unique experience at a time when other social media platforms are rife with paid election content.

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Deepfakers beware: Do it in California or Texas and you'll be in deep trouble

California has decided to throw a flag on people who post deepfake videos of candidates running for public office.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed legislation that prohibits distribution of these artificially created or manipulated videos within 60 days of an election unless the video carries a statement disclosing it has been altered. Texas enacted a similar law late last month.

That the nation's most populous state, where lawmaking power is entirely in Democrats' hands, would mirror a new policy in the third-largest state, formulated entirely by Republicans, is a clear indictor that the new world of deepfakes is causing big-time bipartisan worry among politicians. But some experts question whether the laws will survive legal challenges.

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Washington state says hackers try every day but that its election security is first in class

Local races and a handful of legislative special elections are the only things on the ballot in Washington next month, but the state's chief election official is nonetheless warning that hackers are hunting for a way to disrupt the contests. She's also asserting that her agency is up to the cybersecurity task because of lessons learned from Russia's 2016 interference.

"We have attempts every day," says Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican. "Tens of thousands of attempts to get into our system ... right now, we are just blocking all of them."

"Some are just trying to see what they can see, what can we get to and what can we play with," she told KIRO. "And some have bigger chess moves. They are trying to undermine confidence that voters have in our system."

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Debate

Here's why political independents should hate ranked-choice voting

Will ranked-choice voting make an impact for independent voters? Negative.vote's Mike Shannon says no.

Community

How to Connect with Freshman Lawmakers

Join the Congressional Management Foundation on Oct. 9 for a webinar breaking down its new research on communication and engagement between Congress and constituents.

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