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Top Presidential Candidates Outline Views on Democracy at Citizens United Forum in Des Moines

We the People 2020: Protecting Our Democracy a Decade After Citizens United
Press Release
Laurie Kinney
People For the American Way
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Eight Advocacy Groups Host ‘We The People 2020: Protecting Our Democracy a Decade After Citizens United’ Forum; HuffPost Moderates

Des Moines, Iowa – At a forum here today, six presidential candidates outlined their plans to end the dominance of big money in politics, protect the right to vote, ensure fair courts and create a democracy that works for all of us.

The event, “We The People 2020: Protecting our Democracy a Decade After Citizens United,” was held two days before the 10-year mark of the court’s disastrous decision and just weeks before the Iowa Caucus. It was hosted by a diverse group of advocacy organizations and moderated by the HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel and Kevin Robillard.

Candidates attending included U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who joined via livestream.

The candidates addressed the most pressing issues facing our democracy, relating to:

  • Campaign finance reforms, including corporate PAC donations and how candidates have opted to finance their campaigns;
  • Anti-corruption and ethics issues, including lobbying restrictions and corporate influence in politics;
  • Voting rights, including access to polling locations, early voting, felon re-enfranchisement, the restoration of the Voting Rights Act, and gerrymandering;
  • Election security, including cyber security and election infrastructure; and
  • Fair courts and appointing judges who believe the Constitution protects all of us, not just the wealthy and powerful.

Organizations sponsoring the event were Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Common Cause, End Citizens United Action Fund, MoveOn Political Action, NAACP, People For the American Way, Progress Iowa and Public Citizen.

Below are comments from representatives of the organizations:

Marge Baker, executive vice president for policy and program, People For the American Way:

“The next president has to support the nomination of fair-minded jurists to the bench, ones that understand that the law and the constitution are there for everyone, not just the powerful and the privileged. The next president has to prioritize judicial nominations on Day One, to help rebalance the courts that Donald Trump has pushed so far to the right. They have to have a plan to get their nominees through the Senate. They have to show they understand the role federal courts play in our daily lives: whether we can breathe clean air and drink clean water; whether we can be free from discrimination in the work place, in housing or in education; whether we have the right to vote, and the right to marry the person we love. We want our next president not just to talk about equal justice for all, but to commit to populating the courts with judges and justices who deliver it.”

Kris Brown, president, Brady:

“The proliferation of dark money into campaigns to buy influence has polluted a political system that was once a shining beacon to others. The failure to meaningfully address the epidemic of gun violence through common sense legislation is one stark example of the horrific toll that dark money plays in politics. Our next President must be prepared to fight for every American, reject dark money in politics, and finally ensure life-saving gun laws are enacted and lives are saved.”

Karen Hobert Flynn, president, Common Cause:

“In states and cities across the country, we have seen democracy reforms truly work and change who has power in this country. It’s up to us – We The People – to ensure our democracy works. And we need to pick a president who will lead on this important issues and fight nationally for what we have passed at state level. The future of our country depends on it.”

Tiffany Muller, president, End Citizens United Action Fund:

"The Citizens United decision has given wealthy donors and corporations veto power over issues Americans want to see progress on, whether that's addressing gun violence, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, or protecting our planet's future. End Citizens United thanks Pete Buttigieg, John Delaney, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick and Senator Elizabeth Warren for their commitment to combating the dominance of big money in politics to get Washington working for everyday people."

Reggie Hubbard, Washington, D.C., strategist, MoveOn Political Action:

“In order for us to have the nation we deserve, we must root out systemic corruption and usher in a new era of government reform. We the people must demand that politicians act in our interest, not at the will of special interests. We are proud to stand with our partners in pursuit of amplifying the need for big ideas and transformation in how government operates and looks in 2021 and beyond.”

Robert Weissman, president, Public Citizen:

“Citizens United is the defining judicial decision of the New Gilded Age. It both reflects and worsens the rigged political system that infuriates Americans of all political stripes – and the staggering wealth and income inequality that is the product of the rigged system. We need a president who will commit to passing a constitutional amendment that will overturn Citizens United and to adopting the sweeping pro-democracy measures included in H.R. 1. Those include a small-donor, public financing system for our elections, automatic voting registration and a once-and-for-all end to racist voter suppression.”

About People For the American Way:

People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and build a democratic society that implements the ideals of freedom, equality, opportunity and justice for all. We encourage civic participation, defend fundamental rights, and fight to dismantle systemic barriers to equitable opportunity. Learn more:

About Brady:

Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands. Learn more:

About Common Cause:

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process. Learn more:

About End Citizens United:

End Citizens United Action Fund works with four million members to call their elected officials, host petition drives, participate in letter to the editor campaigns, and join coalitions of other grassroots advocacy groups to pass legislation to help get big money out of politics. Learn more:

About MoveOn Political Action:

MoveOn Political Action represents the collective will of MoveOn’s millions of members at the ballot box by using people power to help elect progressive candidates. MoveOn members live in every congressional district in the country and come from all walks of life. We organize together to advance a vision of a world with a place of honor and dignity for everyone—where all are welcome, where we take care of each other, and where everyone is set up to thrive. 

About the NAACP:

The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons. Learn more: 

About Progress Iowa:

Progress Iowa is a multi-issue progressive advocacy organization. Year-round, we promote progressive ideas and causes with creative earned media strategies, targeted email campaigns, and cutting-edge new media. Learn more: 

About Public Citizen:

Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people – not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country. Learn more: