A Review of the Websites of the Sponsors and Co-Sponsors of Reform Legislation

A Review of the Websites of the Sponsors and Co-Sponsors of Legislation to Create Publicly Funded Elections and to Amend the Constitution to Fix the Citizens United Decision

(WITH DETAILS OF THE REVIEW FOUND AT BOTTOM OF PAGE)

by Frank Kirkwood

(See Our Political Revolution for context and discussion of this Website Review.)

Legislation to set up publicly funded elections has been introduced in Congress many times over the last 20 years.  In the current Congress, the bill in the House of Representatives for publicly funded elections is H.R. 20, the Government By the People Act.  In the Senate, it is S. 1538, the Fair Elections Now Act.  H.R. 20, is sponsored by Rep. Sarbanes.  S. 1538 is sponsored by Sen. Durbin.  There are 174 sponsors or co-sponsors in the Congress for these publicly funded elections bills.

On the Citizens United front, there are 177 sponsors or co-sponsors in Congress of resolutions to amend the constitution to fix the Citizens United decision.   S.J.Res.5, sponsored by Sen. Udall (NM), is the Senate resolution and H.J.Res.22, sponsored by Rep Deutch, is the resolution in the House.

We should expect real leaders of these politically revolutionary bills to use their websites, their face to the public, to say to their constituents, “Like you, I recognize that our democracy is in trouble.  There are solutions to these problems and I am working hard to pass them.  Look at what I have done already.  I have co-sponsored the bills to fix Citizens United and to create publicly funded elections.

Real leaders would take the opportunity to use their websites to acknowledge the public’s frustration and to educate their constituents about the solutions that are available to the money-in-politics problem and to let the citizens know that their representative is on the forefront of this fight.

In August of 2015, I reviewed the websites of the sponsors and co-sponsors of the two bills to create publicly funded elections.  I also looked at the websites of the sponsors and co-sponsors of the two resolutions to amend the constitution to fix the Citizens United decision.  I looked at both the official congressional website and the campaign website of each of these elected officials.

For the first group, I looked for statements on their websites about the public funding of elections bills or, more generally, about their support of publicly funded elections.  In the second group, I looked for statements about the specific resolutions or for a mention of a plan to fix Citizens United.

Here is what I found:

Publicly Funded Elections

Do members of Congress who say they support publicly funded elections demonstrate their support on their websites?

The official congressional websites and the campaign websites of the sponsors/co-sponsors of the Fair Elections Now Act (in the Senate) and the Government for the People Act (in the House) were reviewed.

RESULTS FOR DEMOCRATIC SPONSORS/CO-SPONSORS: 

84% (145 of 172) of Democratic sponsors/co-sponsors of bills to create publicly funded elections do not mention their support for these bills or their support for publicly funded elections on either their official or campaign websites.

Only 16% (28 of 172) of Democratic sponsors/co-sponsors mention their support for these bills or their support for publicly funded elections generally on either or both of their official or campaign websites.

Only 3% (6 of 172) of Democratic sponsors/co-sponsors mention their support for these bills or their support for publicly funded elections generally on both their official and campaign websites.

Total Democrats sponsoring/co-sponsoring publicly funded elections bills in Congress = 172. 

RESULTS FOR REPUBLICAN SPONSORS/CO-SPONSORS:

One Republican, Rep. Walter Jones of NC, is a co-sponsor of H.R. 20.  He mentions the bill or publicly funded elections on his official website but mentions neither on his campaign website.

RESULTS FOR INDEPENDENT SPONSORS/CO-SPONSORS:

One Independent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of VT, is a co-sponsor of S. 1538.  He mentions the bill or publicly funded elections on both his official and campaign websites.

RESULTS FOR ALL SPONSORS/CO-SPONSORS (ALL PARTIES):

83% (145 of 174) of all sponsors/co-sponsors of bills to create publicly funded elections do not mention their support for these bills or their support for publicly funded elections on either their official or campaign websites.

