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Payment required to read the law? Supreme Court will decide.

News

Staking a presidential bid on battling big money in politics fails for Bullock

Steve Bullock, the only Democratic presidential candidate focused mainly on achieving a top goal of democracy reformers, ended his campaign on Monday.

When the governor of Montana entered the already crowded field in May, he vowed to make his bid for the White House about "one big idea" — ending the influence of big money in politics as a prerequisite for addressing the nation's other big problems, from health care coverage to climate change.

Six months later, his fundraising and statistically insignificant standing in the polls remained lackluster enough that he'd only been invited to one debate and had little prospect of being asked to another. When announcing the end of his campaign, Bullock acknowledged that "the concerns that propelled me to enter in the first place have not changed."

A handful of the remaining contenders have added other aspects of the democracy reform agenda to their own platforms, but none made it a central pillar of their campaigns the way Bullock did. And generally they talk about these issues only when asked, as happened when November's debate in Atlanta turned for a few minutes to the perception that access to the voting booth is too difficult for too many.

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Payment required to read the law? Supreme Court will decide.

The most important legal challenge in decades to a basic tenet of open government — laws should be available to public to read for free — went before the Supreme Court on Monday.

The justices heard arguments in a dispute over whether Georgia may have copyright protections on its annotated legal code books, which means they're not available to the public without cost. It appears to be the first time in more than a century the court has considered the limits of the "government edicts doctrine," which bars copyrights on statutes and legal decisions.

Open records proponents, civil rights groups and the news media say it's unconstitutional to limit the peoples' access to the law books most widely in use. The Trump administration has taken Georgia's side.

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New nonpartisan Indiana group aims to boost paltry voter turnout

Add Indiana to the states with nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations trying to improve the functioning of democracy.

Indiana Citizen, which debuted last month, is the brainchild of longtime Democratic activists Bill and Ann Moreau.

Earlier in his career, Bill Moreau worked for Birch Bayh, a prominent senator from Indiana in the 1960s and 1970s. Then he served in various capacities, including chief of staff, when Bayh's son Evan was Indiana's secretary of state and then governor.

He is retiring at the end of the year as a partner in the law firm Barnes & Thornburg to focus full time on promoting the work of Indiana Citizen, which is operated by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Indiana Citizen Education Foundation Inc.

The initial goal of the group is to improve Indiana's low standing among the states when comparing voter turnout. The state ranked 43rd in voter participation in last year's election, the Census Bureau estimates, a tiny uptick after coming in 47th in the previous midterm, in 2014. In the 2016 presidential election the state ranked 41st, a drop of three places from the previous presidential year.

The ambitious goal of Indiana Citizen is to move the state into the top 10 for turnout next November.

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Debate

Citizens United is standing in the way of immigration reform

"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," argues Simone Campbell, executive director of Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice Lobby for Catholic Social Justice.

Community

How Mail to Congress Moves From the Back Office to the Member Office

Wondering how your letter from the junior staffer who opens it to the person your really want to see it: your representative? Join Congressional Management Foundation's webinar on Dec. 9.

Mailbag Monday

Have a question about democracy reform? Shoot it over to us at mailbag@thefulcrum.us. Then look out for the answers on Mondays in our newsletter.

We’re all about the issues that have broken American democracy — and efforts to make governments work again for you, your family and your friends.
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Washington Bureau/Getty Images

The House on Friday passed legislation to restore a provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. The bill would require advance approval of voting changes in states with a history of discrimination. Here President Lyndon Johnson shares one of the pens he used to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Passage of historic voting rights law takes a partisan turn

In a partisan vote on an issue that once was bipartisan, House Democrats pushed through legislation Friday that would restore a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act passed the House 228-187, with all Democrats voting for the bill and all but one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voting against it.

The bill faces virtually no chance of being considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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Big Picture

TV stations fight FCC over political ad disclosure

Broadcasters are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission after the agency made clear it wants broader public disclosure regarding TV political ads.

With the 2020 election less than a year away and political TV ads running more frequently, the FCC issued a lengthy order to clear up any ambiguities licensees of TV stations had regarding their responsibility to record information about ad content and sponsorship. In response, a dozen broadcasting stations sent a petition to the agency, asking it to consider a more narrow interpretation of the law.

This dispute over disclosure rules for TV ads comes at a time when digital ads are subject to little regulation. Efforts to apply the same rules for TV, radio and print advertising across the internet have been stymied by Congress's partisanship and the Federal Election Commission being effectively out of commission.

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1952 Eisenhower Answers America

On TV, political ads are regulated – but online, anything goes

Lightman is a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University.

With the 2020 election less than a year away, Facebook is under fire from presidential candidates, lawmakers, civil rights groups and even its own employees to provide more transparency on political ads and potentially stop running them altogether.

Meanwhile, Twitter has announced that it will not allow any political ads on its platform.

Modern-day online ads use sophisticated tools to promote political agendas with a high degree of specificity.

I have closely studied how information propagates through social channels and its impact on political messaging and advertising.

Looking back at the history of mass media and political ads in the national narrative, I think it's important to focus on how TV advertising, which is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission, differs fundamentally with the world of social media.

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