On today's BradCast: Remember when overturning Citizens United with a Constitutional amendment used to be a huge thing among progressives? Well, it still is. But something (or someone) came along who seems to be distracting much of the nation from the still-urgent need to get dark money and corporate funding out of electoral politics. We've got a bit of good news on that front today. Just a bit. But we'll take what we can get! [Audio link to full show is posted below.]
First up today, however, former Veep turned Democratic Presidential candidate and currently presumptive front-runner Joe Biden responded to pressure from his 2020 rivals and the party's base by flipping his position on the Hyde Amendment. Citing his belief that "health care is a right" and the GOP attacks on women's health care, Biden now says he opposes the measure, just hours after he'd affirmed his support for the 1976 law which bans the use of federal funding for abortion, other than in cases of rape, incest or the health of the mother. What should we learn about Biden from this flip-flop? We discuss.
Then, the auto industry appears to have flip-flopped as well. Twice. After working with the Obama Administration in 2009 to hammer out an agreement on new standards for vehicle mileage and carbon emissions, industry leaders begged the Trump Administration to roll back Obama's landmark standards. Trump promised to do the car company's bidding and plans to announce the official rollback over the summer (which, if it stands, will result in lower fuel efficiency and higher gas prices for consumers, increase pollution and lead to the premature deaths of tens of thousands of Americans.) Now the industry is begging Trump not to roll things back quite so far after all, but Trump doesn't care. The Administration plans to move ahead anyway and, as Desi Doyen explains, try to challenge California's long-established right under the Clean Air Act to impose its own higher air quality standards --- a state's right they have enjoyed under law for nearly 50 years now.
Speaking of our worsening climate crisis, the DNC nixed a proposal this week to hold a debate focused solely on climate change and the many different candidate proposals to take it on. The DNC has threatened to sanction 2020 Presidential candidates who may participate in such a forum on their own. We discuss that bizarre stance, particularly given the number of hopefuls who have put forward detailed and important policy proposals to offer an urgently-needed Green New Deal for Americans.
And, speaking of Biden, this week he became the 17th Democratic Presidential hopeful to sign on to the "No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge". But what does that pledge really mean and will it actually keep money from fossil fuel industry lobbyists, PACs and executives out of the race? For that matter, is it even possible to keep corporate PAC and other "dark money" out of our elections following the 2010 Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme court, no matter how many pledges that Democratic candidates may make?
In related issues, the state of New Hampshire became the 20th state in the union this week to vote to overturn Citizens United with a Constitutional Amendment. The vote was a symbolic landmark for proponents of overturning the disastrous SCOTUS ruling, as it represents what would now be just over half of the 38 states that would be required to ratify such an Amendment. At the same time, the state of Montana, whose Governor Steve Bullock is also running for President on the issue of getting corporate money out of politics, is suing the U.S. Treasury Department and IRS to block the Trump Administration's new rule that would allow certain political action committees to keep their "dark money" donors a secret, even in confidential filings with the IRS, to whom donors previously were disclosed. The state was in federal court for hearings this week in response to the Administration's motion to dismiss the suit.
AQUENE FREECHILD, Co-director of Public Citizen's Democracy is For People campaign, joins us to explain both the good news out of New Hampshire and Montana's complaint against Treasury and the IRS. Freechild led Public Citizen's successful efforts to call for an amendment to overturn Citizens United in Vermont, New Jersey, Illinois, Delaware and Washington state. She offers an update on the current state of the fight to overturn the Supreme Court ruling that opened the floodgates to corporate spending in our elections; offers an explanation as to how the Trump era has effected activism on the issue; details what is involved in adopting such a measure; explains why Bullock's suit in Montana is important, even though IRS disclosures are confidential, and how efforts in Congress (including the House-passed H.R. 1, "For the People" Act) would kick-start the process of restoring American democracy to we, the people.
"We have to protect our democracy from the existential threat that an unaccountable, dictator-loving President poses," says Freechild. "At the same time, we have to show the country the vision that we have as reformers, as pro-democracy people, for a clean government that really truly does represent people, that has public financing in partnership with overturning Citizens United so that there is an alternative to a corporate money system."
Finally, we close today with some listener feedback on the Democrats' internecine debate in the U.S. House on whether to begin an official impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump....or not...
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(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)