The work of this committee has expanded from its original focus to include media reform, in addition to campaign finance reform and election reform, in support of the UULMF core issue, Renewing American Democracy. It is clear that all three areas of election reform, campaign finance reform and media reform must be addressed for democracy in this country to survive.
People around the country are mobilizing to oppose the Citizens United decision and educate the public about the dangers of this unprecedented ruling.
The organization Movetoamend.org is working toward a constitutional amendment to say that corporations are not persons and money is not speech. UULMF has endorsed this effort and encouraged UU congregations in Florida to host events on the eight-day Florida speaking tour on Move to Amend by David Cobb, 2004 Presidential candidate of the Green Party, in September, 2010.
The organization Freespeechforpeople.org is backing a Resolution by Representative Donna Edwards of Maryland to amend the Constitution to undo the Supreme Court decision and allow Congress and the states to regulate the expenditure of funds by corporations for political speech.
Here is a quotation from Rep. Edwards, followed by a comment from Chairman Conyers:
"The ruling reached by the Roberts' Court overturned decades of legal precedent by allowing corporations unfettered spending in our political campaigns," said Congresswoman Edwards. "Another law will not rectify this disastrous decision. A Constitutional Amendment is necessary to undo what this Court has done. Justice Brandeis got it right: 'We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.' It is time we remove corporate influence from our policies and our politics. We cannot allow corporations to dominate our elections, to do so would be both undemocratic and unfair to ordinary citizens."
"The Supreme Court's idea that corporate political speech is no different than an individual citizen's political speech was not the law when the Constitution was written, was not the law before the Supreme Court's decision two weeks ago, and should not be the law in the future. I look forward to working further with Ms. Edwards and my other colleagues to use every tool at our disposal to make sure that elected representatives are accountable to voters, not corporations," said Chairman Conyers.
Two bills in Congress would provide needed campaign finance reform:
1) The DISCLOSE Act, which almost passed in the 111th congress last year and has been newly introduced in the 112th Congress as The Political Reform and Gridlock Elimination Act, s9 (see thomas.loc.gov). Under the DISCLOSE Act, " corporate CEOs, Wall Street bankers, union leaders and others with political agendas would no longer be able to hide behind a cloak of secrecy. In last year's election, Karl Rove's American Crossroads GPS group alone raised $71 million to spend on negative ads targeting candidates. Only half of that money came from reported sources because there is not yet a law on the books requiring such political groups to disclose who funds them." (Common Cause).
2) FENA, the Fair Elections Now Act, which needs to be reintroduced in the 112th Congress, would help level the playing field for candidates for Congress by allowing them to run competitive races sustained by small campaign donations and public funding. "It's the only way to ensure that once candidates are elected they are beholden to their constituents instead of free-spending corporations and lobbyists" (Common Cause). The Fair Elections Now Coalition includes Brave New Films, The Brennan Center for Justice, Change Congress, Common Cause, Democracy Matters, Public Campaign, Public Citizen, and U.S. PIRG. See www.publicampaign.org for more information on how fair elections work.
You can support both bills by contacting your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator. Find them by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
To find email addresses and fax numbers for your members of Congress: www.commoncause.org/FindElectedOfficials.
(This is highlighted in discussions during the statewide 2011 Florida Media Reform Tour of Sue Wilson and Broadcast Blues -- www.suewilsonreports.com)
Here is a timely report and action alert of February 18, 2011 on the Fairness Doctrine and Net Neutrality from new Advocacy Committee member Nelson Hay:
Current developments in the U.S. House threaten to put a silver stake through the heart of actual fair and balanced media coverage, and deserve our immediate attention. Key to these efforts are legislative steps to prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from enforcing The Fairness Doctrine and Net Neutrality.
Abolition of the Fairness Doctrine under the Reagan Administration in 1987 launched conservative talk radio, and led to the one-dimensional cable channels we have today. The doctrine didn't mandate equal time for opposing views, but simply required that contrasting viewpoints be presented somehow. Without the Fairness Doctrine we have large segments of the population that are ignorant of half the facts.
Related to the Fairness Doctrine is the FCC's concept of Net Neutrality. While Net Neutrality is a complicated subject, involving such questions as pricing for large volume versus small volume internet users, the key political point is that it would prohibit broadband internet service providers from blocking communications based upon political or other content.