Only 17% (30 of 174) of all sponsors/co-sponsors mention their support for these bills or their support for publicly funded elections generally on either or both of their official or campaign websites.

Only 4% (7 of 174) of all sponsors/co-sponsors mention their support for these bills or their support for publicly funded elections generally on both their official and campaign websites.

Number of sponsors/co-sponsors of publicly funded elections bills in Congress = 174.
In the Senate:  S. 1538, the Fair Elections Now Act  (22 sponsor/co-sponsors).
In the House:  H.R. 20, the Government for the People Act  (152 sponsor/co-sponsors). 

Look here for details of co-sponsor websites review.

Citizens United

Do members of Congress who say they support fixing Citizens United demonstrate their support on their websites?

The official congressional websites and the campaign websites of the sponsors/co-sponsors of S.J.RES.5 (in the Senate) and the H.J.Res.22 (in the House) were reviewed.

RESULTS FOR DEMOCRATIC SPONSORS/CO-SPONSORS: 

76% (133 of 174) of Democratic sponsors/co-sponsors of Congressional resolutions to overturn the Citizens United decision by amending the Constitution do not mention their support for the resolutions or any plan to fix Citizens United on either their official or campaign websites.

Only 24% (41 of 174) of Democratic sponsors/co-sponsors of these resolutions mention the resolutions or a plan to fix Citizens United on either or both of their official or campaign websites.

Only 6% (11 of 174) of Democratic co-sponsors mention their support for these resolutions or for a plan to fix Citizens United on both their official and campaign websites.

RESULTS FOR REPUBLICAN SPONSORS/CO-SPONSORS: 

One Republican, Rep. Walter Jones of NC, is a co-sponsor of H.J. Res 22.  He does not mention his support for this resolution or a plan to fix Citizens United on either his official or campaign websites.

RESULTS FOR INDEPENDENT SPONSORS/CO-SPONSORS: 

Sen. Bernie Sanders of VT is a co-sponsor of S.J. Res. 5.  He mentions his support for this resolution or for a plan to fix Citizens United on both his official and campaign websites.

Sen. Angus King of ME is a co-sponsor of S.J. Res. 5.  He does not mention his support for this resolution or for a plan to fix Citizens United on either his official or campaign websites.

RESULTS FOR ALL SPONSORS/CO-SPONSORS (ALL PARTIES):

76% (135 of 177) of all sponsor/co-sponsors of Congressional resolutions to overturn the Citizens United decision by amending the Constitution do not mention their support for these resolutions or for a plan to fix Citizens United on either or both of their official or campaign websites.

Only 24% (42 of 177) of all sponsor/co-sponsors of these resolutions mention these resolutions or a plan to fix Citizens United on either or both of their official or campaign websites.

Only 7% (12 of 177) of all sponsor/co-sponsors do mention their support for these resolutions or a plan to fix Citizens United on both their official and campaign websites.

Look here for details of co-sponsor website review.

(See Our Political Revolution for context and discussion of this Website Review.)


DETAILS OF REVIEWS

Senate – S. 1538, Publicly Funded Elections – August 2015

Review of the websites of the Democratic Co-Sponsors of S. 1538, the Fair Elections Now Act, looking for statements about S. 1538 or statements in support of publicly funded elections.

Total number of Democratic Senators sponsoring (1) or Co-Sponsoring (20) the Act = 21

(See Tally sheet.)

Methodology:

I looked at the official and campaign websites of all Democratic Senate Co-Sponsors of S. 1538 to see if their websites include a statement about S. 1538 and/or statements in support of publicly funded elections.

I visited each Democratic Senator’s official website and campaign website in August 2015.  Typically, I looked under the “Issues” tab or the “Priorities” tab for a sub-heading entitled, “Cleaning up Washington”, “Ethics and Responsibility”, “Making Government Work”, “Campaign Finance Reform”, “Good Governance”, “Getting Big Money Out of Politics” or similar phrases.  If there were no titles of that nature, I would look at the “About” tab or anywhere that looked probable.  When I could find a relevant section, I would look for language mentioning support of publicly funded elections and/or specifically a mention of S. 1538.*

Results for Democratic members of the Senate:

“Does the official Senate website mention support for S. 1538 or support of publicly funded elections for Congress?”
Yes = 23%, No = 77%    (Yes = 5, No = 17)

“Does the campaign website mention support for S. 1538 or support of publicly funded elections?”
Yes = 9%, No = 91%   (Yes = 2, No = 20)

Number of Democratic Senators who mention publicly funded elections or the Fair Elections Now Act on either their official or their campaign website:
23% (5 of 22)

Number of Democratic Senators who do not mention publicly funded elections or the Fair Elections Now Act on either their official or their campaign website:
77% (17 of 22)

Number of Democratic Senators who do mention publicly funded elections or H.R. 20 on both their official or their campaign website:
3%  (1 of 22)

House – H.R. 20, Publicly Funded Elections – August 2015

Review of the websites of the Co-Sponsors of H.R. 20, the Government for the People Act, looking for statements about H.R. 20 or statements in support of publicly funded elections.

Methodology:

I looked at the official and campaign websites of all House Co-Sponsors of H.R. 20 (Government for the People Act) to see if their websites include a statement about H.R. 20 or in support of publicly funded elections.

I visited each Member’s official congressional website and their campaign website in August 2015.  Typically, I looked under the “Issues” tab or the “Priorities” tab for a sub-heading entitled, “Cleaning up Washington”, “Ethics and Responsibility”, “Making Government Work”, “Campaign Finance Reform”, “Good Governance”, “Getting Big Money Out of Politics” or similar phrases.  If there were no titles of that nature, I would look at the “About” tab or anywhere that looked probable.  When I could find a relevant section, I would look for language in support of publicly funded elections and/or specifically a mention of H.R. 20.*

Total number of member of Democratic members of the House of Representatives who are sponsors (1) or co-sponsoring (150) the Act = 151.

(See tally sheet.)

Results for Democratic Members of the House:

“Does the Representative’s official Congressional website mention support for H.R. 20 or support of publicly funded elections for Congress?”
Yes = 11%, No = 89%   (Yes = 17, No = 134)

“Does the Representative’s campaign website mention support for H.R. 20 or support of publicly funded elections?”
Yes = 7%, No = 93%   (Yes = 11, No = 140)

Number of Representatives who mention publicly funded elections or H.R. 20 on either their official or their campaign website:
15%  (23 of 151)

Number of Representatives who do not mention publicly funded elections or H.R. 20 on either their official or their campaign website:
85%  (128 of 151)

Number of Representatives who do mention publicly funded elections or H.R. 20 on both their official or their campaign website:
3%  (5 of 151)

Senate – S.J.RES.5 Co-Sponsors (Citizens United) – August 2015

Review of the websites of the Democratic Co-Sponsors of S.J.Res.5 – (A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections.) for the purpose of locating statements about S.J.RES.5 or about the Citizens United decision and the need to fix it.

Methodology:

I looked at the official and campaign websites of all Democratic Senate Co-Sponsors of S. 1538 to see if their websites include a statement about S.J.RES.5 or the Citizens United decision and a statement about the need to fix the decision.

I visited each Senator’s official website and their campaign website in August 2015.  Typically, I looked under the “Issues” tab or the “Priorities” tab for a sub-heading entitled, “Cleaning up Washington”, “Ethics and Responsibility”, “Making Government Work”, “Campaign Finance Reform”, “Good Governance”, “Getting Big Money Out of Politics” or similar phrases.  If there were no titles of that nature, I would look at the “About” tab or anywhere that looked probable.  When I could find a relevant section, I would look for statements about S.J.RES.5 or about the Citizens United decision and the need to fix it..*

A Senator’s support of legislation (such as, the Disclose Act) which would mitigate the harm but would not fix the central problems created by the decision was not, by itself, scored as a “fix” to Citizens United.