On February 10th Reps. Greg Walden (R-OR) and Mike Pence (R-IN) introduced H.R. 642, the "Broadcaster Freedom Act" to prohibit the FCC from re-promulgating the Fairness Doctrine. The bill already has 110 co-sponsors. Frustratingly, FCC Chairman Julius Genawchowski pledged in his mid-2009 confirmation hearing not to reinstate the doctrine, and neither the other four FCC commissioners nor President Obama have taken any steps to promote reinstatement of the doctrine.
H.R. 642 is now before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, chaired by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) (202-225-3761) and vice-chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) (202-225-3976). Please contact Reps. Upton and Waxman, and the FCC Commissioners, and tell them you oppose H.R. 642 and support reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine:
On February 17th, the U.S. House of Representatives advanced a major corporate goal when it passed the "FCC Net Neutrality Amendment" (Amendment no. 404). Sponsored by Cliff Stearns R-FL and Greg Walden R-OR, this amendment to the Continuing Resolution to fund U.S. Government operations beginning March 4th would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from using current year U.S. Government funds to implement Net Neutrality rules.
Congressman Stearns, the co-sponsor, represents Florida's 6th Congressional District, stretching from Jacksonville to Gainesville and south down the middle of the state. In a victory press release Congressman Stearns said, "...Congress must stop the FCC. This amendment will do that and prevent any money from being spent to implement regulation of the Internet." Rep. Stearns' telephone number is 202-225-5744.
Next stop for the Continuing Resolution is the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) (202-224-3934) and vice-chaired by Senator Chad Cochran (R-MS) (202-224-5054). We must prevent a similar amendment from emerging from the Senate. Please phone Senator Inouye's and Senator Cochran's offices, and tell them you oppose the House "FCC Net Neutrality Amendment" to the Continuing Resolution and that you support Net Neutrality.
Of course, also contact your Senators and Representative.
Thanks for your efforts.
Election and Redistricting Reform
The Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections' effort to have meaningful audits of voting machine counts compared to paper ballot counts of votes, was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court February 11, 2010 after three and one-half years of litigation, only to be quashed by the Florida legislature in the last two days of the legislative session in April, 2010, when they passed a sweeping elections bill giving themselves all power over elections. Other Florida election integrity groups such as the Florida Voters Coalition are continuing the battle for meaningful audits, but are up against an even stronger Republican majority in both houses of the legislature that opposes verified elections. In addition, the same Florida Secretary of State (Kurt Browning) who sued to defeat the Sarasota County proposal, and a long time champion of paperless electronic voting, with no way to verify the vote, is now back as Secretary of State.
The one bright spot in Florida's November, 2010 elections was passage of Amendments 5 and 6 to the Florida Constitution. These two amendments institute redistricting reform for the drawing of state and federal districts to end gerrymandering in Florida. They define standards for drawing district boundaries which include requiring compact districts and following local geographic boundaries wherever possible. The challenge now is to ensure accurate implementation of these amendments. The state legislature is already trying to undermine their effectiveness. Stay tuned for alerts from FairDistrictsNow. We will keep UU Presidents, Ministers, and Social Justice Chairs informed as well as everyone who has signed up on the UU Social Justice email list.
UULMF is sponsoring an important media reform tour March 25-April 5, 2011. It is a series of documentary and discussion nights at UU congregations around the state to screen the documentary Broadcast Blues, with the Emmy-award winning filmmaker Sue Wilson (www.suewilsonreports.com) leading the discussion afterwards.
Sponsored by the UU Legislative Ministry of Florida, the 2011 Florida Media Reform Tour from March 25th-April 5th will include UU congregations in Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Melbourne, Orlando, Ormond Beach, Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Gainesville, Tampa, Venice, and Ft. Myers. Broadcast Blues shows how the consolidation of the media into corporate hands is jeopardizing our news, information, and even public safety. Broadcast Blues reminds us that the airwaves belong to We the People, and we can-and must-Take our Media back!
For details, see the press release in our News section of this website.
This is a statewide effort to expose the problems of media in this country. It is hoped that UU legislative ministries in other states may want to sponsor such a tour with filmmaker Sue Wilson and the documentary to bring attention to the problem nationwide, and advance discussions of how individuals may address this and other concerns going forward.
The UULMF is a justice ministry that empowers the voice of Unitarian Universalist values in the public arena throughout Florida.