Total number of Democratic Senators sponsoring (1) or Co-Sponsoring (37) S.J.RES.5 = 38

(See Tally sheet.)

Results for Democratic Senators:

“Does the Senator’s official website mention S.J.RES.5  or a plan to fix Citizens United?”
Yes = 13%, No = 87% (Yes = 5, No = 33)

“Does the Senator’s campaign website mention S.J.RES.5 or a plan to fix Citizens United?”
Yes = 13%, No = 87% (Yes = 5, No = 33)

Percent of Democratic Senators who mention S.J.RES.5 or a plan to fix Citizens United on either their official or their campaign website:
18% (7 of 38)

Number of Democratic Senators who do not mention S.J.RES.5 or a plan to fix Citizens United on either their official or their campaign website:
82%  (31 of 38)

Number of Democratic Senators who do mention S.J.RES.5 or a plan to fix Citizens United on both their official or their campaign website:
8%  (3 of 38)

House – H.J. Res. 22 Democratic Co-Sponsors (Citizens United) – August 2015

Total number of Democratic members of the House of Representatives who are sponsors (1) or co-sponsors (135) H.J. Res. 22 = 136.

(See tally sheet.)

Review of the websites of the co-sponsors of H.J.Res.22 (Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections.) for the purpose of locating statements about H.J. Res 22 or about the Citizens United decision and the need to fix it.

Methodology:

I looked at the official and campaign websites of all House Co-Sponsors of H.J.Res.22 to see if their websites include a statement about H.J.Res.22 or about the Citizens United decision and a statement about the need to fix that decision.  A member’s support of legislation (such as, the Disclose Act) which would mitigate the harm but not fix the central problems created by the decision was not, by itself, scored as a “fix” to Citizens United.*

I visited each Representative’s official congressional website and their campaign website in August 2015.  Typically, I looked under the “Issues” tab or the “Priorities” tab for a sub-heading entitled, “Cleaning up Washington”, “Ethics and Responsibility”, “Making Government Work”, “Campaign Finance Reform”, “Good Governance”, “Getting Big Money Out of Politics” or similar phrases.  If there were no titles of that nature, I would look at the “About” tab or anywhere that looked probable.  When I could find a relevant section, I would look for language about H.J. Res 22 or about the Citizens United decision and the need to fix it.

Results for Democratic Members of the House:

“Does the Representative’s official House website mention H.J. Res. 22 or a plan to fix Citizens United?”
Yes = 20%, No = 80%  (Yes = 27 , No = 109)

“Does the Representative’s campaign website mention H.J. Res. 22 or a plan to fix Citizens United?”
Yes = 11%, No = 89%  (Yes = 15, No = 121)

Percentage of Democratic Representatives who mention H.J. Res. 22 or a plan to fix Citizens United on either their official or their campaign website:
25% (34 of 136)

Percentage of Democratic Representatives who do not mention H.J. Res. 22 or a plan to fix Citizens United on either their official or their campaign website:
75% (102 of 136)

Percentage of Democratic Representatives who do mention H.J. Res. 22 or a plan to fix Citizens United on both their official and their campaign website:
6% (8 of 136)

*I did not search through the tabs on the websites that linked to lists of “Legislation I have Co-Sponsored”.  Typically these tabs were linked to the Library of Congress site listing hundreds of bills co-sponsored by the member.  Similarly, archived lists of press releases were not checked.   An “advanced” search of a lawmaker’s domain may well return press releases or official statements that are buried somewhere on the lawmaker’s website.  What I was looking for here was evidence that these lawmakers are actively and visibly supporting fundamental political power reform by being leaders in educating the public about the money-in-politics problem and the solutions. 

To report errors/omissions/newly posted statements to:  TrustworthyGovernment@gmail.com

(See Our Political Revolution for context and discussion of this Website Review.)